24/04/2013 Scottish Questions


24/04/2013

Coverage from Westminster of Scottish Questions.


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Westminster for Scottish Questions. It was delayed for a week after the

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funeral last week of Margaret Thatcher. There has been discussion

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over the last few days about the currency that an independent

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Scotland might use. That the result of a Treasury paper which has set

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the two governments and Scottish nationalists and their opponents at

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odds. More discussion also here about the coalition's welfare

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reforms, the impact on Scotland. This is how proceedings got under

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way. Questions to the Secretary of the common wealth office and the

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David Livingstone 200 partnership on the programme to mark the

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anniversary of the birth of Dr David Livingstone. We hosted a

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commemoration at Dover House in the presence of the president of Malawi.

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I am sure the whole House will be pleased to hear what the Scottish

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Office is doing and it is fitting that especially to those of us who

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remember the childhood trips to Blantyre, birthplace of David living

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stone, that tributes should be paid in Parliament. Although a minority

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of Scots want to put artificial barriers around Scotland, the

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majority of Scots believe in the pioneering enterprising spirit of

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David Livingstone and want Scotland to play its full part in the United

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Kingdom and indeed in the world in general I couldn't agree more with

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her, David Livingstone was a great Scot and a Great Briton. He had an

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outward look on the world and shows why Scotland and Britain are better

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together. Could I place on record my thanks to the Scottish Office and

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the Foreign Office for ensuring that the president was able to visit

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Scotland to mark the start of those celebrations. Could I draw the

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House's attention to the wide range of events happening and encourage as

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many people as possible to come to Blantyre and visit the centre there

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and take part in the sell braces. -- celebrations. I thank the member for

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noting the work that the UK Government and the Scottish

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Government has done. He too is to be commended, for the way he has played

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his part in promoting the David Livingstone anniversary and he is

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correct there are a number of events continuing and those who wish should

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take the opportunity to take part. welcome the sell wragss --

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celebrations which have been announced. Would he agree there can

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no finer commemoration of this missionary, scientist, statesman and

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explorer than his gravestone in Westminster Abbey, which simply says

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David Livingstone. Indeed it is a very poignant memorial and it was

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particularly MEPable to e -- memorable to see members of his

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family lay a wreath on that gravestone along with the president.

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I am grateful. I presume that Dr Livingstone was a great

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educationalists. Who believed in fact in education. I wonder what his

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right honourable friend has done to set up the schools committees he

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promised some months ago. honourable gentleman shouldn't be

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speculating about what Mr Livingstone would have said. Because

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the fact is he didn't. He wasn't in a position to do so. I think we had

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million to secure the Caledonian sleeper service. Responsibility for

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the project is with the Scottish Government. We look forward to

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seeing some progress. I am pleased that the Government has invested in

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the future of the Caledonian sleeper, which is a vital transport

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link for business and tourism alike. However does my honourable friend

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share my disappointment that the Scottish Government has not shown

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the same degree of urgency in updprading this link? -- upgrading.

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Yes, he might be aware since the spending review, the Scottish

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Government has received over a billion pound in additional funding.

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The only shovelling they seem capable of doing disdiging the sort

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of -- is digging the sort of hole they did yesterday over the

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currency. The SNP Government has invefsed �130 million in the sleeper

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service. -- invested. If the honourable gentleman wants to be

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quiet he can. It is a win/win for all concerned. In Spain the linking

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of Madrid and self-has benefitted the country. When is the UK

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Government go to see England keep pace with Scottish prosperity after

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independence. The Government is committed to ensuring connectivity

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within the United Kingdom just as it is committed to ensuring that we

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stray a United Kingdom. -- stay a United Kingdom. I wonder if my

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honourable friend has given consideration to the fact that the

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sheer service would be -- sleeper service would be better served if

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there was electrification of East Coast Main Line between ebb and

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Aberdeen. Which would pass through my constituency and provide a better

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service for the stations around there. The honourable gentleman is

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always keen to promote his constituency. And rightly so. But he

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will be aware this is one of the many projects the SNP, when in

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opposition said they would deliver but now it doesn't seem to be on the

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agenda any more. Would the minister accept that the Caledonian sleeper

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is a vital link between the Ministry of Defence in London and the

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shipyards on the Clyde? Does he accept that the trade on the

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Caledonian sleeper will reduce in the event that we have separation

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and the Clyde shipyards close? have separation there would be a

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great deal of uncertainty, not just for the operators of sleeper

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service, as we saw, those promoting independence have no idea what

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currency would be used in an independent Scotland. That will be a

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significant factor in creating uncertainty. A question about the

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Ryder Cup. I am pleased that the Ryder Cup is coming to Scotland. We

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will work with the Scottish Government and the organisers to

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make it a success. I thank the minister for that response. Does he

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agree having to pay to volunteer is a contradiction in terms and bars

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many people from taking part in sport like golf. Will he make

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representations to the organisers of the Ryder Cup to follow the lead by

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Glasgow council and generate genuine volunteers? I do understand the

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honourable gentleman's concerns. And I will take them forward with Event

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Scotland and the minister in the Scottish Government with

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responsibility for the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is a unique

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tournamentment none of the -- tournament, because none of the

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competitors compete for cash. It seems perverse that volunteers will

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be asked to pay for that service. Can I ask minister to add to to his

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representations when he meets the organisers? I will add the

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honourable gentleman's concerns to those of the member for Paisley.

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question about welfare reforms. will answer questions four and five

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together. The Secretary of State and I are in contact with colleagues in

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the Treasury and the department for work and pensions for matters

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erelating -- relating to welfare reform in Scotland. We know over

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100,000 Scots will be affected by his bedroom tax. A tax which has

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appalled civic Scotland. It is p oez pod -- opposed in every area in

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Scotland. Does he agree this is becoming his Government's Poll Tax.

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He will not be surprised that what I would say is that my honourable

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friend and I have been going around Scotland talking to councils and

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different groups who are, who have no interest in this and are

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concerned about different aspects, but what people are clear about is

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the shared values that created the welfare state are things we want to

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keep within the United Kingdom and not become an independent country.

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family in my constituency with children aged two, three, four and

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five hit by the bedroom tax were yesterday advised by the Government

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benches to take in a lodger. Does the Secretary of State think that

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was good advice? I cannot comment on constituency details the lady has

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brought to the floor. Nor the full extent of the exchange from

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yesterday. What I said to the honourable gentleman a few moments

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ago is that we need to look carefully at how this is being

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implemented. I would be happy to hear further details on that

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particular case. The Secretary of State will be aware the largest part

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of the welfare budget goes on pensions. And the state pension,

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pension credit and related pensioner benefits. What discussions has he

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had with the Scottish Government about how pensions would work in a

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separate Scotland? Well the honourable gentleman raises a hugely

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important issue. Which of course is going to be one of the big questions

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we ask in Scotland as we build up to the referendum. I think the security

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and the scale of the United Kingdom allows us to have to solidarity of

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common provision across the United Kingdom and we have the means to pay

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for that. Even in difficult economic times, we have not seen or heard

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anything from the SNP or their supporters about how they would do

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it in an independent Scotland. is a link between welfare and the

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use of food banks. #i6 raised -- I have raised food banks a number of

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times in this place. And they all seem to go unanswered. The Secretary

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of State will have seen the report today revealing the number of people

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using food banks in Scotland has increased from �5,000, from under

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�5,000 to -five thousand to over 14,000. My honourable friend and I

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have been, we have met with people at food bank and I met with the

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Executive chairman of the trussle trust and as he would point out,

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there are a range of reasons going back many years why people need food

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banks. We continue to look at this carefully. I do not want people to

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go to food banks to get support. I am happy to continue that dialogue

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This budget will help households in Scotland against a challenging

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economic background. The budget has set out a range of measures.

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Ministers will be aware of our report today that three times as

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many women as men have suffered long-term unemployment in the last

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two years. Hardly surprising given that budget decisions. Is it

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tolerable for women to bear the brunt of his government's failed

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economic policy? I do not accept that analysis, but I do commend the

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honourable lady. We needed to continue looking at this issue. We

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have introduced proposals on child care and low income families. We

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have taken over 200,000 families Unemployment figures in Scotland

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have not been helped by the devastating use of the closure of a

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number of opencast coal sites. 348 people have lost their jobs in our

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area. I am sure that the Minister will want to do everything possible

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to ensure that a buyer is encouraged to come in. Would he

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make representations about the access charges and the increasing

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due to come in in 2016 which may put Scottish companies in the coal

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sector at a disadvantage Quetta mark first of all, may I join her

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and her concern about the future of the families who will be affected

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by this. She has been working tirelessly on this issue. She

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raises a particular issue which or I will be happy to discuss further.

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I want to congratulate the Government for cancelling Labour's

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planned feel a duty increase -- planned fuel duty increase. It

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means that fuel will be cheaper on the islands. A Labour government

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would have destroyed the Argyll and Bute to economy. The Labour Party

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did not care and wanted to increase fuel. 18 pence a litre. That is how

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much are measures have saved Ireland communities. 13p on the

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mainland. A huge help to hard- pressed families. Many jobs in

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Scotland depend on investment in the oil and gas industry. Does the

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Secretary of State recognise the important role the budget has

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played? My honourable friend makes a powerful case for the oil and gas

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industry. It is important to recognise the their input to the

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decisions about decommissioning. It gives good news for investments now

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and for decades to come. International Monetary Fund has cut

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the UK growth forecast and the questioned the government's

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austerity programme. Why should anyone believe what the Chancellor

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says on at the budget, currency or the economy? I do not think anyone

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will listen to the right honourable gentleman when it comes to currency.

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The best option is to stay part of the UK. The Secretary of State did

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not answer the question. The UK is the 4th most unequal country in the

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developed world. The number of people using food banks has doubled.

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Citizens Advice Scotland says it that this increase illustrates of

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the devastating impact of this government's policy. Why should the

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people in Scotland put off by the government that they did not elect

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introducing these damaging the decisions. We are absolutely

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determined to ensure we get their economy on a strong footing, that

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we invest in our future and support families. This government promised

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they would get people back to work. How much has a long-term

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unemployment reduced in Scotland? The honourable lady did not

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actually welcome the reduction in unemployment announced last week.

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We have some very long term deep- seated problems. We inherited them

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from her government and we continue to tackle them. The number of

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people out of work in Scotland for two years has 517 increased during

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his time in office. -- has increased during his time and

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offers. Cannot the secretary of state opera these people out of

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work anything, or is he content to be a Tory puppet? The honourable

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lady knows that we are working hard to make sure that we provide

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support for people who are in very difficult circumstances. She just

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picks one statistic which is important and ignores the rest of

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it. 70,000 more people are in work in Scotland. We are determined to

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get the economy back from the brink. On 15th October 1920 12, the UK and

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Scottish government signed an agreement to ensure that a

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referendum can take place. It is for the Scottish Parliament to

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determine the franchise for the referendum. Would it be completely

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are Regis were the Scottish Parliament to decide to use the

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local election franchise and allow the possibility of the future make-

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up of the United Kingdom have to be decided by -- of the lighter

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kingdom to be decided by non-UK nationals? My honourable friend is

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incorrect. The number of EU nationals able to vote is less than

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2% of the total. Those at that defend our country should be

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allowed to take part in deciding the future of our country. There is

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a service declaration which allows Armed Forces Day with a link to

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Scotland to register at an address within Scotland. It will also be

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for the Scottish Parliament if they so choose to put additional

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measures in place. Yet another difficulty with the people that

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will be able to bought in this referendum will be the 16 and 17-

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year-olds? Have discussions been held to a their severe problems at

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that will entail? -- it to the severe problems. They have brought

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forward a draft bill for debate m. The Scottish Parliament and that is

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their appropriate place for those issues to be considered.

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I would be very happy to visit Corby where, as a Scot, I would

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feel very much at home with plentiful supplies of the dairy

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record and Irn Bru. Can I thank the Minister for that reply? Corby

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people are very proud of their Scottish connections. But they are

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worried that if the break-up of the union goes through, they will not

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be able to use the currency? Corbett is a great example of the

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British family of nations and we should celebrate it. I would heard

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his constituents to tell their friends and families in Scotland to

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board no in the referendum. -- to vote. What discussions are being

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held to Kate the East Coast line him public ownership? -- 2 pay. --

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We have regular discussions on cap reform. On 27th March, will be

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facilitated a meeting between my Right Honourable Friend and NFU

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Scotland on these issues. The UK Government is pressing hard for and

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you cab wish it takes account of the range of interests across the

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United Kingdom. Has he considered the impact of screening Bat and

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will there be matched funding? -- the 80. This is one of the many

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issues that has been discussed. We continued to argue for Scotland's

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interests in these matters. Does that the minister support the

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efforts of death are to end it direct payments and can he tell us

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what effect he thinks that would have on Scottish farming?

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honourable member is misrepresented the situation. Scotland will have

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flexibility to determine in his own arrangements in relation to this

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reform. With the rising food prices and growing food poverty, has he

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made any representations with colleagues about the need to grow

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more food and Secure food growth in Scotland? In his constituency,

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there are very strong views that we should grow more of our own food

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