Andrew Neil and Isabel Fraser with the latest political news, interviews and debate including Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury, on the state of the UK economy.
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Afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Sunday Politics.
Is Labour playing catch-up on the welfare benefits cap? Or does its
idea of regional caps put it back in contention? We ask Shadow
Welfare spokesman Liam Byrne. Just how big is Stephen Hester's
bonus and should the Government block it? Treasury Chief Secretary
Danny Alexander joins us for the Sunday Interview.
And on Sunday Politics Scotland: We are off and running in the great
referendum challenge - but in which directions, and do you have the
stamina to keep up for the next two and half years? Come and have a
breather behind the bike sheds with We are talking to the deputy First
Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the leader of the Scottish Tories Ruth
Davidson for their take on where we've reached so far. Also the
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1404 seconds
launch of the new Civic Scotland The Chancellor will announce budget
decisions when the budget comes. As a country we have done and balance
to system. If we can go further with that we can it also do more
with their income tax balance. I do want to go further and faster.
It is British policy to keep the eurozone of intact. The Germans now
think that their economic policy of Greece should be run by Brussels.
Do you support that? What is needed is a fiscal compact. That is the
right thing for them to be doing. Countries who want to be part of
the euro needs to recognise that that involves fiscal constraints.
That will apply to the United Kingdom as long as Scott and stays
Good afternoon. The Holyrood press pack regroup for
the campaigns ahead. We are joined by Nicola Sturgeon to
discuss strategy on the Norns and unnose.
And will also be joined by Ruth Davidson.
And as Civic Scotland makes his entrance, we will be joined by a
spokesperson from the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland
does not have a position on independence, it does not have a
position on the status quo. The Church of Scotland will want to
participate in encouraging debate, but it is unlikely that the Church
will take a fixed position. It was not just Scottish eyes or UK
eyes watching events at Edinburgh this week. There was a large
contingent of journalists from other parts of Europe and further
afield. Many were wondering what events here in Scotland might mean
Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? This is
the document in which the Scottish Secretary laid out his plans for a
devolution referendum. Now it is the turn of the SNP.
Japan, China, Russia, Canada - these were just some of the
countries keen to understand what is going on. The UK seems to be
breaking up after the outcome of a Scottish independence referendum.
There would be some impact on the Japanese political system.
success should be in our own hands. Anytime you talk about separation
you have states that a wrestling with this issue. There are places
in the Middle East would like to see less input from their old
masters. Even if we do not agree with that it would be a blueprint
for what happens next. In the law you see precedent. If Alex
Salmond's gamble pays off a whole lot of people will look at that.
The press pack then headed up to Edinburgh Castle. Reporters mingled,
discussing their take on events. How concerned would you be about a
potential v2 from European Union states -- a potential veto? I would
prefer to take the words of the Spanish foreign minister - at no
point has not mac and he's been conveyed to the British government.
A lot of small councils have not already launched a referendum. The
debate that we have here in Scotland is not possible in Spain.
We cannot even have these debates. That is why we followed this with a
lot of interest. Spanish Basque TV braved high wins. The described
Alex Salmond as presidential. Joining me now it is Nicola
Sturgeon. How would you clarified the week you have had? It has been
an exciting and historic week for Scotland. We have set out at a time
mind and a road map towards the referendum in 2014. I trust the
Scottish people to make the right decision. Central to this debate is
the fact that they seem to want us to stay in Stirling.
We said that until the Scottish people take another decision we
will stay in Stirling. 67 independent countries are in a
formal or informal currency union so that is a reasonable position to
take. You cannot have the full for school leavers. That is going to be
impossible to deliver. That is not true. Being in a monetary union
does not mean that you do not have fiscal independence. What Scotland
lacks just now is fiscal independence. With independence we
have those levers of control. knew seeing when you go to
negotiate with the Treasury of the Bank of England where we need the
Bank of England to be the lender of last resort but you will go to the
Treasury and say these are our terms, take-it-or-leave-it? We know
what is happening in Europe. They are imposing tighter fiscal
controls. The conditions in the euro-zone are different. Scotland
is a wealthy country. We are talking about this from a Scottish
perspective. The revenues from oil and gas would go to an independent
Scottish government. Exports would support the UK currency. It would
be good for the rest of the UK as well. Would the Treasury and the
Bank of England allow Scotland to go off on a borrowing policy of its
own? The lesson from Europe is there has to be fiscal control and
discipline. Increasingly in Europe they will run it past Brussels. SNP
voters would be genuinely concerned about the interaction there would
have to be. That is obvious. independent Scotland would exercise
fiscal discipline. But you would have to agree that with the Bank of
England. That could be the case regardless of our currency
arrangements. The eurozone is a different creature. You have an
diverging economies. That is not the case for Scotland. Scotland and
the other parts of the UK are much more a mind. It would give Scotland
the fiscal independence to get the economy going that we do not have
at the moment. Within certain parameters? What I am trying to say
is what if London has not agreed that you are demonstrating suitable
discipline? We would have to demonstrate fiscal discipline.
Would you have to agree a deficit level? Scotland has operated a
budget surplus in the four years since the financial crash. We have
demonstrated fiscal discipline. you take my points that these
things matter? Even SNP supporters are saying there are some point
upon which would need absolute clarity. You are asking people to
decide yes or no in a referendum before you have concluded those
negotiations. There are questions about our pensions, our mortgages,
and fiscal controls. What you want from as is a black check. What we
about to have is a debate. It is a debate about the future of the
country. Some people have criticised us for not having a
referendum it sooner. We think it is right that there is a full
debate. We will put forward an hour proposals with full clarity. The
challenge for our opponents is to put forward a positive case for
Scotland staying in the union if that is what they believe is best
for Scotland. All we hear from other parties at the moment is
negative scaremongering. That is not good enough. When you ask
people in a referendum, the do not know the outcome of the
negotiations you will go on to have subsequently with London. When
Scotland is independent people will have the opportunity. We are
debating these things in Scotland. Just after World War II there were
only 50 independent countries. Today there are closer to 200.
you accept that as boaters the least we can expect is absolute
clarity on how things will affect has? -- as the voters. That is what
voters will get from SNP. What should happen to the bonus of the
chief of RBS? It is not acceptable for people like him to have bonuses
of that magnitude at all. The Tory government has done nothing to stop
it. Thank you. Coming up later - and the outbreak
of boarder cross Corporation. Could this be a sign of things to come?
We are speaking about high-speed real. I will want to force a more
formal alliance with our friends in the North of England so that we can
force the UK Government to see sense and bring up the rail link
through the North of England and into Scotland.
We are now joined by a leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth
Davidson. How has this leadership campaign been for you? I have
enjoyed it. The Conservative Party is on the right side of the
argument. We are talking about where we want to see Scotland going
in the future. It would be nice to get onto the sub-standard issues.
What can you contribute to the cross-party talks? We have a duty
and a keen to work closely with any body that puts forward a robust
defence of the Union. But there is no common ground between you is
there? I do not understand the question. David Cameron has been
quoted as saying there will be no further movement on tax powers.
that what it says? An increase in powers is inconsistent with being
within the UK. Is that we see it? am not going to comment on an
unnamed source. Is that there be see it? Are you saying that if you
want full fiscal powers you have to go for independence? Is that your
I want a fair referendum. That is where people have confused the
debate. Independence as against devolution. The debate is whether
we want to remain part of the United Kingdom or be a sovereign
state. The First Minister was saying that you have accepted the
question is fair and decisive. welcome to the question of us -- I
welcomed the question but was given us. It is the -- it is not the sort
of question was put into Quebec which ran to over 90 words. The
Electoral Commission will have the final say on the wording. Does it
lead changed? Quite possibly. But I want to get it right. Different
people are are giving over the actual date, the question, who
would be able to vote. For you to concede that the question is
acceptable at this stage was a ludicrous. This is part of a
process. Part of process that is overseen, I hope, by the Electoral
Commission. I will be taking part in the formal processes that will
go on. They will happen in the proper format for these things to
take place. Some analysts have said that if you frame a question, do
you agree that Scotland should be an independent country, that the
aims of the answer yes of. The question is absolutely central. Why
have you said that you are fine with the question. I said that the
question that had been put forward was decisive, clear. I also wanted
it to be legal and that is where the Electoral Commission come in.
Then you might change your mind? it needs to be tweaked, we can put
forward different views. There are different ways to flame-red. In
terms of being short, sweet and to that point, that should be welcomed.
There has been movement towards that. We have to acknowledge where
movement has been made. Considering what was brought forward in the
last Parliament by the Scottish government as a question, this has
been a huge movement from them. Where there is movement, we should
welcome that. What do you make about the bonus for the chief of
RBS? Stephen Hester. In some ways, the government's hands were tied.
But they have made sure that none of the cash part of it as a more
than �2,000 for anybody at the bank, in deferred shares. But there is a
point about the sanctity of contracts and breaking contracts.
Yes, that is the point that Labour are giving us. It is the
remunerations committee that decide. Surely you should know as well, if
you are criticising, if there is nothing that your government in
Westminster can do... I am telling you exactly what the government am
Westminster has already done. enough according to their opponents.
Neither of the banks that are partially owned by the state is
getting a cash bonus of more than �2,000. When you think of the
people that voted for you, the Tory government has allowed this Boris
to go through, it has not intervened. It is blaming
everything on the last Labour government when in fact, it was the
real -- the remunerations committee... Stephen Hester has
given up his bonus. Do I think that the government has stepped him?
Absolutely. We have made their banks have more responsible.
have to leave it there. Thank you very much.
Can you hear the voice of the people of all this political
clamour? Tomorrow, a new the recording - Tomorrow a new group
calling itself Civic Scotland is joining the fray. Their members so
far are from the unions, charities, the churches and think tanks.
Martin Syme from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
is in our Edinburgh Studio. Why do you need to do this? We are hearing
from politicians. They seem to want to restrict the question but to get
the answer they want. We are trying to open out the debate. We have had
widespread support from non- governmental groups of all kinds.
We want to broaden the debate before we get down to options.
it not inevitable that if you are looking for alternatives to what is
already being proposed that you end up with the devo max issue? You
cannot keep this non-political? are not campaigning for any
political option. And that includes devo max. With them my membership,
we have people who will support all kinds of option. But we are
resolute that the debate needs opened up rather than closed down.
We are opposed to the proposition that there should be a decision to
go forward with a question of yes or no. It seems incredible to me
that we might spent the next few years at talking about independence
and not talking by devolution. can people expect from your
organisation? We are going to carry this debate to people in Scotland
where ever they are and what ever the interests are. We want to
connect the debate about the future of Scotland to the challenges and
aspirations above people have in their own lives. In that process,
is it not inevitable but you have to come to a conclusion and you
have to say this is what we have found. Otherwise, it is just a
talking shop and people will go to the options still available. Is it
inevitable but you have to champion what people tell you? And then you
move into the political arena? sorry if that -- ever that the
future of Scotland is of the political arena, the game is lost
already. There will be many issues arising. People will take different
perspectives from the -- from within the coalition and without.
This is not a debate between political parties. This is a debate
about the future of Scotland. It is important that people understand
the issues involved and are able to explore how those issues will be
reflected in the choices that are made available to them. Thank you
very much. You will be doing this outside the central belt as well?
Absolute left. We need to hear voices from rural Scotland, from
people in poverty, all kinds of different voices in this debate.
That has been conspicuous by its absence recently.
On Thursday, the Sunday Politics was invited to spend the day with
the Cabinet Minister for Infrastructure, Alex Neil, as he
travelled to London to address a major rail conference. Gilly
Mathieson reports on why he is stepping up pressure on the UK
Government to set a firm date for bringing high speed rail through
the north of England and on to Scotland.
We are off to London to speak at a high-powered conference on high-
speed rail and I am going to use the opportunity to begin to forge a
more formal alliance with our friends in the north of England to
try to force the UK Government to see sense and set a date for
bringing the high-speed rail link through the north of England and up
to Scotland. You can cut down the train time by well over one hour
between the Scotland and England and that will compete with a beer
trouble. -- air travel. I do not see why you cannot make a start at
both ends. Start end up London and Scotland simultaneously. That is
the way that the railway used to be built. The case to take the line
much further north is very strong. AGS to is the largest
infrastructure project in a generation. -- HS2. The Scottish
government is offering to pay half the course of extending the line up
to Scotland. We have to have some building blocks in place before
they can get the detail, like the exact a route. We are still some
way off on that. But with the independence referendum planned for
24 team, politicians south of the border will lead to take into
account public opinion. It will be hard to present to the people of
England and Wales that they should be picking up another �17 billion
if you have the Scottish Parliament pushing for an independence of
thought. The French high-speed rail network has work with its
neighbours, so what can we learn from their experience? There will
be improvements even if the infrastructure stops halfway. It is
possible to have an incremental approach which is what we had in
France. They generated improvements and then we added other stretches
and multiplied of the benefits. will be hearing from north and
south of the border in the coming weeks.
Joining us in Edinburgh is Tom Rye, Professor of Transport Policy at
the Transport Research Institute at Napier University.
Good morning. Thank you for joining us. The minister has a point, if
you are going to be building a high-speed rail link, you get to a
point where financially it makes more sense to have a longer life.
If you are interested of providing something that is useful, 400 miles
is supposed to be the best limit? asked the minister at to read of
the reports that his own civil servants have produced with regard
to high-speed rail to Scotland. That Strategic case -- even if that
mine were able to achieve a two the hour reduction in time, the journey
times savings over 60 years would be projected to be worth around 1
billion. That is very hard to get a handle on the cost of extending the
line up to Scotland. We know that the cost of the line from London to
Birmingham will be about 17 billion and extra for the trains themselves.
For a 17 billion pound cost, that would give benefits of 1 billion
which does not stack up economic clear. But you get people stopping
using their cars, there are social benefits as well as economic
benefits which are harder to quantify. And there are
environmental benefits. With regard to the Co2 benefits, promoters of
the scheme up promoted that the benefits are broadly neutral. Co2
in packs would be time aged -- the sea or to impact reduction would be
tiny. Some air travel would be reduced, but it would generate a
lot of new travel. High-speed rail does not run on no energy, it uses
car one as well. So there is no point in this like coming into
Scotland? Spain is the country with the largest high-speed rail network
in Europe. Most of it built in the last 10 or 15 years. Spain it
currently has 25% unemployment. Nor them, Scandinavian countries have
precisely zero, just of high-speed rail.
And now here's the lunchtime news, with Andrew Kerr.
Good afternoon. The Scottish underwear entrepreneur Michelle
Mone has vowed to move her multi- million business to England if the
SNP wins the independence referendum. The Ultimo creator
whose comments were reported in the Sunday Times newspaper said the
cost of doing business would inevitably rise. But the First
Minister Alex Salmond says the SNP would cut business tax in an
independent Scotland, making it a more attractive place for firms to
operate. The Scottish Government is to
improve internet access. Ministers want to boost broadband speeds with
the aim of making services as good as anywhere else in the world by
2020. They say they will improve things for up to 90% of homes,
businesses and public buildings by 2015.
Now let's take a look at the Outbreaks of rain across western
Scotland at the moment. It will be confined to that Northern Isles
later. But some showers pitching into the East Coast later. Some of
those will turn to snow over higher ground. It will be a cold in the
fresh, easterly wind. Our next news update is at ten to
seven this evening. Now back to Isabel.
Thanks Andrew. Well, this week can be seen as another staging post on
So we thought it was only right and proper to ask the all-seeing, all-
proper to ask the all-seeing, all- knowing Brian Taylor to join us for
some analysis. The First Minister spoke to you
first in that consultation launch. What do you make of what we have
heard so far? It was a remarkable week. I think the date is pretty
well said, autumn at 2014. I do not think the UK Government will
reverse that despite the complaints. I think it will be a single
question. Referendums for not just opinion polls, they are testing a
proposition it generally. A proposition advanced by the
government. The Scottish government is advancing their independence
question. The devo max question is not a mandate to discuss
independence. It is not the difficulty of testing it. It is
just a question of the mandate, who is order to do something as a
consequence of that outcome? What of significance will happen in the
next week? I think we will see a speech tomorrow from Ed Miliband in
Glasgow, an attempt by Labour to put their stamp on the devolution
argument. At the moment, it is a consultation and negotiations
between the Scottish government and the UK Government. Labour are
trying to get into that debate. Johann Lamont is demanding and
getting cross-party talks at Holyrood. Now you have Ed Miliband
coming in as well as putting a UK, Labour perspective on this. The
First Minister ones, and 20th October 14, when there could be a
Conservative alone government, he is up dedicating independence from
the Tories. -- dedicating. If the SNP were met the yes vote on the
referendum, would it be possible for Labour to go against it? I do
not think that is feasible. reason for the rules and the
process matter is for all sides have to accept the outcome. That is
why it was a little unwise for Ruth Davidson to a be appearing to give
endorsement to a question which has to half for the tests from the
Electoral Commission. If the Scottish people, palpably and
demonstrably and without contest a vote for independence, that is it.
Their game is over. If they do not, it is not. That is why it is
important to get the rules and regulations right. It is not an
opinion poll, it is something that will be decisive. Thank you very