The deadline for submission of this text fell in the final weekend of the European Parliamentʼs summer recess which, at five weeks, is relatively short in comparison with Holyrood and Westminster. As Party President I chaired the candidate selection meeting of Fife Council Leader Peter Grant, the SNP candidate for the Westminster by-election being held in Glenrothes, and along with many others I took part in the Saturday door-knocking session which launched our campaign.
Co-incidentally, my first week of recess was spent continuing to campaign full-time in Glasgow East, and of course thoroughly enjoying the tremendous result for the SNP Independence campaign, electing John Mason MP. It was very heartening to see the large numbers of members who turned out to help in Glasgow East, and our challenge now is to ensure similar levels of active support in Glenrothes, and of course the Council by-election in Glasgow.
Between by-elections I have been very active around the constituency (Scotland!) attending a variety of events such as agricultural shows, including in the Black Isle, Turriff, Fife, Kirriemuir and Keith. Although primarily a showcase for the very best in Scottish agriculture and related business, these events provide great entertainment for thousands of local people and summer visitors alike. At each venue I accepted invitations from officials of the National Farmers Union of Scotland to meet with them and listen to their concerns on a wide range of issues.
High on the European agenda is a controversial proposal which would limit the range of pesticides and fungicides available to Scottish farmers, many of which are designed to combat problems such as mould growth on cereal crops, which happens as a direct result of our mild and damp summer weather. Over the next few months our challenge will be to seek a compromise which takes full account of the nature of the food production industry in Scotland, rather than applying an inflexible standard rule throughout a diverse European Union.
During my ten years as an MEP I have annually taken to the road on an extensive mobile surgery and information tour, usually accompanied by local SNP Councillors and MSPs. Our bright yellow SNP mobile office provides a high visibility one-stop mobile advice centre and this year, constituents again welcomed the opportunity to tackle European (and other) issues face to face, expressing concerns about animal welfare, waste management and recycling, working time and work place safety issues as well as transport, energy security and postal services.
As MEPs make travel plans for the return to Parliament, we hear that a very large section of ceiling has collapsed in our Strasbourg debating chamber, resulting in the cancellation of the European Parliamentʼs next Strasbourg session in favour of meeting in Brussels. This will mean vast savings – both to taxpayers and the environment. Hundreds of Brussels-based staff members will be able to work from their offices in Brussels instead of making the monthly trek to Strasbourg. Likewise, MEPs will be able to attend their normal place of work instead of finding temporary lodgings in France. What a pity this improvement will only be a temporary one!