WITH the election to the European Parliament coming up on 22 May, Shetland News has asked the candidates of the main parties to submit short pieces explaining why they think we should vote for them.
Six of the 766 Euro MPs come from Scotland. They are Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith for the SNP, David Martin and Catherine Stihler for Labour, Struan Stevenson for the Scottish Conservatives and George Lyon for the Lib Dems.
Apart from Stevenson, who retires from Brussels and Strasbourg after 15 years, all of the MEPs are standing for re-election.
Some have included a visit to Shetland as part of their election campaign. The Conservatives’ top candidate Ian Duncan was in the isles in March, while SNP man Smith dropped in for a day or two at the end of April.
The Lib Dems’ Lyon was campaigning locally on Friday.
The big question of whether UKIP will come top for the first time in a nationally held election seems likely to play only a minor role north of the border. The party is currently trailing fifth or sixth in Scotland.
The SNP meanwhile is hopeful to win a third MEP (Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh), while election polls suggest that Lyon faces a fight to retain his seat in Brussels. The Scottish Greens, fifth strongest party at 7.3% in 2009, are also a contender to win a European Parliament seat.
Voting takes place on Thursday 22 May between 7am and 10pm, though counting will only happen on Sunday with a result due to be announced later the same day.
We have asked the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the LibDems, The Scottish Greens and UKIP to contribute to this page. UKIP has so far not responded. We will add their contributions once it has been received.
Dr Ian Duncan – Scottish Conservatives
For better or worse, Europe affects our day-to-day lives. On 22 May you have the opportunity to elect an MEP that will stand up for the interests of Scotland and the interests of Shetland in the European Parliament.
Working for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation brought me up to Shetland. It was important then and it is important now to recognise that the needs of Shetland fishermen are distinct from the rest of Scotland.
So it is with other issues. On my recent trip up to Shetland it was clear that the needs of farmers and food producers, of oil workers and ferry users, of those who work in the tourist industry or earn a living from the weaving are distinct from the rest of Scotland.
Europe isn’t delivering enough for Shetland, but I intend to change that. We still face challenges of providing cheap and secure energy to households so that all Shetlanders can afford to heat their homes; supplying broadband that is reliable and fast so that people can access services and keep in touch; and building better transport links between Shetland and the mainland so that we can boost tourism and the local economy.
In each of these areas, a strong Conservative voice in Europe can help. Having started my career as an energy researcher for BP, I know that one of the big opportunities of Europe is in exporting the energy we produce. I want to see Shetland benefit from that opportunity because it isn’t fair that in one of Scotland’s leading energy centres not all Shetlanders benefit from a secure energy supply.
Importantly building a better infrastructure between the islands and the mainland, and better links between the mainland and Europe we can begin to create a better energy balance that works for Shetland.
We can do much more to match European funding to the things that matter to Shetlanders. Opportunities exist to improve our broadband and boost our transport links. Having spent eight years in Brussels as the eyes and ears of the Scottish parliament, I have fought to find those opportunities; and if elected I will make sure the political will is there to deliver them too.
The European elections matter. A vote for the Scottish Conservative party is a vote to have Shetland’s voice heard in Europe. If elected I pledge to focus on the things that matter to Shetland: a fisheries policy that is built by our fishing communities, an energy policy that delivers for all of Shetland, and better funding to boost the local economy and help keep people connected.
If these are your priorities too, I hope you will cast your vote for the Scottish Conservatives on 22 May.
Maggie Chapman – Scottish Greens
In 2014 Scotland faces some of the most important choices in its history. The independence referendum offers an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the future of our country. And the European election offers a significant opportunity to change the future of our continent and our world.
Scottish Greens stand for a just and welcoming Scotland. A Scotland, which takes its place as an equal among European nations; which works for peace and plays a responsible role in the world; and which entrusts power to the people.
For most people, the economic crisis is far from over. Wages have fallen and jobs are less secure than ever. Food costs, house prices and energy bills have gone up. Young people are locked out of decent homes and locked into unemployment. For the first time in a generation, there are families in Scotland being forced to suffer the pangs of hunger.
Yet, at the same time, corporate profits are growing – at our expense. The richest have been allowed to dodge vast quantities of tax. Bailouts handed billions to the banks, but did nothing to stop them from gambling away the wealth of our nation.
The Scottish Greens stand for a different kind of politics and a different kind of Europe: where power is handed down to local level, but countries work together for flourishing public services and for decent conditions and wages for ordinary people. Where people from other countries who choose to live and work here and enhance our society are welcomed. And where we play a responsible role in other parts of the world caught up in conflict.
Scottish people could be the architects of a better nation.
As Europe militarises, a future can be built based around peace. We have the opportunity to free Scotland of weapons of mass destruction. We can stop billions being wasted on Trident replacement. Scotland can say “no” to the NATO nuclear coalition; and instead play a part in peace-building around the world.
As migrants are scapegoated for all of society’s ills, Scottish Greens are not afraid to tell the truth: it wasn’t migrants who caused the economic collapse. We all gain a huge amount from the people who move to Scotland. Scottish Greens are proud to welcome newcomers to our country.
As European policy seeks to embark on a new round of privatisations, handing power over public services to remote corporations, we argue for public services – like health, railways and postal services – to be held in public hands and for community control over assets like energy to be the norm.
Across Europe, we have seen social movements grow from the ashes of broken economies. In city squares and in public meetings, in workplaces and on the streets, across our continent, new ideas are stirring. Workers are organising for their rights. Citizens are standing up to power. New futures are being planned. The EU should stand with those people, our people. It should be a beacon of democracy. It should be the means through which the people of Europe work together to build a better future, together.
This is the Europe Scottish Greens will work to build.
Catherine Stihler – Scottish Labour
This month’s election for a new European Parliament gives us all the opportunity to change Europe and take it in a new direction.
The number one issue facing Scots is employment and earning a living wage. I know this because my constituents from Shetland to Dumfries tell me so. That is why in the next term my party’s priority is creating jobs. We believe recovery starts when employment is rising and people are earning a living wage.
Labour MEPs’ priority is not leaving the EU, but changing it. We have placed the cost-of-living crisis at the centre of our policies to raise living standards for hardworking Scottish families.
We are also building a clear strategy to preserve democracy and civil liberties at a time when we see the rise of populist parties such as UKIP, who are putting our basic rights under threat.
Labour MEPs form part of the Socialist and Democratic group of the European Parliament, which is the only group made up of MEPs from all 28 Member States. At present, we are the second largest group in the parliament after the EPP who are a centre-right group. We hope this will change after May’s election.
The past five years has seen the right-wing agenda being pushed forward in the parliament and many of the decisions made do not fit in with the view of Europe as a fair and equal place that most of us hold. By supporting Labour in this election it is possible for the socialist group to once again hold more influence, which will allow us to put jobs and growth at the heart of the EU.
Despite being the second largest group in parliament, during the past term we have achieved many victories.
We have shown a tough stance on the financial transaction tax; ensuring financial institutions pay their fair share of tax and ease the burden on you, the public. Our plan is to crack down on tax cheats and halve tax evasion by 2020.
We led the campaign for the European Youth Guarantee, which promises work or training for everyone under-25 and we continue to fight to protect basic rights for workers such as paid holiday’s and maternity leave.
Women’s rights and gender equality continue to be issues affecting thousands of Scots, that’s why it has always been at the centre of our policies and we were the driving force behind the Women’s Rights Charter established in 2010.
From buying cars to shopping online, Labour MEPs have also been at the forefront of new laws to protect and improve your rights as a consumer.
And, from food additives to dangerous chemicals at work and to free emergency hospital treatment throughout the EU, we act at a European level to make a positive difference to your health. These issues are making a real impact on the lives of real Scots.
In the next parliament we will continue to stand up for these values – to create jobs and to enhance citizens’ rights. The future of Europe is in your hands, take this chance to make it a better place to live and work.
George Lyon – Scottish Liberal Democrats
For people in places like Shetland, the European Parliament can seem an awfully long way away. But decisions taken in Brussels impact on Lerwick the same way they do in London or Edinburgh.
With key decisions on things like fisheries, farming and energy taken at the EU it is important that Shetland has a strong voice fighting its corner in Brussels.
Over the last five years, George Lyon MEP has worked with local MP Alistair Carmichael and MSP Tavish Scott to deliver for Shetland at the EU. And he is working to keep Scotland in Britain and Britain in Europe because that is best for Shetland.
Millions of Scottish jobs are linked to our trade with the rest of the UK and the EU, and being in Europe gives us more strength when negotiating trade deals with global players like the US, China, India and Brazil. UK Ministers have helped secure new EU protections for products like Shetland wool to give producers in the northern isles a better deal in the European marketplace.
In Scotland, in government and in the EU, Liberal Democrats are working to defend millions of British jobs and create millions more by making it easier for British companies to export their products by slashing red tape for small businesses.
The EU is crucial to our economy, but Europe is about more than just jobs. Liberal Democrats are fighting for safer communities by ensuring our police forces have access to key EU crime-fighting tools, and for a greener future by working with other EU countries to combat climate change, create green jobs and reduce pollution.
Renewable energy is a sector that has huge potential, and in government, Liberal Democrats have delivered the world’s first Green Investment Bank, headquartered in Scotland, to ensure that Scottish projects secure the funding they need.
We know that the SNP’s independence plans mean gambling with our place in the EU and the special terms of membership we share as part of the UK. Leaving the UK would mean walking away from things like our share of the £6.4 billion UK rebate and UK opt outs on currency, which means we can keep the pound and not have to sign up to the Euro.
UKIP and many Conservatives want to pull us out of the EU altogether. This would be bad for Scotland and put the economic recovery that is now taking hold at risk.
As a lead negotiator on EU agricultural reforms, George Lyon helped ensure that Scottish priorities were at the heart of new farm policies and that Scotland has the powers to take big decisions on agricultural funding.
As vice president of the Budget Committee George Lyon was successful in securing over £6bn of new EU investment into the Scottish economy over the next seven years and significant amounts of this will flow to Shetland through agriculture and rural development spending.
He also worked closely with Shetland Island Council to ensure that the £142 million of new EU funding for the Highlands would be available to invest in creating jobs and strengthening the local economy in Shetland.
Liberal Democrats in Brussels helped local MP Alistair Carmichael win EU backing for a UK Government move to cut fuel duty in our island communities. This reduced the fuel cost for local people in Shetland by 5p per litre.
George Lyon also helped reform the Common Fisheries Policy in Brussels to ensure that the local industry in Shetland can have a sustainable future and put an end to the scandal of fishing discards.
If George Lyon is re-elected, he will continue to stand up for Shetland in the EU and make the positive case for Scotland remaining in Britain, in Europe and in work.
Alyn Smith – Scottish National Party
At the heart of this election are jobs – and being a part of Europe helps support thousands of jobs across Scotland, including here in Shetland.
Having represented Shetland in the European Parliament since 2004, I have worked tirelessly to champion Scotland’s interest alongside my colleague Ian Hudghton.
Sitting on the Parliament’s agriculture committee, the focus of my work has been ensuring that our agriculture sector get the best possible deal out of the Common Agriculture Policy and I’m delighted that we managed to secure the deal we did.
Ian has also been working hard in the fisheries committee ensuring that this vital industry is protected.
The European Parliament can seem far away however from those in Shetland and our other island communities.
Our islands are of great importance to our economy and make a substantial contribution to it thanks to their agriculture sector, fishing industries, tourism levels and energy resources. However, island communities also face a number of challenges and their geography means that often a different approach is needed.
That’s why I was the first MEP candidate in the whole of Europe to sign the European Small Islands Network pledge at its launch in Tobermory earlier this year.
Your SNP team has been working on a host of other measures to make the EU work better for you. From reducing roaming charges to a fraction of what they were previously – to fighting for the removal of VAT on sunscreen, we have been working for Scotland and nobody else.
That’s the difference between the SNP and the other major parties in this election. We always put Scotland’s interest above all else.
With UKIP leading in the last three opinion polls in the rest of the UK, the London-based parties are also dancing to their tune and the prospect of an in/out referendum looks increasingly likely.
The option facing Shetland and the whole of Scotland at this election is a straight choice between the SNP and Nigel Farage’s UKIP.
Mr Farage’s party has previously called for everyone in the UK to be entitled to the same services in health, education and public services – a move that at a stroke would undo everything that has been achieved by Scotland’s devolved parliament.
UKIP’s plan would see tuition fees introduced at £9,000 a head for people in Scotland, free personal care for the elderly abolished, prescription charges reintroduced and the NHS privatised along the same lines as is taking place in England.
The message from the campaign trail is loud and clear – people in Scotland have no time for the games and posturing of the Westminster parties that puts people’s livelihoods at risk.
The last thing they want to see is for Scotland to lose our place in the EU as the Westminster parties are prepared to risk.
That would be a disaster for jobs and investment in Scotland. The anti-Europe agenda at Westminster is a jobs-destroying agenda and people in Scotland are clear they want no part of it.
A strong SNP team will ensure Scotland makes our mark in Europe. And with a Yes vote in September Scotland will finally have the opportunity to speak with our own voice in Europe.
The best way to protect businesses and the jobs they create is with a vote for the SNP on 22 May and a Yes vote in September to ensure that Scotland’s voice is always heard and to let Scotland make its mark in Europe.
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