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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S5W-26682
Asked by: Annabelle Ewing, Cowdenbeath, Scottish National Party
Date lodged: 9 December 2019


To ask the Scottish Government whether it will report on the outcome of the recent summit meeting of the British-Irish Council.

Current status: Answered by Fiona Hyslop on 10 December 2019


On 15 November 2019, the Irish Government hosted a summit meeting of the British-Irish Council (BIC). The meeting was attended by Ministers from seven of the Member Administrations and was chaired by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. The First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing and myself, represented the Scottish Government.

Although ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive were not in attendance, officials from the Northern Ireland administration were present.

The meeting focused on the Misuse of Substances and the steps that are being taken to tackle the related issues facing each of the administrations. Following a discussion by Health Ministers where the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing represented the Scottish Government, the First Minister reminded the Council that Misuse of Substances is one of the most important work sectors within BIC and that Scotland was keen to share expertise whilst willing to learn from best practice. The First Minister stated that governments have an obligation to stop young people choosing that path and recognised the need for health led strategies, presenting the strong view that a justice led approach has prevented people from receiving services they need.

The Government of Guernsey expressed a wish to see the introduction of Green Finance as a future work sector of BIC, with the aim of decarbonising the economy. Whilst I welcomed this in principle, I asked that we are given more detail of the nature of economic issues in order to consider properly. It was agreed that officials would meet to consider further work in relation to this.

The latest political developments were also discussed, including the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. The First Minister reiterated that Scotland’s preference is to remain in Europe and voiced her continuing concern that we may be placed at a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland however, she stressed that this should not be read as opposition to Northern Ireland’s access to the single market and customs union.

The Communiqué that was issued by the British-Irish Council after the meeting can be found on its website at:és/33rd%20Summit%20Held%20in%20Dublin%20Communique.pdf