It could be said that Scotland has benefited a great deal from EU membership. However, currently as part of the UK Scotland faces leaving the EU and giving up its single market membership. As the UK prepares for Brexit, the EU continues to grow and build on relations both within the EU as well as extending these with other countries beyond the European single market. To reach the most desirable outcome from Brexit, it is essential that all devolved nations play a notable part in the Brexit negations. So far, Scotland has been left in the dark from Theresa May’s Brexit plans, and so it is vital that this is not the case going forward.
This morning (28th June), I attended a presentation by Fiona Hyslop MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs – discussing ‘Scotland-EU Relations as Brexit Talks Unfold’. Discussion centered around Scotland’s overall relationship with the EU, leading to the following key points.
Scotland is deeply intertwined with the EU nations, from various parts of Scotland’s society to culture and shared environmental goals. Due to its higher education institutions and high standards of research, Scotland received £636 million for research purposes between 2007-2013, due to Scotland’s research excellence it received 10.4% of the UK’s EU funding, with only 8.5% of the UK population.
Scotland has benefited from free movement within the EU. Thousands of Scots live abroad in other EU countries and total of 181,000 EU citizens live in Scotland, making a positive contribution to our economy.
The EU has facilitated Scotland in establishing vital inward investment relationships with other European countries. This has resulted in numerous collaborations such as Scotland building Investment and Innovation hubs in Dublin and Brussels to attract further inward investment from these countries to Scotland, as well as to explore and access trade and investment opportunities in the host countries.
From today’s presentation Fiona Hyslop MSP spoke of the importance of collaboration between the devolved nations in the UK to deliver the goals and promises it has set out to other countries. By having a inclusive discussion with all parts of the UK could in turn lead to a better Brexit, she believes. Also, in terms of Scotland’s reputation, acknowledging and sustaining the high reputation Hyslop believes Scotland to have with EU countries, is essential for the relationship between Scotland and the EU post Brexit.
Hyslop spoke of options after Brexit for Scotland joining the single market. For example, Scotland as an independent country could try and join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Other countries, including Denmark and Sweden were members of EFTA and thereafter applied to be a Member State of the EU. However, seeing as Scotland currently meets almost all of the EU’s requirements for the accession process to be a Member State, there is an opportunity for Scotland to take this route as well.
The presentation concluded that Scotland is a vibrant and open country that benefits to large extent from being in the EU. It allows Scotland to be well-connected with partners across the EU, making it easier and more favourable for businesses to create trade relationships with countries outside of the UK. The best approach is for Scotland push for a favourable Brexit deal as as well as to remain outward looking and continue to build on the current reputation and relationship that Scotland holds, Hyslop argues.