"Scottish Executive Bag-Carriers" Snub

Scottish Executive ministers were today labelled "bagcarriers" by Brian Adam MSP after a parliamentary written answer revealed that they are no longer being allowed to lead UK delegations to European Council meetings.

The answer shows that Scottish minsters have not led for the UK since Jack McConnell took office - despite decisions being taken at certain Councils primarily of importance to Scotland. SNP President Ian Hudghton MEP added to Mr Adam's comments, noting the apparent change in UK policy and contrasting it with the situation elsewhere in the EU.

Mr Adam commented:

"The effective ban on Scottish ministers from leading the UK delegation in Europe marks a shift in policy from what had gone on previously. Prior to Jack McConnell taking office, Scottish ministers had been allowed to sit at the top table - albeit on a limited number of occasions. Since then there has been nothing.

"This change in policy amounts to a down-grading of the Scottish Executive to mere bag-carriers. The European Council takes decisions of vital importance to Scotland and often the Scottish minister would be best placed to lead.

"Scotland was allowed to lead for the UK under Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish. It is unacceptable that Jack McConnell seems happy to see his minsters relegated to a more minor role."

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Hudghton added:

"Scottish ministers were allowed to sit at the top table in the past so there's no reason that they can't do so again. A similar situation is the norm elsewhere in Europe - for example, the Flemish government always leads for Belgium in fisheries talks. Alternatively, at meetings involving cultural issues, Flemish and French speaking minsters take turns at representing the country.

"The optimum solution would be for Scotland to sit at the top table as of right at every meeting. However Jack McConnell doesn't even seem to want the occasional shot at the reins."Scotland desperately needs stronger presence at Europe's key meetings. Jack McConnell should stand up to his London bosses and demand that Scottish ministers once again be given a voice in
Europe".

Notes:

Parliamentary answer S2W-23043 shows that Scottish Executive ministers led the UK delegations to EU councils on three occasions. Nicol Stephen attended the Education Council of 8 June 2000 and the Employment and Youth Council of 12 February 2001.

Susan Deacon attended the Health Council of 5 June 2001.

There have been no occasions of Scottish ministers leading the UK delegation since Jack McConnell became First Minister in November 2001.

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