First Minister Alex Salmond today welcomed plans to locate a dedicated standing Secretariat of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in Scotland.
Meeting in Guernsey, the BIC agreed to establish a six-strong administrative headquarters in Edinburgh which will work to support and coordinate the strategic aims of the Council with a staff second from member organisations.
The FM said:
"The Scottish Government remains highly committed to the ongoing success of the British-Irish Council, which is an important inter-governmental institution that provides for regular and constructive co-operation between the member administrations.
"The regular BIC summits create an opportunity to bring together Ministers from across the UK and Ireland to discuss issues of mutual importance, including the economic recovery and ensuring a sustainable future for everyone across our islands.
"It is right that this institution should be served by a dedicated Secretariat that will be able to offer the support and strategic focus warranted by an organisation of such standing.
"I am delighted that the British-Irish Council has agreed to locate this dedicated Secretariat in Scotland and for us to host this new base for co-ordinating and planning the future work of the Council.
"The Scottish Government is committed to working with all member administrations to ensure the successful and early establishment of the Secretariat in Edinburgh.
"I welcome the new UK Government's support to bring this prestigious office to Scotland, recognising the importance of further increasing the effectiveness of the Council and strengthening work between member administrations, particularly on the economic and environmental potential of developing renewable energy.
"This is the first BIC since the UK General Election. Within the UK, we now have coalition administrations in London, Cardiff and Belfast, and a minority Government in Edinburgh, and neither parties of the UK coalition Government are in any of the devolved administrations. Different arrangements also apply in each of the Crown Dependencies; Ireland is, of course, a separate member state. With that range of diversity it is important formal channels for co-operation and communication across our islands should be effective and the BIC is a vital part of this process.
"The BIC continues to forge and strengthen productive relations between Scotland and our friends across the UK, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies and we will look forward to establishing the BIC Secretariat in Scotland at this important point in the Council's history."
The BIC summit brings together Ministers from across the UK and Ireland to strengthen relationships and to provide a forum for consultation and co-operation. The dedicated Secretariat will provide a renewed momentum and focus for the Council that will strengthen and support collaborative working between member administrations, including work to develop the economic and environmental potential of renewable energy and to support strong economic recovery.
The BIC was established in 1999 under the East-West or Strand Three element of the Good Friday Agreement which was concluded in 1998. As part of the St Andrews Agreement in 2006, the British-Irish Council agreed to establish a standing Secretariat.
The 14th meeting today in Guernsey was attended by Ministers from the Government of Ireland, British Government, Welsh Assembly Government, Northern Ireland Executive, States of Jersey, States of Guernsey, and Government of the Isle of Man.
The theme of the Summit was marine energy and the marine energy paper was presented and led by the Scottish Government.