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Scottish Office Expenditure

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 4 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received recently about Scottish Office expenditure.

I receive regular representations on all aspects of Scottish Office business, including expenditure.

What representations has my right hon. and learned Friend received from the Opposition about their plans to spend up to £50 billion extra across the United Kingdom, to have a Scottish assembly with tax-raising powers, which would cost Scottish taxpayers something like 25p in the pound, and a roof tax? Has he received any explanation from the Labour party in Scotland about how it proposes to pay for that?

One of the most worrying aspects of the Opposition's proposals is that not only do they propose substantial increases—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is about the Minister's answer—

One of the most worrying aspects about any proposals for new taxation is that they would impose an even greater burden of taxation on Scotland than on the rest of the United Kingdom. That would clearly be the consequence of the Labour party's proposals.

Will the Secretary of State consider adding one new item of Scottish Office expenditure in the light of yesterday's announcement by the Department of Transport of a motorway link up the A1 as far as Newcastle? Does he recognise that the press statement saying that it would help Scotland added insult to injury? Nothing is more damaging to Scotland than creating the same impression on the east coast of England as exists on the west coast—that the motorway network stops at the border. Will the Secretary of State urgently review his road programme?

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that not only are we proposing significant improvements to the A1 in Scotland, but we are making more dramatic and radical progress in transforming the A74 into a motorway on the west coast of Scotland than any previous Government ever contemplated. We have begun construction work on the total reconstruction of the A74 to full motorway status, making quicker progress than has ever been known in the roads programme of any Transport Department in the United Kingdom.

In spite of that answer, does the Minister accept that the absence of Scottish Office expenditure and of any visible strategy on fast, modern communications between Scotland and the south has become a major liability for the Scottish economy? In addition to the lack of decision on the A1, how on earth can he defend the total absence of a Scottish Office strategy in the past three years to ensure fast, direct links between Scotland and the channel tunnel? Will not that be seen with hindsight as one of the great omissions by the Scottish Office in the past three years, with tremendous long-term implications for the Scottish economy?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman knows what he is talking about. For the first time, we have plans to link the motorway network of central Scotland with the motorway network in the south. In addition, we have the electrification of the east coast railway line between central Scotland and London. We have also had a more remarkable improvement in civil aviation between central Scotland and London. We have also had a more remarkable improvement in civil aviation between central Scotland and south than at any time in our history.