This report, commissioned by Scotland Europa, presents the findings of the Scottish Stakeholder Discussion on the Future of European Collaboration, held on 29 September 2017 in Edinburgh organised by Scotland Europa, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Scottish Enterprise. The aims of the Conference were to stimulate participation in current EU programmes and wider EU collaboration as ‘investment in the future’, and to gather views to feed into Brexit discussions at Scottish and UK levels. The primary focus was on competitive EU funding programmes, in particular Horizon 2020 and INTERREG, but the debate also included the role of, and synergies, with the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), and other forms of EU project-based funding.
The UK vote to exit the EU has led to profound fears over the negative impact of Brexit on EU cooperation, collaboration and interaction in Scotland, and more widely across the UK. Specific concerns relate to the impact on long-standing, productive networks and links, damage to professional and working relationships; losses of key staff and expertise; loss of influence in key frameworks and networks, and the impact of a ‘gap’ or a ‘break’ in involvement. These concerns are exacerbated by the protracted and uncertain nature of the Brexit negotiations, the complex governance situation for devolved governments in relation to Brexit, and wider debates underway on the EU budget, the future direction and development of the EU and major EU policy reforms.
The Conference made clear that Scotland is an active partner in EU cooperation programmes. The presentations and discussions during the Conference identified the following specific benefits from working with partners in other countries: skills and institutional capacity; skilled jobs in key sectors; new products, services, sectors and markets; supporting product, service and policy innovation; building the profile and confidence of Scottish stakeholders; and internationalisation. A key question for the Conference is how relationships, partnerships and networks can be maintained after Brexit. Much depends on the outcomes of the UK-EU negotiations, where responsibility lies within the UK for these areas, the policy priority and resourcing accorded to such cooperation by the UK Government and Devolved Administrations. Conference discussions emphasised the need to think about the opportunities for new ways of working as well as the challenges.