||agrees. It can
be submitted as a holding statement to the Scottish Executive, in advance
of detailed consideration of the matter, so that the Executive is aware
of the tenor of our discussion today. In the meantime, we should try to
carry out some of the more detailed work that members have commented upon
today. If members agree, I will speak to the clerk and try to submit a
statement over the next week or so, which members can consider in more
detail at the next meeting.
Ms MacDonald: I am sorry to be a
nuisance, but there is something that I want to get straight. At the very
least, there appeared to be acquiescence around the table to the notion
that a strategic plan should begin from a geographical starting point,
as George Lyon said. Consideration should be given to those areas that
either have not maximised on past opportunities, for whatever reason, or
that were losing population for other reasons. Is that where we are starting?
That is not a sectional approachit is a geographical approach. It is about
the redistribution of resources, in the widest possible sense, inside the
area, which is fine with me. However, is that what we have said?
The Convener: I think that that
was what we said. However, we can flag up the committee's very strong view
that there needs to be geographic targeting in order to ensure that the
communities of greatest need are assisted. That does not commit us to a
final decision ahead of seeing the more detailed information, but at least
it would flag up the issue to the Scottish Executive and, at an early date,
make it aware of this committee's strong view that this point needs to
Ms MacDonald: That is one you owe
The Convener: If there is nothing
else, I will draw this item to a close. I thank the members of other committees
who have come to the meeting. Their contributions have been valuable and
will be reflected in the document that we will produce.
The Convener: We will move on to
scrutiny of European documentation. Before I go through the sift/scrutiny
recommendation note page by page, do members have general comments to make
on the way in which the document is presented or on how we are handling
Dr Winnie Ewing: I have been looking
at the various documents. One concerns additives, which is a very technical
issue, and, without a lot more chemical knowledge, I could not say whether
any of the document affects the area that I was elected for, or, indeed,
the rest of Scotland. I see a warning light when I see spirit drinks, coming
as I do from the Highlands and Islands, and
When did that happen, Winnie?
Dr Ewing: When a document as technical
as that is received, could we have a note stating if it will affect our
industries in Scotland, or if it does not apply?
The Convener: I want to bring the
clerk in, as he can answer your query.
Stephen Imrie: I advise Dr Ewing
that explanatory memorandums from the lead Whitehall department usually
accompany these documents. However, because of the recess, in this case
the memorandum has not arrived at the same time as the document. All the
documents that members receive will have an associated explanatory memorandum
covering the details suggested by Dr Ewing. As I said in my comments at
the start of the meeting, if members require a further Scottish dimension,
they can request a supplementary Scottish explanatory memorandum, which
will explain some of the policy issues from a Scottish perspective.
Ms Oldfather: I wish to raise a
point for clarification. When we first discussed the sift/scrutiny process,
I was under the impression that we would be working to very tight deadlines
and time scales. None of the documents have a timetable attached to them.
Did we just get lucky this time? Why do we have no information about when
we must take decisions on some of those issues?
Stephen Imrie: We are lucky, in
that Westminster is in recess. The Commons committee is not meeting during
the recess; therefore, we have received no timetable information.
The Convener: Can we go through
Ben Wallace: I would like some clarification.
I thought that we would produce the Scottish explanatory memorandums and
send them to the Westminster committee before it produced the explanatory
memorandum. In other words, I thought that the Westminster committee would
not send up the EM with the documents because the EM would be the final
submission to the Westminster committee.
Stephen Imrie: We receive the EM
from the Whitehall department, not from the Westminster scrutiny committee.
The EM is a separate document, which contains the Whitehall department's
further explanation of the European documents. When we receive the EC document,
it would be normal for the Whitehall EM to follow within around 10 days.
We can request the SEM as soon as we know that we wish to consider one
of the EC documents. Again, the SEM will follow around 10 days after we
receive the EC
Ms Oldfather: May I assume, from
the information contained in the sift/scrutiny recommendation note, that
none of the proposals for council decisions require to be acted on before
Westminster resumes at the end of October?
Stephen Imrie: Yes, that is my understanding,
but because of the holiday period at Westminster it is difficult to confirm
Ms Oldfather: So we will not miss
any opportunities to comment?
Stephen Imrie: I have not been alerted
by Westminster or by the Executive that that will happen.
The Convener: We will go through
the document page by page. Are we agreed on the recommendation on page
Dr Ewing: Which one?
The Convener: The one on the sift/scrutiny
recommendation. The first page of that concerns the action programme to
promote the integration of refugees. We are recommending that that goes
to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee.
Do we also agree with the recommendation
on page 2?
Dr Ewing: It would be helpful if
you could mention the subject matter.
The Convener: That is on the fishing
industry as affected by common fisheries policies. We recommend that that
goes to the Rural Affairs Committee.
Dr Ewing: I have a question on that,
which may be urgent. The proposal for a council regulation contains an
alarming feature; it proposes to abolish the present advisory committee,
because it does not work, and to establish a new one. It is difficult to
find out who the committee members will be or how they will be chosen,
but there are one or two points that we should be alerted to. The council
hopes to reduce the size of the committee, while ensuring that it consults
the trade organisations in the fishing industries of Europe. It goes on
to say that it will give preference to European organisations. I want to
be sure that our Scottish organisations will not be cut out by this additional
requirement, which did not apply to the old advisory committee.
This matter is urgent; we cannot wait around
to find out about it while it hardens into a nasty situation.
The Convener: We are recommending
that the lead responsibility for that type of consideration should rest
with the Rural Affairs Committee. Once that committee has reached a conclusion,
||refer back to us.
We can then make further comment, if we feel that something has been missed.
In the first instance, we are suggesting that the Rural Affairs Committee
should examine it from some of the perspectives that you mentioned, Dr
Ms MacDonald: I do not want to play
awkward squads, Mr Convener, but is this not a point of principle? Perhaps
we should indicate to the Rural Affairs Committee whether we think the
way in which the EU operates in this instance, in relation to trade associations,
suits our situation.
The Convener: It is for the Rural
Affairs Committee to come to its own conclusion. If we feel that it has
missed some of the points that we have mentioned here, we can make a submission.
We want the Rural Affairs Committee to consider it and report back to us.
At that point we can decide whether these points have been covered.
Dr Ewing: There is a problem with
the time we have for that process. The small print suggests that the regulation
will come into force a number of days after it is published in the official
journal. We need to know when that will be so that we can decide how urgent
the situation is. Earlier, we said that there was not much urgency as regards
these matters but this could be the exception. We do not want to find out
that the Scottish Fishermen's Federation cannot go to Shetland.
The Convener: We have been told
that the explanatory memorandum will be available in a few days' time and,
therefore, that the Rural Affairs Committee will be able to consider it.
Dr Ewing: I want the minutes to
record that I raised my concern.
The Convener: We can come back to
the issue later. We will ask the Rural Affairs Committee to consider that
Ben Wallace: As was mentioned in
our first meeting, there is some urgency in getting the matter to that
committee. We believe it to be urgent but how are we to ensure that the
committee decides to examine it in time?
The Convener: When we refer the
document to the Rural Affairs Committee, we will ask that it be considered
as a matter of urgency. If, when the explanatory memorandum comes through,
we find that a deadline has to be met, we can return to the matter even
if we have received nothing back from the Rural Affairs Committee. Unless
we hear something to the contrary, we have to assume that the Rural Affairs
Committee will examine the document and report back to us.
Ms MacDonald: I am sorry to have
||this and I am not
an expert on fisheries, as everyone will have guessed, but I think of the
proposal as structural. On page 3 of the sift/scrutiny recommendation note,
"Ensuring that European trade organisations
are freely accessible: The Commission must ensure that it recognises only
European organisations whose membership is open to all suitable national
Does that include the Shetland fishermen,
or are only British organisations included? Previously, all fishing organisations
had access to the European Commission. Is it in our best interests for
them not to have direct access, but to be filtered through the British
organisation, given that there are great differences between, for example,
the Shetland fishing industry and the Cornish fishing industry?
The Convener: We will ask the Rural
Affairs Committee to examine the document and, in particular, the points
that you raise. At that point, if there is a need for us to comment further,
we will do so.
Ms MacDonald: I am sorry if I was
clumsy in expressing myself. That is what I suggest we do. We should not
steer the committee but recommend that it consider my points.
Jackson: I would like to extend that recommendation to the part that
covers the inclusion criteria. The document says not only that organisations
be national, but that they be European trade organisations. I would like
the Rural Affairs Committee to consider the whole of the paragraph at the
bottom of page 3.
If there is a requirement to be a European trade organisation, you
can bet your life that the Spanish fishing associations will all magically
be such organisations. Excuse me for being a little cynical after 24 years
The Convener: On page 3 of the sift
document, we recommend no further action on dispute settlements that are
related to the law of Ukraine.
On page 4, we recommend no further action
on the issue relating to Slovenia.
Dennis Canavan: No explanatory memorandum
has been received in relation to the business on page 5, yet the recommendation
is that no further action be taken. I am a wee bit concerned as the text
refers to the rights of movement, residence and entry of citizens of the
European Union. It also refers to expulsions from the European Union. I
have a natural suspicion about matters relating to expulsion.
Ms MacDonald: That is quite understandable.
Dennis Canavan: I wonder whether
you, convener, or the clerks, could elaborate on the implications of the
document for people in Scotland and throughout the European Union?
The recommendation is down for no further action because the document is
not a proposal for legislation, it is merely a Commission communication.
If there is an issue that should be examined, we could consider the communicationpresumably
we will not be able to influence itor we could refer the communication
A few of the documents are Commission communications
and I am willing to listen to the views of the committee on how we approach
that. Do we want to bring back that communication?
Given that we are on a learning curve,
it may be that this communication in particular would allow us to consider
not only the points mentioned by Dennis, but also the general implications
of Commission communications. Having examined it, we might decide that
there is no point considering Commission communications, but at least we
will have gone through the process of learning what they are about.
Ms MacDonald: Yes.
Dennis Canavan: Could you have another
look at it?
The Convener: Yes, we will put it
on the agenda for the next meeting.
Dennis Canavan: Yes, because I would
hate to think that our recommendation for no further action would mean
that some time next year someone would find themselves expelled from Scotland,
or would have their freedom of movement within the European Union restricted,
because we did not raise any protest.
The Convener: We will bring it back
in order to consider two issues. First, the specific issue that is mentioned
in the document and, secondly, to allow us to consider the status of Commission
communications and our ability to influence them.
Ms Oldfather: Some Commission communications
can be very long. I do not know about the one that we are talking about,
but often there is an explanatory memorandum at the beginning. If not,
perhaps we could get the clerks to prepare a synopsis in order to cut down
the amount of reading that we need to do.
The Convener: Okay, that is a good
idea. Page 6 refers to Slovenia, again the recommendation is that no further
action is needed. Page 7 is about modernising social protection and we
recommend that we send the document to the Social Inclusion, Housing and
Voluntary Sector Committee, simply for its interest.
Ms MacDonald: Yes, although my question
The Convener: Well, maybe it will
||Dr Ewing: It
seems to be lots of nice words and no practical solutions to anything.
The Convener: It could be. Page
8 is about health, education and social protection in the harmonised index
of consumer prices. The recommendation is that no further action is necessary.
Page 9 relates to the agreement between
the European Community and the Government of Denmark and the Home Government
of the Faroe Islands. Again the recommendation is that no further action
Dr Jackson: Could we go back to
page 8, briefly? We do not have a copy of that document, we have only a
description. I do not know whether I am alone in this, but I found it a
wee bit difficult to understand. We could have had more description, although
coming back to the point made earlier, maybe it is a very technical document.
However, I would like some more information in order to understand it a
The Convener: It is to do with how
products are treated on the index of consumer prices and with whether we
think that that issue is one for this committee or for any other committee
that will be examining consumer prices in the contexts of health, education
or social protection. [Interruption.] Sorrywas documentation circulated
on that point? It should have been, but it is not indicated on the recommendation
note that it was circulated.
Ms Oldfather: At our previous meeting,
I mentioned the possibility of having some information provided on the
intranet, so that if there was a query we could examine it. I know that
there are interim problems in doing that, but the documents came to me
on Saturday. With the meeting being today, there has been very little time
to request some items to determine at today's meeting whether we are happy
with the recommendation for action in matters such as this. How can we
deal with that administrative issue?
The Convener: One thing that we
can do is start the sift process earlier. In the meantime, do you want
this matter brought back or referred to another committee?
Dr Jackson: In the interim, it would
be fine just to have a copy of the documentation so that we can have a
look at it.
The Convener: We should bear in
mind what Irene said earlier about some of the documents: about getting
a synopsis rather than the full copy sometimes.
Dr Jackson: A synopsis would be
The Convener: We have covered page
9 of the
note. Page 10 deals with
"common organisation of the markets in
processed fruit and vegetable products".
Ms MacDonald: Support your local
The Convener: The recommendation
on page 9 is for no further action.
Dr Jackson: Could we return to page
9I am sorry to be difficult, but it is getting quite hot in this room
and I am losing the place a little.
Does the description on page 9 of the note
include the farmers' ferries? I am referring to the
"Protocol to enable the trade in live animals
and animal products".
The Convener: That applies to Denmark
and the Faroes.
Dr Jackson: I just wanted to check
that they were the only places concerned.
The Convener: The recommendation
on page 10 on Portuguese quotas is for no further action.
On page 11, the recommendation about
"food additives other than colours and
is that, in the first instance, we ask
"Health Committee for their views".
Once we have heard from that committee,
it is suggested that we decide whether we need to scrutinise it at a later
date, because some technical issues may need to be considered.
Page 12 covers the draft model agreement
to co-operate with third states. The recommendation is to ask the Justice
and Home Affairs Committee for its views. Once we have its views, we can
decide on our level of scrutiny.
Page 13 of the sift/scrutiny recommendation
note covers a Commission working paper on
"the principle of mutual recognition in
product and services markets".
The recommendation is no further action.
Cathy Jamieson: I do not think that
there is enough information to gauge whether that paper is of relevance.
I am not being criticalI am aware of the volume of work involved.
Ms MacDonald: Was that the point
that Winnie made at the previous meeting, when she was talking about the
point at which we get involved?
Dr Ewing: Are we talking about the
mutual recognition of qualifications of people engaged in those industries?
Ms MacDonald: Yes.
Dr Ewing: That can be very important
||people. There are
problems with Scots-Italian teachers, ski instructors in France
Ms MacDonald: That sounds good.
The Convener: We should ask for
more information on that before we make a decision.
Page 14 deals with
"synthetic fibres of polyesters originating
We are asking the Enterprise and Lifelong
Learning Committee for its views and, once we have heard them, we will
decide on the level of scrutiny that we require. It is an important matter
for the textile industry in Scotland. We are agreed on that.
If members have any comments that they
think may help to improve the sift process, please speak to Stephen Imrie
Allan Wilson: Correct me if I am
wrong, convener, but I think that you have circulated the papers on those
points for which some form of action is recommended and not circulated
those for which none is recommended. If there was a time lag between our
receiving the recommendation notewhich could be circulated generallyand
the meeting, we could sift it and advise you if we wanted further information
on a particular item in advance of the next meeting, such as a copy of
the documentation pertaining to it.
The Convener: If it was felt that
it would be useful to circulate the recommendation note, we could do that.
I do not know whether the minister has
arrived. If not, I suggest that we address the fourth item, on requests
for further briefings, and then take a break of five minutes before we
hear from the minister.
The Convener: One issue that was
raised with the Presiding Officer at the meeting of conveners was a concern
that the clerks to the committees were being asked to produce policy papers,
which to some extent is beyond their remit. There were also work load implications.
I have found the clerks of this committee
very co-operative in producing a number of documents at short notice, and
I do not want to abuse their willingness to help. Nevertheless, there will
be issues on which we want background information, and we should consider
whether it can be obtained from elsewhere, because there may be a time
when we will be advised that we must be more careful about the requests
that are made. Is
that we need or would like for the next meeting?
Ben Wallace: The Amsterdam Treaty
brief is useful, but the treaty heralds a big change in Europe and I would
not mind a further explanation of how it dictates to some of the issues
that we may be considering. Previously, I brought up how the priorities
in the Highlands and Islands are partly defined by the way the Amsterdam
Treaty looks at the future.
The Convener: Would it be helpful
to have someone lead a discussion on that, or would you rather have the
information in a document?
Ben Wallace: I would not mind someone
coming from the European Commission or from the offices that it has here.
The Convener: We will look into
that. As well as the document, we may have someone to take us through it
and prompt some discussion on the treaty. Is there anything else?
Ms Oldfather: I mentioned previously
the INTERREG programme. Will the briefing on that programme be available
for the next meeting? I appreciate the clerks' work load, but it would
be helpful to have that information, given the timetabling of the programme.
Stephen Imrie: The briefing is currently
on my computer screen upstairs, and if I were not working here I would
be working on that. I will endeavour to get the briefing to the committee
before the next meeting.
The Convener: You mean that you
do not get 17 weeks' holiday? We will need to see about that.
Is there anything else?
David Mundell: Following an experience
I had, it might be appropriate to issue a reverse briefing to our Westminster
colleagues, because a Westminster member I spoke to felt that it was inappropriate
that as a member of the Scottish Parliament I should be dealing with European
matters, as he understood European matters to be reserved. This is the
area in which we will need to work most closely with our Westminster colleagues.
It might be appropriate for us to set out that we want to do that in a
Dennis Canavan: Who are these Westminster
David Mundell: We had a discussion
about how in Europe people were accustomed to the complexities of political
relationships and I think that it is something that we may have to get
The Convener: I will rely on Mr
Mundell's good services to persuade his colleague of how wrong he is.