Scotland’s European and International Policies: Time for a Strategic Approach – New Policy Paper

26 June 2019
Policy paper from the Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER) by Dr Kirsty Hughes
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The Scottish Centre on European Relations today publishes a new policy paper: Scotland’s European and International Policies: Time for a Strategic Approach. The paper is authored by Dr Kirsty Hughes, Director of SCER. It considers Scotland’s European interests and policy approaches and how Scotland could build a more strategic European and international policy. It argues that while the Scottish government has a Brexit strategy – a much clearer one than the current UK government – it lacks a genuine European strategy or fully-fledged wider international strategy. The paper sets out seven priorities for a Scottish European strategy.

Dr Kirsty Hughes said:

“EU member states are busy setting out what they want the EU to do in the next five years but so far no such strategic statement of interests is currently on offer from the Scottish government. Yet Brexit or not, where the EU goes next, with what priorities and goals is of fundamental importance to Scotland (and indeed to the UK). Scotland should have a comprehensive European strategy and put that at the heart of its international strategy.”

The proposed 7 priorities are:

  • Tackling climate change, committing to an early net-zero target
  • Protecting human rights, including social and economic rights
  • Tackling challenges to democracy within the EU and defending the rule of law, promoting solidarity within the EU
  • A green new deal strategy for the EU that brings together economics, trade and competitiveness policies with climate change, development, inequality and inclusion goals. Rethinking industrial strategy for the 21st century (including AI, digital)
  • Developing a fair, more open EU migration policy
  • A global EU that is promoting and defending multilateralism, fulfilling its SDG goals, strengthening its neighbourhood policy, and ensuring its security (including cyber security challenges)
  • An economic policy that drives sustainable, fair and inclusive growth

The paper proposes the Scottish government should identify where its detailed policy interests are shared across the EU, audit its bilateral relations with key member states, and consider initiating citizens dialogues and a citizens’ assembly on Europe, and establish an independent expert commission on Scotland and Europe.

The paper acknowledges that there are significant constraints for Scotland in terms of devolved powers, and the reserved nature of foreign policy. But at the same time there is considerable scope for smaller states and regions, given the nature of today’s internationalised world, to engage across multiple dimensions and issues.


Dr Kirsty Hughes · Director, Scottish Centre on European Relations
Contact Dr Hughes by email

The Scottish Centre on European Relations is an independent EU think tank based in Edinburgh.