Protecting Scotland’s place in Europe
The result of the European Union referendum makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the EU. Although the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain.
Membership of the EU has delivered a wide range of benefits to Scotland and the EU is Scotland’s most important international export market. The EU also provides substantial funding to Scotland through various programmes such as Horizon 2020, Rural and Agriculture payments and European Structural Funds. EU citizens make a vital contribution to our economy, society and culture and Scotland remains a welcoming destination for people who want to live, work and study here, including as part of the Erasmus programme. In our universities, 27% of research staff are from other countries in the EU. Similarly, people born in Scotland benefit from the ability to live, work and study across the EU. The importance of our links with the EU of course go much wider, bringing benefits to many aspects of our lives.
‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’, published in December 2016, made clear that we will explore all options to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe and that our preferred outcome is continued membership of the EU as an independent nation. However, failing this, we also present the case for continued membership of the single market and customs union.
Events since, and the further evidence which has been put forward from a range of sources, including from business, only strengthen this view. This is made clear in our recent publication ‘Brexit: what’s at stake for businesses’. In the absence of our preferred outcome of full EU membership, we will continue to argue strongly that continued membership of the single market and customs union best serves Scotland’s, and the UK’s, interests.
The work of the European Union continues to be of significant importance to Scotland and we are clear about the benefits of our EU membership. That is why we will strive to strengthen Scotland’s place in the EU as part of our international agenda.
Remaining a committed partner
We remain committed partners in Europe and we wish to continue to contribute meaningfully to collective goals. We believe that through solidarity, support and collaboration we can achieve far more than 28 individual states acting alone ever could. This has already been our experience through schemes such as Erasmus and Horizon 2020. Making a positive contribution to pan-European work remains at the forefront of our international agenda and after Brexit we will continue to have a vital interest in close relationships with our EU neighbours, whether for trade, collaboration on research and development, or enhancing our security.
Protecting and Strengthening Partnerships
A key element of our European engagement is strong partnerships with like-minded European partners. Whatever the outcome of the UK’s negotiation to exit the EU, we are determined to strengthen these relationships to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes, including working together on global issues such as climate change, energy security and the fight against terrorism.
This approach partly underlies our new Nordic Baltic Policy Statement and it is reflected in the help we have offered to successive EU presidencies, for example our fisheries expertise and our plans to renew the bilateral accords we have with countries such as France. It is also at the heart of our decision to develop new hubs in Berlin and Paris to complement those in Dublin and London alongside doubling the presence of SDI across Europe. Scotland’s place in Europe will continue to be a proactive and progressive one, making links with other European nations which will benefit us all for years to come.