Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.
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Hello and a very warm welcome to a decidedly
autumnal Westminster for October's
Scottish Questions, the first one since the party
political conference season.
Before then it was about Brexit and now it is all
In fact, Scottish Questions could be summed up in
three words, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.
Here's how proceedings got underway.
Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland,
Can I begin by commending you, not only on your
attendance at the Davis Cup semifinal in Glasgow, but for your
obvious enthusiasm and exuberance which the honourable lady for
Glasgow Central and I were witness to and I'm sure you'll agree that
although the result was not as we would have wished,
the event once again confirmed Glasgow's place as a
great sporting venue.
Mr Speaker, with permission I will answer
questions one, two and four together.
The UK leaving the EU should be seen as an opportunity
Today's GDP figures are encouraging as a sign of growth.
But Scotland still lags behind the UK as
a whole and that underlines the need for Scotland's two governments to
work together to take such opportunities.
You and your daughter did a fantastic job again.
As did the constituency member of Parliament.
Given that Brexit continues to be billed
as taking back control, can the Secretary of State tell us which
powers that are currently controlled by Brussels will the UK Government
commit to giving to Holyrood and which we'll be going to Westminster?
Because of devolution settlements within the UK, they are predicated
on the basis that the UK was a member of the EU then those
devolution settlements will be changed by the United Kingdom
leaving the EU and those will be matters which will be subject to
debate and discussion.
I am not entirely certain the Secretary of
State answered that question.
Will he categorically rule out that powers
will not be re-reserve to this Parliament
as a result of the decision to leave the EU?
What I can say is that no powers which are
currently exercised by the Scottish parliament will be re-reserved to
this Parliament as a result of the United Kingdom leaving the EU.
With a constituency that has an industry
that's right interest in having a large
pharmaceutical production and airport,
can I ask what the view will be
on the single market, the open skies
and the European Medicines Agency?
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister at the Conservative
conference made very, very clear that we
want to have access to the single market
and that we want to ensure free trade.
The sectors she has mentioned are very important and
are part of a group of sectors we are in gauging closely with to
identify their specific interests and concerns so that they will be
part of the UK's negotiating position.
Is it not the case there should be a substantial boost to
Scottish exports as a result of the depreciation
of the pound since the Brexit vote?
Well, Mr Speaker, sectors within Scotland would
acknowledge, for example, the tourism sector where we saw
a record attendance at the Edinburgh Festival
recently, have benefited from the devaluation of the pound.
I think the agricultural sector in Scotland
would acknowledge that, too.
But I don't see that as being an end in itself.
We need to ensure we get the best possible deal
for Scotland and the UK from these negotiations
It is right to say we leave a dysfunctional union
in the European Union and it's an opportunity for
the people of Scotland.
Is it not also the case that if we were to
follow the SNP policy, we would land the people of Scotland
with a huge public sector deficit and the prospect of either tax rises
or cuts in services?
That is absolutely right and it seems to be
a very strange contradiction that members on the benches opposite are
rightly so concerned about Scotland's
continued trade with the EU,
but they disregard the fact that Scotland's
trade with the rest of the UK
is four times as much is with the EU
and that a million jobs in Scotland
depend on our trade within the UK and that's the
union that matters to Scotland.
Given the importance of that single market to Scotland, does
my right honourable friend agree that the last thing the Scottish
economy needs is perpetual uncertainty of another
Mr Speaker, if anyone actually listens to businesses in Scotland,
and indeed to the people of Scotland, it's quite clear that
people do not want another divisive independence referendum
in Scotland other than individuals who are
obsessed with independence.
We need to listen to business, take a second
independence referendum off the table and
concentrate on getting the best possible deal
for Scotland and the UK from these negotiations.
With demands from Nissan suggesting the company will suffer
a loss in profits may be due compensation, can the Secretary of
State ensure businesses in Scotland that they will be entitled
to the same deal?
If that's the case, has he made an assessment of the cost of
Can I begin by congratulating the honourable gentleman on retaining
his position as a Shadow Scottish Secretary.
On the benches behind him, I understand is the Westminster
spokesman of the Scottish Labour Party and I'm sure it will emerge
during these questions how those two positions interrelate.
The point I would make in response to the question
is that we will have a common response across the UK and
whatever support is put in place for businesses in the North
of England will apply for businesses in Scotland.
Scotland has always looked out to the world.
Could the government do
more to rekindle the outlook in Scotland rather than the First
Minister creating uncertainty and constantly talking about
I agree that we need to see Brexit as an opportunity and
I was very interested to see yesterday that the leader of Glasgow
City Council also took that view that Brexit offered an opportunity
for Glasgow to continue to flourish.
So rather than doom-mongering which is a constant refrain of the SNP,
let's take a positive approach and seize the opportunities that are out
there for Scotland.
May I remind the Secretary of State for Scotland
that he was elected on a manifesto commitment
to "Safeguard British interests in the single market".
So will he and his government work with the Scottish Government,
respect the 62% of Scottish voters who voted to remain
within the European Union and protect our place within Europe?
Of course I will do that, but I will also respect
the half of voters in his own constituency
who voted to leave the EU.
The right honourable gentleman doesn't make much of it, Mr Speaker,
but a higher percentage of people in his constituency
voted to leave the EU than voted for him,
so let's respect everybody in this debate.
I am committed to working with the Scottish Government.
I've met Michael Russell on a number of occasions,
the First Minister and the Prime Minister will meet on the
24th October and their engagement will be essential to achieving what
we want, the best possible deal for Scotland.
Yesterday we learned from statistics that the cost Brexit will cost
?66 billion a year.
If this is being prepared for the Cabinet Office,
surely they are also being prepared for the
Scotland Office so will
the Secretary of State for Scotland be candid with the house and candid
with the people of Scotland and tell us how much will Brexit cost?
We're not even at the stage of the negotiations.
What the Prime Minister has set out the process
for taking the negotiations forward, it's inevitable that we
will see press reports and speculation, leaks and all sorts of
What I want to do is to ensure that going into those
negotiations, we do so in conjunction with the Scottish
Government to get the best possible deal and that's what
my commitment is.
Has the Secretary of State seen the report published
yesterday showing that one half of all commercial fish and two
thirds of all pelagic fish caught in UK waters
were caught by boats from other EU countries?
Does he understand why Scottish fishermen
see these negotiations as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to
undo the damage caused by the Common Fisheries Policy.
Mr Speaker, I commend the Scottish Fishermen's Federation
and others as to their approach in relation
to the negotiations.
They see them as an opportunity for the very reasons
that he refers to in yesterday's report.
They were quite right to characterise the report and they
have my support in achieving that.
It is an assessment on the impact of the Scottish economy...
Some people are demanding that Scotland leave
the UK market week in and week out.
As I said earlier, I find it very surprising
that people who set out a great enthusiasm
for the European single market at the same time are
willing to dismiss the UK single market
which is worth four times as much
to the Scottish economy and employs
a million Scottish people.
Today's GDP figures in Scotland are welcome
and the major increase is a result
of the services sector, probably driven by the financial
services sector in Scotland.
So what is the Secretary of State doing to
protect that sector and can he give an assurance that he will
stand by the Conservative Party's commitment in the 2015 manifesto
that he says "Yes" to the single market?
We fully recognise the importance
of the financial sector in Edinburgh and Scotland
I'm determined the interests will be protected and we
are working closely with them to make sure
they are very much to the forefront
as we move forward with establishing the UK's
Question three, Mr Speaker.
With permission, I will answer questions three, six
and seven together.
Since the referendum, Scotland's office ministers have
held meetings to discuss the implications for Scotland.
We intend to hold further such meetings to
ensure Scottish business interests are fully represented in the
negotiations on the UK's exit from the EU and in any
future trade arrangements.
Does my right honourable friend agree that when we
negotiate free-trade deals outside of the EU
we can remove some of the protectionist
tariffs barriers the EU has erected thereby reducing
consumer prices for consumers in Scotland
and, indeed, the whole of the UK?
I do agree with my honourable friend and I believe that this government
and this country can be an advocate around the world for free trade.
Trade liberalisation between advanced economies can have a
positive impact on the consumer and that's what we want to see in
Scotland and across the UK.
He gets the maximum opportunities for Scottish business,
but also uses as an opportunity to demonstrate
that Scotland is better as part of the United Kingdom
and knock on the head all this talk of independence which
we incessantly hear from the party opposite.
Mr Speaker, I agree with my right honorable friend.
It is vital that we promote Scotland's
interests in that way but that we do so working
in conjunction with the Scottish Government.
Both governments can have a role to play.
As the Scotch Whisky Association has identified in developing new markets
in promoting that vitally important product's future.
Exports of Scotch with are up for the first
time in three years with a surge in exports to India.
Should the UK work together to support the export of
Great British products, including great Scottish products
Mr Speaker, I do as I said in my previous remarks and bodies
such as the Scotch whisky Association
acknowledge and accept that
and they want to see the two governments working together in
regard to that and that is what I am committed to doing.
If the government leaves the European
Union, via as specific trade arrangement with the EU, is he happy
to fall back on WTO work organisations?
Mr Speaker, I am sure that is the sort of speculation is
sought from ministers over the weeks and months ahead.
The Prime Minister has set out the process for
negotiating our exit from the EU and the conclusion of that process
I am confined we will have achieved the best possible deal
for Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The Secretary of State on many occasions extolled the
trade benefits of the single market in Scotland.
So regardless of whether the UK is a member state of
the EU or not, does he still believe it is in Scotland's interest
have membership of the single market rather than access third party
As I have also said is that the United Kingdom will have abysmal
-- bespoke arrangement with the EU when we leave.
It is not appropriate or sensible
to see the negotiating process and context of existing
arrangements that have been done with other countries are the
existing structure of the EU.
What we should look to do is get the best
possible deal for businesses.
Our training bodies and organisations,
business employees in Scotland are saying they are struggling on how
the apprenticeship levy will work in Scotland.
Can he ensure that unlike his colleague, he will work with the
Scottish Government to give the people the information they need?
I am committed to doing that and I can
confirm that the apprenticeship levy will be discussed when the joint
ministerial council meets on the 24th of October.
What's are the areas in which these apprenticeships
could work will be the decommission of the oil industry and oil rigs.
We have already seen the loss of 80,000
jobs in that industry.
If we continue to lose contracts with
decommissioning to other countries this will continue.
Does the government have any strategy to make
sure that these crucial jobs remaining Scottish fans?
Mr Speaker, he will know the
government is committed to the industry.
It ?2.3 billion investments and associated tax
changes were exactly what the industry asked
in terms of support.
We have also established along with the Scottish Government the ?250
million Aberdeen city deal which will have at its heart a new
technology centre to ensure skills and jobs remain in the north-east.
Mr Speaker, a significant number of new welfare powers
came into force this September.
And gave the Scottish Parliament new choices of welfare in Scotland.
The joint ministerial working group in Scotland met
yesterday to continue it is important and constructive work
overseeing the transfer of remaining powers.
With that significant transfer of powers from the UK
Government to Edinburgh, does he agree with me the
Scottish Government should get on with exercising those powers
for the sake and welfare of the people of
Scotland, rather than wasting time on talk of a second referendum?
These are significant powers which the Scottish Government and
the Scottish National Party asked for.
People around Scotland will be looking to see how
they are being deployed and what processes are being used.
I think the message coming from the people
in Scotland generally is get on with the day job to
the Scottish Government.
I am sure yesterday at the joint ministerial working group,
ministers would have stressed their desire
to see work programmes on a voluntary basis.
What efforts will his government make to ensure those are met?
We will respect the desire for the programmes to proceed on a
And that has been made clear.
What the people of Scotland will want to know is what
the Scottish Government intends to do in relation to people
who do not volunteer to be part of the programme.
Question number eight, Mr Speaker.
I will answer this question with question ten.
The government closely with industry to drive
investment and support jobs in the North Sea.
Revenue from the North Sea oil has dropped by ?10 billion
over the last two years.
What steps is the government taking to ensure
that public services in Scotland do not
suffer as result of this drop in revenue?
There has been a shock from global changes in the
oil and gas industry.
As the latest finance public figures show, being
in the UK protects living standards in Scotland.
This drop in revenues has been offset by a programme of
government support in tax relief and allowances as well as a host of
Supply of home-grown free stocks is important to...
Can the Minister assure the house that the
government will continue to take steps to support the many jobs of
our foundation industries that depend on the sector?
My colleague is right to highlight this issue.
The UK chemicals sector is a vital part of our manufacturing industry
and an important contributor to the economy.
The government is working closely with the industry to
implement the desire to grow by ?105 billion by 2030.
A key element of that will be delivering to energy
and feedstock supplies.
Industry have been quite clear that more work
needs to be done to boost exploration.
In the Autumn Statement will this government bring forward
exploration incentives to protect employment and boost production?
It remains an important part, the continental
shelf is depleting.
The government has taken serious steps
in this area in Aberdeen with the city deal and I am not going to
comment on the Autumn Statement.
It is an issue of some focus for the government.
Mr Speaker, since Question Time began this morning,
five members on these benches have asked about membership of the
Two have asked about Scottish jobs.
Seven members of the Conservative benches want to talk
about Scottish independence.
Who is obsessed with Scottish independence?
I could do no better than refer him
to the words of Adam Smith when he said that the union of 77
was a measure from which infinite good has been derived to Scotland.
Order - there is far too much noise.
He ought to be heard.
Not quite a debutante.
We can only hope.
The steel industry in Scotland remains a
vital part of the UK steel industry as a whole.
The government continues to engage with steel companies and
trade unions to in-store a sustainable industry for the UK for
Liberty House is taking more than 70% of its new workforce from
among former Tata steel employees.
It is to be congratulated for that which is good news for
Would my honourable friend congratulate the
company for its apprenticeship programme which is an endorsement of
the industrial future of the country?
My honourable friend is right to
focus on the company under its new owners, liberty group,
with the support of the government.
This illustrates in supporting British
Steel, we have taken clear action to help the industry, including
flexibility over EU emissions regulations and many other areas.
I share his delight in the work that is when done with the
apprenticeships as well.
During recess I attended the reopening of
the works in Motherwell.
Will the Minister speak to the Scottish
Government on how you can save jobs in steel by putting together a
package that really works?
I am grateful to the honourable lady.
The government stands ready to work with
the Scottish Government to work on any area that can protect
Scottish jobs and Scottish steel.
I am afraid that is all we have got time for.
The next Scottish Questions will be on Wednesday the 23rd of November,
which is also the day of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.
So it will be a busy day here at Westminster.
Do join us then if you can.
From all of us here at Westminster, goodbye.
One, two, three, four!
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