Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, Mr President-in- Office of the Council, I regret that Prime Minister Blair has seen fit to go and spin to journalists rather than listen to this whole debate. When the Prime Minister spoke to us in Brussels in June, he said that the UK
Presidency wanted to resolve difficulties with the services directive, the working time directive, and to take forward a budget deal. Today he said exactly the same about these very difficult issues. At this late stage in the UK Presidency, it seems an empty presidency. We have zero progress and continuing uncertainty. Still no budget for 2007 and it is not only in the accession states that this is a major concern. The UK Government proposals would lose Scotland one billion pounds in structural funds and lose Objective 1 funding for Wales. We have uncertainty in our rural communities because the UK has suddenly withdrawn support for the agricultural funding package only recently agreed. We have uncertainty, too, about what will take the place of the now dead Constitution. Zero progress. What a contrast with the recent presidencies of Ireland and of Luxembourg: small, successful, independent nations whose achievements in their six months in office were immense and excellent examples of the independent status which I believe would be best for Scotland and which my Welsh and Catalan colleagues also aspire to for their countries. Zero progress, it seems, until the December summit. It seems to me that to store up so many difficult unresolved issues for one formal summit agenda is a recipe for potential disaster. In closing, may I just say that the final act of the UK Presidency will be to chair the Fisheries Council in December. Can I make a plea that for once – just once – the UK Government makes the survival of Scotland's coastal and island communities an economical and social priority, not something to be sacrificed at the negotiating table?