First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday (Thursday) that Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell will lead Scottish Government 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 meetings.
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.
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.
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.”
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