3rd Report, 2016 (Session 4): Annual Report 2015-2016

SP Paper 979 (Web)

Contents

Report

Introduction

Inquiries and reports
Equalities
Meetings

Remit and membership

Remit:

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

a. proposals for European Union legislation;

b. the implementation of European Communities and European Union 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 Union (and its institutions) and other international organisations; and

e. co-ordination of the international activities of the Scottish Administration.

Membership:

Christina McKelvie (Convener)
Hanzala Malik (Deputy Convener)
Roderick Campbell
Willie Coffey
Adam Ingram
Jamie McGrigor
Anne McTaggart

Annual Report 2015-2016

Introduction

1. This Report covers the work of the European and External Relations Committee for the Parliamentary session from 11 May 2015 to 23 March 2016.

Inquiries and reports

Connecting Scotland: how Scotland can engage most effectively in a globalising world

2. The Committee continued with the second strand of its inquiry into how Scotland can engage most effectively in a globalising world, considering how organisations in Scotland engage internationally. The Committee held several evidence sessions with local authorities, colleges, universities, culture and sports organisations and the Scottish Government.

Pictured above: (left-right) As part of its Connecting Scotland inquiry, Members meet with representatives of Scottish Universities at the University of Edinburgh and pupils from Balgreen Primary School in Edinburgh talk to Members of the Committee.

3. The Committee was keen to involve all those with an interest in this inquiry, and so held a number of informal events to increase participation. On 21 May 2015, the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS) and its member organisations led an international development workshop for the Committee. This included presentations on a number of individual international development projects, and a development education activity led by Balgreen Primary School pupils from Edinburgh on mobile phone use in the developing world.

4. The Committee also visited various organisations for this inquiry to find out first-hand how Scotland engages with other countries. On 8 June 2015, members of the Committee met with staff and students at Glasgow School of Art (GSA) to discover more about GSA’s international engagement work, which included students from the GSA’s Singapore campus.

5. The Committee’s report was published on 9 October 2015.

EU reform and the EU referendum: implications for Scotland

6. In 2015, the Committee agreed to conduct an inquiry on ‘EU reform and the EU referendum: implications for Scotland’. The inquiry had two key strands. The first focused on the Scottish implications of the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU. The second strand, gave consideration to the implications of the UK Government’s EU reform agenda for Scotland.

7. A call for written evidence was launched and the Committee held a series of oral evidence sessions including an initial session with Scottish MEPs. The Committee appointed two expert advisers to provide briefings to assist in its inquiry.

8. The Committee’s report was published on 19 March 2016.

The Scottish Government’s Draft Budget

8. As part of the annual budget process, the Committee scrutinised the Scottish Government’s proposals for the Europe and External Affairs (EEA) portfolio in the Draft Budget 2016-17.

10. The Committee requested a progress report from the Scottish Government on various specific issues including underspend of 2014-15 budget; the Scottish Government’s Small Grants Programme, principles of value for money and priorities and how outcomes were being measured; and where the EEA portfolio interfaces with the Climate Justice Fund. The Scottish Government responded on 14 December 2015.

EU Presidency evidence sessions

9. On 1 July 2015, Luxembourg took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Committee took evidence, on the role of the Presidency and its key objectives, from the Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, His Excellency Mr Patrick Engelberg on 17 September 2015.

Pictured above: (left-right) the Luxembourg Ambassador and the Netherlands Ambassador (bottom row, second from left) with the Committee in March 2016

12. In January 2016, the Presidency passed to the Netherlands. The Committee took evidence on 3 March 2016 from His Excellency Simon J H Smits, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (to the Court of St. James) on the Netherland’s priorities for its six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Scrutiny of the Scottish Government on EU issues

10. A key aspect of the Committee’s role is to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s engagement on EU issues. One element of this scrutiny was to consider evidence from the Scottish Government Ministers on the Scottish Government’s priorities for each six-month EU Presidency period.

14. The Committee considered updates from the Scottish Government in June and December 2015 on Horizon 2020 (the main EU fund for research and innovation projects); the Scottish Government’s 1+2 languages policy; and the transposition of EU legislation, ensuring effective scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s progress in transposing EU directives within the required timescale.

The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)

11. The Committee kept a watching brief on the ESIF funds for the 2014-2020 programmes via its regular biannual updates from the Scottish Government.

16. In 2015, the Committee was concerned to hear of the European Commission's decision to suspend payments in Scotland under the 2007-2013 programming period (due to high error levels). The Committee corresponded regularly with, and took evidence from, the Scottish Government to monitor the situation.

Topicality – scrutinising the impact of EU policy on Scotland

12. The Committee held a number of short and responsive evidence sessions on topical EU events to assess their impact on Scotland and respond to Scottish concerns. Scottish MEPs gave evidence in November 2015 on EU reform proposals and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the trade agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the United States on which the Committee has an ongoing interest. In September 2015, the Committee heard from Dr Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Centre on EU reform, the economic challenges facing the EU, and migration and the refugee crisis in the EU.

18. In autumn 2015, the Committee held a roundtable discussion to assess the impact of the refugee crisis in the EU, and to consider how Scotland could respond. The Committee also took this important issue to the Motherwell Parliament Day on 9 October 2015, to give local people the opportunity to have their voice heard on topical issues being discussed at the Parliament. In 2016, the Committee considered the implications for Scotland of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), an EU trade deal with Canada, with the European Commission (which negotiates on CETA on behalf of the European Union).

Equalities

13. The Committee continued to mainstream equalities issues throughout the parliamentary year as part of its ongoing work.

Meetings

20. During the reporting period, the Committee met 19 times. Thirteen meetings were held partly in private and three wholly in private. Twenty-two items were taken in private, seven to consider draft reports, seven to review evidence heard, two to consider advisers, one to consider correspondence and five to consider the Committee’s work programme. All meetings were held in Edinburgh.


Any links to external websites in this report were working correctly at the time of publication. However, the Scottish Parliament cannot accept responsibility for content on external websites.

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