||summit. I hope that Scotland
will benefit as a result of that. The convener's suggestion of making the secretary of
state aware of our views and bringing him to one of our meetings would be a useful way to
On Jim's point on Community initiatives, I
have a brief question on interregional co-operation. Is there any relative balance on
that, in relation to transnational and cross-border issues? It will be important for us to
maintain a transnational perspective.
Mr Millard: All we have so far are draft Commission
proposals on how interregional co-operation initiatives might work. In fairness to the
Commission, I can say that it has produced a reasonable mix. Wethe Scottish
Executive and the UK Governmentwill need to consider the proposals in arguing for
the right balance, so that Scotland and the other constituent parts of the UK get a fair
opportunity and fair access. INTERREG is sometimes a bit difficult for us, given our
geographical position. To take an extreme example, it is easier in Luxembourg to
co-operate with other member states than it is for people in Scotland.
The Convener: I am aware that, as we cut your
presentation short, Jim, there are a number of critical issues about the future of the
programmes to which we will need to return. Similarly, after we have taken evidence from
some of the partner organisations in Scotland, we will have some comments to make, like
those that David made, about the inadequacies of the current process, so there will be
communication between us in future.
I suggest that we change
the agenda: Owen Kelly from the Executive Secretariat will now
discuss the role of Scotland House, and we will then cover item
Mr Owen Kelly (Executive Secretariat, Scottish
Executive): It is a great pleasure to be before the committee. I will start by
explaining why I am here. I am head of the division that deals with the external
relationships of the Executive. We are responsible for co-ordinating EU business. We are
the sponsoring division in Edinburgh for Scotland House in Brussels. My division did the
work on setting up Scotland House, so it might be useful to give members a feel for the
process that we went through.
I will briefly talk about the context of the devolution
settlement, about the rationale for Scotland Housewhy it is the way it is, and what
some of the other options wereabout the practicalities, and finally about how it
might relate to the work of the committee.
||I will be very brief, as I do
not want to bore members with things with which they are already familiar. It is important
to recognise the context in which Scotland House will operate. Relations with the EU are
reserved under the Scotland Act 1998, but it is fair to say that EU issues are unique in
the way in which they are treated in the devolution settlement. They are theoretically
reserved, but the UK Government has made it clear that it wants to involve the Scottish
Executive and Parliament fully in EU decisions on devolved matters. I put "pre and
post-decision" on the overhead slide as an important aspect is implementation, which
is one of the most substantial responsibilities of this Parliament.
There will be a single negotiating line in council in Brussels.
There will be a single UK member state. The UK responsible department will be in the lead,
with Scottish ministers involved as appropriate. From the Executive's point of view, the
relationship between Scotland and Whitehall is very important because the United Kingdom
permanent representative to the European Union acts under instruction from the UK
Government. It is important that we feed into the UK Government early on, so that
Scotland's position is properly taken into account and mechanisms are put in place to
The idea of Scotland House has been around since the white
paper, "Scotland's Parliament", in which the possibility of a representative
office in Brussels was specifically mentioned. Scottish Office ministers decided to go
ahead and set it up so that it would be there for the Executive when it came into being.
Staff in my division carried out the research. We had two people based in UKREP for about
six months. They interviewed a wide range of playersmembers of the European
Parliament, people in UKREP and on the Committee of the Regions, other regional
representatives and so on. Their research was the basis on which we set up Scotland House.
What did all that tell us? We looked at some other
options, which are fairly obvious, I suppose: the idea of having a desk in UKREP, or
having something free-standing and entirely separate from UKREP. However, we decided that
some key principles needed to be reflected. The most important was that the representative
office had to be inclusive and a focus for as many Scottish interests in Brussels as
possible. We were influenced partly by the success of Scotland Europa, which was in some
ways the predecessor of Scotland House. Scotland Europa is the organisation that is
sponsored and run by Scottish Enterprise. It is basically a subscriber organisation to
which public and private sector organisations can subscribe. We were keen to take that
model and move it on.
||From the Executive's point of
view, we were keen that whatever was set up added valuethat we were not duplicating
work that was better done from Edinburgh by the responsible divisions back here dealing
with fisheries or whatever. We did not want people to feel that Europe somehow was over
there and that they no longer had to go to Brussels. Likewise, we had to be sensitive to
the fact that UKREP is the formal voice for the UK in council and in dealings with other
member states and with the institutions.
had a building, in our more pretentious momentsand there are not many of them when
one is a civil servantwe used to say that Scotland House was more of a concept than
a place. I believe that it is important that it is a place in which all of Scottish civic
society and the private sector can come together. I hope that it will be bigger than the
sum of its parts. The Executive office, which is our bit of the place, is physically a
small part. The larger part of Scotland Housephysically and in terms of the number
of bodiesconsists of other organisations: Scotland Europa and its subscriber bodies.
There are also a couple of Scandinavian regional representations in Scotland House, which
approached Scotland Europa to be in the same place as Scotland. We welcomed that because
of our interest in links with Nordic countries.
Scotland House is intended to be a focus for Scottish
interests. From the Executive's point of view, we are riding two horses. We want to be a
Government office and to be regarded as something official, but, equally, we want to be
part of the larger whole. I suspectI am being slightly speculativethat over
time Scotland House will appear in different guises depending on who is looking and with
whom they are talking.
As Scotland Enterprise was instrumental in identifying and
obtaining the office, I can say that it is in a plum location. It is right in the middle
of the key district in Brussels, opposite the Berlaymont. We can see on to the desks of
people in UKREP, which might be useful. It is a good place from which to start.
I realise that none of these issues is as pressing as some
of the matters that members have been talking about in relation to structural funds, but
at some stage members will want to meet Donald MacInnes, the chief executive of Scotland
Europa, to talk about its activities and the sort of things that he foresees happening.
Scotland House is a good place to start. It is something
to be moulded by ministers, by this committee and by the Parliament. When we were setting
it up, we were conscious that we could not prejudge the electoral outcome. We had to set
up something that was flexible; I think that that is what we have now got.
||The Executive office is part of
the Executive Secretariat, which has been set up at the centre of the Executive. One of
the lessons from talking to other regional representations was that it was important to be
seen by other players in Brussels to be plugged into the centre of the Administration.
That explains why Scotland House is plugged into my division. We are also responsible for
co-ordinating EU business generally.
important to recognise that the Scottish Executive part of Scotland House is not in the
policy lead. For many years, the position has been that anybody who has an involvement in
European policy does that themselves. Jim Millard, for example, deals with structural
funds, works with Europe all the time and is expert at dealing with Brussels. The same is
true of colleagues in fisheries, agriculture and the environment. Scotland House is
intended to improve rather than replace that. It has been the main stream for a long time.
We are all Europeans in that sense. Scotland House is there to facilitate, not to
duplicate, the work that goes on. That is true both for us in the Executive and for UKREP.
Scotland House is a new, additional resource for us. We
hope that it can support policy development in Scotland and that it can help with
practicalities, such as attending meetings to which it is not cost-effective to send
someone from here. An important function, which it is easy to discount, is the gathering
of intelligence. As we already see, an enormous amount of information comes out of
Brussels. It could be valuable to have an intelligence-gathering capacity, as we need to
winnow out the things that will be of interest.
We need to stay close to UKREP, which is the voice of the
member state. We will have a hot desk in UKREP that can be used by our staff. That is
important as it means that we can plug into its information and distribution systems, and
it will be helpful for UKREP, too.
Finally, Scotland House will have a domestic role in
providing support for people visiting from the Executive or from other organisations in
I will now wind upI am conscious of the time,
convener. The structure of Scotland House gives this committee twoand probably
moreopportunities to use it. Scotland Europa and the Scottish Executive office are
distinct but make up a whole. The committee has a way, through Scotland Europa and,
perhaps to a lesser extent, through our office, to plug into quite a wide range of
Scottish interests in Brussels.
We are there to help. I hope that if any committee members
are in Brussels they will feel
||free to drop in or to ask us to
assist in any way we can. Obviously, we have to be conscious that we are servants of
ministers. That is a line that I would not wish to make too much of, but there might be
occasions when we have to consider carefully ministers' views.
I hope that committee members will go to the minister as the
contact for policy issues. As Stephen suggested, it might be an idea in these early days
to route communications through him, but if members have questions about the
practicalities of Brussels or about things that they want done which are done more easily
by someone there, they should feel free to contact Scotland House in Brussels. We will do
what we can to help.
The Convener: Thank you very much, Owen. We always
get good value from the Executive Secretariat: as well as an explanation on the role of
Scotland House, we have had an introduction to philosophy. Is Scotland House a concept or
a place? Unfortunately, we do not have the time to resolve that one.
You touched on a point at the end, Owen. It forms part of
my learning process and, I am sure, that of other members who have come from a local
government background. I still find it hard to get my mind round the concept of the split
of the Executive as servants of the Scottish Ministers rather than of the whole
Parliament. For me, that raises the issue of accountability.
Ms MacDonald: That is right.
The Convener: It will take me some time to
understand where that concept came from. I hope that we have not just mirrored the
Westminster model and that, not just in this committee but in others, we will start, over
the next few years, to examine how civil servants are responsible and accountable to the
whole Parliament, rather than to a particular minister. But that is not for you to
Mr Kelly: I think that that is a question for
The Convener: It is not for you. I certainly do not
want to blight your career opportunities at this stage.
I will now open up the discussion on Scotland House.
Ms MacDonald: I should like some factual
information. Owen mentioned some Scandinavian countries. Which ones, and are they regions
Mr Kelly: They are regions.
Ms MacDonald: Which regions, please?
Mr Kelly: One is of Finland and one is of
||Sweden. Oulu, I think, is one,
but I cannot remember the other.
Mr Kelly: That is right, yes.
The Convener: Dennis is fluent in it.
Mr Kelly: There has also, I think, been an approach
from a region of Poland, but that has not yet been resolved.
Dr Sylvia Jackson: May I ask more about the
Scottish Executive office? Owen mentioned intelligence gathering. We have talked about
early warning: is that a role that the office could have? If there is a broader role,
could Owen tell us more about it?
Mr Kelly: The office could play a role, but I would
not want to overstate it. In general terms, the best information flow that this committee
and the subject-based committees will get from the Executive will be through people such
as Jim who deal with the issues all the time and talk to people in the Commission. They
are more likely to hear about specific matters and policy areas than Scotland House. I am
not saying that Scotland House will not hear about them. A lot of information goes round
in Brussels. Much of it is gossip, but quite important things can sometimes emerge that we
get to hear about.
I do see intelligence gathering as a role, but the
important thing is that there are people at Scotland House who can see what is important.
That is why, in staffing it, we are keen that people should go there for two or three
years, bringing with them knowledge of the Executive and of the way in which the
Government works in Scotland, so that they can spot the important things and the things
that need to be referred back.
Dr Winnie Ewing: Following the combining of
Scotland Europa and Scotland House, are all the tenants that Scotland Europa recruited
Mr Kelly: Yes, they all went there. They were all
very enthusiastic to go when we moved location.
Maureen Macmillan (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): What
are the roles of the MEPs? We have not talked about the relationship between ourselves and
the Scottish members of the European Parliament. It is perhaps not an appropriate matter
to bring up when we are discussing Scotland House, but it seems to be something to debate.
The Convener: I hope that we can arrange a meeting
with our MEPs at some point in the future and also arrange a liaison mechanism. To return
to the point that Winnie made earlier about how we influence the process, we need to use
our MEPs to best effectwe need to examine that.