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European Commission (Work Programme)
Sandra White (Scottish National Party)
I am pleased to speak in the debate, not only to raise the profiles of the European and External Relations Committee and the European Commission but to highlight the workings of the EU, which not that many people outwith the Parliament know about. It is shameful that there are no media representatives in the press gallery. I had hoped that the debate would open the media's eyes to the fact that the EU is an extremely important part of the governance of not only Scotland but the UK and Europe. I had hoped that media reports on the debate would have gone some way towards giving people out there an understanding of what Europe is all about and how important it is to Scotland, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government.
As Irene Oldfather pointed out, it is important that the Scottish Government engages with the European Parliament at all levels. It should engage with rapporteurs, commissioners and MEPs—and basically anyone else in Europe, particularly the Scottish Parliament's European officer. It is important to get in early and find out exactly what is coming out of Europe, and in her evidence to the committee, the minister has confirmed that that is basically what we do. It is important for us to keep an eye on what is happening in Europe. If the press is not going to tell everyone what is happening, it is up to individual MSPs and the Parliament to let folk know what is going on in Europe.
Does the minister have it in mind to hold a meeting with representatives of the new coalition Government at Westminster to discuss the importance of Europe for the Scottish Government and the Scottish people? Perhaps she can answer that in a letter.
I will concentrate on a couple of areas in the short time that I have left: combating poverty, and renewable energy and the energy grid. Reducing poverty is one of the EU 2020 targets, which I very much welcome. However, the European and External Relations Committee and the Scottish Government need to monitor closely what comes out of those targets. We need to do that not to ensure that poverty is eradicated—although I hope
On renewable energy and the energy grid, everyone knows that Scotland has a significant proportion of Europe's renewable energy in the form of wind and tidal power. Scotland is at the forefront of pushing through the energy agenda, and it can lead the rest of Europe, as has been said not just by me and other members but by eminent professors in Europe. Scotland had already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 19.2 per cent in 2007; in 2008, the emissions reduction percentage across the whole of the UK was just over 19 per cent. Scotland carries the rest of Britain when it comes to climate change and renewable energy. We need to remind ourselves that we are world leaders, and European leaders in particular. The Scottish Government must work with the new Westminster Government—as it had to work with the previous one—on the subject of renewable energy and the energy grid.
I am concerned about transmission charges for the energy grid. Under current transmission charging systems, the remote areas of northern Scotland pay as much as £42.13 per kilowatt, whereas people in the south-west of England pay £6.98 per kilowatt. That is a direct disadvantage. I hope that we can get together with the new Westminster Government and the European Commission to iron that out.
I would have liked to speak about the national grid, but my time is running out and I need to finish. We need to consider poverty, transmission charges and the energy grid. Scotland is a world leader on renewable energy, and we do not want to be penalised because of high transmission charges.