Scotland Europa has worked with our member organisation Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) over the course of many years to help them understand and influence EU policy, and promote Scotland as an important European financial centre.
Scotland Europa has actively followed the development of legislation of interest to the Scottish financial sector, and has facilitated in-depth discussions on this between SFE representatives and EU law-makers. We have also organised promotional receptions for SFE at Scotland House in Brussels, enabling representatives of the Scottish financial sector to informally network with decision-makers, and other stakeholders.
Scotland Europa has added value for SFE in particular when focused on influencing legislation with a significant impact on the Scottish sector, such as legislation pertaining to investment trusts. Our work profiling and positioning SFE, for example through events in Brussels, has enabled us to more effectively undertake this policy influencing support.
Brussels is a very complex policy environment, with so many overlapping discussions in progress at any one time that the targeting of any engagement has to be clear and consistent. For those not based in Brussels but with a strong interest in what goes on there, like Scottish Financial Enterprise and its member companies, a partner on the ground who can guide you through the complexity is essential. Some organisations are large enough to contemplate a presence in Brussels of their own but they are relatively few. Most of us need to be involved in EU policy making; but can only be so on terms that are manageable, in relation to resources and time commitment. It is simply not practicable to stay familiar with the fast-moving policy world of Brussels, from a distance. Without some expert help, it is too easy to expend resources that simply run, diffused, into the sand. Scotland Europa provides a vehicle for policy engagement with all the actors and institutions in Brussels that limits risk and maintains focus. Brussels is a place of subtleties and networks. Scotland Europa has a protean quality that allows it to fit in to many, many different kinds of policy settings. This is as valuable to a private organization like SFE, which seeks to emphasize its independence from government, as it is to a public sector body wishing to participate in government-led networks. It is a familiar part of the Brussels landscape, so Cabinets, Permanent Representations and MEPs will not be surprised to hear from Scotland Europa. Importantly from the perspective of their members, they can organise meetings and events with Brussels-based interlocutors easily and with credibility. Practical examples from the experience of SFE would include an annual promotional reception, held at Scotland House; and some very focused discussions with MEPs and others on particular aspects of legislation. For the former, it is not possible for SFE to maintain an up-to-date database of Brussels contacts of the kind one would invite to a reception. Not only do people move on from posts from time to time but the sheer variety of organisations active in Brussels, even in an area as specific as financial services, is huge. Scotland Europa therefore use their intelligence gathering capabilities and their networks to ensure the right people are invited from the many organisations with which we wish to maintain a relationship; and they help us find the right time and place to hold the event. Timing matters a great deal in Brussels because there are only a few days in any month when MEPs, Permanent Representatives and Commission officials are all in town. If you want to host a dinner, it helps to know which restaurants are popular with whom, which are within walking distance of key locations, and so on. These practical considerations, handled well, make a big difference. For the latter, Scotland Europa can follow a piece of legislation through all its stages in Brussels and keep abreast of developments. When it is useful to engage with decision makers to ensure they are fully briefed on what proposals will mean in practice for providers of financial services and their customers, or for any other interest group, they can arrange the necessary meetings, formal and informal, and report on subsequent progress. They can do this, importantly, without imposing their presence on the dialogue you want to have â€“ they facilitate, rather than represent â€“ one of the subtleties of doing business in Brussels. Organising this kind of activity by â€˜remote controlâ€™ would be much more difficult, since there are always wheels within wheels on any policy issue and there is no substitute for having people on the ground. There are many providers of consultancy services in Brussels. But Scotland Europa offers something different â€“ a combination of institutional stability, name recognition and a very flexible approach, and all at a very good price. - Testimonal from Owen Kelly, former Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise