The Smith Commission, headed by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was established on 19 September 2014 to oversee the process of devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government played a full and constructive part in the work of the Commission, putting forward proposals to enhance Scotland’s voice in the EU.
As part of the Smith Commission process, the Scottish Government called for guaranteed rights to engage directly with the EU institutions in devolved areas. It also highlighted the need for a statutory mechanism to enable Scotland to develop, influence and represent policy positions on broader European issues, such as EU reform or treaty change.
The Smith Commission Report was published on 27 November 2014. On 22 January 2015, the UK Government published a Command Paper containing draft clauses based on the report’s Heads of Agreement. These do not include any transfer of powers, nor set out statutory provisions in the area of EU competence, despite the Scottish Government having argued for this. However, Lord Smith’s recommendations recognise that further work can be done to strengthen Scotland’s role in the EU. The Scottish Government is actively contributing to ensuring that this happens by working collaboratively with the UK Government and other devolved administrations.
Firstly, Lord Smith has called for an improvement in the way in which policy is coordinated between the UK and Scottish Governments (governed by the Concordat on the Coordination of EU Policy Issues) The Scottish Government will therefore work with UK counterparts to embed good practice, ensuring that Scottish Ministers are fully involved in agreeing the UK position in EU negotiations relating to devolved policy matters. Good practice would also ensure that Scottish Ministers are consulted at an early stage and their views taken into account before final UK negotiating positions relating to devolved policy matters are agreed.
With regard to representation at the Council of Ministers of the EU, the Smith Commission Report recommended that a presumption be created that when Scotland has a predominant interest in an EU policy issue and when the lead UK Minister is not present, a Scottish Minister can speak on behalf of the UK. There are successful precedents for Scottish Ministers representing the UK at Council meetings and the Scottish Government will work with UK counterparts to build on and develop this practice.
Finally, Lord Smith called for a reform and 'scaling up' of Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) structures, including the JMC on Europe. This is forum in which Ministers of the UK and the devolved administrations discuss EU issues ahead of meetings of the European Council. Ministers and officials in all administrations are therefore working together to improve the current system to ensure that these meetings are fit for purpose.
Our Action Plan for EU Engagement sets out our approach to deliver benefit for the people of Scotland through our engagement in the EU.
More Powers for the Scottish Parliament
In October 2014, the Scottish Government published its proposals for the devolution of more powers to the Scottish Parliament. These proposals focused on powers to enable Scotland to become a more prosperous country; to build a fairer society; and to strengthen Scotland’s place in the world. The report can be read via the following link: ‘More Powers for the Scottish Parliament’
See examples of how we are delivering the objectives of our Action Plan for EU Engagement on our Case Studies page. We will continue to update that page with further examples of Scottish activity in Europe.
How Scotland is Performing
EU membership has an impact on almost every aspect of Government, and successful representation of Scotland in the EU is crucial to achieving the Scottish Government’s purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish.
Scotland Performs measures and reports on progress of government in Scotland towards that purpose. View more information on Scotland Performs.