Category Archives: Uncategorised

Future of the Crown Estate Consultation

Future of the Crown Estate: Consultation for shaping the Crown Estate in Scotland.

A 12 week consultation on the long term framework for the devolved management of the Crown Estate in Scotland was announced today during a visit to Rhu Marina, Helensburgh.

Devolution of the management and revenue of the Crown Estate in Scotland through the Scotland Act 2016 provides an opportunity to increase the benefits to Scotland and local communities.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Control over the management and resources of the Crown Estate in Scotland should rest with the people of Scotland and this is a genuine opportunity to change the fabric of Scottish Society.

“This consultation is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help shape the future management of The Crown Estate in Scotland. Good Management of our land, marine environment and other natural resources is essential for Scotland’s future prosperity.

“I would encourage all those interested to respond to the consultation and help us to assume our new powers in a way which creates solutions which meet Scotland’s needs and interests.”

Amanda Bryan, Shadow Chairing Member of Crown Estate Scotland said:

“From the 1st of April decisions about both the day to day management and the future of the estate will be taken in Scotland which is a huge step forward. I along with the staff of the new interim management body will seek to manage the estate responsibly, delivering benefits to our partners, tenants and communities and ensuring that it remains in good order for the next phase.”

Background

The Scottish Government is taking a phased approach on devolution of the management of the Crown Estate. The consultation launched today will inform the second phase of devolution.

The consultation on the proposals will run until 29 March Details can be found on the Scottish Government website at: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/crown-estate-strategy-unit/long-term-management-of-the-crown-estate

The Scotland Act 2016 introduced a new era for the management of Crown assets in Scotland. The Crown Estate in Scotland includes a diverse portfolio of property, rights and interests that influence many aspects of rural and coastal life in Scotland. The value of Crown Estate property in Scotland was £271.8 million and gross annual revenue was £14 million in 2015/16.

Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) is being established as a Public Corporation. It will take on its asset management role from 1 April 2017 subject to the completion of transfer of powers at Westminster. The Scottish Government is working to safeguard a smooth transfer for staff and ensure that the interim body provides stability and continuity of service to those who rely on existing Crown Estate leases or services as the management responsibilities are devolved to Scotland, particularly during the time needed for establishing a new permanent framework.

Rhu Marina is owned by The Crown Estate and leased to Quay Marinas, who operate the facility 24 hours a day.

info from http://news.gov.scot/news/future-of-the-crown-estate

Cost of living on islands still 40% higher

New HIE study updates rural cost of living in Scotland.

In 2013, Highlands and Islands Enterprise in partnership with a range of other public agencies commissioned the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) to establish a minimum income standard for remote rural Scotland including highlands and islands.

Discussions were centered on what was common and what was different in a minimum household ‘basket’ of goods and services in these communities, compared with other parts of the UK.

In 2016, HIE commissioned the CRSP to update the research.

Original study showed costs were up by 10-40%

The 2013 study found that the budgets required by households to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living in remote rural Scotland were typically 10- 40% higher than elsewhere in the UK. For households in more remote island locations, these additional costs could exceed 40%.

The premiums were most modest for pensioners and greatest for single people and families with dependent children, and were driven by:

  • The higher prices that households were required to pay for food, clothes and household goods.
  • Considerably higher household fuel bills, influenced by climate and fuel sources.
  • The longer distances that people have to routinely travel, particularly to work.

Update shows no improvements in costs for rural areas.

The main findings of the updated report are as follows:

  •  In 2016, a minimum acceptable standard of living in remote rural Scotland typically requires between a tenth and a third more household spending than in urban parts of the UK.
  •  This picture is similar to 2013, although the lower price of petrol and diesel has significantly reduced the additional cost for people having to travel long distances, particularly regular travel for work.
  •   The additional costs come from a range of sources. In particular, the costs of travelling, heating one’s home and paying for goods and their delivery are much higher for many residents of the areas under review, especially those in the remotest areas.

    Conclusions

The update was asked to consider these costs are being and could addressed through national and regional policy:

  • Despite some easing of costs, the continuing high cost of living in remote rural Scotland, and its exposure to any renewed rise of energy costs, makes their mitigation as urgent as ever. A framework for addressing these costs needs to consider issues around energy costs, shopping costs and travel costs in a joined up way, which takes account of the influence of local infrastructure and the development of jobs and communities.
  • There is scope for some reduction on home energy costs, but mainstream energy efficiency measures have limited effect in the particular circumstances of remote rural Scotland. The Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force needs to identify particular ways in which energy efficiency improvements and better functioning markets and charging structures can be designed to meet the unique circumstances of remote rural Scotland.
  •   Retail costs could potentially go down if delivery networks are improved and charges reduced. Imaginative solutions are needed that use technology to join up delivery networks, and aim to reduce charges that are higher than they need to be.
  •  The best way to get travel costs down is for people to reduce the need to travel long distances for work. This requires a focus on developing more jobs that are both local and reasonably paid, which in turn requires the fostering of new skills in the workforce and the development of external markets.
  •  An improved infrastructure is needed to support these developments. In particular, the roll-out of high speed broadband is crucial, both for work and other purposes. Since a reliable network reaching all households is likely to be elusive in the medium term, the potential for having community hubs with good broadband and other amenities needs to be explored.
  •   All these improvements will work better to the extent that the population of the area can be maintained and boosted, especially among young adults. This requires in particular a focus on developing young people’s skills and opportunities, and on improving amenities such as mobile signal which are particularly important to them.

How will Brexit impact Britain’s waste management practices?

Brexit: a bad choice is no excuse for not moving towards zero waste

Joan Marc Simon of Zero Waste Europe says that it doesn’t have to mean the end of the path to a zero-waste future for Britain.

“Brexit means Brexit”. This is the most concise explanation we have received so far from the British authorities about how are they planning to implement the results of the referendum held in the UK in June 2016.

Not surprisingly, the immediate impacts of the referendum boosted the support for EU membership around the EU. However, one could think that after the first critical moments, things went back to normal; the economy continued to run, etc. And, after a few months, all seems ok.

Well, this is the result for Britain of continuing to live within the EU; in the Customs Union, in the Single Market and implementing the acquis communautaire. For as long as Article 50 is not invoked, the UK might be able to protect its economy, albeit hampering future investments in the country which will instead look for a place where there is more legal security.

But even when Brexit happens – if it ends up happening – there is agreement that the path to leave the EU will be long and tortuous with great potential to harm economy and negatively affect social and environmental standards in the UK.

With this article, I intend to analyse how the different scenarios of a Brexit might impact the waste sector in the UK.

But before that, let’s make one thing clear: from a democratic legitimacy standpoint, there is no reason why EU legislation implemented so far should stop being British law, for the simple reason that they were laws that were approved with the active participation of the British Government in the council negotiations and the British members of parliament in the European Parliament (EP). The European legislation is as British as it is Italian or German. Nevertheless, when contemplating the different types of European laws, one can make a difference about the legitimacy between EU Directives and EU Regulations.

Directives such as the Waste Framework Directive or the Industrial Emissions Directive were jointly approved by co-decision procedure by the Council and the EP, but they need to go through the national parliaments in order to be transposed into EU law into national law. Hence all directives have gone through the Westminster Parliament and they are fully legitimised to continue to be applicable.

Even more so, considering that normally, with transposition of an EU directive into national law, each Member State (MS) has a certain amount of leeway as to the exact rules to be adopted. Indeed, directives require Member States to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. So, there is nothing to prevent MSs from fixing higher national standards.

Regulations are something else: the European Commission and the Council can produce regulations which have the main characteristic that they need to be applied in MS and they don’t go through national parliaments, being directly applicable in its entirety and enforceable by law. The British legislators might feel legitimated to remove the regulations but this has the risk of creating loopholes or legal lacunae; for instance the waste shipment regulation rules the move of waste for recovery and disposal within EU borders and to the outside. If the Shipment Regulation was repealed, it would mean that the UK needs to create a new law that is compatible with the Waste Framework Directive and the Basel Convention. It makes more to just keep the regulation as it is.

This is an important point because if the UK leadership manages to convince the brexit supporters that in fact the UK participated in the making of the EU law and the British Parliament has transposed them into British law, it will be easier to convince them to keep the laws as they are, thereby saving time and efforts to everybody. Definitely, it would be a measure that should be supported by the local authorities, the industry and the NGOs for it provides legal certainty about what is going to happen in the coming years.

Besides the democratic legitimacy perspective, keeping the acquis communautaire can be observed from the position of the advantages of staying in the single market, which would involve accepting free movement of people. This is where we find at least three possible scenarios for the UK.

Firstly, there is the “out is out” option, with the UK not having access to the EU internal market. This would mean increase in tariffs and controls, less access to European and foreign markets which according to calculations from UK treasury would total a 7,5% loss of GDP over 15 years. The catastrophic consequences for Britain speak in favour of ruling out this option.

The second option is to try to emulate the Swiss option. Switzerland is not a member of the EU nor the EEA. Instead, it has negotiated a series of bilateral treaties governing its relations with the EU. Usually, each treaty provides for Switzerland to participate in a particular EU policy or programme. Adopting the Swiss model following Brexit could be appealing if the UK is looking for an ‘à la carte’ approach to European integration. But this depends also on the EU approach, indeed Commission and key Member States will be concerned about creating precedents for similarly complex and à la carte arrangements in the event of other Member States choosing to leave the EU in future. This option is therefore to be ruled out because of the bad predisposition of the EU to concede such an agreement.

Finally, there is the option of following the “Norwegian model”; that is implementing the EU acquis and being able to participate in the single market whilst allowing the UK to strike its own trade deals outside the EU. This is likely to be a more acceptable option despite implying new bureaucratic burdens for British exporters who will have to comply with complex “rules of origin” and which includes some contributions to the European budget too.

Obviously, if/when Brexit happens, the UK will end up developing a model of its own but it wouldn’t make legal, economic or environmental sense to scrap current Environmental legislation in order to create a completely new set of disparate laws which are not compatible with the definitions, procedures or targets set by its immediate trade partners.

It is indeed a paradox that the result of Brexit would mean that the UK will end up having to implement laws that they didn’t make, hence being in a “worst situation” than before the Brexit. This is not necessarily bad news for the EU environmental policies for it has been because of the UK filibustering that most environmental policies have been delayed or lacked ambition over the last years. As a result of UK’s departure from the negotiating table one could expect faster moves towards a circular economy.

In either case one should not forget that what the EU legislation does is provide the baseline for member states but those are always free to be more ambitious than what the directives say I.e. member states are obliged to achieve 50% recycling by 2020 but they can aim for more –not less – if they want. Examples from the network of zero waste municipalities show very well how in those municipalities where there is political will moving towards zero waste is possible. The UK history, England in particular, is not one of success or vision when it comes to resource and waste management. Countries that joined the EU 30 years later than the UK are performing substantially better; Slovenia and Ljubljana in particular have implemented ambitious and efficient waste collection systems and Estonia and Lithuania already have deposit and refund schemes operating for packaging.

Why can’t we envisage the UK implementing deposit and refund schemes, widespread separate collection at the kerbside and moving away from incinerators, landfills and waste exports? The recent microbeads ban in the UK shows that where there is a will there is a way. If the Brits are so brave to break away from the EU they will surely dare to provide a more resilient future for their new generations, won’t they?

Joan Marc Simon

Director,

Zero Waste Europe

 

Post Brexit Island access to single market?

“Single Market must work for the islands “said Conservative  MEP Ian Duncan last August.

Last year (30.09.15), Dr Ian Duncan, Conservative MEP for Scotland, and chair of the ECR, welcomed small businessmen from across Europe to the European Parliament to discuss the challenges facing Islands and peripheral communities.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels, Dr Duncan said

‘When I campaigned to be elected to the European Parliament I was struck by the challenges facing Island communities right across Scotland. The small businesses based on these Islands produce goods and services of incredibly high quality, but encounter barriers such as distance from market, transport challenges, intermittent Internet, and attracting and retaining staff. We heard today from speakers from Scotland, Denmark, Croatia and Finland, all of whom face common challenges.

‘The key message is that the Single Market must work for you regardless of where you live and work. If you are in Stornoway, or Stirling, Arran or Aberdeen you should be able to do business. The islands don’t need special treatment, they need equal treatment. So when we talk about a Digital Single Market it should be a market for every islander as well as every mainlander. The same when we talk about an Energy Union; it should connect every household, not just those in the middle. And of course, you should be able to access the single market without let or hindrance, regardless of whether you are selling whisky on Islay or gin in Edinburgh.

‘I am delighted to have been able to bring together experts from across Europe and look forward to publishing a report of our findings in due course.’

The group heard from speakers including Gerald Michaluk, the owner of the Arran Brewery, and Donald MacInnes, crofter and former Chief Executive of Scotland Europa.

Gerald Michaluk commented,

‘As one of our potentially biggest trading partners Europe is essential, and if Scotland wants to maintain jobs and vitality on its Islands it needs to support Dr Ian Duncan’s initiative.

‘Islands need to have full access to Europe and be able to operate on a level playing field with mainland locations. Only in this way can we sustain the beauty and natural environment of Island communities across the EU.’

Donald MacInnes commented:

‘Islanders don’t feel remote. For the single market to work for everyone, disparities between peripheral regions/islands must be minimised. Equally important is to focus on eliminating differences within these regions and islands. An understanding of this fine grain is crucial in seeking strategies and solutions.’

Jamie McGrigor, Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands added:

‘As someone who lives in and has represented remote and island communities in the Scottish Parliament for many years, I know the unique challenges they face. Geography, transportation and logistical challenges often mean it is particularly difficult to do business in remote communities such as those up and down the west coast of Scotland.

“However, their produce, skills and expertise are often second to none, and I am delighted that my colleague Ian Duncan MEP is raising this issue in the European Parliament.”

What is Dr Ian Duncan’s position now?

Currently there are no new post from Dr Duncan’s blog on the need for the islands to engage with the single market.

Is he towing the party line on a hard Brexit, or he is standing by his word on the Single Market s advantage for the island?

If you are concerned about this issue,  contact Andrew Johnston, Head of Office for Ian Duncan, Ian Duncan MEP as he stated his position as always putting Scotland’s interests’ first and the current discussion does not look as if Scotland’s interests – and never mind the islands – are being fully considered in the discussion.  

 

 

Islands in Scotland’s Rural Parliament manifesto

Putting islands in Scotland’s Rural Parliament manifesto

The Scottish Rural Parliament in 2016 brought together 350 people from across rural Scotland to discuss the issues of greatest importance to rural communities.

This year’s rural Parliament in Brechin saw an increase in island representation. Not only the Scottish Islands Federation held its own workshop as part of the Fringe, but a sizeable proportion of the prizes for social innovation also went to islanders. Yet again another example of  of islanders showing that they are smart.

Islanders from Barra, Mull , Skye and Shetland among the winners.
Islanders from Barra, Mull , Skye and Shetland among the winners.

A Manifesto for Rural Scotland was agreed with participants deciding what actions need to be taken and by who, to ensure our rural communities are empowered, connected and sustainable.

The final Manifesto and Action Plan will be published shortly on the Rural Parliament website.

The four subjects prioritised by participants were: Land, Local democracy & governance, Business and Broadband and mobile phone signal.

The Scottish Islands Federation asked for the situation of islands to be considered in a number of the manifesto’s paragraphs. Much like legislation after the island Bill is passed, the manisfesto needs to be island proofed.

The site visits were all inspiring and and there a was visible buzz about the place. People genuinely felt they could express themselves and be heard. A lot of connections were made.

The Scottish Rural Parliament did feel like it presented a genuine opportunity for communities to make real and positive changes where they live. There was a real buzz about the event.

The main  concept of the Rural Parliament is that it is a participative event., where rural people can talk face to face to politicians and policy makers. It is a welcome sign of democracy in action.

 

ESIN 2016 conference will focus on the need for island sustainability indicators

Small Islands Atlas and Sustainability indicators

There has been a long discussion within ESIN about the need for a better understanding of the Smaller islands position at the level of the EU commission.

For this reason, ESIN vice-president Christian Pleijel and University of South Wales PhD student and self-confessed nissologist Neil Lodwick have teemed up for the first presentation of the conference which will also look at island labelling and the possibility of starting a ZeroWaste Island EU programme ( see full programme below)

They have worked on  the concept of an Atlas of the Small Islands of Europe which will look at the islands from the point of view of a set of sustainability indicators dealing with social, economic, governance and environmental aspects of island life.

Read more about it on the ESIN website.

This is largely in response to the European Parliament resolution of February 4th 2016 on the special situation of islands, as ESIN is concerned that the smaller islands are not included in the NUTS 2 and NUTS 3 description.

The present statistical indicators are also  the subject of detailed criticism by the Committee of Region, who has identified the need for more adapted and subtle statistical instruments.

What is the S.I.F. and ESIN position on the need for better indicators?

S.I.F chair Camille Dressler who has largely coordinated the programme for this year’s ESIN AGM conference in Brussels on 27 September 2016, has secured the attendance of Olivier Heiden, a European statistics specialist from the Committee of Regions to lead the panel discussion about sustainability indicators.

This is what she wrote to Mr Heiden in response to his interest in leading the discussion:

“In the document COTER – VI/009, (indicators for territorial development, GDP and beyond- 10-11 February 2016), the  following comments echo very well the opinion we have in ESIN that the present statistical indicators do not address the situation of territories such as the islands archipelagoes members of the European Small Islands Federation.

We agree in the first instance that a number of EU instruments are still based on an excessively narrow economic measure, and that eligibility decisions are basically blind to social and environmental and territorial aspects across European regions.

As many of our islands are not included in the NUTS2 or NUTS 3 areas, we too question what is the ability of NUTS level 2 to reflect real communities and real geographies when the NUTS areas are purely statistical geographies based on population rather than reflecting real boundaries or functional geographical areas such as islands.

And since NUTS are also used to date to allocate EU Structural Funds, we also agree that “their use to formulate and evaluate the territorial impact of EU cohesion, transport, environment and other policies has a pervasive effect which results in EU policies being out of step with the situation on the ground” and failing to reflect in particular the situation of islands that are members of ESIN.

For this reason, we agree that “currently the regionalisation of Europe 2020 indicators is not satisfactory, because only some of the indicators needed to track the Europe 2020 headline targets at regional level (NUTS level 2 and 3) are available.”

We would certainly support the Committee of the Regions proposal to “update regional statistics that would make it possible to build a synthetic Regional Progress Indicator.”

Our research shows it is indeed necessary to add specific data pertinent to islands that are not in the NUTS 2 or NUTS 3 classification in order to add to the weight carried by cohesion objectives.

We therefore support the Committee of Regions statement urging “the European Commission to include in the European statistical programme the measures needed for dealing with shortcomings in statistical information on territorial diversity and specific features in the EU, namely measures for compiling data and building up indicators on regions’ remoteness and isolation, so as to improve the process of devising and implementing European policies better adapted to regions affected by these phenomena” such as islands,” in keeping with the principle of territorial cohesion.””

ESIN AGM 2016 Conference programme

Date: Tuesday 27th September 2016     09.30 – 17.30

Venue: European Economic and Social Committee, Rue Belliard, 99, BRUSSELS, room JDE 63

Time Programme
9.00 Registration of participants
1 9.30 Introduction by ESIN president Bengt Almkvist

ESIN vice president Eleftherios Kechagioglou introduces conference sponsor president Georges Dassis (EESC).

ESIN President introduces Pierre Jean Coulon (EESC TEN president), Ioannis Latoudis (DG REGIO), Toni Piccula (SEARICA).

2 10.00 Description of the Small Islands situation: The ESIN Atlas and islands sustainability indicators, ppt by Christian Plejiel and Neil Lodwick
3 10.30 Panel Discussion led by Oliver Heiden ( European Committee of the Regions (CoR)

“ There is a need for the EU to improve the description of the small islands situation as they are not included in the NUTS 3 and 4 classification”

Panel participants: Oliver Heiden Ioannis Latoudis (DG Regio), Yannis Vardakastanis (2017 Year of Disability), Bengt Almkvist (ESIN)

10.50 Coffee/tea break
4 11.00 Thematic Islands presentations: the top three issues (OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES) on each national islands federation’s agenda, led by Camille Dressler
5 11.55 Summing up on thematic issues: common strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities in reference to the Atlas by Christian Pleijel.
6 12.00 EESC’s perspective on islands by Pierre Jean Coulon (EESC TEN president)
7 12.15 Island Issues post 2020

Panel discussion led by Toni Piccula We are moving towards post 2020 and the European Commission is discussing how to act in the islands issue in the next program period 2021-2027.

– How will islands be earmarked for financing?

– Creation of an island desk to coordinate all island programs?

– How can the contract between the commission and island nations be strengthened, making it possible to reject programs that do not include islands?

Panel participants: Toni Piccula, Pierre Jean Coulon, Ioannis Latoudis, Bengt Almkvist

8 12.55 Summing up and conclusions by Bengt Almkvist
13.00 Buffet lunch in venue foyer
9 14.00 Towards a Zero Waste Islands Programme? by Ferran Rosa, Policy Officer, Zero Waste Europe .
10 14.30 Islands Product Labelling, presentation by Laurids Siig Christensen (The Small Island Food Network of Denmark) followed by debate.

Island Specialties, a registered trademark owned by the Small Island Food Network in Denmark, is a terroir-based brand, and permission to use the brand implies a positive impact of production on the island community.

Could this brand be used by island communities in other European countries? Discussion of the potential of this idea with the ESIN delegates.

15.30 Coffee/tea break
11 15.45 Island indicators: from general to local. Discussion led by Christian Pleijel and Neil Lodwick on two sets of indicators:

We have devised 10 common indicators for the islands, but we feel these need refining to take into account the individual island situation. How is this to be achieved?

12 16.45 Conclusions of the day by Bengt Almkvist
17.00 End of conference

Relevant links:

ESIN:    https://europeansmallislands.com/

EESC:                                       http://www.eesc.europa.eu/i=portal.en.home

European Network For Rural development http://enrd.ec.europa.eu/networks-and-networking/research-initiatives/research-institutions-dg-regio_en

DG REGIO                         http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/index_en.cfm

SEARICA:                                  http://searica.eu/en/

2017, Year of disability:

http://www.edf-feph.org/Page_Generale.asp?DocID=13854&thebloc=34304

Eurostat:  http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat

The Small Island Food Network of Denmark: http://www.oe-specialiteter.dk/en/

Zero Waste Europe:        https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/

European Parliament resolution of February 4th 2016 on the special situation of islands: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2016-0049+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=GA

ESIN ATLAS can be found at the ESIN website: https://europeansmallislands.com/esif-structured-dialogue/

The Community Empowerment Act and coastal communities

The Community Empowerment Act and Coastal communities

At the Marine Communities Workshop  organised by Flora and Fauna International in  May 2016,  we heard the Scottish Community Alliance on the community empowerment agenda.

On the back of that presentation,  Fauna and Flora international thought it would be useful to review the Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) 2015 to see how it might apply to coastal communities and inshore waters.

The key points which the document attached explores include:

  • The CEA is all about local communities having a stronger role in local decision making;
  • This will be done through improving public services for communities through better community planning and other direct mechanisms for getting involved in local decision-making;
  • The CEA also directly empowers communities through the acquisition of land and buildings;
  • There are positive principles built into community planning and Community Planning Partnerships such as prioritising local needs and embedding communities in processes from the beginning to the end;
  • Participation Requests can be made to SNH and SEPA for environmental protection purposes;
  • Aligning with the Community Right to Buy Land, the use of the Crown Estate’s Local Management Agreements could be investigated for the purpose of leasing the seabed for nature conservation;
  • Coastal community groups seeking land or property as a base can explore Asset Transfer opportunities within council or publicly owned land;
  • Guidance and regulations are being prepared for each section of the Act. It is anticipated that the guidance for asset transfer and participation requests will be operational towards the end of 2016.
  • Participatory Budgeting isn’t included in the Act. Scottish Government is however investing heavily in its promotion.

These are useful starting points to interpreting the Act.

Let us know what you think!

BREXIT result: some of the reactions around Scotland

Alyn Smith, MEP: do not let Scotland down!

SNP MEP Alyn Smith addressed the European Parliament making clear Scotland’s desire to continue our membership of the EU – and received an unprecedented standing ovation from MEPs.

Addressing the meeting of the Parliament, Alyn Smith said:

“I represent Scotland within this house and where I’m proudly Scottish, I’m also proudly European.

“I want my country to be internationalist, cooperative, ecological, fair, European – and the people of Scotland along with the people of Northern Ireland and the people of London and lots and lots of people in Wales and England also voted to remain within our family of nations. I demand that that status and that esprit européen
be respected.

“Colleagues, there are a lot of things to be negotiated and we will need cool heads and warm hearts, but please remember this: Scotland did not let you down. Please, I beg you, cher colleagues, do not let Scotland down now.”

See more about Alyn Smith ‘s speech here.

COAST: seriously alarming

“We are alarmed at the referendum result in favour of leaving”, says Andrew Binnie from COAST “as we believe it will undermine the hard-won environmental legislation which underpins Scotland’s 2010 Marine Act, not to mention a raft of other important pieces of environmental legislation. These have made a real difference to the quality of our fragile natural environment”

Probable Erosion of Important Directives

“It has taken decades of hard work involving many UK/Scottish experts, civil servants and organisations to get Directives such as the Bathing Water, Water and Marine Strategy Framework Directives in place”, continues Mr Binnie .”The implementation of these has greatly benefited the people of Scotland who have seen a real improvement in water quality, particularly in our estuaries and cities. We no longer dump raw sewage into the Clyde for instance and fish stocks in the North Sea are showing signs of recovery. It is critical we continue to build on existing progressive legislation.”

Real danger

There is a real danger that without the backing of EU Directives the implementation of marine and fresh water legislation will be delayed, diluted and vulnerable to even greater industry lobbying. COAST is not uncritical of the EU but it is already clear that some (not all) sections of the fishing industry view ‘Brexit’ as an opportunity to discard regulations they are not in favour of ‘over the side’. We should expect the roll out of Scotland’s MPA network to be challenged. This would be a tragedy not just for the environment but also for fishers and coastal communities. It is self-evident that a healthy marine environment will support many more jobs than a depleted and degraded one.

No trade off

Environmental legislation must not be traded off in any negotiations. As a community organisation fighting for better management of Arran and Clyde waters, COAST is particularly concerned that marine legislation and the implementation of Scotland’s Marine Protected Area network remain on course.

CPMR calls for unity

The Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) has expressed its disappointment that the UK has voted to leave the EU, but has called for EU Members and Regions across Europe to remain united and to work together to build a better future.

CPMR Secretary General, Eleni Marianou, said:

“It is very disappointing that the people of the UK have taken the historic decision to leave the European Union. It is a decision that undermines European integration and unity, but we must respect the fact that they have exercised their democratic right.

“Now the EU and all Regions across Europe must move forward together, in the interests of growth and prosperity, to find the answers to our common challenges.”

The first SMART ISLANDS forum hosted in Athens

A step towards maturing the Smart Islands Initiative

The first Smart Islands Forum was hosted in Athens on 21 and 22 June at the initiative of the DAFNI Network of Sustainable Aegean and Ionian Islands and the Aegean Energy Agency.

The Forum gathered representatives of island local and regional authorities and actors from 13 countries, namely Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. The UK was represented by Ian Stephen, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Camille Dressler from the Scottish Islands Federation and Felix Wight of Community Energy Scotland.

It was supported by the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE), the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) and the Covenant of Mayors Office .

The 42 European island representatives were joined by organizations with an interest in the potential carried by islands including the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Small Islands Federation, the Network of the Insular Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the European Union, the Greek Energy Forum and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ). The Islands Commission of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions also addressed the Forum.

Bottom up process to define further the Smart Islands Initiative 

The Forum was a bottom-up process offering island local and regional authorities the chance to mature the Smart Islands Initiative, which comes as a continuation of years of collaboration among European islands with the support of the European Union, including the successful SMILEGOV project.

The Smart Islands Initiative, inspired by the Smart Cities and Communities initiative, represents an excellent opportunity for island authorities to devise a place-based, transformative development agenda that taps into islands’ competitive advantages, generates local growth and prosperity, and helps the EU meet the goals it has set in a number of policy areas, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, innovation, circular economy, sustainable transport and mobility.

During the Forum island representatives engaged in a collective process of drafting the Smart Islands Declaration, which outlines the aspirations on the role, challenges and potential of islands to become models of a smart, sustainable and inclusive development paradigm.

In the coming months Forum participants agreed to have Quadruple Helix actors ( Local Authorities and local actors as well as Academic institutions as well as businesses) from respective islands endorse the Declaration in order to ensure all existing synergies are exploited through broad stakeholder engagement.

Brussels event scheduled for Autumn 2016

Further, participants expressed their commitment to organize an event late autumn in Brussels to present the Smart Islands Declaration among EU institutions and stakeholders, showcase island lighthouse projects and exchange views with policy makers on islands’ potential to drive Europe’s transition into a low-carbon, resource-efficient, circular and inclusive economy.

Last but not least participants discussed the possibility to set up a platform of EU island authorities and actors in Brussels that will advocate in favour of island affairs and facilitate partnerships for the realization of EU projects on islands. The platform was also well perceived as a structure to support the Pact of Islands Secretariat in strong collaboration with the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

Ultimately the first Smart Islands Forum was a success in that it offered the opportunity to extend the European family of islands and inspired participants to turn this first gathering into an annual event dedicated to EU islands cooperation.

EU laws and the environment

Friends of the Earth Scotland believes that for the sake of our environment, we should remain part of the EU.

Membership of the EU has transformed the UK’s environmental laws for the better:

  •  In the 1970s and 80s the UK was known as the “dirty man of Europe” with the highest sulphur dioxide emissions from power stations causing acid rain across northern Europe. EU agreements meant sulphur dioxide pollution fell 89% between 1990 and 2010. In 2016, Scotland said farewell to its last coal-fired power station.
  • Raw sewage used to be routinely pumped into the sea and in 1976 only 27 beaches across the UK were deemed clean enough to swim off. EU action meant by 2011 there were 597 designated beaches. Now almost all our beaches meet EU quality standards. In 2014, Scotland’s 84 designated bathing waters achieved a mandatory pass rate of 98% and new standards from Europe mean the water will have to be even cleaner in future.
  •   In 2013 the Scottish Government campaigned to keep bee-killing pesticides on the market in Scotland. The EU’s “precautionary principle” meant that the worst of these products were banned from use on the crops most visited by bees.
  •  European rules have meant that thousands of dangerous chemicals have been removed from everyday products, like lead from paint and gender-bending bisphenol-A from baby bottles.We believe it makes sense to work together across Europe on many of the environmental and social challenges we share. Only by working together on the European scale did we stop acid rain and only by staying together can make the large, global emissions cuts needed to tackle climate change. The EU now has the biggest programme of environmental legislation in the world and sustainable development is written into its treaties. A vote to leave would put our progress on the environment, as well as the employment and social rights and protections we enjoy, at risk.

    The EU is far from perfect, with currently a EU’s dogged prioritisation of economic growth at any cost, secretive TTIP trade negotiations, threats to nature laws and resistance to democratic reform.

    The EU needs to rediscover its way and make environmental and human welfare a core purpose if it is to continue to get support from EU citizens. We support a EU where employment, social and environmental rights in the European market are better protected. The current UK government appears to argue for staying in an EU with fewer protections.

Friends of the Earth Scotland calls for the EU to:

Change priorities

  •  The EU’s priorities should be improving people’s lives and taking care of the shared environment we depend on, not a blind pursuit of economic growth.
  •   The free trade ideology that is currently flourishing in the EU should be done away with and negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other similar deals must be abandoned.

Improve laws

  •  The EU should not be allowed to weaken laws that protect the environment or public health. Policies like the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy should be overhauled to put long-term, sustainable protection and management of our environment at their centre.
  •   Countries should be free to introduce stronger environmental laws that set an example to others in the EU.

Reinvigorate democracy

  •  The elected European Parliament should have the power to initiate environmental and health legislation and be given an equal say with national leaders on final decision-making.
  •   The opinions, discussions and activities of EU members on environmental matters must be published publicly and when corporations, NGOs or others try to lobby and influence decisions, this should be made transparent.
  •   The subsidiarity principle, which clarifies at what level of government action should be taken, must be given more weight and interpreted to better preserve local democracy and ensure that decisions are taken closest to citizens.
  •   It should be possible for people and NGOs to challenge EU decisions in EU courts if the EU is breaking its own laws.
  •  EU commissioners wield huge power in the EU, deciding what legislation is introduced or cut. The European Parliament should have the power to reject unsuitable potential commissioners, for example when they have no track record, little interest in or are hostile to environmental protection.
  •   Commissioners and EU civil servants should spend at least as much time talking to public interest groups (such as charities) as they do to corporations.
  •  Representatives with corporate interests, or those paid by them, should not form a majority on advisory groups to the EU Commission.