24/04/2013 Scottish Questions


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


funeral last week of Margaret Thatcher. There has been discussion


over the last few days about the currency that an independent


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


the two governments and Scottish nationalists and their opponents at


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


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


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


David Livingstone 200 partnership on the programme to mark the


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


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


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


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


remember the childhood trips to Blantyre, birthplace of David living


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


of Scots want to put artificial barriers around Scotland, the


majority of Scots believe in the pioneering enterprising spirit of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


noting the work that the UK Government and the Scottish


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


his part in promoting the David Livingstone anniversary and he is


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


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


celebrations which have been announced. Would he agree there can


no finer commemoration of this missionary, scientist, statesman and


explorer than his gravestone in Westminster Abbey, which simply says


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


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


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


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


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


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


promised some months ago. honourable gentleman shouldn't be


speculating about what Mr Livingstone would have said. Because


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


million to secure the Caledonian sleeper service. Responsibility for


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


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


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


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


share my disappointment that the Scottish Government has not shown


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


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


Government has received over a billion pound in additional funding.


The only shovelling they seem capable of doing disdiging the sort


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


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


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


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


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


Government go to see England keep pace with Scottish prosperity after


independence. The Government is committed to ensuring connectivity


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


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


honourable friend has given consideration to the fact that the


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


there was electrification of East Coast Main Line between ebb and


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


service for the stations around there. The honourable gentleman is


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


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


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


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


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


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


Caledonian sleeper will reduce in the event that we have separation


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


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


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


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


significant factor in creating uncertainty. A question about the


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


will work with the Scottish Government and the organisers to


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


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


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


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


Glasgow council and generate genuine volunteers? I do understand the


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


Scotland and the minister in the Scottish Government with


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


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


competitors compete for cash. It seems perverse that volunteers will


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


representations when he meets the organisers? I will add the


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


question about welfare reforms. will answer questions four and five


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


the Treasury and the department for work and pensions for matters


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


pension credit and related pensioner benefits. What discussions has he


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


separate Scotland? Well the honourable gentleman raises a hugely


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


This budget will help households in Scotland against a challenging


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


have taken over 200,000 families Unemployment figures in Scotland


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


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


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


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


make representations about the access charges and the increasing


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


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


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


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


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


I want to congratulate the Government for cancelling Labour's


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Secretary of State recognise the important role the budget has


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


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


decisions about decommissioning. It gives good news for investments now


and for decades to come. International Monetary Fund has cut


the UK growth forecast and the questioned the government's


austerity programme. Why should anyone believe what the Chancellor


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


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


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


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


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


Citizens Advice Scotland says it that this increase illustrates of


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


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


introducing these damaging the decisions. We are absolutely


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


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


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


unemployment reduced in Scotland? The honourable lady did not


actually welcome the reduction in unemployment announced last week.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


picks one statistic which is important and ignores the rest of


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


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


Scottish government signed an agreement to ensure that a


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


determine the franchise for the referendum. Would it be completely


are Regis were the Scottish Parliament to decide to use the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


for the Scottish Parliament if they so choose to put additional


measures in place. Yet another difficulty with the people that


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


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


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


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


their appropriate place for those issues to be considered.


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


feel very much at home with plentiful supplies of the dairy


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


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


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


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


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


his constituents to tell their friends and families in Scotland to


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


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


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


facilitated a meeting between my Right Honourable Friend and NFU


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


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


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


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


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


interests in these matters. Does that the minister support the


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


what effect he thinks that would have on Scottish farming?


honourable member is misrepresented the situation. Scotland will have


flexibility to determine in his own arrangements in relation to this


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


made any representations with colleagues about the need to grow


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


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


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