18/12/2013 Scottish Questions


Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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Hello and welcome to a rather festive Westminster for the December


edition of Scottish Questions. We are in a week away from Christmas


Day and as you can see MPs have the Christmas tree decorated. How much


festive cheer was there in the chamber itself. This question is? I


will let you be the judge of that. A mixed bag of questions. We started


with employment in the whiskey industry.


Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Mrs Anne McGuire.


Number one. I can assure the honourable lady the whiskey industry


in Scotland and its employees are the key priority. We have contact


with the Scott whiskey association. Since Scotch whisky is exported to


around 200 countries and employs 10,000 people in Scotland the recent


Scottish government White Paper references there will be around 90


embassies if they have their way after independence. There's the


Secretary of State agree that trade agreement brokered by a strong and


extensive UK diplomatic and international trade infrastructure


and integral to the success of Scott -- Scotch whisky exporter. Order. We


are grateful. The honourable lady is absolutely right. 90% of the product


of the Scotch whisky industry is for the export market. It is important


that Scotland has the best possible access to that market through the


network of 270 embassies across the world with the UK, we have that


facility. That is why the Scotch whisky industry makes such good use


of it. Mr Alan Reid. The Scotch whisky industry provides many jobs


in my constituency. But it is unfair that it is taxed higher compared


with the air and wines. -- beer and wines. I don't think, I might be


wrong, but I don't think my honourable friend is right about


that. In any event, I would suggest to him that the information I have


is beer duty is 37%, 42% for whiskey. In any event the position


remains that it is wrong to play one part of Scotland's highly successful


industry against the other. I am sure the Chancellor will listen to


representations from the Scotch whisky industry. I declare an


interest as being the secretary of the Scottish whiskey party group in


the house. As a consequence we have representations every week about the


whole question of the escalator and the unfairness bill is against the


spirit industry with the beer industry. The Chancellor gave so


much last time. What representations have you made to the Chancellor has


overcome that problem? I shall continue to make representations for


the whole food and drink industry in Scotland first top he performs a


very important part in that. I have been with him on many occasions as


part of these delegations and they will continue to give him such


support as I can. 80% of the price of a bottle of Scotch whiskey is


duty -- Scotch whisky is duty. This is widening the price between whisky


and other beverage categories. How does that help the industry and the


employees? The point the honourable gentleman will have two answer is


the Scott Wing -- Scotch whisky industry does very well as part of


the United Kingdom. His policy of independence would put that at risk.


Mr Angus Robertson. The honourable gentleman and I and others lobbied


the Treasury to end duty discrimination. In fact, the


honourable gentleman himself tabled an amendment in this house to end


tax discrimination supported by Liberal Democrat MPs and the SNP.


Since becoming Secretary of State Scotland he has taken the Tory


shine, letting the industry down. When will he stand up and be


Scotland's man in the Cabinet? We must move on. I hope it did sound


better when he rehearsed it in the mirror this morning. There is no


escaping the fundamental truth that he has got a policy which should be


the determination of the Scotch whisky industry for no good reason.


This is a question about low pay in Scotland. Can I with the operation


draw the house attention to the fact that Saturday the 21st of December


will be the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing. It remains the


single largest loss of life ever in the United Kingdom when 270 people


perished that fateful evening. I am sure the thoughts and prayers of the


whole house will be with the community and those who lost friends


and family that evening. Much focus over the last 25 years has been on


the perpetrators. The victims, their friends, their families and the


community of Lockerbie deserve our respect and admiration for the


formidable way in which they have coped with 25 years of an president


it global attention. Mr Speaker, the national minimum


wage is one of the government 's key policies to support the low paid and


is UK wide. On the 1st of October, the minimum wage increase to ?6.31


an hour. We have increased income tax to ?10,000 taking many Scots out


of income tax altogether. I am sure the whole house will commend and


agree with the Minister of State remarks to relation to Lockerbie. In


his other part of the answer he omitted to say that prices have


risen more quickly than wages in 41 of the 42 months he has sat in this


house as a minister. Low pay is on the rise in Scotland but the Valley


of the national minimum wage has declined in real terms in the this


government. -- but the value. When you going to do something concrete


to deal with this? Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman is simply


wrong. The October adult rate on the minimum wage will be around 27%


higher in real terms concerns -- to the consumer price of theirs. Does


the Minister agree the best way to tackle low paid in Scotland is to


get the economy growing and create jobs. Mark Menzies as the Tory MP


for Lanarkshire. They will welcome the announcement that employment is


up and unemployment is down in Scotland. We are not complacent but


on the right track. Pay is affecting thousands of families. How can we


help those families? They giving them a decent wage or giving them a


tax cut for millionaires? The government supports the concept of


the living wage. It is where employers can afford it. It is at


the cost of jobs. It is something to be encouraged. The UK government's


attitudes towards the living wage is espoused by the honourable lady of


East Dunbartonshire. There was a definition of a living wage and the


government has made the assessment as to its consequences. Is it not


the case that this government should move quickly to introduce a living


wage for its employees wherever they may be based in the UK and stop


hiding behind vacuous arguments that it is too difficult to calculate


given we know it is ?7 60 in Scotland next year and ?8 in London


next year. It is never very surprised to hear the SNP mention


London in the same breath as Scotland. As I have said to the


honourable gentleman from Motherwell, we're sure the


government believes the living wage is a concept that should be


supported well employers can afford it. Margaret Curran. Can I associate


myself with the Minister 's remarks concerning the terrible tragedy of


Lockerbie. Mr Speaker, more that low pay is one of the reasons people


using food banks in Scotland today. I wish nothing personal towards the


minister but I am disappointed the Secretary of State himself is not


answering this question. We know the Secretary of State has begun to


struggle with some of the details in his brief. Let me see the Minister


can actually do any better. What has been the percentage increase in the


number of people using food banks in Scotland in the past year? Given its


Christmas I will offer the minister a hand. Is it, 100%. B, 200%? Aussi,


over 400%? -- or C. The increase in people using food banks doing her


government was 1000%. This government is concerned about the


need for people to use food banks in the moments of crisis in their lives


and we support the development of food banks and those people who


operate them. I was proud to open the food bank in my own


constituency. But to pretend these crises are something of this


government is making and not something that has been going on for


a continuing period of time is to mislead the house. The Minister


should know the actual increase has been 435%. That is over 34,000


people, including 10,000 children may using food banks in Scotland.


Those are shameful figures that all members of this house should pay


attention to. The Minister has refused to be told on why this is


happening. The citizens advice bureau, a trust and Child poverty


action group and all saying this government policy and driving people


in Scotland to use food banks. Minister, and they all wrong? Of


course the honourable lady does not acknowledge these thousand percent


rise in the use of food banks and the last Labour government. We want


to look and understand why there has been an increase in the use of food


banks. That is why DEFRA have committed to a very extensive study


into the use of food aid across the United Kingdom. The honourable lady


will be able to read that when it is published. This is a question about


the legal -- legal immigration. -- illegal immigration. The government


doesn't really know how many illegal immigrant there might be in


Scotland. Given the attraction of the whole of the United Kingdom to


people from other countries I suspect the problem might be rather


greater than the Secretary of State imagines particularly in cities like


Glasgow and Edinburgh. Will the Secretary of State assure the house


he will work closely with the UK Borders agency to ensure Scotland


isn't an easy route into the UK for illegal immigrant. Certainly, Mister


Speaker, that should be no easy routes for anyone in the


circumstances. I would caution the honourable gentleman against


devoting too much Government resource and releasing -- in


relation to the compilation of figures that do not help us tackle


the problem. Can I have what discussion -- Canada squad


discussion has the UK Government had with their Scottish Government about


the operation of border controls in an independent Scotland? I have had


no such discussions so far, the truth of the matter is that either


you can have an open area with no border control or closely aligned


immigration policies. Unlike the position of the SNP, you cannot have


both. For years, immigrants have been vital to the economy. In my


economy, there has been a problem with immigration, not immigration.


Well Secretary of State might have failed to get his colleagues to vote


for war in Syria, what Mike do this Christmas to help refugees come from


Syria, especially given Germany has taken 80% of the total and the UK


has taken zero? Amnesty International says it should cause


heads to hang in shame. This country has a long and proud record of


offering asylum to those who seek it and those who deserve and need it.


That will continue to be the case, Mr Speaker. This is a question about


the Barnett formula. There are no plans to review the Barnett formula


in this Parliament. That is not quite what he said a few weeks ago.


What about the Barnett formula? Will that change post-2014? Alistair


Carmichael, because it was he, he said, they will be no action taken


on the Barnett formula until the economy has stabilised. Why isn't he


just straight with the Scottish people? We all know that the bosses


and paymasters of the no campaign, his Tory friends, want the Barnett


formula scrapped. Isn't this the real cost to the people of Scotland?


?4 billion? It is a classic of the genre, Mr Speaker. Synthetic outrage


at its very best. He knows the Barnett formula is one of the


reasons why the people of Scotland reject independence. And that is why


he is operating his own little project smear to pretend it is


somehow at risk. The position has been put beyond any doubt today by


the Prime Minister in a letter to the First Minister. The honourable


Jenna Coleman -- the honourable gentleman should explain that and


explain to the people of Scotland that the best way to get rid of the


Barnett formula is to vote for independence. Does my right


honourable friend agree with me that last year's Scotland act transferred


substantial tax raising powers to Holyrood and that these complex


changes should be allowed to bed in before we start making any further


radical changes? Ian Stewart is the Conservative MP for milk and he is.


-- Milton Key. The energies of the Scottish Government would be much


more better served if they dealt with these tax changes due to come


on stream in 2016 rather than running around setting up scare


stories. Is the Minister aware that today, what we have seen is the


launch of separatists for Barnet? I couldn't put it better or more


graphically myself, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Mister Speaker. The


Barnett formula has served Scotland, and on the side of the


House, we believe it is at the heart of the distribution across the


entire UK. That is why we support it. I agree with the Secretary of


State that the only threat to the Barnett formula is a vote for


independence. Canny actually sheer with a housewife he believes the SNP


Scottish Government do not understand the Abbey only threat to


the Barnett formula? -- can he actually sheer Dimmock share. They


know the Barnett formula is something people value in the United


Kingdom so they try to pretend it is some truth to it. This is part of


the strategy. All along, they identify things like the pound, the


Bank of England, the ability to build complex warships on the


Clyde, the things people of Scotland value from being part of the UK, and


then pretend you can hold on to them while becoming independent. It is


just not credible and that is why they are losing the accurate. --


adamant. This is a question about the fisheries policy. I have regular


meetings with officials in Scottish Government on the fisheries policy.


Defra also works closely with the Scottish Government to make sure the


interests of Scottish fishermen are fully recognised in the UK position


in EU fisheries negotiations. I congratulate the Government on


achieving reform, introducing an element of regional control. What


assessment has my right honourable friend made of the implications for


Scottish fishermen and will be benefit greatly from it? I have long


been an enthusiast for the regionalisation of the common


fisheries policy and I am delighted that now for the second-round of


reform, we have seen that at the heart of it, there is still more


that can be done, but anything that rings fishermen, scientists and


other stakeholders together in order to manage fisheries away from


Brussels has got to be good. As surprised as I was to CSN P Minister


Richard Lochhead -- SNP minister Richard Lochhead claiming he has


secured a quarter deal for Scottish fishermen and then saying he has no


voice, isn't the fact that Scottish fishing is best represented in the


EU with a strong voice as part of the UK? No, Mr Speaker, I was not at


all surprised, because that is exactly the sort of double standard


we have seen from the SNP over the years on this issue and just about


every other. The fact of the matter is that my honourable friend the


Fisheries Minister led the delegation this year to the December


fisheries Council with the exceptional skill. He developed for


the Scottish fleet of things that really matter, in particular


ensuring there was no further cut in effort and has not inflexibility on


monkfish quarters. He should be commended for that. There's far too


much noise in the chamber. Let's have some quiet. We would like to


hear Scottish night, Sir Menzies Campbell. No pressure then, Mr


Speaker. Will my honourable friend give proper consideration to the


Scottish fisheries? Will he paid particular attention to the village


-based fishing industry, particularly in places like my own


constituency and sounding ports? It is vital that the interests of


village -based fisheries is not subjected to the overbearing


influence sometimes of those who go further out to sea. I know from my


own constituency experience, Mr Speaker, that the small inshore


fleet is updated Porton 's -- great importance to the committee see


their presents. The point he makes is very well made. It is important


we do we can't sustain the fleet in these small ports. -- that we do


what we can to sustain. The negotiations with Norway being


postponed means that the fishing fleet faces an uncertain New Year.


Only support the Scottish Government's call for an increase in


North Sea cod quote next year in line with scientific advice? That is


a subjective be determined in January. These are being held over.


While it would be desirable to see an increase of that sort, what the


industry are looking for, but is not within our powers but as an EU


negotiation. This is about rural energy prices. Rural consumers face


particular challenge on energy bills. My right honourable friend is


working with Dell interested parties to obtain more secure and affordable


supplies. I'm due to meet your key in the New Year to discuss this


matter. -- to meet the OFT. As he is well aware, though consumers are so


often forgotten with energy prices. It is supposed to be technologically


neutral, but major energy companies will not include LPG and home fuel


boilers within the schemes. This is surely discriminatory. Will he


presses colleague Stephen skewer -- will he presses colleagues to ensure


these schemes are included? I will happily do that. I would suggest to


him to hold, as we did on rural feel, event table to discuss this


with other MPs. Is my honourable friend aware of the particular


difficulties in rural areas where there is no access to means supplies


for both gas and oil? Will he commend the contest of heating clubs


which are done to -- which have brought down costs. What will the


Government do to assist? The Government is very keen to support


oil clubs such as the one in Caithness. I'm sure the issues which


concern the honourable gentleman's constituents are ones which will be


ably discussed at the round table we propose in the Scotland Office with


Scottish MPs. Why do the SNP, Tories and Liberal Democrats all agree that


the price should draw from the energy Bill to the tax Bill and


energy company should be let off scot-free? What we believe is that


something should be done about the mess of the actress of the industry


that his party left behind. That is why we are seeking to move people on


to lower tariffs, that is why we are rolling back green levies, and that


is why we encourage competition. What his party offers as a gimmick


and a con. This is another energy-related question about oil


and gas extraction from the North Sea. That is exactly why we ask them


to carry out this review in the first place. After his final report


is submitted early next year, Government will look at plans to


make the most of all sure oil and gas fields. He will be aware that


Sir Ian Wood in his report refers to much of the North Sea as a mature


environment and the need for the to maximise the economic recovery for


what is a diminishing resource. Does the Secretary of State agree with me


that fragmentation of fiscal and readily to the regimes Chris Evert


at arrangements in Scotland in the UK will minimise the chance of


achieving the output of those reforms? It is very well clear to


all those who have an informed view of this industry that its best


future lies as part of the UK rather than as a Scotland separated out


from the rest of the United Kingdom. It is a mature industry and still


has a great deal to offer, but it is telling that the recent white paper


gives absolutely no guarantees about the future of field allowances in


the industry which is going to be absolutely crucial to the future the


element of it. Isn't the most exciting thing about the report that


the consensus here is discovered in the industry that with more


regulation, is stronger regulator, more resources for the regulator,


that is the potential to unlock even greater investment supporting jobs,


tax and energy security? I think the real strength of the report, Mr


Speaker, at least the interim version of it, is that it has


credibility in the industry because it has been informed by the industry


and led by one of the most respected figures in it. That is all we have


got time for the moment because of the holiday break and the


Parliamentary timetable, and the next Scottish questions is not until


Wednesday 15th of debris. Use those diaries to make a note of that. --


Wednesday 15th of February. We know what an important year it will be in


Scottish politics. From Oliver sea, goodbye. -- from all of us here,


goodbye. Have a very Merry Christmas and happy


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