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Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2010

8. What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on measures to promote economic growth in Scotland. (26714)

I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on this issue. In the spending review, the UK Government took decisive action to reduce the inherited record deficit. Along with the June Budget, the spending review has set the conditions to promote a balanced economy and sustainable economic growth for all parts of the UK.

The Scottish Government used to be very keen on the economic growth achieved by Ireland. Will the Secretary of State assure me that, as well as taking measures to promote growth, he will ensure that the First Minister has fiscal responsibility at the top of his agenda?

All of us are very concerned about what has happened to Ireland in recent months, and our Government have set out some very important steps that we are taking to contribute to the recovery in Ireland and other parts of Europe. We need to ensure Scotland’s place within the stability of the United Kingdom. The Scotland Bill, given its First Reading in this House yesterday, will ensure that we give Scotland the tools to achieve that, and I hope that it will be an Act in due course.

For every job vacancy in Lanarkshire there are 10 people on jobseeker’s allowance. Indeed, in Motherwell and Wishaw, that figure rises to 12 or 13. What priority will the Secretary of State give to the Lanarkshire economy to ensure that it gets back on track as quickly as possible? [Interruption.]

Order. There are far too many private conversations of a noisy character taking place in the Chamber. I want to hear the Secretary of State.

I recognise the challenges faced by Lanarkshire and other parts of the Scottish economy and by those who are looking for a job. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, I visited Lanarkshire recently and met people who are working their way into employment, and students at Motherwell college. We have to keep focused, and we have to put in place the right conditions to ensure that we achieve a sustainable recovery across the country. I believe that the measures we are taking will ensure that that happens.

The Secretary of State will know from his visit to the north-east of Scotland just how important the region is, not just to the Scottish economy, but to the UK economy as a whole. We received a welcome boost this week with the announcement of the extension of the runway at Aberdeen airport and improvement in that transport link, but will he emphasise to the Scottish Government that all transport links in the north-east need to be improved? They do not need new levers to improve Scotland’s economy; they need to use the existing levers, as well.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Our Government here in the United Kingdom are committed to ensuring that we invest in infrastructure that will support growth, and we have produced other support for business that is geared towards growth, but I take his points about the Scottish Government. His points will have been heard, and I am sure that they will form the basis of further discussions between myself and Scottish Ministers.