Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 06 May 2009

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Danny Kennedy (Chairperson) 
Mrs Naomi Long (Deputy Chairperson) 
Ms Martina Anderson 
Mr Tom Elliott
Mrs Dolores Kelly 
Mr Barry McElduff 
Mr Francie Molloy 
Mr Stephen Moutray 
Mr Jim Shannon 
Mr Jimmy Spratt

Witness:

Dr Ian Duncan (Office of the Scottish Parliament in Brussels)

The Chairperson (Mr Kennedy):

Today’s first evidence session on our consideration of EU issues is with Dr Ian Duncan from the Office of the Scottish Parliament in Brussels. The Committee Clerk’s brief and Dr Duncan’s written submission are included in the members’ packs. I welcome Dr Duncan; thank you for joining us. I invite you to make your presentation and to leave yourself available for questions.

Dr Ian Duncan (Office of the Scottish Parliament in Brussels):

Thank you for inviting me. I have provided the Committee with a comprehensive submission about how my office in Brussels works. I will not talk much more about that as members can read it at their leisure. I want to talk briefly about the three Is — intelligence, influence and impact. Basically, that is what Brussels is all about.

Intelligence is at the heart of the whole issue. To be able to make correct decisions and for the job to work well, it is important to be in possession of all the information possible. Intelligence is required to hold an Executive to account; to influence the development of policy; and to be able to seek improvements for constituents.

There is a suggestion that Brussels is very much a closed shop; however, it is not. There is plenty of intelligence out there and it is possible to get it if the right people are asked. It is important to have someone on the ground who knows who the right people are. Simply dipping in and out does not work well. It is important to have someone who can talk knowledgeably about what you guys are looking for. It is possible to get information by reading the ‘Financial Times’, or ‘The Economist’, or by logging on to any number of websites, but what you really want is someone who understands your needs and can tune into what is being said about policy developments in particular areas.

You will be surprised by how easy it is to gather information. At present, you might get pieces of information from Departments, newspapers, members of the European Parliament, or members of the Committee of the Regions. You might get bits and pieces of information, but what you are really looking for is the framework into which that can fit. In my paper, I outlined some of the ideas about how that would actually work. It is primarily based on the Commission’s annual work programme, which sets out what it will be doing in the year ahead. That work programme provides a perfect opportunity for a Committee such as this to consider the important issues that will impact on Northern Ireland. Therefore, intelligence is the first stage.

The second stage is influence. There is no point in having lots of information if you do not do anything with it, because you might as well have no information. You must have a plan, and you must be able to try to do something with it.

Influence can fall into three broad categories. First, you can seek to scrutinise the Executive branch, and, by doing so, seek to influence the development of the UK Government’s line in Europe. That is not unimportant. Secondly, through collaboration with like-minded regions or institutions, you can also seek to put forward strong points, which can be taken up by the various institutions in Europe. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you can be the body that brings together the voices of Northern Ireland — the stakeholders. Quite often, the stakeholders are almost disenfranchised from Europe. They do not understand how it works, and there is not necessarily anyone on the ground who can help them to understand how it works.

I will give an example of how the Scottish Parliament has worked in that regard. As you might imagine, fisheries are very important to Scotland, and, during the Green Paper stage — the consultation stage — of the EU maritime package, the Scottish Parliament staged a stakeholder conference. It brought together approximately 300 stakeholders from various areas of Scotland, including the coastal communities, as well as people with fishing interests and maritime interests. It also brought together people from the European Commission and from the European Parliament. There was a whole day of discussions, at the end of which a report was put together that outlined some of the issues that were discussed. That report went straight to the Commission as part of the Scottish Parliament’s response.

The Scottish Parliament also staged a seminar in Brussels and invited the key players to come along to listen to some of the points being outlined, which brings me to my third point — impact. The seminar resulted in changes to the proposals. That is important, because influence is measured only by what is actually achieved at the end of the process. The futility of issues can often be exhausting and frustrating. However, a difference can be made — not all the time, but sometimes.

Therefore, the three Is are important: intelligence tailored to your needs to help you to do your job better; influence, which can be directed in particular directions; and, ultimately, achieving an impact, because that is what you are here for. Ultimately, that is what you want from Brussels, because that is what makes Europe work well.

The Chairperson:

Thank you. That was very concise and very good.

The Scottish Parliament is now considered to be among the more successful devolved legislatures on European issues. Is that your assessment of it, or are there any other countries or localities that you seek to emulate?

Dr Duncan:

I like to think of myself as a model, but I am not sure that everyone agrees with that.

The Chairperson:

Your wife is not here. [Laughter.]

Dr Duncan:

There are lots of regional representatives that are generally from local authorities or local bodies that seek funding, which is the principal regional focus. However, the Scottish Parliament has one of the few regional Parliament offices in Brussels, and it is probably one of the first to be successful.

If a regional Government is responsible for certain European transposition or enforcement aspects, a separate source of information is needed to hold the Executive to account. The three points of that particular triangle are the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the European institutions and their developments. That should be a model for any regional Parliament and regional Government.

Without that, generally speaking, we would have to rely on the regional Government to provide all the information that would then be used to try to scrutinise them. They will not provide information that is not very nice. That is not to say that the Government will try to hide something, but there can certainly be times when using independent sources provides the intelligence to ask the right questions of the right people. Many of the regional Governments will always have someone who is responsible for parliamentary issues, but I am not certain that that is the best way to provide a service to a regional Parliament.

Mr Molloy:

Thank you for the presentation. What help and support to you receive from the MEPs from Scotland? Also, what influence do you have with the British Government on forthcoming European resolutions?

Dr Duncan:

Those are very good questions. Scotland has seven MEPs, and I have regular contact with them. The MEPs seek to sit on Committees that are of most interest to Scotland, so they tend to focus on fisheries, regional development, energy and industry, and sometimes finance. I generally meet them on a fortnightly basis. I also meet their support staff, which is important because I get a lot longer with them and I get a real feel for what the Members are up to. That really helps me to then get a feel for what is developing at that stage.

Equally important is the fact that those MEPs can often be an introduction to MEPs who are from similar parties but not from Scotland. The seven Scottish MEPs cannot possibly sit on every important Committee. Therefore, it is important for them to have the network to spread out and gather the intelligence. A good working relationship with the support staff means that it is possible to get five minutes with an MEP when it is required. It also means that they can often provide relevant information, so that rapport can be very useful.

The United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union (UKRep) is good. That body is well tuned in to what is going on and it has a significant staff. It produces good briefings for MEPs and for consumption by home Departments. That information can be invaluable in gaining a full understanding of what is developing. It is equally important to understand where the British position is at variance with our regional position in the UK, because that would help you to scrutinise your Executive, if you are so minded. It also gives a feel for what is likely to happen next, which can be important.

Britain has a good team in Brussels, and it works effectively. Its primary role is to represent the UK Government. It is not always its role to articulate the views of any particular regional body. It is important to understand that distinction.

The Chairperson:

Are you suggesting that it is purely English focused?

Dr Duncan:

No. As regards population, if nothing else, England is a bigger constituent member than the rest of the UK. Often the real test occurs during discussions about whether it should be a regional representative or a UK representative who sits at the table at the Council and who speaks on behalf of the UK. To some degree, that is a moot point, because the UK position is normally haggled and fought over in London. In arriving at an agreed UK position, each of the devolved legislatures makes its contribution, and any required tidying up is done in London. Across the Channel in Brussels, that position is articulated by the UK Government. Although the English position may, at times, be stronger, the adopted position is not purely focused on England. I suspect that, on fisheries, for example, it could be argued that the UK’s position is more focused on Scotland. On other issues, the UK’s position may focus on another region.

The tension arises when there are different views within each legislature, and it would be fascinating to understand what happens in such cases. I am afraid that I do not get to sit inside the room in which those tensions are aired, but that is where I would want to be. I mention that in passing purely because it is interesting.

Mr Elliott:

Thank you for your presentation. I note from your submission that you are the sole permanent appointee. Surely the amount of work that is required with the amount of legislation, regulations, directives, and the huge build-up to all those, makes that an onerous task. I note that you correspond directly with the Committees, rather than with the Government or individual MEPs. Do you recommend what issues they should consider and subsequently follow them through? Or, do they make recommendations to you?

Dr Duncan:

You are spot on — I am limited in what I can do because I work alone. When I go to the toilet, nothing can happen in the office because there no one else there, and that is a problem. I have to keep my material focused and deliverable so that I do not let down my Parliament. I try to use the Commission’s work programme to gauge what is likely to happen over the next 12 months. It is essential that I know about the impending issues.

The work programme sets out both legislative and non-legislative business, and it is important to recognise the difference between them. People often get excited by the non-legislative elements of the work programme. However, non-legislative business can be taken on board as interesting, but it is not as important as a regulation or a directive. It is possible, therefore, to construct a triage of what is likely to be important to a sitting Member of a regional Assembly.

I produce a document on the Commission’s work programme and analyse its potential importance to Scotland. I set out my reasoning for that and outline a timescale, because some issues are much further away than others. I give that information to the European and External Relations Committee, which disseminates it to the relevant Committees according to the subject matter. After their informal or formal consideration of a particular issue, it comes back to me. From the entire year’s worth of material that is likely to be undertaken by the Commission, the Committees prioritise the issues. Within those, I tend to select priority areas at a macro-level, underneath which are the particular legislative developments on which I must also focus. At present, the top-level priorities on which I am focusing include rural affairs, justice and energy. I must be aware, and on top, of almost anything that is happening in those areas.

At any given time, approximately 30 proposals are working their way through the European institutions. I ensure that I am on top of those proposals and provide feedback to the Committees. I try to identify what developments there will be in three months’ time, or which proposal is unlikely to be accepted because it is unpopular. In such cases, I can advise the relevant Committee to relax slightly. That involves an element of forecasting.

I try to ensure that the Committees are in a position to work out their own work programmes. As you know, Committees are constantly busy, and it is difficult to find time to focus on European issues. Therefore, the forecasting element of my role is important. I produce a fortnightly bulletin so that every Committee knows what issues are unfolding. That bulletin often sets alarm bells ringing, and a Committee may ask when certain material will come before it and what shape it will take. A Committee may also express concern about a particular issue and commission more detailed work from me.

However, it is important to have structure. It is impossible for one person to be on top of everything all the time. I have to try to introduce an element of triage to recognise the key issues and spend most of my time working on those. I also have to recognise other issues that I will not be able to spend as much time on.

It is also important to put the onus back on the Committees to get them to recognise the time constraints, and to tell me when their views have changed. Ultimately, it is the Committee’s responsibility to read the information that I send, and to take decisions. I can provide only the intelligence; the Committees must guide me. Such responsibility falls on Committees such as this one to do that.

Mr Elliott:

Do you feel that it is beneficial to be in Brussels as a representative of the Scottish Parliament, or would it be more beneficial working with extra resources in the Scottish Government group?

Dr Duncan:

When my post was discussed, the Scottish Government were very suspicious. They were fearful that the Parliament were putting a spy in Brussels, who would basically snoop about to find out what they were up to.

The Chairperson:

Steady now. You do not want to unnerve people. [Laughter.]

Dr Duncan:

You can understand immediately why they would be concerned, because the role involves paying attention to what they were up to. In reality, a lot of collaboration will be involved.

The issues that a Government will be interested in, as they try to put forward their own domestic initiatives, programmes and European ideas, are often quite different from what Committees will want to do. For example, a Government may not always respond to a consultation. However, a parliamentary Committee may be very curious about that, and may want to consult stakeholders.

It is often the Parliament’s engagement on such issues that increases Government activity. For example, it was clear up until quite late in the day that the Scottish Government were not going to offer a response to the consultation on maritime issues until the Scottish Parliament started to take a very active interest. There was then a recognition that the Scottish Government should respond directly, and they did so. The Scottish Parliament’s activity in that area moved the Government in that direction, which is not uncommon.

Mrs Long:

Thank you for your presentation; it has been very useful. I want to probe further on Tom Elliott’s question. You mentioned a degree of collaborative working, but to retain credibility, you need to be able to maintain your independence. How do you do that when you are the only person who works in an office that is housed in a larger building that incorporates the rest of the Scottish Departments?

Your written submission mentioned how your work plan is formalised. Will you give us more detail about that? Is it done by a formal vote in the Scottish Parliament? Do you collate Committee responses and then draw up the work programme? Who approves the programme? Finally, what processes are involved in drawing up your annual work plan?

Dr Duncan:

The question of my independence is important. A Government will generally have a view on an issue, whereas the other parties in the Parliament will often have a different view. I am rarely ever in a position to genuinely represent the view of the Parliament as a whole.

More often than not, my role is to beaver away and find out information. I rarely put my head above the parapet and say that the Scottish Parliament now has one view on an issue. The Scottish Government, on the other hand, will quite often be in that position. Ministers will come out to Brussels to state just that. Therefore, immediately, there is a distinction in how I operate.

Importantly, my relationship with the people in Scotland House — the Scottish Government representatives and in the representatives of the various Scottish agencies — is based on personal rapport. It is important to have a representative in Brussels who can network. If someone cannot network, he or she might as well not be there. It is about developing a rapport with the right people at the right time. Being able to do so over a period of time will mean that at a later date, it is possible to simply make a telephone call and get information immediately. It takes time to establish such relationships.

In my first few months in the job, I found that very difficult. I thought that everyone was keeping secrets. However, it was difficult simply because no one knew me. Upon getting to know people and how they work, it was then possible for me to begin to develop a network that enabled me to function.

It is important to be careful with such relationships, because a lot of trading goes on, especially with pieces of intelligence. Any officers in Brussels need to be discreet. If they are not, they will get into bother and the Department will chastise them.

The European and External Relations Committee conducts a consultation on the Commission’s work programme, and my analysis document accompanies that. That consultation involves the Committees of the Scottish Parliament and stakeholders, who may or may not share an interest. That information is then brought back to the clerking team of the European and External Relations Committee, and we synthesise it so that we have a programme that I can deliver.

My line managers have to be realistic; there is no point attaching equal priority to 74 issues, because that will not work. Given that there is only one officer in Brussels, management must step in and advise against the Committees going mad on a lot of issues. Management must advise that everything cannot be done all the time and find out what is really needed. That is done informally. If a Committee were to express an interest in a lot of issues, I suspect that informal discussions would take place to find out which of those they really need, given that they have the time of only one officer. Formal and informal processes are involved.

The role of stakeholders can be interesting, because it is not only what is contained in my analysis that can be included in my work programme. A document is issued, so it is up to the readers of that document to say that a point has been missed or to query an issue that was included. Therefore, I have to ensure that what I have said is justifiable. Equally, however, I sometimes have to recognise that people may highlight an issue that I had not noticed, was not aware of, or that I had not recognised as important. I must be sensitive to that, but, ultimately, the document is developed primarily by the Clerk of the European and External Relations Committee and me, having had the earlier involvement of the Committees and stakeholders.

Ms Anderson:

When this Committee visited the European and External Relations Committee in Scotland a few months, the five areas that were prioritised were discussed. I was left with the impression that it was still assessing the impact and the outworkings of that. At that stage, the priorities were relatively new. What is your view of the five areas that were prioritised? Were those the best areas, and how is that working with the roles of each of the Committees? Is there an overarching Committee that considers that?

Dr Duncan:

Two distinctions need to be considered on that issue. This year is different because of the European election and a change in the Commission. The areas that were highlighted this year are slightly different to those that would normally be the case, simply because this is not a standard year.

The broad headings are important because they provide me with scope to develop and explore. If I had a work programme that was purely restrictive, there would be complexities that would involve my having to go back to a Committee to tell it that a new issue had emerged and to ask its members whether it was of interest to them. The broad headings allow me the discretion to explore other issues that may not necessarily have been detailed in the initial document.

For example, you may be aware of the European economic recovery plan, through which a significant component of funding is available for energy projects. That was not in place when I wrote the paper in November 2008, but it is now the only show in town when it comes to energy discussions. Therefore, I have to allow greater flexibility in how I approach that issue. Another of the five issues — that of justice — has been much quieter. My work on that has mostly been about tying up loose ends.

The creation of the headlines is fluid and flexible enough to give me discretion, albeit with constraints, to ensure that nothing that is clearly going to be important ever drops off the of the page. That makes sense, but everything that is set out for legislative development must be done clearly, and I have to follow those issues through.

The last plenary session of the European Parliament before the elections will take place this week. A number of issues will be brought to a close, but others will not and will fall. I need to ensure that, when I report back to the European and External Relations Committee in a fortnight, I detail what has happened and what has not happened. The flexibility in the headline issues allows discretion to be applied and to deliver against the issues that had been clearly set out at the beginning and in which the Committee had displayed an interest.

Committees are perfectly at liberty to ask for more information on an issue that has arisen about which they were previously unaware. An example of that might be the ongoing interest of the European Commission into how Scottish ferries are subsidised and supported. That is an ongoing investigation that was not listed in the Commission’s work programme. One of the Committees wanted to know what was happening in that investigation and asked to be kept up to date. They were able to send me an email asking for information. That investigation then became part of my ongoing work programme, and I am obliged to report back when I find out more about it.

Mr Shannon:

Your journey through Europe has been an interesting one. You were not sure whether you were a spy. We are all intrigued by how Europe works; to be honest, I am not sure whether decisions are made because they are right or because there is a search for a compromise between what you are trying to achieve and what someone else wants. You mentioned fisheries in particular, and we are aware that Scotland has established its priorities in Europe. Do you feel that your role in Europe has benefited the fishing industry, or do you feel that, if you had no role, the impact would have been worse? Do you feel that you have made a difference?

Dr Duncan:

You ask about the impact of my role in Brussels, but the question should be about the impact of the Scottish Parliament in Brussels. I am, in effect, an intelligence gatherer — a spy of some sort, but more obvious in other regards.

Mr Shannon:

You are either a spy or a model. [Laughter.]

Dr Duncan:

There are bits of James Bond all over here. [Laughter.]

The Chairperson:

People are beginning to shift uncomfortably here. [Laughter.]

Dr Duncan:

The real question is whether the Scottish Parliament, through my office in Brussels, is able to make changes or have an impact. The answer is yes; not always in big ways, but in one respect it shortens the gap between stakeholders, constituents and Europe. To anyone who is based in any part of Europe, Brussels seems far away, bureaucratic, confusing and disconnected from them.

By emphasising aspects of European policy development and giving it a human face, the Scottish Parliament has shortened that gap. In that sense, it has been very successful. For example, it has helped certain fishing interests to appreciate what the process is, to understand how it works and where its shortcomings might be, and to outline how the process can be improved. Members will be aware that the Common Fisheries Policy is about to undergo a revision, which is out for consultation. The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs and Environment Committee came to Brussels two weeks ago to talk to the right people about what is going on and what will happen next. In drawing its conclusions, the Committee can help stakeholders to understand what will happen next and it can articulate that position.

The bigger question about whether the Scottish Parliament has an influence on policy is a good one. The flip side of that is, if they did not, would anyone notice? The Parliament is often at its most successful in the early stages of policy development when it cannot be seen. The feeding of material into the Commission’s thoughts on maritime issues was done at an early enough stage, with the result that no one noticed because there was no statement of intent from the Commission or the Scottish Parliament. There was no public confrontation; it was a much more consensual process, because it was done at such an early stage. Anyone who seeks to have an influence on events is going to be more successful at the early stages, when any sort of confrontation can be avoided. That is a harder situation to assess, and I suspect that I am not necessarily best placed to assess it.

From what I have witnessed, Scotland has punched above its weight as a Government and as a regional Parliament, simply because it is in Europe and is engaging with the key players. It also helps the stakeholders back in the homeland who are more aware, are learning more and have an appreciation of the workings in a more sensible fashion. There is value to the presence in Europe.

Mr Shannon:

Would you have greater influence if you were to work with other regions, such as Northern Ireland or Wales? On fishing matters, you would probably find more common areas of interest with Northern Ireland, because much of what will impact on Scotland will also impact on us here. Could we improve on such co-operation?

Dr Duncan:

Spot on, that is exactly right. Any region is just a small part of a member state, let alone a very small part of Europe. Regions are stronger when they co-operate on areas of common interest, and the greater the number of regions that share those common interests, the louder becomes the choir and the greater the chance that those voices will be recognised by the Commission. There is no doubt that the more that various regions share areas of common interest, the more that the Commission is interested.

If just one region raises an issue, although the Commission will notice, it may dismiss what was raised. However, if two, three, five or more regions clearly articulate common views, the Commission cannot brush them aside so lightly. That is particularly true, for example, if those regions’ common views are not shared by the relevant member state. The Commission will always listen to a member state — that is the way that the EU works — but if regions have a view at variance to that of the member state of which they are a part, although more work and collaboration is required at earlier stages, the view could be articulated more comfortably by the method that you described. In addition, the rapport that is built between like-minded regions of a similar size and with similar industries makes a huge difference.

The Chairperson:

Is there not, however, a competitive edge to be gained at various stages by the approach taken by each region or devolved institution?

Dr Duncan:

That may be true, particularly if money is involved. For example, if regions are seeking to secure a bigger share of the regional development fund or the structural fund, they may be less willing to collaborate openly. However, I suspect that Governments of member states, rather than the devolved institutions, would adopt such a role. Broadly speaking, for most policy areas, there should not be, and probably is not, quite the same competitive edge to be gained. When there is, the relevant regions will no doubt learn about it quickly.

Mrs D Kelly:

One of the challenges, especially during this European election campaign, is how best to get the message across to citizens. Is part of your role to advise on best practice elsewhere, and are some European nations better at that than others?

Dr Duncan:

Yes, some countries are better at it than others. Some countries play the European game very well, and some do not. I shall not be specific, but, to answer your question discreetly, looking at the countries that are the major recipients of funding usually results in being able to work out who is good at playing the game. Many member states are sometimes guilty of —

The Chairperson:

Your spying is paying off. [Laughter.]

Dr Duncan:

I am trying to pass under the radar. A number of member states are guilty of using the EU as something to kick around and blame for what is going on. Indeed, I suspect that all member states are guilty of that from time to time.

One of the big, and straightforward, difficulties that we encounter is that election turnouts tend to be high only if people are interested in a particular topic. The test for the forthcoming European election will be whether the turnout is high. I suspect that it probably will not be in most of the UK regions. It may be higher in Ireland than otherwise might have been the case, for reasons of which we are all aware.

My role is distinct. My office is responsible for gathering intelligence. Although the event that is due take place in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow is an example of regional collaboration, it will also raise the profile of regional Parliaments. Such gatherings can be useful, but, more often than not, they are specialist, rather than generalist, events.

Sometimes, the Commission and the European Parliament are guilty of not being the best at advocating themselves. They often do not manage to present themselves in a way that cuts through the cloudiness and opacity of what is going on. You will notice that the EU attempts to raise the profile of certain issues to remind people of its benefits. For example, mobile-phone roaming charges are suddenly being spoken about a lot more because most people now have a mobile phone, therefore, the assumption is that the EU has taken a good measure; therefore, the EU is good.

Although the EU’s attempts to push its headline achievements can be useful, sometimes they can be a bit of a distraction, because if the biggest measure that the EU took in the past four years was cutting mobile roaming charges, I am not sure that that would represent value for money. To give it credit, it has done an awful lot more good than that. Therefore, pushing such headlines may mean that it is doing itself a disservice.

Mrs D Kelly:

You referred obliquely to the Lisbon Treaty. What assessment, if any, have you made of its impact on Scotland?

Dr Duncan:

The European and External Relations Committee has taken an active interest in the impact of the Lisbon Treaty, and it began an inquiry, which was put on hold because it was not certain where the treaty was leading. That was probably right, as that is still uncertain. Recognising its limited resources, the Scottish Parliament decided not to invest a lot of time in pursuing the matter further. If it is ratified, it will have a huge impact on Scotland and all of Europe. Issues that we already spoke about, for example, fisheries and agriculture, will move from being issues of unanimity to issues of co-decision, which will mean that Members of the European Parliament will have a much bigger say in those developments. The impact will be significant. I suspect that when the issues become clearer in Ireland, the Scottish Parliament will finalise its inquiry. However, if they do not become clear, it may not.

The Chairperson:

Without being unduly nosey or personal, were you seconded from the Civil Service? How was your post advertised and your appointment made?

Dr Duncan:

I was an external appointee. Prior to doing this job, I worked for the Scottish Refugee Council, before that I worked for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, and before that I spent some time working for BP. Each of those roles had an external public affairs aspect. The fisheries role, in particular, brought me to Brussels a lot. I was an external appointee into the parliamentary service itself.

Other UK legislatures have different appointment processes. The House of Commons and the House of Lords rotate officers from their clerking teams. You may be aware that the Welsh Assembly has someone from its research service who fulfils that function and who will then return. I do not think that I will be rotating, because mine was a slightly unusual appointment and there is not a lot of space back in the Scottish Parliament for me to fall into.

The Chairperson:

The other issue is the tension that exists, or could exist, between you as a representative of the Parliament, and the Scottish Government, particularly the Scottish governing party at any given time. Have you encountered much of that?

Dr Duncan:

No. There is a potential for tension, but that tension will always have its genesis in Edinburgh when a Committee in the Parliament may be particularly anxious about something that the Government are doing. To some degree, I am protected from that sort of tension by being in Brussels. However, if I were not doing my job well, and if I did not have good rapport with the Scottish Government, I am sure that I could be drawn into that sort of increasing tension. Were that to happen, the doors would close around me and information would stop being available to me. To some degree, it is absolutely critical that I remain open to all the officials in the Scottish Government’s office in Brussels. Different tensions occur in Edinburgh with any change of Government. Fortunately, I am just a little bit further away from the reality and the impact of those changes.

The Chairperson:

Your role is that of Caesar’s wife.

Dr Duncan:

As well as being a spy and a model. [Laughter.]

The Chairperson:

That completes the questions. Thank you for the clarity of your presentation and the clarity of your answers. It strikes me that the Scottish Parliament are very fortunate to have you as their representative in Brussels. We look forward to ongoing contact with you and your office. If you wish to provide any further information, we will be happy to receive it. It may well be that we will be in contact if we have any points that need clarification. Thank you, and continue your good work

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