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Action Plan on European Engagement: Published Draft - April 2008



Linda Fabiani MSP, photoEurope and the European Union ( EU)are important to Scotland and this Government. Scotland has enjoyed an interesting and influential history within Europe. This history has influenced Scottish society and our culture whilst the large numbers of Scots living across Europe are in turn bringing enviable Scottish characteristics to their own communities as well as promoting the profile of Scotland abroad.

This European Action Plan, which belongs within the Government's wider International Framework 1, sets out the actions that this Government will take during its term in office to provide Scotland with the voice we need within the EU and Europe more generally and to influence the number of economic, political, cultural and promotional opportunities afforded by greater proactive engagement which Europe offers us. At the same time we will showcase throughout Europe the Scotland that I am proud to represent - a nation confident in its identity - a nation that is aspirant, outward focused and tolerant - a nation that has much to offer our European friends.

The EU provides this Government with unique opportunities to live up to the key domestic policy aspirations of this Government in an international context. In the EU, this currently calls for a particular focus on fisheries and aquaculture, budgetary reform, energy, justice and home affairs and agriculture policies. We owe it to Scotland to make the most of these valuable opportunities. This Action Plan sets out how we will do so. We also look to partners and stakeholders to work closely with the Government to help us to make the most of these opportunities. A broad, co-ordinated approach to our European engagement is necessary to ensure that Scotland's voice is heard loud and clear across Europe.

An independent Scotland will most certainly succeed in Europe. For our wealth of natural resources and our fair share of oil and gas resources Scotland would immediately rise from Europe's tenth richest economy per capita to its third richest. We would be comfortable sitting alongside other small, successful Member States like Ireland, Denmark and Finland within the EU.

With our wealth of expertise and experience in agricultural, fisheries and environmental policies in particular, our evident strengths in such sectors as financial services, food and drink and tourism, as well as our great natural resources and unique landscape, Scotland has much to contribute to the EU.

We will always strive to contribute proactively to defining and achieving common European goals as well as to attaining our own domestic ones. In doing so, in turn, we will expect an EU that is fair and equitable in the enforcement of its rules and regulations and a Union that is transparent and open in its policy making processes. The Government must always have proper opportunities to raise valid concerns about protecting Scottish interests in a timely way; this is not a task the Government will shirk or neglect. I am confident that Scotland's relationship with the Union will be strong and mutually beneficial and will lay the foundations for achieving our future ambition: Scotland as a full Member State of the EU.

Linda Fabiani MSP,
Minister of Europe, External Affairs and Culture


The purpose of the Scottish Government as set out in the "Government's Economic Strategy" 2 is "to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth". This overarching purpose of sustainable economic growth influences every aspect of this Government's work, including our engagement and interaction with Europe (and the rest of the world).

The EU provides Scotland with access to the world's largest trading market - the Single Market. The Single Market provides Scottish businesses with tariff-free access to over 493 million consumers across the EU. 3 Not surprisingly, the EU is Scotland's most important export market. The most recent figures show that over 50% of all goods exported from Scotland went to the EU (not including the rest of the UK) and brought £10.4 billion 4 into the Scottish economy. There is a clear role for the Scottish Government in helping to enhance the profile, reputation and trading opportunities within this market for Scottish business. This Government, through its international trade and investment arm Scottish Development International ( SDI) and through VisitScotland and other partners will make the most of these opportunities, always with the aim of promoting sustainable economic growth in Scotland. To complement the targets set out in the Government's Economic Strategy we will pay particular attention to Scotland's sectoral priority industries - Life Sciences, Financial Services, Food and Drink, Energy, Creative Industries and Tourism.

Europe and the European Union are particularly important markets for Scotland. Around 45% of employment in foreign-owned companies in Scotland is accounted for by European-owned companies. Through SDI and its network of European offices, this Government will continue to raise awareness of business opportunities in Europe and encourage European investment in Scotland.

However the opportunities to promote Scotland's sustainable economic growth extend much further than the EU's Single Market. There is a great deal that this Government can learn from European economies of similar size and scale to Scotland. In particular, as outlined in our "Government Economic Strategy", we will look to, and learn from, the successful small economies of Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Denmark - the so-called Arc of Prosperity countries - in our drive to make Scotland a thriving Celtic Lion economy.

Our actions in Europe will also be directed at maximising the contribution that our relationships there can make to our 5 strategic objectives. For example, by supporting the drive towards a competitive, knowledge-based economy we can make Scotland wealthier and fairer; engaging with the Nordic States on education policy will help challenge our ambitions against other countries and make Scotland smarter; the international health summit that we hosted here in Edinburgh will contribute to a healthier Scotland; we are making Scotland safer and stronger by monitoring EU terrorism negotiations; and by establishing the Scottish European Green Energy Centre we are contributing to a greener Scotland.

The Government's International Framework provides a context for this Action Plan on European Engagement. The International Framework sets out the background and rationale for the Government's international activities and shows how international work contributes to the Government's purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth. This Framework will help focus the Government's international activities to ensure maximum cumulative impact both in economic terms and in articulating our identity and strengths as an international partner.

Therefore, to adopt a consistent approach across our international work, our European actions will focus on the following 3 aims as set out in the Government's International Framework:

  • creating the conditions for talented people to live, learn, work and remain in Scotland - so that Scottish population growth matches EU average;
  • bringing a sharp economic growth focus to the promotion of Scotland abroad - so that the Scottish GDP growth rate matches the UK's by 2011; and
  • managing Scotland's reputation as a distinctive global identity, an independent minded and responsible nation at home and abroad and confident of its place in the world.


To re-establish the full sovereignty of the people of Scotland is a fundamental aim of this Government. As set out in "Choosing Scotland's Future - A National Conversation" 5 full membership of the EU is a key feature in defining the independent Scotland that we seek. The inadequacy of Scotland's present representation in the EU, where Scotland is currently a mere 'region', gives a sharp example of the constitutional constraints that currently hamper the Scottish Government. We are seriously limited in our ability to freely represent the interests of Scotland in Brussels adequately and on our own terms. For EU affairs are considered a part of foreign policy and are reserved to the UK Government.

As a 'region' of a Member State, Scotland already has a role to play within the EU but only a subordinate one. We are subject to the EU's laws and regulations, involved in its policy making processes and accountable for transposing EU law into our own national law within devolved policy areas. However, we lack a separate and distinctive voice at the negotiating table giving due weight to Scottish interests in all instances. An independent Scotland would continue to be part of the EU and bear the burdens and fulfil the responsibilities of membership. Following negotiations on the detailed terms of membership, Scotland would be in a similar position to other EU Member States of a similar size. As a full Member State of the EU, Scotland would have the normal rights of representation in its institutions with an equal status to other Member States.

Of course, Scotland would continue to be bound by the laws of the EU, but on a level playing field with other Member States. There would be a full opportunity to ensure that any vital Scottish interest is fully represented whenever it is an issue. These distinctive interests would be properly represented through full participation by the Scottish Government in the European Council and the Council of Ministers. Directives that it would be obligatory to transpose into our own domestic law would have been made by a process in which Scotland had a full voice.



EU policies are already of overall benefit to Scotland. They have created a common framework of regulation for business and industry throughout Scotland, allowing free movement of persons, goods, services and capital in the Single Market, but also securing a high level of social and environmental protection. This is undoubtedly to Scotland's benefit overall, but given the impact of the EU on Scottish lives and businesses it remains urgent for the Government to be proactive in protecting Scottish interests. This calls for a twofold engagement with issues of EU policy. These concern: first Long-term Objectives, and second, Current Priorities.

Long-term EU Political Objectives

We have large ambitions to advance Scottish interests within EU policy negotiations. This Government appreciates the EU as a forum that is essentially favourable to pursuing and securing our own domestic political objectives. These domestic political objectives are basic to all of this Government's activities and we will take a "bottom up" proactive approach to our engagement with the EU, ensuring that the appropriate resources and political capital are focused on achieving these objectives.

  • The Government will focus politically on 5 issues, our "Long-term EU Political Objectives".
  • Scottish Ministers will monitor the progress made in pursuing these "Long-term EU Political Objectives" with significant developments being reported to the Europe and External Relations Committee by the Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture as part of our EU Priorities six monthly revision exercise.

We will pursue the following "Long-term EU Political Objectives":

Fisheries and Aquaculture

Importance of issue to Scotland - (Wealthier and Fairer)

  • The fishing industry is of vital importance to Scotland, central to our heritage and the life blood of many coastal communities. It also involves stewardship of a vital resource for human health and well-being. Scotland retains the lion's share of the UK interests in fisheries. Approximately 70% of key EU quotas are held by Scottish Producer Organisations, Scottish vessels land two thirds of the total value of UK quota landings and the Scottish fishing zone makes up 60% of UK waters. For too long Scotland's voice has not been heard in the international fisheries negotiations which are central to this industry's well-being.
  • There are many criticisms that can be made of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy ( CFP): the annual horse-trading for quotas; the inability of the Policy to deal with mixed fisheries; and the greater voice given to landlocked states than Scotland on EU fisheries management. We recognise that fisheries are complex and difficult to manage, but we believe that the CFP has worked against the interests of Scottish fishermen and led to damage to our key fish stocks and marine environment. We wish to see Scottish withdrawal or dismantling of the CFP, replaced with sensible management measures with control returning to national government. Iceland and Norway provide us with examples of how to manage fisheries well.
  • Aquaculture is of economic importance to the remoter areas of Scotland and provides employment where there are few alternative jobs. Scotland is the third largest producer of Atlantic salmon in the world, behind Norway and Chile, although its share is around 10% of world production. The value of the farmed salmon to Scotland is around £300 million 6 to first point of sale.

What we will strive to achieve

  • We will push for reforms in this area through the EU given its current responsibilities for fisheries policy. In the short run there is urgent action to be taken on the EU's Cod Recovery Plan 7, building on the success of Scotland's Conservation Credits Scheme. In the longer run we shall pursue both radical reforms of the CFP and explore alternatives. We will establish an expert group including expertise beyond the EU, to work with fisheries stakeholders, managers and scientists to develop better models of fishery management.
  • We will continue to press at every level for the lead role for Scotland in international fisheries negotiations and take every opportunity to energetically promote Scotland's case on fisheries matters with international partners.
  • We must give active support to fish-farmers and strongly back current EU anti-dumping measures. Over the long run we must continue to refine the Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture to ensure the sustainable development and growth of the industry.

EU Budget Review

Importance of issue to Scotland - (Wealthier and Fairer)

  • In the past the Scottish economy has benefited from EU support through the Structural Funds, Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) and Research and Development ( R&D) programmes for successful Scottish projects. It is important to Scottish Ministers that a future EU Budget is consistent with the themes and goals of our Government Economic Strategy and that the EU is able to make a valuable contribution to improving Scotland's economic prosperity.

What we will strive to achieve

  • We will ensure that Scottish interests are taken into account in the Commission's current EU Budget Review, in particular by contributing our ideas on the Reform of the CAP, the future of Structural Funds and R&D spending.
  • Our aim will be to ensure that EU expenditure is rationalised, is properly focused on complementing our own economic development targets and that Scotland continues to benefit from successful European funded projects in the future.


Importance of issue to Scotland - (Wealthier and Fairer Scotland)

  • Agriculture is an important sector for the Scottish economy and the Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) (especially the 2003 reforms) has impacted greatly on Scottish farmers. The CAP continues to be an important tool for this industry which is why we are closely engaged in the EU's current reform of the CAP.

What we will strive to achieve

  • While we recognise the likelihood of significant change to the CAP from 2013 onwards, we are keen to avoid shorter-term changes that would disrupt the Scottish agricultural sector at a time when it is still adapting to the major transition that followed the 2003 reform of the CAP.
  • We are concerned that proposals for capping payments could lead to the artificial sub-division of farm businesses with no real benefits; we must ensure that any changes to the funding arrangements do not adversely affect the Scotland Rural Development Programme 2007-13; and we want to maintain and enhance the environmental benefits of farming, for example by using opportunities for greater flexibility in CAP rules to help sustain our livestock industry in marginal, remote and fragile areas.
  • To consider these matters further a stakeholder group has been established to ensure that Scottish interests are identified at an early stage and fed into the discussions.

Justice and Home Affairs ( JHA) issues

Importance of issue to Scotland - (Safer and Stronger Scotland)

  • EUJHA legislation has implications for Scotland's distinctive and separate legal system. It has grown considerably over the last decade and will continue to grow under the new arrangements for decision making on JHA matters. The extension of the co-decision process (legislation by the Council and European Parliament jointly) and the UK opt-ins secured during the Lisbon Treaty negotiations will have implications for how we exert Scottish influence on EUJHA policies.

What we will strive to achieve

  • Securing recognition of Scottish interests in JHA matters at both UK and EU levels is therefore a high priority. We shall aim to send a Scottish Minister (including one or other of the Law Officers) to all JHA Council meetings, and to secure the involvement of Scottish Ministers and officials as necessary in the formulation of the UK negotiating line in JHA issues. There will also be greater focus on engagement with the European Parliament, and MEPs with a particular interest in JHA matters, given the European Parliament's extension of powers in this area.

EU Energy policy

Importance of the issue to Scotland - (Greener Scotland)

  • The Scottish Government's policies for tackling climate change, developing renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, promoting energy research and development, improving security of energy supplies and ensuring equitable energy prices through fair competition in energy markets all feature as priorities in the Commission's Energy Policy for Europe. Given our expertise in low carbon technologies and our vast renewable energy potential, Scotland has an immense amount to offer - and the capacity to lead the debate on energy policy and the fight against climate change.

What we will strive to achieve

  • We are taking steps to establish a Scottish European Green Energy Centre ( SEGEC) to bring together industry and research bodies from Scotland with those from like-minded European countries to develop and deploy the new energy systems and infrastructure required for a low carbon economy.
  • We are making an active contribution to the development of EU ambitions in respect of energy policy, especially in relation to renewables and carbon capture and storage.
  • We are also promoting the concept of grid connections between Scotland and Ireland and between Scotland, Norway and EU countries so as to allow for the export of renewable energy.

Current EU Priorities

The Scottish Government will also focus on those EU-derived policies which following negotiation amongst the EU Member States are required to be implemented into national law, some falling within devolved areas of policy, others not.

Given the "top-down" reactive nature of this aspect of EU work where the policy proposals are derived and developed entirely by the EU, this Government will strive to get the best deal possible for Scotland within the EU so as to ensure that when EU legislation comes to be implemented into Scots law, its impact will benefit and not hamper Scottish interests. To achieve this we will take the following actions:

  • The Scottish Government EU Office will actively track all new and existing policy proposals of relevance to Scotland's interests during EU negotiation. We will ensure that Scottish views on proposals of relevance will be considered and communicated to the UK Government for incorporation in the UK negotiating lines. Where necessary, the Government will also seek to engage directly with the EU Institutions to ensure that Scotland's voice is heard loud and clear in both London and Brussels.
  • When appropriate, and particularly once the Subsidiarity Protocol in the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, the Government will also seek to engage with the House of Commons in relation to scrutiny of problematic proposals that have been put forward by the Commission. The Government also considers that the Scottish Parliament should take its own active role in this process of pre-legislative scrutiny.
  • The Government will target those policy negotiations it considers of greatest importance to Scotland's interests and which in turn contribute to the Government's 5 strategic objectives. These are the Government's "Current EU Priorities" and they merit the priority attention of both Scottish Government Ministers and officials in terms of our EU-related policy work.
  • These "Current EU Priorities" will be published on the Scottish Government's website and distributed widely to stakeholders, the UK Government and EU Institutions. We will adopt a "Team Scotland" approach, co-operating closely with key Scottish players to ensure that the Government's priorities in Europe are widely recognised. The latest table of "Current EU Priorities" can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/International-Relations/Europe/EuropeanStrategy/EU-Priorities
  • Given the fast moving nature of EU policy development, Scottish Ministers are committed to revising their list of "Current EU Priorities" on a six monthly basis to ensure that the Government's attention is accurately focused on the key policy issues of greatest interest to Scotland.
  • The Parliament's European and External Relations Committee and subject Committees, as well as stakeholders, have a valuable contribution to make to the revision exercise of these "Current EU Priorities". The Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture will present proposals for revising the "Current EU Priorities" to the European and External Relations Committee as part of each six monthly review.

Improvement of transposition processes in Scotland

Involvement in the negotiation of EU legislation is only one aspect of the Scottish Government's role in the EU law-making process. The finalised legislation (falling within devolved areas) must then be implemented by the Scottish Government in our national law.

The Scottish Government considers that EU legislative and regulatory obligations on Scotland should be dealt with in an effective, timely and proportionate manner in order that Scotland is viewed as a competent, trusted EU partner and that any burdens on those affected are kept to a minimum. We intend to improve our processes for ensuring that EU legislation is transposed into national law effectively, and that any resulting burden on Scottish businesses is minimised.

  • The Scottish Government will engage proactively and constructively in the EU law-making process. This will include influencing and shaping Commission legislative proposals of interest to Scotland and active engagement with the UK Government and Parliament and EU Institutions, where necessary, throughout the negotiating process up to the implementation of the finalised EU obligation into Scots law.
  • We will seek to engage fully with the relevant stakeholders during the transposition process, ensuring that their expertise, knowledge and experience is reflected in the development of the proposal and its subsequent implementation into Scots law.
  • The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that the implementation of any EU obligation delivers the maximum benefit for the people of Scotland whilst ensuring that the least possible regulatory burden is placed on Scottish businesses and stakeholders. Our aim will be to implement legislation in such a way that is fit for Scotland's purpose as disclosed through close dialogue with stakeholders and the relevant Parliamentary Committees.
  • In order to develop a more transparent and effective system for transposing our EU obligations we will publish a Scottish-specific guidance booklet to inform Scottish businesses and stakeholders, Parliament and the people of Scotland about the standards that Scottish Ministers expect to be achieved when fulfilling our EU obligations.


UK Government

The United Kingdom Government is currently the Member State through which Scotland participates in the EU. Therefore the UK Government has overall responsibility for the negotiation and subsequent implementation of EU legislative proposals into national law.

Within the Memorandum of Understanding 8, the Concordat on Co-ordination of EU Policy Issues sets out the UK Government's commitment to involving the Scottish Government as fully as possible in decision-making on EU issues where they affect devolved policy issues. The limitation of these arrangements for the Scottish Government is that we are unable to represent Scotland's interests directly in Brussels without the explicit consent of UK Government Ministers or through the machinery of the UK Government. Restrictions are placed on all aspects of EU engagement, from Scottish Ministers attending Councils as part of the UK Government delegation to direct contact with key individuals within the EU Institutions. The ultimate solution to this problem has to be an independent Scotland as a full Member State of the EU. In the meantime the Scottish Government will continue to work closely with the UK Government in all areas of EU policy interest to Scotland.

In some policy areas the Scottish Government already enjoys an active role in the policy-making process and formulation of the UK negotiating line. We work closely with our Whitehall counterparts, sharing our ideas, data, resources and experience with a view to ensuring that UK negotiating objectives reflect Scottish interests. Examples include our work on Justice and Home Affairs issues, where the Scottish and UK Government work closely together to pursue outcomes at EU negotiations which satisfy both the UK and Scottish legal systems, and the Scottish Government's work in pursuit of a Scottish European Green Energy Centre, which will support the UK Government in speeding up the development and deployment of renewable and low carbon technologies throughout the EU.

However, there have also been occasions when the UK Government has failed in its duty to involve the Scottish Government in EU policy-making despite Scotland's policy interests or has chosen not to incorporate Scottish views into the UK negotiating line. Such failures highlight the fact that the systems and structures set up within the Memorandum of Understanding to support the devolved administrations in the UK are either failing or are not being properly executed in this new political environment of devolved government in the UK.

The current constitutional framework is of concern to Scottish Ministers because it incorrectly treats all issues related to EU matters as foreign policy issues, in the same way that international relations are considered. This is clearly not the case: EU issues impact on a whole host of policy matters of considerable domestic interest to Scotland. For example, crucial policy areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament such as fisheries, agriculture, justice, energy, environment and transport are either wholly or partially devolved but relations with the EU on details of these domestic policies are considered reserved.

This Government is committed to developing an active and constructive relationship with the UK Government on EU matters. We will fulfil our obligations in the manner in which they are formally set out within the Memorandum of Understanding. We expect the UK Government to do likewise. However at the same time we will also pursue a number of process-driven goals which we believe are necessary to allow for a more involved role for the Scottish Government in the EU policy affairs of the UK Member State.

  • We will continue to push for changes to the way in which the Joint Ministerial Committee (Europe) operates to ensure that it fulfils its terms of reference as a dispute resolution mechanism for the devolved administrations as the UK Government originally intended.
  • Now that the UK Government is working with the devolved administrations to reinvigorate the Joint Ministerial Committee and create a new functional format for handling domestic issues, we will seek an early discussion on the potential to review the Memorandum of Understanding and the Concordat on the Co-ordination of European Union Policy Issues. This is with a view to making them better fit for the purpose of supporting the new political environment of devolved government across the UK and allowing Scotland a greater role in EU policy development in reserved areas.
  • We will work with the UK Government to seek a solution to our concerns about the "double hat" responsibilities that Whitehall departments fulfil in terms of representing English policy views on devolved EU issues whilst also co-ordinating, finalising and delivering the UK negotiating line. Revised processes are needed to provide the Scottish people with confidence that the finalised UK Government negotiating lines fairly reflect the contributions and interests of all four countries within the UK.

Devolved Administrations

2007 will be remembered as an historic year in UK politics given the change in the political landscape not only in Scotland but in Northern Ireland with the reconvening of devolved Government for the first time in more than four years and a new coalition Government in Wales. The impact that these political changes have had on EU policy-making within the UK is considerable given the differing political priorities of the devolved Governments.

This Government and our devolved partners in Northern Ireland and Wales rightly have important and valuable contributions to make to the development of policy-making on EU matters. There will be much that we share in common with our friends in Belfast and Cardiff.

  • We will engage regularly with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and Wales on EU policy matters identifying areas where our interests are similar and exploring the potential for greater co-operative working in the future.
  • We will seek the support of our devolved administration partners in working with the UK Government to press for changes to the current UK systems for devolved government leading to a fuller role for the devolved administrations in the development of EU policy.

EU Institutions

The Scottish Government places great value in working closely with the key EU Institutions, primarily the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council, to ensure a balanced and broad ranging promotion of Scottish interests in Brussels.

European Commission

As the key initiator of EU policies - many of which will have a direct impact on Scotland - a strong, honest and constructive relationship with the European Commission is crucial to ensuring that the views and interests of Scotland are known and taken into account at the earliest possible stage of the Commission's policy development. This Government is already enjoying an active and honest dialogue with the Commission in a host of policy areas of greatest importance to Scotland, particularly those areas where Scotland has its own unique story to tell. However, we will develop this relationship further during our time in office.

  • Scottish Ministers have already enjoyed a number of positive meetings with several EU Commissioners and will continue to do so when visiting Brussels or receiving EU Commissioners in Scotland to witness first hand the unique challenges that often face Scotland.
  • The Scottish Government will as a matter of standard practice respond directly to all Commission consultations where we have a specific policy interest, unless there is good reason not to do so. Such individual responses allow us to directly influence the Commission's policy thinking, at the earliest stage of the policy development process.
  • The Government will also continue to be actively involved in the compilation of the formal consultation responses from the UK Government. We realise the value of incorporating Scottish views into the responses of the UK Member State which can then be expanded upon in some detail in separate Scottish Government responses.
  • We will continue to work closely with the Commission's Office in Edinburgh to support active Commission engagement in Scotland and ensure that the Commission is kept informed of Scottish interests in our key EU policy areas.

European Parliament

The European Parliament has an ever increasing part to play in EU policy-making given its democratic role in representing the voice of the people of Europe.

  • We will ensure that our Scottish MEPs are briefed on the Government's policy views on our Long-term EU Political Objectives and Current EU Priorities in writing and/or through oral updates to enable them to promote Scottish views across the European Parliament. They will be encouraged to contribute Scottish views to the formulation of the European Parliament's position in these particular policy areas.
  • We will monitor closely the extension of co-decision provisions across EU policy areas following the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty to ensure that Ministers, officials and stakeholders are aware of the enhanced responsibilities of some of the European Parliamentary Committees.
  • As well as continuing to work closely with our Scottish MEPs, we will also seek to build relationships with other MEPs in key positions such as Committee Chairs and rapporteurs dealing with policy issues of interest to Scotland.
  • Scottish Government Ministers will engage directly with the European Parliament for policy specific purposes as well as for more general networking reasons, complementing the work of our Scottish MEPs in promoting Scotland and our interests throughout the European Parliament.
  • We will continue to work closely with the European Parliament's Office in Edinburgh to support its programme of promotional events and to keep it informed of Scottish interests in our key EU policy areas which can be shared with MEPs and colleagues in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Council of Ministers

Given the current constitutional arrangements, our interaction with the Council is of a different nature from that with the European Commission and European Parliament. Engagement with the Council is conducted through the UK Government, which has responsibility for representing the UK Member State in EU Council meetings. However there is a role for the Scottish Government to play working alongside the UK Government in Council business.

  • Scottish Ministers will seek to attend Council meetings where such meetings will discuss issues of key policy interest to Scotland. The presence of Scottish Ministers at Council meetings provides us with the opportunity to contribute Scottish views directly into the UK's negotiating position during the negotiations and to raise our profile with our friends and partners in other Member States.
  • As part of the UK delegation, Scottish Ministers will work with the UK Government to develop working arrangements where Scottish Ministers may take the lead in representing the UK delegation during the Council negotiations, for example in fisheries negotiations, given that Scotland lands two thirds of the total value of UK quota landings.
  • The relationship with the UK Permanent Representation to the EU ( UKRep) is vital in ensuring that Scottish interests are reflected in the UK negotiating line and protected across the board. Officials in the Scottish Government's Brussels office will continue to build on the existing strong relationship we enjoy with UKRep.
  • We shall also engage directly with the Member States holding the current and forthcoming EU Presidencies to learn of their key priorities and to ensure that they understand Scottish-specific interests in the policy areas they intend to pursue.
  • There will also be a focus on raising Scotland's profile within the EU as we actively strengthen relations with the other 26 Member States, particularly those like-minded in terms of policy interest. This will be done on an ad-hoc basis and through participation in a variety of transnational EU funding programmes including the Territorial Co-operation Objective and R&D funding programmes.

Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament is another key partner for the Scottish Government in achieving Scottish objectives in Europe. Whilst the European and External Relations Committee has the leading role within the Parliament in terms of focusing Parliamentary resources and time on the EU issues of greatest interest to Parliamentary members, subject committees also have a key contribution to make in considering EU policy falling within their remits.

The Scottish Government has already made clear the importance we place on working closely with the Scottish Parliament and we will ensure that the Scottish Parliament is fully involved in our actions and intentions in Europe.

  • Scottish Ministers will provide information and participate in committee meetings on EU matters when Parliamentary committees are scrutinising the Government's work and actions in the EU.
  • We will work closely with the European and External Relations Committee in the identification of EU Priorities. Our aim will be to ensure that the EU priorities of the Scottish Parliament and those of the Scottish Government are closely aligned.
  • We will also support the European and External Relations Committee in encouraging the subject committees to become more actively engaged on these identified EU Priorities.
  • Scottish Ministers will encourage the Scottish Parliamentary committees to take full advantage of the new subsidiarity provisions within the Lisbon Treaty and to make their views known to the Westminster Parliament when Scottish interests are affected.


This Government realises the challenges involved in developing a "Stronger Voice for Scotland in Europe". After all, an EU with 27 Member States, 785 MEPs and hundreds of lobbying and consultancy firms based in Brussels means that competition for the ear of the key influencers within the EU is great.

However, this is by no means an impossible task, particularly in view of the disproportionately strong presence that Scotland already commands in Brussels. The well established and respected offices of Scotland Europa, Highlands and Islands Enterprise ( HIE), COSLA, the Scottish Parliament's European Officer and the Clyde Valley Partnership, as well as our 7 Scottish MEPs, are evidence of the potential that exists to continue to raise Scotland's voice in Europe even further when all adopt a "Team Scotland" approach.

Scotland itself hosts a similarly engaged and proactive array of policy, business and academic stakeholders with a keen interest in EU affairs and an important contribution to make in terms of developing "a stronger voice for Scotland in Europe".

This Government firmly believes that Scotland has a wealth of experience, ideas and resources to share with the rest of Europe. When the Government, the Scottish Parliament and our key partners and stakeholders engage with Europe in a co-ordinated manner, focusing on the priorities and policies of greatest importance to Scotland's interests, the impact of strong, consistent and targeted messages from Scotland goes a long way to "strengthening Scotland's voice in Europe" and promoting Scotland as an important, influential player across Europe.

In seeking to develop the "Team Scotland" approach, the Government will:

  • actively seek the views of the European and External Relations Committee, Government partners and stakeholders in compiling the Government's table of "Long-term EU Political Objectives and Current EU Priorities". The Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture will consider any proposed changes or additions to the table of "Current EU Priorities" from Scottish Parliament members and Committees, partners and stakeholders at any point, ensuring that the table accurately reflects the policy priorities of "Team Scotland" on which the Government will focus its actions;
  • encourage Scottish stakeholders and partners to work much more closely with the Government on specific "Current EU Priorities" where policy expertise and resources can be shared to deliver desirable outcomes for Scotland. The Scottish Government is currently working closely with Scotland Europa in establishing a Scottish European Green Energy centre as well as pursing research and development funding opportunities for renewable energy and carbon storage development. Similar co-operative working relationships could be developed with, for example, SEPA on specific environmental priorities, the National Farmers Union ( NFU) on CAP Reform, SCVO on social policies and our business stakeholders ( CBI, the small business organisations, SCDI and STUC etc.) on Better Regulation. Scottish MEPs could then be briefed on the Scottish position on these priorities to promote within the EU Institutions;
  • engage with the relevant Scottish MSPs and Scottish councillors to encourage them to influence the policy deliberations of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe ( CPMR) in Scotland's interests;
  • continue meetings of the EMILE (European Elected Members Information, Liaison and Exchange) group chaired by the Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture, which brings together members of the European and External Relations Committee, MEPs, MPs, COSLA, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee ( EESC) and the CPMR. The purpose of these meetings will be to discuss and agree upon Scottish-specific priorities and action points in EU policy areas of key importance to Scottish interests;
  • organise and chair quarterly meetings for the Brussels-based Scottish representatives and MEPs. The purpose of these 'co-ordination' meetings is to discuss and identify the key EU priorities and sectoral themes for each of the Scottish bodies, identifying areas of overlap and opportunities for partners to work together to deliver a desirable outcome for Scotland;
  • actively encourage all of our Government partners and stakeholders to promote the shared agreed European Union priorities of "Team Scotland" both at home and across Europe with their key contacts and colleagues, in turn providing a significant and valuable contribution to "strengthening Scotland's voice in Europe".



The Scottish Government's engagement with Europe is not limited to action within the EU context. Building closer bilateral relations with our European partners provides excellent opportunities to highlight Scotland as the aspiring, tolerant, outward focused country it is. We will seek opportunities to promote Scotland across Europe as an ideal location in which to live, learn, work and visit.

Scotland as a nation has much to offer, not only in terms of our varied cultures and traditions, but also in terms of our expertise, skills, infrastructure, natural resources and experiences in a whole host of areas. We are keen to share this wealth of knowledge and experience with our European partners through policy co-operation, the exchange of best practice and diplomatic links and promotional work. We already have good examples of the promotion of Scottish identity as an aspirant, constructive nation in Europe, for example through the exchange of Scottish Government officials with Bavaria in the field of planning and the major international health summit that the Scottish Government hosted here in Scotland . However, this Government realises that there is much more that Scotland can gain from continuing to deepen our relationships with our friends in Europe.

The Government's Economic Strategy has already highlighted the significance that this Government places on the Arc of Prosperity countries: Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Denmark. It explains that improving our understanding of the economic experiences of the Arc of Prosperity countries will influence our own ambitions for Scotland's economy in the future and will help this Government achieve its ambitious target of matching the GDP growth rate of the small independent EU countries by 2017.

There is much that we can learn from the economic success that they have achieved through a combination of well-directed and effective government and a highly responsive and dynamic private sector, as well as drawing on their policy experiences as small, northerly countries with similarly diverse landscape and resources.

But our bilateral work will extend across the length and breadth of Europe. We will seek opportunities from across Europe that complement Scottish interests in terms of the Government's economic and political objectives that meet the aims of the International Framework.

  • The Scottish Government will actively seek to work with our European partners in policy areas where there is scope to benefit from collaborative working in a specific policy area or where we can share or learn from past policy experiences.
  • There will be a particular focus on closer engagement with the Arc of Prosperity countries - Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Denmark - particularly in terms of economic development.
  • We will also willingly engage with European partners keen to learn from Scotland's own experiences and policies as an aspiring nation wealthy in natural resources.
  • We will work hard within Scotland and the rest of the UK, to further our links with European consulates and embassies to ensure that our domestic European relationships are as strong as those we will strive to develop across Europe.
  • We will encourage "Team Scotland" to further their own bilateral exchange work at both local and national level by providing our colleagues with advice, contacts and messages promoting the economic, political and cultural opportunities that Scotland has to offer.


The Scottish Government is committed to transparency and openness in terms of our European engagement. The Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture will provide the European and External Relations Committee with an annual update on the progress made in delivering this European Action Plan.

The annual review will look to assess the progress made by the Scottish Government in the autumn of each year.

The review will:

  • present an update against each action point, listing and summarising the activities of the Scottish Government and its partners;
  • assess the impact of the Action Plan, taking into account any wider factors at play, to explore and illustrate how these achievements have contributed to the Scottish Government's strategic purpose.

It will take time to assess fully the extent to which the activities identified within the EU Action Plan have contributed to the Long Term Political Objectives of the Scottish Government. The annual review will primarily demonstrate the intermediate impact of the Action Plan and reflect on any lessons that may further improve policy effectiveness in this area.

The evaluative element of the annual update will therefore include qualitative research with particular groups and partners; case studies of good practice; and a communication impact analysis. This, along with the summary of activities, will help assess the Scottish Government's progress towards representing Scotland as a country that has a lot to offer and gain from being closely involved with Europe.


You will find more information about the following organisations and their work by visiting the websites listed below:

Scottish Government European Policy

Scottish Government EU Office Brussels

European Commission

European Commission Representation in Scotland

European Commission Representation in UK

European Parliament

European Parliament Office in Scotland

European Parliament UK Office

European Council of Ministers

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UK Permanent Representation to the European Union ( UKRep)

Scottish Parliament European and External Relations Committee

Scottish Development International

Scottish Enterprise

Scotland Europa

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities


Global Friends of Scotland

Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA)

CBI Scotland

Scottish Trades Union Congress ( STUC)

Scottish Council for Development and Industry ( SCDI)

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations ( SCVO)

British Council in Scotland


The Scottish Government is keen to hear your views on this Action Plan for European Engagement. Participate in this public discussion by logging your comments via the following link:


Alternatively you may wish to contribute in writing by sending your thoughts to:

Action Plan on European Engagement
Europe Division
Scottish Government
2-H (North)
Victoria Quay