European Commission (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 19 June 2013.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government when it will next meet the European Commission and what matters will be discussed. (S4O-02278)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The Government has regular contact with the Commission and other member states concerning a range of issues in order to govern in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, attended the environment council yesterday, and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, is meeting Commissioner Potocnik at the Royal Highland Show today. The meeting will cover a range of issues including common agricultural policy reform and biodiversity.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary will no doubt be aware of the multi-annual financial framework budget proposals that could see a huge cut to funding for broadband infrastructure across Europe. Could she indicate whether and how that might impact on the digital participation strategy in Scotland?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Obviously, the Scottish Government is disappointed by the cuts to the connecting Europe facility that arose from the negotiations on the multi-annual financial framework. The funding was cut from £9.2 billion to £1 billion. We think that that will make the fulfilment of our world-class 2020 digital connectivity ambitions more challenging, but we will persist in our digital participation agenda.

The member might be pleased to know that the most recent Office of Communications report shows a 7 per cent increase in broadband take-up, which brings Scotland into line with the situation in Wales and Northern Ireland. There is clearly some way to go on that, but we will persist with the digital agenda, not least with regard to connectivity but also with regard to participation. We will ensure that we use every avenue to take that forward, when we can.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

The cabinet secretary’s colleague, Humza Yousaf, who is sitting beside her, recently got into hot water in Qatar by patently misrepresenting the United Kingdom Government’s position on European Union membership. At any meeting with the European Commission, will the cabinet secretary undertake to ensure that that gaffe is not repeated and that, instead, attention is focused on obtaining answers to the many challenging and unresolved questions that are posed by her Government’s policy on independence?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

When I travel internationally, one of the most challenging questions that I am asked involves people’s concerns about what the future will hold under the union and whether there will be a future for the UK as part of the EU. Those concerns have arisen not as a result of anything that this Government has said; they have arisen precisely as a result of the points that have been made by two senior UK cabinet ministers.

If we want Scotland to have a secure future—if we want jobs to be protected and our key sectors to be promoted across Europe—it is absolutely essential that we are positive contributors to the European Union. I do not think that the current position that some members of the UK Government are taking is helping that in any way.