Scotland will need to use substantial resources and have “razor-sharp priorities” to have any significant influence on the EU, academics have said.
Research about the influence of smaller states within the EU has been produced by think tank The Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER) and University College London (UCL) academics to advise how Scotland can promote its interests.
The paper looks at the strategies of smaller member states within the EU with a view to see how Scotland – either as a nation within the UK or as an independent state in the EU – could act in an influential way.
It concludes that for Scotland to effectively exert pressure on the EU, it will require “strategic insight and substantial resources”, but highlights examples of how other countries have had a disproportionate impact.
The study, led by SCER director Dr Kirsty Hughes and UCL’s European Institute, was based on interviews with 21 high-level officials and diplomats from Brussels, individual EU member states and the Scottish Government.
Dr Hughes said: “Smaller EU member states value their seat at the EU table and the vote and voice they have. But that’s not enough to have a big influence.
“Smaller states need to have razor-sharp priorities, be pro-active, constructive and get in early on new EU laws and policies.
“They have to be adept and flexible alliance builders with other member states, both large and small.”
The paper suggests smaller member states adopt an informal influencing and networking strategy, and adds: “There are lessons for Scotland, albeit it starts from a much weaker position.”
Warning the UK’s departure from the EU “has fundamentally changed the EU’s internal dynamics”, the report adds Scotland must “increase resources in European policy-making – in Scotland, in its Brussels office and its smaller hubs in Berlin, Dublin and Paris” in order to maintain relationships with the EU and individual member states post-Brexit.
The study also recommends a “soft power strategy” of emphasising culture, education and trade links, in addition to having a “sophisticated” strategy, clear priorities and tactics.
Imagining a future where Scotland becomes independent of the UK and rejoins the EU, the research calls for the Government to be “agile, constructive, pro-active, timely, a team player, an astute alliance builder, and a contributor to wider EU aims – not only its own priorities”.
Scotland would also have a decision to make about whether to adopt the euro as its currency, like Ireland, or “risk staying more on the sidelines” like Denmark and Sweden, it adds.