18/01/2017 Scottish Questions


18/01/2017

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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Hello and a very warm welcome

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to a sunny but, let me tell you, a chilly Westminster

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for January's Scottish Questions, the first one of the New Year,

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and, like last year, it looks as though 2017

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is going to be dominated by Brexit

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and the knock-on constitutional implications for Scotland,

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including the possibility of a second independence referendum.

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More on that later,

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but first of all, this is how Scottish Questions got underway.

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Order. Order.

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Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Roberts Courts.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. Number one, please.

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The Secretary of State for Scotland, Secretary David Mundell.

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Mr Speaker, as this is the Scottish Questions

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that immediately precede Burns Night next Wednesday, 25 January,

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can I wish all those organising Burns Suppers or other events

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in Scotland, across the UK,

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including here in this House of Commons,

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and around the world, the very best?

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Robert Burns' legacy is as relevant today as ever.

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Mr Speaker, the UK government is committed

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to a safe and secure transfer of the remaining welfare powers.

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The majority of welfare powers commenced in 2016

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and the transfer of the remaining powers

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will be overseen by

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the joint ministerial working group on welfare,

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which will meet again next month.

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-Robert Courts.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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The Scotland Act gives the Scottish Government

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powers over benefits in Scotland.

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Does the Secretary of State agree

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that it is...the Scottish Government must now set out the detail

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of how they plan to use these powers

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to shape Scotland's welfare system?

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CHATTER AND CHEERS

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Mr Speaker, my honourable friend is absolutely right.

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The power for the Scottish Parliament

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to create new benefits in devolved areas came into force in Autumn,

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and they now have the power to shape that welfare system as they choose.

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Some modest measures have already been announced,

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but it is time that we hear more about the proposals

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for a new welfare system.

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A consultation has been held, and I look forward

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to hearing the Scottish Government's response to that.

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-Margaret Ferrier.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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The fact that the UK Government

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plan to close half of the Glasgow Jobcentres

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without even knowing the number of affected people

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is a dereliction of duty.

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Will the Secretary of State commit to having a word

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with his Cabinet colleagues in getting these plans dropped?

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Mr Speaker, I do understand the concerns that have been raised

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in relation to Jobcentre closures in Glasgow,

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and it is the Government's determination

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and I have spoken directly with my colleague, the Secretary of State,

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to ensure that there will be no change

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to the level of service offered to the people of Glasgow.

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As the honourable lady and other members in Glasgow will know,

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there's a public consultation

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for people who have to travel more than three miles,

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or more than 20 minutes in time.

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That's open until 31 January.

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I encourage all those affected,

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and all honourable members with constituents affected,

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to take part in that consultation.

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-Whately.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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The transfer of significant powers over welfare decisions

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clearly raises complicated issues,

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as we have seen over the last few months.

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Could my right honourable friend update the House on the recent work

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of the Joint Ministerial Working Group On Welfare,

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and give his assessment of progress?

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Mr Speaker, the Joint Ministerial Group On Welfare

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has played a very important part

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in establishing the links between the DWP and the Scottish Government.

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I've been in regular recent contact with Angela Constance,

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the minister in the Scottish Government,

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in relation to the Scottish Government's latest proposals

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in relation to Universal Credit.

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Inevitably, because of the complexity of this area,

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as the transfer takes place,

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new issues arise which need to be dealt with

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and the Joint Ministerial Working Group

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is the ideal place to do that.

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Mr David Anderson.

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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker...

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'And David Anderson is of course the Shadow Scottish Secretary.'

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We send our condolences to the family of Canon Kenyon Wright,

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who sadly passed away last week.

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He was a principled man

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whose legacy should serve as a reminder to all of us

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that, when we work together, it is possible to deliver the impossible.

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Mr Speaker, this Tory Government is currently moving disabled people

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from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments.

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It's estimated the people of Scotland will lose out

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on £190 million a year as a result.

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If that wasn't bad enough, Mr Speaker,

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a year ago, the Government did this,

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but the Government withdrew the timetable

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and haven't issued a new one.

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So, can the Secretary of State please inform the House,

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and indeed the people of Scotland,

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when can they expect to lose out on this £190 million a year?

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Mr Speaker, firstly, can I welcome the honourable gentleman back?

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He was missed at our last Scottish Questions,

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although his honourable friend entertained the House.

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At least I think I can say that!

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In relation to Canon Kenyon Wright, I knew Canon Wright

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and he was indeed a very principled man

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with very, very strong personal conviction,

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and obviously played a very important part

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in the constitutional convention

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which led to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

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And as we have seen in the media, he is widely, widely mourned.

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In relation to disability benefits,

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the honourable gentleman will know

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that these are to be fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

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The funding of those benefits were put...

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was dealt with in the negotiations for the fiscal framework.

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It's now for the Scottish Government to come forward

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with their proposals for disability benefits in Scotland.

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-Mike Freer.

-Thanks, Mr Speaker.

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Does my right honourable friend agree with me

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that we need to hear less from the Scottish Government

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about the powers they want

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and more about how they're going to use the powers we've given them?

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Hear, hear, hear.

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Mr Speaker, my honourable friend makes a very relevant point.

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The honourable gentleman opposite

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referred to Personal Independence Payments.

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I know that the Scottish Government

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are opposed to Personal Independence Payments,

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but what I have no idea about

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is what they intend to replace Personal Independence Payments with

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and what timetable they intend to do that.

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-Mr Angus Robertson.

-CHEERING

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I begin by joining colleagues

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in paying tribute to Canon Kenyon Wright,

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somebody not only who played a significant role

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in helping to deliver devolution to Scotland,

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but of course, in 2014,

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supported a yes vote for Scottish independence.

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-Sensible man.

-Mr Speaker, the UK Government is planning

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to close half of the Jobcentres in Glasgow

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without even knowing the number of people

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that will be affected by such a radical change.

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Was the Secretary of State consulted in advance of the closures,

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and when did he show enough interest

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to find out which specific locations would face closure?

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Mr Speaker, I have taken a very close interest in this issue

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and I have worked closely

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with both my colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions

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and the Scottish Government in that regard.

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The government and myself have never suggested

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that the procedures followed in relation to this process

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had been perfect, but what we have...

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-SHOUTING

-What we have put forward

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is a public consultation

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in relation to those people affected

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who have to travel more than three miles or 20 minutes,

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and I encourage everyone involved to take part in that consultation.

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Mr Angus Robertson.

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Mr Speaker, the devolution of powers hangs very much together

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with the hard Brexit plans of this current government.

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The Secretary of State has said that his role is, and I quote,

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"to ensure that Scotland gets the best possible deal

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"and that deal clearly involves being part of the single market."

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Does he still believes this,

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or has he changed his mind after being told what he should say

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by his Tory bosses in London? CHEERING

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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I don't recognise the Prime Minister's speech yesterday as

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-a hard Brexit.

-INCREDULOUS SHOUTING

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I don't think, Mr Speaker...

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Mr Speaker, that the 500,000 SNP voters who voted for Brexit will

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take kindly to being referred to as right-wing Tory Brexiteers.

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They were independently-minded people in Scotland who voted

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for what they thought was the right thing for Scotland.

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As is absolutely clear, the Prime Minister said yesterday,

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we want to have access to the single market and that's what...

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That is what the quote that he just read out from me made clear.

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Membership of the single market, on the other hand,

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is a quite different thing.

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-As Mike Russell and privately the Scottish Government accept.

-Order.

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I say gently to colleagues - order! - progress is far too slow,

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we need to hasten the pace. Some reduction in the decibel level,

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not least from the Chair

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of the International Trade Select Committee would be heartily

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welcomed across the House. Mr Calum Kerr.

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This is a question about Scottish agriculture.

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Mr Speaker, I regularly meet with Cabinet colleagues to discuss

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a wide range of matters.

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I recently met with the Secretary of State for the Environment,

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Food and Rural Affairs to discuss a number of issues relating to

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the Scottish agricultural sector and will continue to do so.

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Last year, the Farming Minister told us there would be

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an £18 billion Brexit dividend and

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he said that farmers would continue to get, and I quote,

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"as much or perhaps even more support after Brexit."

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So does the Secretary of State agree with me that it would be

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unacceptable if funding to Scottish agriculture was cut after 2020?

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Hear, hear!

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Mr Speaker, there is no suggestion that funding to Scottish

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agriculture is going to be cut.

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What there is is the opportunity to move forward

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from the constraints of the Common Agricultural Policy, which have

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been often complained about by farmers throughout Scotland.

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I believe that we need to seize this opportunity to reshape the

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support that we have for farming, to make it more effective,

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but to continue to sustain those areas of Scottish farming

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-that need sustaining.

-Sir Gerald Howarth.

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My right honourable friend is aware that my family are extensive

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farmers in the Scottish Borders.

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Would he not agree with me that Brexit presents the

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United Kingdom with a magnificent opportunity to fashion an

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agricultural policy not required by French farmers,

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but required by British farmers?

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And will he assure the House that hill farmers in Scotland and

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elsewhere in the United Kingdom will be given proper consideration?

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Sir Gerald Howarth is the Conservative MP for Aldershot

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-in Hampshire.

-I can absolutely give that undertaking

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and I hope that we can move forward.

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Actually working in conjunction with the Scottish government to

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shape a new basis of support for Scottish agriculture,

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particularly for those who farm in less favoured areas.

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There are multiple and have been multiple complaints about the

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operation of the Common Agricultural Policy and its need to take

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into account farming practices across the Continent.

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We now have the opportunity to have our own support mechanism and

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-we need to work to shape it.

-Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.

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Mr Speaker, can the Secretary of State for Scotland confirm

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what he said to the Sunday Times in November that the

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Scottish Parliament will retain full responsibility over

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agriculture and fisheries following Brexit?

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And to quote him,

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that "no powers will be re-reserved to Westminster."

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-Yes or no?

-Hear, hear!

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Yes.

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-Mr David Anderson.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Almost two-thirds of the UK's agricultural exports are to the EU.

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After what we heard from the Prime Minister yesterday,

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there is an increasing possibility we could revert to WTO trade

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rules on exit from the EU.

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Does he agree with the NFU Scotland who say the potential

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for 20% tariffs as a result of WTO trade rules will be increasingly

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damaging for the profitability of Scottish agriculture?

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Mr Speaker, what the Prime Minister made clear yesterday is that

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her objective is to achieve the best possible access to the

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Single Market, with the minimum of barriers and tariffs.

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That will be to the benefit of Scottish agriculture.

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Scottish farmers see the opportunity that leaving the EU...

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that leaving the EU provides to them and I am sure they will seize

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them and I am sure we will be able to provide the environment in

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which they will succeed.

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This is a question about tax powers going to Holyrood.

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The Scottish Government will take on its first major new tax power

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from the Scotland Act 2016 in April of this year,

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enabling it to set rates and thresholds of income tax.

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The Chief Secretary to the Treasury attended a joint exchequer committee

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with the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Finance

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in November. They discussed ongoing work....

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I'm grateful for all this.

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We are deeply grateful but I think...

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The question is being answered by the Treasury Minister Simon Kirby.

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My apologies, Mr Speaker.

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With your permission,

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-I would like to group this question with number four.

-Very good indeed.

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Mr Nigel Evans.

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Mr Speaker, as the Prime Minister wants to see income tax rates

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as low as possible on hard-working British people,

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should Nicola Sturgeon be sufficiently brave or bonkers

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to increase the rate of taxation on hard-working Scottish people,

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what economic impact would that have on Scotland?

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-ANGUS ROBERTSON:

-I think you'll find taxes are lower.

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Can I thank my honourable friend for his important question?

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In taking over income tax powers,

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the Scottish Government now need to account for how they use them,

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particularly if they plan to make Scotland the highest taxed part

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-of the UK.

-Mark Menzies.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Does my right honourable friend agree with

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me that the SNP's plans to tax middle income families more

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in Scotland for doing the same job as families in England would

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bode very badly for the Scottish economy?

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INCREDULOUS SHOUTING

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The UK government is doing everything it can to support

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our economy and boost jobs and growth.

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Where the Scottish Government now make choices that have a different

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impact, they will need to explain it to the people of Scotland.

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-Neil Gray.

-We often hear, and we've heard it again, erroneous claims

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that somehow Scotland is the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom

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when in actual fact the average cost of a band D

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council tax property in Scotland is lower than that of England.

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Will the government minister now welcome the

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Scottish Government's approach to council tax policy in Scotland?

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Hear, hear!

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What I will say is that the SNP should focus on making

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a success of its few powers for the benefit of the Scottish people.

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You are a very curious denizen of the House, Mr Docherty-Hughes.

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I had you down as a cerebral and academic type.

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You are becoming increasingly hysterical. Very curious behaviour.

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-Mr Michael Gove.

-Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

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The SNP want to levy the highest level of income tax anywhere

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in the United Kingdom.

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They already receive more in per capita funding than

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England and yet Scotland's schools are conspicuously worse than

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those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

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Does the Minister put this down to the incompetence of the

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Scottish Government... UPROAR

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..or their posturing over proper administration?

0:17:140:17:19

Mr Speaker, I may not like their plans to make Scotland

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a higher taxed nation but that is up to them.

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But what they will have to do is to explain to the people of

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Scotland why they're having to pay more tax than their friends and

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-families south of the border with the same jobs.

-David Anderson.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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In a week where the chairman of the British Medical Association

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in Scotland has warned that the NHS is in Scotland - and I quote -

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"at breaking point",

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is the minister as surprised as I am

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that the so-called "progressive" SNP Government

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in Holyrood consistently refuse

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to use the powers afforded to them to protect the NHS in Scotland?

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Scotland's new devolution settlement delivers one of the most

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powerful and accountable devolved parliaments in the world,

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giving them unprecedented power

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to shape the future economy of Scotland.

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Stuart C McDonald.

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-Mr Speaker...

-And this is also an economy-related question.

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Mr Speaker, migrants from outside the UK and within the UK

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make a significant contribution to Scotland,

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to its economy of course, but also to its society and wellbeing.

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The government will always welcome the brightest and the best

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who have come here to work.

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..C McDonald.

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Mr Speaker, we know around 180,000 EU nationals make

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a hugely valuable contribution to the Scottish economy,

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and we also know that countries like Canada and Australia

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successfully apply different immigration rules

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to different parts of their countries.

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So, going beyond warm words,

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will the Secretary of State listen carefully to proposals

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for a different arrangement for Scotland, allowing EU citizens

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freedom to continue to come and live and work there, benefitting us all?

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-SOME:

-Hear-hear.

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Mr Speaker, I'll always look at evidence-based proposals

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that come forward, and that's our commitment, for example, in relation

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to the Scottish Government's paper produced just before Christmas.

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But it was quite clear within the settlement agreed

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in the Smith Commission that immigration

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would remain a reserved power.

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-..Blackman.

-Thank you, My Speaker.

0:19:360:19:38

Would my right honourable friend not agree with me

0:19:380:19:41

that one of the problems that Scotland will face

0:19:410:19:45

with the SNP government is the flight of individuals fleeing

0:19:450:19:48

the high taxes and therefore...

0:19:480:19:50

JEERS AND LAUGHTER

0:19:500:19:51

..having to replace with further immigrants,

0:19:510:19:53

as well as the businesses that will fly down to London

0:19:530:19:56

rather than being in Scotland?

0:19:560:19:57

Bob Blackman is the Conservative MP for Harrow East.

0:19:570:20:00

Mr Speaker, what I do find surprising is that

0:20:000:20:03

the Scottish Government always fail to acknowledge that they have

0:20:030:20:08

very, very significant powers to attract people to come to Scotland.

0:20:080:20:11

At the moment, about 4% of migrants

0:20:110:20:14

who come to the United Kingdom come to Scotland.

0:20:140:20:17

Clearly, there is more that needs to be done to encourage people

0:20:170:20:21

to come to Scotland,

0:20:210:20:23

and the Scottish Government need to address that.

0:20:230:20:25

Making Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK is not,

0:20:250:20:29

in my view, the way to do it.

0:20:290:20:31

Alistair Carmichael.

0:20:310:20:34

Mr Speaker, can I associate myself and my party with the expressions

0:20:340:20:38

of condolence with regards to the late Canon Kenyon Wright.

0:20:380:20:43

A truly lovely man for whom it was once my privilege to act

0:20:430:20:47

as election agent, albeit unsuccessfully.

0:20:470:20:49

Will the Secretary of State explain to the Home Secretary

0:20:490:20:53

the importance of non-EU nationals to making up the crews

0:20:530:20:58

for many fishing boats, especially in the whitefish sector,

0:20:580:21:01

operating out of Scottish ports?

0:21:010:21:04

Mr Speaker, I certainly will take that issue forward

0:21:050:21:09

for the right honourable gentleman, I'm very, very aware

0:21:090:21:12

of the concerns that have been raised and I would be

0:21:120:21:15

more than happy to meet directly with him to discuss it further.

0:21:150:21:19

Question six, Mr Speaker.

0:21:190:21:22

And this is a question about city deals in Scotland.

0:21:220:21:26

The UK Government has spearheaded these deals and they will be

0:21:260:21:28

transformative for the cities of Scotland.

0:21:280:21:31

The city regions are the engines of economic growth, so they will

0:21:310:21:35

drive forward Scotland's economy,

0:21:350:21:37

which means more jobs and a secure future.

0:21:370:21:39

That's why I'm so pleased the government has now committed

0:21:390:21:42

to a city deal for every one of Scotland's seven city regions.

0:21:420:21:46

-Iain Stewart.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

0:21:460:21:48

In the autumn statement,

0:21:480:21:50

the Chancellor gave welcome support to city deals.

0:21:500:21:53

Can the Secretary of State assure me that he will be supporting

0:21:530:21:57

the Borderlands Initiative as part of this programme?

0:21:570:22:01

Mr Speaker, the Borderlands Initiative is

0:22:030:22:06

a very innovative proposal which seeks to bring together

0:22:060:22:10

Dumfries and Galloway Council,

0:22:100:22:13

Scottish Borders Council, Carlisle City Council

0:22:130:22:16

and other councils in the north of England,

0:22:160:22:19

recognising the significant economic area that crosses the border.

0:22:190:22:24

I'm delighted to give my support to that proposal.

0:22:240:22:29

-Alan Brown.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

0:22:290:22:31

As well as city deals, the Secretary of State will be aware

0:22:310:22:34

there's the Ayrshire Growth Deal that's been submitted

0:22:340:22:37

and backed by the Scottish Government.

0:22:370:22:39

Yesterday at Treasury Questions, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury

0:22:390:22:43

wrongly said it's for the Scottish Government to advance that deal.

0:22:430:22:46

What discussions has he had with his Treasury colleagues about

0:22:460:22:49

supporting the Ayrshire Growth Deal?

0:22:490:22:51

-SOME:

-Hear-hear.

0:22:510:22:53

Mr Speaker, can I firstly...

0:22:530:22:56

JEERING

0:22:560:22:58

..welcome...

0:22:580:23:00

THUMPING ON BENCHES

0:23:000:23:01

..the fact that...

0:23:010:23:04

Welcome the fact that his colleague from North Ayrshire

0:23:040:23:07

has secured an adjournment debate tomorrow in this house

0:23:070:23:11

which will specifically focus on the Ayrshire Regional Growth Deal.

0:23:110:23:15

I've obviously met with the councils and I want to see that deal

0:23:150:23:21

receive support from the UK Government

0:23:210:23:24

in the way that is most appropriate to make it happen.

0:23:240:23:28

At this Scottish Office Questions, I'm pleased to inform the house

0:23:280:23:31

that I've just been notified Andy Murray

0:23:310:23:34

has won his second round match in Melbourne.

0:23:340:23:36

-CHEERING

-David TC Davies.

0:23:360:23:39

Mr Speaker...

0:23:390:23:41

Mr Speaker, I noted in congratulating Andy Murray

0:23:420:23:45

that you didn't display your usual exuberance

0:23:450:23:48

which you've demonstrated at the Davis Cup matches

0:23:480:23:51

in support of him and the rest of the British team.

0:23:510:23:54

Mr Speaker, the UK Government has taken

0:23:540:23:57

a number of measures to support Scotland's economy,

0:23:570:24:00

including committing to city deals for each of Scotland's cities,

0:24:000:24:04

as I've just said, and providing an additional £800 million

0:24:040:24:08

for the Scottish Government's capital budget through to 2021.

0:24:080:24:11

Leaving the EU opens up real opportunities for Scotland,

0:24:110:24:15

we must always remember that the UK market is worth

0:24:150:24:19

over four times as much to Scotland as the EU single market.

0:24:190:24:22

David TC Davies.

0:24:220:24:24

Mr Speaker, Adam Smith gave us the theory

0:24:240:24:26

of modern capitalist economics,

0:24:260:24:28

William Gladstone put them into practice,

0:24:280:24:31

wouldn't these two fine Scotsmen be delighted with

0:24:310:24:33

the opportunity that Brexit offers to ditch

0:24:330:24:35

the socialist protectionism

0:24:350:24:37

of the Scottish Government and implement the free trade

0:24:370:24:40

and free markets that made it such a powerhouse in the 19th century?

0:24:400:24:44

SUPPORTIVE MURMURS

0:24:440:24:46

Mr Speaker, my honourable friend, as ever,

0:24:470:24:50

makes a robust case for the benefits of leaving the European Union,

0:24:500:24:55

but perhaps to his list of posthumously highlighted figures

0:24:550:24:59

from Scottish history I could add David Hume,

0:24:590:25:03

whose essay "Of the Balance of Trade" predates

0:25:030:25:07

The Wealth of Nations and provides

0:25:070:25:09

the effective rebuttal to the so-called "jealous fear"

0:25:090:25:11

of free trade in merchants at the time.

0:25:110:25:15

Kirsten Oswald.

0:25:150:25:18

A hard Brexit outside the single market threatens to cost

0:25:180:25:21

Scotland 80,000 jobs over a decade and cost people

0:25:210:25:24

an average of £2,000 in wages.

0:25:240:25:26

Can the Secretary of State tell us what action

0:25:260:25:29

he will personally take to keep Scotland in the single market

0:25:290:25:32

even if the rest of the UK leaves?

0:25:320:25:34

Mr Speaker, it's absolutely clear that Scotland cannot be

0:25:370:25:42

a member of the single market if it is not a member of the EU,

0:25:420:25:46

and the United Kingdom will not be a member of the EU.

0:25:460:25:50

The Scottish Government accept that proposition.

0:25:500:25:53

What is important is access to the single market, and as

0:25:530:25:58

my right honourable friend the Prime Minister set out yesterday,

0:25:580:26:02

we aim to achieve the best possible access to that market.

0:26:020:26:06

David Amess.

0:26:060:26:07

Has my right honourable friend considered the effect

0:26:070:26:11

on the Scottish economy

0:26:110:26:12

if a further independence referendum is held?

0:26:120:26:15

David Amess is the Conservative MP for Southend in Essex.

0:26:150:26:18

Mr Speaker, my right honourable friend may be aware that today,

0:26:180:26:23

in relation to labour market statistics,

0:26:230:26:25

unemployment is up in Scotland, employment is down

0:26:250:26:30

and economic activity is down, too,

0:26:300:26:31

and I am in no doubt that the uncertainty caused by

0:26:310:26:35

the constant reference to an independence referendum

0:26:350:26:39

is having an impact on the Scottish economy.

0:26:390:26:41

Angus Brendan MacNeil.

0:26:410:26:43

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

0:26:430:26:45

An important part of the Scottish economy is the rural economy,

0:26:450:26:48

particularly crofting.

0:26:480:26:50

Yesterday I asked the Defra Secretary of State,

0:26:500:26:52

after careful thinking and planning,

0:26:520:26:54

what exactly would be happening to crofting after 2020.

0:26:540:26:57

The Secretary of State said there'd be no cuts to funding,

0:26:570:27:00

he didn't think. Is this the case, we will see

0:27:000:27:02

no cuts at all to agricultural support in Scotland post-2020?

0:27:020:27:06

Will he confirm what he alluded to earlier?

0:27:060:27:08

Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman has already heard me

0:27:080:27:12

answer that question and also set out that leaving

0:27:120:27:15

the Common Agricultural Policy is an opportunity.

0:27:150:27:21

The Common Agricultural Policy has not suited Scotland,

0:27:210:27:24

particularly those farming in less favoured areas.

0:27:240:27:28

We now have an opportunity

0:27:280:27:29

to do something different and we should seize it.

0:27:290:27:32

Well, I'm afraid that's all we've got time for.

0:27:320:27:35

We will be back with the next Scottish Questions

0:27:350:27:39

on Wednesday the 1st of March, so do join us then if you can.

0:27:390:27:42

But for now, from all of us here at Westminster, goodbye.

0:27:420:27:46

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