18/12/2013 Scottish Questions


18/12/2013

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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Hello and welcome to a rather festive Westminster for the December

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

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

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

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

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with employment in the whiskey industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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Scottish government White Paper references there will be around 90

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

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

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extensive UK diplomatic and international trade infrastructure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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representations from the Scotch whisky industry. I declare an

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

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

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

:03:45.:03:46.

spirit industry with the beer industry. The Chancellor gave so

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

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overcome that problem? I shall continue to make representations for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the Treasury to end duty discrimination. In fact, the

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honourable gentleman himself tabled an amendment in this house to end

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tax discrimination supported by Liberal Democrat MPs and the SNP.

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Since becoming Secretary of State Scotland he has taken the Tory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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community of Lockerbie deserve our respect and admiration for the

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

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it global attention. Mr Speaker, the national minimum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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for Lanarkshire. They will welcome the announcement that employment is

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

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

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

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tax cut for millionaires? The government supports the concept of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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hiding behind vacuous arguments that it is too difficult to calculate

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

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

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

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honourable gentleman from Motherwell, we're sure the

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government believes the living wage is a concept that should be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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government was 1000%. This government is concerned about the

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

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

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

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constituency. But to pretend these crises are something of this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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action group and all saying this government policy and driving people

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

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course the honourable lady does not acknowledge these thousand percent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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people from other countries I suspect the problem might be rather

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greater than the Secretary of State imagines particularly in cities like

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

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

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

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

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circumstances. I would caution the honourable gentleman against

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devoting too much Government resource and releasing -- in

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

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

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discussion has the UK Government had with their Scottish Government about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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has taken zero? Amnesty International says it should cause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jenna Coleman -- the honourable gentleman should explain that and

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

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Barnett formula is to vote for independence. Does my right

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

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substantial tax raising powers to Holyrood and that these complex

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

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

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

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

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on stream in 2016 rather than running around setting up scare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scottish Government do not understand the Abbey only threat to

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

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know the Barnett formula is something people value in the United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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meetings with officials in Scottish Government on the fisheries policy.

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

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interests of Scottish fishermen are fully recognised in the UK position

:19:44.:19:49.

in EU fisheries negotiations. I congratulate the Government on

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achieving reform, introducing an element of regional control. What

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assessment has my right honourable friend made of the implications for

:19:59.:20:02.

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

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been an enthusiast for the regionalisation of the common

:20:10.:20:11.

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

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

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

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other stakeholders together in order to manage fisheries away from

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

:20:31.:20:38.

Richard Lochhead -- SNP minister Richard Lochhead claiming he has

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

:20:46.:20:49.

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

:20:50.:20:52.

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

:20:53.:20:59.

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

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

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

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Fisheries Minister led the delegation this year to the December

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fisheries Council with the exceptional skill. He developed for

:21:16.:21:21.

the Scottish fleet of things that really matter, in particular

:21:22.:21:26.

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

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

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

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

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Speaker. Will my honourable friend give proper consideration to the

:21:51.:21:57.

Scottish fisheries? Will he paid particular attention to the village

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-based fishing industry, particularly in places like my own

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

:22:11.:22:13.

village -based fisheries is not subjected to the overbearing

:22:14.:22:17.

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

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own constituency experience, Mr Speaker, that the small inshore

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

:22:32.:22:34.

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

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

:22:39.:22:47.

what we can to sustain. The negotiations with Norway being

:22:48.:22:50.

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

:22:51.:22:53.

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

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

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

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

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

:23:18.:23:23.

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

:23:24.:23:29.

particular challenge on energy bills. My right honourable friend is

:23:30.:23:33.

working with Dell interested parties to obtain more secure and affordable

:23:34.:23:39.

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

:23:40.:23:46.

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

:23:47.:23:53.

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

:23:54.:23:59.

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

:24:00.:24:01.

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

:24:02.:24:09.

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

:24:10.:24:14.

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

:24:15.:24:23.

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

:24:24.:24:32.

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

:24:33.:24:37.

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

:24:38.:24:41.

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

:24:42.:24:49.

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

:24:50.:24:58.

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

:24:59.:25:00.

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

:25:01.:25:06.

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

:25:07.:25:10.

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

:25:11.:25:18.

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

:25:19.:25:23.

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

:25:24.:25:26.

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

:25:27.:25:33.

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

:25:34.:25:37.

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

:25:38.:25:41.

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

:25:42.:25:46.

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

:25:47.:25:53.

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

:25:54.:25:55.

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

:25:56.:26:01.

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

:26:02.:26:06.

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

:26:07.:26:08.

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

:26:09.:26:16.

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

:26:17.:26:20.

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

:26:21.:26:27.

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

:26:28.:26:33.

that fragmentation of fiscal and readily to the regimes Chris Evert

:26:34.:26:37.

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

:26:38.:26:39.

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

:26:40.:26:47.

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

:26:48.:26:51.

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

:26:52.:26:56.

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

:26:57.:27:01.

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

:27:02.:27:04.

gives absolutely no guarantees about the future of field allowances in

:27:05.:27:09.

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

:27:10.:27:19.

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

:27:20.:27:23.

the consensus here is discovered in the industry that with more

:27:24.:27:28.

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

:27:29.:27:32.

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

:27:33.:27:39.

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

:27:40.:27:42.

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

:27:43.:27:46.

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

:27:47.:27:50.

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

:27:51.:27:55.

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

:27:56.:28:01.

Parliamentary timetable, and the next Scottish questions is not until

:28:02.:28:04.

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

:28:05.:28:09.

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

:28:10.:28:13.

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

:28:14.:28:20.

goodbye. Have a very Merry Christmas and happy

:28:21.:28:21.

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