With the SNP candidate selection process now underway for the European elections of 2014, it is gratifying to see such a high level of interest in the Party and a very highly qualified choice of 14 potential candidates being nominated to participate in the shortlisting process at the Spring Conference.
The support I received during this process was very much appreciated. During preparations for the selection contest I took time to look back over the fourteen very hectic years of experience built up since I was first elected to represent the SNP and Scotland in the European Parliament. I made my first speech in the European Parliament in 1998 with Winnie sitting beside me, following which, a Labour MEP rose to complain that I had referred too much to Scotland in my remarks! During the UK Presidency I managed to upset both Tony Blair and Douglas Alexander when, as the only Scottish MEP to speak in a key debate, I pointed out their failings in relation to representing Scotland's key interests. More recently, I was accused in a Scottish newspaper article by a Labour MEP of "playing Party politics in support of Scottish Independence". I make no apology for consistently speaking up for
Scotland and advocating Independence, and will continue to do so at every opportunity.
I have served continuously on the Fisheries Committee, and am currently in the midst of my second ten-yearly review, and hopefully reform, of the Common Fisheries Policy and recently had two Government Ministers in my office in Brussels who came to "pick my brains" on how the co-decision process would operate in CFP reform.
I have also worked on a variety of other Committees over the years. In Employment and Social Affairs, working on issues including Working Time in Road Transport, the Protection of Workers from workplace hazards such as noise and chemicals and the rights of workers in the event of factory closures and redundancy.
I enjoyed a term as co-ordinator – lead member for the Greens/EFA Group – in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and more recently, on the Regional Development Committee, we have focussed on the future of EU Structural and Cohesion Funds where I supported the concept of a favourable Transitional Status for areas such as the Highlands and Islands of
On the Transport and Tourism Committee I took part in the formulation of rules and regulations enshrining the rights of passengers as consumers in various forms of transportation, and as a current member of the Internal Market & Consumer Protection Committee, reviewing the EU Public Procurement Rules, I tabled amendments calling for local economic and social benefit to be a factor considered when letting contracts.
It is frustrating though to realise that no matter how well Scotland's interests are represented in the European Parliament we have no right to a voice, and no choice as a country, in the crucial debates and votes around the Council of Ministers table where it really matters.
Looking ahead, the next five year term of the European Parliament will, I believe, be the most exciting ever. During that next term, Scotland will make the transition to normal status, as an independent member state of the EU, and gain the right to take part in the Council of Ministers and the regular summit meetings of EU Heads of Government.
Let us work together harder than ever before to win a decisive YES vote on 18th September 2014!