19/04/2017 Scottish Questions


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19/04/2017

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

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

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building behind me you cannot complain that politics is boring at

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

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

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should be a second Scottish Independence Referendum, you will

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

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House of Commons. Questions to the Secretary

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of State for Scotland. Secretary of State for Scotland,

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Secretary David Mundell. As the Prime Minister has said,

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

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a unity of interests, This transcends politics

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and institutions, the constitution and the economy,

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it is about the values I will never stop making

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the passionate and positive case for our United Kingdom and look

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forward to having the opportunity to do so during the forthcoming

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general election. With the Defence Secretary

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confirming a ?1.7 billion investment in Scottish military bases,

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does my right honourable friend agree that Scotland plays a crucial

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

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

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divisive policies of the nationalists threaten

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that crucial role? I absolutely agree

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with my honourable friend. Scotland is on the front line

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of defending the UK from these growing threats at sea,

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

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capabilities and our commitment to the future of defence in Scotland

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is underlined by increased investment in better infrastructure

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

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

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off the independence referendum merry-go-round and indeed

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the general election and got the Prime Minister and the First

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Minister to both concentrate on what is important,

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

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the honourable gentleman more credibility with that statement

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

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no problem with another independence referendum and clearly would do

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

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

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is more important to Scotland than membership of the single market

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of the European Union? Mr Speaker, my honourable friend

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is correct and absolutely right to highlight that the market

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

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

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Iceland and Ireland have leapfrogged the UK in terms of growth

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and deficit reduction and have always had a higher GDP

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

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920 billion, having grown from 815 billion, a growth

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of 105 billion. The equivalent figures for the UK

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

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agree that Scotland could be as good as tiny Iceland,

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

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when the SNP advocated the arc of prosperity,

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

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that the people of Scotland would want to endure the pain

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that the people of both Iceland and Ireland have endured

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

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of the House can agree that the greatest contribution

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from Scotland is to show that there is actually

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an alternative to the destructive It is worth remembering that

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in Scotland we have free prescriptions, free eye tests

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and childcare, free We have scrapped bridge tolls,

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we've reopened railways, invested in infrastructure,

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

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

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in marked contrast to the Tories' mismanagement and destruction

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of public services Mr Speaker, what I see

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in my constituency is falling educational standards,

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Scotland's once proud education system having the lowest

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international ratings ever, what I see is my constituents having

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increasing waiting times for the health service

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

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Government in Scotland is focusing on the day job,

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they are focusing on their Quotes about doing the day job

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

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

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of health and society and I quote his words,

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Scotland is in a much stronger position than England with respect

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

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is that the English Government is not committed to

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a National Health Service. If this is not another example

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that the real alternative to the Tory UK Government

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is the progressive Absolutely not, Mr Speaker,

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

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gentleman was very, very careful not to mention education

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standards in Scotland. The latest international figures

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demonstrate that education standards in Scotland are at the lowest

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

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

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

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

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on EU negotiations was established to facilitate engagement

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between the UK Government and devolved administrations

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and has had regular, substantive and

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constructive discussions. If he is so keen and supportive

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

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footing for the Brexit negotiations Secondly, when was the last

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time a positive idea, I am sure there are many

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

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of the Brexit negotiations to improve the exit of the EU

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

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that Scotland's place in Europe, a contribution

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of the Scottish Government to the discussions, as has been

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constructive discussions from the Welsh Government and indeed

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

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

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

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negotiations over the exit Is there not a really important

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issue about the role played by machinery of government

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

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agree that a priority for the new Government should be

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

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between ministers and civil servants across the devolved administrations

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

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with my right honourable friend. He has considerable experience

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because despite what we hear at these questions,

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

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and devolved administrations are able on a range of issues

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to work very closely and constructively together,

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

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is what the Prime Minister said to the Scottish Parliament

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when Scotland wants to decide its own future

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and relationship with Europe. But now is the time

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

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

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austerity obsession, the assault on the poor,

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the obnoxious rape clause, and the desire to drive

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Scotland over the cliff Mr Speaker, I acknowledge

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that the honourable gentleman is an expert on screeching

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but what I would say to him is that the proposal

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by the Prime Minister to have a general election in six

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

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of the Brexit negotiations is quite different from the proposal

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to have a disruptive referendum campaign during the period

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of those negotiations. Common commercial policy

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

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

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

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

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that the JMC will be involved in the discussion

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of the repatriation of important powers from the EU

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to the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved

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administrations. I recognise more than anyone how

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important it is to have common The main livestock market

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for my constituency is one mile south of the Scottish

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border in England. Scotland voted to remain in the EU

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and the single market but the Scottish Government's paper

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

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was roundly ignored by the Tory UK Government intent on pursuing

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a reckless hard Brexit. Can the Secretary of State

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for Scotland tell us what personal action he took to convince

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

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

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

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

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are clear, the Government has formally responded

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to the Scottish Government in relation to the place of Scotland

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in Government, and surprisingly the Scottish Government asked us not

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to publish our response. In his assessment of

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the effectiveness of the Joint Ministerial Council,

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did he share my conclusion that actually the Joint Ministerial

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Council would be more effective if all parties were focusing

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on building a strong UK after Brexit, not

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pursuing separatist agendas? As we head into what will be

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unprecedented peacetime negotiations with the EU,

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

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

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possible deal for Scotland The JMC is supposed to be

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the platform for the devolved administrations to have their voices

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

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

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

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

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

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than impressed by this. Will this government give this

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

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

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together the UK Government and the devolved administrations

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

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in these negotiations. I very much regret the fact

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

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present in recent times and that is something

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

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

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

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powers. With permission, Mr Speaker, I will

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answer question four and question The UK and Scottish Governments

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continue to engage closely The Scottish Government is now

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responsible for setting the rates and thresholds of income tax

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

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Scotland an attractive place Now that the Scottish Government

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has unprecedented power to shape the economy of Scotland,

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

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to start delivering jobs and economic growth rather

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than focusing on an independence Mr Speaker, the shouts

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from the opposition benches just highlight the complacency of the SNP

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

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

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of that comparison. Does my right honourable friend

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agree that it is terrible that middle earners in Scotland

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are being penalised by the Scottish Government,

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

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where we have higher tax thresholds My honourable friend is right

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

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to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK,

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

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for themselves in relation to their taxation policies,

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and the forthcoming general election will no doubt highlight

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those issues. The average Band D council tax bill

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in Scotland is almost ?400 Will these discussions include how

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local authorities in England can learn from Scotland's successes

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in providing local and national services

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while maintaining the lowest council The honourable lady may have spoken

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

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to councils up and down Scotland who are absolutely

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uniform in their negativity of the Scottish Government's

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approach to the funding As a last act of kindness

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

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

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threatening 1000 jobs have written to him,

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including his own party. In his last swansong,

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will he come to Livingston As the honourable lady knows,

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I have set out clearly in correspondence with all of those

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

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

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for across this house in terms of efficiency and effectiveness

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of HMRC working. Nobody likes to see significant

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change in employment patterns I commend the honourable lady for

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

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for business during Brexit in Scotland.

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Mr Speaker, with your permission, I will answer questions

:17:48.:17:49.

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

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

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Scotland's ministers have had over 70 meetings with businesses

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

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my honourable friend, the Secretary of State

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for International Trade was in Glasgow to meet innovative

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Scottish businesses trading with the world.

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The question is being answered by the Treasury minister.

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I thank my honourable friend for that response.

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What steps is he taking to support international trade and investment

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I thank my honourable friend for that question.

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The Department for International Trade is quite clear.

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

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

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Wales and Northern Ireland, including the great campaign,

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

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and we have had major announcements of more overseas

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investments coming into all parts of the United Kingdom

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

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to Scottish business if Scotland left the United Kingdom?

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

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

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business and Scottish trade would be huge.

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

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and services leaving Scotland go to the UK,

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

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

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

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I think the honourable gentleman is missing the point.

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The point is surely the centrality and importance

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

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

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It is clear that the union that matters the most

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The Secretary of State has previously said he supports

:20:15.:20:23.

That being part of the single market was clearly the best

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

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will he now stand on a manifesto to take Scotland out

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Well, the Prime Minister and the whole Government

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Our objective is to secure a comprehensive free trade agreement

:20:45.:20:50.

with the European Union as we leave the European Union.

:20:51.:20:52.

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

:20:53.:20:57.

What assessment has my honourable friend made of the opportunities

:20:58.:21:11.

for increasing the export of whiskey across the world as part

:21:12.:21:14.

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

:21:15.:21:19.

The honourable gentleman was asking about whiskey exports.

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My honourable friend raises a good point.

:21:22.:21:30.

Whisky is a vital part of our export mix.

:21:31.:21:31.

-- exports of whiskey reached 3.999 billion in 2016.

:21:32.:21:38.

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

:21:39.:21:41.

Notably, when the Secretary of State International Trade,

:21:42.:21:48.

myself and the Prime Minister were in India,

:21:49.:21:50.

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

:21:51.:21:53.

Mr Speaker, the former Prime Minister David Cameron

:21:54.:21:59.

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

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He reneged on that promise within hours.

:22:03.:22:12.

The current Prime Minister on seven occasions said she would not

:22:13.:22:14.

She reneged on that promise yesterday.

:22:15.:22:17.

Will you break the mould and renew a commitment given

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three occasions that, whatever support is put in place,

:22:20.:22:27.

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

:22:28.:22:30.

Mr Speaker, we have been absolutely clear that our support

:22:31.:22:37.

for Nissan and indeed the rest of the automotive sector

:22:38.:22:39.

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

:22:40.:22:48.

point of the general election campaign as they go

:22:49.:22:51.

I'm looking forward to the Conservatives

:22:52.:22:58.

being competitive in the north-east in this coming general

:22:59.:23:00.

election and we look forward to taking the fight

:23:01.:23:02.

The question was whether he would renew the promise given

:23:03.:23:07.

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

:23:08.:23:11.

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

:23:12.:23:13.

from the Robert Gordon University last week that said Brexit

:23:14.:23:18.

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

:23:19.:23:20.

they will be looked after in the same way as Nissan

:23:21.:23:23.

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

:23:24.:23:26.

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

:23:27.:23:29.

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

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

:23:42.:23:51.

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

:23:52.:23:54.

would be seeing Scottish separation leading to an overnight budget

:23:55.:23:56.

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

:23:57.:24:08.

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

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

:24:12.:24:14.

the values of the export from Scotland to the EU.

:24:15.:24:16.

There is no doubt that the United Kingdom is the vital

:24:17.:24:19.

Does my honourable friend agree that the best deal

:24:20.:24:30.

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

:24:31.:24:34.

with the UK government to do all it can to support

:24:35.:24:39.

a new free-trade agreement for the EU?

:24:40.:24:45.

Mr Speaker, I absolutely agree with my honourable friend.

:24:46.:24:49.

Mr Speaker, the IMF predicted dire consequences for the UK

:24:50.:24:52.

They upgraded the growth yesterday for the second time

:24:53.:24:55.

Much of the confident about the growth in UK economy

:24:56.:25:09.

is deserved by our leadership of our Prime Minister.

:25:10.:25:11.

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

:25:12.:25:14.

Thank you, my constituents have a long and proud tradition

:25:15.:25:27.

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

:25:28.:25:29.

How will these companies in my constituency be helped

:25:30.:25:39.

by Scotland leaving the hugely successful UK single market?

:25:40.:25:48.

As the honourable gentleman will know, in 2015, Scotland

:25:49.:25:51.

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

:25:52.:26:01.

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

:26:02.:26:04.

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

:26:05.:26:09.

Does my honourable friend agree that Scottish representation in this

:26:10.:26:13.

Parliament must focus on what benefits the whole

:26:14.:26:15.

That is why I can confirm to my honourable friend

:26:16.:26:25.

that when Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Conservatives go

:26:26.:26:33.

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

:26:34.:26:36.

Scotland at the heart of the United Kingdom.

:26:37.:26:38.

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

:26:39.:26:40.

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

:26:41.:26:44.

Canada is a successful independent country.

:26:45.:26:45.

Does the Secretary of State agree with me that neighbouring countries

:26:46.:26:48.

can have close trading relations while maintaining sovereignty?

:26:49.:26:54.

Of course countries can have close...

:26:55.:27:01.

..close trading relationships but what Scotland

:27:02.:27:08.

benefits from being part of the United Kingdom

:27:09.:27:11.

is no barriers in trade, freedom of movement between Scotland

:27:12.:27:14.

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

:27:15.:27:21.

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

:27:22.:27:29.

James Withers, the chief executive Scotland Food and Drink said

:27:30.:27:33.

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

:27:34.:27:35.

Will the Secretary of State guarantee the Scottish food

:27:36.:27:44.

and drink sector will not have to deal with that

:27:45.:27:46.

From my discussions with the Scottish food and drink

:27:47.:27:52.

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

:27:53.:27:55.

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

:27:56.:28:03.

year when he said, my role is to

:28:04.:28:05.

ensure Scotland gets the best possible deal involving clearly

:28:06.:28:08.

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

:28:09.:28:16.

are they voting for an MP who being in single market

:28:17.:28:19.

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

:28:20.:28:22.

with a damaging hard Brexit, whatever the costs to families

:28:23.:28:24.

What certainly I look forward to when I contest my constituency

:28:25.:28:32.

in the next general election is knowing exactly what the SNP

:28:33.:28:35.

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

:28:36.:28:39.

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

:28:40.:28:48.

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

:28:49.:28:54.

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

:28:55.:28:58.

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

:28:59.:29:01.

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

:29:02.:29:06.

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

:29:07.:29:10.

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

:29:11.:29:11.

goodbye. this super-sized hospital has been

:29:12.:29:21.

transforming lives in Scotland. He said it had been

:29:22.:29:27.

grown in America. There's nowhere else in Scotland

:29:28.:29:32.

that could have done everything that we've done.

:29:33.:29:35.

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

:29:36.:29:38.

with happy endings.

:29:39.:29:42.