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Swinney Meets Irish Presidency in Strasbourg
Shadow First Minister Mr John Swinney MSP, and a delegation of senior SNP parliamentarians, today (Tuesday) met the Irish Presidency of the EU, to make the case for protecting the fishing industry as part of discussions on finalising the pending European Constitution.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader met with Irish Minister of State for Europe Mr Dick Roche TD at the European Parliament along with SNP European colleagues, Ian Hudghton MEP and Professor Neil MacCormick MEP, and SNP Foreign Affairs spokesman Angus Robertson MP.
Mr Roche is currently leading the process seeking agreement on the draft European Union Constitution on behalf of the Irish Government, which currently holds the European Union Presidency.
Speaking after meeting Mr Roche, John Swinney said:
"The SNP has taken the case for protecting the Scottish fishing industry as a key national interest direct to the Presidency of the EU. We have repeated our concerns about the treatment of the fishing industry, and the need to secure the removal of exclusive competence over fisheries from the draft EU Constitution.
"Ireland's government is working hard to finalise the draft European constitution in the weeks ahead. Minister Roche, who is leading the discussions for the Irish Presidency and who met with us today, accepted the seriousness of the arguments we are putting forward. He recognised the need to ensure the Constitution could be widely supported and acknowledged the depth of concern over fisheries that exists in Scotland. He said that he hoped to factor in as many of the points we raised today as possible in the final negotiations on the Constitution.
"The key now is for the UK government to respond to the current debate on fisheries and to act in Scotland's interests during ongoing negotiations.
"I have made clear the SNP will only support the European Constitution in a Referendum if the proposed exclusive competence on fisheries is removed. Significant Labour figures have said they understand a solution needs to be found on the fishing issue to maximise support for the Constitution in a Referendum. It is now essential that the UK Government puts this issue to the top of its list of priorities and acts – even at this late stage – to protect the national interest of Scotland."
Speaking after the Strasbourg meeting SNP European Group leader Ian Hudghton MEP said:
"This was an excellent meeting and it is clear that the Irish government is keen to do everything to secure a referendum-proof European Constitution. Ireland is demonstrating how effective a small country can be in key EU developments by its leadership on reforming the Union. It is a real step forward to have a government that understands Scotland's problems and is doing everything in its powers to address those issues, while respecting the proper impartiality of the EU Presidency."