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Scottish Assembly

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 4 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received about the setting up of an assembly in Edinburgh with legislative powers.

In the past six months, five letters in support of an assembly have been received.

If my noble Friend believes, as I do, that an assembly in Edinburgh would weaken and injure the Union, why are Government supporting an assembly in Belfast?

There is no contradiction in the Government's approach. It reflects the different circumstances in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. A Scottish assembly would be a taxation nightmare in Scotland and as the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) has estimated, it will lead to an extra 25 p in the pound income tax for the Scots.

Does the Minister accept that if we had an Administration subject to democratic accountability in Scotland, matters such as the threatened closure of 640 hospital beds in Lothian region would receive at least as much attention as the solicitors' monopoly is currently receiving? Does he further accept that such exposure to democratic accountability would be an invigorating experience, not just for Ministers, but for Scottish Office civil servants?

I think that the hon. Gentleman can represent his constituents perfectly well in the House of Commons—[HON. MEMBERS: "And you."] Indeed, I am one of the hon. Gentleman's constituents. The hon. Gentleman can represent his constituents in the House on health matters.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about devolution, I believe that
"We will get guaranteed disharmony, disunity, conflict and competition throughout the whole of Britain. The dominant issue of politics in Britain will be the jealousies of region against region, nation against nation, argument against argument. That will be very bad news for Britain".
Those are not my words—they are the words of the Leader of the Opposition a few years ago, and they are as valid today as they were when he uttered them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that all Scottish taxpayers should be made aware that a Labour-inspired Scottish assembly would increase taxation beyond belief, as was confirmed by the Leader of the Opposition who said that only one in 15 taxpayers would face an increase—that is, the Scots?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. If Scotland were funded at the average United Kingdom per capita level, Scotland would have been £2.7 billion worse off in 1989–90. To fund the balance in Scotland and to maintain expenditure in Scotland at its current level would require an additional 25p in the pound.

Does the Minister agree that it would be helpful to have a bit less heat and a bit more light? Does he further agree that the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill is an excellent example of the need for a Scottish Assembly because treatment of it has been superficial and inadequate? When the Scottish Constitutional Convention concludes, will the Minister undertake to meet it to try to work out a reasonable and sensible answer to all this?

The answer is no. The Scottish Constitutional Convention is unrepresentative of Scotland—[Interruption.] The Scottish National party is not taking part. The hon. Gentleman must await my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State's statement on the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.