Scotland's First Minister has announced that Argyll and Bute MSP, Michael Russell, will lead the Scottish Government’s discussions with the UK Government on our future relationship with the EU.
Subject to the approval of his appointment by the Scottish Parliament, Mr Russell – as Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe - will report directly to the First Minister and will focus on ensuring the best interests of Scotland are represented and protected in all Westminster EU negotiations. He will also attend Cabinet.
Mr Russell was previously Minister for Environment from 2007 until 2009 and then served as Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution before moving to the role of Cabinet Secretary for Education which he held until 2014.
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “We already have an agreement with the new Prime Minister that the Scottish Government should be fully involved in the development of the UK Government’s position ahead of Article 50 being triggered and beyond, and that options to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe will form part of these discussions.
“This appointment – which is subject to the approval of parliament when it returns after recess – is an indication of the importance I am placing on these negotiations, and our part in them.
“By putting a dedicated and experienced Minister at their centre, it will ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard loudly and clearly. I am confident that Michael Russell will make strong and constructive representation to the UK Government throughout this process.
“In the period ahead of Article 50 being triggered, influencing the UK position will be crucial to our efforts to protect Scotland’s interests and our relationship with Europe, especially the single market. However, it is also vital that we continue to engage with the EU institutions and member states – this work will continue to be led by Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Minister for Europe Alasdair Allan.
“Derek Mackay will continue to have overall responsibility for the constitution, including overseeing preparations for a new independence referendum bill should that prove to be the best or only way to protect Scotland’s interests.”
Mr Russell said: “I am delighted that the First Minister has asked me to take on this new role and it is an honour to accept her invitation to lead on negotiations with the UK on behalf of her Government.
“While the UK Government is obviously still very unclear about what kind of relationship it wants with the European Union, the Scottish Government is absolutely focused on the importance of the EU to Scotland’s economy and our people. Those priorities will be at the heart of our approach to the negotiations.
“Following the overwhelming vote in Scotland to remain in the EU, it is essential that Scotland comes together to defend our national interest. Accordingly in these discussions, it is important that the nation speaks, as much as possible, with one voice.
“I will therefore want to listen and learn from the widest range of individuals, communities, organisations and companies about their hopes and fears for the future.”
Earlier this week, the First Minister also announced she would convene a new Cabinet Sub Committee - bringing relevant minsters together - to oversee and direct all work on EU-related matters.
The new Minister, who will report directly to the First Minister, is expected to attend the second meeting of the EU Standing Council at the First Minister’s invitation next week.