University 18 Yrs + | Britain & Europe
Local Government and the Devolved Governments
Local authorities have become increasingly affected by EU regulations such as those covering public service contracts or the need for environmental impact statements for larger planning applications.
The European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund have been a major source of income for local authority projects. Special streams of funding have been available for areas such as the coalfield communities and localities losing defence industries. ERDF payments were meant to be matched by the British Government but the Treasury vetoed this and a major dispute took place between the Commission and the British Government.
In the late 1980s many local authorities in Northern England received more money from the EU for capital projects than from Whitehall. The Commission’s view was that the Single Market would help core areas of the EU at the expense of the periphery and so the ERDF was doubled between 1987 and 1993 to make up 25% of the EU’s budget.
The need to keep in touch with EU priorities has led the larger local authorities to keep an office in Brussels and they have participated in European networks such as Eurocities or the MILAN network, for local authorities with a car industry, to provide a stronger voice.
Scottish and Welsh Governments
The creation of Scottish and Welsh Governments led to a new dimension of contacts with Brussels, even though the London controlled Scottish and Welsh Offices already had some links.
For the SNP and Plaid Cymru, a part of the argument for independence was they could take their place as nations within the EU and continue to benefit from integration as did other small countries who were members.
One of the debates in the Scottish independence referendum campaign has been about the need for an independent Scotland to re-apply for membership and what the terms of entry would be.
Labour was also keen after 1997 to promote a Scottish and Welsh role in Europe, although the devolution legislation reserved EU relationships for the UK Government.
The relevant UK minister can decide whether ministers from the devolved governments can attend the Council of Ministers and, if they do, they must follow the UK line, although they will be involved in deciding that line.
This is a better arrangement than regions in other European countries have. For example, Scottish ministers have attended the EU negotiations on fisheries policy. Both countries maintain an office in Europe, attached to the UK Permanent Representative’s office, which monitors legislation and lobbies the EU bodies. The Scottish Executive estimates that some 80% of its business has an EU dimension.