Despatches from the European front line…Edinburgh


Russell Bruce brings you the European news you may have missed

The European Union is 60, but perhaps you missed it. Meanwhile in other news…

Understandably weekend overage and analysis of the dreadful events on Westminster Bridge and Parliament continued to dominate weekend news coverage.

Perhaps as the UK is leaving the EU there seemed little point in covering the celebrations as the other 27 members got together to mark this milestone. Still it seems a little churlish to overlook the event when the UK has been a part of the EU for 40 years and will remain so, for perhaps as long as, another 2 years.

Andrew Marr did put Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer under a bit of pressure on his proposed “six tough conditions for a final Brexit deal” with Starmer insisting “we need a strong collaborative partnership with EU.”  Labour actually putting the May government under pressure – that would be a news story. Elsewhere it was about continuing implosions in UKIP and, as Marr remarked dryly, “that isn’t a news story”.

Back in the real world, on Friday in the City Chambers in Edinburgh, First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon signed a joint declaration pledging enhanced economic co-operation with Bavaria.

Scottish Ministers have been busy talking to governments throughout Europe. Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse visited Bavaria in October last year. On Friday, the First Minister signed the joint declaration with the Deputy Minister-President of Bavaria, Ilse Aigner, in Edinburgh (see main picture).

Keir Starmer

The event was part of a Bavarian Return Mission to Scotland following the mission last year led by Paul Wheelhouse. The agreement builds on existing relationships between Scotland and Bavaria and aims to support further co-operation on business, enterprise, innovation and research projects.

The First Minister said: “I am delighted to be strengthening our partnership with Bavaria by signing this joint declaration and I hope it will lead to many mutually beneficial projects.

“Scotland has a strong relationship with Germany and is committed to further enhancing our cultural, economic and political links. The implications of Brexit mean it is more important than ever that we maintain productive relationships with our European partners.”

Deputy Minister-President Aigner said: “Scotland and Bavaria have fostered friendly and good relations for many years. Today we are adding a more economic driven component to our cooperation. We give business relations, innovation, research and investment opportunities a new momentum. Scotland and Bavaria have much in common. And together we are heading towards a bright future.”

Going Stateside

Next month Nicola Sturgeon will be taking the message that Scotland is open for business to the US when she will visit California and New York to promote the skills and expertise of Scotland to the North American business community.

The visit will focus on promoting trade and investment between the two countries, boosting tourism, sharing best practice across the public and private sector and promoting Scottish innovation and entrepreneurship.

The First Minister will also speak at Stanford University on Scotland’s place in the world and at the UN on the Scottish Government’s programme of work supporting women from areas of conflict in participating in peace building activities.

The US accounts for 36 per cent of inward investment projects to Scotland and is our second largest export partner – worth £4.56 billion a year. Confirming the visit – which takes place during Scotland Week in the US, the First Minister said: “Scotland has a longstanding relationship with the United States which spans family, friendship and business and this government is committed to continuing to strengthen these ties.

“We have a strong record in attracting international investment and Scotland continues to be the top destination in the UK for foreign direct investment outside of London. We have also seen a steady rise in visitors from North America to Scotland in recent years and a growing interest from the US market in Scottish products.

“There are huge opportunities for Scottish business in the USA particularly in technology and tourism, two areas which will be at the centre of this visit.

“Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU and the UK Government’s decision to leave the single market, I want to reassure investors and visitors from the United States that Scotland is an outward looking, welcoming country and remains open for business.”

May wrong-footed by Sturgeon

In other news, Mrs. May, clearly wrong-footed by Sturgeon over the second independence referendum, is paying us another visit. The purpose – to demonstrate yet again, that she has not been listening to Scotland, has no plans to listen to Scotland but has decided we need another dose of being talked to.

The Observer ran an editorial, well worth reading, showing Mrs May would be better employed attending to the day job.

EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier warns transparency will be at the core of the negotiations ensuring all 27 nation members, plus the UK know how things are progressing, heaping more pressure on May who is not an enthusiast of transparency.

Hurricane Energy has just released new data on their Lancaster and Halifax fields west of Shetland. Further assessment is required before the fields come on stream, possibly as early as 2019. Hurricane has found willing investors with exploration work being heavily over subscribed at a time when oil and gas exploration investment has been heavily scaled back. The FT reports that the success of the fields drilled so far could be the “biggest new oil discovery beneath UK waters this century.”

Finally the Sunday Herald reported European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee has published research saying “there was enough ‘constitutional flexibility’ for Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the EU ahead of independence referendums being held.”

Day job Mrs May! Brexit is running away from you – and you did so want to make a success of it.