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Hudghton (ARE) - Mr President, I cannot start my first speech in this Chamber without referring to my predecessor, Dr Allan Macartney, who I know was held in very high regard here both for his work in committees and in Parliament. There could be no more fitting tribute to Allan Macartney from the people back home than the very decisive result of the by-election which brought me, also a member of Scotland's party of independence, to this Parliament.
If one of our major purposes is to create the conditions that will encourage economic growth and improve employment opportunities, then small and medium-sized enterprises must and do play a substantial part. I was pleased to note that SMEs' figure in these programmes and, in particular, that a proportion of the budget will indeed be available to be directed particularly towards projects from smaller enterprises. As a former proprietor of a very small business myself, I am only too well aware of how difficult it can be to find the extra time, energy and finance required to pursue innovative projects. And as until recently I was also the leader of a local authority in Scotland - a very successful one too - I know from the experience of our economic development and European units that many of our smaller businesses have a wealth of talent and ideas which require more encouragement. I hope that there can be considerable flexibility in the decision making processes and in the running of these programmes so that they can indeed be fully accessible to our small and medium-sized enterprises. The Scots have a well-deserved reputation for innovation and inventiveness. In my particular part of Scotland, the North-East, we have many businesses, enterprises and academic and research institutions working on projects and ideas that are very worthy of dissemination both throughout Europe and in the wider world. Dundee, for example, one of the two cities in my area, is well and truly becoming a centre of excellence in life sciences. Aberdeen is acknowledged as the energy capital of Europe. I know of much work being done to develop projects in a whole range of fields including telematics and renewable energy resources. Incidentally, I come here from a party which is nonnuclear in its outlook and I support the comments of our colleague a few minutes ago. We have projects which are working on maintaining the high quality of our water supply systems, also referred to earlier in this debate. We in Scotland have much to offer by way of research and development. I hope that through participation in these programmes not only will Scottish projects, Scottish businesses and Scottish institutions benefit, but the ideas generated therein will benefit Europe and the world. I look forward very much to my participation here in this Chamber in promoting Scotland and indeed promoting European projects back home in Scotland. (Applause)