Standing Council on Europe minutes: December 2018

Minutes of the twelfth meeting of the First Minister's Standing Council on Europe, which took place 17 December 2018.

Attendees and apologies

Members in attendance

  • Malcolm Burr
  • Vasco Cal
  • Sir David Edward
  • Dame Anne Glover
  • Charles Grant
  • Prof John Kay
  • Lord John Kerr
  • Dame Mariot Leslie
  • Prof Alan Miller
  • Sir Anton Muscatelli (Chair)
  • Sir George Reid
  • Prof Andrew Scott
  • Grahame Smith
  • Alyn Smith MEP
  • Fabian Zuleeg
  • Sir Martin Donnelly (guest)
  • Prof Christina Boswell (guest)

Ministers in attendance

  • First Minister of Scotland
  • Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
  • Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations
  • Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introduction

The meeting opened with a welcome and brief introduction from the Chair.

2. Summary of the Scottish Government position

The Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations gave an update on recent developments, noting that he will give a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 18 December to update MSPs on no-deal preparations. The Cabinet Secretary noted that the primary focus of today’s meeting will be on what may happen in the UK-EU withdrawal negotiations over the next few months and the consequences for Scotland.

3. Discussion of the state of negotiations and potential Brexit scenarios

Members considered potential Brexit scenarios and key developments over the next few months with the discussion focusing on the Prime Minister’s current deal, a no-deal outcome and the prospect for another EU Referendum. On the possibility of another EU Referendum, members agreed that this scenario was increasing as a possibility. There was discussion on which options should be on the ballot paper. There was also discussion on the Norway/EEA option.

4. Introduction of Professor Christina Boswell and discussion on migration

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs introduced this item, highlighting the strategic importance of migration to Scotland and the contribution of free movement to population growth in Scotland in particular. The Cabinet Secretary also noted that the impact of free movement ending and migration reducing would be felt more strongly in Scotland than in the rest of the UK.

The Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development reflected on his recent engagement with businesses noting that it should not be understated how concerned Scottish businesses are about current and future staff supply. The Minister noted that in order to help inform the discussion and debate on future migration policy, the Scottish Government established an Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population chaired by Professor Christina Boswell.

Professor Boswell brought the Standing Council up to date with the work of the Expert Advisory Group on Migration. The Expert Advisory Group is due to report in the spring, and looked forward to working closely with the Standing Council.

In discussion, there was a particular focus on the geographical distribution of issues of demography and labour market and the role of impact of migration in Scotland that the Expert Advisory Group is looking to explore. The importance of migration in meeting Scotland’s demographic and economic needs is felt in particular in remote and rural communities, where the positive contribution made by EU migration can be especially significant.

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