07/05/2014 Scottish Questions


Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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


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


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


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


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


of Scotland will be going to the polls for the independence


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


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


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


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


people travel between Scotland and England between work. If Scotland


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


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


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


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


dissipated, looking at the details of administration and borders rather


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


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


and it would be an unnecessary distraction would which would move


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


would come from independence. These are voices that the honourable


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


people living in the border constituencies on either side of the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


highlights perfectly how the Scottish Nationalists want to have


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


additional burden to them that will affect jobs and economic prosperity


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


different taxation system, different national insurers and different


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


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


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


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


have had regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on the


application of discretionary housing payments to those affected by the


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


offsetting of the limits on such payments could become the


responsibility of the Scottish Government. Much of the money has


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


announcement in relation to the discretionary cap, with the Minister


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


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


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


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


agree with the honourable lady. The Scottish Government already had


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


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


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


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


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


proposals from the demolition commission, does he agree it would


be a logical and practical step which would enhance revolution and


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


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


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


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


important part of looking at housing benefit is ensuring there is


sufficient, affordable housing. Does my right honourable friend agree


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


successive Scottish governments. I agree with the honourable lady and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Does the Minister accept that now the Scottish Government have been


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


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


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


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


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


a statement in the Scottish Parliament on this matter today and


I am sure the honourable gentleman's colleagues will raise


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


for consumers in Scotland and the UK. Increasing competition and


working to ensure suppliers put customers on the cheapest tariffs is


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


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


the border that under independence with the reliance on renewables and


energy costs must increase in independence? I agree with the


honourable gentleman in relation to the serious loss to the Scottish


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Minister is genuinely concerned about rising costs of energy in


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


of a project which would tackle the discriminatory and expensive


transmission charges? Will he pressed his colleagues to implement


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


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


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


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


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


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


green levies hundreds of thousands of Scottish consumers have only seen


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


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


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


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


policy has widespread support across Scotland. Opposing the energy


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


circumstances which will affect the borrowing plans whatever currency


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


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


or central banking arrangements has been made very clear by the


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


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


committee take their instructions from the United Kingdom Treasury


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


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


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


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


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


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


gays in technical discussions with the Scottish Government and as each


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


government engaged with the Scottish Government to find how these matters


might be resolved? In the Edinburgh agreement both governments agreed


and I am astonished at the honourable gentleman wishes to walk


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


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


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


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


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


discussions with the Scottish Government about the prospect of a


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


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


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


advice I have been giving Scottish Nationalist colleagues that they


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


currency union with the United Kingdom, what prospects are there


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


is clearly laid out and the difficulties which would be created


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


people claiming unemployment benefit in Argyll and Bute has been reduced


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


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


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


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


and that Scotland is a second wealthiest parts of that second


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


conclusion? The only foregone conclusion about a currency union is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Chambers and against independence and nearly half identify currency


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


trade. Independence would fundamentally change that and


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


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


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


cross-border routes less attractive as they become international rather


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


different business interests. The financial services industry say that


independence would bring extra costs of different taxation and


legislation. The supermarkets have been very clear that extra costs


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


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


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


European Union foreign investment has risen dramatically. What scares


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


barriers and where the mere existence of border would be an


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


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


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


Secretary of State had regarding the possibility of border controls


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


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


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


widely diverging to immigration policy which is necessary for the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


economically fragile communities Scotland has on our coastal and


island communities. The conversation about blockading Scottish waters


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


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


for the next edition of our programme but the parliamentary


authorities at Westminster have not finalised the programme yet. From


Oliver Seer, goodbye.


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