New Scottish EU thinktank launches to link nation with European affairs

Nathanael Williams

Scotland’s minds poise themselves for Brexit after forming a new independent thinktank

THE SCOTTISH CENTRE on European Relations (SCER), a new and unaligned Scottish EU thinktank has launched this week in Edinburgh.

Its aims will be to research, inform, debate, and provide up-to-the-minute, high-quality evidence and analysis of politics and developments across the European Union. At its launch yesterday (Wednesday 22 March) it was described by its founders as a vital tool in dealing with the challenges Scotland will face as it interacts with the rest of Europe following Brexit.

At it’s the founding the body already contains some of Scotland’s most prominent constitutional, economic, pan-European and political experts who are dedicated to non-partisan research and information on Europe. 

It follows a week which has seen the EU President Donald Tusk respond to the news that UK Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 by March 29, by calling for an emergency session of the remaining EU 27 member states on April 29 which will not include the UK.

SCER inaugural director, chair and board member Dr Kirsty Hughes said: “I am delighted to be leading the Scottish Centre on European Relations from its launch. We want to contribute high quality, in-depth analysis to the vital debates across Europe on our common future and how to address the many challenges facing today’s European Union.”

Hughes, who has an international reputation for wide-ranging research work and publications on European affairs has worked in a number of leading European think tanks including Chatham House, Friends of Europe and the Centre for European Policy Studies.

Her first policy piece for SCER is titled ‘The European Union at 60: strategic renewal or adrift amidst multiple crises?’ and argues that the EU is struggling to overcome its major current challenges due to lack of leadership, lack of solidarity and weak methods of policy formation. In the piece, she makes the case for a new set of ambitious strategies to drive green, sustainable growth, tackle youth unemployment and a more active strategy to promote EU solidarity.

The thinktank has also announced that four more published policy pieces have been released in line with its launch. The first is by Danuta Hübner who is chair of the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee that deals with Brexit. She argues that the UK cannot ignore the different political and public concerns in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“With EU issues higher than ever on the Scottish agenda, SCER’s unbiased analysis will provide a much-needed focus for informed debate.” Lord John Kerr

Charlie Jeffery, Professor of Politics at the University of Edinburgh, has written for the new group about the prospect of a ‘Super-Vow’ from the No side in a future independence referendum compared to a Yes side likely to focus more on a narrative of “bringing control back to Scotland.”

David Martin, Labour MEP for Scotland and an advisory board member of SCER, has written about the Canada-EU trade deal known as CETA as an example for what people could expect from Brexit negotiations. The final piece by SNP MEP Alyn Smith, also on the think tank’s advisory board, looks at the potential for compromises even this “late stage.”

Lord John Kerr, author of Article 50 – the legal mechanism that allows countries to exit the EU, and an independent member of the House of Lords and chairman of the Centre for European Reform, said: “With EU issues higher than ever on the Scottish agenda, SCER’s unbiased analysis will provide a much-needed focus for informed debate.”

David Martin MEP said: “In a new chapter for Scottish-European relations it is absolutely essential that policymakers in Scotland and elsewhere get the best possible advice. The Scottish Centre on European Relations fills an important gap in the market. Brexit is uncharted territory for us all and the many issues we face are going to need new thinking and innovative solutions. I for one still have faith in experts, and believe that we are going to need them more than ever in the coming months and years.”

Alyn Smith MEP, added: “The continued uncertainty surrounding the UK Brexit vote means Scotland is trying to navigate through uncharted waters. I absolutely welcome the establishment of the Scottish Centre on European Relations and, as an MEP for the past 10 years, look forward to providing whatever assistance I can as a member of the advisory board.”

Picture courtesy of diamond geezer

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