CONSERVATIVE MEP FOR SCOTLAND

Time for Eastwood to turn blue once again?

Jackson Carlaw knows Eastwood well. As he says, ‘this is not my first time at the rodeo.’ However, when I joined him last Friday, he couldn’t quite figure out what the Labour Party was up to.

01.05.2016.

Jackson Carlaw knows Eastwood well. As he says, ‘this is not my first time at the rodeo.’

However, when I joined him last Friday, he couldn’t quite figure out what the Labour Party was up to.

‘They’ve held the seat since 1997 and suddenly they’re turning off voters left, right and centre: East Ren voted overwhelmingly to stay in the Union, but Kezia Dugdale might well vote to leave the UK next time. Kezia supports Trident, but her party doesn’t, whilst UK Labour is pro-Trident, and Jeremy Corbyn is anti; and the recent ramblings of Ken Livingstone have exposed a nasty streak of prejudice in Labour which is a definite turn off to Eastwood voters.’

What’s that old line (with apologies to Groucho Marx)? ‘The Labour Party may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you. They really are an idiot.’

When I campaigned in Eastwood last time, many Conservative voters intended, reluctantly, to loan their vote to Labour to defend the Union and head off the Nat surge.  As Jackson says, ‘They won’t be doing that again.’

Jackson and I had arranged to catch up with local farmer Stewart Miller to talk farm payments and the SNP government’s shambolic efforts to pay farmers their due. As it happens Stewart is one of the luckier farmers, he has received 80% of his money, albeit several months late. He doesn’t know when the rest will be paid, nor does he know exactly how much. Even Scottish Government officials don’t know.

So far the Scottish Government has spent £178m on a computer system to administer the farm payments. There is only one problem. It doesn’t work. Stewart was not the first farmer to tell me that Scottish Government officials had reverted to pencil and paper.

What I didn’t know was that Scottish Farm Minister Richard Lochhead is actually from Eastwood. He was raised in Busby, just beyond Stewart Miller’s farm. Having travelled the length and breadth of Scotland, one thing is clear. Richard Lochhead has lost the farmers’ confidence and he has lost their vote too. Deriding Scottish farmers who criticise the SNP Government as ‘throwing bricks,’ was the final insult.

As chairman of the ECR’s Rural Economy Working Group out in Brussels I have met with EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan and his team several times to talk about the crisis. He has bent over backwards to help Lochhead, suspending the need for pre-auditing, sanctioning split payments, but the problem really is home grown. The last time I met EU officials they reported that the deadline to have made full payment is fast approaching. If it is missed the Scottish Government runs the risk of incurring millions of pounds-worth of fines.

Jackson wrestled a large Corex board from the back of his car before we left, ready to be put up in a field. It bore the simple statement: RUTH DAVIDSON for a strong opposition. As Jackson explained, ‘when was the last time you heard a Labour politician standing up for farmers; offering a serious opposition. Good grief, their Shadow UK Farm Minister believes meat should be treated like tobacco and advocates a public campaign to stop people eating it.’

Certainly sounds like its time for a serious opposition to the SNP, and that serious opposition certainly isn’t Labour. It’s time for Team Ruth.