ALERT - Lobby Scottish Parliament - STOP GM! (14/3/2004)

"The LibDems should be in no doubt: they have delivered Scotland into the hands of Monsanto." (item 2, on Scotland's ruling alliance in which the LibDems are the minority partner)

2.Why it's time for the LibDems to break free
3.Scottish farmers snub GM-free policy
4.Scotland’s GM stance threatened


There will a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday,(18th March) on Scotlands GM position.

The vote will be very close and is winnable.

To help achieve what would be a very important victory, we need to show the huge amount of public concern [around the world] by lobbying those most likely to rebel against the Executive.

The opposition in Parliament is now united so we need to e-mail the following potential rebels from the ruling parties to vote on principal and against GM.

We are purposefully not sending out a standard letter, so that each letter either from the public or organisations is clearly seen as an individual committment. (We all know the issues)

Please send arguments and opinions to:

Lib Dems
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

We only need 4 or 5 of these to change sides and vote for a GM free Scotland (and also derail UK GM policy!)


Thank you for your support,
Munlochy GM Vigil
(for further info phone Anthony Jackson: 07753865540)

2.Why it's time for the LibDems to break free
Sunday Herald, 14 March 2004 (clipped)
Holyrood commentary:Just what is the point of the Liberal Democrats if they welcome GM, are tough on crime and bow to Labour on asylum issues? By Iain Macwhirter

Whatever became of the Scottish Liberal Democrats? You remember, the party of troublesome individualists who could no more toe the party line than speak Swahili. The party that was tough on the causes of crime (and that’s it); that saw rehabilitation as more important than punishment; that gave asylum-seekers the benefit of the doubt; that sought to protect the environment. What ever happened to those independent spirits?

Last week, LibDem MSPs accepted the commercial growing of genetically modified crops in Scotland in defiance of their own party policy. The environment is one of those quintessentially liberal issues on which they once refused to compromise.

It left LibDem assembly members in Wales – who have been taking a much tougher line – bereft. There is widespread opposition to GM in Scotland, as the Executive’s own consultation confirmed, and the capitulation could cost the LibDems dear in the European elections in June. They are no longer the only "green" party, and the real Greens, with their seven MSPs, are snapping at their heels.

But it's not just over GM that the LibDems are becoming, if not less democratic, then a lot less liberal... So, why have the LibDems become so docile? The obvious answer is proportional representation. Wallace believes that the only way to ensure that McConnell delivers his promise to introduce a single transferable vote system in local elections is to play the game of collective responsibility. It seems reasonable enough: McConnell has defied his party, which are opposed to PR, and he expects the LibDems to give him a bit of support in return.

But there is a limit... The GM episode showed how problematic it can be for the LibDems to shelve their principles and embrace collective responsibility. They were persuaded that there was no legal option but to accept the decision of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. But LibDem environment spokesman in the Welsh Assembly, Mick Bates, insisted last week that if the Scottish and Welsh parliaments had acted in concert, they could have forced environment secretary Margaret Beckett to drop the whole idea. The UK could have remained GM-free, unless or until the EU decided otherwise.

The LibDems showed their naivety when they accepted the promise of a "voluntary ban" on GM in Scotland. That may be possible for the particular brand of genetically modified maize – Chardon LL – because Scotland doesn't grow such maize commercially. But in future, it will be impossible to stop the march of GM crops in Scotland. The decision is now irrevocable. The LibDems should be in no doubt: they have delivered Scotland into the hands of Monsanto.

In the past, when anyone questioned the LibDem alliance with Labour, they had a confident retort. They could reasonably claim credit for free personal care for the elderly, which they won against fierce opposition from Labour ministers. They were also the driving force behind the abolition of university tuition fees. Many Labour ministers, such as Sam Galbraith, have argued that the LibDems had far too much of a say on policy. Not any more.

The contradictions in LibDem policy are now becoming so acute that the party is liable to collapse under their weight. LibDems cannot continue to deny their consciences for long - it just isn't in their nature. Nor is it truly the case that they have to do so to deliver PR. There is a solid enough majority in the parliament to deliver electoral reform in or out of the Executive.

The alternative is clear: they could opt for constructive and principled opposition, as is the case in Wales where Labour govern as a minority in the Welsh assembly. Then the political world could go back to normality.

Scottish Executive request to keep Scotland a GM-free zone likely to be ignored by 'nine out of 10 farmers'
By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor
Sunday Herald, 14 March 2004

Farmers are likely to ignore requests by the Scottish Executive to ban genetically modified crops, jeopardising attempts by ministers to keep Scotland GM-free.

An investigation by the Sunday Herald has discovered that farmers want to try out GM maize. This is the crop that was given a conditional go-ahead by the UK government last week, but which Scottish ministers want to prevent being grown north of the Border.

According to the First Minister, Jack McConnell, Scotland now has "as restrictive a regime as possible" on GM crops. As revealed in last week's Sunday Herald, the Executive plans to ask Scotland's maize farmers to form GM-free zones.

The policy, however, has been attacked by the Greens and the Scottish National Party (SNP) as an unworkable "cave-in" to Westminster. Both promise to step up their attacks in a parliamentary debate on GM being staged by the SNP on Thursday.

The Executive says there are 30 farmers growing 315 hectares of maize in southwest Scotland and parts of the central belt. The Sunday Herald has spoken to 14 of them, 11 of whom said they would consider growing GM maize.

"I would want to try it," said Archie Hamilton, who farms near Blair Drummond. "I would be quite willing to give it a go even though public opinion is against it."

He currently grows 36 hectares of maize, which he said was "fantastic forage" to feed dairy cows and he has identified a field on his farm where a GM variety could be tested.

The chances of farmers agreeing on GM-free zones were "remote", according to Robin Christie, the former chair of the National Farmer's Union milk committee for Scotland. "Getting consensus among farmers is very difficult".

He farms 16 hectares of maize in Port William, Wigtownshire, and thinks a GM version could be attractive. "If they are doing it in England, I would imagine farmers here would do it," he said. "Providing it was given the all clear by customers and my neighbours, I would go ahead, yes."

Drew Watson, a maize contractor in Dumfriesshire, would want to look carefully at the pros and cons if he was approached by the Executive. "If it is cost-effective and it keeps things simple, I would say nine out of 10 farmers would grow it," he claimed.

Most farmers said the public was unnecessarily alarmed about GM crops, and pointed out that they had been grown without any apparent problems in North America for years. Some regarded the introduction of GM crops to Scotland as inevitable in the long term.

"I wouldn’t grow it today because I’ve no reason to, but in the future, quite possibly," said Tony Scott, a maize farmer near Lockerbie. "I can’t see what the problem would be with GM."

Two farmers declared that they wouldn’t grow GM crops because consumers didn’t want them, and one refused to comment. "I would say no to GM until the public is on side," said Ronald Dick, from Throsk Farm near Stirling.

The clearest statement of the Executive's new stance on GM came from McConnell, under questioning from the Greens and SNP in the Scottish parliament on Thursday. He took a markedly tougher line than his acting environment minister, Allan Wilson, earlier in the week.

"I am sceptical about GM crops," said the First MInister. "We wanted to ensure that a clear precautionary principle was at the heart of our decisions and that, despite the scientific evidence and the legal position, as restrictive a regime as possible was put in place to protect Scottish consumers."

He claimed the Executive had also persuaded London to take a more cautious approach. "A statutory coexistence regime will be created and a regime established for penalising GM companies should cross-contamination occur," he added.

But this has not satisfied opposition parties, who have seized on the Sunday Herald’s survey of farmers as proof that their criticisms are justified. "This confirms the fact that a voluntary ban is, by its very nature, unenforceable and unworkable," said Mark Ruskell MSP, the Green parliamentary speaker on the environment.

"The Executive has welcomed flawed science, while public opinion, economics and party policy has been brushed aside. They now face intense scrutiny of their decision to commercialise GM maize ."

The SNP has decided to use some of its parliamentary time on Thursday for a debate on the introduction of GM crops into Scotland. The party will be focusing its attack on the role of the Liberal Democrats in the governing coalition.

"The LibDems have been up to their old tricks when it comes to GM crops," said SNP Shadow Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham. "In Westminster and in the Welsh Assembly they shout their opposition from the rooftops. But here in Scotland – when they are actually in government and have a chance to turn words into action – they do nothing."

Allan Wilson, deputising for LibDem environment minister Ross Finnie while he recovers from an operation, defended the Executive's position. He said there would be no commercial cultivation of GM maize before spring 2005, and only then if an amended consent is approved by the European Commission.

"We have already opened discussions with farming organisations. If farmers see the benefit of voluntary GM-free zones as a way of maintaining consumer confidence, we will work with them to develop guidance on how zones could be established," he said.

"The Executive recognises the Scottish public are uneasy about GM and that there is little support for early commercialisation of GM crops in Scotland. That is why we have in place as restrictive a regime as possible under European law."

4.Scotland’s GM stance threatened
By Douglas Fraser, Political Editor
Sunday Herald, 14 march 2004 http://www.sundayherald.com/40583

Whitehall ministers are threatening to convene a panel of government chiefs in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff, a measure never before used, to thrash out disagreements over genetically-modified crops.  

The unprecedented constitutional impasse has emerged despite apparent agreement on the issue between the three administrations last week. But the issue has flared up with a report last night that the joint ministerial committee may be used to force agreement.

There is resentment in Whitehall's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that the statement last Tuesday by environment secretary Margaret Beckett had sought to accommodate the high levels of scepticism in both the Cardiff and the Edinburgh administrations.

Meanwhile, ministers in both devolved governments, including First Minister Jack McConnell, stressed their continuing scepticism, and the possibility that the one form of GM crop proposed for commercial use in Britain – a maize named Chandon LL – might be kept out of Wales and Scotland. Carwyn Jones, the Welsh agriculture minister reaffirmed a hardline position, "taking the most restrictive approach possible to the growing and commercialisation of GM crops within UK and EU legislation".

The devolved administrations claim to have forced on Whitehall a series of conditions , including a requirement that commercial cultivation must be under the same strict conditions as recent field tests.

Beckett's department has warned that current attempts to resolve differences between Scotland, Wales and Whitehall may prove impossible: "If we do not reach joint agreement, under the appropriate legislation, there are more general mechanisms to reach mutual agreement," a spokesman said.

Senior officials told the Independent On Sunday that this meant convening the joint ministerial committee, set up as part of devolution arrangements five years ago as a means of resolving disagreements. That would include Prime Minister Tony Blair with his deputy, John Prescott, McConnell and Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan, along with two other ministers from their teams.

The frustration evident from Beckett and Defra reflects wider problems in agriculture and fisheries, where there has been by far the most tension between Whitehall and devolved administrations.

A spokesman for the Scottish Greens doubted whether the inter-administration row was any more than spin, after it appeared that Scotland and Wales had capitulated to Whitehall’s “gung-ho” determination to introduce GM crops, and secured what the environment party thinks are insignificant conditions on cultivation. The party wants the Scottish parliament to get its own legal opinion on its powers to resist GM crops.

14 March 2004

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