07/05/2014 Scottish Questions


07/05/2014

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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Hello and a warm welcome to Westminster for a's edition of

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Scottish Questions. We start off with a note for your diaries. We are

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one year away from the next UK general election. It will take place

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on the 7th of May, 2015. It is another date which is occupying the

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thoughts of Scottish politicians, the 18th of September, 2014. People

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of Scotland will be going to the polls for the independence

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referendum. Everything at the moment in Scottish politics is being seen

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through that prism. Scottish Questions is no exception. Order,

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order, questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. As a United

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Kingdom we all have better job opportunities. Every day 30,000

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people travel between Scotland and England between work. If Scotland

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were to leave the United Kingdom, our border constituencies would be

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the first to feel the effects of a creation of an international

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border. Would the Secretary of State agree that one of the challenges of

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separation would be that our focus would be lost, our energy would be

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dissipated, looking at the details of administration and borders rather

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than all the opportunities in the world from Brazil to Venice? That is

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one of the many downsides that a vote for independence would bring

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and it would be an unnecessary distraction would which would move

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our focus from the opportunities of being part of the United Kingdom

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give us to develop our business by looking overseas. On the question of

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this separation, surely it is understood that divorce can be messy

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and in this case would be messy? Given what I have been told by

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businessmen in my area, they say they will move out of Scotland as a

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result of separation taking place. What matters to business is the

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bottom line and the profit and loss account and the balance sheet. If

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they felt that independence was something that was going to be good

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for them, businesses would be lining up to support it. Since the turn of

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the New Year we have had the steady chorus from the business community

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all coming out, all underlining the real risks and uncertainties that

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would come from independence. These are voices that the honourable

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members may wish to drown out with their incessant chatter, but they

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may not do it. Anybody who pauses at the top of the hill in the Carter

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bar on the A68 is able to reflect on one of the most beautiful views of

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Scotland and England and reflect on the fact that these two countries

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have so much in common and have shared experiences. Does my right

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honourable friend share my hope that will always be the case rather than

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marking the border point? I always think of the United Kingdom as being

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like a family of nations. Like all families we have moments when we

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have disagreements and we want to do things in a slightly different way.

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But as a family it is the ties that bind us that are so much greater

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than the differences that bind us. That is why I believe Scotland will

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choose to remain part of that family of UK nations. But the people of the

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Borders and the rest of Scotland are being subjected by this self-styled

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project fear campaign, described by its own supporters as negative,

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nasty, threatening, and that the Prime Minister is toxic in Scotland.

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Why are even his own colleagues saying this? Mr Speaker, I have to

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say it is a bit rich to hear the honourable gentleman talking about

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Project fear, when we had the First Minister on Saint Georges Day go to

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Carlisle and deliver a lecture that I could only describe as Project

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ridiculous. There is no escaping this for the Nationalists. For

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people living in the border constituencies on either side of the

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border there are real benefits of being part of the United Kingdom.

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They want us to walk away from them. Leading members of his own campaign

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have told people in the Borders that they will have to show a passport at

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the border, drive on the right-hand side of the road, worry about their

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pensions when in this place are being told they will be saved, they

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will not be able to use their own currency. Why do his colleagues

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think the people of the Borders and the rest of Scotland will fall for

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this demeaning, insulting nonsense? On the question of borders it

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highlights perfectly how the Scottish Nationalists want to have

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their cake and eat it. They tell us we could have a Common travel area

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which works very well with the Republic of Ireland at present, but

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at the same time they tell us we will have a widely diverging

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immigration policy, which the Republic of Ireland does not happen.

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You can have one thing or the other, you cannot have them both. Their

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prospectus is flawed. In places such as Carlisle there are many

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businesses with branches and offices on both sides of the border. With

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the Minister agree, that if Scotland votes yes, businesses will have an

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additional burden to them that will affect jobs and economic prosperity

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on both sides of the border? An independent Scotland would have a

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different taxation system, different national insurers and different

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economic regulations. That would be an extra cost for business. You have

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already seen the financial services sector, which supports 200,000 jobs

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in Scotland, giving very serious warnings about what would happen to

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their business. I will answer questions two and nine together. I

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have had regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on the

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application of discretionary housing payments to those affected by the

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removal of the spare room subsidy. An announcement on Friday was the

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offsetting of the limits on such payments could become the

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responsibility of the Scottish Government. Much of the money has

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not got through to tenants as yet. Given there has now been an

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announcement in relation to the discretionary cap, with the Minister

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agree that the Scottish Government could have acted before now, but now

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this announcement has been made will he do everything in his power to

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make sure there is co-operation between Westminster and the Scottish

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Government to make sure the money gets to the people who need it? I

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agree with the honourable lady. The Scottish Government already had

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powers which they could have used to take other steps for the mitigation

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they said was necessary. They chose not to do so. The Scottish

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Parliament forced additional funding to be provided and we will not stand

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in the way of that money being spent. I have a meeting tomorrow and

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I will convey the honourable Lady's comets. Does the Minister agree with

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proposals from the demolition commission, does he agree it would

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be a logical and practical step which would enhance revolution and

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help the ability to meet Scottish housing needs? The proposal to

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devolve the setting of the cap is a positive step forward. I welcome the

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fact the Labour Party has come forward with proposals. The Scottish

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Conservative Party will come forward with proposals at the end of May. An

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important part of looking at housing benefit is ensuring there is

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sufficient, affordable housing. Does my right honourable friend agree

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that a lack of suitable housing is the result and responsibility of

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successive Scottish governments. I agree with the honourable lady and

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she will be aware that since 2010 the Scottish Government have added

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an additional ?1.3 billion in relation to funding which they could

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have used for affordable housing in Scotland. We used to hear constantly

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there were so many shovel ready projects, in Scotland, but we have

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not seen much shovelling. The bedroom tax has been a costly fiasco

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in Scotland. I am glad the Government at long last has agreed

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to let the Scottish Government mitigate the worst impact. However,

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the Secretary of State boasted we have a fantastic benefits system.

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Does the Minister think he was talking about the bedroom tax or is

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he also living on a parallel universe? I certainly do not live in

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the universe that the SNP in habit. They have not set out a single

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detail of how a welfare system would operate in Scotland. In the 670

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pages of the White Paper there is one reference to setting up a

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welfare system. They set up a commission and we have heard nothing

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from it and I am not taking any lessons from the honourable lady.

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Does the Minister accept that now the Scottish Government have been

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given the powers they asked for there is no reason why they should

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not, firstly, it cancelled the bedroom tax for this year and,

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secondly, right of all the debts that were incurred last year and to

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make sure there is no moral hazard involved refund the money that was

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paid by Scottish people for the bedroom tax last year? There will be

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a statement in the Scottish Parliament on this matter today and

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I am sure the honourable gentleman's colleagues will raise

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those points. Mr Speaker, rising energy bills are a serious concern

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for consumers in Scotland and the UK. Increasing competition and

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working to ensure suppliers put customers on the cheapest tariffs is

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what we are doing. Does he agree that with the closing of coal

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powered fire stations, the adoption of nuclear power stations north of

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the border that under independence with the reliance on renewables and

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energy costs must increase in independence? I agree with the

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honourable gentleman in relation to the serious loss to the Scottish

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economy of closing the door on the nuclear industry that has brought so

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much benefit to Scotland. I pay tribute to him for being such a

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champion of that cause. Energy costs will go up in an independent

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Scotland is set up in the Government's analysis on energy. In

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Northumberland and Scotland people I setting up or ill buying clubs to

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deal with the problem of off grid energy. Does the Minister agree the

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best way to combat energy problems and price rises is to copy this good

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measure and spread it out across the country? I think oil clubs are

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developing in Scotland and it is something the Government is keen to

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promote and support and I commend him on highlighting it today. If the

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Minister is genuinely concerned about rising costs of energy in

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Scotland, why is it that Ofgem have yet again delayed the implementation

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of a project which would tackle the discriminatory and expensive

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transmission charges? Will he pressed his colleagues to implement

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it immediately? The programme is one thing I am in agreement with with

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the honourable gentleman. It is disappointing that it has taken some

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time, but in the Scotland Office we are determined to work toward

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getting the right answer and I urge him and his colleagues to press

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Ofgem as well. Can the Minister explain why when the Prime Minister

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said consumers in Scotland would be ?50 better off after cuts to the

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green levies hundreds of thousands of Scottish consumers have only seen

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their bills increase by ?12? There is no reason why consumers in

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Scotland should not be seeing this ?50 benefits and the Government will

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continue to do or it can to make sure they do. That is the definition

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of an in adequate answer and goes some way to explain why Labour's

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policy has widespread support across Scotland. Opposing the energy

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freeze, the Tory led Government have had the full support of our surprise

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friend in the Scottish Nationalist party. Standing up for the energy

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companies, failing to take action on the living wage, proposing tax cuts

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for those at the top, doesn't the Minister agree that Scotland

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deserves better than this? What I believe is we do not take any

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lectures from Labour on energy issues. Gas bills more than doubled

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under Labour, electricity bills went up 50%. The leader of the Labour

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Party was responsible for ?179 of additional levies on gas bills and

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fuel duty went up 12 times. I am proud of this Government's record on

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energy and Scotland is doing well under it. As he had any discussions

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on the potential role of the Bank of England? If people are voting to

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leave the UK VI are voting to leave UK organisations which support it.

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The majority of my constituents hope that Scotland will stay in the

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union. Can you confirm that in the event of yes vote there are no

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circumstances which will affect the borrowing plans whatever currency

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they use? I would like to thank him for his support for the continuation

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of Scotland with the United Kingdom. The position on any currency union

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or central banking arrangements has been made very clear by the

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Chancellor and the chief secretary and by the Shadow Chancellor. There

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will be no such arrangements. Will the Bank of England monetary policy

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committee take their instructions from the United Kingdom Treasury

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from the Scottish Government? From the United Kingdom Treasury and that

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would not change. If Scotland separates from the United Kingdom,

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how would the United Kingdom's foreign-exchange reserves be

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deposited? That would be a matter to be determined in the matter of

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Scotland voting to leave the United Kingdom. I very much hope that will

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not come to pass. The Bank of England ready rather sensibly in

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gays in technical discussions with the Scottish Government and as each

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day passes and a yes vote becomes a more likely, is it not time that the

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government engaged with the Scottish Government to find how these matters

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might be resolved? In the Edinburgh agreement both governments agreed

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and I am astonished at the honourable gentleman wishes to walk

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away from it. Do we agree that it is an extraordinary kind of

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independence that wants to hand over control of your fiscal and monetary

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policy to a foreign bank? He puts it perfectly, the difference between an

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asset and an institution is not a difficult one to understand but the

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Scottish Nationalists do seem to struggle with it. I have not had any

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discussions with the Scottish Government about the prospect of a

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currency union. The only way to keep the United Kingdom pound is to stay

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in the United Kingdom. I thank the Minister for that reply. Having read

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the report of the fiscal commission, it is clear that they took the

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advice I have been giving Scottish Nationalist colleagues that they

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would be destroyed if they went into the Eurozone so if they have no

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currency union with the United Kingdom, what prospects are there

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for the 8% deficit that Scotland is running at the moment? The position

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is clearly laid out and the difficulties which would be created

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via the currency union would be difficulties for the whole of the

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United Kingdom that particularly for the people of Scotland. If we are to

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be independent, we need to be independent with all that that

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means. Is he aware that if Scotland where to gain its independence, the

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credit waiting -- rating would be lowered. ? That would mean more

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expensive store cards and overdrafts and mortgages. We are cheaper as

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part of the United Kingdom. Does the Secretary of State agree that all of

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the currency options that have been foot forward -- put forward by the

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Scottish Nationalists is inferior to what we currently have? Yes, that is

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the truth that they do not want to hear that from which there is no

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such escaping and the people of Scotland know that. The number of

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people claiming unemployment benefit in Argyll and Bute has been reduced

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by 490 over the last year. Does he agree that the best way to keep the

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sustained economic growth is to stay within the United Kingdom? Indeed.

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He gives me the opportunity to remind the House that the United

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Kingdom has the fastest-growing economy in the G7 group of nations

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and that Scotland is a second wealthiest parts of that second

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fastest-growing -- fastest-growing economy. On what date, if Scotland

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chooses to separate, will Scotland have to start printing its own money

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or use the pound is a foreign currency? He invites me to look into

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the future and predict, which is never an easy prospect for anyone

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and that is an unwise enterprise. The truth of the matter is that all

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these things are uncertain and bring many risks. What could be more

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demeaning and insulting than to read the Scottish people to believe there

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are no risks in independence and that a currency union is a foregone

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conclusion? The only foregone conclusion about a currency union is

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that it will not happen. It will not happen because that is the advice

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that has been given by the permanent secretary to the Chancellor of each

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and that advice and the outcome of that advice will not change. --

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Chancellor of the Exchequer. Can the Secretary of State tell us what has

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happened to the gentleman that told the truth? It is amazing that he

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chooses to ignore the advice given by the permanent secretary to the

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Chancellor of the exchequer. Why does he want something that would be

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bad for something? For Scotland?. We are fed that 85% of the British

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Chambers and against independence and nearly half identify currency

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concerns as their most important issue. What we assurance is can the

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Secretary of State give in respect of currency for businesses on both

:24:30.:24:37.

side of the border? If people in Scotland votes know they will

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continue to enjoy the use of the pound and will continue to have the

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Bank of England as a lender of last resort. Beyond that, everything else

:24:44.:24:56.

is uncertain. Scotland has a place in the United Kingdom that means we

:24:57.:25:01.

have a truly single domestic market with no barriers to employment and

:25:02.:25:04.

trade. Independence would fundamentally change that and

:25:05.:25:09.

disrupt trade and free movement of workers. My constituency is home to

:25:10.:25:26.

a large number of logistics and distribution companies. Is he aware

:25:27.:25:28.

of the growing concern in that sector is separation would make some

:25:29.:25:35.

cross-border routes less attractive as they become international rather

:25:36.:25:41.

than domestic? I hear the same message from a whole range of

:25:42.:25:49.

different business interests. The financial services industry say that

:25:50.:25:50.

independence would bring extra costs of different taxation and

:25:51.:25:55.

legislation. The supermarkets have been very clear that extra costs

:25:56.:25:59.

would fall to Scottish consumers if they were independent. According to

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the Commons library, trade between the two of the United Kingdom and

:26:15.:26:20.

Ireland has never been higher. Of recently independence nations of the

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European Union foreign investment has risen dramatically. What scares

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the Tories? The white paper presents a prospectus where there would be

:26:38.:26:40.

barriers and where the mere existence of border would be an

:26:41.:26:44.

extra cost. If he wants to know the truth of the matter, he need look no

:26:45.:26:50.

further than the situation between Canada and the United States. He

:26:51.:26:54.

might not like it but that is the truth. What discussions has the

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Secretary of State had regarding the possibility of border controls

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between an independent Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom? And

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as separate immigration policy? It is an inescapable fact that if, as

:27:17.:27:21.

the Scottish Nationalist tell us in the White Paper, Scotland had a

:27:22.:27:26.

widely diverging to immigration policy which is necessary for the

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economic plans that they had been prepared to tell us about, the

:27:31.:27:34.

operation of a Common travel area of the sort that works well currently

:27:35.:27:37.

with the Republic of Ireland simply would not operate. You cannot have

:27:38.:27:50.

your cake and eat it. Given the threat by the first minister to

:27:51.:27:52.

blockade at Scottish fishing grounds if he does not get his own way, what

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an analysis does the Secretary of State have the impact of employment

:28:06.:28:13.

on the fishing industry? It would be a serious impact on some of the most

:28:14.:28:18.

economically fragile communities Scotland has on our coastal and

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island communities. The conversation about blockading Scottish waters

:28:27.:28:29.

went beyond the ridiculous and makes me wonder why he seems so desperate

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to cosy up to Vladimir Putin. Normally I would give you the date

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for the next edition of our programme but the parliamentary

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authorities at Westminster have not finalised the programme yet. From

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Oliver Seer, goodbye.

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