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The summer recess, six-weeks without formal meetings of the European Parliament in Brussels or Strasbourg, is an ideal opportunity for MEPʼs to meet with constituents around Scotland. I have undertaken my regular series of mobile surgery and information tours, taking my mobile office to town and village centres, and visiting businesses and organizations along the way.
The annual series of agricultural shows, community galas and highland games also feature in my summer diary, providing a valuable series of feedback sessions on EU regulations and policies. One issue, which even the EU cannot control, has been the amount of rainfall experienced in many parts of the country, regrettably forcing the cancellation of some events, and adding to the worries of our farmers about crop harvests.
Constituents regularly, and with justification, complain to me about the failure of some EU member states to properly implement European rules and regulations, while in this country we seem to enforce regulation comparatively firmly.
This problem is exemplified in a current row about the welfare standards that EU rules say should be applied to egg-laying hens and their cages. Our egg producers and fully complied with the law, investing in new equipment to increase the minimum space provided for their hens. Meanwhile, in certain member states, producers have been allowed to disregard the timetable for upgrading standards.
This ridiculous situation, if not addressed urgently, can only add to the negative view that many people already hold about regulation from Brussels.
It would be nonsensical if eggs (or egg products) from producers ignoring the law were permitted to be sold here, effectively undercutting home-produced eggs produced under, supposedly mandatory, higher welfare standards.
European Parliament sessions have now resumed, and some crucial areas of policy interest for Scotland will be debated and decided in Brussels over the coming months. Major reforms of the Common Policies on Agriculture and Fisheries are under way, and there is ongoing, and controversial talk of giving the EU more power to act on economic and taxation issues.
It is important that the interests of Scotland are properly represented in such EU talks, at all stages of the complex decision-making process. It is to be welcomed that the SNP government is advocating amendment to the Scotland Bill at Westminster, to give Scottish Government ministers a clear and active role in UK delegations to the EU Council of Ministers. Under EU rules, it is entirely a matter for each member state government to decide how, or whether, devolved governments are represented at inter-governmental talks, so it is appropriate to push at Westminster for an enhanced role for Scotland under devolution.
Contrast that with the position of normal independent member states of the European Union - they have the guaranteed right to full participation in all aspects of EU decision-making. An independent Scotland would be far better able to exert influence as a full member of the international community, with guaranteed voting rights in all of the crucial decisions made in Brussels, and elsewhere.