Open Government Partnership
Transparency in the midst of fog: The Scottish Government’s open government commitment on Brexit
Brexit is complex and constantly changing, and understanding what is happening is a big challenge for everyone. The Institute for Government for example reports that even those civil servants whose jobs relate to Brexit have described it as working through the “fog of the fortnight ahead”. They felt they could only predict what was going to happen two weeks at a time.
The title of our Open Government commitment, “Aim for Transparency and Involvement in Scotland as the UK leaves the European Union” also reflects this uncertainty. It was drafted in 2018, and over a year later at November 2019 (and until the result of the December 2019 election at least), all the major Brexit outcomes were still possible.
In this context, transparency is clearly important, but also challenging. However under our commitment we have funded projects to reach out beyond the “usual suspects”, and have for example:
- set up a Brexit Stakeholder Engagement Fund to support organisations to have detailed discussions and give their views on Brexit to the Scottish Government.
- funded projects to engage with rural communities and work with Scottish Rural Parliament and potentially others, to deliver a discussion on the impacts of Brexit on rural communities
- set up a Children and Young People’s panel on Europe and supported Brexit cafes also for children and young people
- provided funding to the EU Citizens’ Rights Project to enable them to work with and provide information and support to EU Citizens in Scotland
See our action plan for more detail on these
There is a bigger picture and we have also:
- published our series of Scotland’s Place in Europe publications, setting out the Scottish Government’s position from December 2016 onwards. This includes sharing the underlying evidence base, for example our economic impact assessment. The most recent publication can be found here.
- engaged with parliament, through committees and plenary debates. This included 38 Scottish Parliament Brexit debates by the end of 2019 and similarly nearly 40 Ministerial appearances at various Scottish Parliament Committees. Ministers have also answered around 350 parliamentary questions related to Brexit since the EU Referendum
- published research, mapping Brexit vulnerabilities for 7,000 areas around Scotland. This has helped local authorities and other organisations to understand local risks around EU exit. An accompanying interactive map allows for more detailed analysis of each datazone in Scotland.
Communicating as no Deal approached
As the possibility of No Deal on 31 October 2019 approached we were aware that people in Scotland were looking to the Scottish Government for accurate and relevant information. To help with this, for example:
- we published an information on our ‘No Deal’ preparations. We also shared up-to-date guidance for citizens, businesses and organisations on scot
- Scottish Government agencies and other public bodies also engaged directly with stakeholders across different sectors including through Scottish Enterprise’s Prepare for Brexit
- We established a dedicated communications campaign called Stay in Scotland. This encourages EU citizens to take the necessary steps to ensure their settled status in the UK.
And what next?
Following the UK General Election the new UK Government now has a parliamentary majority to achieve its commitment that the UK will leave the European Union on 31 January, and enter the transition period on the basis of the revised Withdrawal Agreement. This is a new phase of Brexit for us, but our principles of openness and transparency will continue.