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Scottish Economy

Volume 514: debated on Wednesday 21 July 2010

I have had productive discussions with CBI Scotland and others on the Scottish economy, as has my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and I plan to meet them again in the near future.

Bearing in mind that trade and industry is a reserved matter while economic development is devolved—and that both are vital in addressing the key challenge of economic growth—how will the Secretary of State use his role to work effectively to stimulate private enterprise and job creation in Scotland?

Given the legacy that we were left by the Labour Government, it is essential that we tackle the deficit so that we can tackle interest rates and do not pay the cost in jobs. As far as the private sector is concerned, the measures introduced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in the Budget, which we passed in the Third Reading of the Finance Bill last night, will see corporation tax lowered over the course of this Parliament, and include others to boost the private sector.

Given the delicate state of the Scottish economy and the fears about the recovery, does the Secretary of State accept that the proposed massive cuts in public spending—including the huge job losses and the taking of so much money out of the economy—risk a double-dip recession?

If we do not get rid of the historic deficit inherited by the Government—at £155 billion, the largest in peacetime history—we will pay the price in lost jobs for years and years to come. It is essential that we tackle that and take on board the other measures set out in the Budget to ensure we get a good private sector-led recovery, which will fund future public services.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it was wrong of the Scottish Parliament to release al-Megrahi supposedly on compassionate grounds, and that this matter should be looked into given that he committed a horrendous crime?

The decision to release al-Megrahi was a decision for the Scottish Government—it was entirely theirs, and they answer for that decision—but we, as a Government, have made plain what we felt about it. However, there have been inquiries in the House and the Scottish Parliament, and I do not believe that, at this stage, a public inquiry would be appropriate.

Is the Secretary of State aware of research by Oxford Economics that states that 2.3 million jobs in the private sector will be lost because of the Government’s public sector cuts? Can he explain the devastation that that will cause in Glasgow, which it predicts will be the second-hardest hit city? What does he plan to do for jobs in Glasgow, not only in the public sector but in the private sector? Will the number of jobs go up or down in Glasgow because of his Government?

Across the country we want rising levels of employment and to ensure that, through a private sector-led recovery, we will have a sustainable economy going forward. Were we just to keep going as the hon. Lady’s colleagues in the previous Labour Government did, we would be in very deep trouble indeed.