Tuesday 23 November 1999
[THE CONVENER opened the meeting at
(Hugh Henry): I convene the meeting now that Margo MacDonald has arrived.
We were waiting for you, Margo.
I have apologies from Ben Wallace. David
Mundell and Tavish Scott will be slightly late.
The Convener: The first item on
the agenda is a presentation from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.
Councillor Christine May, who is the COSLA spokesperson on European issues,
is here with Adrian Colwell and Jon Jordan. We invited COSLA to give the
committee its thoughts on the development of the Scottish Parliament's
European agenda and, possibly, to indicate how it would like the future
relationship between Scottish local government and the Scottish Parliament
From my previous activityI am perhaps
slightly biasedI think COSLA is probably at the leading edge of European
work, at both political and officer levels. It has helped to shape much
of the European dimension in Scotland. Many of us are appreciative of the
work that COSLA has done and will, doubtless, continue to do. Without further
ado, I hand over to Councillor May.
Councillor Christine May (Convention
of Scottish Local Authorities): At the outset, I wish to thank you,
convener, for inviting me to make this presentation to the European Committee.
My firm belief, which is based on 11 years' experience of dealing with
European issues in local government, is that a successful relationship
in European terms is firmly based on a successful partnership with all
those involved. That includes all politicians, individual members of the
community, the business community and the academic community, and is the
basis of my approach to working on European issues.
I will outline the growing partnership
that Scottish local government has with the institutions of the European
Union. Members will be aware that COSLA has produced a paper on its relations
with the European Union, the structure of which largely follows the framework
proposed in the questionnaire circulated by the committee to
It must be emphasised that the European
Union has a great influence on the Scottish domestic policy agenda and
a major effect on the policy competences where responsibilities lie with
the Scottish Parliament and local government. Most local government services
have a European dimension and each treaty seems to include more competences
at a European level in which Scottish local government has an interest.
For example, the Amsterdam treaty was ratified earlier this year and included
new competences in employment creation and social inclusion. It also extended
competences in the area of equal opportunities.
There is a proud record of innovation in
Scotland in these policy areas, which are important for local government.
As I have said before, there is a growing recognition that complex policy
problems need action from all spheres of Government. Problems such as the
fight against unemployment and against drugs and the need for greater social
inclusion are in that category, and all spheres of Government must work
closely to produce effective solutions.
Scottish local government's involvement
with the European Community goes back to the early 1980s, when local government
began to use the structural fund programmes to fund capital projects aimed
at economic development and training projects. By the time that local government
reorganisation was proposed, most of the regional councils and the larger
district councils had teams of European officers. The Single European Act
1986 and the Maastricht treaty extended European competences so that many
new competences were shared with local government. The Single European
Act 1986 produced the single European market 1992 campaign, and over half
the 200 measures proposed had an effect on Scottish local government. The
importance of local and regional government was recognised in the Maastricht
treaty, through the creation of the Committee of the Regions. I have the
great pleasure of serving on that committee with the convener, Hugh Henry,
and Irene Oldfather.
The Committee of the Regions is an advisory
body with 222 members drawn from the 15 member states. It must be consulted
on a wide range of issues, including regional development, education, training,
transport, public health and social policy. Not only has it been successful
in outlining the role of local and regional government in the European
Union, it has served as a valuable forum to exchange views with local and
regional government politicians from the 15 member states.
I turn to the four distinct areas of European
interest for Scottish local government. They are co-funding of projects
with the European Union;
of European legislation; the influence of the European Union on local communities
and the business community; and the exchange of experience and best practice
between European, local and regional government. I will discuss each of
those areas briefly.
Since the European Committee began its
work in July, it has spent a significant amount of time considering the
future of the structural funds. That has also been an important issue for
COSLA and for Scottish local governments. We have played a strong role
in the partnerships that were created after the 1988 reforms and we are
major users of the funds to help to deliver our economic development strategies.
In many respects, the structural fund partnerships have been extremely
effective in Scotland and have promoted partnership working across many
other areas of the public sector. They are important in terms of local
government and the Scottish public sector generally. They greatly assisted
the diversification of the economy and are helping to create a modern economy.
While the mainstream funds are important,
there are grants for European projects in a wide range of policy areas;
for example, the community initiatives project, which provides for jobs
in spatial planning, training, equal opportunities and urban projects.
There is also co-financing of local authority projects available in education,
culture, youth work and environmental projects. Those projects are transnational
in nature and thus promote greater co-operation between communities across
the European Union.
The second area of interest is the implementation
of legislation. Scottish local government is the enforcing agency for environmental
legislation, particular environmental health, and consumer protection and
trading standards. It is also bound by directives such as the landfill
directive and other waste disposal and environmental regulation.
Collectively, Scottish local government
is the largest employer in Scotland and therefore an enormous amount of
health and safety, employment and equal opportunities legislation affects
the way in which member authorities operate. Recent examples are the working
time directive and the parental leave directive, which comes into effect,
I think, on 15 December. COSLA currently holds the presidency of the employers
platform of the Council of European Regions and Municipalities, which was
formed to represent local government as employers and which has developed
an effective dialogue with the Commission and with the European Public
The third area of interest is the way in
affects local communities and local businesses. That became most noticeable
under the Single European Act 1986 and the 1992 single market campaign,
which stressed the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital.
That has a major impact on many areas of council work: as education providers,
where we must provide our children with skills so that they can work and
live in Europe; and in terms of business support, where we advise businesses
of the greater trade opportunities associated with our membership of the
The exchange of experience and best practice
is an important aspect of our relationship with our European counterparts
in local and regional government. Diversification of rural areas, for example,
is a problem shared with other rural areas of the European Union. The restructuring
of traditional industrial areas is equally shared with our partner states.
We must work closely with colleagues throughout Europe, to devise new solutions
and exchange best practice. The European Union makes money available for
transnational projects to stimulate the exchange of experience.
As well as taking part in and leading transnational
projects, Scottish local government has taken a leading role in European
organisations such as the Assembly of European Regions and the Conference
of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe. My own council is an active member
of the Assembly of European Regions and of the European Regions of Industrial
Technology. We are closely involved with the North Sea Commission, which,
as I am sure many committee members will be aware, was largely responsible
for getting the INTERREG IIC programme up and running. That has brought
benefits to maritime and northern dimension areas.
At your previous meeting, politicians from
Saxony-Anhalt spoke to the committee on the 10th anniversary
of the removal of the Berlin wall. The former Strathclyde Regional Council
devised and operated one of the first major exchange of experience programmes
to central and eastern Europe, through the ECOS-Ouverture programme.
You can see from what I have said that
Scottish local government has a successful record of partnership with European
institutions and of co-operation with local and regional government across
the European Union and into the wider Europe, as we must not forget the
applicant states, which are important. That partnership and co-operation
has helped to develop best practice and strengthens the local government
voice. That helps when local government across Europe
||agrees a common
position, which it does frequently through the Committee of the Regions.
Through COSLA, we have had an effective
dialogue with the European Community for many years. In the 1980s, COSLA
helped to establish the Local Government International Bureau with colleagues
from English local authority associations and joined with other associations
across Europe to promote and share the common interests of local government.
COSLA's activity in structural funds began in 1989, when it established
a structure to administer the local authority European social fund programmes.
In 1993, COSLA established an office in
Brussels, which was located in the Scotland Europa centre. It worked with
business to help to promote Scotland. COSLA feels that membership of Scotland
Europa has been successful and that Scotland Europa has provided a strong
focus for Scottish activities in Brussels. COSLA has worked closely with
partner organisations in Scotland Europa to ensure that there is one voice
speaking for Scotland. We look forward to the new opportunities to do that,
together with the Parliament, in Scotland House.
There are five officers working on European
policy in COSLA's Edinburgh and Brussels offices. COSLA consults with member
councils on forthcoming proposals from Brussels, influences European institutions
through its advocacy strategies and informs member councils of European
funding programmes and legislation. We have a European members network,
which meets quarterly and each council nominates a member, who, I am pleased
to say, is usually the leader or a senior member of the administration.
COSLA provides the secretariat for the
four Scottish members of the Committee of the Regions and, with the Local
Government International Bureau, it provides the secretariat to the UK
delegation, so we speak with a common voice for the UK when that is agreed.
COSLA and LGIB also provide the secretariat to the United Kingdom local
authority delegation to the Council of Europe. That is another partnership
link which is important for getting a coherent strategy for Scotland in
The Brussels office has been important
in providing information and intelligence in both directions. It promotes
greater contact between the European institutions and Scottish local government
and allows us to work more closely with other associations. It plays a
key role in our relationship with the Council of European Municipalities
and Regions and with the European local authority network.
I will now discuss the relationship between
local government and the Scottish Parliament and its
producing a Scottish strategy. We must be aware of the challenges that
Europe faces. Enlargement to the east is essential to preserve peace and
prosperity but will change the nature of the Union. We must have a debate
in Scotland to discuss enlargement and the opportunities that it will bring.
With the discussions about the intergovernmental conference beginning next
year, it is important that there is a Scottish view on enlargement. The
Committee of the Regions last week adopted a resolution on enlargement
following a successful conference. That demonstrates a good way of discussing
an issue, then taking a position.
Another area where the public and democratic
sector of Scotland needs to work closely together will be economic and
monetary union. Whether we go into the single currency or not, it will
have an impact on business, particularly on Scottish companies that export
or supply to multinationals. We must work closely together to ensure that
Scottish companies are ready for this challenge. This has begun through
the Scottish Euro Forum; the public sector, together, now needs to build
on the work of that forum.
The EU is trying to promote the information
society. Many of the projects promoted by the Commission establish regional
and local networks to examine the effects on economic structures, on society
and on Government.
One of the Scottish Parliament's key objectives
is to bring government closer to the citizen, which is an important consideration,
particularly in relation to matters about Europe and the European Union.
It can be seen from what I have said that
relations with the European Union are extremely important for local government.
Local government has a successful track record, but we must emphasise the
need to work with the Scottish Parliament to pursue the collective interests
of the Scottish people. The public sector in Scotland must work together
if Scotland is to continue to have the good relationship with the European
Union that it has enjoyed until now. A key part of that will be partnership
between the Scottish Parliament, COSLA and Scottish local government.
I am happy to answer questions, convener.
The Convener: You have given us
a comprehensive overview of COSLA's work. I am happy to throw the discussion
open to members, but do either of the officers want to say something first?
Adrian Colwell (Convention of Scottish
Local Authorities): We will take questions during the discussion.
(Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP): Thank you, Christine, for your in-depth
evidence. I, like the convener, am a former leader of a council. I am,
therefore, a bit disappointed in the number of responses that we have received
to our questionnaire: we have received four and four are yet to come, which
is a low number. At this stage, that could be as much to do with the perception
of this committee's role in the debate on Europe as anything, but how does
COSLA think that we can increase the level of response for future consultation
processes and ensure that we hear the real voice of Scottish local government?
That is not meant to be disparaging to COSLA, but there are distinct voices
out there that need to be heard.
Enlargement and the euro are two of the
big issues that will affect Scotland in the future. At a time when the
number of member states of the European Union is set to increase, how does
COSLA believe that we can broaden the perspective of the European Union
while deepening the Union to ensure that it lasts? It would also be useful
to have a bigger steer on COSLA's view of the euro. How does local government
see the euro?
The Convener: Do you want all that
answered at one meeting, Bruce?
Bruce Crawford: I am sorry. I realise
that I have asked a lot. I apologise if I have hogged things somewhat.
Councillor May: I will invite the
officers to comment on those questions also. I am pleased to say that Fife
Council is one of the councils that have responded to the questionnaire.
I am not aware which others have responded. It may well be that the response
that COSLA submitted encapsulated the views of many of the others. We must
recognise that many local authorities are relatively small in size and
do not have dedicated European officers. As a result, the service that
COSLA provides as part of its role of core donation, pulling together and
advising on European matters, is quite adequate for the purposes of many
I probably put you at a bit of a disadvantage by not telling you which
councils had responded. Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Perth and Kinross
and Stirling Councils have all responded, as one might have expected. However,
I expected the city councils, in particular, to become involved in the
Adrian Colwell: In addition to lodging
a response to the questionnaire, COSLA sent a copy of our European and
international affairs work plan priorities for 1999-2000. There was extensive
consultation on that document with officers and politicians of the 32 councils.
||may reinforce what
Councillor May has said about why more councils have not responded. That
is a point that we wish to raise with our council members directly as well
as encouraging individual responses.
Ms Margo MacDonald (Lothians) (SNP):
Is there anything that we as a committee can do to reach your members?
We would all complain if there were too many bureaucrats, but how can we
make sure that a European attitude permeates all of a council's operations?
How much time is given in COSLA's annual conference this year to the consideration
of European matters?
The Convener: A number of Bruce's
questions are still outstanding. On the question of the response from the
councils, we should bear in mind that if every local authority in Scotland
wanted to engage with us directly, we would find it hard to cope. It is
useful to have COSLA to co-ordinate the response of Scottish local authorities
and it gives a clear Scottish line that most, if not all, local authorities
sign up to. I would not want to encourage anything that would detract from
that; it is to everyone's benefit to have thorough debate in COSLA.
Councillor May: European issues
often permeate councils through service committees, and frequently you
find European matters being dealt with in varying ways. Of greatest importance
is that local authorities play their part in developing the programmes
that broaden local knowledge of European funding, institutions and opportunities.
I referred earlier to the work that COSLA
has done on the structural and social funds and in developing partnerships
on those. That is an area where it is more difficult to pull out responses
to specific questions put in the committee's paper, but is, none the less,
a very important part of the work of all Scottish local authorities. In
terms of representing the collective Scottish view in Brussels, my experience
of local authorities across the political spectrum is that they feel that
they can all sign up to the COSLA position, once agreed, and they feel
that their broad interests are represented by it.
On Mr Crawford's question on enlargement
and the euro, again there are specific things that COSLA has done and can
continue to do. It has perhaps not done as much yet on enlargement as remains
to be done. When Irene Oldfather was in local government, she did a significant
amount of work on the euro, producing a handbook and convening a number
of seminars on it that formed the basis of many local authorities' work
with their economic development partners, to give information to businesses.
It is through that kind of work, beginning
in a policy paper at COSLA and going on to work in
that we can broaden and deepen the interest. This committee and the Scottish
Parliament can usefully sign up to the partnership that existed before
the Parliament with our political colleagues in the UK and across Europe.
Dissemination of information, sharing of good practice and bringing the
European ideals to bear on day-to-day policy planning underline how important
membership of the European Union is to the Scottish economy, the Scottish
way of life and the future development of Scotland.
I referred to the work that COSLA has already
done on the euro. We have received a number of presentations from the Treasury
on where the national information campaign and the national changeover
plan are headed. Those presentations were very useful, and the information
from them has gone out to local authorities. The Parliament might want
to liaise formally with COSLA and local government on preparation for the
euro. That would mean that when you have set your prioritiesnot just on
the euro, but on other thingswe will go forward with a work programme
that involves us all pulling in the same direction.
Mr Jon Jordan (Convention of Scottish
Local Authorities): COSLA does not have a view on when the single currency
should be introduced; that is a matter for the UK Government. However,
it is important that local government and business are prepared for the
single currency, which already exists and affects our relationship with
the euro zone. We must make our economic development services aware of
the impact of the euro on exporters, so that they can prepare for it. Exporters
will have to take strategic decisions when doing business with the euro
We also need to be prepared for the impact
that the UK's joining the euro would have on local government services.
We run very complex information technology systems in our finance departments
and have vast amounts of machinery that would need adaptation. The earlier
we plan for the single currency, the more cost effectively we can carry
out our preparations. We have tried to make that clear through the handbook
that we have issued to member councils. We are not taking a view on the
single currency but, as sensible and far-sighted public servants, we are
preparing for any eventuality.
The Convener: Could you answer Margo's
question, before I bring in Dennis Canavan and Irene Oldfather?
Ms MacDonald: It was on the specifics
of the information campaign that is being directed at business. I am also
a member of
The Convener: No, I was referring
||question that you
had already asked. You are not getting a second bite of the cherry.
Ms MacDonald: I asked another question
because I could see that I was not going to get an answer to my first one.
Councillor May: I would be delighted
to answer Ms MacDonald's question. I am sure that she will recall that
this year's COSLA conference was on the theme of the establishment of the
Scottish Parliament and its impact on political life in Scotland. Europe
will be on the agenda for the conference that is scheduled for this year.
Ms MacDonald: Can I come?
Councillor May: We would be delighted
to see you.
Canavan (Falkirk West): Could you explain the role of COSLA in determining
the membership of certain European bodies, such as the Committee of the
Regions and the consortia? I am referring to the East of Scotland European
Consortium and the West of Scotland European Consortium, which scrutinise
applications for European funding and have a considerable say in deciding
whether a project satisfies the criteria and how much money it should be
awarded. Is COSLA consulted about the membership of those important bodies?
Is there a case for their membership being decided by a more democratic
Councillor May: I can respond to
your question with regard to the Committee of the Regions, because I am
very familiar with that. I will come back to the other matters that you
raised in a moment.
The current mandate of the Committee of
the Regions was agreed before the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.
For that reason, its UK contingent was made up of representatives of local
government. In Scotland, COSLA made nominations to those positions to the
Secretary of State for Scotland at one of its full meetings. The secretary
of state agreed the nominations and forwarded them to the UK Government
Given that the Scottish Parliament now
exists, we do not know what will happen in the next mandate. In our submission
to McIntosh, who consulted on European matters, I expressed the view that
there should be parity: half of the places should be allotted to the Scottish
Parliament, and the other half to local government. However, as far as
I am aware, it has been agreed that the current representation will remain
until the end of its four-year term.
I think that you may be confusing the east
of Scotland European partnership and the west of Scotland European partnership
with the consortia
||that you mentioned,
which are different organisations. I will ask one of the officers to comment
in detail on the selection process for the partnerships, but I was pleased
to note that Jack McConnell, the Minister for Finance, recently agreed
that their membership should be extended to democratically elected political
Adrian Colwell: At present, local
authorities in the east and west of Scotland and in the Highlands and Islands
are directly involved in the regional programme partnerships, which both
develop the strategies that will be implemented up to the end of this year
and have a say in deciding which projects should be funded. The partnerships
include local enterprise companies, colleges, universities, the voluntary
sector and so on.
In a press release of 12 October, Mr McConnell
announced that in the next phase of programming, starting in January 2000,
the programme monitoring committeethe strategic body of the partnershipswould
be opened up to elected members. The Executive has started a process of
consultation about how that should be implemented. Like you, we are formulating
ideas about how we would like the new system to operate, while retaining
the essential principle of the programmespartnership between different
sectorsand ensuring that the projects are directly relevant both to the
programme and to the needs of the area.
Dennis Canavan: Would not some of
your councillor colleagues feel annoyed about members of the Scottish Parliament
becoming members of the Committee of the Regions, given that a separate
body, consisting of representatives of devolved parliaments and legislative
assemblies in member states of the European Union, is likely to be established?
That would mean that it would be possible for members of this Parliament
to be members of two European bodies, whereas councillors could be members
only of one.
Councillor May: I would love to
think that we could say to the Scottish Parliament, "Go away. You are not
having any of our places". I doubt that that would be right or even desirable.
We must not confuse the body to which Dennis Canavan refers, which would
be made up of representatives of directly elected local and regional governments,
with the Committee of the Regions. The COR was established under the Maastricht
treaty and has the statutory right to be consulted in a number of areas
by both the Parliament and the Commission; its functions were extended
by the Treaty of Amsterdam. The other body that was mentioned may make
its views known, but does not have the same statutory rights of consultation.
Elected members of regional governments
from right across the European Union are represented on the Committee of
the Regions. Much as I would
||like to keep membership
to ourselves in local government, it is almost inevitableand quite rightthat
the Scottish Parliament would wish to be represented on that committee,
and I believe that it should be.
The Convener: Historically, the
UK has been the sole country with only local government representation
on the Committee of the Regions, as every other country has both regional
and local government representation. It would be helpful for this committee
if we could obtain a glossary of all the relevant bodies in Scotland, the
UK and Europe, with a description of what they do and how we might influence
them. We could use that as a starting point for a future discussion and
for an examination of some of the local bodies that make decisions about
funding, such as those that Dennis Canavan spoke about.
We will also want to take the opportunity
to have a discussion on the future composition and role of the steering
committee headed by Lex Gold. I do not know whether we can have that discussion
at the next meeting, but we will try to get some input on that process
at a future meeting, Dennis. The clerk has a note of that.
Councillor May: Dennis Canavan raised
two interesting points, one of which was on the work of the programme monitoring
committees and the partnerships. We must be clear that this is likely to
be the last time that we receive European funding at the present level;
the outcomes of what we do with that funding must be tangible, accountable
and measurable. It is important that the Scottish Parliament sets out its
key policy areas early as that will enable us to be absolutely clear that
the programmes that are to be put in place are in line with the priorities
of this Parliament and the UK Government, so that we get the maximum value
from all the public resources.
On the second point, we should become members
of those organisations across Europe that assist elected Governments, at
whatever level, in the achievement of their objectives. The Assembly of
the European Regions can be a useful body as long as its priorities and
objectives agree with one's own priorities and objectives, which also applies
to the North Sea Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the new organisation
that Dennis spoke of. I see nothing wrong with multiple memberships of
these organisations, as long as we benefit from them.
The Convener: It will be useful
for us to increase our monitoring role in the work of the programme management
committees. We will need to build that into our work load.
Ms Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South)
(Lab): I had originally intended to pick up the point on local authority
responses to the consultation
||exercise, but a
few points have been raised since then. On my original point, many local
authorities see Europe as a specialist area and subscribe to the expert
experience of organisations such as COSLA. I note that the West of Scotland
European Consortium and the East of Scotland European Consortium both responded
to the consultation process. They bring an additional regional representation
that some local authorities feel is necessary. Therefore, I can understand
why some local authorities may not have responded to our questionnaire.
COSLA brings a wealth of experience, particularly
on the euro, and it is important that we do not try to reinvent the wheel
on that issue. Can we explore with COSLA how to bring a distinctive political
aspect to that debate? As Jon outlined, COSLA does not have a view on whether
we should go in or stay out of the euro, but it has a fundamental role
on the ground, liaising with local authorities throughout Scotland. It
would be useful to explore the added value that the European Committee
and the Scottish Parliament could bring to that debate without reinventing
and going over the good work that has been done. We should capitalise on
Adrian Colwell: I want to respond
to Ms Oldfather's first point. It is fair to say that European affairs
in local government tend to seen in terms of particular funding issues,
international liaison and so on. However, it is worth bearing in mind the
fact that Jon Jordan and I, with our other colleagues in Brussels and at
Rosebery House in Edinburgh, are in contact with a range of offices across
local governmentequal opportunities, trading standards, environmental
services and so on. There is an extensive two-way process on what draft
proposals mean for local government, which in turn feeds views into the
Scottish Executive, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
We have been trying, particularly since
reorganisation in 1996, to mainstream the approach so that the EU is seen
not as separate and distant but as integral to service delivery. We still
have a lot more to do to encourage that view but it is fair to say that
we are well on the way.
The Convener: Let us move on.
Ms Oldfather: Can I just raise my
second point about the euro?
Councillor May: I entirely take
on board Irene's point about the work that has been done on the euro. In
areas where we are trying to get a common Scottish position, within a UK
position, the question is not which body should take the lead, but what
we can do at our level to take
||forward the agenda.
It is important that we have co-operation across levels of government and
between officers within the various organisations.
Dr Winnie Ewing (Highlands and Islands)
(SNP): I am impressed by the paper and the work that is being done
in co-operation. I have always found COSLA a bit of a mystery, because
I was only once invited to anything that it organised, despite my long
political careermaybe that is because I am not acceptable politically.
That is why I asked whether we could all go to COSLA's next conference
On the Committee of the Regions, I will
make a parallel and avoid nice phrases such as "taking forward together".
When I first joined the European Parliament, members were all nominatedwe
were elected as members of parliaments but nominated to the European Parliament.
I was part of the successful movement for direct elections to the European
Parliament. I was president of the European Free Alliance, which contained
members from 17 democratic parties from all parts of Europe. We fought
hard for the Committee of the Regions, but realised that people might want
it to contain an outstanding person who had been elected to local governmentthat
person would be nominated to the committee. Do you foresee that the committee
will be directly elected?
I was on the Committee on Economic and
Monetary Affairs, which I found difficult as I am not an economist. We
struggled to come to a view on the euro. I find it strange that COSLA does
not have a view, but just uses phrases like "go forward together", "co-operate",
"discuss". Have you no view on whether the euro is a good thing or a bad
thing? There is too much political speech and not enough clarity. COSLA
should take a view, as it consists of elected politicians. Is it trying
to please the Government, which has a muddled view? At least that muddled
view is better than the Opposition'sthe Conservatives seem to have closed
the door to the euro.
My final question
The Convener: No, hold on.
Dr Ewing: Okay, that is enough.
Councillor May: Direct elections
to the Committee of the Regions may come. The Committee of the Regions
is in its second mandate and is only now beginning to clarify its direction
and work programme and to establish itself on a basis of agreed cross-party
political priorities. That is a great advance on the first mandate. As
with all things, there will be evolution. There may be direct elections,
but that may be in the context of the process of establishing regional
chambers across the rest of the United Kingdom. We will need to consider
how the representation is gathered.
||Winnie Ewing asks
why COSLA does not take a view on the euro. Entry into the euro is a matter
for the Government of the dayit must decide when the economic criteria
are right. If local government takes a party political view, I am not sure
that that will advance the debate. Within my region, there is a divergence
of opinion among small and large employers and manufacturers about whether
entry to the euro would be a good thing. Most of them agree that what the
Government is doing, in setting out the changeover framework, is an acceptable
way of planning. They also agree that we should not go in when the economic
conditions are wrong, as happened when we joined the exchange rate mechanism.
I have not heard many businessesand they will be the ones most directly
affectedsaying that the Government approach is wrong for them.
Dr Ewing: What about fish exporters?
The Convener: We must not get into
a two-person debate. A number of members want to speak.
Allan Wilson (Cunninghame North) (Lab):
My comment is not on fish exporters, but on jobs, a subject that I
am sure members will agree is fundamental to why we are here. My remarks
touch on a point that Dennis Canavan raised and that Christine May mentioned
in relation to the finite nature of structural funds. I am concerned that
the outcomes should not only match the criteria that Christine outlined
but be sustainable in the longer term. This committee, like COSLA, has
spent much of the past three months in discussions with the Executive on
the content of the structural funds plan. That is now away; whether it
comes back in the form in which it went is anybody's guess.
As I believe that job creation is a key
element of the output from the structural programme and as we are about
to embark on a new phase in the national employment action plan, I share
the view that current programmes do not place sufficient emphasis on regional
and local levels. The plan should have greater emphasis on regional and
local employment policy initiatives. How will COSLA work with the Parliament
to finalise those objectives in terms of the structural funds and the draft
Councillor May: COSLA will work
with the Executive to establish the vision that it wants to see at the
end of the process. It is important that jobs are sustainable. Not only
must jobs be created, but potential employees must be trained and given
the skills to take those jobs. Employers need to be encouragedor legislation
needs to oblige themto train their employees and to make training and
lifelong learning an on-going part of their business development.
||In those areas
that have transitional fundingareas that have now fallen out of objective
2 status, for examplewe understand that we are more likely to get infrastructure
capital programme support. Those are the areas in which we must concentrate
our efforts in using infrastructure support; we must use the support given
for the other areas for non-infrastructure matters and capacity building.
Allan Wilson: What is the optimum
means by which that process can be influenced? That is what Dennis Canavan
was getting at. How can the Scottish Parliament and COSLA develop those
strategic objectives at a local level?
Jon Jordan: The European Commission
wants much more local and regional involvement in the next series of national
employment action plans. We must work closely with the Commission to ensure
that that happens. At a European level, we can join the CEMR campaign "Act
locally for employment", which promotes local and regional action. One
of the major initiatives is to show the flexibility of working at local
and regional level. The UK labour market is not unified; we have regional
and local labour markets. If we are to be successful, our policies must
be tailored to those local and regional variations. We need to give strong
examples of where action at local and regional level has been extremely
Ms MacDonald: I want to ask about
the information coming through local authorities to businesses about preparation
for the euro. Does COSLA have primary responsibility for that? Does COSLA
have a partnership with the local enterprise companies? As a member of
the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee, I am interested in how
that information is being passed on and who fits in where, because so many
businesses report that they are not ready for the euro and do not understand
a lot of what is happening.
Jon Jordan: The Scottish Euro Forum,
which has private and public sector partnersincluding Scottish Enterprise,
the LECs, COSLA and the Confederation of British Industry business forumshas
been very successful. Businesses can get in touch with the Scottish Euro
Forum via a freephone line to get specialist advice on working in euros.
I find that the relationship with LECs
differs from local authority to local authority. In some cases, the local
authority works closely with the LECs, but the LECs take the lead on euro
issues. In others, the local authority has a group of clients and the LEC
has another group of clients, but both sides work together closely on trade
development centres. There is great local variation in how economic development
services are organised in Scotland, but the important thing is to put out
||euro forum information
through economic development services and the LECs.
Ms Oldfather: On that point
The Convener: Hold on, Irene. We
are running over time. Christine, did you want to add something?
Councillor May: The Scottish Council
Development and Industry is doing a significant amount of work to gather
information on business preparedness for the euro and to give information
back to business. SCDI has produced some very useful documentation.
David Mundell (South of Scotland) (Con):
I was interested in what Adrian Colwell said about mainstreaming. Mainstreaming
is important, but we are a long way from it. The man in the street does
not see local government as having a role in European issues. Despite what
everyone has said today, I am concerned that local authorities are passing
responsibility for dealing with European issues to COSLA. The individual
councillors of all persuasions that I have met do not perceive European
issues as being in the main stream.
Councillor May: I am not sure that
that is the case. If you ask councils about European issues, they will
probably say that they leave them to X or Y, who is the European expert.
However, if you ask them to tell you about the projects in their ward that
have received European funding, they will often be able to name not only
the projects, but the individuals who have been involved in them andif
they have been a councillor for some timethe extent of their own involvement.
That goes back to what Adrian Colwell said
about mainstreaming; it means not that the councillor is seen as the sad
anorak who knows everything about all aspects of European legislation,
but that membership of the European Union and the benefits and opportunities
flowing from it are seen as part of everyday life. When one asks people,
"What do you think of the Government?" they will tell you that politicians
are all rubbish. If one asks them, "What do you think of x service or y
service?" they will tell you how good those services are. We must ensure
that people think not in terms of European issues, but in terms of the
benefits and opportunities that come from membership of the European Union.
The Convener: That is a good note
on which to finish this item. In some of our early meetingsand this will
apply when we come to discuss our future work programmewe have been keen
to ensure that our relationship with Europe is seen not only in terms of
the money that we receive from the structural funds programme, but in terms
||of the broader
European agenda that we can engage in, be influenced by and learn from.
Councillor May makes a good point.
On behalf of the committee, I thank Councillor
May and her colleagues from COSLA for coming along. I expect that this
will not be the last time that we hear from you. I hope that, as we develop
our future work programme, we can engage with you as one of the important
partners in Scottish civic life. Thank you once again.
Councillor May: Thank you, convener.
I will leave you a copy of our work programme and hope that, in drawing
up your own, you might refer to it.
The Convener: I will ask Bruce Crawford
for a synopsis by 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
David Mundell: He will multiply
it by nine.
The Convener: We have circulated
a private draft paper with some suggestions for the work programme. I do
not want to take any decisions on the content of that paper today. Its
purpose is to inform members and to stimulate suggestions. We can put any
suggestions into a final draft, for decision making at the next meeting.
Stephen Imrie (Committee Clerk):
I shall advise the committee on the contents of the paper and how it was
developed. Some 57 responses have been received as part of the consultation
exercise; another 14 or so are still to come. The clerks have read the
responses and highlighted some common themes. Members will find those themes
in section 5 of the private briefing paper, on page 4. The next step, as
I understand it, will be to invite a select group of the organisations
to address the committee on the detail of the consultation, as COSLA has
done today. That process will probably begin in the next meeting and continue
into the early part of next year. There is little more for me to say on
that, except to refer members to section 5 for the key issues that have
been identified so far.
The Convener: Any thoughts?
Ms Oldfather: The timetable, which
has to cover a fairly wide range of issues, seems to be rather truncated.
Should we not perhaps be considering a two-year timetable?
The Convener: We can bear that in
Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock and
Doon Valley) (Lab): On a similar point, the draft is heading in the
right direction, in terms of covering all the issues that we need to address.
Irene Oldfather is right. The agenda is
||we want to do it
justice, we should identify the priority areas that we need to deal with
in the first six months, bearing in mind the fact that we will have a bit
of time in which to explore some of the other topics in more detail.
The Convener: I hope that members
will have suggestions about priorities.
Dennis Canavan: I agree with Irene
Oldfather and Cathy Jamieson. If we are to do justice to the suggested
programme of issues in only six months, we should pick out perhaps three
or four topics rather than eight or nineeven three or four might be ambitious.
Section 2 of the paper deals with the three-strand
approach. The first is scrutiny. We have to scrutinise; that is part of
our duty under standing orders. The second strand is headed "Consultation",
but I am not sure that that is the best word for what is meant. Are we
not talking about interaction with the Executive? Halfway down page 2 of
the paper, consultation is used in a different context. The paper says
that strand 3 will
"most benefit from the consultation exercise".
Moreover, section 4 is entitled, "Consultation
Exercise: Update and Next Steps". I suspect that whoever drafted the paper
used the word consultation in a different sense from the one used to describe
strand 2. A better title for strand 2 would be "Relationships with the
Executive" or "Interaction with the Executive".
Page 3 shows a matrix or grid containing
six topics, but some issues seem to be missing. I am thinking of human
rights and international development, although they might come under the
title "Third Sector", as many voluntary organisations are concerned with
those issues. Those are important topics, which I referred to in my letterthe
Convention of Scottish Local Authorities submission also mentioned them.
Between now and Christmas, we must prioritise
what we will do, as it will be far too ambitious to pick eight or nine
The Convener: We will make those
decisions at the next meeting. Today we have the opportunity to suggest
any topics that we think have been left out and should be included in the
Dennis Canavan's suggestion that we should
reword the paragraph headed "Consultation" is well made. We will try to
do that in the final draft.
There is a difficulty with human rights
matters. I am advised that issues relating to the European Court of Human
Rights are outwith the committee's remit. I think that we will find ways
from time to time in which to consider some of those issues, but we will
need to think about that
Dennis Canavan: I meant to raise
that point with you. Are we not allowed to impinge on the work of the Council
of Europe, as distinct from the European Union? One of the suggested topics
is justice and home affairs. People imagine that many matters that have
come before the Parliament, such as the removal of temporary sheriffs,
emanate from the European Union, but that is not correct. There is a European
dimension but, as I understand it, these matters emanate from the Council
of Europe and the European convention on human rights. Surely the European
Committee can consider such issues.
The Convener: That would depend
on what the issues were. The standing orders state:
"The remit of the committee is to
consider and report on
proposals for European Communities
Where something is an issue for the European
Communities or the European Union, we can consider it, but if it is something
for the European Court of Human Rights or the Council of Europe, we cannot.
I would hazard a guess that most of the issues that they address will also
be for the European Communities or the European Union, and that would be
the way we would look at it.
the implementation of European Communities
any European Communities or European Union
Dennis Canavan: Perhaps we could
get round it by sayingI think I am rightthat every member of the European
Union is also a member of the Council of Europe, so any decision that it
takes impinges on European law as well as the law of each member state.
The Convener: It would be hard to
imagine that a matter for the Council of Europe or the European Court of
Human Rights would not be a matter for the European Communities or the
European Union. The standing orders do not include the bodies that you
mention, but I think that we can be flexible when required; if there is
a problem, no doubt the lawyers will tell us. We can get advice on that,
but it should not delay our work programme, and we will deal with any obstacles
when we meet them.
Allan Wilson: I prefer the use of
the term "engagement" to "consultation". We should include the draft national
employment plan in our work programme. The rest of the draft is okay.
Bruce Crawford: I have written to
the convener about structural funds and additionality, asking for a joint
discussion between the Finance Committee and the European Committee. All
I want to say at this stage is that I would like to hold that idea in
on whether it will be an area of work for this committee.
On page 2, under "Scrutiny", the paper
"the forward intelligence network in Brussels
and a close working relationship".
Forward intelligence is the key to influencing
EU legislation, rather than the reactive process that seems to be suggested.
The paper also states on page 2:
"the first two strands of the committee's
general strategy and workload are in a sense set by others and the committee
will fit into the debate as appropriate."
Is there not a case for us setting the
The Convener: I know what you are
saying on the broader suggested programme.
Bruce Crawford: My point is that
forward intelligence is obviously the key to influencing EU legislation,
otherwise we are simply reacting to it.
The Convener: That is clearfor
example, we will have an item later on the EU budget, but it is obvious
that, although we are asking people to comment on that, it is too late.
We need to get into the process earlier, a point that Winnie Ewing made
at previous meetings. We could strengthen that.
Bruce Crawford: The first unnumbered
paragraph on page 2 of the paper states:
"the committee will fit into the debate"
which seems to suggest that we are allowing
others to set the agenda for us. The committee should set the agenda for
The Convener: We will consider whether
there is another way of wording that.
Bruce Crawford: On the "Suggested
Programme of Issues"that is, our work loadand paragraph 5.1, "Enlargement
of the EU and the challenges facing Scotland", I am a bit worried about
the institutional implications of enlargement for Scotland and, in particular,
about the reduction in the number of MEPs. Scotland has a small number
of MEPs compared with other small European countries; we might wish to
On paragraph 5.2, "The role for, and potential
impacts of, a single currency in Scotland", there is no mention of Scottish
banknotes and the euro. The Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers is lobbying
for the right to produce Scottish eurosshould not we be considering that?
The Convener: If we decide that
whoever considers them will no doubt wish to take those details into account.
We should not try to write a detailed report now. The paper contains suggestions
for consideration only. Are you broadly in agreement with those topics?
Bruce Crawford: Will the suggestions
not debar consideration of further issues at a later date?
The Convener: No, they are not prescriptive.
Ms MacDonald: For the next six months,
can we take on a big, specific topic, such as what is happening to the
European Union? The last part of COSLA's submission said that enlargement
would change fundamentally the very nature of the union. We should consider
what we mean by enlargement, as it is a big responsibility.
The Convener: We are not deciding
today which issues we will take on. I repeat: we have a list of suggestions
for members to consider. If members think of issues that are not identified
in the paper, they should suggest them now and we can consider them at
the next meeting. However, Dennis Canavan, Cathy Jamieson and others have
already suggested that some of those topics are so large that we would
find it difficult to cope with them, to address your point, Margo. However,
we will consider them and we will not be prescriptive. The paper suggests
the type of issues that might be considered, but, no doubt, once rapporteurs
have been appointed, other issues will be raised. We will try to be as
specific as we can, but we do not wish to be prescriptive.
Dr Winnie Ewing: Is forestry included
under agriculture? When will we know how we will go about appointing the
reporters? I nearly said rapporteurs.
The Convener: We will discuss that
at the next meeting. The committee clerks are still working on agriculture
and fisheries issues, which will include forestry.
Dr Ewing: Forestry is quite important
in European legislation.
The Convener: Yes.
May I ask the clerk, through the chair, whether, in the submissions
that we have received, any groups have questioned the rationale of this
exercise or have a different view of how we should progress it?
Stephen Imrie: Are you referring
to views on the process of developing our work programme?
David Mundell: Yes.
Stephen Imrie: The answer is no.
There is a broadly similar view, with few exceptions, on both the committee's
general role and the issues that it should be considering.
||Dr Sylvia Jackson
(Stirling) (Lab): This document is a brilliant start. I am sure that
we would not have been able to proceed so quickly if the first draft had
not been so good.
My first point follows on from what Dennis
Canavan has said. On page 2, the paragraph headed "Consultation" should
perhaps be divided into two. We need to respond to matters that the Scottish
Executive raises but, as has been said, it is important for us to be proactive.
In addition, paragraph 3, entitled "Wider Issues", does not follow from
the first two points, "Scrutiny" and "Consultation"; it is not in the same
category. That may need a wee bit of thought. It might be possible to include
that point under the heading "Consultation". We need to ask ourselves what
we will be consulting on.
Point 3 on page 4 refers to mainstreaming,
which seems to be about our linking up with the various committees of the
Parliament. However, page 5 deals with individual committees. Perhaps points
5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 could be subsumed under point 3 to make the order a bit
Ms Oldfather: I agree. I have made
notes about point 6language issuesbecause I have asked questions in the
Parliament on some of the matters listed there. There is quite a big overlap
between the remit of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee and point
6 of the document. If our aim is to mainstream, perhaps we should be tackling
these issues rather differently.
Ms MacDonald: Irene Oldfather's
point does not apply only to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee,
as point 6 asks
"What benefits would there be to businesses,
especially in relation to exports".
Some of the work could be split up and
remitted to other committees. I always think that we should send it to
The Convener: We will need to be
careful. At previous meetings, we expressed the aspiration to be involved
in some of the broader issues, not just to refer things to the relevant
committee. If we say that all education-related items are a matter for
the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, or that all enterprise items
with a European dimension are a matter for the Enterprise and Lifelong
Learning Committee, we will narrow down our role. This is all about getting
the appropriate balance and the appropriate working relationship with other
committees. I think that Sylvia Jackson is making a slightly different
Dr Jackson: Yes. My point was that
point 3 on page 4 needs to be expanded. It deals with the process of mainstreaming,
but Margo Macdonald is asking more about how we can get at the nitty-gritty
of the key issues with other committees.
I think that, to some extent, we have taken a decision to speak in
tongues. We have decided that it is a good idea for people to do business
in the same language as the Greek with whom they are trying to do business.
That means that we have to tell the business folk and the educationalists
that they have a job of work to do. We are the lead committee on this and
we are saying that they must come up with ideas.
The Convener: There will be occasions
when we want to work with other committeesthere is an item later in today's
agenda on which I will suggest that we work closely with the Justice and
Home Affairs Committee. What we have attempted to say in this document
is that it is legitimate for this committee to assume a broader advocacy
role in European matters. Our role should not be purely reactive, or limited
to giving views on matters that are put before us. We want to encourage
a better understanding of the European agenda. That means that we must
foster debate and engage actively with and promote European issues. We
probably need to use a stronger word than dissemination to indicate the
direction that we want to take.
Do Sylvia or Margo have anything specific
to suggest for the draft?
Dr Jackson: The third point, on
page 2, should perhaps be called advocacy.
The Convener: We will reword that.
Ms MacDonald: As I have explained,
there are two or three issues here. This is a terrific first draft, with
very clear thinking. [MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The
spelling is right as well.
We should start as we mean to go on. We
could say that the way in which to tackle this, that and the next thing
would be to disseminate them to other committees or groups. I do not want
to lose sight of the fundamental point, which is that we should be discussing
the effects of EU enlargement.
The Convener: I am struggling to
understand the change to the paper that will encapsulate your comments.
Ms Oldfather: On point 6 of section
5, I know that a modern languages working party has been examining the
teaching of modern languages in secondary schools in Scotland. I asked
a question on the prospect of a pilot project on the immersion teaching
of foreign languages.
It is possible that members of the Education,
Culture and Sport Committee, or the Scottish Executive, have more knowledge
about this matter than we do. We have role to play but, when we have such
a big agenda, must we reinvent the wheel? We will examine wider issues,
too, but I imagine that the working party that is examining
||how to improve
foreign language teaching in primary and secondary schools will have considered
how foreign languages are taught in Europe and best practice abroad.
The Convener: The concluding paragraph
of section 5 states:
"Please also note that consideration of
the role and remit of other subject committees of the Parliament needs
to be taken before agreeing the list of issues".
We will have to return to that debate,
but there is nothing to stop us as a committee saying, "Here is the broad
objective that we believe is important from a European perspective. We
want to know what you, as another committee, are doing to assist in achieving
that objective." That is not inconsistent with what we have said; it does
not mean that we will do all the workother committees will do some of
it. When we come to appoint rapporteurs, some of those issues will be taken
Cathy Jamieson: I think that, as
Sylvia Jackson said, points 5, 6,7, 8 and 9 of section 5 link with point
3, on page 4, about mainstreaming European issues. It would be simpler
if, rather than going into all the detail, we made those points into subsections
of point 3. That would solve the problem of how we dealt with the matter
in the paper. We can discuss the detail later.
Dr Jackson: Section 2 should contain
a fourth point on our relationship with other committees.
The Convener: We will see whether
we can add that. We will also consider Cathy Jamieson's comments.
Allan Wilson: Is it the intention
that we produce a short, medium and longer-term programme in which we prioritise
the range of issues to be discussed?
The Convener: Yes, we could do that.
Ms MacDonald: If we have long-term,
on-going monitoring and discussion at the same time asin the shorter termwe
ask for information from, or joint meetings with, other committees of the
Parliament, we will be running to two different time scales. Is that how
we will both establish the over-arching philosophical approach to our role
in the new enlarged Europe and work out how to teach the weans to speak
Dr Ewing: Or Gaelic.
The Convener: The paper is not meant
to resolve all the details immediately. After we have set the broad objectives,
we will start to allocate work. As part of the process, we need to consider
how we engage with other committees and how they can help us to fulfil
our broad objectives. A number of useful suggestions have been made about
where the emphasis should be and about
||some of the detail.
We will have another chance to go through the document when the paper is
redrafted. Is there anything else?
Dennis Canavan: Our first function
is to scrutinise. The draft report suggests an early warning system, or
forward intelligence network, in Brussels so that we are not left merely
scrutinising something when it is almost a fait accompli. Perhaps the clerk
can advise us on how we could set up such a network. Would it be done through
Scotland House, the European Parliament and its committees, the European
Commission in Brussels or through the Commission's offices in the UK? The
Commission has an office in Edinburgh. What is the best way to proceed?
The Convener: Stephen Imrie suggests
that it could be done through all those bodies. The other issue that needs
to be considered is the fact that we have a different role from the Scottish
Executive. While we appreciate the co-operation that the Scottish Executive
has given us so far, not only in Edinburgh, but in Brussels, there will
be times when it is appropriate for us to have access to our own support.
At some point, we may need to consider having a representative office in
Brussels so that we can get independent analysis and information. Perhaps
we could work in partnership with COSLA, helping it to invest in or expand
the work that it does. I do not want to belittle the work carried out by
the Scottish Executive, but we need to recognise that there will be times
when our roles have to be different. We may need to put down a marker and
come back to this issue. A discussion with COSLA could be helpful.
Ms Oldfather: In one of our previous
meetingsin August or SeptemberI suggested that we examine the European
Commission's legislative programme. At the time, the Commission was planning
next year's programme. It would be helpful for the committee to have that
We will not be able to do this today, but
at a future meeting we may also want to consider the Committee of the Regions'
forward work programme and establish how we can build some of its work
and forthcoming reports into our discussions. Last week, I finished a report
for the Committee of the Regions, but there was not really an opportunity
to bring it to the European Committee.
The Convener: I hesitate to inundate
the committee with a huge volume of information, not all of which will
be relevant. We may occasionally need to examine the work of the European
Parliament, the European Commission and the
||Committee of the
Regions to get advance warning of what is relevant. The committee should
discuss its relationship with a range of organisations and how we can feed
Dr Jackson: If we want to expand
our general strategy to include a fourth strand, covering our relationship
with other committees in the Scottish Parliament, could not we extend it
to include our relationship with other organisations in Europe, as Dennis
The Convener: We have agreed that
we will ask for a document that indicates what all the different bodies
in Scotland, the UK and Europe do. At some point, it would be helpful for
someone to take us through that. Today, I gave Stephen Imrie a flow chart
produced by the Local Government International Bureau in London, which
shows the decision-making process in Europe. It will be to the good if,
as part of our learning process, we have another discussion about this
so that we can begin to find out when decisions are made andas Irene Oldfather
saysto feed information in from the Commission, the Parliament, the Committee
of the Regions and others. Dennis Canavan's point can be covered by that.
Bruce Crawford: I heard someone
say that, next week, we would be talking about reporters and considering
who would do what.
The Convener: If we can agree the
detail of the document, we could start to look at that. If we cannot get
round to it, it would need to slip to the meeting after next.
Bruce Crawford: I want to know what
process we will use to get there; a discussion about who will do what could
be interesting. I do not know how we are going to manage it. Has any one
given any thought to it?
The Convener: Yes, I have given
some thought to it andin the spirit of the Parliamentwe will be as fair
as we can. The priority is to agree on the principles and programme andif
necessaryto take a step back and agree on the principles of how we allocate
the work. It will not help if we squabble over who does what. At the same
time, we need to agree on the process.
Bruce Crawford: As long as you give
us what we want, I am sure that we will not squabble.
The Convener: I have seen you in
action before, Bruce. I know exactly what you mean.
Is there anything else that has not been
included? I echo the comments made by members of the committee in thanking
Stephen Imrie and the members of his team for their work. We will try to
tidy this up and produce a paper for consideration at the next meeting.
We will also make some suggestions about the allocation of
Some people have already expressed an interest; they will not always be
accommodated entirely, but we will try to do so as much as possible.
Dr Ewing: That is jumping the gun,
is it not?
The Convener: Sorry?
Dr Ewing: We could all express an
interest if we thought that now was the appropriate time, but I did not
know that people had already done so.
The Convener: I am puzzled, Winnie,
because we have at least twice asked committee members to express their
interest. It is possible that that has not registered, but everybody has
had the opportunity to express an interest. I will say it a third, if not
a fourth time. The fact that people have been asked to express their interest
does not mean that any decisions have been made.
Bruce Crawford: To be fair, Hugh,
we did not have a chart that laid out the areas before.
The Convener: We suggested that
people could express their interest in broad terms. It is rather petty
to start making complaints about that, as everybody was in the same boat.
The people who responded have clearly used some initiative, but that does
not mean that they will get the area in which they have expressed interest.
The suggestion was an attempt by the clerksquite rightlyto gauge people's
interests. I do not think that it was jumping the gun.
Dr Ewing: I did not receive a letter
from the clerks about that.
The Convener: We discussed it more
than once, Winnie. I am sorry.
That is what you get for being polite, Winnie.
Dr Ewing: I am not polite. I just
wait until I see what the subjects are before I say which one I would like.
That is quite reasonable.
The Convener: Let us leave it at
thatwe are quite clear about what we have asked. The intention was to
try to extend some courtesy and to engage members. If that has not worked,
that is unfortunate. The committee will make the final decision at a future
The Convener: Let us move on to
the scrutiny process and go through the documents.
The first is document 346 (EC Ref No 10736/99,
COM(99)388 final). We have just received the Scottish cover note, and the
recommendation is for no further action to be taken. Is that agreed?
The Convener: We are still awaiting
an explanatory memorandum on document 349 (EC Ref No 10251/99, SEC(99)1213).
We are also still awaiting an explanatory
memorandum on document 350 (EC Ref No 10742/99, COM(99)348 final), but
there is a mistake in the sift note. The suggested referral should be to
the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, not to the Rural Affairs Committee.
Ms MacDonald: Why not send it to
them anyway and see whether they notice? [Laughter.]
The Convener: We have received a
Scottish cover note on document 376 (EC Ref No 11024/99, COM(99)368 final),
which suggests no further action.
We also have a Scottish cover note on document
377 (EC Ref No 11025/99, COM(99)437 final). The suggestion is that we refer
the document to the Rural Affairs Committee.
Dr Winnie Ewing: We are very glad
to have this note. It is a hopeful sign that we are considering the Norwegian
experience, because they have been much more successful in dealing with
fish diseases than we have in the United Kingdom. We cannot come to any
conclusion because there is to be another meeting of the Fisheries Council;
but we should keep the issue very much in mind, because it is fundamental,
especially in the Highlands. We should keep our eye on it, but the news
so far is very good.
The Convener: Shall we refer this
to the Rural Affairs Committee?
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: Document 393
Dennis Canavan: Is that not the
sort of thing that should be debated on the floor of the House, as it were,
in plenary session?
The Convener: We have written to
Scottish members of the European Parliament, and we have had replies from
at least one. Bill Miller has suggested that one thing that we might want
to consider doing next year is getting into the process earlier. He feels
that, at the moment, we are coming into the process a bit too late. Winnie
has made a similar point on that and other matters before. As far as this
item is concerned, it is probably too late for that, but we would
Dr Ewing: It is not too late; that
is the whole point of what we are saying.
The Convener: Well, the second reading
Dr Ewing: We are looking again at
the whole way of dealing with infectious salmon anaemia.
No, we are on a different subject now. We are on document 393, which is
a draft general budget of the European Communities.
Dr Ewing: I am sorry. I was looking
at document 377 on the control of fish diseases.
Ms MacDonald: There will be meetings
in a couple of days' time for that.
Dr Ewing: That is right. Okay.
The Convener: Although I think that
there is nothing for us to do on documents 411 (EC Ref No 11084/99, COPEN
37), 412 (EC Ref No 11570/99, COPEN 42), 413 (EC Ref No 11571/99, COPEN
43), 414 (EC Ref No 11603/99, COPEN 44) and 437 (EC Ref No 12010/99 COPEN
47 COMIX 344) at the moment, an issue arises that we should perhaps consider
along with the Justice and Home Affairs Committee. I suggest that, in the
first instance, I have a meeting with the convener to see whether we need
to have some joint debate and consideration, or, if necessary, a joint
meeting. There are a number of significant issues for the Scottish Parliament
that go beyond this committee. We should ensure that all the justice matters
are being looked at adequately. Do members have any suggestions on how
to proceed with that?
Ms MacDonald: I have a specific
interest in the interception of telecommunications, which is the subject
of 413. It is important to establish where the Scottish criminal justice
system fits into the concordats and the fault lines between the two Parliaments.
The Convener: I shall bring forward
a recommendation once I have discussed with the convener of the Justice
and Home Affairs Committee whether there should be joint deliberation,
either between individual members or in a joint committee meeting. If members
are agreed, that is the best way forward.
Document 437 falls into the same category
as the previous documents on mutual assistance in criminal matters, and
we are advised to take no action at this stage. That is agreed.
For document 417 (EC Ref No 11492/99, COM(99)
425 final), we are still awaiting information from the Executive, so we
are advised to take no action at this stage.
For document 422 (EC Ref No 11156/99, SEC(99)
1302 final), a cover note has been requested and the document will be referred
to the Transport and the Environment Committee for routine scrutiny.
The committee recommended that no further
||action be taken
on the following documents:
SP 440 (EC Ref No 11766/99, COM(99) 473
SP 441 (EC Ref No 11767/99, COM (99) 472
The Convener: For document 447 (EC
Ref No 10525/99 COM(99) 429 final), we are awaiting information and no
action is required at this stage. That is agreed.
The committee recommended that no further
action be taken on the following documents:
SP 450 (EC Ref No 11921/99 COM (99) 480
SP 451 (EC Ref No 12042/99 COM (99) 463
The Convener: Members will note
that some of these documents are being sent to other committees for their
interest, but no further action will be taken as far as this committee
Dennis Canavan: What is the difference
between referring a document to another committee and simply sending a
copy to another committee?
Stephen Imrie: If we formally refer
a document to another committee, we require that committee to put it on
its agenda, consider it and report back to us. If we copy it to another
committee, we copy it to the clerk and the convener, who will decide whether
it contains anything worth considering. I suspect that, more often than
not, they decide that there is not. We copy documents to them just to keep
them aware of what is going on.
Dennis Canavan: If we simply send
them a copy, can they still take up the issue if they think that it merits
further study and action?
Stephen Imrie: Yes.
The committee recommended that no further
action be taken on the following document:
SP 452 (EC Ref No COM (99) 349 final)
The Convener: For document 453 (EC
Ref No 10844/1/99, REV.1), a cover note has been requested. The document
will be considered at the next meeting. That is agreed.
For document 454 (EC Ref 12322/99, COPEN
48), the Scottish cover note has arrived. The recommendation is that no
further action be taken. That is agreed.
The committee recommended that no further
action be taken on the following documents:
SP 455 (EC Ref No 12033/99, SEC(99) 1596
||SP 456 (EC Ref
No 12053/99, COM(99) 500 final)
SP 457 (EC Ref No 12062/99, COM(99) 503
SP 458 (EC Ref No 12064/99, COM(99) 505
SP 459 (EC Ref No 12065/99, COM(99) 506
SP 460 (EC Ref No 12067/99, COM(99) 508
SP 461 (EC Ref No 12066/99, COM(99) 507
SP 462 (EC Ref No 12068/99, COM(99) 509
SP 463 (EC Ref No 12069/99, COM(99) 510
SP 464 (EC Ref No 12079/99, COM(99) 512
SP 465 (no EC Ref No)
SP 466 (EC Ref No 9614/99, JUR 234 COUR
SP 467 (EC Ref No 11422/99, RECH 102 TRANS
203 ECO 353)
The Convener: For document 468 (EC
Ref No 12373/99, COM(99) 456 final), a Scottish cover note has been requested,
and the document will be considered at the next meeting. That is agreed.
The committee recommended that no further
action be taken on the following document:
SP 469 (EC Ref No 11998/99, COM(99) 481
The Convener: For document 470 (EC
Ref No 12031/99, COM(99) 486 final), we await the explanatory memorandum,
and the document will be considered at the next meeting. That is agreed.
The committee recommended that no further
action be taken on the following documents:
SP 471 (EC Ref No 11442/99, COM(99) 458
SP 472 (EC Ref No 12111/99, COM(99) 488
Dr Ewing: Are we waiting for further
documentation on 473?
The Convener: No. The recommendation
for document 473 (EC Ref No 12090/99, COM(99) 485 final COD 99/0208) is
that no further action be taken.
Dr Ewing: We can get funding from
various budgets for languages.
The Convener: Then let us take our
||documents for which
we agree no further action up to 472. What do you think that we should
do with 473?
Dr Ewing: Perhaps we should wait
for more information or for a copy of the document.
The Convener: We can defer it. That
The committee recommended that no further
action be taken on the following documents:
SP 474 (EC Ref No 12159/99, COM(99) 489
SP 475 (EC Ref No 12012/99, COM(99) 483
SP 476 (EC Ref No 12011/99, COM(99) 467
SP 477 (EC Ref No 11550, PESC 333 COWEB
SP 478 (EC Ref No SEC(99) 1093-94, 1098,
1140-41, 1143, 1266, 1299, 1414)
The Convener: Documents 479 (EC
Ref No 12509/99, COPEN 54) and 480 (EC Ref No 11951/99, COPEN 45) are connected
with the justice issue that we mentioned earlier. The recommendation for
both documents is that no further action be taken at this stage. That is
The Convener: The next item is consideration
of the report to the committee clerk from the clerk to the Justice and
Home Affairs Committee. I propose that we note that report. Are members
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: Next is the report
to the committee clerk from the clerk to the Rural Affairs Committee. Again,
I suggest that we note that report.
Members indicated agreement.
Plant Health (Scotland) Amendment (No
2) Order 1999 (SSI 1999/129)
The Convener: The next item is consideration
of a negative instrument. I suggest that we note this item.
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: First, Sylvia Jackson
will report on the meeting with a delegation from the Swedish Parliament.
Winnie Ewing, Margo MacDonald and Maureen Macmillan were also present.
It was a most useful meeting. There was no heavy debate on any particular
issue, but it was nice to talk about issues that we share, such as domestic
violence, offenders and drug issues, and to get another perspective on
It was also nice to see the political mix
within the delegation. Does Eugene want to say anything? Secretarial support
came with the group, but I do not know what ideas were exchanged. Overall,
it was a useful and interesting meeting.
The Convener: Thank you.
Dr Ewing: They were going on an
intensive tour of the Highlands after the meeting.
The Convener: Very good.
Winnie, the next report is on the meeting
with Prince William of Orange.
Dr Ewing: Oh, it was absolutely
wonderful. [Laughter.] He is Adonisand the most eligible bachelor
in Europe. He was very pleased with me because I speak Dutch, which is
my secret weapon. I was a student at The Hague Academy of International
Law and I once had a Dutch boyfriend, which was a good incentive. I had
a long chat with the prince, who is an amazingly talented fellow in terms
of sport: he flies planes and is an Olympic person. His English was absolutely
The joy of it was that every person in
Scotland of Dutch connections was there, plus, I think, people from London.
I did not realise that my old friend from the European Parliament Jack
Stewart Clark would be there with his Dutch wife. He tried to act for the
whole Conservative party in Scotland when it had no MEPs. I had not realised
that he spoke fluent Dutch as well. It was an interesting meeting, and
The Convener: It was certainly a
cultural experience for Prince William of Orange as well. [Laughter.]
At our next meeting, I suggest that we
consider submissions on the Fisheries Council, which will meet on 16 and
17 December. We need to get the industry's thoughts on the agenda of the
council's meeting. We could do that in two ways: either we consider written
submissions from the industry at our next meeting, which we could then
take forward to the Scottish Executive, or we ask a committee member, such
as Tavish Scott, to contact industry representatives and bring back a synopsis
of their views to the next meeting.
Following the Fisheries Council meeting,
I would like to have a report back from the Scottish Executive, to establish
the principle that, if it is relevant to this committee, the Executive
||come back to let
us know exactly what was discussed. I am open to suggestions.
Tavish Scott (Shetland) (LD): I
agree with your position, convener. That meeting is usually the most important
Fisheries Council meeting of the year. The agenda shows that it is a crunch
The principle that you wish to establish
is right, convener. After John Home Robertson came back from his first
Fisheries Council meeting, he said that he was open to the suggestion of
appearing before the relevant committees. You might want to consider meeting
the convener of the Rural Affairs Committee, to ensure that there is a
tie-in between the two committees. We need to be on the ball and we should
take submissions from the industry. There is nothing as important as this
meeting for many of our areas.
The Convener: I could invite members
of the Rural Affairs Committee to our next meeting.
As I said, there are two ways of approaching
this issueone is to ask for written submissions and the other is to ask
a committee member to co-ordinate responses. What is your view, Tavish?
Tavish Scott: GulpI will happily
co-ordinate that, if that is the committee's wish.
The Convener: Are members agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
Ms MacDonald: Give him forestry
if he says no.
The Convener: I will invite members
of the Rural Affairs Committee to the next meeting.
David Mundell: It would be a good
idea to ask the Executive to report back as well. It might be helpful to
ask the Executive to report activity proactively to the committee. As there
is no individual minister for European matters, it is quite difficult to
pick up what the Executive has been doing.
The Convener: We will try to schedule
that item on to the agenda, but it will probably be taken at a meeting
early in the new year. Is that agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: I have one further
item to report to members. It appears that the objective 3 plan will not
be ready in time for our next meeting. Therefore, we may need to schedule
a meeting between then and Christmas to consider the plan. The alternative
is for us to get the plan at short notice, an experience that we have been
through before and that I do not think is acceptable. Members need plenty
of time to consider the plan. We will come back to this issue when I have
further information, which I hope will be by the next meeting.
Could the committee make a decision one way or the other on what is
happening on the East of Scotland European Consortium conference? We need
to make other plans if we are not going to attend.
The Convener: Stephen Imrie will
speak to people individually about that at the end of, rather than during,
the meeting. I thank everyone for attending.
Meeting closed at 15:56.