European Union (Enlargement)

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:34 pm on 21 April 2004.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:34, 21 April 2004

The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-1098, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on behalf of the European and External Relations Committee, on the enlargement of the European Union, and one amendment to that motion.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 3:19, 21 April 2004

It gives me great pleasure to open this debate on behalf of the European and External Relations Committee in my role as convener.

On 1 May, the European Union will fundamentally change when its membership increases from 15 to 25 states and its population increases to 450 million citizens. The centre of Europe will move east and, for the first time, parts of the former Soviet Union will be within the European Union's borders. I know that the Parliament and Scotland as a whole look forward to welcoming Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus into the European fold. Of course, that is not the end of the story, because Bulgaria and Romania are online to join the EU, which it is hoped will happen by 2007. A decision will be taken in December on whether Turkey's application to join should proceed, if its human rights record has improved. Croatia has also applied to join the EU.

The European and External Relations Committee is keen to debate the issue because we are just a few days away from EU enlargement, which is an historic event, and because we want the Parliament to discuss the opportunities and challenges that EU enlargement presents for Scotland.

The wave of entrants to the EU on 1 May is different from previous waves. It is momentous for two reasons. First, we will welcome former communist states from eastern and central Europe into the EU. They will be able finally to put the dark years of dictatorship behind them. Of course, they are still struggling to make the transition from communism to capitalism and to meet the conditions of EU accession. The states that are joining the EU are also different because they are poorer than those of previous waves of enlargement. Although 100 million extra citizens will join the EU, enlargement will add only 4.5 per cent to the EU's gross domestic product.

After experiencing war and turmoil in much of the 20th century, those countries look for stability and prosperity as part of the EU in the 21st century. The EU was formed in 1957 to rebuild continental Europe after the second world war and it is incredible to think that, in fewer than 10 days from today, some of the countries that were most affected by that war will join the EU nearly 50 years after its formation.

Scotland has many historical, social and economic links with the countries that are joining the EU. The biggest new member will be Poland, whose population of 38 million is virtually the same as the total of the other accession states' populations. We have a long historical link with Poland. Few Scots are aware that in the early 17th century Poland was the biggest recipient of Scots emigrants, when many pedlars and merchants emigrated to Gdańsk, as well as to Kraków and Warsaw.

Scotland's influence lives on today, because many Polish place names relate to Scotland and many Scots names that have been polonised can be seen in Polish phone books. Those links continue, as Scotland has a Polish community. In the second world war, the Polish army was stationed here and the Scots were protected by 70,000 Polish soldiers. After the war, 100,000 Poles decided to stay on.

Scotland also has links with other states, in particular the Baltic states, with which we know that the tartan army has built many connections. Many fans have gone to those states to watch the football and not returned. That was not just because of the drink; those people have built families in those states.

The accession states are on the brink of modernisation, which raises two issues for Scotland. First, Scotland will have more economic competition from the accession states and, secondly, that modernisation will offer business opportunities for Scottish businesses. The accession states will spend billions of euros in the coming years on modernising their transport and information technology infrastructure. They are spending hundreds of millions of euros on adapting to EU legislation such as environmental legislation.

Last week, I was lucky enough to join colleagues from other parties—Mike Pringle and Des McNulty—on a three-day visit to Poland, at the Polish Government's invitation, which perhaps shows the links between Poland and Scotland. We visited many ministers, members of Parliament and organisations that are based in that country to discuss the impact of EU enlargement on Poland.

We visited the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce, which told us that, unfortunately, only one of its members is a Scottish company and that only one Scottish company will attend a conference that it has organised to take place in the next few weeks to discuss potential business opportunities for the United Kingdom. Clearly, that is not good enough. Some of the English-language publications in Warsaw say that Spanish, United States, Danish and German companies are lining up to invest in Poland, but no mention is made of any Scottish companies. Of course, Scottish companies are investing in Poland, but they are few and far between and the emphasis seems to be on other countries. It is clear that there is a challenge in raising awareness among Scottish businesses about the opportunities that are available in Poland and the other accession countries.

There are some general challenges for Scotland. First, there is the threat of the outsourcing of jobs. In Poland, the average wage is £315 a month, which is 13 per cent of the German average, and the minimum wage in Poland is £1.25 an hour, compared with £4.50 an hour in this country. We must be aware of the danger that, as has been discussed in business circles, jobs will be outsourced from Scotland to the accession countries.

The accession states will enjoy a geographical advantage over us, as they are more accessible for European markets. The centre of Europe is shifting east and Scotland is on the north-west periphery. That might have implications for direct investment into Europe, which, in past years, might otherwise have come to Scotland.

The report by Bradley Dunbar Associates Ltd that was commissioned by Scottish Enterprise indicated that one of the Baltic states—Latvia—has one of the best credit ratings in Europe. Estonia is one of the most business-friendly countries in Europe and is more business friendly than many of the current EU members. It is also clear that the accession states will receive the lion's share of regional funding to help to build up their infrastructures. Scotland will have to compete against those countries, which are modernising their infrastructures and have rapidly growing economies and low inflation in many cases.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am interested in what the member says about Estonia. He will be aware that Estonia has a flat rate of tax. Does he think that there is a lesson in that for Scotland?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

There are many lessons for Scotland to learn from the accession states and I hope that the ministers will tell us during the debate what we are doing to learn such lessons.

There are many opportunities for Scottish companies. R B Farquhar Ltd, which has one factory in Scotland—in Huntly in my constituency of North East Scotland—has just opened its second factory. It chose the Czech Republic as a location for its new factory in order to access European markets.

The Poles told us that €70 billion are ready in private accounts in Poland for investment. People are waiting for confidence to invest that cash in new businesses and contracts. The Poles will receive €11.6 billion from the EU over the next three years. Again, contracts will be up for grabs.

Another advantage for Scotland is that English is increasingly the business language for the EU. Scotland is well poised to take advantage of that situation. Moreover, as we discovered during our visit to Poland, there is enormous good will towards Scotland. That good will exists not just in Poland. Last summer, I was lucky enough to visit the Czech Republic and Hungary, where the good will towards Scotland is palpable. We must take advantage of that good will to build links, particularly economic and cultural links.

Some people think that the fresh talent initiative may benefit from accession countries entering the EU. Of course, we want to explore that, but the message that we received in Poland was that the level of migration from those countries that is being predicted in the current EU member states is exaggerated. That is a cause for concern and a matter that the Executive and others will have to take on board.

The issue is not only about Scotland getting advantages from the accession countries; we must also offer something back to them. What can Scotland offer them? First, many partnerships exist. We have a lot of experience of using regional funding in this country and we must share that experience with the accession countries. I know that partnerships between the Czech Republic and Scotland exist to achieve that.

Secondly, Scotland is well placed to help to build civic society in the accession states. Those states have suffered from decades of communism and are just beginning to build their civic societies. Scotland's voluntary sector should be recruited by the Executive and the Parliament to play a role in achieving that.

Finally, the Parliament can make a specific contribution to the accession countries. Those countries are still trying to adopt and develop a democratic culture. The Parliament is new—it is only five years old—and we have learned from tough experiences over the past few years. I hope that we can share those experiences with the accession countries in future years.

What action is needed from the Scottish Executive? It would be helpful if the Executive could produce a strategy that outlines how we are making the most of opportunities in the accession states and recognising the challenges. The committee welcomes the reports that it has received so far.

Direct air links are crucial for building economic links with the accession states. Currently, there is no direct air link from Scotland to Poland, which is the biggest accession state by far. The link between the Czech Republic and Scotland has been a phenomenal success. I hope that we can learn from that and build on those links. We must investigate new air links with the accession countries. In addition, we should encourage our towns and cities to twin with their counterparts in the accession countries and build more links in that way as well.

Enlargement will produce political challenges for Scotland. It will raise the issue of how an EU of 25 or 27 members will work efficiently. Given that the EU constitution is back in the news, that will be a big question in the coming months, because every member of this Parliament will need to address how Scotland's voice can be heard. The centre of Europe will shift further east and will be further away from Scotland than ever before, so the question facing this Parliament is how we can continue to play a role at the heart of Europe.

On 1 May, enlargement day will be celebrated throughout Europe. I congratulate the City of Edinburgh Council on organising several months of celebrations. The Parliament should celebrate enlargement, too. Scotland is an old European country, so let us welcome with open arms the other European countries that will join the EU and let us prepare for enlargement as well.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the enlargement of the European Union that will see 10 new member states join on 1 May 2004; recognises that this provides both challenges and opportunities to Scotland, and encourages the Scottish Executive to promote actively the benefits of enlargement across Scotland.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 3:31, 21 April 2004

The intention behind my amendment is not merely to remove some shockingly poor syntax from the motion that Richard Lochhead presumably either wrote or approved. There are at least four substantive reasons why his anodyne motion should be amended.

First, a motion should encapsulate a proposal that is either accepted or rejected by Parliament, but it should also be understandable by the people in whose interests it is debated. The motion asserts that enlargement of the EU

"provides both challenges and opportunities to Scotland"— the preposition is the motion's, not mine—

"and encourages the Scottish Executive to promote actively the benefits of enlargement across Scotland."

I think that the latter reference is to a vigorous information campaign that would promote only the benefits of enlargement.

However, if enlargement presents challenges that we could fail to meet, enlargement could presumably result in Scotland experiencing disbenefit. The motion implies that that possible outcome should either be ignored or covered up by the Executive. Should not Scots be informed about the possible pitfalls of enlargement, so that defences can be planned and put in place now by Scottish Enterprise, local authorities and the private sector to combat the migration of jobs from Scotland to new member states that have lower-waged but skilled work forces? The accession countries may have lower GDPs than Scotland has, but some of them have pretty skilled work forces.

Before coming to the opportunities that are presented by enlargement, let us probe the possibility that enlargement will pose a threat to what is left of Scottish manufacturing industry. That such a calamity might befall Scotland does not come simply from the feverish fears of Eurosceptics—although I am sure that we have none of them in this Parliament. Volvo has already left Irvine for Poland. Polestar printing company considered going to Hungary as well as to the north of England. No doubt members will be aware of similar movements and discussions among manufacturing and service industries in their areas.

We are not the only peripheral maritime region to be at some economic risk from EU enlargement. Last week in Portugal, my friends were telling me about the companies that had transferred their operations to the new EU area that was formerly part of the Soviet bloc. The same fears are being voiced in Ireland, Spain and Greece.

Without a report from the European and External Relations Committee on the predicted consequences for Scotland of EU enlargement, the motion amounts to mere rhetoric. We should consider the conclusions that can be drawn from the pattern of employment migration that is emerging in Scotland and elsewhere. The amendment provides the opportunity for a serious analysis to be done on the effects of enlargement on employment.

If the EU fans who produced the motion are correct in their guess that the benefits of enlargement will outweigh the pitfalls, my amendment would provide the Executive with an opportunity to identify which sectors of our manufacturing and service industries are best placed to expand into the 10 new markets. When Richard Lochhead spoke to the motion, he referred to business in general, but he did not specify which manufacturing and services sectors would benefit. If the Executive were to undertake the analysis that I propose, it might be able to assist the companies that are best placed to take advantage of enlargement—provided, of course, that the EU rules would allow that. I am not sure that they would, but the issue is worth thinking about.

My amendment refers to the social as well as the economic consequences of enlargement. The motion does not indicate whether enlargement enables or impedes the Executive's strategy of growing Scotland's population, which the First Minister has described as essential. Has the European and External Relations Committee considered the possibility that the sort of skilled young people whom the Executive would like to attract to Scotland will prefer to stay in their countries, to which jobs are migrating from Scotland and elsewhere?

Richard Lochhead mentioned that the groundless fears of being overrun by Romanians and so on are proving just that—such people need only stay where they are, as industry will move to them. Has the committee considered the morality and the consequences for new EU members of causing an exodus of trained, poorly paid, medically qualified workers from countries where they are needed even more than they are needed here? At the moment, health appears to be the only sector in which we are confident that people will be attracted to Scotland, because there are plenty of jobs over here for them to do and they will receive higher wages than they receive in their own countries. Should not Scots be given the opportunity to state their opinions on such a development? What do we bring to the new Europe if we ignore the effect of our comparative wealth on even poorer countries? Under the United Kingdom constitution, we cannot as a nation determine or act on decisions that are reached in such matters, even though the Parliament is supposed to determine policy and priorities for health and economic development in Scotland.

That brings me to the second reason for amending the motion: the proposed new EU constitution. How can we assume benefits for Scotland from enlargement separately from the proposed new structures and powers that are planned for the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, which will result in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania having more direct power over EU energy or fishing policy than Scotland has? Enlargement will impact on the referendum on the EU constitution, but this mouse of a motion makes assumptions that appear to disregard any linkage between the disquiet that is felt across Europe about the proposed constitution's centralising tendency and the transfer of sovereign powers from national Parliaments.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I have not finished making all four of the points that I intended to make. I assume that I will have time later to summarise.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Time is allocated to the member for a summary.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I will make the other two points then.

I move amendment S2M-1098.1, to leave out from "encourages" to end and insert:

"calls on the Scottish Executive to produce a balanced assessment of the economic and social impact of enlargement."

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour 3:37, 21 April 2004

I disagree with some of the points that Margo MacDonald has made in relation to her amendment. My view was reflected yesterday by the Prime Minister when he discussed the need to hold a referendum on the proposed constitution. People are saying a lot of things about Europe and the constitution that, bluntly, are not true. We will have plenty of time to discuss those matters in due course.

Today, I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to a positive motion from the European and External Relations Committee. The motion gives us a chance to debate issues relating to enlargement, acknowledges that there are opportunities and challenges in the new Europe and calls on the Executive and me, in particular, to ensure that we continue to promote awareness of the new Europe as it develops.

Again, I disagree with Margo MacDonald's approach. Enlargement is not an event, but a process. For many years, the Executive has been working on the enlargement of the European Union that we knew would happen 10 days from now. A one-off study of the impact of a particular moment in time is valueless when compared with what we are doing—ensuring that we continue to monitor the situation, to assess the impact of enlargement and to determine the validity of our assessments over a period of time.

The Executive welcomes the forthcoming enlargement of the EU, which will be the biggest enlargement since the foundation of the Union. Ten new member states and 70 million new citizens and consumers will enter the EU and the single market. As the convener of the European and External Relations Committee indicated, having those states join the new Europe will close what may be described as a fault line of history.

Let us cast our minds back to 1984. In the context of the Orwellian predictions that were then being made, such a reunion would have been unimaginable, as many of the new member states were still in the thrall of communist ideologies and contact between them and the rest of Europe was at best sporadic, if it took place at all. Europe has come a long way since then. When we discuss the European Union and its enlargement, we need to remember the bigger picture—the change that has happened and the gateway that has opened to a new road of opportunity that stretches beyond us. That is the direction in which the Executive wants the new Europe to move.

I argue that, put in those terms, enlargement is exciting, although in some ways it is daunting. It implies change—it challenges the status quo—and change is unsettling for many. Therefore, I appreciate some of the comments about different aspects of the debate that have been made outside the chamber.

However, enlargement is a movement for good. It is good for Europe, where it will provide increased stability and might serve as a catalyst for reform. It is good for new member states, whose citizens will acquire new freedoms, rights and advantages that we take for granted every day. It is good for existing member states, which will benefit from the developing economic potential of the new states, and I argue that it will be good for Scotland's economy.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Will the minister join me in expressing the strong hope that, in the simultaneous referendums on Saturday 24 April in the northern and southern parts of Cyprus—which have been so painfully divided during the past 30 years—people will vote for a united Cyprus to join the European Union a week later?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

Absolutely. That is another measure of how far Europe has come and how far the new nation states have come in the direction of travel.

We must return to the bigger picture of peace, security and co-operation throughout Europe, which we need and deserve to achieve for our families and future generations. We need to tackle the question why we think Scotland will benefit from enlargement. Some will argue about a reduction in structural funding and increased competition. However, Scotland will share in the benefits that will be common to all member states.

In incorporating the acquis communautaire—the body of existing European Community law—new member states will adhere to the higher standards that apply throughout the existing European Union. Pollution will be reduced. EU food directives will ensure the protection of consumers. Single market conditions will create the largest single market in the world and enable companies investing in new member states to operate more securely and in a familiar environment.

Increased prosperity and economic stability of the new member states will benefit Europe as a whole. Perhaps more significant is the closer co-operation in justice and home affairs, which should help in the fight against crime and terrorism. Those are high-level benefits for Scotland as for every other nation in Europe.

More specifically, enlargement is good for Scotland because it extends our scope of opportunity. To focus simply on reductions in structural funding, which do not necessarily follow as a direct result of enlargement, and increased competition, which is a global consideration and not merely a European matter, misplaces the emphasis of what enlargement is all about. It is about providing the opportunity to revitalise Scotland's existing ties, such as those arising from the Polish and Lithuanian populations in Scotland, as Richard Lochhead eloquently pointed out. Enlargement will also tap into the latent desire in other countries to work with Scotland and with Scottish people, who are received with warmth when they visit the new member states, as I have experienced.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

On tapping into the good will towards Scotland in the accession states, is the minister considering increasing the presence of any Scottish agencies or Government departments in those countries?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

We are considering that but, as I have pointed out to the European and External Relations Committee in the past, we need to make our interventions in a strategic manner to ensure that we can support such an effort. I will address that point further in a moment and I hope to satisfy some of Richard Lochhead's concerns.

We cannot forget some of the good work that has been done already. Scottish universities, such as the University of Glasgow, are at the forefront of research on central and eastern Europe.

Although we are proud of Scotland and its people, we must not forget that the vibrant new democracies that are coming into the new Europe have produced great thinkers, scientists and artists in the past and present. We have much to learn from other nations as the process goes on.

In recent months, ministerial colleagues and I have exchanged information with ministers from various nations, including Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Estonia, and we continue to welcome delegations of officials from new member states that are keen to share ideas and expertise with Scotland.

Enlargement brings opportunities to Scottish business, as Richard Lochhead pointed out. However, the combined GDP of the new states will be 4 per cent of the total EU GDP. Although that is a growth in the market and will bring opportunities for Scotland, we must put it in context. Our expertise in public sector infrastructure and the management of structural funding as well as our financial services industry all provide opportunities.

We want to provide a single front-door approach to business in Scotland. In the past 12 months, we have had and continue to have many successful trade missions to new member states. Again, we are developing the knowledge-out aspects of our economy.

I am delighted to announce that only shortly after enlargement—from 17 to 20 May—the Deputy First Minister will lead a trade mission to Slovenia and the Czech Republic, which will provide an excellent opportunity for him to raise the profile of Scottish strengths and fly the flag for Scottish business. That might satisfy some of Richard Lochhead's concerns.

In response to points that have been made about the fresh talent initiative, I have to say that we do not want to take the best talent from the new member states at a critical point in their development. However, if people come to Scotland, we want first to welcome them and then to upskill them to ensure that when they return to their home nations they can contribute more effectively to their local and national economies.

We must ensure that, as Scotland develops in its own way, its voice is not drowned out by the clamour around enlargement. I am confident that that will not be the case and that we will continue to push Scotland to the best benefit of our economy, our people and our culture and arts. However, we must not be complacent. We must engage proactively with partners from all member states, new and old, to raise Scotland's profile in the enlarged Europe.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party 3:46, 21 April 2004

I welcome the debate and congratulate the committee on making it possible. The accession of 10 new states on 1 May—many of which were, just 10 years ago, still part of the Soviet bloc—is without doubt the most significant development since the European Economic Community was founded back in the 1950s. Indeed, this fifth—and most ambitious—enlargement is the one most likely to change fundamentally the way in which the EU goes about its business. That is why I agree that this debate and the debate on the EU constitution are closely linked and cannot be held in isolation.

In that regard, I welcome Tony Blair's U-turn yesterday on the referendum. However, he should be aware that, if he expects people in Scotland to support the constitution, he still has to do a great deal of work in the final negotiations to ensure that the constitution's final draft does not run counter to Scotland's national interests. My party is and will continue to be proudly pro-European. However, we are also passionately pro-Scottish and, like the members of any other proud nation in the EU, we will not stand by while our interests and industries are used as bargaining chips by a UK Government whose priorities frequently lie elsewhere.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

The member has just mentioned how a proud country such as Scotland—in this case, as represented by the SNP—would not stand by while her national interests were overrun. Is the SNP proposing to do anything different from what it has done with respect to the fishing industry?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Perhaps not for the first time, I am not quite sure that I understand the train of Margo MacDonald's thought. The SNP has made it abundantly clear that we will measure and judge the draft constitution against the standard of our national interest and that, if the clause on fishing remains, we cannot support it in that form.

I say to the minister right now that the ball is in the Government's court. He should get on the phone to Tony Blair, get him to make fishing a red-line issue in the remaining negotiations and get the clause out of the constitution. If that happens, we will join him in campaigning for a yes vote.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

No, I have to make some progress. I might give way later, if I have time. However, I will come back to some of the points that Margo MacDonald raised in her speech.

The EU constitution is just one of the consequences of enlargement. For every existing member state, enlargement offers opportunities and poses challenges and we in Scotland must ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to face up to those opportunities and challenges.

As it happens, I will support Margo MacDonald's amendment. However, I genuinely ask her to reflect on the fact that some of the economic challenges that she illustrated when she cited the example of Volvo going to Poland are a result not just of EU enlargement, but of globalisation. The Parliament must bear that wider point in mind.

Although the Executive makes great play of working with the UK to Scotland's advantage, the list of achievements in that respect is not long. It will not surprise anyone to hear that I think that, even within the limited powers of devolution, the Executive could and should be doing much more. For example, we must maximise our trade potential by setting up trade offices in each of the new member states, albeit employing the targeted sectoral approach that Margo MacDonald highlighted. We must get out there and start building political alliances that will benefit Scotland. For example, Estonia's interests in the North sea could conflict with ours, although Estonia has expressed an interest in the regional management of fisheries. Let us get out there and work with the Estonians to turn a potential adversary into an ally. We should be doing all those things, but I do not think that even that would be enough.

Margo MacDonald asked how we can envisage an EU in which Latvia has more direct power than Scotland has. That is a fair question, but I do not need to remind her that Scotland has no direct influence and power in the EU right now. That is why there is no substitute for a seat at the top table. There is no substitute for independence. Andy Kerr may laugh at that, but he should turn his sights to Ireland. In political and economic terms, Ireland is leading the European Union right now. It holds the EU presidency and its economy has been growing faster than that of any existing or new member state. It is now second only to Luxembourg in wealth per head of population, while the UK is in sixth place. Those are the things that we should be looking at and learning from. There is a direct link between Ireland's clout as an independent state and its economic success.

Scotland needs the powers and the equality of independence in Europe if we are not to fall further behind and lose out and I believe that now is the time to stake our claim. Post enlargement, the European Union will be, even more than it is now, a union of small states. Seventy per cent of all member states will have populations of fewer than 10 million people. Seven out of 10 of the new countries poised to join have populations similar to or smaller than Scotland's. Malta is smaller than Edinburgh, yet it will be there and we will not. If all those countries can and will have seats at the top table, why not Scotland? That is the question that the Executive cannot answer. Why should we alone among the nations of Europe be content with second-class status? I shall give the answer: there is no reason, other than the limited ambitions and narrow horizons of the unionist members. It is time for Scotland to take its place.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 3:52, 21 April 2004

In agreeing the wording of the committee motion, I gave an assurance that I would not seek to amend it on this occasion. I did so for the simple reason that the objectives of the European expansion fall precisely into line with those of the Conservative party under various leaders—Margaret Thatcher, John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and now Michael Howard—so we fully approve of the motion.

If we were to step back in time to the first of Margaret Thatcher's three-in-a-row election successes, it would be difficult to envisage the current expansion of the European Community. If we consider the expansion that we celebrate today, when we welcome into the European Union countries from the most eastern boundaries of Europe, it can only be a source of wonderment that it has been achieved without bloodshed of massive proportions. If we think back to the early 1980s, the cold war, the Berlin wall and what was known as the iron curtain, we are reminded that one could have foreseen such an event coming about only through military conflict. One ought perhaps to be grateful for the fact that there existed on both sides of that curtain weapons of such potentially horrific effect that none dared use them. The only solution to ending the stand-off was through international discussion and agreement.

I earnestly believe that three politicians stand out beyond all others in the great change that has brought about the peaceful expansion of the European Union. They are Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, and I particularly underline the courage of Mr Gorbachev, who brought about such momentous change in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellite countries.

Enough of the past, for the expansion of the European Union brings hope of potential prosperity for many, particularly in eastern Europe, along with opportunity and advantage for those countries forming the European 15. The original goal of forming a partnership that would secure peace among European nations has, in the main, been achieved. The expansion extends that benefit and adds further to the goals of the common market—with our home market extended by 67 million people, for example.

There will be sharing of assets. Already there is recognition that the benefits of structural funds—from which the United Kingdom has benefited in the past, albeit paid for by us as a net contributor—will be passed on to others in the new accession countries. Those benefits have been enjoyed in the past by countries such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal and are one reason why Ireland and its economy have—as Nicola Sturgeon pointed out—benefited so greatly in recent times from the European Community.

Although there are benefits along those lines, there will also be difficulties. Margo MacDonald pointed out some of those, particularly in relation to skilled labour being taken from the accession countries and brought into this country. That cannot be allowed to happen. There is an opportunity for Scotland to use its knowledge in construction and technology, as Richard Lochhead suggested, in assisting those countries to use the structural funds to greater advantage.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Is the member aware that the latest studies from Finland show that more people are likely to move from Finland to Estonia than from Estonia to Finland? Rather than concentrate on alarmist scaremongering about Slovakian Gypsies, we should see that we will benefit from in-bound skilled labour and that as many people are as likely to move elsewhere. The alarmist scaremongering is absolute nonsense.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

It is not a case of being alarmist; it is a case of being aware and acknowledging that those things may or may not happen. I am, at the same time, emphasising the positive element whereby Scotland can benefit by having Scots going to the accession countries to assist in relation to how structural funding can be used.

An essential element of enlargement was the reform of the common agricultural policy. That has been, to my mind, a major requirement for at least the last 30 years and recent changes are welcome. I underline that those changes have been achieved within the existing European Union framework; I make the point that there was no need for new rules and added EU powers.

Looking back once again, although I personally retain misgivings over the evolving implications of the 1986 Single European Act and elements of the Maastricht and Nice agreements, I recognise that elements of all of those play a part in enabling the enlargement that we welcome today. It seems obvious to me, however, that one aspect of change that is unnecessary is signing up to the European constitution. We have been told in recent times that the constitution is nothing but a vehicle that tinkers with existing legislation to facilitate the accession of the 10, but in other nation states that myth is not propagated—their leaders acknowledge that the constitution goes far further than was ever envisaged. In the words of the Italian ambassador when he addressed the European and External Relations Committee, the constitution provides for the birth of a nation.

I welcome the fact that Tony Blair has done a massive U-turn on the referendum and I point out that many members in the chamber—among them Tavish Scott—seemed to believe that no such referendum was necessary. I have to say that I look forward to Tavish Scott's comments later in the debate when he will have to eat some of the words that he has used.

I trust that some of the Labour members who are currently absent, such as Helen Eadie and Irene Oldfather will reconsider their original concerns—

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I apologise.

I look forward to Helen Eadie's speech later. I presume that she has done an about turn and now supports the referendum.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 3:58, 21 April 2004

We will take no lessons from the Tories on referendums. They did not have one on Maastricht and they have only converted to the idea as a political ploy; they are currently full of political ploys, whether on tuition fees or on Europe. Mr Gallie should get off his self-righteous podium and remember the past. He took nearly half of his speech just to list the Tory leaders of the past 15 years.

At the time of the signing of the entente cordiale, 100 years ago, Henry Wickham Steed—the future editor of The Times—had a conversation with Edward VII. That was an unusual occurrence in those days. He later recorded that the King

"Had an ever present sense that though Britain was the heart and head of the Empire," which we were then,

"she was, and must increasingly be, an essential part of Europe."

There has long been an awareness that Britain cannot remain in splendid isolation from Europe. The stability of the continent is a fundamental British interest. The primary objective of the original European Coal and Steel Community was to bring to an end, once and for all, the age-old enmity between France and Germany, which had resulted in three wars in fewer than 100 years. Enlargement marks a further step—indeed, a giant step—towards consolidating and ensuring stability in Europe. It brings to an end, after nearly 60 years, the historic post-war division of Europe.

Scotland has long-standing historic links with several of the countries that will join us in the European family on 1 May. Like Richard Lochhead, I have read Professor Tom Devine's excellent book. Richard Lochhead rightly referred to the large number of Scots who emigrated to Poland in the early 17th century. Of course, in those days there were strong Scottish mercantile communities in many continental ports, including Danzig—now Gdańsk—in Poland and Klaipeda in Lithuania. There was not just migration outwards; there was also immigration. Richard Lochhead missed this statistic, but by 1914, 8,000 Lithuanians were settled in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Fife and West Lothian—so many, in fact, that the Miners Federation of Great Britain decided to print its rules in Lithuanian and the Lithuanians even had two weekly newspapers of their own. Richard Lochhead rightly referred to the tremendous contribution of Polish troops to the defence of our eastern seaboard. The commander of the Polish army in exile, General Sikorsky, had a headquarters not just in London, but in Perthshire. When Poland became part of the Soviet bloc, after Yalta, many Poles chose to remain in Scotland.

Those strong, long-standing ties give us a head start in facilitating the creation of business, commercial and academic connections with the accession countries. The Executive must make the most of that head start. When I was briefly in Lithuania last September, our ambassador told me that during the next five years in Lithuania alone there would be €3 billion-worth of infrastructure projects—those are projects for which Scottish companies can tender. That is the figure for a country that has a population of only 3.6 million, so how much more of an opportunity will there be in Poland, which has a population that is ten times the size of that of Lithuania?

I know that there were several trade missions to accession countries last year and that there will be further such missions in the coming months. The minister mentioned one of those. I would have liked ministers to have led more of those missions, but I am glad that the Deputy First Minister will lead the mission to Slovenia. It is important that we conduct such missions with drive, energy and enthusiasm. We are up against stiff competition: President Mary McAleese of Ireland has already—earlier than us—personally led trade delegations to several accession countries.

Of course, the minister is right to say that the fresh talent initiative comes into play. During the next year, many people from the accession countries will come to live and work in the United Kingdom. We should encourage them to come to Scotland. We should consider extending twinning beyond the civic arena to include, for example, universities, further education colleges and hospitals. We do not want to deprive the accession countries of some of their best people, but we can help them and make a contribution through training and education, which can only strengthen the links between ourselves and those countries, in particular the countries across the North sea.

In conclusion, let me speak briefly about the constitution. I am disturbed by Ms Sturgeon's backtracking today. I will not give way to her, as she did not give way to me, but I hope that she will clarify the Scottish National Party's position on the constitution, because it is very important that she should. If the SNP is backtracking on its long-standing position of Scotland in Europe and is not going to fight the referendum alongside us—

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I will not give way to the member. She can state her position when she winds up. If she intends to backtrack and not stand with us, with Labour and with the pro-European parties in fighting that referendum, she ought to say so clearly now, rather than be ambivalent about it.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

If Keith Raffan had been listening, not just this afternoon, but over the past few months, he would know exactly what the SNP's position is. We are pro-European. It is not a question of being in or out of Europe; it is a question of standing up for Scotland's interests. If the constitution, which is not yet finalised, continues to run counter to Scotland's national interest, we will not support it. The shame is that Keith Raffan would support it in those circumstances.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

That is exactly what I thought.

The constitution is fundamental to Europe—it is exactly that. It not only draws together all the treaties, from the treaty of Rome to the treaty of Nice. It not only establishes the powers of the member states and those of Brussels—what Europe can and cannot do. It also reforms the structures of the EU to take into account the 10 accession countries, so that the Commission's working arrangements, which are already overstretched, do not break down. If Nicola Sturgeon is trying to say now that the constitution is not fundamental to the future of Europe, she does not have a leg to stand on. No one will agree with her. It is fundamental. If the SNP is now coming out against Europe—if it is following the line of Alex Neil and the others on the Eurosceptic, fundamentalist wing of the SNP—it should have the honesty and the guts to say so.

I welcome the Prime Minister's conversion to a referendum. After seven wasted years of failing to argue the case for Europe, I am glad that he is at last going to roll up his sleeves and come out fighting. When he does, he will find us campaigning right by his side.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move now to the open debate, with four-minute speeches.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 4:05, 21 April 2004

This debate is about EU enlargement, not about the EU constitution. We are in danger of being sidetracked. The criticisms regarding the nomenclature of the debate are rather unfair. This is, after all, a committee debate. It is part of the terrain that we try to achieve a broad consensus. In some aspects, it is important to try to maximise the consensus, especially when we are talking about the national interest and not a narrow party interest. In this case, very little has been said about EU enlargement by the minister, or by my colleagues, with which I would disagree. I think that such consensus is a good thing.

Putting the emphasis on the EU constitution is detracting from the debate. That issue will be decided on, and voted on, as it should be. I personally disagree with the emphasis of Chirac and Fischler and with where they would like to take us; I much prefer the position of the Finns and others on levels of responsibility. Such issues will be discussed in the months and perhaps even the years to come.

At the moment, we are talking about EU enlargement, which will happen within a matter of days. I believe that enlargement is a good thing. We should view it as an opportunity and not as an obstacle. There are two reasons for that. One is the broad effect that enlargement will have on Europe; the other is the internal opportunities that we will have. One is external and one is internal. The external issues have been touched on by others. It is good that we are expanding the borders of Europe—not only bringing in the former Soviet states that are now liberated rather than occupied, but bringing in other places in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

For too long, Europe suffered from an iron curtain; we cannot allow the iron curtain to become an economic curtain. I believe that Jean Monnet and the others who wanted to enhance Europe and see it as a bulwark against war are quite correct. The continent was scarred by two world wars in the previous century; indeed, it has been scarred since the days of Charlemagne by conflict stretching over the millennia. That must cease. The best way of ensuring peace and stability for not only our generation but future generations is to enlarge and enhance the European Union.

Simply moving the border from the Oder and Neisse to the Elbe would be fundamentally wrong if we kept things as a cosy economic club for only those members that were fortunate enough to enter it originally. If we did so, we would simply be turning the River Elbe, and indeed any other such natural barrier, into a European version of the Rio Grande and would end up throwing back our equivalent of wetbacks. We would be trying to keep out economic migrants trying to do better for themselves. Europe would simply be an economic cartel.

Going forward will be beneficial for Europe and for Scotland. Of course there are risks but, as Nicola Sturgeon correctly pointed out, the real problems in economic movement, jobs and outsourcing come as a result of globalisation and not as a result of the enlargement of the European Union. Companies are outsourcing not only from countries such as Scotland, but from countries such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania. The way to address that is for us to view Europe as an opportunity. Europe does not need to mimic the United States. It can be not just an economic union but a social union.

For too long, Europe has been viewed with hostility by the left when, in fact, it offers an opportunity for those who sign up to social democracy—whether from a north European perspective or a broader European perspective. We must regard Europe not just as an opportunity to ensure that we address questions of security and stability in case of war, but as an economic opportunity. We must ensure that we can compete with the United States and south-east Asia. More important, in competition with the United States we must not simply allow ourselves to replicate their devil-take-the-hindmost attitude. We can balance economic prosperity with the social provisions that are necessary in a democratic, fair and just society. We must see enlargement as an opportunity for a better Europe. We should go in willingly, not grudgingly. We should see enlargement as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative 4:10, 21 April 2004

While Conservatives welcome the accession of the new member states, we urge caution over the result that the incoming wave will have on our economy.

It was interesting to hear the Canadian Professor Robert Mundell—no relation to David—who is the father of the euro, saying recently that Europe now has serious problems to deal with, for two reasons. First, the accession of 10 countries that have one third of the per capita income of western Europe will cause an increasing influx of labour into the rest of Europe, which will create considerable adjustment problems. Secondly, the huge rise in the euro, following its original meteoric fall, will make overall growth in the euro area much lower. Robert Mundell said:

"I would think it is going to be very serious ... there is going to be almost no job growth in Europe with rates at this level".

This fanatically pro-European man, who invented the concept of the euro, is now advocating a global currency nicknamed the globo—far-fetched members might think, but do not forget that when Professor Mundell laid the intellectual foundation for the euro, few people thought that European countries would ever give up their francs, pesetas or marks. Many are now regretting that they ever did. Let us be under no illusions—the rules for the new countries are quite different from those that cover us, as they will be legally bound to join the euro when their budget deficits are below 3 per cent of their gross domestic product. In other words, they will be forced to join the euro by Brussels.

The new Europe will stretch to the Black sea, and possibly eventually via Russia to the Pacific. It is far too diverse a unit to survive as a centrally governed federation, because its interests differ so much. A glaring example of that is left-wing Sweden's refusal to join the euro. It is much more likely that a patchwork of intersecting alliances will emerge. I see nothing wrong with that. It is healthier than the present European model, which has caused so many problems to this country's structure, decimated our fishing industry, and now threatens to ruin our farmers with modulation tax. Our businesses cannot afford oppressive EU regulatory burdens, which make them uncompetitive.

It is likely that some of the 25 member countries will fail to ratify the new constitution. Anyone who suggests that those countries will be expelled from the EU is talking rubbish, as there is no provision for expulsion of that sort in any EU treaty. It is becoming abundantly clear that many people in eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean share the view of the majority in this country who do not want to be herded over a precipice into a united states of Europe, headed by a president of Europe. The eastern European countries have only recently emerged from the iron grip of totalitarian communism, and they wish to regain their cultures and identities, rather than be immediately covered by the soggy blanket of Brussels bureaucracy.

If the EU and its member states are going to prosper, we will need new partnerships acting within a flexible regime. It will have to offer a selection of policies from which member states can choose those that suit them best. What is needed are slimmed-down EU powers concentrating on the efficient administration of the essential freedoms of the single market, namely the free movement of people, the free movement of capital, and the free movement of goods, with the minimum of interference in the internal affairs of member states.

Mr Blair's dream of putting Britain at the heart of a Europe—that outworn cliché—dominated by France, Germany and Belgium, like some modern-day holy Roman empire, with himself at the head of it, will do nothing to help the people of the UK or the new entrants to live freer, happier and more prosperous lives. A far better approach would be for us—a nation that in general has prospered in close proximity to landlocked Europe and which has always been outward looking to areas beyond our European backyard—to make alliances within the larger framework of European countries that deliver the limited objectives on which we can collectively agree. We do not need a constitution to deliver that aim, nor do we need a president.

How can a British Prime Minister describe the constitution as a tidying up exercise when, instead of making the present Europe work better, it is set to build more institutions? The Prime Minister recently said that it is not always possible to know the nature of the outcome of certain actions. We believe that the result of this action will be federalism by the back door.

Photo of Mike Pringle Mike Pringle Liberal Democrat 4:14, 21 April 2004

I welcome the opportunity to debate this historic moment in the European Union's history. I congratulate the European and External Relations Committee on lodging the motion.

EU enlargement is an historic moment that will continue to peacefully unite Europe after generations of conflict and division. The present round of enlargement, like previous ones, will add to the European Union's strength, cohesion and influence in the world and will put behind us the divisions of the cold war. However, enlargement is not just about the past; it is very much about the future. It will extend the stability and prosperity that we enjoy in the west to the new member countries in the east. Enlargement will also allow the European Union to take up the challenge of globalisation and international terrorism.

Last week, I was fortunate to join at the last minute a visit by MSPs to Poland, where I saw first hand the preparations that that country is making for 1 May. Even the process of preparation has made improvements to Poland's economy and its democratic structures. A new constitution was passed in 1997 and the developing private sector is now responsible for 70 per cent of the country's economic activities. Poland is crying out for economic links with other European countries.

As the motion rightly emphasises, enlargement is not just about advantages for the new members, but about opportunities for Scotland. Poland, with 39 million inhabitants, is the largest of the applicant countries. It offers great opportunities for Scottish investors. The country's agriculture remains on an almost subsistence level and needs a lot of modernisation. There are also untapped resources of copper, zinc, oil and natural gas. The large warhorse industries of steelworking, shipbuilding and textile production are giving way to a high-technology service sector which offers major opportunities to Scottish investors. Perhaps one of the most moving moments of our three days was when we stood at the gates of the shipyard where communism started to fall. Sadly, that shipyard is now closed and the cranes are idle.

There appeared to me to be a lack of Scottish input in investment in Poland. I was disappointed that our ambassador in Warsaw could not give the time to meet our delegation of MSPs. I wonder whether a group of MPs would have received the same treatment—I doubt it. Obviously the answer is not to replicate the entire embassy function for an independent Scotland, given that the UK punches above its weight in the country, but I wonder whether the Executive has considered a request for key embassies to have a Scottish trade liaison officer who can ensure that Scottish companies are encouraged to participate in foreign investment.

Another opportunity for the Scottish Executive would be to establish close links with the British Polish Chamber of Commerce. While in Warsaw, we met Mr Leszek Wieciech and Barbara Stachowiak-Kowalska, who are directors of the chamber. They are keen to establish closer links with Scotland and for us to pass on their enthusiasm for closer links. I hope that the Executive will at least take up the challenge and make contact with the British Polish Chamber of Commerce.

Richard Lochhead talked about flights. I wish there had been a direct flight to Warsaw, as we were delayed for nine hours in Prague on our way home.

The first of May will be a wonderful day for Scotland, as our potential free trade market increases to 370 million people. I am glad that Edinburgh will be celebrating the day with a party in Princes Street gardens and I encourage the Executive to ensure that everyone in Scotland knows of the benefits of the European Union and enlargement ahead of the European Parliament elections. I support the motion.

Photo of Gordon Jackson Gordon Jackson Labour 4:18, 21 April 2004

Like Mike Pringle and Richard Lochhead, I went walkabout last week. Mark you, I did not go to work; I went on my own to Prague for a few days just to walk around, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was excited by what I saw. I thought that becoming a part of that rich culture was something to look forward to. However, I wondered a wee bit about our attitudes in Scotland. I spoke to a number of local people about joining the European Union. The people whom I spoke to knew about the move and for them it was a positive step. However, I am not sure how true that is here. If we asked people on the street what was happening and what we are discussing, they might not have much idea about it. I am conscious that this is a generalisation, but even among what we might call the chattering classes, there is not nearly as much enthusiasm for Europe as might be thought appropriate. Put shortly, I do not think that, as a whole, we are terribly good Europeans. We are certainly not nearly as good as we should be.

That provokes the question why. I suspect that there are lots of reasons, and some of them are simplistic. There is geography: we are an island, and that has affected our sense of separation. There is also history: the last century has sometimes given our culture a negative view of the European experience, which is still there. There is possibly even a touch of arrogance.

I suspect that we in Scotland do better on this than other parts of the UK. Even here, however, there is an almost subconscious attitude of superiority at times. The old attitudes have tainted us, whether we like it or not, and we have a tendency to undervalue or under-appreciate other people. That is sometimes the result of ignorance about the richness of other countries—perhaps a half-hour in Prague might sort that out.

The real question is how we, as politicians and as a Parliament, help change that attitude. I have just a couple of suggestions for making Europe and being European more important. All of us from all parties need to stop using the European debate as a political football and as a way of making cheap political points. I appreciate that that might, at times, be asking for the impossible—I am asking for a fundamental change of attitude.

Members of the European and External Relations Committee had lunch with the French ambassador one day. We were discussing the fact that the French fight their own national corner as much as any other nation in Europe, and the ambassador accepted that. For him, however, there was a fundamental difference between the debate in France and that in the UK. He said that, in France, the argument is always from a starting point of being committed to Europe, and there is never any suggestion of anything else. To him, there was a different emphasis in the UK. Sometimes, it seemed to be too much about "them and us". That mindset needs to change if we are to be good Europeans. Sometimes in the debate, we have seen the error of that attitude.

This is just a thought, but I think that we perhaps need to have a slight change within the Executive. I say that with hesitation, because I know that Executive ministers, and the First Minister in particular, are very committed and proactive in Europe. I am not at all sure that the minister who is responsible for all the finances that come under the power of the Scottish Parliament should also be the minister responsible for Europe. That is in no way a personal criticism of the Minister for Finance and Public Services—as Andy Kerr knows. It is inevitable, however, that a minister with that enormous responsibility must be limited in the leadership that he can give to broader European issues.

This is a really exciting time for Scotland in Europe. We are going to be, and need to be, proactive with regard to the economic and cultural links that we have with all the existing and new EU members. That will need drive and leadership. Maybe, just maybe, we want a minister for Europe who, on some level, has that clear and single responsibility.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I apologise to those whom I have not been able to call. As I am sure you will appreciate, there was a very important ministerial statement earlier, which has meant that, as well as not being able to call some members, I have had to change the length of the winding-up speeches to four minutes. I now call Margo MacDonald. Ms MacDonald, can you give me four minutes?

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 4:23, 21 April 2004

I will do my best.

I will start by commenting on Gordon Jackson's final remarks. He is absolutely right, and particularly so at this time. Only with a minister who is focused on Europe—its benefits, challenges, opportunities and whatever—will we get through the period leading up to the referendum on the constitution. I heartily applaud his suggestion that there should be a Scottish minister with responsibility for Europe.

I said earlier that there were four good reasons for backing my amendment, and it seems that nobody has said that there is a good reason for not backing it. I have listened carefully to all the speeches, but nobody has mentioned it—maybe it is not worth mentioning.

I finished my opening speech by saying that the motion appears to make assumptions that disregard any linkage between the disquiet across Europe about the proposed constitution's centralising tendency and the transfer of sovereign powers from national Parliaments. Some members addressed that point, but the motion does not and that is what is on the record. Even if we consider public reaction only in this country, France and Italy to the question of border security and immigration policies being decided by a Commission and Council of Ministers that will incorporate the 10 new members, it is not hard to imagine how that particular effect of enlargement will influence how people vote in the referendum on the EU constitution. There is a definite linkage in that policy area. Now that we know that there is to be a referendum on the EU constitution, the motion is inadequate.

That brings me to the third reason for using my amendment to try to make the best of a bad job, which is the impossibility of absorbing the 10 new EU countries effortlessly into the euro zone. The single currency and enlargement are indivisible from the powers that the planned EU constitution would transfer to Brussels. Some members hinted at that during the debate. Let us suppose that the euro does not strengthen against the pound after enlargement—which seems likely. What implication would that have for regional funds in Scotland? Further, what if Prime Minister Brown continues to prefer the Bank of England's management of interest rates to that of the European Central Bank? Is there no linkage, therefore, between enlargement, EU regional policy, the economic performance of countries in the euro zone and a new EU constitution?

The fourth reason against passing the motion unamended is its inadequacy. It fails to address the consequences of enlargement and to relate those to the realpolitik of the UK referendum on the EU constitution or the effect of enlargement on the euro and the consequent potential effects on the Scottish economy. The amendment would at least provide the Executive with the opportunity to produce information that would better inform Scots of the issues surrounding enlargement and the questions that must now be addressed on its effect on the referendum on the EU constitution, the euro and perhaps even the EU itself, as was reported on "Newsnight" last night.

I have a few seconds left in which to address other remarks that were made during the debate. I was glad to hear Mike Pringle and Gordon Jackson introducing a note of common sense into the analysis of how others see us. People from other countries do not say, "You are wonderful, Scotland. We want to do business with you immediately." They say, "Scotland—is that the same as England?" When it is pointed out that we are not the same as England and that we are the ones who make the whisky, they say, "Ah! We like the whisky." We have a huge job of work to do in that area and I hope that the minister takes that on board. I know that the Executive is trying, but it should not underestimate the size of the job that it must do.

I, too, was in Poland just after that country freed itself from the Soviet yoke. At that time, only five companies were listed on the Polish stock exchange. I know how far Poland has travelled since then and I know how far it still must travel in order to regard Scotland as a partner. Poland must go for the big stakes and that is not Scotland. We should not get our own importance in the new Europe out of proportion.

It was stated during the debate that we had very successful trade missions. However, how do we measure their success? Do we assess the number of companies that agree to go abroad and set up in partnerships or joint ventures? How do we evaluate trade missions? What is their priority and strategic thrust?

We discussed briefly in the debate the potential tyranny of the small states. Ireland was mentioned in that respect. However, that notion is absolute rubbish. Chirac and Fischler will have much more clout than will Barosso from Portugal, the Irish Prime Minister or any of the other small states. The big states will rule and that is what the EU constitution is about. That is why Parliament must consider enlargement and its effect on what the constitution will do.

I am sorry that I cannot go on, but I thank you for bearing with me, Presiding Officer. I urge all members to support the amendment.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 4:29, 21 April 2004

The first of May will be a big day in the calendar. It is always a big day for me because it is my birthday. It is also a big day for me because it is international workers day and there are usually events associated with that. This year, 1 May will also be the day on which the accession states at last become a part of the European Union. That has been clearly acknowledged not only by the European and External Relations Committee, but by the debate that we have had this afternoon. It is noticeable that, compared with previous debates in the chamber, there has been an almost unprecedented level of agreement during this debate. One party is obviously an exception to that, but we should not be surprised by that. I will say a bit more about that in a minute.

Labour welcomes all the opportunities that enlargement will bring to Scotland's people and economy. With more than a quarter of a million jobs already tied up in the member states of the European Union, our welcome is from both a pro-Scotland and a pro-Europe stance. I did not pick up that sentiment in the remarks of Nicola Sturgeon, although I have to say that they differed substantially from those in Kenny MacAskill's speech, with which I whole-heartedly agreed. Labour wants to look at the world away from a narrow nationalist viewpoint and to be outgoing and outward looking instead.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Would Mike Watson describe all the countries in the EU, such as Germany, Spain and Ireland, and those that are about to enter the EU, such as Poland, that are currently protecting their national interests in the context of the negotiations as having a narrow nationalist viewpoint?

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour

I would not, but I am talking about the way in which the SNP frames the debate. I expect every member of the European Union to look after its own interests. What is important is the way in which that is done and the way in which countries work with other countries to strengthen their positions.

We would need a long debate to go into the blind alleys that the Tories led us down but it is important to state that the Tories are blinded to the benefits of Europe. We will not convince them of our view in this debate or in the run-up to the referendum. I do not think that there is any point in trying to do so.

With the exception of the Tories, everyone who has spoken today has recognised EU enlargement as being good for Scotland. It will be good for Scottish citizens, consumers and businesses as they will have direct access to what will be, with 450 million consumers, the world's largest single market.

I echo the points of those who had the opportunity—which I did not have, incidentally—to strengthen European links during the recess. That is important at all levels of society in Scotland, from school-age upwards. I want the many valuable schools links that exist to be developed further.

The EU already accounts for 55 per cent of Scotland's manufactured exports and almost half of our service sector exports. I agree with Kenny MacAskill's point that enlargement must be seen not only as an economic union but as a social union. Many aspects of living and working conditions will flow to the new member states, as can be seen clearly if we examine the benefits that have come to Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal since they joined some years ago.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour

I do not have time to take another intervention.

There will be opportunities to build on the links that Scotland already has with Europe and that is the regard in which I mentioned the schools links.

Scotland has an opportunity to grow into one of the most dynamic regions of the new Europe. Before the SNP members get up on their feet, I am not suggesting that we are a region of the UK. Of course we are not, but we are a region—and a strong one—of the European Union. We need to strengthen further the cultural and educational links with Europe that have already been developed by community groups, academic research departments and so on.

For some years, the Executive has strongly urged aspects of Scottish business to become involved in the accession states. Already, Scottish Enterprise and Scotland Europa have ensured that there is a strong Scottish presence in many of the accession countries. After 1 May, that will become much more of a two-way street.

The Executive has also given clear evidence of the need to build links between the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament and the existing regions of the EU. We already have formal concordats with Catalonia, Tuscany and North Rhine-Westphalia and many more will follow. Those links will be perfectly clear. As I said, a devolved Scotland is outward looking and is becoming increasingly confident of its identity. We can surely share the benefits of our membership of the European Union with the accession states.

The referendum is not the subject of today's debate, but there is a clear link between enlargement and the debate on the new constitution. I find it difficult to become convinced of the need for a referendum. My view is that, being part of Europe, we should go with the flow in the way in which many of the other countries seem able to do much more easily than we can. I echo Gordon Jackson's points on that.

We need to be much more proactive. Without trying to push the "wha's like us" line, I notice that the attitude to Europeanism in Scotland is different from that in, particularly, the south and south-east of England. As Scots, we have traditionally been outward-looking internationalists, and we should look to build on that in our relationships in the enlarged European Union.

The events of 1 May will be some of the most important in the development of the European Union. They will not be the last developments, but they are positive and we in Scotland must play as full a part as possible in the enlarged Europe.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 4:35, 21 April 2004

As my colleague Phil Gallie said when he opened the debate for the Conservative party, we welcome the expansion eastwards of the European Union and the potential benefits that it will bring. The opportunity is there for higher economic growth; we will have a new single market of 500 million citizens; we will see increased stability and security in the eastern part of Europe; we hope to level up economic conditions throughout Europe; and we hope to ease the pressure of economic migration.

We hope that the new countries that will come into Europe will be prepared to stand with us and seek reform of EU institutions, many of which are sadly in need of reform. As my colleague Jamie McGrigor said, we are dealing mainly with countries that were, not so long ago, under the jackboot of communist dictatorship. Having so recently thrown that off and experienced freedom and democracy, I do not think that they will move quickly to fall under the imposition of European institutions. They will want to retain their independence, integrity and freedom to act. I envisage opportunities for the UK because we will have alliances.

I listened with great interest to Margo MacDonald speaking to her amendment. Much of what she said was interesting and many of her points were well made—I agreed with some, but not all, of them. I do not want to be ungracious, but it seemed to me that the opening of her speech was more about kicking her erstwhile colleagues in the SNP than about making positive points. However, she made a number of important points highlighting the fact that enlargement is not just about opportunities for Scotland and that there are threats too. She was right to comment on the potential loss of jobs to countries such as Poland. At the same time, we should not forget that we are losing jobs to Bangalore and Mumbai in India. Jobs will move not just within Europe but right across the globe. My hope is that by bringing other countries into our economic sphere, we will increase salaries and wealth in those countries, and that will benefit us. If we can break down some of the restrictive trade practices of which the EU is so fond and which penalise people in the third world, we can help people in Bangalore to increase their salaries and so remove the threat of jobs migrating away from us.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the member agree that there is no contradiction between the effects of globalisation on the economy, particularly manufacturing industries, and the new countries' move into the European Union because they will be helped by regional grants for the first few years, as Portugal was. Companies are leaving Portugal to go to the newer member states in Europe and when they lose the benefit of the initial grant system there, they will move to Bangalore.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

That is indeed a point to be addressed. It is important for us not to have a closed-shop Europe but to seek to build free trade across the globe—that is the way in which we will drive up standards in places such as Bangalore.

I will pick up on a few other points that were made. I listened with great interest to Nicola Sturgeon's contribution about the Scottish National Party positioning itself as possibly for and possibly against the new EU constitution. It is interesting that the SNP remains firmly in favour of the euro; I am surprised that it takes that view, which is out of tune with the Scottish people. If I were to offer some friendly advice to the Scottish National Party, I would say that it should be more Eurosceptic. When I meet SNP voters, I find that they are among the most Eurosceptic people I could meet, yet their party seeks to promote a policy of so-called independence in Europe. I offer that advice to the Scottish nationalists with great confidence that they will not accept it, which delights me. If we had joined the euro as the SNP, and indeed other parties, proposed at the time of its launch, it would have been a disaster for our economy, given the growth rates in the euro zone during the past four or five years.

I need to move on to deal with other points. Mike Watson and several others mentioned the referendum on the EU constitution. Strictly speaking, that is not a topic for the debate, but several members mentioned it. The Prime Minister has performed the most remarkable U-turn. A few weeks ago, he described the constitution as a minor tidying-up exercise, yet now we are to have a referendum on something that is trivial and irrelevant. He is wrong in two respects. We should not delay a referendum until 2005. If the matter is so important that we need a referendum, we should hold that referendum no later than this autumn.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I will do so in a second.

It is entirely wrong to paint the debate about a referendum as a debate between those who are pro and those who are anti our involvement in Europe. Saying that we are in favour of Britain being involved in the European Union but against an EU constitution that could—we do not yet know precisely what it will say—be a further centralising force is a perfectly legitimate position. Different views are held on how Europe should develop. Saying that to oppose the EU constitution is to oppose Europe per se is wrong and false.

When Mr Scott winds up the debate, I will be interested to hear whether his views have changed since we last debated Europe, when he said:

"There is a huge difference between having an informed debate on the future of Europe and having a referendum ... In a referendum, the debate would be polarised and the issues would be narrowed and squeezed so that they could be projected in black and white."—[Official Report, 25 September 2003; c 2063.]

We have heard from Mr Raffan that the Liberal Democrats welcome the referendum, so we should hear whether his ministerial colleague agrees with him.

We have a clear and positive vision of the EU's future as a partnership of nation states that work together for their mutual benefit. That will be enhanced by Europe's expansion. Going ahead with the constitution would be to Europe's detriment.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing Scottish National Party 4:42, 21 April 2004

The debate has been interesting and I will take a general view of it. Many members welcome the opportunity to discuss issues European. It is sad that we do not have enough such debates in the parliamentary session. I have pleaded for that before. I echo Gordon Jackson's comments about having a minister who is directly responsible for Europe, because under our new procedures, we could occasionally put a minister on the spot on all matters European. There is not a single member who does not recognise the importance of European issues to our constituents' lives. European issues have a daily impact on them, so we should have more opportunities to discuss those matters.

I say to the small band of people in our press gallery that I wish that we had sensible media coverage on all European issues. I have just returned from a session in Ireland of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, on which I and other members represent this Parliament. Irish newspapers each contain about three pages of positive reportage about what is happening in European institutions. That is not all uncritical, but it gives the public an opportunity to understand how Europe works. RTÉ presents a different version of Europe from that which we see back here.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Did that reporting play a part in the initial rejection by the Irish of the Treaty of Nice?

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing Scottish National Party

We discussed that treaty and its rejection and the implications of a variety of matters, such as EU enlargement. The Irish had the opportunity to have a referendum. My colleague Nicola Sturgeon has lodged a member's bill on a referendum about the constitution and I hope that the Conservatives will support that.

For the interest of Michael Pringle, who complained about not meeting the British ambassador when he was in Warsaw, I say that on our next trip with a committee of the BIIPB to discuss a common European defence policy, one of the first places that we will visit is Warsaw, for obvious reasons. The British ambassador has agreed to give us dinner on a Sunday night—I suspect that that might be because a few Westminster members are on the delegation.

In the debate, we have heard that there are issues that must be addressed as we consider European enlargement, but addressing issues should not lead to opposition to enlargement. The Scottish Parliament and the nation must have the confidence to consider the challenges. That there will an enlarged Europe is great.

Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP

We have heard much about the economy, jobs, manufacturing and enterprise. As we have heard nothing about human rights, what is the lowest level of democracy in the accession states that the member would accept?

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing Scottish National Party

The abuse of human rights in Turkey provides an example and I am glad that that country is now further down the line. A great deal of work has been done in other areas to try to ensure that human rights standards that we would like are reached.

One problem that we have with debates in the Scottish Parliament is the lack of power that resides in the Executive. It is almost as though there is a magnetic compass pointing to London. Instead of looking across the border, we should look outwards across Europe and out into the world. A professor of European studies in Poland has said that Scotland suffers from a visibility problem in Europe, which is interesting, but he has also said:

"I can easily imagine a Scottish candidate for the office of EU president getting massive support in Polish society and in many other countries".

I am conscious of the time, but I want to say in closing that, despite Margo MacDonald's acerbic opening comments, we will support her amendment. The Scottish Executive must take the bull by the horns and produce the kind of studies that have been carried out in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales. It has not tackled that matter at all and that is a great difficulty for us.

On the constitutional referendum, in case I was the only person who watched Prime Minister's question time at lunch time, I must say that he made it clear that the referendum will relate not to the question of being in or out of Europe but to the constitution itself.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 4:47, 21 April 2004

I do not know whether I am allowed to do this, but I would like to welcome back among us my friend and colleague Ross Finnie. [ Applause. ] I knew how much he appreciated being back when I saw the look on his face at the group meeting last night.

The debate has been good. I thank the convener of the European and External Relations Committee for that and for the motion that he lodged on behalf of the committee. I agree with Richard Lochhead's general analysis of the momentous nature of enlargement and what it means for the European Union. Most—indeed, in fairness, all—members welcomed enlargement, but Mr MacAskill's speech was the most persuasive and perceptive on the matter. I agreed with practically every word that he said and hope that he can convince his colleagues to see sense on such issues and to progress such an approach, because the issues will be important over the coming year. Those of us who believe strongly in these matters will have to say such things loudly.

Gordon Jackson also made a telling contribution in questioning this country's role. I bring to his attention the late Hugo Young's "This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair"—I am sure that he has read it—which has an interesting political and historical analysis of Britain's relationship with Europe. Gordon Jackson was absolutely right in what he said about the desire to avoid Europe becoming the political football that it has often been. He will also be aware that the Executive has brought forward a European strategy. Andy Kerr, of course, appeared before the committee to discuss and debate such issues with members.

On what Margaret Ewing said about more European debates, I suspect that we will have more of them over the coming year simply because of the nature of the political times in this country. I slightly disagree with what she said about the press. In fairness, the Sunday Herald and others do a reasonable job in presenting the objective arguments about Europe. Perhaps what we on this side of the argument should worry about is the strength of the extreme right-wing press, which does no good at all and does not provide a balanced debate.

I will deal briefly with Margo MacDonald's amendment, which I suggest may be unnecessary. I am not convinced that producing a formal impact assessment at one fixed point in time would be the best way in which to move forward, not least because Scottish ministers mainstream European activity across all our portfolios in the Scottish Executive. Indeed, every minister is responsible for a forward look at the incoming European Union presidency. That gives an immense focus for each minister and allows them to concentrate on these matters in his or her portfolio. Therefore, I suggest that one snapshot in time would simply be unnecessary. On the basis of that assurance, I hope that Margo MacDonald will consider withdrawing her amendment.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I will press my amendment, which I believe would provide a more constructive approach to the next 18 months' activity on the European political front. I never suggested that we should have one snapshot in time. We should have a process, for which the Executive should take responsibility.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I hear what Margo MacDonald says, but I simply repeat that the process that she seeks is exactly what we are doing. Given the forward looks that we carry out, the fact that Andy Kerr and other ministers appear before the European and External Relations Committee to give evidence on all those issues and the fact that the Parliament engages with the ambassadors of the incoming European Union presidencies, the issues that Margo MacDonald highlighted are very much being taken forward.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I must make progress, but I will come to Mr Gallie in a minute.

Keith Raffan, Richard Lochhead and others highlighted the need to raise awareness. The Executive very much takes the point that ministers can play a role in doing that through trade missions. In some senses, it would be highly desirable if we could be involved in more of those, but Keith Raffan will appreciate that the tightness of parliamentary business at the moment creates some limitations.

I agree with Richard Lochhead's comments about the good will in Europe towards Scotland, especially in the accession countries. That is an eminently fair point. We will continue to try to build on that.

As Mike Watson rightly pointed out, the European Union is about compromise and building alliances. That is why the Scottish Parliament and devolved Government support and invest in Scotland House and try to use all the advantages that that brings. That is also why Parliament and ministers engage actively with visiting Europeans and pursue a Scottish agenda across Europe. Because British Eurosceptics oppose all that compromise, they have no one with whom they can build alliances. No other major political party in Europe—except Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front—supports the Tory position that Europe should not have any constitution. The Tory policy represents withdrawal from the European Union through the back door.

It was very polite of Mr Gallie to pre-release his speech, which I was able to read a couple of hours ago. That was very decent of him. Unfortunately, he is just wrong. For the avoidance of doubt, let me quote my own words from 25 September, which he was so keen to use:

"I have no difficulty with holding a referendum on the treaty. However, this is not the place in which to debate such matters, as they will be decided at Westminster."—[Official Report, 25 September 2003; c 2043.]

That is what I said. Perhaps Mr Gallie should accept that for what it is worth.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

No, I want to continue my point. Mr Gallie mentioned Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher. Some of us remember Teresa Gorman, Bill Cash and Phil Gallie. Therefore, let us have no lectures from the Tories on that matter.

Jamie McGrigor was just wrong on the growth and stability pact. As I am sure he is aware, the French and Germans have made their position on the growth and stability pact abundantly clear. How the pact is reformed and changed will have implications for the accession countries as they move forward.

This is an important time for Europe as we move towards enlargement. It is a matter of astonishment to me that right-wing Conservatives and their media backers foam at the mouth at European co-operation on all fronts. When the UK is an engaged partner in Europe, our work in building economic cohesion and civilised, civic and political values is seen as a betrayal of national sovereignty. By contrast, signing up to an American foreign policy into which we have no direct input and that not only lacks popular support among the British electorate but serves an agenda that is at odds with Europe is hailed as an act of patriotism. The Scottish writer Iain Banks summed it up:

"Last time I checked I did have an MEP to whom I could complain about any abuses within the European system, and who I could, along with my fellow voters, remove from office: I am yet to be informed of the identity of my Congressional representative."

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour 4:55, 21 April 2004

I am very happy to sum up on behalf of the European and External Relations Committee. If time permits, I will throw in a few personal observations.

As a number of members have stated, the enlargement of the European Union in a few days' time will herald the beginning of an era and will help to spread peace, democracy, the rule of law and the common rules of Europe. Sadly, as we all know, for decades many of the countries that are joining the EU lived under the yoke of dictatorship. Their inclusion in the wider European family is certainly welcome. In welcoming those countries, we should recognise the courage of their Governments, many of which have had to reform their economies and politics. Now membership of the world's strongest political union and greatest economic market is within touching distance—a matter of days away. That is why I agree so readily with the words yesterday of the Prime Minister, during a statement in which Government policy was slightly realigned. In his excellent speech, he rightly said that Britain should be at the heart of that great market and political union. I do not want to upset any of my colleagues on the committee, but I believe that if Britain is at the heart of Europe the same is necessarily true of Scotland.

I turn to some of the specific points that colleagues have made. I begin with the committee convener, Richard Lochhead. One fact that he cited was the addition of 100 million new citizens to the EU. Obviously, that is welcome, but contrasting the figure of 100 million with a rise in GDP of only 4 per cent helps to crystallise and focus the challenge that the EU and the accession countries will face in the years to come. He was right to mention the age-old historic links between Scotland and the Baltic states, which continue to flourish. However, he failed to mention the links with one Baltic state of one of his colleagues, Kenny MacAskill, who managed to marry his love for football and his love for beer to establish a business opportunity in, I think, the city of Tallinn—I am open to correction about that. Unusually, I agreed with the thrust of Kenny MacAskill's speech, which was uncharacteristically statesmanlike and was almost as welcome as the enlargement of the European Union.

A number of smaller but important issues were raised. One was the development of air links between Scotland and the accession countries. All parties can work together to support the development of such links. The exception, I am sure, is the Scottish Green Party, which would have us back using Viking longships. That might be good for Tavish Scott's constituency, but it would do nothing for the future prospects of Scotland's economy and for cultural links with our European cousins. The development of reliable, cheap, safe air travel must be encouraged. There are already examples of that in Scotland. One need only look at what has happened in recent years in the Western Isles and at Inverness airport. There are now links between the Highlands and Islands and some EU countries.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

As spokesman for the European and External Relations Committee, Alasdair Morrison will accept that there seems to be great unity in the chamber about enlargement. Will he urge his ministerial colleagues to accept Margo MacDonald's amendment, which would not detract from efforts that they are already making and which I acknowledge, but would consolidate the feeling of unity in the chamber and the celebratory motion that we are debating?

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

The committee's motion recognises all the issues that have been raised. It was refreshing, if not alarming, to hear Phil Gallie—the new European—embracing the new Europe. He was right to mention the hope and potential prosperity following enlargement. His speech was a marked and significant improvement on his position in recent times. Obviously, as fellow members of the European and External Relations Committee, we are having a positive effect on his mindset and on the views that he expresses in the chamber.

A number of members mentioned the excellent work that our universities and development agencies are doing throughout the European Union, which we should recognise. In some quarters, there is an obsession with the development of bricks and mortar and with opening offices in various accession countries. It is far more important that we deploy and execute properly strategies to take advantage of the opportunities that enlargement will provide.

I turn to comments that other colleagues made. Mike Watson highlighted the cordial links that exist, which I mentioned also, and noted the success of Scotland Europa in the accession countries. Margaret Ewing has mentioned consistently the obvious lack of comprehensive newspaper coverage of European matters, which she was right to mention again today. Gordon Jackson was correct to highlight our deficiency in Scotland and the UK in appreciating the benefits of being European. I am sure that his suggestion that the Executive refine the way that it engages with Europe will be considered in due course as enlargement beds down.

I think that Jamie McGrigor was the only Conservative member who engaged in scaremongering and the perpetuation of myths in relation to the new treaty. Mr McGrigor should appreciate that the treaty is designed to meet the challenge of enlargement and to bring together in one treaty what is presently found in two treaties. The new treaty will allow for the first time national Parliaments to object to the Commission's proposals.

Finally, I refer to the warm and cuddly words of Nicola Sturgeon, who presented herself today as pro-European. However, what she said came over as empty rhetoric—how can she reconcile her warm words with her leader's exhortation that Scottish fishermen should go out and break the law? How does she reconcile her party's alleged pro-Europe stance with the great deceit that she and many others in the party perpetuate—

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. It was my understanding that Mr Morrison was called to respond on behalf of the European and External Relations Committee.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Yes. You should draw your remarks to a conclusion, Mr Morrison.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I will draw my remarks to a conclusion. I am indeed responding on behalf of the committee to comments uttered in the chamber. The perpetuation of the myth that Scotland or the UK could withdraw from the common fisheries policy is a great deceit. With those positive words, I urge everyone to support the committee's motion.