Scotland’s Place in Europe, what now?

Ignored and sidelined: Scotland’s position on a differentiated solution

“ The things we stand to lose though leaving the EU membership and the Single Market are all things that we value and we do not want to lose them, so we will look very carefully at all the options presented in order to keep as many of the benefits of EU membership as we can.”

This was the general response to our questions last January. 

Article 50 has been triggered and the UK Government is still ignoring the statements in the Scottish Government’s paper three months after its publication.

Michael Russell’s demand to have Scotland’s proposals for a differentiated solution included in the letter sent to Donald Tusk was equally ignored.

Devolved matters now under threat

The report by the Commons Committee  on Exiting the EU  concluded that the Prime Minister will attempt to use Brexit to rewrite the devolution settlement and reserve the power to legislate in future on Scottish agriculture payments, fisheries quota and renewable energy targets.

The Scottish Government’s responses to the S.I.F. ‘s  questions are therefore now rendered utterly meaningless.

Will the devolved legislatures’ views be considered ?

The  Commons Committee  on Exiting the EU recommended that the views of the Weslh, Scottish and Norther Irish Legislatures regarding their option papers should be considered as a matter of urgency.

Considering that the White Paper for the Great Repeal Bill wants to bring back all the powers vested in the EU to Westminster,  to ensure the effective functioning of the UK Single market, its effect will be to breach the founding  principles of devolution of the 1998 Scotland Act.

It thus looks increasingly unlikely that the devolved legislatures’ views will be considered to the extent wished by the Scottish Government in any case.

The Scottish government will be unlikely to  be in a position to negociate or protect the islands’ interests as it stated it would.

Island Farming and crofting, Environment, Renewable Energy,  EU cooperation?

 It is very hard to see how the Scottish Government  will now be able to negotiate with the UK Government to ensure that future financial support for initiatives that currently receive European funds is allocated on a fair and equitable basis across the UK. Looking for  more devolved powers to come to Scotland is going to be very  difficult if not impossible.

Independence? The only way forward to safeguard the Scottish islands’ economic well-being

S.I.F.’ will continue their dialogue with Michael Russell MSP  and his team  as the Brexit negotiations unfold.

But since it is very unlikely that the UK government will change its position, it does increasingly appear that the only way forward to safeguard the islands’ economy and realise their renewable energy potential is to pursue independence and stay withing the EU.



Launch of the Smart Islands Initiative

Launch of the Smart Islands Initiative at the EU parliament on 28 March 2017

Following on from our work in Project SMILEGOV,  the Smart Island Initiative brought together the aspirations of EU islands, small and large to decarbonise their economies and lead in the field of renewable technologies as well as sustainable economic development.

On 28 March 2017, The “Smart Islands Event: Creating New Pathways for EU islands” gathered in Brussels over 100 European island representatives, stakeholders and policy-makers to officially present Smart Islands Initiative, one that sheds light on the potential of islands to emerge as ideal territories for the deployment of innovative technologies in the fields of energy, transport & mobility, water & waste management and ICT.

The event was co-hosted and warmly supported by a group of 11 MEPs from Member States with islands, led by MEP Eva Kaili. Mrs Kaili also expressed her intention to table, in the coming months, a Motion for Resolution so that the Smart Islands Declaration is formally endorsed by the European Parliament.

The Smart Islands Initiative is supported in Scotland by the Scottish Islands Federation, Shetland Islands Council, Highland Council Argyll and Bute Council and North Ayrshire Council. During the event 36 island representatives from Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK ( Scotland as well as the Scilly isles)  signed the Smart Islands Declaration, cornerstone document of the Smart Islands Initiative at the EU parliament on 28  March 2017.

signing the Smart Islands declaration at the EU parliament

How to boost local island sustainable development

Two round-tables discussions, composed of experts from the European CommissionThe European Investment BankEESC – European Economic and Social CommitteeEuropean Committee of the RegionsCPMR – Conference of peripheral maritime regionsFedareneTipperary Energy AgencyEurelectric, @HEDNO – Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator, Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias, S.A.Samsø EnergiakademiLloyd’s Register, and 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU provided useful insights on islands’ intrinsic characteristics, as much as on the smart technologies, financing instruments and policies available which, if properly combined, can boost local sustainable development on islands.

In the first round-table, distinguished speakers shared their thoughts and experiences regarding the different smart technologies that are available and the processes that need to be in place to help lands transition in a sustainable and innovative era!

The second round table discussed the necessary interventions at regulatory level but also the governance schemes and financial tools that need to be activated helping islands unleash their potential to develop in a sustainable and inclusive way.

Revealing of the on-going work to bring islands on top of the EU policy agenda was the reference by Clive Gerada, Chair of the Energy Working Party of the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, on the Political Declaration on Islands to be signed during the Informal Meeting of Energy Ministers on 18 May in Valetta.

Important milestone

The concluding remarks  before the signing ceremony were made by European Commission Director-General for Energy Dominique Ristori who  praised the Smart Islands Initiative as a truly meaningful vehicle helping islands become pioneers of the clean energy transition!

Mr Ristori pointed to the immense potential of islands to host innovative projects that can have a positive impact on local economies, all while helping Europe meet the goals it has set in a number of key policy areas, including climate, energy, transport and mobility both at home and globally COP21.

The Smart Islands Event marks an important milestone on islands’ pathway to becoming smart, inclusive and thriving societies, contributing to an innovative and sustainable Europe.

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