11/01/2012 Scottish Questions


Coverage of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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A very warm welcome to Westminster for the first programme of 2012.


The weather here at Westminster is unseasonably mild, and the


political temperature is rising as well. The announcement last night


from the First Minister Alex Salmond that he wants an


independence referendum in Scotland, in the autumn of 2014 has led the


constitutional genie out of the bottle. Proceedings began with a


very specific question about defence and security.


Order. Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland.


We have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on defence


matters relating to Scotland. My right honourable friend the


Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State last spoke to the minister of


defence personnel this week. As recently as November, the Prime


Minister said there are no current plans to reduce -- reduce the


number of MoD police officers at naval bases. However since then the


Government has confirmed plans to cut the budget of the MoD police by


50%. To the Prime Minister's assurances hold any water? What


proportion of these cuts will fall in Scotland, and as he believed the


threat to national security have diminished if -- sufficiently in


recent months to justify a 50% cut in numbers? What the Prime Minister


said stance, there are no current plans for the MoD to reduce the


core police role or security of our national institutions such as


nuclear safety. We take national security and the security of the


defence installations and as the highest priority we have. We have


so many MoD police in Scotland and the first place because of the huge


defence imprint that we have. That would be addressed if the country


were to be independent. -- at risk. I am delighted the Secretary of


State has mentioned this, that there would be no current plans to


reduce the number of MoD police. I would hope that he can assure the


House that the Government will never adopt any plans to reduce the


security at these bases because of the installations there. As I said,


national security is our highest priority as a government. We will


do nothing but compromise is and -- that will compromise his insecurity.


The system must stay fair and affordable, and the benefit will


increase by 5.2% in April. The debt consolidation plan, the Government


will increase the child element of the child tax credit by the rate of


inflation. According to the House of Commons library, under the


Government's decision not to go ahead with the �110 increase in the


child element of tax credits, it will mean �41 million has taken


away from almost 400,000 children in Scotland alone. The worst hit in


Scotland will be Glasgow City, where 44,000 children are set to


miss out on �4.8 million. When will the Secretary of State stand up for


the children of Scotland? Government is standing up for the


children of Scotland. That is why its priority is sorting out the


mess was the last Labour government made of our economy. I think the


honourable gentleman would do well to heed the words of the former


Secretary of State, who said the truth is that the Labour Party


would have to make cuts if it were in power. We all it said we are in


difficult economic times, but with the Minister agree one of the most


effective ways of helping the lowest-paid families is to raise


the income tax threshold to 10,000? I agree with my honourable friend.


This has had significant impact in Scotland, and over 2 million basic


rate taxpayers will benefit from the proposal over the period of the


spa element. After another week dominating the headlines on


Scotland's constitution, we cannot ignore the Child poverty problems.


What action does the Secretary of State have to make sure the


children of Scotland have the best start in life? He raises an


important issue, and how it will -- highlights that many of the


decisions rest with the Scottish government. The Scottish government


received only if -- over �500 million in additional revenue, and


I would have thought they would be better focused and how to deploy


that, rather than obsessing about the constitution for.


The Secretary of State and I firmly believe that Scotland is the ideal


destination for international inward investment, and we have


taken a range of departments -- Does my Honourable Friend accept


On I agree with my honourable friend, which is why I believe it


is better that a referendum on Scottish and a attendances held


sooner, rather than later. In contrast to the previous


intervention, will the Minister acknowledge that international


companies investing in Scotland since the election of the SNP


Scottish government include Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, does the Minister


acknowledged this and welcome the investment to? What I acknowledge


his these companies have invested in spite of the uncertainty. Think


of the level of investment that Scotland could achieve if there was


not uncertainty. That is the usual mantra we hear from the government,


so perhaps he can answer Scotland's leading entrepreneur, who said,


business is not concerned about the independence referendum. Whilst


many of us in business are convinced about is that a


prosperous future for the country depends on securing real economic


powers through constitutional change. Will the UK Government


dropped its bullish conditions -- drop its foolish conditions? He is


entitled to his opinion, just like any other citizen of Scotland. I am


sure you will encourage them to contribute to the consultation on


the independence referendum. Does my Honourable Friend believe


that for Scotland to become separate from the United Kingdom,


and if it were forced to join the euro-zone as a condition, that this


would hinder or help inward investment into Scotland? What I


would say to my honourable friend is uncertainty over Scotland's


position in the EU over which currency Scotland will use of it


were to come independent will certainly hinder inward investment


in Scotland. According to the annual population


survey of 2010, the proportion of 18-19-year-old estimated to be not


in education, employment or training in Scotland was 36,000.


That answer does not really answer the question. What is happening


between the ages of 16 and 18, which is as important, if not more


important? What is he doing to try to encourage youngsters into


industry, to be able to take on apprenticeships in joinery,


electrician, and plumbing? That is where there is a failure in trying


to attract people into these industries. Does he not agree that


the idea of the school's liaison committees that I suggested to him


is something that is worthwhile support in? He is right to focus on


this issue. Youth unemployment is something we are all concerned


about, and when I was in his constituency, it is right we all


come together with employers, and all the agencies, to help young


people. The use contract which we announced before Christmas, will


bring �1 billion extra investment into supporting the young


unemployed, which uses -- whether it is wage incentives, work


experience opportunities, or money to the Scottish government that


could be used to create those school liaison groups that he wants


to see. Youth unemployment is a huge concern on all sides of the


house, and across Scotland. The youth contract will help that by


providing 40,000 opportunities for young people in Scotland. But this


will not be solved easily, so what will he do to bring together people


from UK government, Jobcentres, Scottish government, business


employers and education opportunities to bring the


opportunities to the young people of Scotland? Over many months I


have been bringing together those groups in different part of


Scotland. At the end of March, along with the Secretary of State


for work and pensions and the Scottish Finance Secretary, I will


bring everyone together so we can focus on tackling this. The problem


with the Secretary of State's complacent answers is that he


simply does not grasp the scale of the crisis of slumping demand,


employment and confidence, which Scotland's economy is gripped by


due to the crushing austerity imposed by the Government. Does he


not share the real fears of the people, that with youth


unemployment at over 21%, and seven people chasing every vacancy in


Scotland, there are not just enough jobs in Scotland to go around? Is


it not time to change course by boosting demand, and cutting VAT,


before the economic plan plunges Scotland into the misery of another


downturn? It is wrong for the Labour Party to be complacent about


his record in the economy, which landed us in this mess and the


first place. One of my predecessors said Labour has to face up to be


challenges of the economy and deficit. We want to work with


everyone so we can reduce youth unemployment, and the youth


contract, I invite them to look at in more detail.


The Government took action in the Autumn Statement to build a


stronger and more balanced economy. As a result more than �500 million


has been added to the Scottish government budget by the UK budget,


which provides the Scottish Government with additional


resources in these uncertain times. Can I sank the Minister for that,


but would he agree with me that one of the most important ways to


tackle poverty is ensuring there is full-employment? Does he therefore


share my concerns that jobs seems set to be a move to end my


constituency -- set to be removed. I know the honourable lady as a


campaigner for this, and employers Can I tell the minister that on


Monday, when 700 of my constituents returned to work at a construction


company, they were told that their company were going into


administration, without any consultation whatsoever. I am told


that the Scottish Enterprise was not even aware of it. The trade


unions were not aware of it. The NS -- MSP was not aware of it. This


company was taken over two years ago when it had a turnover of �200


million. It has now been run into the ground, and the executives have


run away with the money. Can the Minister made with me to discuss


what we can do to save as many of But someone from South Lanarkshire,


I am disappointed to hear what you have related. I would be pleased to


meet with him to ensure that employment is secured in South


Lanarkshire. My Right Honourable Friend, the Secretary of State, is


in contact with the Department of Work and Pensions on welfare reform.


We met to discuss at secondary review of the work capability


assessment. Thank you for that answer. You will be a way of a


report from the Citizens' Advice Bureau examining incorrect and in -


- examining incorrect conclusions made by several reviews. Is it time


for the Government to consider the recommendations of the report that


financial penalties be booked on thought incorrect assessments?


was one of the issues the Secretary of State and I discussed with the


Professor Harrington. We know that as he moves forward to prepare his


father report, this is inevitably one of the issues he will address.


There are far too many noisy private conversations taking place.


Thank you Mr Speaker. Now that the move from incapacity benefit to


employment support allowance is under way, it would appear that


people are finding it difficult to carry out work capability


assessments and there could be extra delays. Will you please


engaged with fellow ministers in the Department of Work and Pensions


to make sure that they can deliver on their contract? I can certainly


ensure that I will pass on concerns to the Department.


And the question about the independence referendum.


I will answer questions 7, 8, 10 together. I made a statement


yesterday about how any referendum could be made legal, fair and


decisive. I discussed this with the First Minister and hope to have


fathered discussions across Scottish Civic Society during the


consultation. -- further discussions. The House of Commons


library had showed that the academies of Quebec and Canada


suffered during constitutional uncertainty in the 1990s. For the


sake of jobs in Scotland and England, do you agree the last


thing we need is a prolonged period of constitutional uncertainty and


the First Minister should get on with that? You are correct to point


to that analysis and the experience we can see from Quebec and the rest


of Canada. It is vital that the economic uncertainty we now face


because of the referendum is resolved and that is why we have


brought forward proposals to make it legal, beer and decisive and I


wanted to happen as soon as possible. -- legal, freer and


decisive. Will you confirm if a UK Government does not have an


independent referendum, one cannot take place? The central issue from


my consultation is that as things currently stand the Scottish


Parliament does not have the legal power to hold a referendum. We have


to provide that by working with them. I am committed to working


with the Scottish Government, from people across the country, to get


the power devolved to Scotland and the Scottish Government can develop


the question and we can get on with the referendum to be made in


Scotland or the people of Scotland. Have you had any conversations to


establish what impact an independent Scotland would have on


the relationship with the European Union and the euro? You are


absolutely focusing on some central issues. We need to debate those as


to whether Scotland should go its own way or continued to be part of


the more successful multi- nation state in the history of the world.


It is vital it does, so let us get on, devolve the power to make it a


legal and fair referendum and make a decisive. The Scottish affairs


select committee has already embarked on an inquiry to identify


those issues such as defence, which need to be resolved before a


referendum is held. Do you plan to continue -- do you plan to


contribute to that debate? certainly do. What is important is


not just the debate now about the future of Scotland, but everyone in


the country gets the opportunity to participate in the consultation on


the sheet of the referendum and I hope people will respond. But not


just politicians should get involved. Defence, welfare, the


state of the economy, all a much steeper within the United Kingdom.


These are important matters we are discussing. We should do so in an


atmosphere of mutual respect. We now know there will be an


independence referendum in the autumn of 2014 -- of 1914...


LAUGHTER. That was the year the Great War started. There will be an


independence referendum in 2014 designed and decided by the people


of Scotland. If you are so concerned about the legal powers of


that referendum, why not evolved those powers through section 30


without condition? I see the Prime Minister has walked in. I hope you


can encourage the Prime Minister to come to Scotland in the next two


years, because you are the best recruiting sergeant to a yes word


mac. The Prime Minister will be a bill participant. -- yes and vote.


The most important thing is we have a referendum made his Scotland or


the people of Scotland about the future of Scotland. You have put


forward your preference for when the referendum should be. But we


have to make sure it is a legal referendum. I hope the Scottish


Government will work with us to make sure that is the case. Thank


you very much. Does the Secretary of State recognise that following


these developments the referendum campaign is now effectively


underway? It is time to get on to the substance of the issue. Given


that the Scottish Government have said they have been involved for


some time in details about the prospects for Scotland, could the


Secretary of State indicate if in the UK Government officials have


been involved in any discussions relating to the future of the


Scottish economy? In particular, whether a separate Scotland keeps


the pound, joins the euro or has a separate currency. You are right to


focus in on these key issues about the future of Scotland. I believe


Scotland's places best served by continuing to be part of the United


Kingdom, with the economy is stronger, Defence more secure, much


greater cloud internationally. The welfare system will be more


generous and better. I hope we can publish plans for what will be


planned in Scotland, but as she says, let the debate get on. Thank


you for your answer. Do you agree with me that one of Britain's


greatest achievements was the creation of the welfare state? Can


either on ask if any questions have taken place about the implications


of separation for welfare spending Scotland, particularly as recent


figures reveal that welfare spending in Scotland was three


times greater than oil revenues in 2010? You make an important about


the contrast between the level of spending to support some of the


most vulnerable in society in Scotland and the rest of the


country and the volatility of oil revenues. What I believe as we can


have a more secure and generous welfare system by securing the


risks and benefits across the whole UK. Would my Right Honourable


friend agreed that all Scots should be entitled to vote on any


referendum in independence, whether or not living in Scotland,


including my father, a proud Scotsman, who happens to live in


England and thinks of himself as first and foremost British? I pay


tribute to your father's says of Patriot system and I am sure he


like many other Scots around the country and indeed the world will


want to contribute to this consultation. -- -- Patriot system.


This is a historic decision, done on a legal, be a basis and on a


straight forward the size of bases. Let us get that sorted and get on


with the debate. And the question about youth


unemployment. The Government has committed...


apologise for interrupting. We are discussing youth unemployment. It


is an important matter and I want to hear his answer.


Back you, Mr Speaker. We have committed 1 billion over three


years to implement the new contract. -- thank you. The Norwegian centres


for employers to recruit 18-24- year-olds from the work programme


and increased work opportunities for this age group. I thank you for


your answer. You aware of the rising levels of youth unemployment


and North Ayrshire and has seen its strong representation from MPs from


that region. What more do you think this Government can do at


Westminster to increase more public and private investment? And I


acknowledge the work the honourable lady has done and the fact we met


to discuss this serious issue recently. It is important that the


youth contract that the Deputy Prime Minister was in Scotland to


discuss on Friday is something taken advantage of across the


country and I look forward to coming to your constituency to meet


with those people to discuss how to implement it effectively.


And a question about subsidies to key services in Scotland and the


North of England. It is for the department -- it is for the


parliament to Scotland to discuss allocating budgets. There is an


annual subsidy to the Post Office of �150 million and �180 million


for this financial year. It is not distributed by country or region.


It would be helpful in the forthcoming debate that all these


figures are made public, so that my constituents and others can fully


participate. And I absolutely agreed that the debate in relation


to the independence of Scotland should be based on facts and on the


issues, which is why we need to move on from the process and get on


with the referendum. The question of the referendum on


Scotland isn't a matter just for the Scottish Government or people.


How and when will my constituents in England B asked on this matter?


Mr Speaker, the Honourable Gentleman's constituents have the


opportunity to be represented on this is due to the honourable


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