10/02/2016 Scottish Questions


Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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Hello, and a very warm welcome to Westminster for February's Scottish


questions. No shortage of topics for our MPs to get their teeth into,


ranging from the financial challenges of the North Sea oil and


gas industry to the challenges that will be posed by further devolution


to Scotland, but proceedings began with another very current issue, the


European Union, and how Scotland fares as part of the single market.


Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. We do not take points


of order now. Later. Points of order come after questions and statements.


We start with questions. I am sure everyone, particularly in


Scotland, will share your warm wishes to Andy Murray and his wife


on the birth of their daughter. Mr Speaker, official statistics


published last month showed that in 2014 around 42% of all Scottish


international exports were destined for countries within the European


Union. The value of these exports is estimated at around ?11.6 billion.


Does the Secretary of State agree with me that the package the Prime


Minister will be discussing in more detail with his colleagues and the


European Council will bring about much-needed reform and be a catalyst


for more reform in the future, thus making it quite clear the single


market is good for the United Kingdom and good for Scotland? Mr


Speaker, in a reformed EU we could have the best of both worlds, access


to the single market, while not being a member of the euro or


Schengen and I think that would be good for Scotland and the rest of


the United Kingdom. The single European market, and the ability to


impact the legislation that governs it is hugely important to the


Scottish economy, especially the exporting sectors, such as whiskey.


Will the Secretary of State confirm that regardless of the ongoing


negotiations, he will personally campaign for Scotland and the UK to


remain within the European Union? Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman


will know, and will be sure to be pleased to have heard that the


leader of the Scottish Unionist party has expressed exactly that


position. Perhaps at the end of this question the Secretary of State can


answer the question about whether he will support Scotland remaining


within the European Union? Making a positive case for remaining in the


EU will be crucial in the weeks and months ahead. Will the Secretary of


State give a commitment not to repeat the grinding of negativity


project fear and ridiculous scare stories such as this from the Prime


Minister on the refugee camp in Calais. I will make my -- position


known when the negotiations have been concluded but I make this offer


to the honourable gentleman. If there reform package goes ahead and


if I am campaigning to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, I would be


delighted to join him, the right Honourable member for Gordon, and


the First Minister on a platform to make that case. I had the pleasure


last night of meeting with the Scotch Whisky Association who


introduced me to some of the finer products from across the border.


Would the minister be kind enough support whether a company in my


constituency, who provide an enormous amount of the malted barley


that is sold across the border in Scotland, should produce this


whiskey and expansion into growth markets is important for the


industry. There are tremendous opportunities for the development of


the Scotch whiskey industry and it is an issue on which broke the


Scottish Government, UK Government and all parties in this united. We


recently, when the president of China was here in the United


Kingdom, had the opportunity to present the president's wife with


her favourite bottle of malt whiskey from Scotland and the President and


his good lady were able to set out how important that product is to


developing markets in China. I wonder if the Secretary of State is


able to tell me what discussions he has had with Scottish businesses


about the possibility of a UK exit from the EU and what concerns they


have raised about the impact this would have on their ability to


access and export to the single market? The clearest message I get


from businesses in Scotland is that they want a short EU referendum


campaign so that we have the minimum amount of uncertainty. This is a


question about the fiscal framework. I have regular discussions with the


Deputy First Minister to discuss the first framework and the negotiations


are ongoing. Yesterday the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister


and set out areas where agreement still needs to be reached and she


listed those areas as the method for Block grant adjustments, capital and


revenue borrowing, fiscal oversight and dispute resolution, can the


secretary of state confirmed that those are all of the outstanding


issues where agreement still needs to be reached? The nature of the


discussion is that it was agreed at the start and until everything is


agreed nothing is agreed. Considerable progress has been made


on all of those issues. I very much welcome what the First Minister says


in that letter, that the finance secretary is going to bring forward


revised proposals from the Scottish Government. That is what a Scottish


-- negotiation involves, it involves both parties bringing forward


revised proposals at the negotiation progresses and that is what the UK


Government is committed to doing. The starting point of the fiscal


framework discussions with the Barnett Formula which means that


Scotland has 15% extra public spending per capita than the UK has


an average. Could the secretary of state inform the house whether he


believes that differential will maintain in perpetuity. The Hons


gentleman's views on the Barnett Formula are well-known. I do not


agree with them, nor does the government. The government's


position is that the Barnett Formula will remain even in the post fiscal


framework environment. The negotiations that the fiscal


framework are very sensitive and fragile and we need to be very


careful about the language that is used. The Secretary of State was


using language like ludicrous and chancing his arm when it was coming


to one party in this negotiation which is profoundly unhelpful. Of


the secretary of state and the Scotland Office had got nothing to


offer business negotiation discussions, will he vowed to stay


right out of it and try to get these negotiations fixed. I do find it a


little odd, Mr Speaker, to take a lecture from that particular


honourable gentleman on moderate language, but I don't think anybody


can doubt my commitment to ensuring that we have a negotiated fiscal


framework. I am delighted that the First Minister, in her letter to the


Prime Minister, set out her strong commitment to achieve that


agreement. That is the Prime Minister's position. As I said at


the weekend, both sides have done the dance, let's do the deal. Would


my right honourable friend agree that if we are to have a successful


devolution agreement that we all want, it does need a firm and


sensible framework for fiscal discipline, so that it will last and


stand the test of all the unknown economic vicissitudes that make it


the country. Will he assure us that we will not repeat the mistakes that


were made in Spain where devolved provinces quite frequently run up


quite unsustainable debts which they then blame on Madrid and cause very


great difficulty to the Spanish government in seeking recovery. Ken


Clarke is a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer. The


settlement within Spain is quite different. I do agree on the need


for the sustainability of the fiscal framework. What the government has


made quite clear in terms of the negotiations is our willingness to


see the arrangements reviewed within a few years, to make sure that they


do stand up to the scrutiny of being fair to Scotland advert of the rest


of the United Kingdom. I would like to join you in congratulating Andy


Murray and his wife on the birth of their baby daughter. Actually their


baby daughter may be winning Wimbledon by the time you get a deal


on the fiscal framework. The UK and Scottish governments have been


negotiating it for over six months which is longer than it took to


negotiate the Scotland Bill itself and longer than it took to have the


historic climate change agreement and longer than it took the Jeep 20


leaders to negotiate $1.1 trillion of support for the UK economy. It is


clear it is the indexation model that is vexatious, can be Secretary


of State tell the house where he thinks the per capita index model is


not appropriate for the block grant? What I have made clear in previous


discussions is that we are not going to have been the detailed


negotiation in relation to this matter on the floor this house. What


I have said earlier is that I very much welcome the fact that the First


Minister has indicated that the Scottish Government is going to


bring forward a revised proposal. Through the negotiations we had


brought forward revised proposals and I believe we are in touching


distance of striking a deal and I remain optimistic that we will do


so. The secretary of state says that you will not rip -- provide a


running commentary on the fiscal framework while both governments are


providing a very running commentary. A respected economist has said I do


not understand why it should be such a huge stumbling block and a


constitutional expert said the fiscal framework is an eminently


solvable problem. The Prime Minister has spent recent months shuttling


around Europe, trying to strike a deal on EU reform. Isn't it time the


Prime Minister got involved and showed the same enthusiasm for


striking a fair deal for Scotland on our own union as he has on the


European Union? There are Prime Minister is committed to securing a


deal. He has spoken with Nicola Sturgeon on this issue and they have


had a productive discussion and are now involved in an exchange of


letters but both of them are quite clear that they want to get a deal


and I am confident that when the position set out in the letter from


the First Minister, that the Scottish Government actively


engaging in that negotiation process, as are we, that we will be


able to get that deal. This is a question about the oil and gas


industry in the North Sea. On 28 January the Prime Minister and I


held discussions with industry representatives in Aberdeen on


further support for the North Sea. As a member of the joint ministerial


group on oil and gas I also engage with key stakeholders such as the


oil and gas authority on a regular basis.


Calor gas has its largest operational site in the UK in my


constituency in South Leicestershire. A number of


residents in the Scottish Highlands and other areas rely on Calor gas to


receive a large part of the Scottish gas supply from the North Sea and


does my right honourable friend agree as a result of the sport that


the UK Government is able to provide, we are in a much better


place to absorb the falling oil prices that would have been the case


had Scotland been an independent country? Well, firstly, Mr Speaker,


I do acknowledge the importance of Calor gas and those who supply the


network energy -- might be off the network energy which is very


important in rural Scotland. On the wider point he makes an important


point about the ability of the United Kingdom as a whole to absorb


the change in the oil price. What discussions have the secretary of


state had with the Chancellor about continued funding for seismic


surveys on the UK continental shelf? I am sure that the honourable lady


welcome to the Prime Minister's announcement, when he was in


Aberdeen, the ?20 million contribution for a second round of


new seismic surveys. The severity of the collapse in the


global oil price carries but that the


economy? That's very issue was part of the


discussion with the Prime Minister Fergus Ewing from the Scottish


Government and representatives of the oil and gas industry at the


recent meeting in Aberdeen, and the Prime Minister made it very clear


that he would look at any specific request or proposal in relation to


supporting the industry in the forthcoming budget.


Mr forthcoming budget.


programmes per say, yes, there will be greater devilish and for the


Scottish Government in welfare and when it comes to employment


programmes, we would be happy to have discussions with the Scottish


Government in particular, many of which will look at how those


employment programmes can be taken further to support those out of work


in Scotland who desperately want to work.


Mr Speaker, due to the changes from DLA to PIP, thousands of Scots are


losing the rights to mobility vehicles and this is devastating in


rural areas where successful public transport may be limited, while the


Minister end this policy? As I have said, Mr Speaker, there


will be new powers under the devolution deal that will include


top-up payments, which are very much based on welfare payments as well


and it will be down to the Scottish Government in particular to start


making some of these decisions. You have the powers coming to you you,


you will have to decide how you use them.


It was thanks to Labour peers in the other place for the government's


initial cack-handed and unfair cuts to tax credits that were brought to


an abrupt end. But the noble that the government wants to introduce


new changes which will leave 800,000 people on tax credits across the


United Kingdom worse off come the month of April. Can the Minister


tell this house how many people in Scotland will be affected?


He is the shadow Scotland minister. When the house has discussed the


issues of welfare reform and changes, that we have the bill going


through the other place right now, so the changes that we are making


are there to bring fairness and stability to the welfare bill in


this country and at the same time, we have been clear, despite the


figure is that the honourable gentleman in the party opposite


where bridges constantly that people would not be affected and the right


support will be put in place. This is a question from the


Conservative MP about boosting employment in Scotland.


The employment rate in Scotland has never been higher, standing at


74.1%. We will build upon this and recognise the changes to the labour


market environment while delivering value for money to the taxpayer.


Then ever wash we have many great examples of businesses, operations


north of the border which helps to sustain jobs locally especially in


the transport and engineering. Would the Minister agree with me that the


Scotland blog only supports jobs for its own population but great ape


bashed -- but also create a great deal of employment for the rest of


the United Kingdom. You are correct to say, with record


levels of implement in Scotland, her constituency has clearly benefited


from the crossover in terms of employment opportunities both in her


constituency and in Scotland. With our growing economy and the strength


of it, that will continue to grow. Thank you, Mister Speaker, under the


SNP Scottish Government, Scottish and climate is at its highest level


since 2005, 7% higher than the rest of the UK. Can the Secretary of


State and ensure that you'll make representations to the sector state


for business innovation and is to ensure that Scotland receives a fair


share of funding from the apprenticeship leading?


I would say to the honourable gentleman, I did not feel we hear


that question, but I will take that away and I understand that the


Department are looking at that. It is a very serious situation of


the ministers cannot hear the questions and it is a discourtesy to


the people of Scotland and when we are discussing these important


matters that questions and answers cannot be heard. Try to have a bit


of water! This is a question about the West


Coast Main Line. We are working with others to ensure


that the viaduct on my own constituency is addressed as soon as


possible. We remain committed to working together with all parties to


reopen the West Coast Main Line in the first week of March.


Thank you, Mr Speaker. Apologies for my lack of voice. The closure of the


West Coast Main Line has a huge impact, not only on the economy of


southern Scotland, but of Cumbria as well. It is a strategic cross border


crossing and many businesses in my constituency rely upon it. I was


your PQ -- I was pleased they fear the sector state say it will be open


on the 1st of March. Can he can from the entire section of it will be


opened by that date? I welcome the honourable lady's


comments, because she will be with whether my own constituents use


Lockerbie station and people who are most affected by these changes are


concerned, but we are determined to get the West Coast Main Line fully


reopened in that first week in March.


John Nicolson. The Prime Minister claims that he is


going to get a good deal for Britain in the European Union. With the


Secretary of State like to see the United Kingdom play the same role


and of the same level of powers in the EU that Scotland is currently


has, he claims in the UK? Not related to the West Coast Main


Line, but I hope will be admitted and answer!


The West Coast Main Line is one of the most important routes within the


United Kingdom to Europe via London. I have set out my position in


relation to the EU referendum. I think it is important that if the


SNP Gemili once Scotland to remain in the EU rather than concert --


concentrate on process issues, they should get out and campaign for it.


The question about devolution to local government in Scotland.


I do not know of the honourable gentleman has had the opportunity of


meeting my speech of the 21st of December when I set out that I fully


support evolution of power to local committees as Lord Smith recommended


in his commission agreement. This is a responsibility of the Scottish


Parliament to implement, but I encourage them to do so.


While the Secretary of State condemn those who use devolution to actually


centralise power in Hollywood? Whether it is the centralisation of


the police, the Fire Service, the health spending, local governance


pending, sports, colleges and enterprises and enterprise


companies, will he ensure that he stands together with those who feel


devolution does not stop at Holyrood but goes down to the Scottish level


authorities and to the Scottish people?


Mister Speaker, I agree with the honourable gentleman and I can tell


him the best way to achieve that, under Ruth Davidson, to elect more


Scottish Conservative MSPs to the Scottish Parliament.


Mister Speaker, in the interests of the record, can the Secretary of


State can from that under the powers being devolved as part of the


current Scotland Bill, the Scottish Government will be able to vary


rates in bands of the Scottish rate of income tax, a leading the


Scottish Government to... Order! Order! I apologise. The


Secretary of State and the Minister could not hear the question because


of a rude eruption of noise. So, perhaps the honourable gentleman


could ask his question again and perhaps members could have the


common courtesy to allow him to be heard by their own ministers. Mister


fell was well. Thank you, we are getting used to


it! In the interests of the record, can the Secretary of State can from


that under the powers currently being devolved as part of the


current Scotland Bill, the Scottish Government will be able to vary


rates and bands of the Scottish rate of income tax, allowing the Scottish


Government to make progress of choices on these additional powers


and the Labour have big plans to raise Scottish income tax for


everyone before these powers were transferred...


Order! Members need to learn the merits of the blue pencil and if


they use that and questions were shorter, we would all benefit.


The Speaker ticking off a number of MPs.


We will take on these significant tax powers which the Scottish


Government will be able to use as they see fit. I hope that they will


use them to make Scotland a more attractive place for business and


commerce, grow the Scottish economy, and grow the Scottish population.


Fiona Bruce. This is a question about business.


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has


had a number of discussions with business organisations, including


the IoD, the Scottish Whisky Association, Oil and Gas UK. It is


because of this government's commitment to a long-term economic


plan and prosperity that we have seen such a growth in the Scottish


economy. Thank goodness the good people of Scotland voted to stay


within the United Kingdom and rejected independence.


This question is being and to buy Anna Soubry.


Scottish Opera this would lose money as the Sunday periods are abandoned


due to the new regulations. Would the minister take up the concerns


with the Business Secretary. -- Scottish shopkeepers.


I could not hear what you said, but I will tell you this, we intend to


devolve power down to local authorities so that they make the


decisions as what is in the best interests for people locally, that


includes local people who may want to shop on a Sunday but also the


interests of businesses who may want to open more liberally on a Sunday


to take full advantage me and I think that is a good idea and I hope


she would consider supporting it. I am afraid that as we have time for


at the moment. We will be in six weeks' time on the 23rd of March


with the next Scottish questions. That is also the final one before


the Holyrood elections on the 1st of May. It may be fairly lightly. Do


join us then add you can. But for now, from Oliver Searle from


Westminster, goodbye. -- from all of us here from Westminster.


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