Friday, 16 December 2011
Russian Ships, Sheep And The EU
The Scottish government has caused me some concern this week, apart from the passing of the sectarian legislation.
Not only was Angus Robertson doing his utmost to create an international incident about a Russian ship showing bad manners by disposing of their waste overboard, while they were sheltering from bad weather off the Moray Coast, but Alex Salmond was over dramatic in his response to Cameron's decision to refuse the EU access to the UK's finances.
If Mr Robertson had omitted the point about the rubbish and concentrated on the fact that Scotland's seas are no longer reasonably policed, then his protest would have been seen as genuine. But instead his mention of waste conveyed a slight petty attitude. Unfortunately, the media emphasised that point rather than the scrapping of the Nimrod fleet, which has led to a massive gap in the security of these islands. Mr Robertson is well versed in military matters and a skilled politician. Such a shame he sounded like a whinger this week. Yes, it may be the media decided to convey that attitude, but I would have expected Mr Robertson to know their wiles and realise the London press will do their utmost to convey the SNP government in a bad light.
By now you may be wondering why this post is carrying a photograph of sheep. All will be revealed shortly.
Mr Salmond, in his letter to David Cameron this week, accused the PM of 'changing the UK's entire relationship with the EU - without even discussing it with his own Libdem colleagues, never mind the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast'. Fair enough, he has a good point but it would appear his reaction was a little speedy. It's unlike the First Minister to be less than very calculated in response to Westminster.
However, he accused the PM of 'blundering' and suggested that Cameron's decision would affect key Scottish industries because they were 'being represented by a UK government that is excluded from important decision making meetings'. source The following story shows it could be more a case of 'who you know' rather than the seat you sit on at meetings.
The area in which I live is well known for livestock farming and sheep farming is important to the economy. In December 2007 the European Parliament's Agricultural Committee passed legislation which made electronic identification (EID) mandatory for sheep and goats. Farmers here were up in arms about this and have been protesting loudly. It could well constitute the last nail in the coffin for sheep farmers, few of whom can afford to fit every animal with expensive microchips or deal with the complex cross-compliance issues involved.
It seems Cameron's non-veto has made no difference to Scotland's access to the EU heath commissioner John Dalli. He has (finally) agreed to look at the EID system to see if it can be simplified. Local farmers here are delighted but there have been casualities. In the intervening years, two have decided enough is enough and sold their stock.
As the Perthshire sheep sector declines, once again the EU will increasingly have to rely on imported lamb from countries outwith the EU, who pay no attention whatsoever to the rigorous regulations and controls imposed upon our own farmers.
Why has it taken four years for poor legislation to be re-examined? Mr Salmond thinks full membership of the EU will be important to an independent Scotland. Although a reduction in the UK sheep stock may be of little importance at present, EU legislation which is unnecessarily complicated and expensive, will drive more and more farmers out of business.
Is that good for Scotland?