20/06/2012 Scottish Questions


20/06/2012

Coverage from Westminster of Scottish Questions.


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Hello and welcome to a very summery Westminster for the June edition of

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Scottish Questions. As you would expect on the day the latest

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unemployment figures are released, some questions on the state of the

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economy. And constitutional issues came to the fore. That is how

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proceedings began with a question on Scotland's place within the

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United Kingdom. Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

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As the Prime Minister has made clear we believe Scotland is

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stronger in the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is stronger with

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Scotland in it. Leading up to the referendum the Government will

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produce evidence and analysis to assess the benefits that Scotland

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gains from being part of the United Kingdom and the contribution that

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Scotland makes to our United Kingdom. I thank the Secretary of

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State for that answer. Would he agree with me that the defence of

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Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be greatly

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enhanced rather than have a separate Scotland and defence

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matters to this country, the whole of this country, greatly. Well he

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makes an important point and ore the next 18 months, civil servants

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will be preparing analysis to show the basis of the arguments that we

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need to be involved in as Scotland confronts this debate. Protecting

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our citizens is one of the most important parts of our role in gft.

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We want to lack at our role in the world. -- role in government.

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Secretary of State and his Tory and Labour allies in the anti-

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independence coalition all say... All say... Tell it like it is.

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Secretary of State, his Tory and Labour allies in the anti-

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independence coalition say they all believe that the constitutional

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status quo is not sustainable. So with only days to go until the

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launch of the no campaign, could he outline to the House what joint

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proposal they have for further devolution and what powers will be

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devolved and when? I do hope he has not got himself into trouble for

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mentioning the independence word. But he is a brave gie, perhaps he

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thought it was a risk worth take. - - guy. It is rich of him to ask

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questions of us having delivered the biggest transfer of financial

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powers from London to Scotland since the act of union. When every

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time we ask him what independence mean, his proposals unravel.

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last time looked this was Scottish questions, for a second time, can I

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ask him given that he and his allies say that the constitutional

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status quo is not sustainable, what specific joint propose and do they

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have for the further devolution of powers? He didn't answer it the

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first time. Can he please answer it now I thought that the the

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honourable gentleman's party had welcomed the fact that the Scotland

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Act has set in place the biggest transfer of financial power, the

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transfer of stamp duty, land tax, north of the border. Can I say to

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him that the debate that he refers to that we need to get on with is

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the one about independence. That is whrooty UK government is committed

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to ensure we have the evidence, working with experts and others to

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ensure we're equipped for this debate across the country. Does he

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consider that Scotland being part of the United Kingdom is an

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important benefit in any international trade dispute? I

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particularly have in mind some year ago the efforts of United States to

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restrict the import of the export of his own constituency of finest

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quality cashmere goods in a dispute about bananas. Was the fact that

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Scotland was part of United Kingdom an important factor in ensuring a

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resolution of that issue? honourable gentleman is right. It

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was quit cal to -- critical to us in the borders and the row prove

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deucers of goods in Scotland that we were part of the United Kingdom

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and had great clout within the EU and could negotiate within the

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World Trade Organisation to get the right outcome. Our position in the

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world, the proTex of our citizens and the future of our economy,

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these are three key strands we will look at to make sure we are well

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informed in 24 is in. -- in the debate. We have heard the campaign,

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separatists for devolution. They don't like it. The word separation.

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They don't like the word independence. And in fact they want

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to leave Britain in order to make us more British. What a ludicrous

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set of proposals. I think there afs question mark somewhere. -- there

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was a question mark somewhere. I agree with the honourable gentleman.

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What representations has he had on whether an independent Scotland

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would wish to join the euro? None, but that is a matter for the SNP

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and the Scottish government. Thank you Mr Speaker. The Secretary of

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state maybe aware that I received answers to Parliamentary questions

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yesterday that indicates that although the Scottish Government

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say a separate Scotland will use sterling and the Bank of England

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and UK financial institutions, they have not yet undertaken any work

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behind the scenes in order to explore these options. No

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correspondence sent, no questions asked, no discussions taking place.

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Perhaps he agrees with me that the First Minister should spend less

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time in Hollywood and more time in Holyrood. Given that the Scottish,

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it was a good try, given the Scottish Government have made these

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statement about the economy, can I ask what steps he is taking in

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relation to the Scottish economy to clear up confusion of ambiguity and

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claims? I agree with the honourable lady that it is striking that the

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Scottish National Party and the Scottish Government, as they set

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out what has been their ambition for an independent Scotland are

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short on detail and aren't curious to ask about it. I start from the

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point that Scotland is stronger within the United Kingdom and the

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United Kingdom is stronger for having Scotland part of it and the

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economy is a key part of that argument. Thank you. I think we're

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clear in Scotland that in fact what we have got is we don't have

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argument, we have assertion, we have facts rather than fantasy 5

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even the arguments from the Scottish Government cannot pass the

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most basic test of credible evidence. Can I ask the Secretary

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of State and the whole UK Government that they can work with

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others to ensure that we do have credible evidence, argument, that

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passes the test of objective and independent scrutiny, to ensure

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Scottish people get the arguments they deserve. I agree with the

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honourable lady that it is important that this debate is well

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informed by detailed evidence and strong analysis. That is why we're

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getting civil servants to work through issues to engage with

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academics, think-tanks and other experts outside Government to

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ensure we have all the evidence to inform that debate. I'm confident

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that as we do that we will show beyond doubt that Scotland's place

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is stronger as part of the UK. Question No two. A question about

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modern apprentices. I'm in contact with the Scottish Government and

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later this week the British/Irish council will discuss programmes to

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support youth employment in those administrations. Last week in the

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Scottish Parliament, the Labour spoke person uncovered figures that

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showed that the 25,000 modern apprenticeships the Scottish

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Government is claiming to sets up, over 10,000 were people who were

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already in work. And would the minister agree with me that the

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Scottish Government should be spending public money creating

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additional jobs, not just rebadging jobs. I share the honourable lady's

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concerns about the way in which the Scottish Government seeds to

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present facts. But the facts are clear in relation to their

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responsibilities on employment. They have had 22 million pounds

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additional monies in relation to youth contract consequentials. I

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would like to see them focus on how they spend that, rather than their

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obsession with the constitution. would like to see greater brevity.

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Thank you does the minister, is the minister aware that almost every

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economic analysis shows beyond doubt that employment prospects in

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Scotland would be significantly reduced if Scotland became a

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country separate from the United Kingdom? I agree with the

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honourable lady, who I am sure will welcome with me the fact that

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employment in Scotland has increased by 18,000 in the last

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period. I am sure the minister has witnessed the ridiculous campaign

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by the Labour Party against what is one of most successful modern

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apprenticeship schemes in Scotland and their complaint is based on

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rules that they introduced and set themselves. Should the minister

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congratulate the Scottish Government for almost doubling the

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number of modern apprenticeships and also the extra �72 million of

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investment that we saw? Well I do notice that he didn't mention the

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word independence. So he is obviously on message. What I have

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to say in relation to employment and youth unemployment in Scotland

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is the UK and the Scottish Government should work on these

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issues. A question about what employment in Scotland. I will

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answer questions three and five together. This Government is

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committed to creating the right environment for economic growth to

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provide the basis for the creation of jobs. It will be no surprise

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that unemployment in slash is at crisis levels. It is still

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unacceptable and disgraceful numbers of youth unemployed. If it

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were not more my council in Inverclyde. Could we just have a

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question? Can I press on the Government to make unemployment

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figures, reduction of the figures, a priority in Scotland and will he

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join... We're grateful, but we must move on. Listen, I agree with the

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honourable gentleman, we must do everything question to reduce

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unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, which began to rise

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under the last Labour Government. We have through our measures and

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the work we have been doing with the Scottish Government, bearing

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down on this. I'm happy to discuss that further. As the Secretary --

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is the Secretary of state aware that the Scottish chambers of

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commerce have called for an expansion of investment in

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infrastructure to help Scottish businesses? What will he do to make

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sure this happens? Can I say she needs to recognise the serious

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steps that we're tairking to get the economy back on a secure path

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to growth after what we inherited from her Government and also

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bearing in minds the crisis we see in other parts of Europe. By

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cutting corporation tax and keeping interest rates and with specific

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measures for Scotland, including enterprise areas, we are taking

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action to help the Scottish economy. Does the minister agree that by

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cutting corporation tax, by reducing regulation and having the

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largest work programme the country has seen, we're succeeding in

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Scotland w14 thousand less unemployment this month. The third

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month in a row. I think we need to recognise things are going to

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continue to be challenging for people in Scotland and the United

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Kingdom. But he is right, the measures we are taking to get the

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economy on the right track are right and are the way in which we

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will create secure jobs. Does the Secretary of State recognise stat

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oil's decision to invest in the North Sea is a recognition that the

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new positive approach taken by the Treasury is bearing fruit? He is

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right that in the energy sector we have had significant announcements

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from stat oil and BP and others on the future of Scotland's energy

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needs in oil and gas and elsewhere. They recognise that is an important

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part of what this government is committed to and that Scotland is

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better as being part of United Kingdom. I am glad he welcomed the

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14,000 fall in unemployment. He will want to twbg news on foreign

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direct - o' welcome the news 07 foreign investment on jobs. But we

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should have done ward pressure on costs, particularly on fuel prices,

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which are one of the most significant cost pressures that

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businesses face. Will he take this opportunity today to speak to his

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colleagues in the Treasury to cancel the fuel duty rise planned

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for August? I would point out that thanks to the action this

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Government has take non-vo deucing the fuel duty stabiliser and

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abandoning the escalater, we are doing a lot to help motorists and

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will continue to do that. The clue is in the heading. Questions to the

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Secretary of State. Listening to the Secretary of State reminds us

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how isolated he is in Scotland in believing the answer to this crisis

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of weak economic demand is hash harsher austerity. Does he accept

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nearly twice as many people as on black Wednesday are being forced to

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work part-time, because there are not enough full-time jobs in our

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economy? And three hundred and tent thousand people in Scotland are

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struggling below the poverty line, despite being in work and real

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wages have fallen. Isn't this the real explanation of why we are

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facing a double dip rerecession He cannot forget the legacy of his

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government and the mess we inherited or be blinkered about the

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challenges in Europe and around the world. We are ensuring we create

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the right financial and economic conditions to ensure we get

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Scotland's and the UK's economy back on the foot. This is a

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question about agricultural. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I regularly meet

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with representatives of the Scottish agricultural industry,

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including the farmers union and individual producers much I look

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forward to engagement tomorrow when I attend the Royal Highland Show.

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Does the minister agree that those in the Scottish agricultural centre

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are better off with Scotland remaininged in the UK? I absolutely

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agree. An independent Scotland would shrink our home market of 60

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million consumers to five million over night. Farmers will be reliant

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of exporting their produce. Perhaps the Minister could try answering a

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question about the responsibility of the UK government. Is he aware

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of the concern about Scottish agricultural and horticulture of

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the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, has he made the

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representations to to the Home Office for continuation of the

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scheme? I know it. -- I note his concerns. I will meet with him to

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discuss it further. Another economic-related question about

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unemployment. I meet with Scottish ministers regularly to discuss a

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range of issues. Scottish ministers join me in Dundee for a summit to

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discuss youth unemployment in Scotland. We continued to work

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together on this important issue. With the information that there is

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(inaudible) going on in the apprenticeship schemes with people

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in work being counted as new apprenticeships. Off shore industry

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say they need them to fill their spaces in their industry. Should he

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not call an all party, all Parliament forum in Scotland about

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unemployment and stop this behaviour of the SNP running a

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single party state with their ministers wondering around having

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one party meetings? I appreciate the length of time he spent working

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on this particular issue over his political career. I also believe

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it's important that the parties can work together because the origins

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of youth unemployment lie elsewhere rather than just under this

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government's tenure. I'm happy to work with him and others to make

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sure we get all the best ideas focused on tackling youth

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unemployment. I welcome the Secretary of State's recent visit

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to my constituency's largest employer, Aviva, with 1100 staff,

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and the support for the working initiative which since the end of

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April created new employment and training opportunities in the area.

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What more can the government do to employ young people? I would like

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to thank her for the opportunity to visit with her the Aviva offices in

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their constituency and pay tribute to the work they are doing with

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young people. It's important we do all we can to support young people.

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That is why the youth contract is in place, helping to ensure the

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Scottish Government has support... There is plenty of scope for an

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adjournment debate, I think. Speaker, the Secretary of State

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recently visited my constituency. I wonder if he can give us a progress

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report on how he got on with the schools industry liaison

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committees? I regret to inform the honourable gentleman I have not

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made as much progress. I hope he recognises the important support we

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have given him in form of the enterprise allowances available.

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There I will catch up with him and the Scottish government role in it

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any time soon. Does he agree the plans to reform employment law will

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encourage small businesss to take on more young people. The employ

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law review will carry on throughout this Parliament. I look forward to

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seeing what proposals come forward in due course. A question about

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combating high energy prices. are committed to ensuring consumers

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get the best deal for their energy usage and has put in place measures

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to reduce household energy bills sms in May I held a summit bringing

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together the big six energy suppliers, Scottish consumer groups

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and Ofcom to -- offgom to address this issue. -- Ofgem to address

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this issue. The average energy prices have increased by 140% her

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household whereas the average income for households is a mere 20%.

:21:54.:21:59.

What is the Government doing to respond to people's worries,

:21:59.:22:03.

especially elderly people, people with disabilities and low income

:22:03.:22:10.

families to deal with what is now an onslaught on vulnerable people?

:22:10.:22:13.

The Government is continuing with cold weather payments and winter

:22:13.:22:18.

fuel payment and is bringing forward the green deal. We are

:22:18.:22:21.

working with voluntary organisations across Scotland to

:22:21.:22:25.

help them help support the most vulnerable to get access to all the

:22:25.:22:31.

benefits available to them for fuel issues. Mr Speaker, many islanders

:22:31.:22:36.

are telling me that the 5p fuel duty discount is not being passed

:22:36.:22:40.

on to the motorists. Will the minister speak to the bodies and

:22:40.:22:44.

ask them to investigate. They must make sure this discount is passed

:22:44.:22:49.

on to the motorists in its entirety. I'm concerned to hear what he has

:22:49.:22:54.

to say on that issue. I will be very happy to meet with him and

:22:54.:22:59.

other concerned island MPs to discuss it. This is a question

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about the funding for Scotland from the UK Government. The agreement

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sets out we are committed to a review of public funding

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arrangements once we deal with the deficit we inherited from the

:23:12.:23:16.

previous government. Whilst you would have to have an intelligence

:23:16.:23:22.

as profound as a spinnosa to understand central government

:23:22.:23:26.

funding of Scotland, isn't one thing clear, not only do we have no

:23:26.:23:30.

say over education and health in Scotland, but they run ours we pay

:23:30.:23:34.

over the odds for theirs. Perhaps the SNP's should be careful what

:23:34.:23:44.
:23:44.:23:45.

they wish for when they call for independence? He more than most

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understands the complexities of public spending in this country. If

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I might say to him, our priority has to be to reduce the deficit. We

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can then look again at these issues. I would point out to him, within

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England there are quite large variations. The figure for health

:23:58.:24:05.

spending in London is higher than that of Scotland. Mr Speaker, given

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that the Scottish Government have had no discussions with either the

:24:09.:24:13.

Cha or the Bank of England to have a place on the Bank of England's

:24:13.:24:16.

Monetary Policy Committee, which would be a committee of a foreign

:24:16.:24:21.

country, does the Secretary of State agree with me this is another

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assertion that (inaudible (to Scottish people. He Seine tierl

:24:25.:24:29.

right to highlight again the assertion that is are made by the

:24:29.:24:32.

Scottish Government rather than detailed evidence and analysis

:24:32.:24:36.

which we as a Government are determined to provide for this

:24:36.:24:40.

great debate. They seem to be willing and able to swap a good

:24:40.:24:46.

partnership for a new dependency. That is not right. This is a

:24:46.:24:50.

question relating to the fishing industry. The UK government warked

:24:50.:24:54.

hard to influence the content of the general approach at fisheries

:24:54.:25:00.

council. It would deliver positive benefits for Scotland's fisheries

:25:00.:25:08.

and those depend on them. More moves towards more regalised

:25:08.:25:16.

fisheries management and that fish discards are eliminated. I welcome

:25:16.:25:21.

the progress last week. Does the minister think this is an

:25:21.:25:27.

appropriate juncture in the process to introduce more transparency by

:25:27.:25:31.

the UK government making public the individuals and companies which

:25:31.:25:40.

hold fish stock quota here? What I think I agree with the honourable

:25:40.:25:45.

lady on is that the UK and Scottish Government work well together. The

:25:45.:25:49.

fisheries council is a good example of both governments working

:25:49.:25:54.

together in that way for the benefit of Scotland's fishermen.

:25:54.:26:00.

She is absolutely right. We need a register of active fishermen to

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show... The House must come to order. The House should be

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listening to the Chair of the Ken Livingstone environmental Food and

:26:07.:26:13.

Rural Affairs Select Committee, listening with respect.

:26:13.:26:21.

fisheries. She's absolutely right. Without a register we do not know

:26:21.:26:26.

who our active fishermen in Scotland and who are slipper

:26:26.:26:33.

skippers. The ministers both here in the UK government and the

:26:33.:26:38.

Scottish Government will have heard her comments as a respected

:26:38.:26:46.

contributor on such matters. This is a question the by centenary of

:26:46.:26:50.

Dr David Livingstone. I have discussed the best way for the UK

:26:50.:26:55.

Government to mark this bicentenary. Scotland office will hold a

:26:55.:26:59.

commemorative event at Dover House. My officials will work will other

:27:00.:27:04.

interested parties to ensure this anniversary is celebrated across

:27:04.:27:10.

the UK. Would he also join with me in supporting my invitation to the

:27:10.:27:16.

President to visit the UK during the bicentenary and as part of that

:27:16.:27:21.

visit to come to my constituency? Can I commend the honourable member

:27:21.:27:26.

for the role he has played in promoting the David Livingstone

:27:26.:27:29.

bicentenary which has great resonance in his constituency. Yes,

:27:29.:27:34.

the Scotland office will work with him and others to encourage the

:27:34.:27:39.

President to come to Scotland. is all we have time for at the

:27:39.:27:44.

moment. That is all from Scottish Questions for the couple of months.

:27:44.:27:48.

With the summer break the next Scottish Questions here at

:27:48.:27:51.

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