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Scottish Parliament (Financial Powers)

Volume 489: debated on Wednesday 18 March 2009

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on financial powers for the Scottish Parliament. (263302)

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. Sir Kenneth Calman's commission on Scottish devolution is supported by business and trade union leaders, and by the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

Does the Secretary of State agree that it is useful for Governments to be able to borrow at a time of recession—[Interruption.]

Does the Secretary of State agree that at a time of recession it is important for Governments to be able to borrow, and that the Scottish Government should have the power to borrow?

The Scottish Government have more money than ever before. The current Scottish Government have more than double the budget that the late Donald Dewar had when he was First Minister. I think it important for politicians in all parties in Scotland to find additional ways of working together through the recession. We are in it together, and we will get out of it together.

I appeal again to the Scottish National party to stop putting its obsession with the constitution before the priorities of our country, which are to do with economic recovery. Scotland will never forgive any political party that puts its interests before those of our country.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although financial powers are important, they will take some time to produce any change, if change is coming? What we need now is action. Unemployment in Lanarkshire is higher than it is in any other region, and Lanarkshire also has the fewest job vacancies. I welcome all the initiatives that my right hon. Friend is taking there—unlike the one-trick pony who is First Minister in the SNP Administration in Scotland, who is interested only in division and in rubbing Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend campaigns tirelessly for the people and businesses of Lanarkshire, which has a proud industrial heritage, not least in mining and of course the steelworks. The people of Lanarkshire have shown their determination and resolution to rise from previous recessions. Working with him and other fellow Members, and businesses and trade unions, we are determined to do everything possible to make sure that Lanarkshire is not the epicentre of this recession in Scotland.