Standing Council on Europe minutes: January 2020

Minutes of the sixteenth meeting of the First Minister’s Standing Council on Europe, which took place on 14 January 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Members in attendance:

  • Sir Anton Muscatelli
  • Sir David Edward
  • Malcolm Burr
  • Dame Anne Glover
  • Charles Grant
  • Sir John Grant
  • Prof Alan Miller
  • Dame Mariot Leslie
  • David Martin
  • Sir George Reid

Ministers in attendance:

  • Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations
  • Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs 
  • 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. Update from Scottish Government 

The Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations provided an update on recent developments, noting that though it was expected, it was disappointing that the Prime Minister had rejected the request for a section 30 order. An update was given that the Scottish Government will set out its response and next steps later this month.

3. Discussion on state of play in relation to negotiations and advice on Scottish Government priorities/next steps

Members noted that due to the tight timescales before the end of 2020, it is very unlikely that anything but a very basic Free Trade Agreement can be achieved. Members also reflected on the significant interests which Scotland has in a future continuing relationship with the EU. They pointed to the Erasmus and Horizon 2020 programmes, and citizens’ rights, among others and discussed what pathways are open to Scotland to help safeguard its interests.

4. Discussion on Migration

The Minister for Public Finance and Migration updated members on the Scottish Government’s work on aspects of a possible tailored migration policy for Scotland, on which it was considering publishing a consultative paper in the coming weeks. He encouraged the Council members to use their networks to share and discuss any such paper.

Members asked about the impact of Freedom of Movement restrictions on Scottish residents. The membership also noted that, in rural Scotland in particular, the departure of EU citizens was already being felt.

5. Forward look to the next 24 months

It was noted that the Scottish Government’s intention is to remain as close to Europe as possible during this highly political situation and that it will not be a smooth ride. The current status quo will be gone on January 31 and we will have to learn how to engage differently.

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