OK - he's been in Brussels, he's met the EU Fisheries Commissioner and already Groanar Brankin is baying
for his blood. His crime? That is to insist that Scotland takes the lead on behalf of the UK in future Council of Ministers sessions dealing with the Common Fisheries Policy. Outrageous, screeches Groanar by way of measured response. She continues:
"The UK coastline is shared between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland - all with major fishing industries. So the notion that Scotland should have the sole right to speak for the UK on fisheries matters is fanciful nonsense."
In fact it is Groanar who, in her unseemly though entirely predictable haste once again to pounce on the elected government of Jockland with all the elegance and grace of an elephant wearing wellies, is getting this wrong - possibly because she has never had any reason to read what the relevant concordats actually say (well, much easier to be told by London), far less that what it was that Ecky actually said last evening.
On the latter, it is clear that Ecky was seeking the right to 'lead
' the UK delegation at the aforementioned Council, not
be a substitute for it. And under Article 203 of the EU Treaty this is pefectly permissable - this Article having been inserted by the Maastricht treaty revision back in 1993 to placate the irritated (and more mature than Groana) German Lander who were seeing their legislative powers gravitate to Bonn as more and more devolved competences came under EU policy activity.
On the more esoteric issue of the procedures elaborated in the 1999 Memorandum of Understanding
to ensure Scotland's EU-policy related voice is heard in Whitehall when UK Government is shaping the national negotiating position viv-a-vis an EU proposal it will represent in the Council of Ministers, Articles B4.12 to B4.15 clearly provide for attendance by Ministers from the devolved administrations at these Council meetings. But here control matters - not rights - in that the decision as to who appears where and when in EU Council meetings rests entirely with UK Government. Scotland's Ministers with responsibility for the devolved matters under EU-level discussion have to be 'invited' to attend the EU Council meeting by the lead UK Department (Minister) on a case-by-case basis. They have no right of attendance. This seems to RRR the imperious language of a by-gone era. Surely it is entirely wrong that the decision as to when a Minister from the Scottish Executive attends EU Council meetings rests solely with Whitehall? It must be for the Scottish Executive to rank EU-related issues according to their domestic importance, and attend when s/he decides this is necessary? After all, I can't imagine there will be an excessive enthusiasm for enduring hours of multi-lingual debate unless the matter is a pressing one. BMI is unlikely to profit much from that particular gravy-train!
Ms Brankin clearly is from the old one-party-state school of thought, of which the established doctrine is that "whatever you do, do nothing". Heavans, even Donald Dewar accepted that the inter-governmental arrangements involving the governments of this Queendom would have to be adapted to suit new challenges and different contexts. We have new challenges and we are in a different context: and there is an urgent need to re-visit these EU-related concordats in order that Scotland's voice is properly heard in the corridors of Whitehall and the EU Council in Brussels. If not, then it won't be a case of Ecky picking fights with London, but rather the Bailiff's London team picking fights with Ecky. After recent head-to-heads, and on present form, not a smart move Bailiff.