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SNP President Ian Hudghton MEP has published figures which show that Scottish Executive ministers have failed during the year 2006 to represent Scotland at key EU Council meetings. Official EU reports of Council meetings show that, during the course of the year, Scottish ministers have been recorded as being part of the official UK delegation on only six out of a possible 75 occasions.
The figures also show that on none of the six occasions was the Scottish minister permitted to lead the UK delegation to the Council. Scottish ministers have been allowed to lead UK delegations on only three occasions since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament - but never since Jack McConnell became First Minister. Commenting on the report, Mr Hudghton said:
"Our neighbours in small successful countries such as Ireland and Denmark attend every EU Council meeting as of right and, ideally, Scotland should too. However the figures show that, even within the current system, Scottish ministers are totally failing to stand up for Scotland.
"Scottish ministers can be permitted to attend Council meetings as official UK delegates if they ask to do so. The fact is that this year they have only chosen to do so on a half-dozen occasions.
"In a number of key devolved areas, such as health, transport and social policy Executive ministers have completely failed to show up. These are all areas which fall within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. They are all areas which have to be administered by the Scottish Executive. Yet Jack McConnell seems content to let London call the shots.
Commenting on the failure of Scottish ministers to lead the UK delegation at any of the Council meetings they did attend, Mr Hudghton added:
"Jack McConnell also seems content for London ministers to lead the UK delegation at all times. Under both Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish, Scottish ministers were occasionally given a voice. However, since Mr McConnell took office the Scottish role has been strictly backseat.
"The EU takes key decisions which impact on the lives of everyone in Scotland. It's simply not good enough for us to have the occasional ministerial trip to Brussels for Scottish ministers to sip coffee in the Executive's offices or carry bags for their London bosses. Scotland needs a seat at the top table every time. Only with Independence can a top table seat be guaranteed"
All figures are compiled from the EU's official lists of participants at Council meetings available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/cms3_fo/showPage.asp?id=348&lang=EN&mode=g
Council meetings are held under nine broad subject areas (General Affairs and External Relations; Economic and Financial Affairs; Employment, Health, Social Policy and Consumer Affairs; Justice and Home Affairs; Competitiveness; Transport, Telecommunications and Energy; Agriculture and Fisheries; Environment; and Education, Youth and Culture).
Out of a total of 75 Council meetings during 2006, Scottish ministers are recorded as having attended the following Council meetings: Justice and Home Affairs (one out of six meetings), Agriculture and Fisheries (two out of eleven), Environment (two out of four) and Education, Youth and Culture (one out of three)
Accordingly, Scottish ministers have failed to be official participants at any of the Council meetings dealing with the other subject areas. These areas cover key responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament including health, social policy, transport and public services.
Scottish Executive ministers were allowed to lead the UK delegations to Council once in 2000 and twice in 2001. This practice has not continued since Jack McConnell took office in November 2001.