23 June 1999
MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE opened the meeting at 09:32]
(Oldest Member of the Committee): Good morning everybody.
I start by notifying members that, in the event of fire, the clerking
team will ensure that they are shown safely out of the room.
I welcome members to
the first meeting of the European Committee. Does everybody have
Macmillan: I am the oldest member of this committeelooking
around the room, I find that hard to believeand so have
been given my moment of glory. I am charged with presiding over
the first two items of business: the declaration of members' interests
and the election of a convener. Once a convener has been elected,
I will hand over to that person. Dr Ewing and Ben Wallace send
I must ask members
whether they have any interests to declare. Members will recall
that, under the Scotland Act 1998 (Transitory and Transitional
Provisions) (Members' Interests) Order 1999,
"where a member
has a registrable interest in respect of which he has lodged a
statement under article 4(2)(a) which would prejudice or give
the appearance of prejudicing his ability to participate in a
disinterested manner in proceedings of the Parliament relating
to any particular matter, he shall, before otherwise participating
in those proceedings, make an oral statement in those proceedings
declaring the nature of that registrable interest."
If members have anything
that they want to mention, they should not hold back, even if
it does not seem important.
(Paisley South) (Lab): I have not registered this interest,
as it is not required to be registered, but for the purposes of
this committee it should be noted that I am a member of the Committee
of the Regions.
Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South) (Lab): I am in the
same position. In my declaration of interests I registered my
membership of the Committee of the Regions, but I want to bring
the attention of this
committeealthough, as Mr Henry says, that is not absolutely
(Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP): I am not sure whether
this is of interestI merely take the precaution of mentioning
it at this stagebut I am still a member of Perth and Kinross
Council. Issues relating to councils and structural funding may
be considered to be of interest to me.
Margo MacDonald (Lothians) (SNP): I, too, may have an
interest. As a journalist, I hope that in future I will be paid
to write articles about Europe. I have been doing that for years,
so not much will have changed.
(Shetland) (LD): As a farmer, I should declare a pecuniary
interest, because my business is in receipt of European funding.
Mundell (South of Scotland) (Con): I am an employee of
British Telecommunications Scotland, which has extensive European
Macmillan: We move on to the second item. On a motion of the
Parliamentary Bureau, Parliament has decided that the party whose
members are eligible to convene this committee is the Labour party.
I invite the person whom the Labour party has nominated as convener
to identify himself or herself.
I have been nominated by the Labour party to put myself
forward for the position of convener.
Macmillan: Is the committee content for Mr Henry to be
elected as convener?
Hugh Henry was elected
convener by acclamation.
(Hugh Henry): Thank you. I hope that this committee will
be hard-working and of interest not only to its members, but to
Parliament and to wider Scottish society. The European agenda
is facing difficulties at the moment; the recent European election
had the worst turnout on record. We need to address the gap between
the voting record in Scotlandand, indeed, in the United
Kingdom as a wholeand that in other parts of Europe.
It would be wrong to
underestimate the increasing influence that Europe has on our
lives. It impinges on everything that we do. That was evident
even from members' declarations of interests. Among us are journalists,
who write about Europe frequently; members of local authorities,
which are affected by Europe financially and by European legislation;
and representatives of private companies, which seek to enter
the European market and bid for
Various sections of our community, including the farming community,
are recipients of European funding. Europe is increasingly important,
and I hope that this committee will reflect that in its work.
This committee is intended
to be non-partisan in its operation. I hope that we can work together
on issues that affect the Parliament and Scotland, addressing
matters that we regard as significant. I hope that our work will
have an effect. This committee should not become bogged down in
the details of obscure European legislation. It should reflect
European policy and seek to influence it, both directly and through
the United Kingdom channels in which we operate. We have a big
agenda that we should not underestimate. How we operate as a committee
will be determined largely by the collective efforts of members.
If we choose to concentrate on the minutiae, I fear that we will
achieve little. If we are prepared to set our sights on the bigger
picture and to seek to influence debate, there is much that we
can achieve. I am delighted to have been chosen by the committee
In a moment I will
open up the debate on our remit and topics for further briefing.
Before I do so, I want to repeat that we have a unique opportunity
to be a voice for Scotland in Europe. In the rest of Europe there
is genuine interest in what we are doing. As I indicated earlier,
I am a member of the Committee of the Regions, and there is genuine
excitement among representatives of all European countries about
the creation of this Scottish Parliament; I know that members
of other European institutions will say the same.
Scotland are warmly welcomed in the corridors of power in Europe.
That will reflect on us and we will be considered warmth and listened
to with interest by other European bodies and by those elected
to the various European institutions. A lot is expected of us,
but there is also a warmness and a willingness to listen to us.
I throw it open to the committee now to discuss the committee's
remit, taking into account some of the comments that I have made.
Tavish Scott: Mr
ConvenerI am not sure which title you intend to take, so
I will call you Mr Convener for nowI concur with your opening
remarks, apart from one point: the minutiae of legislation. In
many areas, the details are extremely important. I can think of
some matters that affect my constituency in Shetland about which
there is real concern and debate on the need to scrutinise European
legislation and proposals adequately. We need to balance the way
in which the committee works to ensure that we concentrate not
only on the wider picture,
which it is right to
do, but on the smaller points and issues, which are important
in other waysfor the salmon industry in Shetland or for
fish-processing businesses throughout the north-east of Scotland,
It is also important
to concentrate on how we can maximise European Union funding for
Scotland. As Maureen will know, there has been debate this morning
about objective 1 funding for the Highlands and Islands. In my
part of the world, that is an extremely important matter and we
should pay particular attention to it.
In setting out the
way in which we conduct ourselves and receive briefings, it would
also be useful to arrange regular, though informal, discussions
with members of the European Parliament and with other opinion
formers, decision makers and people interested in the wider European
debate. I see that, importantly, there are representatives from
the Scottish representative office here today. I encourage the
convener regularly to arrange informal meetings with them so that
we can keep ourselves as informed as possible.
I accept that there will be times when we need to look at things
in detail, but the issue that I raised is relevant. We should
not underestimate how bogged down we could get in totally irrelevant
European detail. For example, the documents that have arrived
that, technically, we must examine include the agreement between
the European Economic Community and the Swiss Confederation on
the carriage of goods by road and rail and a council decision
on the extension of the Common Position 96/635/CFSP on Burma/Myanmar.
Those things are clearly of no specific interest to us. However,
you are right that, to ensure that we are truly reflecting the
needs of the people who elected us, we will have to examine the
issues that affect Scotland.
I am not sure whether the questions that I have in mind
relate to the remit or to the role of the committee, but they
are milestones for the future and we need to consider them.
Like Tavish, I believe
that we need to ensure that we do not lose sight of which details
are important. I am not sure what the process for that should
be, but we need to identify them. We also need to agree how we
are going to liaise with MEPs to put forward Scotland's cause.
I listened with interest yesterday to Rory Watson talking about
the briefings that MEPs receive. Whatever the information is,
I would like to get my hands on it so that I can understand more
about the issues. The briefing may be the explanatory memoranda
prepared by relevant Whitehall departments, about which the clerks
have told us; if so, that is all well and good. However, I would
like to know whether
there is a difference
and how soon we will be able to get our hands on that sort of
I was also interested
to read in the briefing material about the agreement that is being
considered between the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster
Parliament. We need some sort of concordat that will determine
the relationship between us and Westminster and how we deal with
specific pieces of legislation that affect the United Kingdom
and Scotland in particular. What work has been done on that draft
concordat and when will we see it?
I am also concerned
about early-warning systems. Margo has a particular interest in
those so I will leave her to deal with them. There are on-going
issues regarding the reform of EU structural funds. We are expecting
the results of that process in mid-June, which is not far away.
An early briefing to the committee on the implications of the
changes would be useful.
More important, for
the longer term, we need to address the institutional challenges
and questions that face the EU. In particular, what institutions
will be required for the enlargement of the EU following the Treaty
of Amsterdam? How will decisions be made and who will make them?
What will the role of the European Commission be after enlargement?
What developments can we expect in relation to a European army,
a European police force, immigration policy and the impact of
the Kosovo crisis, for example? All of those issues will impact
on where Europe goes.
Another key question
raised by the Treaty of Amsterdam is how we can get closer to
our citizens. Fundamentally, how are we going to get involved
in the debate on how the EU is funded? All of those questions
are zooming around in my mind. I do not have an answer to any
of them, but I need to talk about them with my colleagues here
and begin to get an understanding of them.
Those are all legitimate points. I was going to come on to topics
for further briefings as the second part of this item, but a number
of matters have been raised that we will have to consider; I am
sure that others will be added to the list. At the moment, however,
I want to look at our broader remit.
There is a wealth of experience on this committee, which
I hope we can use to deal with issues as positively and constructively
as they arein my experiencein Europe.
The convener mentioned
the low turnout at the European elections and the fact that the
Scottish people are a little disillusioned about Europe and switched
off by it. We have a unique opportunity to
turn that around. We
have the opportunity to reflect Scottish views in Europe, but
also to reflect European views in Scotland. I hope that we use
I am pleased that two
areas in particular have been included in the remit of the committee.
Point 4 of the briefing sets out the committee's duty
pre-legislative scrutiny of proposed legislation referred to it
by the Parliamentary Bureau."
That gives us an important
opportunity to influence things before they are set in stone.
I am also pleased that, as point 10 of the briefing states, we
have the opportunity to consider petitions referred to us by the
Public Petitions Committee. That, again, gives us an opportunity
to liaise and work with the Scottish people and to reflect their
interests. I am excited by the committee's remit and I look forward
to the work that we can do for Scotland.
The point about legislative scrutiny is essential. We need to
get Scotland's voice heard before Westminster and Whitehall form
opinions. The timing is critical. We must also hold the Scottish
Executive to account. That role should not be underestimated,
especially in relation to some of the matters that Bruce mentioned.
Can we make a decisionshould we call you convener
Mr Convener, like Irene, I am interested by point 4 of
our remit. If we believe that it is part of our remit and duty
to ensure that people get to love Europe or at least have a more
realistic understanding of Europe, we must concern ourselves withif
you likethe pre-emptive strikes. We need to get involved
as soon as the European Commission proposes legislation. There
is quite a time lag before the legislation becomes real, and it
is during that time that we get newspaper stories about bendy
bananas and terrible straight Euro-bananas, with pictures to cut
out and compare.
I am being jocular,
but it is a serious point. In Scotland, there has been no concerted
effort to counter the terribly negative spin that is sometimes
put on the European Commission's more imaginative proposals that
have never come to legislative fruition. That is something that
we could productively do; we are not going to disagree about that.
As well as the other
things that this committee will require to do, I am concerned
about our relations with other committees in the Parliament, which
may think that we are shuffling off our work load on to them.
However, if we are to have any sort of joined-up politicsplease
have to work closely with, for example, the transport committee
and with any committee that is considering energy. I hope that
we will call on some of the expertise in the Parliamentfor
example, that of Robin Harper. He is not on this committee, but
a great deal of what he might have to add to the Parliament's
work would also add to our understanding of many of the big challenges
that are facing Europe. I am not making a plea, but I know that
we have an arrangement whereby we can co-opt people or ask them
to come along especially.
All MSPs have the right to attend the committee. Mr Harper has
the right to attend and speak if he so wishes, but he does not
have the right to vote.
No, but debates in this committee would not be toe-to-toe
MSPs have the right to come to this committee, and I hope that
some will take the opportunity.
Finally and briefly, although we have a huge work load,
and although it will take us a fair amount of time to work out
how to select and compartmentalise what we are going to do and
how we are going to do it, we must not lose sight of the fact
that Europe is a dynamic confederation of peoples. If we, as Scotland,
claim the right to be able to add something to Europe, we must
consider the big picture. We have a huge work load and there will
be terrible pressure on usespecially as this is the first
Scottish Parliamentto do our very best and to do it earnestly.
However, we lose sight of the big picture at our perilEurope
will come to mean absolutely nothing to the people who live in
it and who turned their back on it at the elections. We cannot
ignore the big picture.
Do we all agree that we want this committee to be a powerful voice
for Scotland in Europe, reflecting the work of the Scottish Parliament?
Do we also agree that we have a special role in scrutinising in
detail relevant European legislation, especially before Westminster
confirms any particular views? As Margo says, we need to promote
the European agenda positively so that people understand some
of the benefits of engagement with Europe and are not negative
about Europe. Do we agree that we have a role in scrutinising
and in holding to account the Scottish Executive, which we will
do on behalf of Parliament, and that we need to forge links in
the European Union with relevant bodies such as the European Parliament
and Commission, and with other representative bodies? We will
also consider the links that Tavish mentioned. Do we all generally
Dr Sylvia Jackson:
I would like to build on what Margo said about making
people in Scotland much more aware of Europe.
People must have a realistic idea about Europe. We all
love to be good Europeans but we do not have a clue what that
Exactly. That has a lot to do with, for example, education
for citizenship. I assume that this point would come under point
13 of our remit about liaising with the wider European constituency
in Scotland. Can the points in our remit be altered? I do not
think that point 13 says enough about the aspect that Margo mentioned
and with which we all agree. Perhaps the remit should be slightly
altered to mention promotingalthough I do not know whether
that is the right wordEurope in Scotland.
We get very po-faced when we talk about "deepening
appreciation" and so on.
Yes, but it is that aspect that I do not think is quite
included in point 13.
The standing orders detail the remit, but we have flexibility
in our interpretation of it. As long as we are agreed on the direction
that we want to take, we can move things forward.
I want to raise a similar point to the one that Sylvia
made. The standing orders may be set in stone and unalterable
but, following on from what the convener has said, I am quite
happy provided that we can interpret the standing orders widely.
The remit does not give us the latitude, within the European framework,
to have influence and to lobby on behalf of Scotland and there
is nothing about how we will liaise with MEPs and discuss issues
with them. The remit talks about the
constituency in Scotland",
but that may or may
not include MEPs.
I will talk about MEPs separately in a minute. If we feel that
our ability to promote Europe and to influence debate is being
impeded, we can look again at the remit. However, that would need
to be done through the Parliamentary Bureau; we cannot change
the remit unilaterally.
It is early days yet,
and there is an aspiration to do the things that committee members
have mentioned. Let us see whether we can do those things adequately
and properly within the terms that have been laid down. If we
find that difficult, or if we are failing, we can, by all means,
make proposals to change the remit.
I would like to move
on to discuss some of the detail of how we will carry out our
remit. Bruce has mentioned a range of important topics for further
briefing. I think that
it will be necessary for the committee to meet during the recess.
We will have to consider a number of issues, not least structural
funds. Having looked at the officials' holiday patterns, I suggest
that we should try to meet again some time in August and that
I should arrange an agenda with the clerks, bearing in mind some
of the suggestions that have been made this morning. Are we agreed?
I will also ask the clerks to come back with some suggestions
on scrutiny and how we can set priorities. There are things that
we will need to scrutinise, things that other committees will
need to scrutinise, things that the Parliament will need to scrutinise
and things that may not need to be scrutinised at all. For future
reference, it would be helpful if we set things out in tables;
if we want to alter the clerks' recommendations, we can do so.
We should do that at an early date, and we will have some suggestions
ready for the meeting in August. In August, we will also have
to examine the issue of structural funds.
I hope that there will
be regular contact with MEPs. I am anxious to set up a liaison
process for this committee not just with MEPs but with some of
the wider representative organisations in Scotland. For example,
Scotland Europa reflects the interests of a wide range of Scottish
societytrade unions, the voluntary sector, the private sector,
the academic institutions and so onand I hope that we can
engage with it. I would like us also to engage with the Convention
of Scottish Local Authorities, which not only has a significant
interest in Scottish society, but has carried out a lot of first-class
work with which the Scottish Office and other bodies have been
closely involved. Either at our next meeting or at the one after
it, we need to discuss how we liaise with other bodies.
In the autumn, I would
like us to convene some sort of Scotland in Europe seminar to
discuss how we can take the lead in allowing those other bodies
to play a full part. We do not want to replace the work that those
bodies do; we want to give them, where relevant, a proper voice.
I would like to invite interested parties and representative bodies
to meet us to discuss with an open mind how we can start to develop
our agenda over the next few years.
It might be helpful for committee members to understand
the key current priorities in Europe. The European Commission
produces an annual legislative programme; there is one in place
for 1999 and the 2000 programme is under discussion. If the programme
could be brought to the next meeting, members could be informed
advised about the current
debate in Europe. That would give us a useful opportunity to think
ahead about how we want to influence the debate next year.
(Highlands and Islands) (Lab): We should consider moving
the committee around the country to a certain extent, rather than
always meeting in Edinburgh. I realise that there would be cost
implications, but it would be helpful if we had a meeting in the
Highlands, for example. If we want to promote Europe in Scotland,
we must take the committee to different parts of the country.
I am more than happy to discuss alternative locations for meetings.
From my previous work with COSLA, I know that we will need to
address specific issues in the Highlands and Islands. While we
could accommodate the suggestion of alternative locations, I do
not want the committee to become a travelling circus, with every
second meeting in a different location. If an alternative location
aids the committee's work and helps the wider body in Scotland
to appreciate that work, by all means we should consider it.
If the proposed meeting was at a relevant time for the
Ben Wallace has now
arrived. We had the opportunity earlier to declare any interests.
Does he have anything to declare?
(North-East Scotland) (Con): No, I am afraid not.
Any formal meetings of the committee have to be agreed
in advance by the Parliamentary Bureau, but we will deal sensitively
with the location of meetings.
Allan wishes to speak
now, then David.
(Cunninghame North) (Lab): Thank you, Convener. I almost
called you HughI presume that we can all drop the formal
approach and call each other by our first names.
I was a bit worried
when Maureen spoke because I thought that she was talking about
moving the committee around Europe, so I am pleased to find that
we are confining our activities to Scotland. I support the concept
that we should be accessible to people in other parts of the country.
Given the current division of objective 1 funding, the two island
communities in my constituency would be interested in our deliberations.
I was concerned about
a question that arose from what Irene said. I read the briefing
paper assiduously last nightI hope that I will be able to
do the same with all
future briefsand it struck me that the main issue for the
committee will be selectivity. The convener, and Irene, mentioned
that we must prioritise our work. Does the convener have any guidance
for us on his roleand the role of the committee in generalin
that process? I know that safeguards are built in and I am impressed
by the prospect of a European database that could be accessed
by all MSPs and by the Executive. However, if we are to fulfil
our function and prioritise our work for maximum impact, the process
by which we will achieve that is important. A scatter-gun approach
will not work in Europe or in Westminster.
In terms of both European legislation and Scottish legislation
that has a European dimension, I hinted earlier that I would like
the clerks to produce recommendations about the categories into
which legislation might fall. It would then be for us to accept
or reject those recommendations. We need assistance with setting
the legislation into some kind of order.
As far as the main
issues are concerned, priorities are a matter for this committee
and I hope that we will start the process of setting priorities
as early as the next meeting. As Irene indicated, we can consider
what the big issues will be over the next year and spend some
time examining them.
We can draw upon other
models. For example, the House of Commons works in a different
way to the House of Lords, which goes into much more detail and
examines some of the broader issues. I have presented evidence
to both Houses and the differences are interesting.
Priorities will be
a matter for this committee and we will have to participate in
I very much welcome the proposal for a seminar to broaden
the discussion so that we can get a better idea of who, in Scotland,
is interested in Europe. The body of interest is broader than
we often think and, in my experience of Europe, I have come across
groups that have small offices, or small representations, or that
fall under larger umbrella groups. Part of the seminar exercise
would be for us all to understand who in the Scottish community
is already directly interested in Europe and what they are doing.
We would also discover what they, and others, identify as their
current issues with Europe.
Some of that relates
to the work of other committees and, as Tavish mentioned earlier,
there are already a lot of issues in farming and rural activities.
It would be helpful to know what the main European issues are
for business and civic Scotland and what we can do on those issues.
We have the opportunity to
invite a range of people
to address the committee and I hope that we will consider doing
that. We also have the opportunity to bring in advisers or specialists
to assist the committee's work and, at the next meeting, we might
start to consider how to do that.
In terms of networking,
we also want to engage with the Executive, possibly informally
at this stage until we have a clear view of how the committee
will work. While we are considering the European agenda, we need
to have discussions with the Executive to ensure that it is working
in the same way.
Does the range of people that we can invite to discussions
or to give evidence include UK ministers, officials from UK departments,
MEPswho may be in the European Executiveand members
of the European Commission?
We can certainly invite a broad range of people, but whether they
can attend is another matter, as many such individuals have a
heavy agenda. At times, we may want to invite some of the people
that Bruce Crawford identified, but, as with other issues, selectivity
will be the key point.
(Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab): The briefing
paper gives us a focus to remind us that our priorities ought
to be the issues that are particularly important to Scotland and
that have a greater relative significance to Scotland than to
the rest of the UK. That is helpful, and if we do not bear it
in mind, we could disappear under a mountain of paperwork and
the electronic mail that we will receive once the databasewhich
I welcomehas been set up.
It is also important
to support the idea of a sifting process. The briefing paper suggests
that the convener and deputy convener would be involved in that
process and that would be quite useful, but we should bear in
mind that we can also use the committee members' expertise.
I want to mention the
structure and functioning of the committee. While I support the
idea of taking the committees out and about, I am a wee bit anxious
about that notion and I want to avoid the situation in which we
are all arguing to take the committee to our areas. I admit that
I am interested in taking the committee to Ayrshire. We are right
to talk about moving the committee when relevant, rather than
merely for the sake of moving it.
I am also anxious about
the amount of time that we will spend in committee. I would like
some indication of how often the committee will be scheduled to
meet. Will there be additional sub-committees over and above that?
How will we
physically manage that?
We should also consider the links between this and other committees.
For example, I am on the Transport and the Environment Committee.
There are clearly important links with that committee that could
be quite useful. We will all have a huge work load and we need
some indication of how often we might be required to meet.
We have already addressed the issue of location. I wondered whether
Allan was making a bid for Millport as the standing home of the
This will be one of
the busier committees and it could well be that we will have to
meet weekly. We must wait and see. We have agreed to meet sometime
in August. I do not propose that we meet for the sake of meeting,
but given the volume of work that is before us, and that there
are tentacles into other committees, we will probably have to
meet more frequently than most. I do not think that we should
decide now, but we can assume that the committee will meet very
Dr Sylvia Jackson:
That links to networking and possibly to a briefing paper.
I was trying to think of an action point for the next committee
meeting. Would it be possible to get a paper examining the links
with Europe? That was suggested as the starting point in the briefing
paper we have here.
We should think about
the organisations in Scotland that have direct European links.
I think another committee member has mentioned that, and you mentioned
Scotland Europa, Convener. There are the other interests, including
business interests, which obviously have a direct link with Europe.
Cathy's point was that we ensure that we always emphasise the
Scottish element. It might be a good starting point for the next
meeting if we could have lists from these three areas: organisations
with direct links in Europe; Scottish agencies that link with
Europe; and those businesses, and so on, that have less direct
but substantial links with Europe.
Some of what you are suggesting could usefully be dealt with in
the seminar that was mentioned earlier. A range of bodies would
be invited to that and we could talk about how the links have
developed and who does what.
The committee could link in with that.
Yes. We could look at the possibility of an outline paper that
would help us to work towards that process. I do not want that
to replace hearing about the other bodies and what they do. The
other thing that we will need to look atwhether through
a briefing paper or a
the role of EU institutions and how they work. As a committee
we need an understanding of the labyrinthic way that some of the
institutions operate. That could be added to the programme.
We have already mentioned
networking and we have talked about members of the European Parliament
and of other representative bodies. We can examine that. Allan
made a point about how we decide priorities and we can also start
deciding whom we want to invite to the committee. Is there a time
when we will want to bring in someone from the UK Parliament,
the European Commission or other bodies?
We will also need to
examine the role of Scotland House in Brussels fairly soon. We
need an early briefing on who will have access to it and how it
will operate. We need to know what it will do, how it will liaise
with this committee, when it will be open and what its various
functions will be. Maybe Stephen Imrie could look into that for
the next meeting.
I take Allan's point
and the points of others. I do not want this to become a travelling
circus, but given the nature of the work, there will be a time
when we will need to meet with representatives of some European
bodies. We must arrange it so that time is usefully spent by getting
as many people together in one place as possible, or by meeting
them over as short a space of time as possible. We must look at
establishing those links on behalf of the Parliament.
May I call you Hugh, Mr Convener?
Aye. I have been called worse.
Me too. I am thinking about what Sylvia said. Would it
be possible to have a list of the organisationswhich we
trust the clerks to identifythat receive European funding
of some sort? It may be invidious to mention them by name, but
I can think of a couple of outfits that receive some European
funding and that would be quite pleased to link in some way to
the functions of decision making and scrutiny. That relates to
what Cathy asked about how we get help in deciding what goes to
the top of the pile. Some of those organisations may be able to
help in that respect because they already get specialised or special
interest briefings, or they have links established that we might
There are bodies who have, as you indicated, some expertise in
European matters. Some of them are involved with wider representative
bodies. I would hesitate to say at the moment that we should do
as you suggest
because there is a
huge number of bodies in receipt of European funding, all of which
have different expertise. We really do not have the time to invite
every body in Scotland that receives European funding. It would
frighten people to realise how significant European funding has
become. If there is a way that we can tap into the expertise that,
for example, the voluntary sector has accumulated, and that of
the housing sector and the private sector, we would want to avail
ourselves of that.
Most European funding tends to be distributed through
partnerships, even in the private sector. The way to access the
expertise in which Margo is interested would, perhaps, be through
Strathclyde European Partnership and East of Scotland European
I want to go back to Cathy's point about linking with
other committees and with our colleagues in other parts of the
Parliament. I noticed that there was a suggestion in the briefing
paperand whoever wrote it has produced a very good paperthat
we appoint reporters, or rapporteurs as I suppose we should call
them in the European Committee. They would liaise between this
and the other committees and could be drawn from those of us who
sit on other committees. I, for example, sit on the Enterprise
and Lifelong Learning Committee and Cathy has an interest in transport.
I do not know what committees other members of this committee
sit on. Would it be possible to have some ideas put together about
how that might work, if at all, in practice?
That is something that we will need to look at. It has been mentioned
in the documentation and it is a system that works well in Europe
and to which there will be some advantage. As with everything
else, we must proceed cautiously and find out what our agenda
and work load will be like. We must examine the areas of expertise
and find out what experts and advisers we can bring in so that
we can evolve towards that. It will have a place in our deliberations.
I am quite happy with the short-term programme you have
outlined. We have a good starting process.
I would like to come
back to some of what I said earlier about the longer-term issues.
I know that we cannot deal with that in August or, perhaps, even
in the autumn, but it is something that the officials need to
start thinking about in terms of information being provided for
us. The Treaty of Amsterdam was signed in 1997 and was ratified
only a few months ago. It dealt with enlargement and with bringing
the EU closer to its citizens.
Huge issues are involved:
how the institutions
will work; how enlargement
will affect Scotland; how decisions will be made; the role of
the European Commission; how the institutions will be brought
closer to citizens; and funding. At some point, we will have to
tackle those subjects in a deep and meaningful way and try to
understand their implications.
We will need specific briefings on some of those matters from
people whom we bring in to do that.
I wondered about bringing in young people through links
to the education committees. If we are to promote Europe, we should
use the willingness of young people to be involved with Europe.
There have been good educational schemes that made links with
Europe but a lot of them seem to have died off. Have we a role
in promoting that sort of thing, or is our role more to examine
Our work is not just about examining legislation and
considering how European policy will affect us. As Margo said
earlier, it is also about having a wider influence. We have to
set a positive agenda and encourage people to form bonds and relationships
across Europe. Much of what is happening in Europe can improve
the quality of life in Scotland, but it is a two-way process and
the reverse can happen. Sometimes, Scotland is a bit slow to proclaim
what it does well. There should be an exchange of views.
We should encourage
other committees to do what you are suggesting, Maureen. We might
want the Education, Culture and Sport Committee to examine the
role that young people could play. There have been many excellent
and imaginative schemes throughout the countryI know of
some in my area and in the west of Scotland. Such schemes are
the way forward because, with all due respect, it is not the people
on this committee who will make Europe work, but the young people
in the communities that we represent. They have a great role to
play in the Europe of the future.
I endorse what you say, Convener. Since reorganisation,
many unitary authorities, such as North Ayrshire in my area, have
developed excellent links with schools in Europe. Educational
exchanges have been a positive development of the past three or
four years. In my constituency, a school that could be considered
to be in a deprived area is linking up with a college in Pisa
in Italy to do art project exchanges. There are further excellent
examples of such initiatives throughout Scotland. We should promote
that sort of exchange and make information available to authorities
that do not know how to take up such opportunities.
Is there any other business?
I would appreciate it if we could arrange an informal
meetingnot a formal joint meetingwith the Scottish
MEPs. I met the ones that the Conservative party now has but I
have not met the others.
We have already said that we want to establish links
with the MEPs and we will come back with proposals in August about
how to do that. During the next month or so, very little will
If there is no other
business, I would like the committee to endorse a press release
that has been prepared. I will circulate it now. It says that
we have met and that I have been elected as the convener and it
sets out some of the work that we will do.
Dr Sylvia Jackson:
The press release says that the committee has 13 members.
Are there not 12 members?
There are 12 members on the committee but 13 places.
process is under way to resolve that situation by the end of the
Does the committee endorse the press release? [MEMBERS:
"Yes."] I thank members for their attendance and look
forward to seeing them at the next meeting.
Meeting closed at