10/02/2016 Scottish Questions


10/02/2016

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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

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

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ranging from the financial challenges of the North Sea oil and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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international exports were destined for countries within the European

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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impact the legislation that governs it is hugely important to the

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

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Will the Secretary of State confirm that regardless of the ongoing

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

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

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

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leader of the Scottish Unionist party has expressed exactly that

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

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answer the question about whether he will support Scotland remaining

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

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

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State give a commitment not to repeat the grinding of negativity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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last night of meeting with the Scotch Whisky Association who

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

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

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constituency, who provide an enormous amount of the malted barley

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

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whiskey and expansion into growth markets is important for the

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industry. There are tremendous opportunities for the development of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deputy First Minister to discuss the first framework and the negotiations

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

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

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

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revenue borrowing, fiscal oversight and dispute resolution, can the

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secretary of state confirmed that those are all of the outstanding

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

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

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agreed nothing is agreed. Considerable progress has been made

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

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

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

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-- negotiation involves, it involves both parties bringing forward

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

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

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framework discussions with the Barnett Formula which means that

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

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

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believes that differential will maintain in perpetuity. The Hons

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

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

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

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framework environment. The negotiations that the fiscal

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

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

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

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

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

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offer business negotiation discussions, will he vowed to stay

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

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

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

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

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

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Prime Minister, set out her strong commitment to achieve that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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were made in Spain where devolved provinces quite frequently run up

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

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great difficulty to the Spanish government in seeking recovery. Ken

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Clarke is a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer. The

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Minister has indicated that the Scottish Government is going to

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bring forward a revised proposal. Through the negotiations we had

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brought forward revised proposals and I believe we are in touching

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

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

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running commentary on the fiscal framework while both governments are

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

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

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constitutional expert said the fiscal framework is an eminently

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solvable problem. The Prime Minister has spent recent months shuttling

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

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Prime Minister got involved and showed the same enthusiasm for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the First Minister, that the Scottish Government actively

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

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

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

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held discussions with industry representatives in Aberdeen on

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

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

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oil and gas authority on a regular basis.

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

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constituency in South Leicestershire. A number of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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state had with the Chancellor about continued funding for seismic

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

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

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

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new seismic surveys. The severity of the collapse in the

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global oil price carries but that the

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economy? That's very issue was part of the

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discussion with the Prime Minister Fergus Ewing from the Scottish

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Government and representatives of the oil and gas industry at the

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

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

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supporting the industry in the forthcoming budget.

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Mr forthcoming budget.

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

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Scottish Government in welfare and when it comes to employment

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

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

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

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in Scotland who desperately want to work.

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

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losing the rights to mobility vehicles and this is devastating in

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

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

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will be new powers under the devolution deal that will include

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

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

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

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you will have to decide how you use them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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figure is that the honourable gentleman in the party opposite

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

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

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Conservative MP about boosting employment in Scotland.

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

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

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market environment while delivering value for money to the taxpayer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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levels of implement in Scotland, her constituency has clearly benefited

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from the crossover in terms of employment opportunities both in her

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

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

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

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

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

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

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share of funding from the apprenticeship leading?

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

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

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

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

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the people of Scotland and when we are discussing these important

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

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of water! This is a question about the West

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Coast Main Line. We are working with others to ensure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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reopened in that first week in March.

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John Nicolson. The Prime Minister claims that he is

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

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

:22:15.:22:20.

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

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

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Line, but I hope will be admitted and answer!

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

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

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

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

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

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The question about devolution to local government in Scotland.

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

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

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support evolution of power to local committees as Lord Smith recommended

:23:23.:23:26.

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

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

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

:23:37.:23:41.

centralise power in Hollywood? Whether it is the centralisation of

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

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pending, sports, colleges and enterprises and enterprise

:23:52.:23:55.

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

:23:56.:24:00.

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

:24:01.:24:03.

authorities and to the Scottish people?

:24:04.:24:08.

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

:24:09.:24:12.

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

:24:13.:24:15.

Scottish Conservative MSPs to the Scottish Parliament.

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

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

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

:24:34.:24:37.

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

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

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

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

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could ask his question again and perhaps members could have the

:24:55.:24:58.

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

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

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

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that under the powers currently being devolved as part of the

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

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

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Government to make progress of choices on these additional powers

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

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everyone before these powers were transferred...

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

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

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The Speaker ticking off a number of MPs.

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We will take on these significant tax powers which the Scottish

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

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

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

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Fiona Bruce. This is a question about business.

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My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has

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had a number of discussions with business organisations, including

:26:19.:26:22.

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

:26:23.:26:26.

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

:26:27.:26:29.

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

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

:26:33.:26:36.

within the United Kingdom and rejected independence.

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This question is being and to buy Anna Soubry.

:26:43.:26:48.

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

:26:49.:26:53.

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

:26:54.:26:57.

with the Business Secretary. -- Scottish shopkeepers.

:26:58.:27:02.

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

:27:03.:27:07.

devolve power down to local authorities so that they make the

:27:08.:27:13.

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

:27:14.:27:15.

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

:27:16.:27:20.

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

:27:21.:27:23.

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

:27:24.:27:28.

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

:27:29.:27:33.

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

:27:34.:27:37.

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

:27:38.:27:41.

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

:27:42.:27:48.

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

:27:49.:27:54.

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

:27:55.:27:55.

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