United Kingdom Delegations

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 4th December 2001.

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Photo of Ms Annabelle Ewing Ms Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party, Perth 2:30 pm, 4th December 2001

What the Government policy is on Scottish Executive requests to participate in United Kingdom delegations to the EU and other international forums; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

Government policy in this matter follows the memorandum of understanding and the concordats on international relations and co-ordination of European policy issues between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations. I commend them to the hon. Lady as excellent bedtime reading.

Photo of Ms Annabelle Ewing Ms Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party, Perth

I thank the Minister for his answer. Taking the European Union as an example, can he clarify whether the pitiful 12 per cent. participation rate on the part of Scottish Executive Ministers in EU Councils since devolution, which is about the same rate as pre-devolution, represents a 12 per cent. limit on the number of meetings that Scottish Executive Ministers have sought to attend, or whether any requests have been turned down by the UK Government?

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

I am not sure what the hon. Lady and her friends are getting at. If she thinks that the British Government are unwilling for Scottish Ministers to participate, that is entirely wrong. If she is suggesting that Scottish Executive Ministers are not attending when they have the right to do so, that, too, is entirely wrong. When they are unable to attend, they contribute to the formulation of the United Kingdom line put forward by the Ministers who do attend. In 1999, Scottish Ministers attended six meetings; in 2000, nine; in 2001, 11 meetings to date. They have attended meetings on education, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, health, transport, justice and home affairs, and regional policy. As well as in the European Union, Scottish voices are heard at the G8, where the Chancellor speaks, at the United Nations Security Council and at NATO. If the hon. Lady and her friends had their way, Scottish and British voices would not be heard in all those forums.

Photo of Ian Davidson Ian Davidson Labour/Co-operative, Glasgow Pollok

Is the Minister aware that recent opinion polls demonstrate that opposition to the euro is stronger in Scotland than elsewhere? Can he clarify whether the Government intend to have the results of any future referendum counted separately by country?

Photo of Mr Peter Duncan Mr Peter Duncan Conservative, Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Will the Minister take the opportunity—unusually, perhaps—to agree with me that the best way for south-west Scotland and Scotland as a whole to be represented is within the United Kingdom? Will he once and for all condemn the rump of the Scottish national party at Westminster for its narrow and self-centred attempt to break up the United Kingdom? [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

Given the reaction from those on the Government Back Benches, I must agree with the hon. Gentleman. He will remember that there are more Scots in the British Cabinet than there are representing the Scottish national party in this Parliament, and they have a much louder, more effective voice. Imagine an independent Scotland with Alasdair Morgan as the Finance Minister trying to speak up—shout up—for Scotland. No, we are much better represented with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor speaking up for Scotland.