Deal is good for farmers
We are entering the height of the agricultural show season, with Stranraer, Wigtown and Stewartry shows all just a matter of weeks away.
And a topic on everyone’s lips up and down the country is sure to be the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
I write to praise the recent agreement on the outlines of the new CAP at the end of June between the European Council, Parliament and Commission, and believe it represents a solid deal for farmers.
Throughout this process, UK Conservative ministers worked closely with Scottish officials to make sure their views were heard at Europe’s top table, with the SNP’s Rural Affairs and Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead himself declaring: “The new CAP policy is a good one for Scotland.”
The deal contains real victories for Scotland, including better greening policies and new measures designed to ensure payments only go to active farmers.
UK negotiators also secured a greater emphasis on regional decision-making, giving the Scottish government the power to implement what is effectively a Scottish CAP.
As I know from my own work on the recently concluded Common Fisheries Policy reform, devolving control away from Brussels bureaucrats and back to Scotland is sure to reap big benefits.
On balance, the new CAP package is a positive one for Scottish farmers. The ball is now firmly in the Scottish government’s court as it determines how it will use the resources at its disposal to ensure a prosperous Scottish farming sector.
Struan Stevenson MEP,
The European Parliament, Rue Wiertz, Brussels.
Town lacks any blooms
Can anyone from DGFirst offer any explanations why towns surrounding Newton Stewart – ie, Dumfries, Castle Douglas and Stranraer – have flowers on the approaches and in the streets. All Newton Stewart has is an unattrative roundabout with not even a flower in sight, which is not a good first impression for visitors.
King Street, Newton Stewart
Building is suffering
Reports from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce that business confidence is finally improving are very welcome.
But we shouldn’t lose sight of how far key sectors of the economy have been forced to downsize – and the challenges this creates in building a sustainable recovery.
In the construction sector, we’ve seen employment fall by more than a quarter in the space of five years. Commercial construction activity has almost halved. Housing activity is down 38 per cent and industrial output is down by almost a quarter. Between 2008 and 2012, 655 Scottish building firms have gone bust.
The industry is fully committed to developing the next generation of workers it needs to deliver long-term sustainable growth. But recruiting someone for a four-year apprenticeship remains a significant commitment when many firms don’t know what work they’ll have on their books six or 12 months from now.
The efforts being made by the Scottish government to prioritise direct capital investment are hugely welcome.
Crucially, the public sector now needs to set out a much clearer long-term project pipeline as a consequence of that investment. This will give building firms the confidence to begin investing to rebuild industry skills and capacity.
Executive Director, Scottish Building Federation, 4 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh.
Join the Great North Run
We are urging people to get their running shoes on and sign up for this year’s Great North Run – the world’s largest half-marathon – to help fight meningitis.
The Great North Run deadline for entries has been extended until July 29. We’re looking for more runners to sign up and help represent Team Meningitis Trust/Meningitis UK.
Full support will be given for the run between Newcastle and South Shields on Sunday, September 15. Our runners also receive a free running vest or T-shirt, an information pack on how to prepare and a well- deserved sports massage afterwards.
The charity needs to raise £10,000 every day to fund its life-saving services. Meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia continue to affect thousands of people in the UK every year and kill more children under five than any other infectious disease.
Meningitis can strike with incredible speed and the symptoms are notoriously difficult to detect, often being confused with flu.
We are fighting back by funding research alongside supporting survivors.
To take part, either as an individual or with a group of friends or colleagues, contact me on 01453 769023 or email email@example.com.
Events Coordinator, Meningitis UK/Meningitis Trust.