Launch of SCER: A New Scottish EU Think Tank

22 March 2017

European Flags at the European Parliament, TPCOM, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

A new, independent and unaligned Scottish EU think tank launches today in Edinburgh. The Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER) aims to inform, debate, and provide up-to-the-minute, high-quality research and analysis of European Union developments and challenges. It will focus on pan-EU issues as well as having a particular focus on Scotland’s EU interests and policies.

SCER will provide in-depth, impartial research and analysis on Brexit – looking at EU27, UK and Scottish interests and debates. SCER will also carry out up-to-the minute policy research on a range of key European Union issues including the future of the EU at a time of multiple challenges; the migration and refugee crisis, and the EU’s turbulent neighbourhood.

Launch Publications and Website

SCER is pleased to announce five publications on its launch day – all available on its website:

SCER’s first policy note – The European Union at 60: Strategic Renewal or Adrift Amidst Multiple Crises? – is by SCER director Dr Kirsty Hughes. She argues that the EU is struggling to overcome its major current challenges due to lack of leadership, lack of solidarity and weak policy formation. She calls for a new set of ambitious strategies to drive green, sustainable growth, tackle youth unemployment, promote solidarity and for the EU27 to be more confident in developing policies towards the EU’s unstable neighbourhood.

SCER also publishes three comment pieces today by leading EU figures:

  • Brexit Talks Will Mean Hard Choices by Danuta Hübner MEP
    Danuta Hübner is Chair of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, which deals with Brexit, and is SCER Advisory Board Member. She argues that the UK cannot get a better deal than it already has as a full member of the EU, that there is no worse outcome from EU27-UK talks than no deal (ie a collapse of talks) and that Brexit talks cannot ignore the different political and public concerns in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
  • Brexit and Indyref 2 by Charlie Jeffery
    Charlie Jeffery, Professor of Politics at the University of Edinburgh, writes about how intertwined Brexit and independence debates have become, and how differently the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ sides are likely to frame their narratives in any future independence referendum. He suggests the ‘No’ side might be likely to come up with a new ‘Super-Vow’ while the ‘Yes’ side is likely to focus more on a narrative emphasising bringing decisions and control back to Scotland.
  • Lessons from CETA for a UK-EU Deal by David Martin MEP
    David Martin MEP, SCER Advisory Board Member, writes on what we can learn for the Brexit negotiations from the Canada-EU trade deal known as CETA. He argues that, while in theory the UK-EU talks should be smoother, as they start from a common regulatory position, the politics of Brexit and of trade talks are likely to intervene and make it a tricky process. Good will is at a premium – and any deal that appears too favourable to the EU could, he suggests, be vetoed by the European Parliament.
  • A Differentiated Approach for Scotland Makes Sense by Alyn Smith MEP
    Alyn Smith MEP, SCER Advisory Board Member, writes about the Scottish Government’s proposals for Scotland to stay in the EU’s single market, even while the UK looks set to leave it. He argues that even at this late stage such a differentiated approach could be the basis for compromise and could be included in the UK government’s Article 50 letter next week. He suggests that the call for a second independence referendum reflects a lack of willingness to compromise so far by the UK government.

Director, Chair and Board

The inaugural director of SCER is Dr Kirsty Hughes. Kirsty Hughes has an international reputation for her wide-ranging research work and publications on European affairs. She has worked in a number of leading European think tanks, including Chatham House, Friends of Europe and the Centre for European Policy Studies. Anthony Salamone is SCER’s first Research Fellow and adviser.

On SCER’s launch, Dr Kirsty Hughes said:

“I am delighted to be leading the Scottish Centre on European Relations from its launch. We want to contribute high-quality, in-depth analysis to the vital debates across Europe on our common future and how to address the many challenges facing today’s European Union.”

SCER’s inaugural chair is David Wilson, Executive Director of the International Public Policy Institute at the University of Strathclyde. SCER has a high-level advisory board drawn from key European figures concerned with EU politics and policy – including think tank directors, academics and former diplomats, and Members of the European Parliament (full list below).

David Wilson commented:

“The launch of the new Scottish Centre on European Relations could not come at a more important time – around the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and the triggering of Article 50. I am delighted to be the inaugural Chair of the Advisory Board, which draws together a wide range of expertise, experience and viewpoints on EU issues. Together with a growing network of contributors, the Centre will become a focal point for thinking on European issues in Scotland.”

Launch Reaction

Members of the Scottish Centre on European Relations Advisory Board gave the following reaction on the launch of SCER:

“With EU issues higher than ever on the Scottish agenda, SCER’s unbiased analysis will provide a much-needed focus for informed debate.”

John Kerr | Independent Member, House of Lords and Chairman, Centre for European Reform

“As the UK Government opens Brexit negotiations, now more than ever Scotland needs rigorous and creative thinking focused on its future relationship with the European Union. The launch of the Scottish Centre on European Relations will provide an engine for political, social and cultural ideas, analysis and debate within Scotland and with partners in Europe and beyond.”

Vanessa Glynn | Chair of the European Movement in Scotland

“The launch of a new think tank is to be welcomed, especially in a world where alternative facts have to be countered by sound analysis and open debate. For Scotland, in the midst of the Brexit process, it is crucially important to underpin public debate with EU expertise, regardless of Scotland’s future trajectory.”

Fabian Zuleeg | Chief Executive of the European Policy Centre

“In a new chapter for Scottish-European relations, it is absolutely essential that policymakers in Scotland and elsewhere get the best possible advice. The Scottish Centre on European Relations fills an important gap in the market. Brexit is uncharted territory for us all, and the many issues we face are going to need new thinking and innovative solutions. I for one still have faith in experts, and believe that we are going to need them more than ever in the coming months and years.”

David Martin MEP | MEP for Scotland

“The continued uncertainty surrounding the UK Brexit vote means Scotland is trying to navigate through uncharted waters. I absolutely welcome the establishment of the Scottish Centre on European Relations and, as an MEP for the past ten years, look forward to providing whatever assistance I can as a member of the Advisory Board.”

Alyn Smith MEP | MEP for Scotland

Advisory Board

  • David Wilson (Chair)
    Executive Director of the International Public Policy Institute, University of Strathclyde
  • Professor Christina Boswell FRSE
    Professor of Politics, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor David Bell FRSE
    Professor of Economics, University of Stirling
  • Vanessa Glynn
    Chair, European Movement in Scotland
  • David Gow
    Editor, Sceptical Scot and former European Business Editor, The Guardian
  • Professor Danuta Hübner MEP
    Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs
  • John Kerr
    Independent Member, House of Lords and Chairman, Centre for European Reform
  • Dr Barbara Lippert
    Director of Research, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin
  • Dr Tobias Lock
    Senior Lecturer in European Union Law and Co-Director of the Edinburgh Europa Institute, University of Edinburgh 
  • David Martin MEP
    Member of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee
  • Giles Merritt
    Founder and Chairman, Friends of Europe, Brussels
  • Professor Drew Scott FAcSS
    Professor of European Union Studies and Co-Director of the Edinburgh Europa Institute, University of Edinburgh
  • Alyn Smith MEP
    Member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Dr Fabian Zuleeg
    Chief Executive and Chief Economist, European Policy Centre, Brussels

The Scottish Centre on European Relations is a new independent and unaligned EU think tank, based in Edinburgh.