The European Parliament's Fisheries Committee intends to organise a joint meeting with relevant committees from ʻNationalʼ parliaments throughout the EU, probably in the spring of 2010. The ongoing CFP review is of immense importance to the Scottish fishing industry and Scotland's coastal and island communities. After over three decades of failure, I firmly believe that it's time for the EU to give up control and return powers over fisheries to Europe's maritime nations.
The European Parliament's plans to engage with national parliaments are welcome and would allow parliamentarians from Europe's fishing communities to have their say. In this regard, it is vital that the Scottish Parliament's voice is heard, and not just the voice of Westminster.
Throughout the decades of failure of the CFP, Scotland's needs have been badly served by successive London governments. Scotland now has a parliament and a government which stands up for Scotland's interests. I will be demanding in the European Parliament that the Scottish Parliament's voice is directly heard in Brussels in the coming CFP debates on behalf of our fishing communities.
The European Parliament recently passed new legislation aimed at curbing the activities of bogus timeshare salesmen. Every year thousands of Scots head to the sun and have a wonderful time. However, every year a number of unsuspecting holidaymakers find themselves victims of timeshare and holiday club scams. The European parliament has recognised this problem and the new law will ban these dodgy practices. These laws however will not be fully applied across the EU until 2011 and so the conmen are still out there.
My advice therefore is for holidaymakers to tread carefully if approached by salesmen on the beach or in the bars. The conmen can be charming and persuasive and appear to be offering a great deal. However, things can often turn sour and people can lose significant sums of money. No honest salesman will demand a signature up front; anyone who does is bogus and should be sharply sent on their way.
Speaking of the protection of consumers, the European Parliament is about to begin work on important legislation on consumer rights in general. The European Commission has proposed a Consumer Rights directive which will affect some 500 million consumers across the EU. It is right that action is taken at the EU level as, with increased mobility as well as the popularity of online shopping, consumers are increasingly entering into transactions of a cross-border nature.
Nevertheless, domestic consumer legislation still plays a vital role in protecting members of the public. Local trading standards officers for example are often in the frontline of consumer protection. Their role is an important one and, while EU initiatives are welcome, consumer laws should also reflect more localised needs. At present consumer protection in Scotland is a matter reserved to Westminster, meaning that the Scottish Parliament has no powers over issues such as consumer redress and over-indebtedness caused by consumer credit.
As the EU gets down to revising consumer laws, it's time for the Scottish Parliament to gain full powers over this important area. Consumer protection already operates within the separate Scottish legal system, so it is logical that Holyrood controls the national policy detail.