Full impact of Brexit likely to intensify as Scotland emerges from pandemic, says Holyrood Committee

19.03.2021

The Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee has stated that the societal and economic impact of Brexit is likely to intensify as Scotland begins to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a legacy report published today, the Committee says scrutiny of the UK’s evolving relationship with the EU should be an early and urgent priority for a successor Committee. The report highlights that alignment with the EU regulatory regime will be a key scrutiny challenge going forward. Monitoring EU policy and legislative developments will be necessary to determine how aligned future Scottish Governments will remain with the EU.  The Committee considers that Brexit has resulted in UK legislation re-shaping devolution and increased the complexity of the devolved settlement.

Evidence taken by the Committee in 2021 also reveals the substantial impact on key sectors of the economy due to the new trading relationship and this is likely to intensify in the coming months. The combined impact of Brexit and Covid-19, the report says, has created significant challenges across the economy with the impact felt hardest by small and medium-sized businesses.

The report also highlights the significant impact of the pandemic on the cultural sector, specifically the viability of cultural venues and the need for a strategy to ensure they emerge sustainably from the pandemic. The Committee recognises the increased financial pressures facing the arts and recommends further monitoring to make sure funds are adequately supporting the sector.

The February 2021 announcement of an extra £9m for the Creative Freelancers Hardship Fund was welcomed but the Committee has stressed that more support is needed. Another key area of scrutiny within the Committee’s culture remit was the Glasgow School of Art inquiry, which determined that the school did not specifically address the risk of fire to the Mackintosh building despite risks being identified. The Committee understands work is ongoing by the Scottish Government to carry out a fire mitigation review of publicly-owned A listed buildings and recommends its successor seek an update on the progress of this work.  The Committee repeated its call for the Scottish Government to establish a public inquiry with judicial powers into the 2014 and 2018 fires at the Glasgow School of Art.

Speaking as the report was published, Committee Convener Joan McAlpine MSP said:

“The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has been a key area of focus for the Committee in Session Five. It has become abundantly clear that, although we have left the EU, there are still very real concerns and issues that will continue to affect Scotland in the years ahead.

Moving into the post-Brexit reality, the Committee wants to see the Scottish Parliament and Government represented in the governance structures established by the new EU-UK relationship in order to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard, especially when it comes to the impact of the Agreement on devolution”.

Joan McAlpine MSP added:

“The 2014 and 2018 Glasgow School of Art fires were of significant concern to the Committee because of the global, architectural significance of the Mackintosh building. We urge the Scottish Government, once the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investigation has been completed, to undertake a public inquiry with judicial powers to understand what went wrong in Glasgow, explore the risks posed by fire to historic buildings and the ability of custodians to effectively manage properties to prevent such tragedies happening again in the future.”

Deputy Convener Claire Baker MSP said:

“It is difficult to overstate the immense impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Scotland’s cultural sector.

The Committee is acutely aware that this sector depends upon an extensive network of freelancers, many of whom could not access government support during the pandemic as they did not meet the eligibility criteria. Additional financial support announced by the Scottish Government in recent weeks is welcome, but it is clear that more needs to be done to support this important but vulnerable group.”

Background

You can read the full report here.  The full list of the Committee’s legacy report recommendations is annexed to this news release.

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Annexe A

 

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee: Legacy Report recommendations

UK Exit from the European Union

1. The UK’s new relationship with the EU, as a third country outside the EU Single Market and Customs Union, is a dynamic and evolving situation.  The Committee therefore recommends that scrutiny of this new relationship, including the operation of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, should be an early and urgent priority for a successor Committee.

TCA: Governance

2. The Committee has previously recommended that the Scottish Government, at Ministerial and official level as appropriate, should be present at meetings taking place under the governance framework that deal with devolved policy areas.  The Committee re-iterates that recommendation and recommends that a successor Committee pursue this recommendation.

3. The Committee reiterates this recommendation and emphasises the importance of Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government representation in the TCA governance structures to a successor Committee.  The Committee notes that committees in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Welsh Parliament, with equivalent remits to this Committee, have called for representation from their respective legislatures on the PPA.  The Committee recommends that a successor Committee pursue the issue of Scottish Parliament representation on the PPA.

Trade Agreements

4. The Committee recommends that scrutiny of new international trade agreements should be an on-going area of scrutiny, along with scrutiny of any regulations proposed by either UK or Scottish Ministers which intersect with devolved competences, for a successor Committee.

Erasmus+

5. The Committee recommends that a successor Committee continue to scrutinise the implications of non-participation in Erasmus+ and the options that may be available for future participation by Scottish institutions and organisations in the programme.  The Committee considers that such scrutiny should also include consideration of the adequacy of the UK Government’s Turing Scheme as an alternative to Erasmus+.

Migration

6. The Committee therefore recommends that a successor Committee should continue to scrutinise the impact post-Brexit of UK immigration policy upon Scotland’s demographic and skills needs and upon EU citizens resident in Scotland in the next session of Parliament.

Impact on the Devolution Settlement

7. The Committee considers that the extent to which there is alignment with or variation from the EU regulatory regime is likely to be a key scrutiny challenge in the next session.  There are now a range of statutory and non-statutory requirements which will determine the extent to which it is possible to remain aligned or diverge from the EU regulatory environment. 

8. In order to scrutinise this policy landscape, we recommend that a successor Committee will need to monitor EU policy and legislative developments in order to assess the extent to which a future Scottish Government is remaining aligned with EU law and the implications of the policy approach being taken.

Inter-parliamentary working

9. Given the complexity of the scrutiny landscape considered above, the Committee recommends that a successor Committee utilise inter-parliamentary working as a key means of adding value to scrutiny of the EU-UK relationship in the next session of Parliament.  Accordingly, the Committee recommends continued engagement with the forms of inter-parliamentary working that have been developed during this session of Parliament.

Standing Orders

10. The Committee highlights to a successor Committee that there requires to be a range of Standing Order rule changes early in the next parliamentary session as a result of the UK leaving the European Union.

Committee resources

11. The Committee anticipates that scrutinising the new EU-UK relationship in the next session of Parliament will also be a significant challenge.  The Committee therefore strongly recommends the use of these methods in order to build capacity and obtain expert advice in Session Six.

External Affairs

12. Scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s external affairs policy may be an area of scrutiny which a successor Committee may wish to undertake in the next session of Parliament.

International Development

13. The Committee suggests that a successor Committee may wish to consider the outcomes from the recent Scottish Government review of the International Development programme in the next session of Parliament.

Covid-19: Culture and Tourism

14. The Committee recognises that, despite the support that has been made available by the Scottish and UK governments, the culture and tourism sectors of the Scottish economy have been amongst the most significantly impacted by the pandemic.  The Committee considers that successor Committee(s) will want to take stock of the position of the culture and tourism sectors early in the next session of Parliament.

Covid-19: Culture

15. The Committee considered the impact of the pandemic upon print journalism during its Covid-19 scrutiny.  The Committee highlights to a successor Committee that the Scottish Government established a short-life working group to consider ways to help support the long-term sustainability of public interest journalism during the Committee’s scrutiny of this issue.

16. The Committee considers that there is an opportunity, in the coming months, for the Scottish Government to work in partnership with the cultural sector to learn lessons arising from the pandemic and to develop a longer-term strategy.  In the Committee’s view, this strategy should aim to provide a framework to assist the sector to recover, where possible, from the pandemic and also adapt to new ways of working. The Committee highlights the findings of this Committee’s scrutiny of the impact of the pandemic upon the cultural sector to a successor Committee.

Covid-19: Tourism

17. The Committee highlights the findings of this Committee’s scrutiny of the response to the pandemic upon the tourism sector.  The Committee notes that a successor Committee will have a role in monitoring the progress of a recovery strategy for the tourism sector.

Culture

Arts funding

18. The Committee considers that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has placed even greater pressure upon the arts, including funding, than was the case when the Committee’s inquiry was undertaken.  This results in the Committee’s recommendations remaining highly relevant in the next session of Parliament.  The Committee highlights the findings of its arts funding inquiry and recommends that a successor Committee continue to monitor how funding is being used to support the arts including if government portfolios are strategically aligned to fund the arts in a way that supports and delivers national outcomes.

Screen Sector

19. The Committee recommends that a successor Committee scrutinise public sector broadcasters, and the broadcasting landscape generally, regarding commissioning of Scottish content and the role of commissioners based in Scotland.

20. The Committee recommends that a successor Committee continue to monitor the progress of Screen Scotland in the next session of Parliament.  The Committee recommends that a successor Committee scrutinise the relationship between all the public agencies involved in the Memorandum of understanding underpinning Screen Scotland’s operation.

Glasgow School of Art

21. The Committee highlights the recommendation, to a successor Committee, that after the conclusion of the SFRS investigation, the Scottish Government should establish a public inquiry with judicial powers into the 2014 and 2018 fires at the Glasgow School of Art. The inquiry should also examine the risks posed by fire in historic buildings nationally and the ability of custodians to manage these properties, drawing on the lessons learned from the GSA.

22. In response to the Committee’s report, the Scottish Government committed to explore what options there may be to carry out a fire mitigation review of A listed buildings in public and major institutional ownership. The Committee understands this work is ongoing and is being carried out in conjunction with Historic Environment Scotland. Our successor may consider it appropriate to write requesting an update regarding this work.

Census 2022

23. The Committee recommends that a successor Committee continue to monitor progress in delivery of the Census in 2022 and, in particular, to scrutinise the cost of delivering the Census and how the data from the Scottish Census will be comparable to other census data in the UK.

 

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