01/03/2017 Scottish Questions


01/03/2017

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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

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

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

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

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the final Scottish Questions before Theresa May triggers Article 50 to

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

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

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possible constitutional implications for Scotland featured prominently.

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Here is how proceedings got underway.

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

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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The Chief Secretary

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to the Treasury attended a Joint Exchequer Committee

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with the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Finance

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and Constitution in November. They discussed the ongoing work

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between both Governments There are, of course,

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regular and ongoing discussions between officials from both

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Governments. Does my honourable friend agree

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that these taxation powers, coupled with other powers that have

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

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

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quite rightly, they make the Scottish Government accountable

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for their actions in respect of taxation,

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and that the Scottish Government are responsible for making Scotland

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the most highly taxed part My honourable friend

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makes a very good point. The new devolution settlement does

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indeed deliver one of the most powerful and accountable devolved

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

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to their Government to use those tax powers wisely to make

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Scotland as competitive and attractive a place as possible

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

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

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to choose how they use them, but they do have

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to account for their use Does my honourable friend

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share my confusion that the Scottish Government prefer the narrative

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

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Parliament has given them to prove their competence

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in running the country? from many of my conversations

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with businesses - particularly those thinking about their plans

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for the future, especially since the referendum last year -

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that they often see competitiveness through the prism of tax

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and that they want to know the Government are entirely focused

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on creating the conditions in which businesses

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

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to focus on pursuing our plans to make our respective

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countries very competitive. In Scotland, the Government have

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to understand that the decisions they take about using their powers

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are part of such The Tories at Westminster

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are facing rebellion on their Back Benches

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on business rates. What advice are they taking

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from the Government in Scotland, who have listened to local

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

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sector and particularly those in Aberdeen that have been hard

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

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to make a political bragging point. My right honourable friends

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the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State

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for Communities and Local Government have made it quite clear

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that they will have more They are listening carefully

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to the concerns of particularly the smallest businesses and of those

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hardest hit by business Will the Minister explain to me

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how, simultaneously, the Scottish Government can,

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

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be the highest taxed part of the country, particularly

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when neither of those It is for the Scottish Government

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to account to the Scottish These points might be interesting

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

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but real people are looking at the impact of those plans

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on their family income and the Scottish Government

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will have to account It is far more than

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just a debating point. Does the Minister agree

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

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highly taxed part of the United Kingdom will reduce

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the country's competitiveness and, ultimately, make

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Scotland a less attractive place in which to live,

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work or do business? It is for the Scottish Government

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

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

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look at the competitiveness of tax regimes, whether personal

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

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that people make about Following the EU referendum,

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Scotland Office Ministers have regularly met representatives

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of Scottish industry and business. What comes out clearly

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

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

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in the world to negotiate our own trade agreements and be

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

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supplementary question because I think my Scottish National

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Party colleagues have had three My question is about exports,

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of which Scotland has made a fantastic success,

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particularly in food and drink. How confident or worried should

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

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and what can the Government My honourable friend is absolutely

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

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export, accounting for Leaving the EU offers us

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the opportunity to negotiate new trade deals across the globe

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and create even more opportunities for Scotland's

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

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parts of the Scottish economy Powers for both are devolved

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to the Scottish Government. Under the Secretary

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

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and fisheries be taken by the Scottish Parliament

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and the Scottish Government after As the right honourable gentleman

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knows, the Government have confirmed in the White Paper that

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all the powers that the Scottish Parliament currently exercises

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in relation to agriculture, fisheries and all other

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issues will continue. We wish to have a dialogue

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with the Scottish Government, the other devolved administrations

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and stakeholders about what happens to powers that are currently held

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in Brussels and where they will rightly rest after the

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United Kingdom leaves the EU. Anybody watching this will realise

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that the Secretary of State did not During the Brexit referendum

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campaign, people were told that decisions currently taken

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in Brussels on agriculture and fisheries would revert

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

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

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industries, our rural economy Let me try the same question

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again, and I would be grateful if the Secretary

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

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will all decisions on agriculture and fisheries be taken

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by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government

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

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with the Scottish Government and with the other devolved

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administrations to discuss It is not to go out and tell

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the people of Scotland that the devolved settlement

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

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Parliament exercising more powers. I can give the right

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honourable gentleman an absolute guarantee that,

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after the United Kingdom leaves the EU, the Scottish Parliament

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and Scottish Ministers will have Before I ask a question,

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I take the opportunity to send my condolences to the family

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

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

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in place for businesses in the north of England will apply

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to businesses in Scotland." That was in relation

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to the deal struck with Nissan. I associate myself with

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

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in the previous Parliament and I always found him to be

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the perfect gentleman. In relation to the approach this

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

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approach will be consistent across the United Kingdom.

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

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and workers are aware of that welcome reassurance,

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I have yet to meet any businesses in Scotland that know

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about the commitment to give them the same deal

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Why has the Secretary of State not been more public

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Why is it the best kept secret in Scotland?

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I have made it clear to the honourable gentleman how

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the UK Government are approaching the Brexit negotiations and how

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we are fully engaged with businesses in Scotland to ensure

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

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and the whole United Kingdom get the best possible deal

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THE SPEAKER: Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.

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Scotland's international exports have increased by 41%

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

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which is a fantastic success story for Scotland.

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Will the Secretary of State therefore explain why the UK

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Government failed to negotiate any geographical indications

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

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

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is more consistent than that of her parliamentary group.

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

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

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

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Government. As I have mentioned,

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the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has regular engagement with

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the Scottish Government's Finance They discussed matters relating

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

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committee in November and at a Finance Ministers'

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quadrilateral in February. What does my honourable friend

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believe will be the consequences of the Scottish Government

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using their new powers for the Scottish economy to make

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Scotland the most highly taxed part Colleagues are rightly focused

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on tax and competitiveness. The increased tax powers delivered

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through the Scotland Act 2016 mean that the Scottish Government have

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responsibility for raising It is for them to decide how

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

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

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

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

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Scottish budget had to be delayed because the Chancellor

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of the Exchequer did not make financial information available

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until the Autumn Statement. What impact will the move

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

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to plan effectively There are many good reasons

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

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for longer-term planning On the subject of planning

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

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

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biggest thing that the SNP and the Scottish Government could do

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for certainty and confidence among This is a question about the

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exciting of EU nationals. I have regular conversations with

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the Secretary of State for Exiting The UK Government have

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made it absolutely clear in their White Paper that securing

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

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of our top priorities The Secretary of State's answer

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is not very reassuring given the speculation about a potential

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cut-off date for EU The other place will vote

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on an amendment today that will secure the residency rights

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of EU nationals. If that is passed, will

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the Secretary of State urge his colleagues to end this

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disgraceful uncertainty on residency rights for EU nationals,

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

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

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

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the honourable gentleman says: EU citizens in Scotland,

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and indeed in the whole United Kingdom, make a significant

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contribution to civic life As the Prime Minister has

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repeatedly made clear, She has sent out a very clear

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

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

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

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that it is a similar Does my right honourable friend

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the Secretary of State agree that the business community

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in Scotland shares a far more positive and optimistic outlook,

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rather than the forever-negative comments from the

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Scottish Government? I know that businesses

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across Scotland value the contribution that EU citizens

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

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

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still to come to Scotland and play A recent report from

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the British Medical Association shows that 40% of European doctors

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

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

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

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who are a valued part of our society in Scotland,

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

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about the importance we place on the role of EU nationals

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

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the honourable lady's comments about encouraging doctors and other

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medical professionals to come to Scotland a lot more seriously

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if her Government had not decided to tax them more

:17:20.:17:22.

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

:17:23.:17:28.

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

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

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people who have gone to live I absolutely agree

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with my honourable friend. It is vital that we secure

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

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and it is perfectly legitimate to take forward that issue

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in conjunction with securing the rights of EU citizens

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

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

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

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working in our health and social care service in Scotland

:18:20.:18:27.

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

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

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part of Scottish industry. When will he stop treating these

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

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

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

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that EU nationals make in Scotland to both

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

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

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to stay where they are. The Government are committed

:19:05.:19:23.

to getting the best deal for Scotland and the UK

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in the negotiations with the EU. The Joint Ministerial Committee

:19:26.:19:28.

on EU Negotiations was established to facilitate engagement

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between the UK Government and devolved Administrations and has

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had substantive and constructive discussions in monthly

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

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the Prime Minister committed to an intensified engagement

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with the Scottish Government Can he update the House

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on that process? When I appeared last

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week before the Scottish Parliament's Culture,

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Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee,

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

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meeting of the JMC, six substantive meetings had taken place

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between senior officials so that both Governments could discuss

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the proposals set out in the document,

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

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contribution to the debate May I draw my right honourable

:20:17.:20:18.

friend's attention to the fact that the Public Administration

:20:19.:20:32.

and Constitutional Affairs Committee has been taking a great interest

:20:33.:20:34.

in the inter-institutional relationships within the UK,

:20:35.:20:37.

that we produced a report in December on this subject,

:20:38.:20:40.

which I commend to him, and that the main thrust

:20:41.:20:43.

of the recommendations are not about structures and institutions

:20:44.:20:48.

but about natural adversaries sitting down together and developing

:20:49.:20:51.

relationships and bonds Obviously, I very much take my

:20:52.:20:53.

honourable friend's work seriously. Despite what often appears

:20:54.:21:06.

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

:21:07.:21:10.

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

:21:11.:21:22.

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

:21:23.:21:25.

to keep the EU nationals who are currently in our health

:21:26.:21:30.

and social care service. The workforce is the biggest

:21:31.:21:33.

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

:21:34.:21:35.

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

:21:36.:21:38.

not just keeping the ones I have said previously from this

:21:39.:21:40.

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

:21:41.:21:56.

to the Scottish Parliament, but I do support arrangements that

:21:57.:22:00.

will ensure that the vital workers needed in depopulating areas,

:22:01.:22:09.

skilled areas and in areas that rely on seasonal workers can

:22:10.:22:12.

come to Scotland. Earlier, the Secretary of State

:22:13.:22:17.

refused to confirm that Scottish fishing and Scottish agriculture

:22:18.:22:23.

would become the responsibility When will his Department present

:22:24.:22:29.

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

:22:30.:22:33.

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

:22:34.:22:36.

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

:22:37.:22:38.

attempted to do is engage in a constructive discussion

:22:39.:22:47.

and dialogue with the Scottish Government and the Scottish

:22:48.:22:51.

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

:22:52.:22:53.

and wrong political point that this is an attempt to destabilise

:22:54.:23:02.

the Scottish Parliament, because I know that when the process

:23:03.:23:05.

is complete, the Scottish Parliament will have more powers

:23:06.:23:09.

than it does today. Sales from Scotland to the rest

:23:10.:23:26.

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

:23:27.:23:29.

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

:23:30.:23:32.

than the value of exports There is no doubt that

:23:33.:23:35.

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

:23:36.:23:40.

that we must not create barriers or do anything to impede

:23:41.:23:48.

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

:23:49.:23:52.

given its vital importance I could not agree more

:23:53.:23:55.

with my honourable friend. I find it strange that those

:23:56.:24:03.

who make such a fuss about the EU single market seem

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

:24:07.:24:10.

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

:24:11.:24:18.

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

:24:19.:24:23.

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

:24:24.:24:28.

if we move from the single market to World Trade Organisation

:24:29.:24:31.

arrangements, Scottish whisky It is important to note

:24:32.:24:33.

that there is a zero tariff As to our future relationship

:24:34.:24:43.

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

:24:44.:24:50.

it absolutely clear that we want to negotiate a free trade

:24:51.:24:54.

agreement with the EU, which would be enormously

:24:55.:25:00.

to the benefit of the All this UK single market business

:25:01.:25:02.

is quite interesting, but is the Secretary of State trying

:25:03.:25:12.

to suggest that a Brexitised isolated UK, desperate for friends

:25:13.:25:16.

and any trading partners, would not trade with

:25:17.:25:19.

an independent Scotland? What I am suggesting is that

:25:20.:25:26.

if an independent Scotland were to put up tariffs and barriers

:25:27.:25:34.

with its vital largest trading partner, which provides four times

:25:35.:25:39.

as much economic development as the EU, that would be

:25:40.:25:42.

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

:25:43.:25:49.

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

:25:50.:25:52.

and the Scottish Governments work together to maximise the number

:25:53.:26:00.

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

:26:01.:26:07.

the Scottish Government could do to help job creation in Scotland

:26:08.:26:10.

most is take the suggestion of a divisive independence

:26:11.:26:13.

referendum off the table. The Secretary of State previously

:26:14.:26:21.

told the Scottish Affairs Committee that he attends Cabinet Brexit

:26:22.:26:25.

meetings based on whether he thinks the agenda items are

:26:26.:26:31.

important to Scotland. Will he tell the House which Brexit

:26:32.:26:33.

policy areas he thinks are important to Scotland and which areas

:26:34.:26:36.

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

:26:37.:26:43.

Committee that it was not appropriate to give a running

:26:44.:26:48.

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

:26:49.:26:51.

is delivering the best possible deal for Scotland in these

:26:52.:26:56.

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

:26:57.:27:13.

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

:27:14.:27:21.

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

:27:22.:27:28.

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

:27:29.:27:30.

know, The idea of having hot running water

:27:31.:27:31.

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

:27:32.:27:34.

Destiny. The very embodiment of the England

:27:35.:27:44.

that must emerge.

:27:45.:27:47.

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