Holyrood committee calls for TTIP assurances to protect public services

A Holyrood committee has called for assurances that the NHS and other public services in Scotland would not be adversely affected by a trade deal being negotiated between the European Union and USA.

In a report published today, the European and external relations committee has backed a call from the Scottish government for a “double lock” to ensure that Holyrood would not lose authority for how public bodies, such as the NHS, should operate.

The committee’s report highlights “continuing public concern” about the negotiating process.

The report also expresses “reservations about some of the assumptions relating to economic growth that have been used in support of the agreement”, suggesting that the deal might impact negatively on some sectors of the economy.

Committee convener Christina McKelvie MSP said: “This inquiry has demonstrated to us how distant people in Scotland can feel from the decision makers in Brussels.

“Our inquiry has allowed Scottish voices and Scottish concerns to be heard on an issue of vital importance to the future of our country.

“We hope that this report will help those voices to be heard loud and clear by the UK Government and the European Union in conducting these negotiations.”

The report’s key conclusions included:

  • The lack of transparency involved in the negotiations has contributed to significant public distrust in the agreement.
  • In light of the lack of clarity in relation to particular proposals – notably with regards to public services – the committee has called on theEuropean Commission to make as much information as possible available during the remaining negotiations.
  • A recognition of the need for strong mechanisms and structures to ensure that the Scottish government is consulted and kept informed of developments of relevance to devolved policy areas.
  • In relation to future trade negotiations, the committee has called on the European Commission to conduct them with a high degree of transparency to ensure public confidence is maintained in relation to the process of concluding agreements.
  • The committee was surprised by the lack of knowledge, understanding or engagement of some business organisations in Scotland on TTIP. It considers that it is important for business organisations to understand the implications of a trade agreement with the US and encourages theUK government, the Scottish government and the enterprise agencies to raise awareness of TTIP among the business community.
  • The protection of public services in Scotland, particularly NHS Scotland, was a key concern of those giving evidence to the committee.
  • The committee encourages the UK government and the European Commission to consider the Scottish government’s suggestion that a “double lock” be developed to secure public trust and confidence in the TTIP negotiations.