Scotland and the EU

For more than 40 years individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland have experienced the social, economic and cultural benefits of EU membership. They include the freedom to live, study, work, trade or travel across the 28 member states. The EU also has an important role to play with respect to finding solutions to global challenges such as climate change, peace and democracy, data protection and security and youth empowerment.

The EU is often associated with trade. The European Single Market covers a marketplace of over 500 million consumers, worth an estimated £14.9 billion to the Scottish economy. Harmonised regulatory standards ensure that goods can move across borders and be freely marketed. However, the EU has also had a key role in protecting and promoting standards and rights. EU activity has had - and is still having - a big impact on people’s lives in Scotland, directly and indirectly.  

Read some examples highlighting the impact of the EU in Scotland.

EU funding in Scotland

EU funding is making life better in communities across Scotland. EU grants have:

  • provided the investment for Fergusons in Port Glasgow to design and build the world's first two hybrid ferries, using innovative 'green' technology, supporting 175 jobs and 20 apprenticeships locally
  • offered vulnerable people an opportunity to work on horticultural projects on the Isle of Benbecula
  • part-funded North Edinburgh Arts’ ongoing community shed project, providing a place for people to learn how to mend, recycle and convert furniture and bikes
  • supported a £2.9 million grant to run Dundee Money Action, a service to provide people in financial difficulty with long-term advice and support regarding debt and money management
  • enabled the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project to fund a new fleet of 10 hydrogen buses 

More examples of how EU funding has benefitted projects in your area can be found on the European Parliament’s interactive portal.

The EU, Scotland and the UK

The UK is a member state of the EU, this means that UK ministers and the UK Prime Minister represent the UK including Scotland at EU meetings. In some cases Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Ministers have joined UK delegations to these meetings.

The European Union is made up of several different parts, often referred to as bodies or institutions. These include:

The European Parliament

The European Parliament is one of the EU’s law-making bodies. It consists of 751 members (MEPs) who are directly elected by citizens from each of the 28 EU countries. There are 73 MEPs who represent the UK, of whom six are directly elected to represent Scotland. The next European Parliamentary elections are due to take place on 23 May 2019.

The European Council

The European Council is a quarterly meeting that brings together all EU leaders to set the EU's political agenda. The UK Prime Minister represents the UK in these meetings. The European Council also elects a president, currently former Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk.

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union is where government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss and vote on laws, and coordinate policies. It is the second of the two EU law making bodies, alongside the European Parliament. This is also where ministers agree the EU budget for each year.

The European Commission

The European Commission is made up of 28 Commissioners, one from each EU member state, including the UK. It is politically independent and the Commissioners are appointed to support the general interests of the European Union, not the specific interests of their own countries. The Commission is like the EU’s Civil Service and includes staff from across all member states. Any legislation the Commission proposes is amended and negotiated by the Council and Parliament and does not come into force unless there is agreement – so a majority of directly elected representatives and national governments need to agree.

The European Court of Justice

The European Court of Justice interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries and settles legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions. It is made up of three judges from each member state, working across two different courts. For the UK, because of the differences in Scots law, this normally includes one Scottish judge.