Document 1264

Scottish Parliament: Research Briefings: SB 02-70 Europe Day in the Scottish Parliament

Author(s): Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

Copyright holder(s): Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body: © Scottish Parliamentary copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Queen's Printer for Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.


SPICe Briefing 02/70
11 June 2002


To mark Europe Day on Thursday 9 May 2002 the Scottish Parliament invited schools across Scotland to come to the Parliament to celebrate with MSPs the founding of the European Union. A key aim of the day was to hear the views and comments of the school children on what Europe means to them and what they would like to see from Europe in the future. This briefing details the schools event that took place in the Scottish Parliament on Europe Day and pays particular attention to the comments made by the children.

The schools event on Europe Day was a joint initiative of the Scottish Parliament’s European Committee and the following parts of the Research and Information Group (RIG) - the research services of SPICe, the Participation Services and the Education Service to inform and engage the young people of Scotland on the importance and relevance of Europe to their everyday lives and concerns.

Seven primary schools came to the Scottish Parliament from the West and East coasts of Scotland and from the Highlands and the Borders. The following schools were involved: Gullane and Ormiston both from East Lothian; Springfield Primary in Linlithgow; Ferintosh, near Dingwall; Oxton in Berwickshire; Ardeer in North Ayrshire; and Coupar Angus from Perthshire. A total of 168 primary 6 and primary 7 children and 24 staff took part in 6 workshops aimed at engaging the children and their teachers with Europe and European issues.

Three of the main youth organisations in Scotland, - Eurodesk, YoungScot and the Scottish Youth Parliament, - led the workshops and undertook a number of activities to involve the children in thinking about Europe, why it is important to them and how they can find out more about Europe and have their voices heard.

Eurodesk and Young Scot demonstrated the newly launched Young Scot portal, which includes a Europe channel: The Europe channel provides a wealth of useful information for young Scots explaining what the EU is about, how the EU institutions work, how decisions are made and how young people can have their say on EU decisions that affect them, such as health, education, travel and the euro. There is also information on European opportunities for young people, e.g. pen pals, work placements, exchanges, etc. and factual information about the different European countries.

To show the children how to use the site to find information, Young Scot engaged the school children in a short quiz with questions about the euro, different European cultures and countries, etc. There was also an opportunity for some of the children to find information on the site for themselves.

Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament played a number of active games with the children, including Europe Day bingo, and asked them a series of questions relating to what Europe means to them and what their expectations would be from a future Europe. As well as answering the questions orally, the children could also write down their various views and comments on flip charts provided in the room.


From the various views given by the school children throughout the day a number of common themes emerged. These can be grouped under six headings: (1) education; (2) environment; (3) crime and drugs; (4) peace and security; (5) the euro; and (6) European identity.

Education - learn more about Europe

While many of the children considered Europe to be very important and a good thing for Scotland to be part of, a key issue which arose at every workshop was their desire and keenness to learn more about Europe in school, including a desire to learn more languages. The educational aspect emerged as one of their top priorities. Learning languages was seen as important for understanding different European cultures. Several suggestions were made about how they could learn more languages. These included having e-penfriends in other European countries to write to and visit, joint school trips with schools in different European countries, sending presents from our country to our ‘European friends’, and free flights and travel to Europe.

Practical benefits of EU membership

The children also highlighted possible benefits of being in Europe in their views that all the member state countries should work together to make the environment a better, safer and cleaner place to live. Top of their list for what Europe should do more of in the future was the protection of the environment in terms of cleaner beaches, less pollution, less rubbish and greater care of the wildlife.

Other children also pointed to the need for Europe to do more in the way of fighting crime and drugs so as to make their streets safer. Another key issue raised by the children was the need for Europe to maintain peace and stability and, in doing, so to help prevent wars.

It is interesting to note that the latest public opinion polls for the EU as a whole conducted by Eurobarometer (EB56, Autumn 2001) show that the top three priorities for EU action are drugs and crime (89%), environment (87%) and peace and security (91%).

To join the euro or not?

During the workshops the children were asked, by the youth organisations, involved whether they thought the UK should join the euro. Most of the children attending the Europe Day event were in favour of joining. Their main reasons for the UK joining the euro were that it would increase price transparency. When buying CDs in euros it would be easier to compare prices in different countries to see if it was cheaper or more expensive than in another country. Other reasons were that it made more sense when you were on holiday not to have to change your money and that if the UK was part of Europe, we should use the euro too. It would also make it easier to visit their pen friends in other European countries.

However, not all the children agreed and some were unsure about the euro because they felt they did not know enough about it. Other children said they wanted to try using it first when they go on holiday in the summer before deciding whether we should join or not.

A sense of European identity?

Many of the school children seemed to identify with being European. When asked whether they felt they were Scottish, British, European or all three, the vast majority of the children from all the schools thought they were all three. They generally considered that they were Scottish first and foremost but were also part of the UK and Europe.

The comments of the children have been submitted to MSPs on the European Committee. Some of the issues raised by the children were discussed at the 8th meeting of the European Committee on Tuesday 21 May 2002.

School children from some of the schools in Scotland that were unable to visit the Parliament on Europe Day have written to the Scottish Parliament with their views on what Europe means to them and what they would like to see from a future Europe. These have also been submitted to the European Committee for MSPs to consider and take note.

As one example, a pupil from a school in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, wrote that Europe was about promoting world peace and humanity and that it opened up a wide range of opportunities for young and old. The EU enables us to explore and learn about Europe and our fellow Europeans. In a future Europe there should be less pollution and more aid for Third World countries. This pupil believed that the UK should join the euro because this would mean less trouble for business, make it much easier to travel to other European countries and would make the UK a stronger member of the EU.

The participating schools were given information packs containing chocolate euros, Europe balloons, pens, pencils, stickers, maps and pamphlets supplied by the European Commission and European Parliament Offices in Scotland, Eurodesk, the Scottish Youth Parliament and Young Scot. The Scottish Parliament published a new leaflet for young people to inform them about how Europe affects our lives in Scotland and how the Scottish Parliament and Europe can work together to protect our environment. This was shown through a practical example of how laws like the WEEE Directive (Waste electronic and electrical equipment) are made in Europe. The leaflet will be sent to schools across Scotland.

MSPs from across the different political parties welcomed the children to the Parliament and listened to the views of the children in each of the workshops. For two of the schools there was an opportunity to meet their First Minister, Jack McConnell, MSP, the leader of the Opposition, John Swinney, MSP, Murdo Fraser, Conservative MSP and Irene Oldfather, MSP and Convener of the European Committee.

Many of the participating schools also visited other parts of the Parliament, including the debating chamber to see MSPs debate and to learn how their Parliament works.


The Sunday Herald (on 5 May 2002) reported this event was taking place. On the day itself, Borders TV and Grampian TV filmed the workshop with the two schools from Oxton in Berwickshire and Ferintosh in Dingwall. Clips from this were used in their news programmes that evening. Two pupils from Ferintosh Primary school were interviewed on the Lesley Riddoch lunchtime show on Radio Scotland. Newsdrive and Politics Tonight (both Radio Scotland) covered the event and included interviews with pupils from some of the other schools about their views on closer European integration.

The Europe Day event has been featured in many of the regional and local papers, such as the Aberdeen Press and Journal, the Dundee Courier and the Irvine Herald.


The huge response the Scottish Parliament received from schools across Scotland wishing to participate in the event underlined the high level of interest in Europe amongst primary schools. Many of the schools had already been working on projects on Europe and on the Scottish Parliament and saw the event as an opportunity for the children to visit their Parliament and learn how Europe relates to Scotland and its Parliament.

For logistical reasons, only seven schools could be selected, on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. However, given the enormous interest the Parliament decided to webcast the event live to enable as many schools as possible to participate throughout Scotland. Videos were also made of the event and these are to be sent to the participating schools.

The Scottish Parliament website also marked Europe Day by hosting an online public discussion on European issues, including the relevance of the EU both to the Scottish people and specifically to the work of the Scottish Parliament. This provided another opportunity for both young and old to participate in the debate on Scotland’s relationship with the EU and make their views known about how Europe’s future should be shaped in the light of its founding principles. Through the online debate the Parliament was also particularly keen to hear the views of other Europeans across the EU member states and beyond.

Additionally, the website featured its own Europe Day web page. This contained information explaining what Europe Day was all about, the schools event taking place that day and the Parliament’s own online Europe Day quiz.

There were also links to other useful sites for finding more information about Europe. These included the European Convention and the Future of Europe Debate, Young Scot Europe channel, the European Parliament, EUROPA and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Europe Day page.

Rounding off the day’s events, the Parliament held a Members’ Business debate on a motion introduced by the Convener of the European Committee, Irene Oldfather on Scotland and Europe Day. This was also webcast live.

Given the popularity of the Europe Day schools event the Parliament is now considering the logistics of holding such an event on an annual basis. Feedback is being sought from the participating schools to find out what they thought about the event and what they think the Parliament could perhaps consider doing for future Europe Day events.

Further views on Europe, expressed by the young people of Scotland, are still being considered by the European Committee, thus allowing their views to be fed into the discussions on the Committee’s follow-up report into the issues raised as part of the Future of Europe debate and the discussions when it hosts the Scottish Parliamentary Forum on the Future of Europe in the autumn.

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The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.

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Scottish Parliament: Research Briefings: SB 02-70 Europe Day in the Scottish Parliament


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Publication year 2002
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