|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
We can have a debate about that if the hon. Gentleman wishes to, but the most important point is the suggestion that the Scottish people would not be capable of having their own currency. That issue also relates to those Labour Members who have said that the Scottish people are incapable of putting together their own armed forces. Those remarks are nonsense, ridiculous and disparaging. Once again, Labour Members are talking Scotland down. The Scottish people are, of course, capable of doing such things. I believe that the hon. Member for Orkney and
Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) thinks that the Scottish people would be able to do those things on their own.
When Labour Members move away from the negativity and try to be positive, it does not get much better for them because they insist on talking about what they call the Union dividend, which is the added value that the House is supposed to give the people of Scotland.
Let us consider the big reserved issues that the House is still responsible for in Scotlandforeign affairs, defence, pensions and the macro-economic management of Scotland. Let us start with foreign affairs. The defining issue for the House in Scotland in relation to foreign affairs is the Iraq war, which was overwhelmingly opposed in Scotlandnot just by the vast majority of people, but probably by everyone. That is part of the Union dividend provided by the House.
Let us consider defence procurement. I know that hon. Members like to discuss defence procurement, but the defining decision that the House has taken about defence over the past few months and years is the renewal of Trident, which is £50 billion-worth of weapons of mass destruction placed just miles from the most populous city in Scotland. It was overwhelmingly opposed by the people of Scotland, campaigned against by all civic society and voted against by Scottish Members of the House. That is the Union dividend in relation to defence in Scotland.
The Union dividend for pensions is the pensions fund raid, which has cost every Scottish family £3,700. That is the Union dividend on pensions. Let us consider the issue that Labour Members like to crow about most: macro-economic management from London. Right, okay, there is growth; but not in Scotland. We have underperformed compared with the rest of the UK since Labour came to power. We should not even bother considering the small European independent nations that would be Scotlands normal comparators. Compared to Scotland, those nations are economically in another stratosphere because of the dead hand that this House has dealt with the macro-economic management of Scotland.
This debate is also called the Governments policy on the Union. I did not know that they had a policy on the Union other than they were for it and we have heard more about that today. I will make our policy clear: we want to offer a referendum to the people of Scotland on the future of the Union. That is the fair and democratic way to proceed. Constitutional debate has been a feature of Scottish politics since Winnie Ewings magnificent triumph in 1967, and the question
regarding the Union should be put to Scotland. As democrats, we should be in favour of something as fundamental as letting the Scottish people choose. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North asked When? from a sedentary position. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has made that clear. It will be in 2010. We will have the opportunity to prove what an SNP Government in power can do and then we will put the question on the Union to the Scottish people.
Some Labour Members have suggested that the election on Thursday is a referendum on the Union, but it is not. Every week and month, Labour Members say that the SNP talks only about the constitution, but Labour Members have discussed nothing but the constitution in this debate. The hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North asked about health and education, but I have hardly heard a peep from the Labour party about those issues. All the First Minister talks about is the constitution, the constitution, the constitution. Scotland will have its choice on the constitution. Hon. Members from the Labour party are frightened of a referendum that will happen in three years time. People will have the choice at that point.
I have detained the Chamber for too long. On Thursday, the people of Scotland will have a choice between hope and fear, the positive and the negative, and the can do and the cannot do. That is the choice that will be put to the Scottish people on Thursday, and I have no doubt about the decision that they will make. One last thing to Labour Members here today: after 50 years, go back to your constituencies and prepare for defeat.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) for winning this important debate. Fifty-nine years agoin a fortnights timeI was born in the Lanarkshire mining village of Lesmahagow. I was born and bred a Scot and have had the joy of spending 40 of those 59 years living in Scotland. For 19 years, I lived and worked in a Nottinghamshire coalfield as a minera coal face engineer.
In 1968, when Scottish miners were chasing jobs owing to the world dependency on cheap oil, I was one of those industrial gypsies forced to seek a better standard of living in England. With my familymy wife and baby sonI had to up and move to the Nottinghamshire coalfields. In 1987, I returned as Member of Parliament for Clydesdale. In my maiden speech, I likened that experience to that of the salmon returning from the sea to the fresh water. However, those 19 years spent living in England, where my daughter was born, and where I now have two grandchildren, provided an invaluable life experience.
I begin with that small tour of my personal history to make a point that is central to my fundamental beliefs: I am proud of my place of birth and of the mining stock from whence I came, and to have been
born and bred in a country that taught me community, brotherhood and humanity. It did not instil in me negativity and insecurity, or the belief that I am a better person for having been born on a certain side of the street, river or border.
We live in a Europe that has seen the scourge of war fired by sectarian nationalism. Surely, if we have learned anything from that dark history it is this: that we achieve more together than we do apart, and that imposing divisions based on the road, the river or the map promotes not brotherhood or humanity, but a sectarian divide that says, We on this side are better than you on that side.
I reject the politics of envy and grievance that encompass the worst extremes of nationalism. I make no apology for my description and analysis of the politics of such elitist nationalism in Scotland todaythe smarmy arrogance that all too often accompanies nationalism and its politics of grievance and untruths. It is truly unpalatable. I go further than that and have a message for those in the media who flirt with nationalism: You, in the comfort zone of your cosy, chattering-class environment, purvey half-truths and myths to serve a nationalism that has little history of defending freedom.
I now turn to the European Union. We are told that Scotland will become a member of the EU when it is divorced from the United Kingdom. I have almost 20 years experience of working on EU treaties and the European Scrutiny Committee, so I know that it is simply not true that Scotland would be welcomed by the EU as a member state. The SNP knows that. Before there can be further EU enlargement, there must be a treaty change and a unanimous vote by the 27 members of the European Council, which includes many states, such as Spain, Germany, Belgium and France, that would veto any such proposal. The SNP says, It is not enlargement, but that is not true. Scotland would need to change the relevant treaty to get a commissioner, a seat on the European Council, and representation on the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors. EU membership is just another incredible SNP policy resulting from its huge gamut of presumptions and distortions.
David Cairns: My hon. Friend has far more knowledge of the EU than virtually any other Member, with the possible exception of our hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty). As I understand it, a new treaty of enlargement would require a referendum in certain countriesFrance, in particular. Is the logical conclusion of the SNPs policy, therefore, that Scotlands future membership of the EU, and the jobs, prosperity and trade that go with it, would be placed in the hands of the French electorate, which could then decide whether Scotland re-enters the EU? Is that in Scotlands best interests?
Mr. Hood: Not only the French electorate; half of the member states would need referendums. For example, let us take Spain, which has its own problems with separatism. Is Spain going to allow a member state to break into its constituent parts with each part keeping equal status as a member of the EU? Of course not.
John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): I was not planning to intervene because I was hoping to make a speech if I could catch your eye, Mr. Cummings. However, what does my hon. Friend think is the likelihood of those European nations voting Scotland into the EU? They might think, Well, what happens if its policy is to change its mind if things do not go exactly as it wants? Would we vote such a country into the EU?
One of my biggest criticisms of the SNP is that it has not even started to discuss the problem. It always runs away from it. Has it explained how Scotland would become a member of the EU? Currency is a good example. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), when put in a corner and asked who would fix interest rates, says that the matter would stay with the Bank of England and then move into the single currency arrangements. No way, José! And the SNP knows that. The fact that it knows it and still allows people to assume otherwise poses a question in itself.
Mr. Goodwill: Speaking as a former deputy leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, I can say that as a prerequisite to successfully negotiating accession to the EU, Scotland would have to join the euro. Devolution would mean joining the euro and therefore devolution not from London to Edinburgh, but from Edinburgh to Frankfurt, where important economic decisions affecting Scotland would be made.
A divorced Scotland would be the highest-taxed country in Europe. The Bank of England would set its interest rates and the value of its currency. Flows of investment would go one wayout, not in. Scotlands thriving financial services industry, which can rival that of anywhere in the world, would take its money to London, Zurich or anywhere else. Certainly Scotland would not remain in its current excellent condition if it were separated from the United Kingdom.
Ann McKechin: My hon. Friend makes a very serious point about the financial services market. Even worse, if Scotland were separate, the Bank of England would base its analysis and decisions on the market in the rest of the United Kingdom and ignore any significant economic factors affecting Scotland, such as the inflation rate or its rate of joblessness. The Scottish economy would accordingly face much greater risks, which would again have a serious effect on Scotlands ability to attract the financial sector.
I am mindful of the time and the fact that other hon. Members wish to speak, so I will conclude. On Thursday it will be deal or no deal for the people of Scotland, as those of us who watch the Channel 4 programme in the afternoon might say. Will they be
fooled by the banker-bookie, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, or will they be true to their Scottish instinct for canniness and keep what they have, putting the education of our children before the separation of our country? Who will win on Thursday? Will the bankers and bookies of the SNP win on a deal for a separation or will Scotland say, No deal?
Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) on securing this debate with precision timing. Today is also labour day, 1 May, which is a good day to have such a debate.
In less than 48 hours, polling stations all over Scotland will open their doors. Many of the polls predict a wind of change. The people of Scotland are willing and able to embrace change, but Scots will not be deluded into making changes that will cause the modern progress that the country has made in the past 10 years to be obliterated. I believe that the people of Scotland are confident in their national identity as part of the UK.
Just last week, 150 business leaders from throughout the country, men and women, put the case for Scotlands economic and social progress as part of the Union. Like me, they believe that Scotlands best opportunities for investment, jobs and prosperity lie in being part of Britain. From prosperity emanates a love of culture and sport. That is precisely why some of our most famous sporting heroesall Scottish patriotshave put the case for Scotland as part of Britain.
During this election period, it is time to remind ourselves of the depth of the long-term ties that bind Scotland to the United Kingdom. The shared values that underpin the economic networks, financial connections and business alliances in the UK are fundamental to Scotlands success. They make us stronger together, and we would be weaker apart. They make a multinational Britain a model for a new and interdependent world.
If the people of Scotland do not want independence on Friday morning, they cannot vote SNP on Thursday. Independence is the threat facing those people in Scotland who do not vote or who choose not to vote for a party that is committed to devolution. The SNP may want to give the impression that all the big questions will be postponed until a possible referendum years down the line, but its real strategy is for conflicts over powers from day one of an nationalist Administration. The leader of the Scottish nationalists has publicly threatened that the four-year war of attrition with Westminster will start on 3 May if his party is elected to rule.
The break-up of Britain would not only start to undermine shared family connections and economic relationships and the values that we all hold in common, but would, from day one, be a recipe for division and instability and put our prosperity at risk. East Lothian, the constituency that I represent, has like the rest of Scotland fared well within the Union in recent years. Last weeks employment figures showed more people in work in Scotland than ever before, with 50,000 more people in employment in one year alone. For the first time in half a century, Scotland can
contemplate marching towards full employment if we make the right long-term decisions. Scotland not only has its highest share of working age people in employment since records began, but its employment rate, currently at 76.3 per cent., has been around or above the UK rate since 2003, among the highest in the EU 25 and better than that of every G7 country. That contrasts with the position in 1997, when the Scottish employment rate was 2.5 per cent. lower than the UK rate. Far from lagging behind, Scotland has experienced higher growth in gross weekly earnings than the UK in three of the past four years.
Devolution gives Scotland both stability and mutual support. Rising to the challenge of globalisation means nothing less than equipping each and every Scot to meet the competitive challenge. In the next 10 years, a transformation of our education and skills base is essential. That is what we must focus on, not unnecessary constitutional wrangling. Labour in Scotland will, for the first time ever, guarantee education to Scots from the ages of three to 18. That priority was identified under the devolved policy and can be delivered only by a devolved policy. However, we will succeed only if we also secure and entrench stability as the foundation of all that we do.
It is time for some brutal truths about the new global economy. Investment will flow to those countries that are stable. In the same way, it will move quickly and decisively from those that are unstable. Stability is our watchwordyesterday, today and tomorrowso Scotland must build and cement the economic stability that is the foundation of any countrys success, not jeopardise or take risks with it. For those reasonsfor the sake of the stability that we have enjoyed and need to continue to enjoy, and for the investment in innovation and education, which are the keys to the future, to flourishwe reject absolutely the policies of the nationalists.
To reject the nationalists and independence, we must look at their failure to be honest about their policies, and start with just one example of their inventions and falsehoods. The SNPs whole financial policy is based on a series of errors and exaggerations. The nationalists have built their whole case on one volatile commodityoilbut they have refused to face the facts about the real scale of revenues from the North sea. Almost every credible economist now confirms that the nationalists have got the oil price wrong, the oil production numbers wrong and Scotlands potential share of North sea oil and gas wrong.
David Cairns: My hon. Friend makes a powerful case. The nationalists have told us that they will bring forward revised estimates of income from North sea oil in July. Can she think of any possible reason why the nationalists are waiting until July before doing that?
Anne Moffat: I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his intervention. One word would characterise the nationalists approach: dishonesty. They have also invented an oil fund surplus that cannot exist. That is why they say that they will not update their figures until July, weeks after the election.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|