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England And Scotland

Volume 928: debated on Monday 21 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if, following the work being done by the Scottish Council Research Institute on the input-output model of the Scottish economy, he will re-examine the feasibility of his Department's conducting a survey into the value of cross-border trade, including food and drink, between England and Scotland.

No, Sir. The Department of Industry is already sponsoring a research project which is concerned with assessing the merits of alternative methods of estimating trade flows between different areas in the United Kingdom, including those between Scotland and England. The suggested survey would still entail substantial official costs on top of additional commercial costs which we do not think would be justified.

Does not the Minister's reluctance to initiate such a study show that he and his Department are frightened of the possible results, and that they do not wish the people of Scotland to know that Scotland's trade is basically in balance, unlike England's?

I take it that the evidence on which the hon. Gentleman purports to make his case that Scotland is in balance is drawn from an article by Michael Fry which appeared in the Scotsman on 14th February, which suggested that the preliminary results of the Scottish Council Research Institute's input-output project suggested that Scotland was in balance in 1973. The directors of the project said afterwards that the article was based on incomplete data, which was subsequently misinterpreted. There is, therefore, nothing in the hon. Gentleman's case to answer.

Is it not true that cross-border trade in drink has been greatly improved by the bevy of SNP Members in this House?

I am sure that members of the SNP have made their contribution to the £300 million or more earnings from Scotch whisky.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is part of the SNP's campaign to create physical barriers between Scotland and 'England, including Customs posts and other impediments to the free movement of capital, goods and, indeed, people? Will the hon. Gentleman investigate whether, because of this alarming propaganda by the SNP, its prominent supporters, such as Sir Hugh Fraser, are selling out in Scotland and investing funds in London and elsewhere?

I do not think that anyone, other than members of the SNP, allows his political fantasies to run away with him and ingnore the hard-headed economic facts of interdependence between Scotland and England.