01/03/2017 Scottish Questions


Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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Hello and very warm welcome to Westminster for March's Scottish


Questions. It is of course the first of March today, the official


beginning of spring. While we're looking at our calendars we are one


week away from the Budget here at Westminster and this will also be


the final Scottish Questions before Theresa May triggers Article 50 to


begin the formal negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union.


So you won't be surprised when I tell you that Brexit and the


possible constitutional implications for Scotland featured prominently.


Here is how proceedings got underway.


THE SPEAKER: Order, questions to the secretary for Scotland. Mr Argar.


Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The Chief Secretary


to the Treasury attended a Joint Exchequer Committee


with the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Finance


and Constitution in November. They discussed the ongoing work


between both Governments There are, of course,


regular and ongoing discussions between officials from both


Governments. Does my honourable friend agree


that these taxation powers, coupled with other powers that have


been devolved to Holyrood, make it one of the most powerful


devolved Parliaments in the world? Does she also agree that,


quite rightly, they make the Scottish Government accountable


for their actions in respect of taxation,


and that the Scottish Government are responsible for making Scotland


the most highly taxed part My honourable friend


makes a very good point. The new devolution settlement does


indeed deliver one of the most powerful and accountable devolved


Parliaments in the world, and the people of Scotland will look


to their Government to use those tax powers wisely to make


Scotland as competitive and attractive a place as possible


in which to do business. We, obviously, want the Scottish


Government to use those powers to deliver that and it is for them


to choose how they use them, but they do have


to account for their use Does my honourable friend


share my confusion that the Scottish Government prefer the narrative


of whinge, whine and waffle to using the powers that this


Parliament has given them to prove their competence


in running the country? from many of my conversations


with businesses - particularly those thinking about their plans


for the future, especially since the referendum last year -


that they often see competitiveness through the prism of tax


and that they want to know the Government are entirely focused


on creating the conditions in which businesses


can grow and thrive. I really think that all of us need


to focus on pursuing our plans to make our respective


countries very competitive. In Scotland, the Government have


to understand that the decisions they take about using their powers


are part of such The Tories at Westminster


are facing rebellion on their Back Benches


on business rates. What advice are they taking


from the Government in Scotland, who have listened to local


businesses and put on a cap of 12.5% for businesses in the hospitality


sector and particularly those in Aberdeen that have been hard


hit by the oil price? I think that is just an attempt


to make a political bragging point. My right honourable friends


the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State


for Communities and Local Government have made it quite clear


that they will have more They are listening carefully


to the concerns of particularly the smallest businesses and of those


hardest hit by business Will the Minister explain to me


how, simultaneously, the Scottish Government can,


first, be not using the taxation powers they have and, secondly,


be the highest taxed part of the country, particularly


when neither of those It is for the Scottish Government


to account to the Scottish These points might be interesting


ones to bring to Westminster and knock about in this Chamber,


but real people are looking at the impact of those plans


on their family income and the Scottish Government


will have to account It is far more than


just a debating point. Does the Minister agree


that the Scottish Government's decision to make Scotland the most


highly taxed part of the United Kingdom will reduce


the country's competitiveness and, ultimately, make


Scotland a less attractive place in which to live,


work or do business? It is for the Scottish Government


to use the powers that have been devolved to them and to account


to their people for using them, but there is no doubt that people


look at the competitiveness of tax regimes, whether personal


or business, and that those regimes are important in the key decisions


that people make about Following the EU referendum,


Scotland Office Ministers have regularly met representatives


of Scottish industry and business. What comes out clearly


is the appetite to seize and make a success of the opportunities


afforded to us by leaving the EU, forging a new role for ourselves


in the world to negotiate our own trade agreements and be


a champion for free trade. I am a bit scared to ask my


supplementary question because I think my Scottish National


Party colleagues have had three My question is about exports,


of which Scotland has made a fantastic success,


particularly in food and drink. How confident or worried should


we be if we come out of Europe that those markets will be damaged,


and what can the Government My honourable friend is absolutely


right to highlight food and drink as Scotland's top manufacturing


export, accounting for Leaving the EU offers us


the opportunity to negotiate new trade deals across the globe


and create even more opportunities for Scotland's


world-renowned food and drink. Agriculture and fisheries are key


parts of the Scottish economy Powers for both are devolved


to the Scottish Government. Under the Secretary


of State's Government's plans, will all decisions on agriculture


and fisheries be taken by the Scottish Parliament


and the Scottish Government after As the right honourable gentleman


knows, the Government have confirmed in the White Paper that


all the powers that the Scottish Parliament currently exercises


in relation to agriculture, fisheries and all other


issues will continue. We wish to have a dialogue


with the Scottish Government, the other devolved administrations


and stakeholders about what happens to powers that are currently held


in Brussels and where they will rightly rest after the


United Kingdom leaves the EU. Anybody watching this will realise


that the Secretary of State did not During the Brexit referendum


campaign, people were told that decisions currently taken


in Brussels on agriculture and fisheries would revert


to the Scottish Parliament. The Secretary of State has not given


a clear answer to the question, which really matters to our rural


industries, our rural economy Let me try the same question


again, and I would be grateful if the Secretary


of State answered it. Under his Government's plans,


will all decisions on agriculture and fisheries be taken


by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government


after Brexit - yes or no? This Government's plan is to engage


with the Scottish Government and with the other devolved


administrations to discuss It is not to go out and tell


the people of Scotland that the devolved settlement


is being undermined by Brexit, which will lead to the Scottish


Parliament exercising more powers. I can give the right


honourable gentleman an absolute guarantee that,


after the United Kingdom leaves the EU, the Scottish Parliament


and Scottish Ministers will have Before I ask a question,


I take the opportunity to send my condolences to the family


of my great comrade, Gerald Kaufman, On 12 October, the Secretary


of State stood at the Dispatch Box and said, "whatever support is put


in place for businesses in the north of England will apply


to businesses in Scotland." That was in relation


to the deal struck with Nissan. I associate myself with


the honourable gentleman's comments He was a near neighbour of mine


in the previous Parliament and I always found him to be


the perfect gentleman. In relation to the approach this


I made it clear in previous answers that the Government's


approach will be consistent across the United Kingdom.


I thank him for the reply, but can I ask While some businesses


and workers are aware of that welcome reassurance,


I have yet to meet any businesses in Scotland that know


about the commitment to give them the same deal


Why has the Secretary of State not been more public


Why is it the best kept secret in Scotland?


I have made it clear to the honourable gentleman how


the UK Government are approaching the Brexit negotiations and how


we are fully engaged with businesses in Scotland to ensure


We can go forward on a basis that will ensure that Scotland


and the whole United Kingdom get the best possible deal


THE SPEAKER: Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.


Scotland's international exports have increased by 41%


since the Scottish National Party Government came into office in 2007,


which is a fantastic success story for Scotland.


Will the Secretary of State therefore explain why the UK


Government failed to negotiate any geographical indications


for Scottish produce in the EU-Canada CETA trade deal?


I hope the honourable lady's approach on the EU-CETA trade deal


is more consistent than that of her parliamentary group.


On the Monday of the week when the Canada deal was discussed,


By the Wednesday, they somehow found that they were against.


THE SPEAKER: Seema Kennedy. This is a question about the draft Scottish


Government. As I have mentioned,


the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has regular engagement with


the Scottish Government's Finance They discussed matters relating


to the Scottish Government's budget for 2017-18 at a joint Exchequer


committee in November and at a Finance Ministers'


quadrilateral in February. What does my honourable friend


believe will be the consequences of the Scottish Government


using their new powers for the Scottish economy to make


Scotland the most highly taxed part Colleagues are rightly focused


on tax and competitiveness. The increased tax powers delivered


through the Scotland Act 2016 mean that the Scottish Government have


responsibility for raising It is for them to decide how


to use those tax powers to shape Scotland's economy,


growth and jobs. I might not like their plans to make


Scotland a higher-tax nation - it is up to them -


but they have to explain those plans The publication of this year's draft


Scottish budget had to be delayed because the Chancellor


of the Exchequer did not make financial information available


until the Autumn Statement. What impact will the move


to the autumn Budget have on the Scottish Government's ability


to plan effectively There are many good reasons


for moving to a single fiscal event in the autumn - allowing


for longer-term planning On the subject of planning


for the long term and increasing certainty, I would add that taking


the threat of a second referendum off the table is the single


biggest thing that the SNP and the Scottish Government could do


for certainty and confidence among This is a question about the


exciting of EU nationals. I have regular conversations with


the Secretary of State for Exiting The UK Government have


made it absolutely clear in their White Paper that securing


the rights of EU citizens in the UK and of UK citizens in the EU is one


of our top priorities The Secretary of State's answer


is not very reassuring given the speculation about a potential


cut-off date for EU The other place will vote


on an amendment today that will secure the residency rights


of EU nationals. If that is passed, will


the Secretary of State urge his colleagues to end this


disgraceful uncertainty on residency rights for EU nationals,


who contribute so much If he does not, he will send out


a very strong message that he is willing to use the lives


of EU nationals as a bargaining chip I agree with one thing


the honourable gentleman says: EU citizens in Scotland,


and indeed in the whole United Kingdom, make a significant


contribution to civic life As the Prime Minister has


repeatedly made clear, She has sent out a very clear


message, and it is clearly set We do not believe that the


withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill is the place


to set it out. I will certainly bear it in mind


that it is a similar Does my right honourable friend


the Secretary of State agree that the business community


in Scotland shares a far more positive and optimistic outlook,


rather than the forever-negative comments from the


Scottish Government? I know that businesses


across Scotland value the contribution that EU citizens


make to their businesses, and I am clear with them that even


when the UK leaves the EU, it will be important for EU citizens


still to come to Scotland and play A recent report from


the British Medical Association shows that 40% of European doctors


might leave the UK after Brexit because of the Government's shameful


inaction on giving a clear guarantee Why will the UK Government not do


the right thing and give a clear guarantee to EU nationals,


who are a valued part of our society in Scotland,


that they have the right to remain? I am absolutely clear


about the importance we place on the role of EU nationals


in the economy and the health service, but I would take


the honourable lady's comments about encouraging doctors and other


medical professionals to come to Scotland a lot more seriously


if her Government had not decided to tax them more


than any other part of the UK. Does my right honourable friend


agree that as well as safeguarding the role of EU citizens in the UK


after we leave the EU, it is vital that we safeguard Scots


people who have gone to live I absolutely agree


with my honourable friend. It is vital that we secure


the position of UK citizens in the EU, many of whom are Scots,


and it is perfectly legitimate to take forward that issue


in conjunction with securing the rights of EU citizens


in Scotland and the rest of the UK. I am hopeful that that can be dealt


with very early in the negotiations. It is clear that the Government


are happy to play political football It shows contempt for 12,000 people


working in our health and social care service in Scotland


and for 20,000 people working in the food industry,


which the Secretary of State has just bragged is the most important


part of Scottish industry. When will he stop treating these


people this way and give them the guarantee they need to live


a happy and secure life in Scotland? I have made it absolutely clear,


as has the Prime Minister, how much we value the contribution


that EU nationals make in Scotland to both


the economy and civic society. We want them to stay,


but we also want UK nationals elsewhere in the EU to be able


to stay where they are. The Government are committed


to getting the best deal for Scotland and the UK


in the negotiations with the EU. The Joint Ministerial Committee


on EU Negotiations was established to facilitate engagement


between the UK Government and devolved Administrations and has


had substantive and constructive discussions in monthly


meetings since November. At the last meeting of the JMC,


the Prime Minister committed to an intensified engagement


with the Scottish Government Can he update the House


on that process? When I appeared last


week before the Scottish Parliament's Culture,


Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee,


I was able to tell it that in the two weeks since the plenary


meeting of the JMC, six substantive meetings had taken place


between senior officials so that both Governments could discuss


the proposals set out in the document,


"Scotland's Place in Europe". We regard this as a serious


contribution to the debate May I draw my right honourable


friend's attention to the fact that the Public Administration


and Constitutional Affairs Committee has been taking a great interest


in the inter-institutional relationships within the UK,


that we produced a report in December on this subject,


which I commend to him, and that the main thrust


of the recommendations are not about structures and institutions


but about natural adversaries sitting down together and developing


relationships and bonds Obviously, I very much take my


honourable friend's work seriously. Despite what often appears


in the media, it is possible for the two Governments to engage


in a constructive way. We are already in agreement on many


issues in the Scottish It is not just a matter of trying


to keep the EU nationals who are currently in our health


and social care service. The workforce is the biggest


challenge that NHS Scotland faces, so will the Secretary of State


support Scotland having the powers to attract EU nationals in future,


not just keeping the ones I have said previously from this


Dispatch Box that I do not support the devolution of immigration powers


to the Scottish Parliament, but I do support arrangements that


will ensure that the vital workers needed in depopulating areas,


skilled areas and in areas that rely on seasonal workers can


come to Scotland. Earlier, the Secretary of State


refused to confirm that Scottish fishing and Scottish agriculture


would become the responsibility When will his Department present


to the Joint Ministerial Committee a list of powers that will be


devolved to the Scottish Parliament after Brexit, or will he refuse


to do so and simply follow What I want to do and what I have


attempted to do is engage in a constructive discussion


and dialogue with the Scottish Government and the Scottish


Parliament about how we repatriate I do not try to make a serious


and wrong political point that this is an attempt to destabilise


the Scottish Parliament, because I know that when the process


is complete, the Scottish Parliament will have more powers


than it does today. Sales from Scotland to the rest


of the UK are worth nearly ?50 billion, a figure that has


increased by over 70% since 2002 and that is four times greater


than the value of exports There is no doubt that


the United Kingdom is the vital Does the Secretary of State agree


that we must not create barriers or do anything to impede


the functioning of the UK domestic market as we leave the EU,


given its vital importance I could not agree more


with my honourable friend. I find it strange that those


who make such a fuss about the EU single market seem


to have a complete disregard for a market that is four times


as large to Scotland's economy. Given that Scottish whisky


is the largest net contributor to the UK's balance of trade


and goods, is the Secretary of State encouraged by the fact that


if we move from the single market to World Trade Organisation


arrangements, Scottish whisky It is important to note


that there is a zero tariff As to our future relationship


with the EU, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made


it absolutely clear that we want to negotiate a free trade


agreement with the EU, which would be enormously


to the benefit of the All this UK single market business


is quite interesting, but is the Secretary of State trying


to suggest that a Brexitised isolated UK, desperate for friends


and any trading partners, would not trade with


an independent Scotland? What I am suggesting is that


if an independent Scotland were to put up tariffs and barriers


with its vital largest trading partner, which provides four times


as much economic development as the EU, that would be


a disastrous series of events. How is job creation in Scotland


affecting the Scottish economy? It is vital that both the UK


and the Scottish Governments work together to maximise the number


of jobs created, but it is clear that the one thing


the Scottish Government could do to help job creation in Scotland


most is take the suggestion of a divisive independence


referendum off the table. The Secretary of State previously


told the Scottish Affairs Committee that he attends Cabinet Brexit


meetings based on whether he thinks the agenda items are


important to Scotland. Will he tell the House which Brexit


policy areas he thinks are important to Scotland and which areas


he thinks are not important? I also made it clear to that


Committee that it was not appropriate to give a running


commentary on the Government's What I am committed to do


is delivering the best possible deal for Scotland in these


Brexit negotiations. I'm afraid that's all we've got time


for at the moment. The next Scottish questions is on 28th of April. By


then Article 50 will have been triggered to leave the EU. We will


see what impact that has on the Scottish constitutional debate. For


know, The idea of having hot running water


and inside toilets - I have my own path to follow.


Destiny. The very embodiment of the England


that must emerge.


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