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2nd Report, 2010 (Session 3)

Annual Report 2009-2010

Remit and membership

Remit:

The remit of the European and External Relations Committee is to consider and report on-

(a) proposals for European Communities legislation;
(b) the implementation of European Communities legislation;
(c) any European Communities or European Union issue;
(d) the development and implementation of the Scottish Administration's links with countries and territories outside Scotland, the European Communities (and their institutions) and other international organisations; and
(e) co-ordination of the international activities of the Scottish Administration.

(Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.8)

Membership:

Rhona Brankin (from 5 November 2009)
Ted Brocklebank
Patricia Ferguson
Charlie Gordon (until 4 November 2009)
Jamie Hepburn
Jim Hume
Michael Matheson (Deputy Convener)
Irene Oldfather (Convener)
Sandra White

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerks to the Committee
Lynn Tullis
Simon Watkins

Assistant Clerk
Lewis McNaughton

Committee Assistant
Kathleen Wallace

Annual Report 2009-2010

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

Introduction

1. This year the Committee continued its scrutiny of the Scottish Government across its wide-ranging remit and conducted activities with both a European and international focus.

Inquiries and reports

European issues

2. The Committee continued its scrutiny of European matters, seeking to engage with issues at their conception, before they gestate into specific proposals. In developing this strategy, the Committee has drawn upon the annual work programme of the European Commission and the Scottish Government’s determination of EU-themed priorities, and has collaborated with its fellow committees in the Scottish Parliament. As part of its scrutiny of EU issues the Committee continues to receive regular updates from the Scottish Government’s Minister for Culture and External Affairs.

3. As part of its objective to engage early in the EU legislative process, the Committee has refined its strategy for engagement with holders of the EU rotating Presidency. With the Treaty of Lisbon’s introduction of a permanent President of the European Council, the Committee agreed to discontinue its programme of direct engagement with the governments holding the rotating Presidency and instead to invite the ambassadors from those states holding the Presidency to address a formal session of the Committee. The Committee visit to Stockholm in June 2009 therefore represented the final formal visit to a member state with the Swedish Ambassador subsequently addressing the Scottish Parliament in September 2009. The Spanish Ambassador was the first to take up the invitation under the new procedure in January 2010.

4. The Committee published its report into the impact of the financial crisis on EU support for economic development in June 2009, which called upon both the Scottish and UK governments to ensure that Scottish organisations were better prepared to take advantage of such European initiatives.

5. The Committee continued its inquiry into the implications for Scotland of the EU Budget Review. Having completed the first phase of the inquiry into future trends and challenges for the EU and the guiding principles, the second phase considered the specific policy priorities of importance to Scotland: CAP, climate change and energy; and regional policy, competitiveness and innovation. Evidence has been taken from a range of Scottish stakeholders as well as key officials from the European Commission.

6. The Committee re-started its inquiry into the implications of the Treaty of Lisbon (which had been put on hold following the first Irish referendum). The inquiry explores: (i) the extended and new competences; (ii) the institutional and procedural changes, including the extension of co-decision; and (iii) the implications of the revised Subsidiarity Protocol. The inquiry has been assisted by Dr Laura Cram who was appointed Adviser to the Committee in December 2009. Evidence has been gathered from stakeholders both domestic and foreign, including the Parliaments of the Basque region, Bavaria and Flanders as well as both houses of the UK Parliament. Chris Bryant MP, UK Minister for Europe, also gave evidence to the Committee.

7. The Committee conducted an inquiry into the successor to the EU Lisbon Strategy, the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy. Although the time for the inquiry was short, evidence was taken from a range of stakeholders, as well as the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth and a member of the European Commission team responsible for drafting the policy. The inquiry has sought to explore the three core themes of the strategy; (i) growth from knowledge; (ii) creating an inclusive society; and (iii) building a greener economy that is competitive at international level. The report was published in May 2010.

International policies

8. On 9 October 2009, the Committee published its report into the Scottish Government’s China Plan. The Committee welcomed the Scottish Government’s work in seeking to engage with China, but was critical of the current approach of the Government, believing that it lacked both focus and clarity (on targets, sectors and finance) and failed to encourage either operational engagement or delivery. The Committee therefore made a number of recommendations which the Scottish Government is taking forward, including the introduction of direct flights between Scotland and China, and the development of a China toolkit which was launched by VisitScotland in April 2010 to assist Scottish tourism businesses meet the needs of Chinese visitors.”

9. The Committee has also agreed to undertake an inquiry into the international engagement of the Scottish Government and has issued a targeted call for evidence. The inquiry will be divided into five workstreams covering:

  • the Scottish Government’s international framework;

  • International offices;

  • evaluation and comparative analysis;

  • the budget for international engagement; and

  • a case study.

Bills

10. Whilst the Committee does not consider Executive Bills, it tracks EU legislation and policy on issues that have a direct impact on devolved competences. These are brought to the attention of the subject committees as part of the mainstreaming of EU issues in the Parliament. In particular, the Committee has agreed to conduct an annual consultation with subject committees on the European Commission’s Work Programme with a view to prioritising those legislative proposals which potentially have a significant impact upon devolved competencies.

11. These issues are then monitored by the Scottish Parliament’s European Officer who provides regular updates on developments in these areas through the publication of the Brussels Bulletin which is considered by the Committee. The Committee also introduced quarterly “Special Editions” Brussels Bulletins to focus on specific themes.

Subordinate Legislation

12. The Committee does not consider the Scottish Government’s secondary legislation in the same way as subject committees. However, the Committee does scrutinise the Scottish Government’s transposition and implementation of EU legislation in devolved areas through reporting provided by the Scottish Government.

Petitions

13. The Committee has not considered any petitions in the past year.

Networks and Visitors

14. The Committee continues to work closely with a number of key external partners, including Scottish MEPs, the European Commission, the European Parliament and other EU regional parliaments. The Committee also works closely with its colleagues at Westminster and the other devolved UK institutions through the European Chairs – UK Forum.

15. The Committee visited Brussels and met with a number of the key decision makers (30 November – 1 December 2009). The aim of the visit was to meet with key European players at the start of a new European Parliament and European Commission, both now operating under the Treaty of Lisbon. Specifically the Committee held meetings focussing on:

  • the future budget of the European Union;

  • the future of the Common Agricultural Policy; and

  • the institutional changes.

16. The Convener took part in a live broadcast of an edition of Holyrood Highlights from the European Parliament in Brussels – a first for the Scottish Parliament.

Equalities

17. While undertaking its China Plan inquiry, the Committee received evidence from a range of organisations across the public and private sectors in Scotland, but was also keen to hear the perspective of the Chinese community in Scotland. On this basis, an informal meeting was arranged at the Wing Hong Elderly Centre at Garnethill in Glasgow, with a number of members of the Chinese community who offered a broad representation across the arts and culture, education, business and tourism sectors.

Meetings

18. During the parliamentary year (from 9 May 2009 – 8 May 2010), the Committee met 13 times and all meetings were partly held in private. 27 items were taken in private, 9 for consideration of key themes following evidence sessions, 4 for draft reports and 14 for consideration of approaches to inquiries and evidence.

19. All meetings of the Committee were held in Edinburgh.