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Economic Prospects

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1975

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the prospects for the Scottish economy.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his estimates of employment and investment prospects in Scotland during the next 12 months.

The Scottish economy is subject to the same difficulties which face the United Kingdom as a whole as well as other industrial and oil importing nations. It is, however, encouraging that employment in Scotland is proving more robust than in the rest of Britain, Scottish unemployment bearing a lower relationship to the Great Britain total than at any time since recording began in 1954. The establishment of the Scottish Development Agency and the development of North Sea oil will, with our general regional policies, help to sustain and create new employment and to encourage investment in Scotland.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the unprecedented wave of strike action in the Glasgow area is damaging the image of an area which desperately needs to attract jobs and is causing hardship to users of the airport and to residents in multi-storey flats, among others? Does he agree that in consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment he should appoint an independent inquiry to find out what is going wrong with labour relations in Glasgow and what can be done to put the situation right?

Like the hon. Member, I deplore the disruption, and I hope that he, like me, will use all his influence not to stir up trouble as some people in Scotland are doing but to strengthen the hand of the official trade union movement. He should direct his question about the inquiry to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

Why is the Secretary of State so coy about giving us the benefit of his advice about Britain's continued membership of the EEC? Will he be less shy in commending the dustmen and the Army in Glasgow for the efforts they are making to make Scotland a cleaner and better place to work in? Will he follow through the idea of bringing troops into Glasgow by bringing the Royal Air Force into Abbotsinch, so that people can fly to and from London and elsewhere?

I have already paid tribute to the dustmen and the Army for the work they are performing, but I saw little indication of a similar approach by the Conservatives when they were in that situation before.

As for the hon. Gentleman's impatience in getting a speech from me about the EEC, I can tell him that I delivered such speeches from the Opposition Dispatch Box and I have made speeches on the subject over a long period. I have had no influence on him, however, and I deplore the fact that he is still so dense in these matters.

On the question of the Scottish economy, does my right hon. Friend agree that the point of substance by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) in a supplementary question earlier today, about a major road link between Hunterston and Central Scotland is important? We are delighted that my right hon. Friend will come to open the road, but the people of Ayrshire want to know when that will be.

I would have welcomed far greater attention to this matter by the people of Ayrshire. The project was held up over a decision as to the line that the road should take. My hon. Friends were trying to put one point of view and other people were putting another, and until that matter was settled among those people, with the help of the Scottish Office, we could not make reasonable progress.

I welcome the conversion of the Secretary of State to the realisation of the importance of the development of Scottish oil resources for the benefit of Scotland. Will the right hon. Gentleman now admit that the real importance to Scotland lies in the investment of Scottish oil revenues within the Scottish economy? Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to persuade the Leader of the House to take action to prevent these vast resources from leaving Scotland for England, as is presently planned?

I shall be glad to look into any of the hon. Gentleman's suggestions, but I hope that they will be better than the ones he has made hitherto.