Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP and candidate George Lyon has visited Shetland campaigning ahead of the European elections this month.
Mr Lyon, has been visiting local organisations with Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, looking at where European money has been used in Shetland.
The MEP’s visit included Sumburgh Lighthouse to see the renovation, which he explained had been funded by about £1.8 million from European funding. He also visited the Shetland Livestock Marketing Group, to see the new slaughtering facilities and the NAFC.
Also on the list were meetings with the Shetland Fishermen’s Association and NFU Shetland.
Mr Lyon, who is the vice-president of the European Parliament’s budget committee, said it was a chance to see how the money had been spent: “It’s really seeing it first hand – how the money that I have been involved in negotiating in conjunction with Alistair Carmichael, how it benefits the island.
“It’s helping invest in skills, it’s helping invest in the tourist opportunities, and it’s helping invest in the local economy.”
Mr Lyon was promoting the Scottish Liberal Democrat Euro 2014 message “In Britain, in Europe, in work” and how Scotland being in Britain and in Europe boosts Scottish jobs and growth.
“We are the fastest growing economy in Europe and indeed the world at the moment ,” he said.
“Taking us out of the United Kingdom, which puts in jeopardy our place in Europe, or taking us out of the European Union will threaten that economic recovery.”
Mr Lyon said he had “a track record” of standing up for the islands, as an islander himself. He was brought up on the Isle of Bute.
“If you want someone that understands an islands community and its needs then as a local islander myself I would hope they would see value in an islander representing them in Brussels.”
Being part of Europe, especially in the highlands and islands affects people’s everyday lives, said Mr Lyon – from investment into the islands, ferries to farming, food to fisheries policy.
Mr Lyon argued Shetland is very well represented in Europe both through the UK government, the Scottish government and through elected parliamentarians.
“I think there’s tremendous opportunities from Europe for the oil and gas sector.
“One of the key reforms that we want to see in Europe is the reform of the energy market to create a single energy market across Europe.
“That would not only deliver lower cost energy we believe for consumers but would open up tremendous opportunities for the renewable sector in Scotland and indeed for the oil and gas sector as well.”
In Shetland and Orkney 2,200 jobs are supported through membership of the EU, he said.
And for Shetland’s fishing industry, he said: “Clearly we want to ensure there is a sustainable fishing industry in Shetland. The fishing industry has taken a lot of pain over the last number of years through the cod recovery plans and the reduction in quotas.
“We just left from a briefing with the Shetland Fisherman’s Association; clearly there are real concerns about the deal that was done with Faroe on the pelagic species on mackerel.
“That in conjunction with the impact of the outbreak of troubles in Ukraine and Nigeria, which are big markets for the pelagic fleets, obviously is of concern to the Shetland fishing industry.
“What I would say to the fishing industry is we need to make sure that the new common fisheries policy is implemented in a practical and sensible way that ensures that yes we do have sustainability in terms of the fishing industry but that we develop practical solutions that allows to sustain the future communities that rely on fishing.
“The ending of discards is an easy thing to do but in practical terms a very, very difficult thing to achieve.”
Like Mr Scott, Mr Lyon said he was concerned about the Highlands and Islands being lumped in with the rest of Scotland in terms of European funding and the European Structural Fund.
Since 2007 £142 million has been spent across the region with £8 million being spent in Shetland.
He also had concerns about decisions on how the money was being spent being centralised.
Mr Scott told The Shetland Times this week that structural fund money is used for the likes of ferries, broadband and the Sumburgh Lighthouse renovation.
Mr Lyon said he would be campaigning against this issue.