Growing genetically modified crops is to be banned in Scotland, the Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has announced.
Mr Lochhead has confirmed that the Scottish Government intends to take advantage of new EU rules allowing countries to opt out of growing EU-authorised GM crops.
The Scottish Government will shortly submit a request that Scotland is excluded from any European consents for the cultivation of GM crops, including the variety of genetically modified maize already approved and six other GM crops that are awaiting authorisation.
The Cabinet Secretary said:
“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment - and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status. “There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion food and drink sector. “Scottish food and drink is valued at home and abroad for its natural, high quality which often attracts a premium price, and I have heard directly from food and drink producers in other countries that are ditching GM because of a consumer backlash. “That is why I strongly support the continued application of the precautionary principle in relation to GM crops and intend to take full advantage of the flexibility allowed under these new EU rules to ban GM crops from being grown in Scotland. “The Scottish Government has long-standing concerns about GM crops - concerns that are shared by other European countries and consumers, and which should not be dismissed lightly. “I firmly believe that GM policy in Scotland should be guided by what's best for our economy and our own agricultural sector rather than the priorities of others. I recently kicked off a national discussion on the future of Scottish agriculture, and welcome views from all sides of the GM debate.”
Scott Walker, NFU Scotland Chief Executive commented:
“We are disappointed that the Scottish Government has decided that no GM crops should ever be grown in Scotland. Other countries are embracing biotechnology where appropriate and we should be open to doing the same here in Scotland.
“Decisions should be taken on the individual merits of each variety, based on science and determined by whether the variety will deliver overall benefit. These crops could have a role in shaping sustainable agriculture at some point and at the same time protecting the environment which we all cherish in Scotland.
“What we want is an open debate that then allows decisions to be taken from an informed position reflecting current technology.”
Figures obtained by Scottish Labour suggest Police officers have lost 53,000 working days due to stress in the past 2 years in Scotland.
Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray used a Freedom of Information Request to obtain the figures, after a former Police Officer raised concerns about the issue.
The figures show that 10,000 days were taken off due to stress-related conditions between January and March this year.
Elaine Murray is calling on the Scottish Government to take action:
If it isn't working properly 2 years in, we need to have a look at it, and there is a body of opinion now which is saying things are not working as well as they should be, the culture within Police Scotland is not as it should be, there are also significant budget cuts, more to come, there have been serious budget cuts and there is more to come which I know officers are worried about. The government needs to take responsibility for its legislation and needs to look at this.
Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said:
During the first two years of Police Scotland, the total number of days lost through stress-related absence have fallen year on year by more than 17,000. Police Scotland, which has almost 23,000 people who work for the service and in common with any other large organisation, recognises that stress can be a factor in absence rates amongst personnel.
We work hard to ensure that having come through the most significant public sector reform of recent generations, absence and the causes of it are closely monitored and managed to ensure attendance at work is maintained and the level of service to communities is not adversely affected. All of our staff and officers have access to a wide range of support, guidance and welfare services.
We have recently carried out a major staff survey and will continue to work with our personnel at all levels to address issues which arise from it following careful analysis of the results.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said:
The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland take the welfare and wellbeing of their officers and staff seriously and provide a range of support service to help officers and staff in what can be a stressful job.
The recording and management of sickness absence for police officers and staff is a matter for the SPA and Police Scotland. Sickness absence is reported to the SPA Board regularly, with papers published on the SPA website.
It is not appropriate to prejudge the results of the on-going, live PIRC investigation or the HMICS review. It is very important both independent enquiries are now allowed to conclude so that all the facts are established and any issues can be clearly identified and promptly remedied.
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The Scottish Government has been accused of lacking ambition when it comes to tackling climate change.
It has missed its target for cutting greenhouse gas for the fourth year in a row.
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The Sottish Government has announced the details of a public inquiry into the historical abuse of children.
It will be lead by a senior lawyer and hearings will mainly be held in public.
Joe Pike reports.
MSPs are debating what steps can be taken to protect and improve Scotland's inshore fisheries.
In communities like Eyemouth in the borders, it's a key industry, and fishermen there are struggling because of low stocks.
The Scottish Government says it's committed to developing the sector, but Fishermen's leaders say the groups set up to manage inshore waters are under resourced, compared to those in England.
A gamekeeper from the Scottish Borders has taken his fight to overturn a ban on removing working dogs tails to the Scottish Parliament.
Alex Hogg from Eddleston near Peebles wants the same tail docking rules to apply in Scotland as in England.
Currently the surgical removal of puppies tails is banned for working dogs north of the border.
Animal welfare charities say the procedure is cruel and want the ban to remain. Jenny Longden sent this report: