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.
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?
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.
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.]
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.