19/04/2017 Scottish Questions


Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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Hello and a very warm welcome to a sunny and springlike Westminster for


April's Scottish Questions. Whatever else you think of the people in the


building behind me you cannot complain that politics is boring at


the moment. We know there is going to be a general election on the 8th


of June, adds to that the continuing controversy about whether there


should be a second Scottish Independence Referendum, you will


not be surprised to hear that Scottish Questions was spicy in the


House of Commons. Questions to the Secretary


of State for Scotland. Secretary of State for Scotland,


Secretary David Mundell. As the Prime Minister has said,


at the heart of the United Kingdom is the unity of our people,


a unity of interests, This transcends politics


and institutions, the constitution and the economy,


it is about the values I will never stop making


the passionate and positive case for our United Kingdom and look


forward to having the opportunity to do so during the forthcoming


general election. With the Defence Secretary


confirming a ?1.7 billion investment in Scottish military bases,


does my right honourable friend agree that Scotland plays a crucial


role in defending my constituents in Eddisbury, the whole of the UK,


from growing threats at sea, in the air and at land and that


divisive policies of the nationalists threaten


that crucial role? I absolutely agree


with my honourable friend. Scotland is on the front line


of defending the UK from these growing threats at sea,


in the air and on land. It is the home to essential defence


capabilities and our commitment to the future of defence in Scotland


is underlined by increased investment in better infrastructure


for our Armed Forces to help them Given in the last quarter


that the Scottish economy contracted by 0.2%, is it not time that we got


off the independence referendum merry-go-round and indeed


the general election and got the Prime Minister and the First


Minister to both concentrate on what is important,


and that is the economy of Scotland? Mr Speaker, I would give


the honourable gentleman more credibility with that statement


if he was not standing on the ticket of a leader who has said that he has


no problem with another independence referendum and clearly would do


a deal with the SNP to get Will the Secretary of State confirm


that Scotland's membership of the single market of the UK


is more important to Scotland than membership of the single market


of the European Union? Mr Speaker, my honourable friend


is correct and absolutely right to highlight that the market


for Scottish goods and services in the rest of the UK is four times


greater than the market in the EU. Mr Speaker, in the last few years,


Iceland and Ireland have leapfrogged the UK in terms of growth


and deficit reduction and have always had a higher GDP


in the last ten years. Norway's oil fund is now


920 billion, having grown from 815 billion, a growth


of 105 billion. The equivalent figures for the UK


are zero, zero and zero. Does the Secretary of State not


agree that Scotland could be as good as tiny Iceland,


as good as Ireland, and even Norway Mr Speaker, I well remember


when the SNP advocated the arc of prosperity,


with Ireland, Scotland and Iceland, and I very, very much doubt


that the people of Scotland would want to endure the pain


that the people of both Iceland and Ireland have endured


to ensure their economy is back At least all of us on this side


of the House can agree that the greatest contribution


from Scotland is to show that there is actually


an alternative to the destructive It is worth remembering that


in Scotland we have free prescriptions, free eye tests


and childcare, free We have scrapped bridge tolls,


we've reopened railways, invested in infrastructure,


we are building more council That is what the SNP has delivered


in government in Scotland. Does he not agree that this stands


in marked contrast to the Tories' mismanagement and destruction


of public services Mr Speaker, what I see


in my constituency is falling educational standards,


Scotland's once proud education system having the lowest


international ratings ever, what I see is my constituents having


increasing waiting times for the health service


and what I see them is dealing I do not believe that the SNP


Government in Scotland is focusing on the day job,


they are focusing on their Quotes about doing the day job


when you are calling Let us rest on a neutral observer,


not the Tory Party Research Officer but the director of the Institute


of health and society and I quote his words,


Scotland is in a much stronger position than England with respect


to both health and social care, the problem at the moment


is that the English Government is not committed to


a National Health Service. If this is not another example


that the real alternative to the Tory UK Government


is the progressive Absolutely not, Mr Speaker,


and I look forward to debating these I think the right honourable


gentleman was very, very careful not to mention education


standards in Scotland. The latest international figures


demonstrate that education standards in Scotland are at the lowest


ever on record. I do not think that that is a proud


record of the Scottish Government and I look forward to holding it


to account over the next six weeks. Mr Speaker, in our negotiations


with the EU we will seek the best The joint ministerial committee


on EU negotiations was established to facilitate engagement


between the UK Government and devolved administrations


and has had regular, substantive and


constructive discussions. If he is so keen and supportive


of the JMC, why did they vote against putting it on a statutory


footing for the Brexit negotiations Secondly, when was the last


time a positive idea, I am sure there are many


from the devolved administrations, was taken on board to form part


of the Brexit negotiations to improve the exit of the EU


for the devolved nations? Mr Speaker, we have been very clear


that Scotland's place in Europe, a contribution


of the Scottish Government to the discussions, as has been


constructive discussions from the Welsh Government and indeed


from the Northern Irish executive. They have set out many things that


have formed part of the White Paper, part of the Prime Minister's speech


and will be part of the future discussions as we continue our


negotiations over the exit Is there not a really important


issue about the role played by machinery of government


in helping hold together the UK? Does my right honourable friend


agree that a priority for the new Government should be


to take a long, hard look at developing new ways of working


between ministers and civil servants across the devolved administrations


to strengthen our United Kingdom? Mr Speaker, I absolutely agree


with my right honourable friend. He has considerable experience


because despite what we hear at these questions,


despite what we see in the media, actually, the UK Government


and devolved administrations are able on a range of issues


to work very closely and constructively together,


and that is the element that we Now is not the time,


is what the Prime Minister said to the Scottish Parliament


when Scotland wants to decide its own future


and relationship with Europe. But now is the time


for the screeching U-turn in this Does he also believe it is time


for the Scottish people to once again reject this Government's


austerity obsession, the assault on the poor,


the obnoxious rape clause, and the desire to drive


Scotland over the cliff Mr Speaker, I acknowledge


that the honourable gentleman is an expert on screeching


but what I would say to him is that the proposal


by the Prime Minister to have a general election in six


weeks' time to ensure certainty, clarity and security for the period


of the Brexit negotiations is quite different from the proposal


to have a disruptive referendum campaign during the period


of those negotiations. Common commercial policy


is for the UK to pursue, as we leave the EU, for example,


an animal health and food safety, are as essential to Scotland


as they are to Somerset. How can the JMC help ensure


that they will be adopted? Mr Speaker, I would certainly hope


that the JMC will be involved in the discussion


of the repatriation of important powers from the EU


to the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved


administrations. I recognise more than anyone how


important it is to have common The main livestock market


for my constituency is one mile south of the Scottish


border in England. Scotland voted to remain in the EU


and the single market but the Scottish Government's paper


that would have kept Scotland in the single market and the UK


was roundly ignored by the Tory UK Government intent on pursuing


a reckless hard Brexit. Can the Secretary of State


for Scotland tell us what personal action he took to convince


the Prime Minister to take account of the views of the people


of Scotland and can he provide Mr Speaker, I have been quite clear


that the place of Scotland in Europe did play an important part


in the Government's thinking and just so the hecklers opposite


are clear, the Government has formally responded


to the Scottish Government in relation to the place of Scotland


in Government, and surprisingly the Scottish Government asked us not


to publish our response. In his assessment of


the effectiveness of the Joint Ministerial Council,


did he share my conclusion that actually the Joint Ministerial


Council would be more effective if all parties were focusing


on building a strong UK after Brexit, not


pursuing separatist agendas? As we head into what will be


unprecedented peacetime negotiations with the EU,


it is vital that all parts of the United Kingdom pull together


to take a Team UK approach and by doing so we will get the best


possible deal for Scotland The JMC is supposed to be


the platform for the devolved administrations to have their voices


not just heard but responded to. The Secretary of State paints a rosy


picture but he's not The Northern Ireland voice is not


heard at the moment as they're not allowed to attend,


the Scottish voice, we've heard this morning very clearly,


they're being ignored, and the Welsh feel at best less


than impressed by this. Will this government give this


body the teeth it needs, put it on a statutory footing


to allow it to do its job properly? The purpose of the JMC is to bring


together the UK Government and the devolved administrations


and to work together and formulating our position as we go forward


in these negotiations. I very much regret the fact


that the Northern Ireland Executive has not been able to be politically


present in recent times and that is something


that we all want to see brought to a conclusion, but these meetings


have been robust and I believe, certainly in terms of the actions


that have flowed from them, A question about Holyrood's new tax


powers. With permission, Mr Speaker, I will


answer question four and question The UK and Scottish Governments


continue to engage closely The Scottish Government is now


responsible for setting the rates and thresholds of income tax


and it is incumbent on them to use their powers to make


Scotland an attractive place Now that the Scottish Government


has unprecedented power to shape the economy of Scotland,


will my right honourable friend join me on calling on the SNP


to start delivering jobs and economic growth rather


than focusing on an independence Mr Speaker, the shouts


from the opposition benches just highlight the complacency of the SNP


in relation to the Scottish economy. It contracted by 2% in the fourth


quarter of 2016 compared to the UK No Scots can be proud


of that comparison. Does my right honourable friend


agree that it is terrible that middle earners in Scotland


are being penalised by the Scottish Government,


?400 this year and up to ?1400 by 2021, compared to in England


where we have higher tax thresholds My honourable friend is right


to highlight that point although, while I might not like the plans


to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK,


I do acknowledge it is a matter But they will have to account


for themselves in relation to their taxation policies,


and the forthcoming general election will no doubt highlight


those issues. The average Band D council tax bill


in Scotland is almost ?400 Will these discussions include how


local authorities in England can learn from Scotland's successes


in providing local and national services


while maintaining the lowest council The honourable lady may have spoken


to the SNP press office, but she certainly hasn't spoken


to councils up and down Scotland who are absolutely


uniform in their negativity of the Scottish Government's


approach to the funding As a last act of kindness


and while he still has his seat and his position, will he addressed


the issue of closure of the HMRC office in my Livingston constituency


threatening 1000 jobs have written to him,


including his own party. In his last swansong,


will he come to Livingston As the honourable lady knows,


I have set out clearly in correspondence with all of those


who have been in touch with me, the rationales for the move


and the change in the arrangements Many of which have been called


for across this house in terms of efficiency and effectiveness


of HMRC working. Nobody likes to see significant


change in employment patterns I commend the honourable lady for


the way she has pursued the issue. A question about the opportunities


for business during Brexit in Scotland.


Mr Speaker, with your permission, I will answer questions


The UK government's plan for Britain seeks to help businesses


across the UK to trade beyond Europe and make Britain a leading advocate


Scotland's ministers have had over 70 meetings with businesses


across Scotland since last summer's referendum and only last month,


my honourable friend, the Secretary of State


for International Trade was in Glasgow to meet innovative


Scottish businesses trading with the world.


The question is being answered by the Treasury minister.


I thank my honourable friend for that response.


What steps is he taking to support international trade and investment


I thank my honourable friend for that question.


The Department for International Trade is quite clear.


We are a Department for the whole of the United Kingdom.


All of our services are accessible to companies in Scotland, England,


Wales and Northern Ireland, including the great campaign,


including our portal, great.gov.uk, the trade-show access programme


and we have had major announcements of more overseas


investments coming into all parts of the United Kingdom


Could my honourable friend tell the House his view on the damage


to Scottish business if Scotland left the United Kingdom?


Well, my honourable friend has hit the nail on the head.


If Scotland were to leave the UK, the potential damage to Scottish


business and Scottish trade would be huge.


The Scottish Government's own figures show that 64% of goods


and services leaving Scotland go to the UK,


compared to only 15% going to the rest of the EU.


Mr Speaker, can the Minister tell us what assessment he has made


of the contribution of Scotland to the EU's single market?


I think the honourable gentleman is missing the point.


The point is surely the centrality and importance


of the UK single market as we go forward from here.


It is 49.8 billion going to the rest of the UK,


It is clear that the union that matters the most


The Secretary of State has previously said he supports


That being part of the single market was clearly the best


I wonder if the Secretary of State could tell his constituents,


will he now stand on a manifesto to take Scotland out


Well, the Prime Minister and the whole Government


Our objective is to secure a comprehensive free trade agreement


with the European Union as we leave the European Union.


That will be any better interests of all parts of the UK,


What assessment has my honourable friend made of the opportunities


for increasing the export of whiskey across the world as part


of a free-trade agreement once we leave the European Union?


The honourable gentleman was asking about whiskey exports.


My honourable friend raises a good point.


Whisky is a vital part of our export mix.


-- exports of whiskey reached 3.999 billion in 2016.


Actually, Mr Speaker, whiskey has been a part of quite


Notably, when the Secretary of State International Trade,


myself and the Prime Minister were in India,


we took with us the Scotch Whisky Association and we have seen


Mr Speaker, the former Prime Minister David Cameron


promised he would not resign if he lost the EU referendum.


He reneged on that promise within hours.


The current Prime Minister on seven occasions said she would not


She reneged on that promise yesterday.


Will you break the mould and renew a commitment given


three occasions that, whatever support is put in place,


for businesses in the North East like Nissan, will be put


Mr Speaker, we have been absolutely clear that our support


for Nissan and indeed the rest of the automotive sector


That is the most important point and I'm sure it'll be an important


point of the general election campaign as they go


I'm looking forward to the Conservatives


being competitive in the north-east in this coming general


election and we look forward to taking the fight


The question was whether he would renew the promise given


to Scotland to have the same deal and, if you will, will you tell


the people in the oil and gas supply chain that the reports


from the Robert Gordon University last week that said Brexit


would cost them ?200 million, that money will be sorted,


they will be looked after in the same way as Nissan


is prepared to be, or will he break another promise?


Mr Speaker, I'm glad he has raised the question of oil


What I can say to him, Mr Speaker, is that I know


he and I would agree that the one thing that would be most disastrous


for the Scottish economy, including the oil and gas sector,


would be seeing Scottish separation leading to an overnight budget


I will answer questions six, nine, ten and 11 together.


Sales from Scotland's US and UK with nearly ?50 billion,


a figure increased by nearly 70% since 2002 and is four times


the values of the export from Scotland to the EU.


There is no doubt that the United Kingdom is the vital


Does my honourable friend agree that the best deal


for Scotland is to stay part of the United Kingdom and to work


with the UK government to do all it can to support


a new free-trade agreement for the EU?


Mr Speaker, I absolutely agree with my honourable friend.


Mr Speaker, the IMF predicted dire consequences for the UK


They upgraded the growth yesterday for the second time


Much of the confident about the growth in UK economy


is deserved by our leadership of our Prime Minister.


Does he agree with me that when people look to buy British


Thank you, my constituents have a long and proud tradition


in the textile industry, many of whom trade with all parts


How will these companies in my constituency be helped


by Scotland leaving the hugely successful UK single market?


As the honourable gentleman will know, in 2015, Scotland


exported 49.8 billion to the rest of the UK, four times more than that


which is exported to the EU and three times greater than sales


The benefits to Scotland and full access to the UK market are clear.


Does my honourable friend agree that Scottish representation in this


Parliament must focus on what benefits the whole


That is why I can confirm to my honourable friend


that when Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Conservatives go


into the general election, it will be on the bases of keeping


Scotland at the heart of the United Kingdom.


75% of Canada's exports go to the US.


Whereas only 63% of Scotland's go to the UK.


Canada is a successful independent country.


Does the Secretary of State agree with me that neighbouring countries


can have close trading relations while maintaining sovereignty?


Of course countries can have close...


..close trading relationships but what Scotland


benefits from being part of the United Kingdom


is no barriers in trade, freedom of movement between Scotland


and the rest of the UK, that's good for Scottish business


Scottish exports of food and drink doubled in the past ten years.


James Withers, the chief executive Scotland Food and Drink said


he was afraid of the consequences of leaving the European Union,


Will the Secretary of State guarantee the Scottish food


and drink sector will not have to deal with that


From my discussions with the Scottish food and drink


industry, their greatest concern is that the SNP would seek to drag


Will the Secretary of State stand by his comments he made last


year when he said, my role is to


ensure Scotland gets the best possible deal involving clearly


Will he be honest with his constituents in a few weeks' time,


are they voting for an MP who being in single market


or are they voting for an MP who wants to go along


with a damaging hard Brexit, whatever the costs to families


What certainly I look forward to when I contest my constituency


in the next general election is knowing exactly what the SNP


Are they for taking Scotland back into the EU or are they not?


I hope we will find out in the next six weeks.


Normally at this point I'd ask you to get your diaries out and give you


the date for the next Scottish Questions, but because of the


general election, the parliamentary timetable is a little bit fluid at


the moment, so we don't know when the next Scottish Questions will be.


But what I can predict over the next seven weeks of the general election


campaign, it will not be boring. Firm all of us here in Westminster,


goodbye. this super-sized hospital has been


transforming lives in Scotland. He said it had been


grown in America. There's nowhere else in Scotland


that could have done everything that we've done.


Yes, there's the sad times, but we get to see people


with happy endings.


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