Elect MEPs that work for us – it matters
It is perhaps understandable that people think that elections to the European Parliament are unimportant. The Parliament meets in Brussels and Strasbourg, few people can name many or any of Scotland’s six Members of the European Parliament. In short it seems remote from day-to-day concerns.
However, I think people are wrong to think that. The European Parliament is now a major part of the process of making laws that affect jobs, security and fighting crime. It matters who is elected and how they work.
If we send a bunch of people who take the expenses and don’t turn up, who do not work within mainstream groups and spend all their time trying to obstruct the process instead of making it work for us we will lose out.
Liberal Democrat MEPs are the hardest working of all the UK contingent, in terms of attendance and committee work - and have stood up for Scotland and the UK’s interests by working with others across the EU, for example, to cut back the budget by £30 billion, reforming the Common Fisheries Policy and preventing the EU from taking over regulation of the UK’s oil and gas industry and aspects of our opt-out on the working time directive.
Currently, Scotland has two Labour MEPs, two SNP, one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat – George Lyon, a former president of the National Farmers’ Union for Scotland and an assiduous representative on our behalf. He has certainly been helpful to Gordon constituents on EU matters. I hope he is re-elected.
Across Gordon I find strong support for the position I and my party have taken - namely that Scotland should stay within the UK and the UK should stay in Europe. Of course, there is always room for improvement and we have a track record of working for and achieving progressive reform within both institutions.
But leaving either or both will threaten jobs and investment for years to come. So I would urge people to vote positively for people who will work for us rather than be part-time protesters lacking serious intent.
Royal Mail has a secure future – although Scottish service in danger
There has been some fuss in recent weeks about the privatisation of Royal Mail. The main concern has been that it might have been sold at too low a price. However, had the price been set too high and the flotation failed there would have been far more room for criticism.
At the time of the sale, the trades unions were threatening potentially disruptive industrial action which could have spooked the markets. In reality, Royal Mail is now a successful business able to invest in a changing world where letter post is
declining but parcels and packages are expanding.
It is underpinned by a guarantee in law of the universal service which means a flat rate charge for deliveries across the UK – extremely important to businesses and households across Scotland.
At the same time, the Post Office network remains a publicly-owned service with a commitment to retaining the current network as much as possible free from the systematic closure programme of previous governments.
Post Offices handle cash, including foreign exchange and can offer a range of services including payment of the TV licence, council tax, car tax, passports etc, although not through all branches as I would wish.
Incidentally, when the SNP glibly claim that they will renationalise the Royal Mail I am astonished. Are they suggesting that Scotland should take over the whole of the mail service for England and Wales and Northern Ireland? Or, rather do they mean they would take over the Scottish mail services, in which case how could they guarantee flat rate delivery charges to the rest of the UK? Or is it just another empty assertion?
Woe betide Alex Salmond’s foreign policy
Finally, I dread the thought of our foreign relations being in the hands of Alex Salmond.
Remember he denounced UK intervention on Kosovo as “unpardonable folly”. He refused to meet the Dalai Lama to avoid annoying the Chinese (when other Scottish and UK politicians did engage with the Dalai Lama).
Now he has praised Putin – an old-style Russian bear who has invaded parts of Georgia, annexed Crimea, is destabilising Ukraine, has initiated a cyber attack on Estonia and corrupted elections and the rule of law inside Russia.
Would distancing himself from the rest of the UK and cosying up to powerful authoritarian rulers be the standard if he were to become Prime Minister of an independent Scotland?
Let’s not give him the chance for us to find out.