Holyrood told to seek its own foreign policy over Europe

Scotland’s foreign policy interests are now “markedly different” from the UK government, MSPs have been told.

Anthony Salamone  of the Scottish Centre of European Relations emphasised Scotland's unique identity
Anthony Salamone of the Scottish Centre of European Relations emphasised Scotland's unique identity

And the Scottish Government should also 
be ready to deal with rows with Westminster in certain areas of international affairs in order to “promote Scotland’s interests,” in the post-Brexit landscape, experts have told a Holyrood committee.

Priorities such as tackling climate change, driving down emissions, defending a democratic and secure Europe and promoting inclusive growth are among the areas which could be at the heart of future of Scottish-EU relations.

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Anthony Salamone of the Scottish Centre on European Relations says Scotland should develop a “comprehensive modern European strategy” in a submission to Holyrood’s External Relations committee which is conducting an inquiry into the issue.

“In the present political context, the Scottish Government’s European and external affairs policies are markedly different from those of the UK Government,” he states.

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“It is also undeniable that Scotland possesses a distinct identity recognised in Europe and globally.

“The Scottish Government will have to navigate current and future disagreements with the UK government on EU and foreign policy, determining the best means of promoting Scotland’s interests.”

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His colleague, Dr Kirsty Hughes, warns that when the UK finally leaves the EU, this will diminish its influence on the “global stage” and hit Scotland.

But she added: “There is still room for Scotland to outline its own European priorities.”

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Even if Brexit goes ahead, the EU’s policies in areas like climate change, single market regulation and human rights among other areas, will all remain of “central importance” to Scotland, she adds.

“But influencing the EU and wider European context should remain central to Scotland whether from inside or outside the EU – and that means working with partners (whether states or nongovernmental actors) at all levels.”

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A European strategy for Scotland would set out clear priority areas which could include climate change, cooperating to create a “democratic and secure” Europe, a more open migration policy and pushing for fair growth, according to Hughes.

“Engaging with those wider issues more comprehensively through building a European strategy for Scotland, and placing it at the heart of a wider international strategy, can open out our horizons again and give more weight to all the ways Scottish actors – government, political, business, civil society,cultural and more – continue to engage in Europe and the world.”