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Industrial Development

Volume 173: debated on Wednesday 6 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairman of the Scottish Development Agency to discuss industrial development in Scotland.

I last met the chairman of the Scottish Development Agency on 24 March at a dinner for UK-Japan 2000, and my hon. Friend the Minister of State met him on 4 June.

Has the Secretary of State examined the distribution throughout Scotland of inward investment projects during the past five years, and has he reached the same conclusion as have the people and council of Cumnock and Doon Valley—that Locate in Scotland seems entirely unaware of the substantial advantages for inward investment of locating in a district that has higher unemployment, as the Secretary of State knows well, than in any travel-to-work area in mainland Britain? Will he ensure that Locate in Scotland is aware of the advantages of locating inward investment in Cumnock and Doon Valley? Will he encourage Locate in Scotland to try to make companies from the overheated south-east of England that want to find alternative locations aware of the quality of life that they will find in Cumnock and Doon Valley?

Naturally we are anxious that, wherever possible, inward investment should go to the areas with the most unemployment, but at the end of the day it is for the companies to decide their locations. If the Government were to seek to direct them, they would not come to Scotland in the first place. Ayrshire has been relatively fortunate for example, with the Caledonian paper factory which, although located in Irvine, produces jobs throughout Ayrshire. I know that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Scottish Development Agency, the regional economic development committee and the enterprise trusts have had substantial success in the past few years in bringing industry to Scotland? Will he say by how much unemployment has fallen in Scotland in each of the past three years?

My hon. Friend is correct. Unemployment in Scotland has fallen in the past three years at a higher rate than at any other time in recorded history. It is interesting that Scottish unemployment is now below the level of that of many European Community countries.

May I tell the Secretary of State about the real problem facing areas such as Cumnock and Clydesdale? The town of Larkhall in my constituency is next to the A74. It contains massive industrial sites, but has not been properly served by Locate in Scotland because it seems not to know of it, and it does not let anyone concerned with inward investment know about the area. We expect Locate in Scotland to address the problem, and to represent all communities instead of all parts of Scotland.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that Locate in Scotland has no bias in favour of or against any area. As for the area about which the hon. Gentleman is concerned, the improvement of the A74 to motorway status will make the area even more attractive to investment than it has been in the past.