Reaching out to Europe

Our latest webinar, on extending Scotland’s links with Europe, heard a rich variety of suggestions for how Scots could and should reach out to our fellow Europeans in the months and years ahead en route to (ere)joining the EU as part of the UK or as an independent member state.

Suggestions from our special guests Sir Graham Watson and Prof Stephen Gethins ranged from applying to join the Nordic Council to perhaps Efta and the European Economic Area as a sub-state to building up the network of Scottish Government “hubs” in EU capitals and retaining close links with exchange programmes such as Erasmus-Plus and research schemes such as Horizon Europe.

Sir Graham, ex-Liberal Democrat for South-west England but born in Rothesay and living in Edinburgh, urged the Scottish Government (and EMiS and others) to adopt a strategy of “promoting Scotland in Europe and Europe in Scotland”. He also called on Scottish ministers to engage in what he called “para-diplomacy” with Brussels and other EU capitals – and to prepare the under-performing Scottish economy for membership.

The former leader of the Liberal (ALDE) group in the European Parliament also proposed that Scotland set up new “hubs” in capitals such as Bratislava, Copenhagen and Helsinki alongside those now up and running in Berlin, Paris and Dublin. There is already an active Scotland House in Brussels, on the Rondpoint Schuman, close to the Commission.

Former SNP MP and Europe spokesman in the Commons, Prof Stephen Gethins, who chairs the new #me+eu campaign, urged business, universities and local authorities to invest in Scotland House, the Scottish Government centre in Brussels, and in wider links with the EU and Europe. This includes working with the Scottish diaspora overseas and, equally, say, the Polish diaspora in Scotland.

He wants us all to make the case for Scottish EU membership while being “generous in spirit” towards neighbours in England and Wales. Both favour strong links with Ireland above all while Sir Graham floated the idea of a Scottish “Königswinter” – the annual two-day conference of British and German “luminaries” held either in the village onn the opposite side of the Rhine from Bonn or in, say, Oxford.

Sir Graham also said that Brexit would likely lead to the break-up of the UK and Scotland joining the EU as an independent member state.

He declared: “I see no reason to fear that provided Scotland is prepared for it.” But, he warned, “I see precious little of that preparation going on, sadly” and accused the Scottish Government of “dither and drift.”

EMiS, meanwhile, is engaged in active talks with the European Movement International in expanding relations and our presence in Brussels and other EU capitals.