Conservative MEP welcomes Scottish and European experts to islands summit
Dr Ian Duncan, Conservative MEP for Scotland, has welcomed small businessmen from across Europe to the European Parliament to discuss the challenges facing Islands and peripheral communities. Dr Duncan chaired a meeting of the European Conservative and Reformist Policy Group on the Rural Economy, which heard that Island Communities across the EU face the common challenges of getting their goods to the market, providing a future for young people, embracing technological innovation and growing their economies.
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."
Notes to editors
1. Ian Duncan is the Conservative MEP for Scotland and Chair of the ECR Policy Group on the Rural Economy - http://ecrgroup.eu/workinggroups/
2. Details of Gerald Michaluk's Arran Brewery: http://www.arranbrewery.co.uk/
3. If using photo please credit the European Parliament with "© European Union 2015"
Contact Andrew Johnston
Head of Office, Ian Duncan MEP