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Europe and Foreign Affairs: Taking forward our National Conversation


Executive Summary

This paper takes a pragmatic approach to any arrangements required if the people of Scotland chose to seek further powers for their Parliament and Government, from a continuation of current arrangements within the United Kingdom through intermediate positions which would give greater powers to the Scottish Parliament and Government, to full independence.

Status Quo

Decisions made in international fora impact both directly and indirectly on the Scottish Government's devolved responsibilities. Most of the business of Foreign Affairs has to be conducted by states recognised as sovereign members of the international community, and so Scotland is normally represented internationally by the UK.

Scotland does, however, have an international presence through three Scottish Government offices overseas and 21 offices operated by Scottish Development International. In the EU, Scottish Ministers are able to attend Council meetings if the relevant Secretary of State agrees, but can only speak to the agreed UK line.

The principles underlying the relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments in international relations and EU Policy are set out in the Memorandum of Understanding and Concordats agreed in 1999. Scottish views should be incorporated into the UK negotiating line, but in practice Scottish interests can be lost or diluted in the formation of this position.

Commission on Scottish Devolution

The Calman Commission did not consider Foreign Affairs to be within its remit. However, it did make some suggestions for improving the co-ordination of EU policy, particularly through increasing proactive engagement between the UK and Scottish Governments. The Scottish Government would welcome these recommendations as a move in the right direction, but is concerned that they will not be implemented successfully, not least because past experience indicates a reluctance to address such issues at Westminster.

Devolution max

The strongest examples of sub-state region participation in international fora are found in countries with federal constitutions. Deploying some elements of the constitutions of Germany, Spain, Canada or Belgium could provide benefits for Scotland. This could include an improved role for Scottish Ministers in international organisations or being able to conclude treaties with international partners in some policy areas.


An independent Scotland would be able to take a full and active role in the international community. Scotland would be able develop a distinctive foreign policy on the basis of Scottish security, political, social and economic concerns.

An independent Scotland would continue membership of the EU, fulfilling the responsibilities which membership brings. An independent Scotland would be properly and fully represented in all the EU institutions, with the normal rights of representation for full Member States of the EU.