A voice in Europe

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One opportunity which the Smith Commission presents is to provide the ideal opportunity for the role of the Scottish Government to be enhanced with the institutions of the European Union.

Decisions made in Brussels impact to a greater or lesser extent on a wide range of our day-to-day activities as workers, consumers, businesses and simply as citizens, many of which are devolved responsibilities.

However, no minister from the Scottish Government has the automatic right to attend – far less contribute to – Council of Minister meetings, regardless of how important the issue under discussion is to Scotland’s national interest.

A Scottish minister could represent the UK at select Council of Ministers meeting when the relevant competence is devolved to the Scottish Government.

A UK Government position would be established prior to such a council and there would be a statutory obligation for the UK Government to co-operate fully with the Scottish Government and the other devolved administrations in determining and representing common UK positions for this and for all council meetings.

As highlighted, this role would involve the devolved
administrations and any 
regional assemblies established through further devolution 
in England, should it be forthcoming.

The precise arrangement for this would be laid down in a co-operation agreement and could see the council representation responsibilities allocated on a rotational or a fixed basis.

This could to an extent echo the situation in Belgium where there is a co-operation agreement between the federal government and the regions and the communities, laying down representation and the co-ordination of the Belgian position in the Council of Ministers.

Before each council meeting consultations are held at Belgian level between the federal and regional governments 
about the Belgian position that will be taken during the council meeting.

The Smith Commission provides the perfect opportunity to ensure that Scotland’s voice is adequately heard in the corridors of power in Brussels.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace