Scotland must have a role in future UK trade talks

The Scottish Government has published a new paper setting out why Scotland can, should and must have a role in future UK trade talks. Here’s what you need to know. 

We want Scotland to stay in the EU.

But if the UK is to leave the EU, we must protect jobs. Staying in the Single Market and Customs Union will protect up to 80,000 jobs in Scotland.

So far the UK government has rejected this approach – pursuing a bad deal and making a no deal more likely.

If this happens, the UK will be fully responsible for negotiating new trade deals.  

The current devolution settlement is not fit for these new circumstances, which are different from those considered by the Smith Commission in 2014.

It’s clear that Scotland’s needs and priorities are different to the rest of the UK – this must be taken into account in future trade deals. 

  • Fishing: 99 per cent of fresh Atlantic salmon exported from the UK is Scottish and 77 per cent of Scottish seafood exports in 2017 went to the EU.
  • Whisky: Beverages are the second top Scottish export to the EU – for the UK it’s only the 19th most important.
  • Cars: Road vehicles are the top UK export to the EU but rank 31st most important for Scotland.

Trade deals are also likely to cover policy areas controlled by the Scottish Parliament.

  • Scotland’s food brands
  • Food standards
  • Environmental standards
  • Public services like our NHS

Trade deals that do touch on devolved aspects must be agreed with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament.

We must be able to ensure that trade deals don’t lower our high food standards – potentially allowing chlorinated chicken imports – or open up our NHS to US healthcare providers. 

  • Devolved administrations should be included at an early stage – ensuring decisions are made as close to the people that will be affected.
  • Consent from both the UK Parliament and Scottish Parliament should be required for new trade deals, with sign-off from all countries of the UK.
  • A new Trade Committee should be set up where the UK and devolved governments can agree trade priorities and negotiating positions.

Other countries across the world already have better systems than the UK on trade.

  • Belgium: Representatives of national and devolved governments meet formally every month to agree a common position and mandate for trade negotiations. If agreements touch on devolved areas, regional parliaments must consent to them too.
  • Canada: Canadian provinces are responsible for things like health, education and agriculture. While not required to do so, the federal government always seeks information from provinces on regional interests before negotiating or ratifying agreements. A forum bringing together federal and provincial officials meets up to four times a year discuss trade issues.

Under the SNP exports from Scotland have increased by 44.7 per cent and we’ve taken action to boost exports further.

  • We have established a new Trade Board, drawing on the best business expertise.
  • We have set up a new network of trade envoys – asking prominent and successful Scottish entrepreneurs to help boost national export efforts.
  • We are doubling the number of Scottish Development International staff working in Europe to support investment and trade opportunities for Scotland.
  • We’re establishing an Investment Hub in Berlin and we’ll set one up in Paris too, adding to our existing Investment Hubs in Dublin, London and Brussels.

As well as ending the power grab on Scotland’s powers, Westminster must devolve further powers to ensure Scotland is protected from damaging trade deals.

  • Migration powers to attract the best to live, work and contribute to Scotland.
  • Representation overseas: The Scottish Government should be involved in setting priorities for UK embassies to ensure our interests are fully represented and promoted.
  • Unfair trading practices: Devolved governments should be represented on the new body that will monitor unfair trading practices in the UK after Brexit.

The Tory government has said that Scotland is an “equal partner” in the UK and that a future trade policy must be in the interests of all parts of the UK. It’s now time for them to deliver on this promise.