Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, Mr Maaten's report makes constructive suggestions for the imminent introduction of euro coins and notes in the 12-member euro zone and refers also to the low level of public and small business awareness of certain aspects of the changeover. In particular in the report I support the comments on the need for frontloading the general public with notes and coins. I also welcome its emphasis on the role of local and regional public administrations in the changeover. It is essential that every effort is made to ensure that this so-called flagship event is managed effectively and that the changeover is smooth. Most of my comments, however, are based on a view from the outside, from Scotland, for the time being part of the UK. There may be some problems with public awareness within the euro zone, but we have a much bigger problem within Scotland and the rest of the UK. A Scots newspaper this week published a survey of public attitudes to the euro in Scotland and this showed a lamentable lack of awareness, which was directly linked to a low level of enthusiasm for the currency. The level of awareness in Scotland may be lamentable but it is not surprising given the attitudes of the political leaders in the Scots and UK governments in recent years. The new Labour London government has been afraid to show support for UK entry, or even to provide factual information, while the Conservatives have simply shown an almost deranged hostility to the euro and have attempted to mislead the public on the implications of joining. In principle my party favours the euro subject to entry terms suiting Scotland's economy and after a referendum, but ideally as an SNP member I would like to see Scotland an independent EU Member State being in a position to make the decision based on Scots priorities, while retaining domestic control over taxation. In the short term, though outwith the euro zone, there is also a substantial need for factual information campaigning on the implications after 2002 in our relationship with the euro zone, whether we ever decide to join or not. I welcome recent statements from some high street retailers in Scotland that they will be accepting euros in their tills, alongside sterling, from 2002. This can only enhance Scotland's position as a welcoming tourist and business travel destination, as well as familiarising Scots with the euro notes and coins. I call on the UK and the Scots governments to encourage the process of public information and to seek the support of the European Central Bank and the European Commission in encouraging Scots businesses to gear up for the acceptance of the new coins and notes.

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