European Council

Europe, External Affairs and Culture – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 21st June 2007.

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Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 21st June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government in advance of the European Council meeting in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2007. (S3O-286)

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I confirm that the Scottish Government has been in discussion with the UK Government in advance of the European Council meeting of 21 and 22 June. Indeed, I represented the Scottish Government at the meeting of the joint ministerial committee on the European Union on 5 June, which was attended by UK Government ministers and ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I am sure that the minister will agree that one of the key issues that is to be debated at that European Council meeting and the subsequent intergovernmental conference is the draft reform treaty, which will introduce some of the important institutional reforms that were to be part of the European constitution before it fell by the wayside. Does the minister agree that it is vital for Scotland that some of those reforms take place, so that we have a European Union that operates on the basis of conferral and acts only when it has specific powers to do so; that subsidiarity is a key part of the European Union; that it should operate only within those competencies—

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I am asking whether the minister agrees with these points.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

You could still make it a brief question, Mr Smith.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

Does the minister agree that one of the key aspects of the EU constitution that has been lost is the draft protocol on subsidiarity, which recognised the role of sub-national parliaments such as the Scottish Parliament?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I do not have time to address all the issues that Mr Smith raised. I hope that when I meet the European and External Relations Committee, of which he is a member, we will be able to discuss the issues further.

We can properly answer questions regarding what is happening with the constitution only when there is a text to refer to. We must wait and see how the German presidency proposes to take the issue forward, which I presume will be through the intergovernmental conference that Mr Smith mentioned. We are keen to see subsidiarity working properly, including within the UK. I encourage the Parliament to press the Westminster Parliament to share information fully in that regard. Members will have heard the First Minister talk earlier about the extension of EU competencies, particularly in the area of justice and home affairs. We will watch that closely, and we expect co-operation from the Westminster Government on that to ensure that Scotland's interests are taken fully into account.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I ask the minister whether the issue of energy appears anywhere in the draft treaty that is being prepared. If it does appear, will she promise the chamber that she will vote against any European competency over energy policy? Will she undertake to find out the will of the Parliament before she enters further discussions?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

An SNP Government will always put the interests of Scotland first, and an SNP Government will always take into account the views of the Parliament on such issues, through its committees and plenary chamber.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

Given her party leader's well-known obsession with referenda, can the minister tell us whether the SNP has any plans for a referendum in Scotland to oppose any deal that the Prime Minister signs up to at the European Council if it breaches what the First Minister earlier referred to as his "red-line issues"?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

As I said, we can comment properly on such issues only when there is a text to comment on. However, it is clear from SNP policy that we will support referenda on constitutional issues. I am afraid that until we see the results of the current discussions and the intergovernmental conference that is likely to follow, we will not know whether there will be any constitutional reforms that require referenda.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

On treaty reform, can the minister advise us whether withdrawal of the common fisheries policy will be a red-line issue for the SNP, as it has indicated in the past? Can she assure the Parliament that the 250,000 Scottish manufacturing jobs that depend on exports to Europe will not be put at risk by anything that her party does in relation to red-line issues?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

We have always been clear about the importance of fisheries to Scotland and the Scottish economy. Indeed, fisheries was a red-line issue during the most recent discussions. We do not yet know what will come out of the European Council meeting, but I assure the member that we will always put first the interests of Scotland, her fishermen and her fisheries.