Jean Urquhart MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Jean Urquhart

There is a large amount of evidence against GM, and we are right for the moment to continue with the stance in this country.

The NFUS and the supply chain have raised the final issue that I want to raise. Farmers and growers are often unfairly disadvantaged due to top-down imbalances in profit distribution from large retailers to producers. A front page of The Shetland Times that will stay with me had the local dairy co-operative pouring milk down a drain when there were sales of much cheaper imported milk. There is a real difficulty; I am not saying that the issue is easy. We cannot just dictate what products are in supermarkets, but a balance has to be struck.

Those are some of the issues that our food and drink industry faces.

On the tourism front, there is no doubt that our produce is highly prized and loved by people who come here. I praise Flybe for always offering Stoats, Tunnock’s and Walkers produce, and I criticise ScotRail for offering none of them.

16:28  

Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Jean Urquhart

I am sorry. I did not hear the last part of that question.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Jean Urquhart (Highlands and Islands) (Ind)

I thank the cabinet secretary for securing the debate. I pay tribute to everyone who works in the food production industries—fishermen, farmers and crofters. We acknowledge some of the difficulties that they face in bringing us some of the superb products that have been highlighted today. There are also difficulties just in feeding the nation. To have an ambition for Scotland to be able to feed herself would be a fantastic target.

A number of factors reflect and give rise to issues around our food and drink industries, including land reform, communications, transport, legislation and tourism.

I will start with land reform. As I travel across the area that I cover, the Highlands and Islands, I see that there are land masses where the owners are absent. That presents barriers to people who would like to work that land.

Communications is becoming an important issue. As we know, massive investment is being made by both Governments, and BT is carrying out work. To get a feel for how important it is, particularly for some of the smaller producers, I will mention the example of a small chocolate company in Durness called Cocoa Mountain. Without good broadband, the company struggles, although it exports to more than 30 countries around the world. It has done that pretty much single-handedly. It has a superb product, and we need to recognise some of the difficulties that it has with distribution and exporting.

The same is true with transport. If we had not had the mackerel Klondike of the 1970s and 1980s on the west coast, when would our roads ever have moved from single track all the way from the east coast right up the north-west coast to Durness?

On the subject of education, I have a lovely story from a primary school, featuring a teacher whose eight-year-old pupil arrived late to class with the excuse that he had had to teach his granny how to use her iPhone. The teacher had a light-bulb moment and set up a class where many grannies came in to learn from eight and nine-year-olds how to use their new technology.

The payback from that initiative might interest the cabinet secretary. The grannies, in turn, showed the children how to kipper a herring and how to make a ham hough and other traditional delights. That cookery class run by over-70s is still continuing to teach our children skills that they otherwise would not have.

There are a couple of issues that are threats to our industry. When he was the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson called on the EU to relax its stance on genetically modified crops. We are proud in this country that we try to produce quite a lot of organic food now, and we certainly have a good reputation for having a clean environment and generally fresh and good produce.

Our new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss, has not made her view clear. However, in February this year, the EU licensed the GM maize variety pioneer 1507. That was the first new GM crop licence in 15 years. Nineteen states opposed the licence, but they were overruled by larger countries with more voting power. They were led by the United Kingdom and Spain. Therefore, we are not hopeful.

The Scottish Government is opposed to GM crops. It has stated:

“The cultivation of GM crops could damage Scotland’s rich environment”.

I certainly endorse that. We have to take as firm a stance as we can. Currently, there is no commercial cultivation of GM crops in Scotland.



Finance Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Jean Urquhart

Thank you.



Finance Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Jean Urquhart

On that basis, do you think that those conversations might be difficult, given that there could be political differences? For example, some people think that reducing taxes is a way to get economic growth; others may see raising taxes as a way to get economic growth.



Finance Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Jean Urquhart

Finally, convener, if I may—



Finance Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Jean Urquhart

Finally, would you say that the ability of the Scottish Government to raise new, as yet unthought of taxes—for example, taxes to do with land—should not affect any other adjustment, in the form of the block grant or anything else? Should there be opportunities for Scotland to create new taxes that it could grow, perhaps taking a different direction from the rest of the UK, but which would nevertheless be independent from the block grant?



Finance Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Jean Urquhart

As far as the Smith commission work is concerned, would some form of security for the Scottish Parliament be important, such as a written constitution for Scotland under which the Westminster Parliament could not abolish the Scottish Parliament or which somehow could be used to agree political differences?



Finance Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Jean Urquhart

Yes, in terms of economic growth.



Finance Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Jean Urquhart

What would you consider to be the most important economic levers of power?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
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YesCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Jean Urquhart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11559: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 14/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11518: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11362: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11355: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11312: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11276: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10841: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 19/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10638: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 21/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10386: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 18/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09585: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 02/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Jean Urquhart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03758: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03529: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 16/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22542: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 05/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22540: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 05/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22541: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 05/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22539: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 05/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22401: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 19/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22341: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 12/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22315: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 08/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21979: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 27/06/2014 Show Full Question >>

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