As part of Scottish Land & Estates' increased political engagement plan, Head of Policy, Sarah-Jane Laing and Director of Operations & Communications, Paul Wakefield spent most of last week in London and Brussels where some excellent meetings were held. As promised in last week's eNews here is a summary of the meetings with the following organisations - in London: HM Treasury and CLA Policy staff, while in Brussels: ScotlandEuropa - an EU political advisory and monitoring agency based in Scotland House, Alyn Smith MEP's staff, and the advisor to the European Free Alliance Agricultural Committee.
HM Treasury in Whitehall
Sarah-Jane Laing and CLA Chief Taxation Adviser, Adrian Baird, accompanied our Housing & Communities policy group Chairman Andrew Bradford, and our Taxation Chairman Jamie Younger to a meeting with senior civil servants at HM Treasury. Discussions focused on the possibility of a conditional IHT exemption for affordable housing - an issue that Scottish Land & Estates and the CLA have lobbied on for a number of years. A number of specific actions were agreed to try and progress discussions, although the lack of alignment between government policy delivery and HM Treasury was a frustrating stumbling block during the meeting.
ScotlandEuropa in Scotland House, Brussels
Based in the same office as, and working closely with the Scottish Government, ScotlandEuropa provides expert EU funding and lobbying advice and knowledge to its members and Sarah-Jane Laing and Paul Wakefield met with some of the team in Scotland House to discuss how we and our members might benefit from this very worthwhile service. Current members include Scottish & Southern Energy, Scottish Power, James Hutton Institute and Scottish Wildlife Trust and one of the organisation's key selling points is the 'Alliance of Members' whereby members are afforded extra benefits from a joint 'Team Scotland' approach. We are currently considering the benefits that membership of ScotlandEuropa may provide to our membership.
CLA Policy Team in Belgrave Square
As well as a providing a debrief following the meeting with HM Treasury, our Head of Policy also met with the CLA's new Housing Adviser to discuss the work on housing that Scottish Land & Estates has undertaken in recent years, outline the main differences between the Scottish and English housing systems and agree some housing focused joint working. Time was also spent with the CLA's Head of Planning to discuss Environmental Impact Assessments.
Alyn Smith MEP's office and Group Leader at the European Parliament
Sarah-Jane Laing and Paul Wakefield had an excellent meeting with Alyn Smith's Chief of Staff and the Advisor to the European Free Alliance's Agriculture Committee. As well as CAP reform, the European Parliament's work on tourism, education and energy was discussed.
ELO (European Landowners Organisation) HQ in Brussels
Sarah-Jane Laing and Paul Wakefield met with ELO policy officers to get an update on some of the excellent initiatives that ELO is involved in such as www.3water.eu, which was delivered in response to issues around water courses in Flanders, and of course update them on the excellent progress of Wildlife Estates Scotctland. The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss the wide range of European Commission and Parliamentary issues which impact upon our members. Also at the meeting was the recently appointed CLA EU Public Affairs Adviser, Louise Banbury, and an action plan of how to further improve the current positive working relationships between the 3 organisations was developed. Increased European engagement is a key priority for Scottish Land & Estates in 2012 and beyond.