Friday, 5th February 2010
2010 brings about new challenges
The New Year has certainly started with a bang. Freezing conditions, failed bomb attacks in the US and the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate summit have all dominated the headlines in the last few weeks.
And, it is set to continue in the same vein. The introduction of the highly contentious electronic identification legislation, making it compulsory for farmers to identify and record the individual movement of sheep across Europe, will be watched closely.
There are more than seven million sheep currently in Scotland and when you consider the cost of these electronic ear tags – around £1.50 each – plus up to £1000 for each tag-reader, many of Scotland’s beleaguered sheep farmers will be pushed out of business.
It is vital that we continue to fight for our sheep farmers’ interests to ensure the industry is not significantly harmed. Financial assistance from the Rural Development Fund is essential as is open and honest communication with key stakeholders.
The climate change debate is expected to intensify over the next twelve months as Member States commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions following the Copenhagen summit.
Scotland has the opportunity to lead the way in setting the climate change agenda and reducing our carbon footprint. Education will play a key part, but other means must also be considered.
A carbon card system could reduce emissions from all forms of energy use. Under such a scheme, all individuals and organisations would be issued with a CO2 emissions quota, with 40 per cent going to all men, women and children in the country by way of a free carbon card which would have to be swiped every time you filled your car, bought an airline ticket or paid your electricity bill. The remaining 60 per cent would be auctioned to business and industry with the proceeds used for other environmental control measures.
Annual carbon budgets would be allocated by the EU to each Member State, with the budget reduced year on year until the target set by the Copenhagen summit is reached.
Scotland’s rural landowners could be about to benefit when proposed legislation to cap greenhouses gases is introduced. Carbon trading – a cap-and-trade scheme which allows owners of major carbon storage systems to trade carbon offsets with big industrial companies – has the potential to transform the profitability of Scotland’s rural areas. As a result, owners of forests, peat bogs and moorland in Scotland could be sitting on a fortune if this scheme takes off in Europe.
Scotland’s fishing industry will also feature high on this year’s agenda.
The consultation on the European Commission’s Green Paper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy came to an end in December, with attention focused on a radical overhaul of Scotland’s fishing industries.
We await the results of the consultation which will be presented in March. But one thing is very clear – the Common Fisheries Policy has failed fishermen and fish stocks.
The European Commission needs to devolve fisheries management to the stakeholders - the fishermen themselves - so that decisions regarding the future of fish stocks can be made locally, rather than by micro-management from Brussels.
Although the Commission has proposed reforming the system by 2012, many fishermen are unlikely to survive until then. The harsh regulatory regime, poor financial rewards and dangerous working conditions - the hallmark of 50 years of the CFP - have rendered the job almost un-tenable. Fishermen are currently working long and dangerous hours. We must support them rather than strangle their efforts to put healthy food on our tables.
There is clearly much to do this year and I look forward to the challenges ahead.