[Relevant document: Sixth Report from the Scottish Affairs Committee, Session 2010-12, The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Unanswered Questions, HC 1806.]
I beg to move,
That this House believes that Scotland has always made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to the UK over the 305 years of the Union; notes the strong and enduring bonds that exist between Scotland and the other nations of the UK; further notes its shared history and the contribution that the Scottish people have made to public life in the UK in politics, academia, trade unions and the armed forces; notes the contribution that Scotland’s businesses make to the UK economy and their particular expertise in cutting edge industries such as life sciences and engineering; further notes that a referendum on separating Scotland from the rest of the UK will be held before the end of 2014; and believes that Scotland is better off as part of the UK and the rest of the UK is better off together with Scotland.
It is customary to begin debates that are granted by the Backbench Business Committee by saying how pleased we are to have a debate on a particular subject. I say that genuinely, not merely as a convention. Tomorrow is St Andrew’s day and Scots around the world are celebrating their pride in their nation and their culture. It is important when we are considering the future of Scotland and our United Kingdom that the debate takes place in this United Kingdom Parliament. We appreciate that the debate will take place in many forums around the United Kingdom and around the world over the next two years and particularly, of course, in Scotland and in the Scottish Parliament, but in addition to those debates we must have the opportunity to discuss these extremely important matters here in the United Kingdom Parliament.
There are many more Scots outside Scotland than within Scotland. Most of us now accept that only the people who are currently living in Scotland, be they Scottish or merely resident in Scotland with a right to vote, will take part in the referendum. Indeed, several of my constituents in Epping Forest have written to me or come to see me to ask why they, as Scots, will not get a vote in the referendum about the future of their country. I have told them not to worry, because as long as they keep on voting Conservative in Epping Forest there will be a Scottish voice here in the United Kingdom Parliament.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate, which is extremely important for the future of the United Kingdom. Does she not agree that there is also an argument in favour of allowing the people of England to have their say on the Scottish devolution question and on independence? If Scotland became an independent nation, that would have a real effect on the people of Wiltshire as well as the people of Scotland.
My hon. Friend is, of course, absolutely correct. I have a great deal of sympathy for his point, but I accept that agreement has been entered into that the terms of the referendum have been broadly decided, although they have yet to be finally decided in the Scottish Parliament. I accept that the Scottish Parliament will decide on the franchise for the referendum and that, in doing so, it is unlikely to decide that people throughout the entire United Kingdom should have a vote in the referendum, but although those people will not have a vote in the referendum, they must have a voice in the debate. That will be provided in this Parliament and throughout all parts of the United Kingdom.
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Is she aware of whether there might be any restrictions on which people living in Scotland will be entitled to vote in the referendum, such as on English people, EU citizens or people from further afield?
It is likely that the franchise will be the same as the franchise for the last Scottish parliamentary elections. I accept that and I do not think we should spend too much time arguing about the franchise as the line must be drawn somewhere. I trust the Scottish Parliament to draw the line in a reasonable way that is in accord with general electoral practice.
Yes, it does. I entirely accept that—[Interruption.] Before the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) reminds me that I have not always accepted that, let me say that I accept it now—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) says that is progress, and I am proud of the progress I have made in that respect.
Yesterday, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland led the annual St Andrew’s day service in the crypt of the Palace of Westminster. He asked why the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland comes to London in this week every year and he answered that question by saying that at least 300,000 Scots live in London. London is probably the largest parish covered by the Church of Scotland anywhere. That emphasises the point: there are Scots in London, in England and all over the world who care about the future of their country—our country. The Moderator of the General Assembly comes to London because this is the capital city of the United Kingdom—the capital city of all our nations brought together.
My hon. Friend makes an important key point about the United Kingdom and its identity. On the numerous visits that I made to Iraq and Afghanistan, our armed forces did not ask one another whether they came from Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh or London. They fought for a country and a people that they love, united not just by instruments of parliamentary procedure, but by a country, intermarried and interlinked through many generations. We are a people united not by parliamentary instrument or law, but by tradition and convention, and much more by our human activities.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) makes an extremely important point, which is at the very centre of this debate. He mentions Afghanistan and Iraq, where he has seen recently and personally the contribution made by brave servicemen and women from every part of this United Kingdom and our allies in other parts of the world—from every part of the United Kingdom, and they do not ask each other, “Which is your country?”
It is our country for which we fight, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but going back in our history, through the second world war, through the first world war, which in two years’ time, just at the time of the referendum, we will remember. That war started 100 years before the referendum is due to take place. Brave Scots joined brave Englishmen, Welshmen, Irishmen—
Indeed, New Zealanders and Australians—to fight against the oppressor. The oppressor is not within this United Kingdom. The oppressor is potentially outwith the United Kingdom, and together we have fought oppression and won against oppression for centuries.
I am listening to what the hon. Lady is saying and she seems to have fossilised history. Yes, of course we have fought together in the past. We have fought the Germans in the past, but we co-operate with them on other things now. History does not stand still, and Scottish independence is an evolution of history.
No one is suggesting that history stands still. I am referring to history as history. What happened 100 years ago we will commemorate as having happened 100 years ago, but we will not forget it. Those who forget history suffer for having done so. The point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset is that right now, at this very minute, brave servicemen and women from Scotland, England and other parts of the United Kingdom are fighting together to guarantee the freedom of our country, our whole country. That is not history. That is current. It is right now.
Last week or the week before last, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) will remember, we had a debate in Committee Room 14 organised by the Law Society of Scotland, a fine bunch of people. Before I took all those interventions, I was speaking about Scots outside Scotland. The Law Society of Scotland has an enormous number of members, of which I happen to be one, in London. Committee Room 14 was packed. We had a really good and lively debate but, despite his excellent speech, not one person in that Room voted to support the hon. Gentleman— not one, and I promise I had not invited them all personally.
Continuing on the same theme, last night I attended another packed meeting held here in London, in Chelsea, by Friends of the Union. It was a great surprise to me to bump into the chairman of the Essex Conservatives, a very nice gentleman whom I see frequently in my constituency. I said something along the lines, “I didn’t know you cared, Adrian.” He explained to me in no uncertain terms that he and many of the other people who were there at that event for Friends of the Union had come of their own accord because they are fed up hearing that people in England and the rest of the United Kingdom do not care about Scotland. That is simply not true and it will be proved not to be true as this debate takes hold throughout the whole country. He said to me, and other people came and joined in the conversation, “We are here because we care about the United Kingdom and we care about Scotland as part of the United Kingdom.” They value the United Kingdom. They know that we are better together.
As we consider the motion and the amendment, and as we seriously begin the debate in the country, let us at least try to get the language right. This debate is not about nationalism. Scotland is a nation. We are proud of our nation. I discovered earlier that it happens that tomorrow is the 140th anniversary of the first football international between Scotland and England.
It was held in Glasgow and I am pleased to say it was a no-score draw. But the point about it is that one can have an international only if one has a nation. We all go to Murrayfield, Twickenham and the Millennium stadium and cheer on our national football, rugby and other teams, because each of the component parts of the United Kingdom is a nation. So let us stop arguing about whether Scotland is a nation. That is not a question. Scotland is a nation, as is England, Wales, Northern Ireland and so on.
The debate is not about independence. That is another misnomer. Scotland is independent and is in charge of her own destiny. Scotland has and always has had her own institutions—the law, the education system, the Church. I speak as living proof as a graduate of Edinburgh university, a member of the Law Society of Scotland and a member of the Church of Scotland, but more important than that to me, I am a member of the Epping Forest Scottish Association. As the Member of Parliament for Epping Forest in the proud county of Essex, I have no conflict between my nationality as Scottish and British, and my constituents have no problem about having somebody represent their constituency who happens to have been born in another part of the United Kingdom. This is a time when people around the world are breaking down barriers and coming together. It is wrong to construct barriers that we do not need.
The hon. Lady is making an impassioned speech but her point about people who were born in other parts of the United Kingdom is irrelevant. There are people representing all parties in the Scottish Parliament who were born in other parts of the United Kingdom and other places. The debate is about the right of the people living in Scotland to determine their future. It is not about whether people from other parts of the United Kingdom can or cannot be Scots if they are currently living in Scotland. There is no argument about that.
The hon. Gentleman is totally wrong. This is not about an argument or a debate about the right of people living in Scotland to determine their future. We all agree that people in Scotland have the right to determine their future. I have just said that and I have said it many times in the House and in other places. Everyone accepts that. Scotland is a nation. Scotland is independent. Scotland holds Scotland’s future in its own hands.
This debate is not about nationalism or independence; it is about separation. That is the word that should be used in debates in this Parliament, in the Scottish Parliament and in every forum across the country and further afield in the debate that will rage between now and the referendum in two years’ time. This is about separation, not pride in our country or whether Scotland can survive on her own. Of course Scotland can survive on her own; she is a strong and capable country full of brilliant and talented people. This debate is about drawing artificial lines that we do not need. As the motion states—
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am afraid that I have taken many interventions, this being a debate, but I will conclude shortly.
I will leave it to others to talk about why separation would be bad for industry, financial institutions, the currency, the armed forces, family and culture. I will turn to the motion and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson).
I would be minded to accept the amendment were it not for the first few words, which propose leaving out the last three lines of the motion, which state that this House
“notes that a referendum on separating Scotland from the rest of the UK will be held before the end of 2014; and believes that Scotland is better off as part of the UK and the rest of the UK is better off together with Scotland.”
I believe that the vast majority of Members will support our motion today. The amendment would leave out those lines and add
“recognises that special relationships also endure with Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and other members of the Commonwealth as well as the Republic of Ireland and the United States; and believes that this will also be the case with Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom after the 2014 independence referendum.”
I entirely agree, because after the referendum nothing will change. The people of Scotland are sensible, forward-looking people and they will vote to stay better together within the United Kingdom.
Most states in the landmass of Europe and other parts of the world have to draw boundaries somewhere, but we do not have to do so because we have a natural boundary: our shores. This is but a small island, full of people in every part whose individual lives, past, present and future, are bound up with each other. Each part has its own identity, but this House will agree this afternoon that we are stronger and better to go forward together as one United Kingdom.
I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of the debate, alongside the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing), whom I am delighted to follow. In a way, as a Scot who represents an English constituency, she epitomises what the motion is about: the rich blend of the best of all four corners of our land that has made the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the success story it so evidently is. There is no doubt that the United Kingdom is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Although I might disagree with her politics, I have no doubt that we, as Scots, share a love of our country and want to see what is right and proper for its people and for future generations. It is also fitting that we are holding this debate on the eve of St Andrew’s day, the national occasion when we Scots come together to celebrate our patron saint and demonstrate our pride in all things Scottish.
As the motion states, Scotland has made a significant contribution to the United Kingdom over the 305 years of the Union, and it continues to do so. Indeed, our shared history goes back even further to the union of the Crowns in 1603, when a Scot, James VI, sat on the English throne as James I. He was the first of six monarchs in the Stuart line who ruled both England and Scotland, as well as Ireland, until the Glorious Revolution, and then again to 1714. In fact, it was Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart line, who became the first monarch of the political union of Britain.
With the Acts of Union in 1707, Scotland quickly took advantage of the abolition of trade tariffs with England and trade blossomed. The 18th century also saw the Scottish enlightenment, a period characterised by momentous intellectual and scientific accomplishments, so much so that Voltaire said:
“We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.”
With the advent of the Union, Scots took up positions of power in politics, the civil service, the Army and Navy, trade, economics, colonial enterprises and other areas across the emerging British empire. The historian Neil Davidson has observed:
“Far from being ‘peripheral’ to the British economy, Scotland...lay at its core.”
Indeed, throughout the industrial revolution Scotland more than punched above its weight and became known across the world for its excellence in engineering, as typified by Clyde-built ships.
Through advancements in medicine and its inventive spirit, distinct banking system and contribution to art, literature and culture, Scotland has always added greatly beyond its shores. Even in times of adversity, the people of Scotland have not been wanting. During the first world war, despite Scotland having a population of only 4.8 million, over half a million Scots went to the front. My purpose in touching, albeit briefly, on 300 years of Scottish history is to point out that many of our achievements and benefits were because of our place within the UK, not in spite of it.
Scotland is linked intrinsically to the rest of the United Kingdom socially, politically and economically. The single market within the UK affords significant economic, trade and employment opportunities to people on both sides of the border. Our membership of the European Union, through the United Kingdom, provides a vast marketplace for Scottish exporters. Together we have a place at the top table of the European Council of Ministers and we are one of the G8 forum of the world’s largest economies and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, all of which allows us to wield unprecedented influence on the European and global stages. As a member of NATO, we have collectively benefited since the war from international security and defence co-operation on a grand scale.
When it comes to the economy, Scotland has a very important relationship with the rest of the UK. Scotland benefits from access to a market comprising tens of millions of people within a single jurisdiction. Scots are employed by firms based in the rest of the UK, and people in the rest of the UK benefit from employment opportunities with Scottish-based companies. Indeed, in 2010 Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK were worth double its exports to the rest of the world— £44 billion and £22 billion respectively—and manufacturing exports were estimated at £13 billion.
I welcome my hon. Friend’s point about manufacturing industry. Does he agree that the sizeable increase in manufacturing, which is taking place as we speak, has arisen mainly as a result of the Scottish contribution?
I certainly concur with my right hon. Friend on that point.
In addition to the shared opportunities, the pooling of resources across the UK allows risk as well as reward to be spread, as seen most notably in the bail-out of the Scottish-based banks during the financial crisis, when the UK, led by a Scot, injected £37 billion of capital into the banks—an amount in excess of the total budget of the Scottish Government.
The legal framework for business is more or less uniform across the entirety of the UK. That means that there is a similar taxation, regulatory and employment law regime throughout the UK. On the benefit of a single market both to Scotland and to the rest of the UK, the director general of the CBI has stated that the
“raft of common laws and regulations...make operating across the different constituent parts of the union more efficient.”
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has noted that the Scottish economy is
“more integrated with the rest of the UK than Europe or the rest of the world.”
With regard to jobs, people on both sides of the border benefit from employment opportunities engendered by Scotland being part of the Union. The UK Government are a major employer in Scotland, with more than 30,000 civil servants bringing almost £700 million annually to Scotland in salaries alone. Thousands of jobs also rely on the defence sector in Scotland, with 40,000 people employed in more than 800 companies. Companies from the rest of the UK contribute about one fifth of private sector economic activity in Scotland.
On energy, North sea oil is an important contributor to the UK economy, accounting for thousands of jobs in the north-east of Scotland, and a valuable source of revenue for the UK Treasury. However, the supply is declining and unstable. Recent reports show that North sea oil production fell by 30% in 2011 compared with the previous year. For the past 18 years, the level of public spending in Scotland has dwarfed the total revenue from North sea oil; in 2009-10, the difference was £18 billion. In fact, welfare spending in Scotland in 2010 was three times higher than North sea oil revenue. Of course, oil and gas remain an important part of the Scottish and UK economies and will do so in the years to come, but to bet Scotland’s economic future on this sector, as the Scottish National party does, is naive at best and foolhardy at worst. Moreover, Scotland being outwith the UK would create uncertainty for the future of Scotland’s renewables industry, and potentially lead to higher fuel bills and a £2 billion burden on Scottish businesses, due to Scotland receiving a disproportionate share of the available subsidy compared with the rest of the UK. These figures highlight the many benefits of Scotland being part of the UK economy in that we are able to work together in partnership to share the risks and rewards involved in harnessing our energy resources.
Scotland being part of the UK also allows us to pool our resources and distribute them on the basis of social need across the welfare state. If it were outwith the UK, that would place a major question mark over its ability to continue to fund benefits at current levels and to meet state and public sector pension commitments. It is simply an illusion for the SNP to promise Scandinavian levels of welfare spending while supporting Irish levels of taxation.
There are many other positives on which I could elaborate, such as the flexibility across borders which has over the years benefited people on both sides and led to high levels of migration in both directions; indeed, I personally have been a beneficiary of that. Our common currency is one of the oldest monetary unions in the world. A practical and more recent example is the benefit derived by Scottish athletes from UK sports funding, facilities and coaching in the run-up to the Olympics and Paralympics. It is interesting to note that all but three of the Scots who won medals at the Olympics had team-mates from the rest of the UK.
Indeed I am. All three—Sir Chris Hoy, Andy Murray and Katherine Grainger—train and reside in England and clearly benefit from Scotland being part of the United Kingdom. Of course, we pay tribute to those athletes as part of Team GB and wish them every success in the BBC sports personality of the year award. [Interruption.] Indeed, they cannot all win, but we would like to see them do so.
There is much more I could say about the benefits to Scotland and the rest of the UK of Scotland remaining a strong partner within the Union. I am sure that other Members will fill any gaps in my speech and expand on some of the points I have made. I conclude by mentioning one of Scotland’s and the UK’s most notable achievements in its 300-year history—devolution. Devolution has been a great success and has provided new vigour to the United Kingdom. Whether in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, devolution is working but also developing, as it will continue to do in future. As we are all well aware, support for devolution and attachment to the UK in Scotland is stronger than support for independence. Scots share the same social attitudes and values as people in the rest of the UK. They are just as alert to the risks and uncertainties of separation and have a real comprehension of the benefits and advantages of remaining part of the UK. Therefore, all things considered, there is no doubt that we are all better off together.
It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to contribute to this timely and important debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) on securing it. I am proud to be a co-signatory to the motion.
The hon. Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) set out very well many of the practical benefits that Scotland and, indeed, the rest of the United Kingdom gain from the Union, be it in defence, finance and economic matters, or our influence on the world stage. We could, and should, have a full debate on each of those points, and I am sure that in the course of the next year or two, leading up to the referendum, they will all be fully explored. To summarise the benefits—I think that the hon. Gentleman used this phrase—the strength of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We are stronger together.
Scotland could go it alone as a separate country. I am not one of those who believes that it would be an impoverished basket case of a country that could not survive on its own. Of course it could, but at what cost? Together, we are stronger, more influential, safer and more prosperous. It would be much riskier for everyone if Scotland went it alone.
Does the hon. Gentleman have a list of nations of about 4 million to 5 million people that might be better off joining the UK because they would be safer, more prosperous and more influential? Is he considering Denmark, Sweden or Finland? What is at the forefront of his mind?
I am puzzled. Is the hon. Gentleman asking for other countries to come and join us in the United Kingdom? That is a very interesting notion.
A few years ago, the global banking crisis sent economic shockwaves around the world. The SNP used to make a claim for the arc of prosperity that would link a separate Scotland with Ireland and Iceland, but that arc has rusted somewhat in the light of events. A separate Scotland could have weathered that storm, but the resilience that we had as a country was much stronger because we were the United Kingdom and not split up into atomised parts.
I cannot give those figures off the top of my head. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that Iceland was any better placed to weather the storm than the United Kingdom, that is a slightly revisionist view of history.
Another issue is Scotland’s role in the European Union if it becomes a separate country. There was an interesting debate on that in Westminster Hall last week. In the interests of brevity, I will not rehearse all the arguments. I believe strongly that if Scotland went its own way and wanted to be part of the EU, it would happen on the EU’s terms. Scotland would be sucked into full currency, fiscal and political union, which would not be to its benefit.
I will not give way again.
The EU issue makes a mockery of the SNP’s independence policy. It is perfectly logical to argue that if Scotland does not like one economic union and wants to be the master of its own destiny, it should go its own way, but to argue that it should then join an ever-deepening union is utterly illogical.
The fact that we are having a referendum at all is risky as it may be a distraction from what we should be concentrating on. I do not doubt for a minute that it is perfectly within Scotland’s right to have the debate and to have the matter resolved. As a democrat, I fully accept that the Scottish National party won a majority in the last Scottish Parliament elections and that a referendum was part of its manifesto. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to have the debate. But at what cost? The constitutional uncertainty in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s had a severe impact on the economic prosperity of Quebec. The EU admitted that in a report.
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have a number of points that I want to make and I have already been generous in giving way to him.
A report by economists at the appropriately named Scotiabank in Canada said of the 1995 referendum:
“The palpable fear in the markets was keyed off deep intertwined concerns about the country’s fiscal, economic and political circumstances.”
The very fact that we are having this debate is therefore risky as it may distract us. However, I accept that it is legitimate that we are having it.
My main point relates not to the economic or defence arguments or to Scotland’s influence on the global stage, but is a personal and emotional appeal. My nationality is British. I do not want to be rendered stateless or to be forced to choose between the place of my birth and the place I now call home. The country that would be left would be the rest of the United Kingdom and its flag would be, as the noble Lord Forsyth described it, “an anaemic red asterisk” once the blue of the saltire was taken out.
As far as I can tell, my blood is 100% Scottish. My father has traced the generations of the family back to the 1700s. Unless there is something we do not know about, my family came from a small area in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. I spent my childhood in Scotland. My primary and secondary education was in Scotland, but my higher education was in England. Three quarters of my working life has been spent in England. Through marriage and my family, I have many relatives who are part Scottish and part English. I have stood for public office five times: twice in Scotland and three times in England. My Scottish ventures were somewhat less successful than my English ones. I stood for South Lanarkshire council and for Glasgow Rutherglen. Let us just say that I saved my deposit on both occasions.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest said forcefully, of course Scotland and England have distinct cultures that are expressed through the arts and on the sporting field, but both can be vibrant within the Union. Patriotism does not require nationalism to flourish. Beyond a patriotic pride, the United Kingdom has something that is much stronger. Team GB at the Olympic games exemplified it, the monarchy exemplifies it, and even James Bond exemplifies it. We have an identity that has been forged through more than 300 years of the world’s most successful and enduring Union. We do not need to change. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir) said that that is history. It is history, but it is also the present and I believe that it is the future. For goodness’ sake, let us not throw away what we have achieved and what makes us strong, prosperous and successful in an ever-changing world that is becoming more dangerous and uncertain. We have something that is strong and that works; let us keep it.
I beg to move an amendment, leave out from ‘engineering’ to end and add
‘and recognises that special relationships also endure with Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and other members of the Commonwealth as well as the Republic of Ireland and the United States; and believes that this will also be the case with Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom after the 2014 independence referendum.’.
I reassure the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) that he can call himself Scottish, British or even Milton Keynesian—it is really up to him. This debate is all about identity and what we want to call ourselves.
I thank the many hon. Members who have passed on their regards and concerns for my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie). I reassure the House that he is back home and making a full recovery. I fully expect him to be back in his place very soon, talking about the Laffer curve and endogenous growth theory as only he can.
Another person who is missing is the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). We were all expecting his presence today and to hear his words of wisdom on Scotland and the Union, but he is not here. He is a bit like Brigadoon: one gets a glimpse of him only once a year.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) on the motion. It is a good motion. I take exception only with the last two lines of it, as she knows. There is so much more that she could have added, such as the contribution that Scots have made to the Union and the United Kingdom. She missed out the enlightenment, for goodness’ sake, which is an important way in which the Scots contributed to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom and the Union have also given much to Scotland. The Scots have helped to build and have shared the great institutions of the UK and the Union. We have fantastic cultural relationships and we have had great times. All of that is part of a social union and that will go nowhere. We will continue to be British after the independence referendum and when we secure our independence.
I am surprised to hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, because he previously told this House that
“as Scotland moves forward to become a normal independent nation, all vestiges of Britishness will go.”
He went on to say:
“I have never felt British in my life. I do not even know what Britishness is.”—[Official Report, 12 November 2008; Vol. 482, c. 306-307WH.]
I expected that response. In fact, it said on Twitter that that intervention would be made.
I say to the Minister that, as we examine our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom, we discover some of these fantastic ties. I accept that there will be vestiges of Britishness. That is a personal interest of mine. We are British. I live in Perth in the north of the island called Great Britain. It is called that because it is the largest of the British isles. I am British as much as somebody from Stockholm or Copenhagen is Scandinavian. That is the reality of geography and it cannot be denied. Hon. Members may want to take forward their obsession with separation by building a channel between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That is the only way they could stop us being British.
I accept that being British is about more than just geography. Of course there is something cultural about Britishness. However, Britishness is an invention. It was a necessary social construct to unite all the nations of the United Kingdom. That is why it is so hard to define and describe. We have heard some great and excruciating attempts to define Britishness. Who could forget the attempt of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, when he talked about
“British jobs for British workers”?
I remember the attempt by Michael Portillo, when he described Britishness as anti-fanaticism. However, Britishness is more than that. It is the combination of the 300 years that we have shared and endured across these islands. It is about everything from the industrial revolution to how we stood together in the wars; the Queen has been mentioned, and, of course, there are great pop and rock bands.
I was particularly disappointed with the views of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) who tried to scaremonger on the issue of culture. He said that British music would be no longer “our” music but “their” music—whoever “they” are. I played in a band for 15 years. I replaced an English keyboard player and the lead singer of my band is Canadian. To suggest that something as free-spirited as music can be confined to borders or frontiers is absurd and ridiculous. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West should be ashamed of trying to scaremonger about culture.
One good definition of Britishness—as has been mentioned fleetingly—was the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, which got close to describing and defining Britishness. Danny Boyle did a fantastic job with his cultural tour de force. The big irony, however, is that part of that fantastic presentation placed a strong emphasis on the country’s social ethos, and particularly on the NHS, which the Westminster Tories are currently disestablishing through privatisation. Already, part of that glimpse of Britishness disappears with that very statement.
I will not give way to the hon. Lady, because I do not have much time.
That Britishness has no place in discussions on independence simply because it cannot be un-invented. We cannot un-invent all our ties, heritage and culture; we will always have a shared history and joint heritage, and there will always be cultural relationships and collaboration.
Independence will bring a new, improved relationship between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, because we will come to it from a position of equality and mutual respect. Most people in Scotland now describe themselves as Scottish—some, of course, describe themselves as and feel profoundly British, but most surveys of social attitude suggest that most Scots now present themselves as Scottish.
As we have gone forward with our own national Parliament and strengthened our institutions, Scottish people are feeling more secure in their identity and more culturally relaxed about who they are. That is why we are able to adopt different identities and why we can easily accept the idea of being Scottish—we could be Pakistani Scottish, Indian Scottish, Polish Scottish, but we are all Scottish and that is how people now describe themselves. With independence, we could express our unique Scottishness in world institutions. We could bring Scottish values to international affairs and institutions, and that would only be good for people in Scotland.
I do not have time. As the hon. Lady will know, I have used my two minutes’ injury time.
Our gripe is with political arrangements within the United Kingdom. We want to recalibrate political relationships within the UK; we want powers to grow our economy and make our own international contribution. We want to complete the powers of our Parliament and take responsibility for our affairs. We have no issue with our British past, heritage and culture, and they will be defining features of how we go forward as Scottish people.
I find talk of separation and the idea that people will become “foreigners” dispiriting and depressing. Some of the language used has become quite chilling and I am getting a bit concerned. When people are described as foreigners I feel a little uncomfortable. I know that people have to build up the idea of Scotland as an unviable nation, and suggest that it is a risk and that there is scary stuff out there if it becomes independent, but can we please be careful with some of the language used when people build up that theme of separation? Negativity is a big and necessary part of the case and construct used by those who oppose independence.
We have heard about the past and the things that unite us, and about our great relationships and institutions and the contribution that Scotland has made to the United Kingdom, but what about the future. What does Scotland get if it says no in a referendum on independence? Can we have a guarantee that if it remains in the Union, Scotland will be part of the EU in 10 years’ time? We have heard lots of talk about rolling back the achievements of the devolution era, but can we be certain that the gains of devolution will be secure if Scotland says no? Will the Scottish Parliament get more powers and—most importantly—if Scotland says no to independence, will the Scottish people be more prosperous? People have had 300 years to think about these issues, but nobody will give us answers. Those against independence have to come up with a case for Scotland to remain in the Union, but we have not heard it yet. Some of today’s contributions have been a little more positive, but we must hear a lot more about what people want to achieve.
Those of us in favour of Scottish independence will, of course, be positive and put the case for it. I love my country and I want it to be all that it can. I want it to walk tall and for Scotland to have the national self-respect and dignity to make its own place in the world, take its own decisions, and ensure that the Scottish people are responsible for their own failures. We are a dynamic, inventive and resourceful people. Of course we will make a success of independence, and I am glad we no longer hear comments of “Too wee, too poor, too stupid.” Of course Scotland will be a success when it gets its independence; of course we will be great.
I am depressed about the fact that Scotland is tethered to a failing UK state which is almost relaxed about its own failure. Scotland deserves better. I do not want the welfare reforms or years and years of austerity. I do not want illegal wars or nuclear weapons just outside. I want my country to make its own decisions about its future. An independent Scotland will be better because those who care most about it will make the decisions, not the Westminster Tories. The Scottish people will run Scotland and be responsible for their own decisions. It will be better because we care more about our nation than the Westminster Tories. That is why we run our devolved institutions better—we care about them and ensure we look after them.
After Scotland becomes independent, we will continue to have fantastic cultural relationships and ties with the rest of the United Kingdom. That is important to us and has shaped who we are as the Scottish people. We have heard about the 305 years in which we have served together, the wonderful institutions we have built up, and our great ties and associations. Those things will go absolutely nowhere. The social union is important to us as independent Scottish people and we will enjoy and build on it. It will be better because we will come together in a sense of equality and mutual respect. We will build new British arrangements and relationships and they will be better because Scotland will be an independent nation. The political union has failed Scotland. We no longer want to be tethered to a failing UK state. We can be better. We can walk tall in the world and make decisions on our own. Scotland as an independent nation will be welcomed as a full, peace-loving nation in the world community. I look forward to that day. The social union lives on; the political union is dying and it will be finished off in 2014.
I am almost tempted to wish that there was no time limit, because the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) was making the case stronger than anyone on either side of the House could have done. He clearly forgot his “Yes Scotland” positivity pills this morning, as it took nine minutes before we heard any positive case for Scotland’s becoming an independent country.
We need to change the language of this debate, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) and my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) who have pushed this debate and provided us with an opportunity to do so today. We need a positive, engaging debate about what is in the best interests of Scotland and the UK’s future, not the language of whether Scotland is too small or too wee to be a successful country—incidentally, only SNP Members say that; no Labour Members have ever used such language. The question that I would throw back to the nationalists is this. I believe that the people of Scotland are creative, talented and innovative enough to be successful in the United Kingdom—why don’t they?
The referendum is not about whether Scotland can or cannot manage on its own. Of course Scotland could be a successful, independent country, and it insults the intelligence of the Scottish people to suggest that it could not. The choice is not about whether Scotland can be successful but about whether it would be a fairer and more prosperous country with more opportunities if it works in partnership with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Labour Members believe that it will be, and we will be making that positive case in the referendum.
I am not modest about Scotland’s ambitions. I genuinely believe that Scotland stands taller and shouts louder when it works in partnership with other areas of the UK, representing ourselves on the global stage. Yes, the Union has a proud history—300 years of shared history, security and prosperity. It has enjoyed success, as hon. Members have heard many times before. A Scot created the Bank of England, a Welshman our NHS and an Englishman our welfare state—but this is not about history; it is about Scotland’s future.
Scotland deserves an open, engaging debate, not only on its constitutional settlement, but, more importantly, on what kind of Scotland we want to live in and want our children to live in. What will Scotland look like in 20 years’ time? Will it be able to compete with other parts of the UK and in the world?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that inequality in Scotland increased over the term of the previous Labour Government. Does he believe Scotland will fulfil its potential as an equal and fair society as part of the Union?
It is untrue to say that health inequalities widened under the Labour Government, but it is factually correct to say that inequalities are increasing in Scotland under the watch of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government. Health inequalities are increasing and educational opportunities are decreasing. People from working class backgrounds in Scotland are less likely to go to college or university than people from working class backgrounds in England and Wales. That is happening on the watch of the Scottish National party, not of the Tories or Labour, so will the hon. Lady please not lecture Labour Members on our record? She should focus more on her party’s record in government.
What Scotland do we want to create for future generations? We want it to be a successful country in which to bring up our children, but what role do we want Scotland to play in the world? I want Scotland not to isolate itself, but to engage with its partners in the UK to take on the big challenges of global poverty, to fight climate change, and to fight for justice and fairness in the world. What differentiates Labour Members and SNP Members? Labour Members did not come into politics because we wanted to fight poverty only in our constituencies or our country. We want to fight poverty and create opportunity not only in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but in Manchester, Birmingham and around the world. I do not believe we will do that by creating a border between Scotland and England. There is a vote on a UN resolution today on enhanced status for the Palestinian people, which will hopefully work towards a positive resolution by which we have an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. I came into politics to fight for an independent Palestinian state and for self-determination for the people of Kashmir, not to break up my own country. I want to fight injustice in other parts of the world.
One big point is that we can make the positive case for Scotland economically, emotionally, socially and politically. The most successful aid agency in the world is headquartered in Scotland. It employs hundreds of people, has a budget of £7 billion, helps to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year, and lifts hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty every year, which demonstrates the collective strength of Scotland working in partnership. We are a key member of the UN Security Council not for power or prestige, but to fight tyranny and oppression around the world. I want Scotland to have its full voice in that process. We are a leading economy and country in the G8. A Scottish leader as Prime Minister worked with the G8 to stop a global recession becoming a global depression. Those are positive arguments for Scotland remaining part of the UK, not the negative arguments we get from the SNP.
On the quality of the debate, we will have heated debates and the usual Scottish politics spats between Labour and the SNP and others between now and the referendum—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire wants to make an intervention, I am more than happy to take it. We are divided politically, but we do not want our country to be divided in the process. Whatever happens in the referendum and whatever decision Scotland makes, we must ensure that we come together in the best interests of Scotland and ensure that we fight and create a fairer, more equal country.
I apologise for not being in the Chamber at the start of the debate; I was in a Bill Committee.
My hon. Friend mentions the quality of the debate. Will that not be enhanced if the First Minister is straight with the Scottish people and if his arguments stay on the same track? The arc of prosperity used to mean Ireland and Iceland, but now it has moved on to the Scandinavian countries. Until we have a consistent and honest debate, we will not have a fair playing field.
I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. When the Minister systematically destroyed the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire on Britishness, he reminded me that, throughout the SNP’s existence, it has claimed it wants independence because England has never treated Scotland fairly, and because Scotland has never had a fair deal within the UK, but SNP Members imagine that everyone will treat Scotland fairly and work together to create a better country when it separates from the UK. That just does not stack up.
SNP Members make assertions on NATO and EU membership. The hon. Gentleman said today that the biggest threat to Scotland remaining part of the EU was from the UK, but he cannot guarantee that Scotland will remain a member of the EU if it chooses independence. We need facts rather than assertion. SNP Members say that Scotland will keep the pound and automatically have a seat on the Monetary Policy Committee; that the BBC will break up and Scotland will have better quality programmes; and that our credit rating and Royal Mail services will remain the same. They are assertions—not one of them is based on fact. The people of Scotland deserve better. Throughout the SNP’s existence, the answer to any question has always been “independence”, but now that the question is independence, it does not have the answers for the people of Scotland.
Scotland deserves a transparent and open debate. It deserves to know what Scotland will look like if it chooses independence. It deserves better than a First Minister and a Scottish Government simply asserting that independence will be whatever people want it to be. That is not good enough. The SNP cannot say to one audience that Scotland will have the Monaco taxes, but then say to another audience that we will have Scandinavian public services. It cannot say that Scotland will have none of the horrible welfare changes and reforms, but that it will have similar corporation taxes to Ireland. That does not add up and is not credible, and disrespects the people of Scotland.
The hon. Gentleman is making his points as he always does, but does he not accept that it is up to the people of Scotland whom they vote into power after independence, and that it is up to them to decide how the shape of the new Scotland develops? Surely he accepts that the people will decide that in the first election after we win independence in 2014.
The people of Scotland have an opportunity, through strengthened devolution, to have more of a say in decisions on their lives made in the Scottish Parliament and in local government, which has taken a hammering under the current Scottish Government. They can recognise that although there is nowhere better than Scotland, there is somewhere bigger, and that is working in partnership with the UK and global agencies to take on the challenges.
SNP Members are probably more concerned about what happens the day after Scotland votes resoundingly no and rejects their vision of independence. The SNP is two different factions glued together on one track. When they divide, it will be interesting to see how they cope.
We are having a heated debate today and we will have a heated debate in the next two years.
I feel very sorry for the hon. Gentleman, because we heard in the Europe debate last week the pre-published “speech they feared”. I promise him that the people of Scotland and the Labour party do not fear the SNP or Alex Salmond. We do not fear an open and honest debate on the future of Scotland, or fear challenges to our record. We do not fear debating the future of our country. The SNP should come forward with that open and transparent debate. Let us, for Scotland, keep ourselves in the Union.
I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate and I congratulate the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) and the co-sponsors on securing it. I will be pleased to go through the Lobby in support of the motion with parties from all parts of the House. We need to send a strong message that, in all parts of the United Kingdom, we believe that we are better together, and that this is not just a question of us believing that Scotland is better in the United Kingdom, but that people in other parts of the United Kingdom want Scotland to be part of the United Kingdom. I take part in the debate in that spirit, conscious that ultimately it is for the people of Scotland to decide how they vote in the referendum.
Hon. Members will know that the ties between people in Northern Ireland and in Scotland are very close. There is strong and growing interest in and support for Ulster Scots culture and heritage in the Province. Many people in Northern Ireland can trace their lineage and family history to Scottish antecedents—indeed, I would say that my name is more common in Scotland than it is in Northern Ireland. When I see those coaches coming over on the ferry with the Dodds name on it, I often say to my party colleagues that I wish we could hire some of them at election time and have them traverse north Belfast, but I have not been able to persuade them to do so.
Of course, I stand here as a member of a party that has “Unionist” as part of its title. Our party was formed at a critical time in the history of Northern Ireland, when the Union was clearly under threat. The years that followed were difficult: tragically, there was much violence and bloodshed; many people were injured, lives were lost and many still live with physical and mental scars. Thankfully, that period of violence is largely behind us, and although there are still some who would try to drag us backwards, they are small in number and it is clear that those who tried to destroy the Union by terrorism did not succeed.
Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom as a whole, is a much better and different place today. Gone is the uncertainty about our future and our place in the UK. Indeed, right hon. and hon. Members will know, or be interested to learn if they are not aware of it, that support for the Union is at an all-time high, and is actually growing. A recent survey showed that a majority of people who traditionally would have described themselves as nationalist would, if there was a vote today, vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. There are many reasons why there is growing support for the Union, not least the fact that the violence has diminished and that under the current devolution settlement people feel that everybody has a say. To a large extent, people are in control of many areas of policy. They see parties and politicians who, while they have their differences—strong differences, which are sometimes illustrated in debates in this House—are working together for the betterment of all the people of Northern Ireland on the economic and social issues of the day. It is therefore important that we continue to strengthen, maintain and improve devolution where we can in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It is dynamic and evolving, and we need to move it forward in that way.
I wonder what role the economic storm that hit Ireland at the end of the last decade and the recognition of the benefits of being part of a larger union have played in increasing support for the Union.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and I was just going to come on to that. While there is the case for devolution and people having a role in deciding issues in Northern Ireland, there is no doubt that the people who would at one time have looked to the Celtic tiger and envied what was happening in the south have had a rude awakening about economic realities and the situation in the United Kingdom and other countries in the EU. It is clear that the massive economic boom in the Republic was built on a number of factors, not least a property boom that crashed dramatically. I have heard it said many times by people who traditionally look to the Irish Republic as their future, “Where would we be today if we’d been part of the eurozone? Where would we be today if we had been part of a country like the Irish Republic, instead of having our fortunes tied in with a bigger country like the United Kingdom?” That has been an important factor.
Who would have believed 20 years ago that we would be talking about the danger to the Union coming from Scotland, rather than from Northern Ireland? I heard the leader of Sinn Fein say that he was going to campaign for a referendum in Northern Ireland. There is absolutely no support for that. Of course, we do not fear a referendum in Northern Ireland. We know that people would vote overwhelmingly to retain Northern Ireland’s membership of the United Kingdom. We are not opposed to it for any reason of concern about the outcome; however, under the provisions of the legislation, once Northern Ireland has a referendum, it has to happen every seven years, and we believe that that would be extremely destabilising and unnecessary. When I hear Gerry Adams talk about the need for a referendum, it is a long way from his cry that there would be a united Ireland by 2016.
Thankfully, the debate on the future of Scotland in the Union has never been tainted or stained in any way by violence and terrorism. The debate is being conducted in a peaceful and democratic way, and it will be decided through the ballot box. As I said, we respect the right of the Scottish people to decide their future. Of course, it is right and appropriate that people from other parts of the United Kingdom should have their say as well. We believe that we are better off together. That is an excellent campaign description—it is positive and people are responding to it. It is not being stated in an arrogant or aggressive way. Instead, people are saying, “We want you in Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.”
The right hon. Gentleman mentions the Better Together campaign and I think I heard that the Irish Republic’s Agriculture Minister was at his recent party conference. Does he extend the Better Together ethos to the Republic’s Agriculture Minister, and would he like to be in one state with him?
I think the hon. Gentleman knows me and my party well enough by now to know the answer to the question of whether we think we would be better off in the Irish Republic. We had a very successful party conference this year. The shadow Secretary of State spoke at our conference dinner, and the Secretary of State spoke to conference on the Saturday. I was delighted to hear her declare in unequivocal terms that she would never be neutral on the Union. Of course, we also had the representative from the Irish Republic. We welcome visitors from other states, and we have visitors from outside the United Kingdom—of course we do. The reason the Agriculture Minister was there, appropriately, is that the Irish Republic is to take over the presidency of the EU, and the reform of the common agricultural policy is extremely important for Northern Ireland farmers. It is important to hear from that Minister and to lobby him directly, particularly at this time, on those important issues. The response to that in Northern Ireland was positive.
We will continue to build good relations with our friends in the Irish Republic, but we make it very clear to them that we do not wish to join it. We can have good neighbourly relations and, increasingly I think, those in the Irish Republic recognise that they have enough problems of their own without taking on any more in Northern Ireland. They are content to stick with the status quo, and they have declared clearly that until people in Northern Ireland vote otherwise, they will respect totally the principle of consent.
Time is going on and others have articulated the why Scotland would be worse off if it left the Union. I agree with what has been said. Not only would Scotland be worse off, but the United Kingdom as a whole would suffer from Scotland’s absence. A fragmented United Kingdom would not be as strong as we are together. Without Scotland, we would be a smaller nation in every sense, not just in population, economy and geography, and that is something that we do not wish to see.
No, I will not give way any more. I have given way twice already and time is limited. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make his own speech.
This is a question not just of economics, but of our standing in the world. Our nation would be diminished if Scotland left, and with that would come a loss of influence and power. There are deep and lasting social and historical bonds that bind us all together in the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. The military links and the history of the regiments of the British Army have already been explored. It is the British Army—it is not made up of the nations of the United Kingdom. The UK did not evolve spontaneously; it came about as a result of our shared experiences and history, and of our bonds of language, culture and so on. Furthermore, of course, the union of the monarchy has been around for longer even than the political Union.
Those are the bonds that have brought and tied us together as four countries, and they have grown, deepened and developed over time, with enormous consequences for ourselves and the rest of the world. Each of our countries—Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England —and their people have all played their part in the development and prosperity of the UK, and those bonds continue. The contribution of the Scottish people and Scottish business remains vital, and the Union remains of benefit to both Scotland and the UK as a whole.
I hope that the debate on the referendum will be conducted in a constructive spirit. I am glad that there will not be the negativity—the descent into violence and so on—seen so often in Northern Ireland. I believe strongly, however, that it is important that other members of the United Kingdom and people from all parts of the United Kingdom—whether London and the south-east, Northern Ireland, Wales, or the north of England—say, with respect, while acknowledging that it is a decision for the Scottish people, “We want you to be part of the UK. We value your membership, and we feel we would be poorer without you in the United Kingdom.”
On one point, I think all sides of the House can agree: that in the debate so far, we have made it clear that it is right that the people of Scotland determine their own destiny. Later, if I have time, I will refer to the position on 16 to 18-year-olds, but first I will make a few personal comments.
My own political motivation has been the need for action where and for whom it is most needed, whether in my constituency or in one of the poorest countries in the world. Representing my constituency is my No. 1 priority, as it is for other right hon. and hon. Members, but throughout my time in the House I have worked alongside organisations committed to helping people with disabilities and assisting people from the most impoverished countries in the world—nothing inward-looking, nothing introspective. I managed to get two Acts of Parliament on the statute book covering both the subjects I have mentioned, and I believe that both Acts were to the advantage of the whole of the UK.
Those twin factors are at the heart of my activity, and will continue to be so. In other words, lines on maps do not excite me at all. I do not judge people or their plight by where they live. Many people have no choice in where or how they are born and are not tempted by the ideological Disneyland of the Scottish National party. I abhor the jingoistic mentality that peddles the myth of a Scottish solution for this, or an English solution for that. Time and again in the House, we have seen that the best solutions are those that are in the interest of the whole of the UK.
I do not accept the politics of parochial arrogance, but I worry that Scotland is moving towards that, with the police becoming one authority, likewise the fire services, and the statement from a member of the Scottish Government this week about reducing the already rather small number of Scottish local authorities. I much prefer to take a more international perspective on these matters, and I am much more inclined to the view expressed by former President Bill Clinton:
“The world has become completely interdependent, but we can’t make up our minds what that interdependence is going to look like. Interdependence simply means you can’t get a divorce”.
Time does not allow me to develop the theme, but I think it is fundamentally true.
In 2010, the British people spoke and, like it or not, we have in place a coalition Government. Upon their election, the coalition Government narrative was that the economic mess was all Labour’s fault. It has to be said that that line was successful for a short period, but with the passage of time and increased borrowing, to an extent we have hardly ever known, no one now believes it to be true. Economies throughout Europe are on their knees, and our constituents can see on their television screens public demonstrations in countries where Governments are implementing severe austerity measures. The question is not how many countries are struggling financially; it might be easier to name countries that are not.
Why then am I against Scotland seeking a divorce from the United Kingdom? I am against it mainly for economic reasons, but there are other reasons that, if time allows, I will explain. One third of newly created manufacturing jobs in the UK have been created in Scotland recently. UK firms employ one in five Scottish workers. Scottish exports to countries outside the UK had a value of £22 billion. Scottish exports to England, Wales and Northern Ireland totalled £44.9 billion. The Scottish banking sector was saved by the UK and the decisions of the former Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling).
Leaving one economic union of 63 million to join one of 330 million and expecting an equivalent say in monetary policy is an absurd notion, while a race to the bottom with Ireland when it comes to corporation tax rates does not fill me with optimism—quite the reverse. Likewise, relying on oil when we have experienced 12 consecutive years of decline in the amount of gas and oil extracted from the North sea is not wise. It is a dwindling resource, not a foundation for the future.
My right hon. Friend is making an exceptional and passionate case for economic co-operation within the United Kingdom. Does he share my concern that, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, by 2040 we will see an elevenfold decline in oil and gas revenues? Does that not demonstrate why, if we are to diversify the economy, we should do it from a position of strength within the UK?
That is an excellent point, and I am delighted that my hon. Friend makes it.
Last weekend, I was in a town centre of my constituency talking to my constituents and listening to their views, mainly on independence. I am bound to say that my experience was clear and unequivocal: there is no appetite in Scotland for a referendum, and people are curious to know why, if we insist on having one, we have to wait until 2014. They are worried about issues of concern to this House: unemployment, food prices, energy prices, petrol prices and much more. People are struggling to cope financially, and for many a referendum is a complete and utter waste of time and money, but that is the reality we face, so let us have the debate. Economies all over the globe are struggling with the worldwide downturn, so let us not pretend it is happening only in the UK. Of course some people want independence, and they are entitled to that view—I respect it, but disagree profoundly with them. When I visit schools in my constituency, I find that some pupils want independence, but the vast majority do not want to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I cannot remember anyone saying that. I remember what I would describe as a great surge among my constituents against independence and them telling me to get down here and fight what they are opposed to: separatism.
Still talking about young people, I recently visited Cardinal Newman school in Bellshill—an important part of Scotland, represented by my hon. Friend and I —and spoke to a modern studies class. At the end, I asked about a subject that we did not touch on in our earlier discussion. I asked, “How many people here would reduce the voting age to 16 for the referendum?” Eight voted for, 22 voted against. I hope that the independent Electoral Commission will decide such matters, not those who have abused powers whenever they have had the opportunity.
I recently visited a secondary school in my constituency. Quite a few pupils in the fourth and fifth years said it seemed crazy to them that in November they could not buy a packet of sparklers, but that they might be allowed to vote on the future of the country.
That is an interesting point and I am glad my hon. Friend has made it.
I am no different from the constituents I have described. In the last Parliament—my hon. Friends will not be surprised that I am raising this issue—I worked with my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls), now the shadow Chancellor. Our joint activity produced £340 million to help children with disabilities throughout the United Kingdom. Scotland’s share was £34 million, but none of the money was ever seen by children with disabilities. Sadly, children with disabilities did not receive one penny of the cash. It became known as the missing millions. Obfuscation was the response from the First Minster to questions posed by Wendy Alexander and Johann Lamont. The First Minster was given every opportunity to come clean on what had happened to the money. I wrote to him and asked for a meeting. He replied that he was too busy and his diary too full, but he passed my office on at least six occasions on his way to and from a neighbouring by-election, and I passed him on the stairs when he was down here voting against the Labour Government.
That was a shocking and disgraceful decision by a Scottish Government led by Mr Salmond. Indeed, that high-handed imperious attitude cast a doubt in my mind about whether the First Minister could ever be trusted as the leader of a country. In the last few years the SNP has attempted to define Scottish patriotism to the outside world—a patriotism that in their hands is simple to the point of being simple minded, self-loving to the point of being self-deceiving, and nostalgic to the point of being destructively naive. I have greater faith that the people of Scotland have a great sense of what is right and what is wrong, and will vote accordingly when the time comes.
Order. In order to try to accommodate everyone who wants to take part in this debate, I am changing the time limit to seven minutes. Depending on how long each speaker takes, it might be necessary to revise it again downwards before the end of the debate.
Our debates on Scottish issues are often tribal, so I was not surprised by the comments of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) or the degree of fundamentalism he showed in his speech, although I was surprised at his arrogance and his assumption that after an independence referendum the Scottish people would enter some sort of nirvana. That is not quite consistent with our history at any time I can recall.
The way the hon. Gentleman approached the whole issue underlines one of the major problems with this debate: the lack of fact. If we look ahead at what sort of country an independent Scotland might be—and we need to, because that is one of the things that anyone taking the referendum seriously would want to know—we can see what the various sides of the argument are presenting us with. What the Scottish Government are presenting us with at the moment is: “We’ll keep the monarch”, “We’ll keep the pound sterling”—perhaps—“and the Bank of England as our central bank”, and “We’ll remain part of the EU,” although that is still an open question. I was quite taken by what Mr Barroso—in effect, the chief executive of the European Union, who should know a thing or two about these things—said about an independent Scotland having to reapply. Mr Salmond leapt to his feet and said, “No we won’t. I know better.” That is basically the way all this has proceeded.
We are not being presented with facts; as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) said, they are assertions. I would be a wee bit kinder than that: they might be aspirations, but they are more likely the product of politicians who want to remove difficult issues from the agenda before the referendum. We would see a very different Scotland afterwards if it were outside the EU, forced to create its own central bank and introduce a new currency. I mention the currency because the only other similar experience that I am aware of is when the Czech Republic and Slovakia split. I think it was the Czech Prime Minister who said that they had agreed to keep the same currency, but within a matter of weeks that decision was changed and a new currency had to be created. I cannot see a Scotland in the same situation being any different, even if I believed that that was the intention. However, what we know so far—about the monarch, the pound sterling, the Bank of England as the reserve bank and being part of the EU—does not sound very much like independence to me.
The hon. Gentleman has intervened many times and thereby had more than 10 minutes already. I would rather make my own contribution to the debate.
It is important that we have facts. One area where that is most important is the economy of an independent Scotland. It is quite clear from all their forecasts that the current Scottish Government would rely heavily on North sea oil revenues. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) has already made the point from the Front Bench, but I want to give a bit more detail, because it is extremely important that accurate facts are readily available. The first point to consider about the oil and gas industry is just how volatile these commodities are. Prices can rise or fall very quickly. I am old enough to remember in the 1980s when the oil price went from $32 a barrel to $8 a barrel virtually overnight. We lost more than 50,000 jobs in the north-east of Scotland when that happened. An independent country would have found it difficult to survive that event. Unless we are talking about a prosperous middle eastern country with no resources other than oil, it is very dangerous to rely on oil and gas for the economy.
We have to look at the research. The most accurate and trusted UK commentator on the oil and gas industry is Professor Alec Kemp of Aberdeen university. For decades, he and his colleague Linda Stephen have studied the UK oil and gas industry, and their regular reports are respected and accepted throughout the industry. The most recent report looks at the prospects for activity on the UK continental shelf following the recent oil tax changes. The report is very detailed and considers the prospects for oil and gas production in the next 30 years in the UK sector. In the last two years production has declined, partly because of the tax changes in the 2010 Budget, but also as a result of the large increase in unplanned shutdowns. That has had an almost immediate effect on the amount of revenue coming into the Exchequer. Also, the North sea infrastructure is very old, and there has been a large number of unplanned shutdowns.
The report details scenarios in which the oil price is $70 a barrel, and the gas price 40p a therm. The potential number of fields in production in 2042— 30 years from now—will fall from 300 to about 60. In that same scenario, oil and gas equivalent production would fall from today’s level of about 1.8 million to 584,000 barrels a day. That is at a price of $70 dollars a barrel and 40p a therm. At a price of $90 dollars and 55p, production would fall from 1.8 million barrels of oil equivalent a day to 520,000. Most of the money and energy would go into decommissioning the North sea platforms that were being rendered redundant, and I do not think it appropriate for a new country to build its economy around the destruction of its most productive industry. We need to see many more such facts on the table before anyone can make a serious decision about what is best for our country.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran). The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) talked about how, come independence, the Scots would be able to walk tall. I have been to Perth, and I have not noticed anyone walking with their head bowed of late. I know plenty of Scots who walk tall. Scotland walks tall; it is only little-minded people who do not.
“Scotland and the Union” is the title of our debate today. There would be no Union without Scotland. Scotland and England came together to form the Union under the two Crowns more than 300 years ago, and we have moved on since then. Who would have thought that, 300 years on, we would be having a debate and a referendum on how we might split ourselves up after all this time? The Scots have defended the Union with their lives and with their labour for centuries. We have led battles on the battlefield, and we have led in science and technology. The Scots not only pull their weight; they over-pull their weight. As a nation, we walk tall and we hold our heads high. Scots are known throughout the world for that. There are probably more Scots outside Scotland than in it, and as we get further away from home, we often get more nationalistic, with a small n.
I have great concerns about the way in which Scotland is being governed at the moment. It has a majority Government, but there is no scrutiny of any of the Bills that the Government pass or of any of the work they do. They have a committee system that is very similar to our own Select Committee system. In our system, when a Member joins a Select Committee, they do so not as a member of a party. Their job is to scrutinise the Government or the people who are running the industry of our country. We do not do that with any party bias. In Scotland, however, there is no scrutiny. The Committees are being run with a party bias. Whatever happens, the Scottish National party is right and everyone else is wrong. Any amendments that are tabled to a Bill are automatically shouted down.
The bullying by the Scottish Government that seems to be going on is an absolute disgrace. People are being threatened, and companies are told that if they do not do as they are told, they will not get contracts. That is no way to run a country. It is certainly no way to run an independent country. I have great fears about that, and we should look seriously at how the scrutiny of Government Bills is carried out in Scotland.
It will be no surprise to anyone that I also want to mention shipbuilding. Shipbuilding on the Clyde has sustained Scotland for centuries. When the tobacco trade first started up, the development of shipbuilding on the Clyde created employment and made Glasgow the second biggest city in the empire. That would never have happened if we had not been part of the British empire and of Great Britain. We led then, and I believe that, in many ways, we lead now. The Type 45 destroyer is the best ship of its kind anywhere in the world. It is envied by the Americans, by the Russians and by anyone who has any idea of what a destroyer should look like. It is a cut above everything else.
We would not have those ships without the decision by the British Government to build them. If the last Labour Government had not secured the procurement of those ships, the Clyde would now be closed. I have absolutely no doubt that, under independence, the Clyde would close almost the next day, and that 3,500 jobs would be lost—
Not this side of hell freezing over!
The Scottish Government want to sell thousands of jobs, and there would be no more ships on the Clyde. I am a Glaswegian. I am Scottish, but I am probably a Glaswegian before anything else. I am also British and proud of it. I want people to vote in the referendum. I want us to get through it so that Scotland can get back to where it should be. When we have voted down the proposal for independence, we need to give serious consideration to how the governing is being done in the Scottish Parliament. I believe that the threatening and bullying, and the lack of scrutiny of Bills, needs to be looked at seriously. Those are the most important things.
In the short time I have left, I also want to mention the cost of separation. There would be a cost not only to Scotland but to the United Kingdom. I have tabled a parliamentary question to various Departments to ask how much it would cost simply to re-badge everything from the day of independence. How many millions of pounds would it cost not only the people of Scotland but the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? How much would every single taxpayer have to pay? And there would be further costs when jobs were lost as the companies that are threatening to move out did so. Just this week, BAE Systems was threatening to do that. Scotland is better together with the United Kingdom, and I have no doubt that we will remain one of the leading countries of the world.
It is a great privilege to contribute to the debate after so many fine contributions from right hon. and hon. Members. I echo the sentiments of those on both sides of the House who have said that they are intensely proud to be Scottish or to have Scottish ancestry, but also to be British and to be citizens of the United Kingdom. I, too, fervently hold those joint allegiances. I would also say to the Scottish National party that it does not have a monopoly on care, passion and wisdom when it comes to the future of Scotland, and I do not believe its assertions about the land of milk and honey that it plans to create.
No, I am sorry; I want to make progress.
Like most in this Chamber, I am ambitious for Scotland and for the United Kingdom. I agree that, with a strong Scottish Parliament within the UK, we have the best of both worlds. I have always believed that there is a better choice for the future than divorce, secession and separation. I want to illustrate that through an aspect of Scottish life that is dear to our hearts—namely, sporting activity.
As an avid football fan, I have supported the Scottish team for many years, although I do not go back 140 years to the 0-0 draw. I would like to remind the House, however, of the 3-2 victory at Wembley in 1967. Just after England’s famous victory in the World cup, we beat them and, as a result, claimed our share of the Jules Rimet trophy. I have also suffered the trials and tribulations of a 5-1 defeat at Wembley, and vividly remember on the way back home the sign on the back of the bus on the M6 saying, “You couldnae make it 6”!
In football and rugby, we have a strong tradition of Scottish teams representing us on the world stage. Times are tough, and I dearly wish that our football and rugby performances were better at the present time, but we support our teams passionately through thick and thin. However, is it not ironic that many of the players exhibiting such passion for their national team, who live outwith Scotland but give their all for their chosen country, will not be able to vote in the forthcoming referendum. They are good enough to play for their chosen country, but are not allowed to vote on Scotland’s future. That applies to many people who support Scotland vigorously, too.
While in some sports we have full decision-making powers to select our own national teams on the world scene in football and rugby, in others we have Scottish representatives who make selections for UK teams. Nowhere was that more visible than the recent UK-held Olympics, and indeed the Paralympics, where we pooled our human resources and facilities to produce the best UK performance ever, with 55 out of 542 participants from Scotland taking part in 21 out of the 26 Olympic sports.
Did we not do well together and did not the Scots make an outstanding contribution to that success? There were individual golds for Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray, and an individual silver to Michael Jamieson— three individual highlights in a glittering array of success stories. Overall, team UK collectively won 65 individual awards at gold, silver and bronze. The sum total of medals for Scotland, however, was not three, but 14, as Scots teamed up with colleagues across the UK to achieve outstanding results, taking on the best that the world could offer—and winning!
What more apposite illustration could we have to sum up Better Together? Without the combined resources across the UK, 11 Scots would not have won these coveted Olympic medals. Scots were integral parts of team UK, and there was a collective passion and team spirit to work together, sharing training and coaching as well as facilities to produce the best Olympic results ever.
Some of our SNP colleagues have jumped on the bandwagon of UK success. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), where I was brought up, proudly stated:
“Britishness is one of our many identities and one that will be forever cherished in an independent Scotland.”
Yet the same hon. Gentleman has been recorded as saying:
“I do not even know what Britishness is”.—[Official Report, 12 November 2008; Vol. 482, c. 307WH.]
Well, we do, and the Scots know of the many benefits that accrue from being British. This has been well illustrated so far in this debate across all aspects of British life. I am confident that on referendum day, the Scots will continue to see that things are best when we pull together and work with our neighbours, so we can spread the risks and share the rewards. I believe that Scots will see, as in our sports development, that we can still have the best of both worlds—teams representing Scotland, but participation in UK teams, too.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not acceptable that our heroes from Scotland and Team GB, who had to train throughout the UK because we did not have the facilities and support ready in Scotland, not only cannot live in Scotland, but will not have a vote in this important referendum in 2014?
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) and my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) on managing to secure the debate.
The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) often paints a bleak picture of my homeland in this place. It took him nine minutes to get to that point today, but I simply do not recognise what he is talking about when he speaks of a downtrodden nation seeking freedom. As a shadow Defence Minister, let me concentrate on defence and the defence of the nation as a whole.
We are right in saying that Scots are rightly proud of our brave servicemen and women and the work they do across the world to keep us all safe. The British armed forces are the best and bravest in the world, and Scotland and the Scottish people are an integral part of that.
The decision facing all Scots in the 2014 referendum is, in fact, a stark one: to continue to be part of the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force and benefit from that safety and security, or to leave these services and go out on our own. After all we have been through together as a nation, why would we now want to go our separate ways and break away from the British armed forces?
As well as the pride we feel in our armed forces and services, there are huge economic and employment benefits that Scotland’s leaving the UK would put at significant risk. There are 18,000 people employed in Scotland as either service personnel or Ministry of Defence civilian staff, with thousands more employed in the private sector as contractors and partners throughout Scotland.
I am not giving way.
Scotland’s largest work place is Her Majesty’s naval base on the Clyde, employing 6,500 people, and there is a work force 4,500 strong at the shipyards in Glasgow and Rosyth. Our shipbuilding industry and the jobs Scots have had in these yards for generations rely on the MOD for work. Scotland has a world-class defence industry and it is best protected by Scotland remaining in the UK. A separate Scotland would not be able to take advantage of UK contracts. About 40% of those UK defence contracts are non-competitively tendered within the UK; this means that they could not be extended to an independent Scotland. There would be no incentive for the remaining parts of the UK to outsource defence contracts to Scotland. For example, the Type 26 global combat ship is due to go into construction the year after the referendum, and the MOD has made it absolutely clear—a Defence Minister has said it twice here—that this contract will be open only to UK-based companies. We benefit from an MOD budget of £35 billion a year—the fourth largest in the world. The SNP has stated that an independent Scottish Government would commit to an annual defence budget of around £2.5 billion. This means that if a separate Scotland became part of NATO, it would have one of the lowest defence spends of any NATO country, at exactly the same time as our country would face massive transitional and new set-up costs.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers, research director of the Royal United Services Institute, has said that the size of the Scottish defence procurement budget would be “pretty limited”, and he warns that much of Scotland’s defence industry would migrate southwards.
The defence of our nation is of paramount importance, and it is hard to comprehend why the SNP, a political party predicated on separating Scotland from the UK, cannot answer some of the most basic questions about what defence policy in an independent Scotland would look like. [Interruption.] If there had been enough time and we did not have two votes ahead of us, perhaps SNP Members could have assisted us today by painting a picture of what the military might of a separate Scotland would look like. For the Army, how many regulars would there be, and how many reservists? Keeping in mind the fact that Scotland is surrounded by water on three sides, are we correct in assuming that Scotland would have a navy, and what would its strength be? Could we afford an air force? Would our military be in place to defend our borders, or would we be an expeditionary force?
I am not giving way, because I am coming to my conclusion before we hear the winding-up speeches.
There is a positive case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. No one doubts that our country is capable of being independent, but why should we want to lose all those advantages? At a time of immense and fast-evolving challenges throughout the world, with a plethora of security threats on the horizon, why on earth should we want to devote time and money to dividing our resources north and south of the border? We should be working together, throughout Britain, to remain vigilant against the constant threat of terrorism, combat the growing risk of cyber-crime, and prepare for the long-term security risks posed by climate change. Focusing on the defence of our nation, rather than plunging our country into uncertainty by splitting from the rest of the UK, is in Scotland’s national interest.
Like so many other issues, defence highlights the strength of a Britain that works in co-operation. We are stronger, safer, and better together.
Let me begin by paying tribute to the members of the Backbench Business Committee, and thanking them for enabling us to debate this important matter. We have had an excellent debate. I particularly appreciated the speech of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing), which demonstrated the warmth that Scots encounter throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, and the powerful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice), who advanced clear economic arguments to demonstrate why Scotland works well when partnered with other nations in the UK.
On the eve of St Andrew’s day, it is important for us to bear in mind that the UK Parliament is Scotland’s Parliament too. We have an opportunity to recognise the best that we have in Scotland and celebrate it, to pay tribute to our public sector service workers, and to appreciate the industry and effort that make Scotland so great in the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and, of course, many other places.
We should also be pleased that Scotland is performing so significantly in the arts, in which I have a particular interest. As Vicky Featherstone leaves the great National Theatre of Scotland that she did so much to establish and goes to the Royal Court theatre, we mourn her loss and remember the contribution that she has made, but we are very proud that she is doing so well in England.
What has been said today has clearly demonstrated the national pride that so many of us have in the great country of Scotland, but it also makes an important point that I hope will be remembered as we continue the debate on the referendum, namely that pride and patriotism in Scotland do not belong to a single political party. The national flag and our other symbols belong to us all. They do not belong to one person, or to one party. I hope that just because some of us disagree with the idea of separation, we will not be attacked for being anti-Scottish, and that such remarks are a thing of the past.
Madam Deputy Presiding Officer—sorry, wrong Parliament! Many apologies, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am about to pay tribute to the work of the Scottish Parliament, which may be why I made that mistake.
Let me begin by paying tribute to the late Member of Parliament for Glasgow, Anniesland, Donald Dewar, the first of Scotland’s First Ministers, who, in his inaugural address to the Parliament, spoke of
“a new voice in the land”,
the voice of a democratic Parliament. Many of us were honoured to serve in that Parliament, which has proved to be very effective and strongly supported by the Scottish people.
However, my argument, and the argument of the Labour party, has been and always will be that we are a party of devolution and believe in the great strength of devolution, but we are not a party of separation. We did not undertake our long, hard fight for devolution because we were obsessed with one constitutional arrangement over another; it was born out of a desire to see our system of government work in a way that would enhance the lives of people in the communities that we served. We saw the areas of life in which a Scottish Parliament could achieve more, but we also understood that, in the tradition of trade unionists and social reformers, the needs of the people could sometimes be met by our working together. A strong Scotland benefits the whole United Kingdom: that is the central theme of today’s debate. We can achieve more together than we can apart.
The benefits of our remaining together are also demonstrated in the field of research in some of the world-class universities in Scotland. My own constituency contains universities that receive massive amounts of UK funding. That would clearly not be possible if we were separated. The academic sector provides another example of how well we can work together, and how much we would lose through separation.
I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. I shall say more about that subject later. I think that many of the institutions that we share would lose a great deal if they were broken up, and academics are now beginning to flag up that concern themselves.
The motion that we are discussing draws attention to the great contribution that Scotland has made to the development of the Union. We can be both proudly Scottish and British. As many Members have pointed out, that was demonstrated during the Olympic and Paralympic games in the summer. We saw clear evidence of a modern, multicultural Britain that forward-looking Scottish people can be part of and proud of. As a small island made up of distinctive nations, we can and should work together to ensure that opportunity is given to everyone.
The institutions we have built up throughout the UK bear testimony to the work that we have undertaken in these islands together. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar), the NHS was established by a Welshman, to the benefit of the whole UK. The welfare state was devised and implemented by an Englishman, to the benefit of the whole UK. The Labour party itself was established by a Scotsman working in an English, and then a Welsh, constituency, again—in my view—to the benefit of the whole UK.
There is another form of union that operates throughout Britain and has grown out of shared British experience: the trade union movement of the United Kingdom, which symbolises the act of working together to improve and enhance the rights of working people. On the eve of St Andrew’s day, we should acknowledge all the work of the trade unions in Scotland—along with their friends in Wales and England—to improve the conditions of working people throughout our countries. I would not want to put that at risk as we move towards separation.
Together, we created throughout Britain the institutions that were needed to meet the challenges of the time, from the trade unions to the welfare state to the Scottish Parliament and, indeed, the Welsh and Irish national Assemblies. Now we must again look to the challenges of the modern time, and look at the paths that lie before us. Do we continue with devolution, as a strong Scotland in partnership with the United Kingdom, or do we opt for separation—for pulling away from our allies? The threats posed by the latter option have been described in detail during the debate.
The debate about the future of Scotland is now well under way. If the past few months are anything to go by, it will certainly be a lively debate: the Scottish people will expect nothing less. As things stand, however, we face a raft of unanswered questions about the prospect of separation. I am told that Dundee university called its academic study of independence “Five Million Questions”. Let me focus on just one or two of those questions.
Before a decision is made on the future of Scotland, the Scots making that decision require more detail in the debate. What will separation mean for Scottish mortgages or Scottish interest rates? What will happen to our pensions, and what about our family tax credits? How can we avoid a race to the bottom when it comes to levels of tax, wages and financial support? Those are the real questions that will determine the outcome of the referendum, and which really concern citizens, families, trade unions and businesses. However, I have to say that the SNP has so far failed to confront and failed to answer them.
Scotland has a better future. We are only beginning to see the promise of devolution which Labour Members put into practice, and which we want to see continue and flourish in Scotland. Scotland can be a strong partner, working within a strong United Kingdom. That is the case that we will continue to argue—and make no mistake: if Scots vote for separation, it will be the end of devolution. We will make the case for Britain with passion and energy.
This debate has highlighted the great strength of Scotland and the great strength of the Union, and what has been achieved by that. We have heard the history of how we have shared the risks and rewards, the resources and the opportunities. We must continue to do so in the future. This is not just about the successes of the past; it is about our prospects for the future. A time of increasing interdependence in the world is not a time for narrow nationalism, but a time for us to work better together for a stronger Scotland and a stronger Union.
May I begin by passing my best wishes and those of the Secretary of State to the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie)? We wish him a speedy recovery. That is the only matter on which there is likely to be agreement with the SNP this afternoon.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) on securing the debate. She is a proud Scot, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart). I entirely repudiate the sentiment implicit in the comments of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), that somehow only supporters of the nationalist cause can care about Scotland, be proud of Scotland, or make the case for Scotland. That is absolutely not the case.
I never made any such claim; everybody here is a proud Scot, and I said no such thing. The SNP has managed to get just one 10-minute speech in a three-hour debate. We have heard one side of the case—[Interruption.] We should have more time. [Interruption.] Even now I am being shouted down. Surely in this debate the SNP should have got more time than we have been allowed today.
I am not an expert on procedure, but I understand this debate is being curtailed because the SNP is going to force two Divisions. That is simply a stunt, and those of us who are involved in Scottish politics are very familiar with the SNP preferring to pull stunts than talk about the issues of the day.
I particularly want to thank the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) for his excellent speech. It is heartening to hear Members from other parts of the United Kingdom state how much importance they place on Scotland remaining in the UK. As he said, the whole of the United Kingdom would be the poorer if Scotland left.
In 2014, people in Scotland will face their most important political decision in 300 years. A vote for independence in the referendum of that year is not just for Christmas 2014; it is for life. As the motion states:
“Scotland has always made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to the UK over the 305 years of the Union”.
The Government believe that Scotland is stronger within the United Kingdom, which Scotland helped to shape, as the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (John Robertson) said, but we also recognise that the biggest constitutional question of all needs to be settled once and for all. That is why Scotland’s two Governments worked together constructively to reach an agreement on the referendum process. Regardless of the result, that constructive relationship will of course continue as we move forward. That does not mean that in the unlikely event of a yes vote, the remaining UK would facilitate Scotland’s every wish, any more than an independent Scotland would unquestioningly facilitate the wishes of the remaining UK. Inevitably—although some have sought to deny it today—there would be two separate countries and therefore two sets of interests, sometimes mutual, sometimes at odds, as is currently the case with our closest international allies and as will always be the case between separate, sovereign states.
The SNP likes to talk about partnership and about neighbours working together. These days, it even likes to talk about us all being British, even though the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire told us previously he did not know what Britishness was and had never felt British in his life. You couldn’t make it up, but the SNP does. As the hon. Member for Glasgow North West highlighted, the SNP amendment even pretends that it can wrench Scotland out of the UK and nothing will have changed. Do not be fooled: working together is what the United Kingdom is all about, but the SNP wants to break it up. Partnership is what the United Kingdom is all about, but the SNP wants to rip it up. If Scotland votes for independence in 2014, it will leave the United Kingdom—leave all that we have achieved together over the past 300 years and all that we will continue to achieve by remaining together.
The credibility of the First Minister has been a central issue in this debate. What does the Minister make of Justice Leveson’s finding on the First Minister’s attempt to lobby on behalf of Sky and the possibility that that might have rendered the Government’s decision on the Sky issue unlawful?
I do not find that surprising. On several recent occasions the First Minister has been brought before the Scottish Parliament to explain things he has said that have been found to be untrue.
By putting together the various aspects of the debate—the economics, the international influence question, the fact that we Scots helped to make this United Kingdom —we get a compelling case for Scotland remaining in the UK, and many Members have made that case today. The UK Government are looking forward to making the positive case for Scotland within the United Kingdom. Today we have shown why twice as many Scots want to remain in the UK than support independence. They are people who know the difference between patriotism and nationalism; people who know, as the hon. Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) said, that the saltire is a symbol of our nation, not of nationalism; people who know that being Scottish and British is not a contradiction but is the best of both worlds, whereas the SNP wants to take our Britishness away from us; people who know that Scotland helps put the “Great” into Great Britain and make our Kingdom united—
Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the launch of the green investment bank in Edinburgh. It is supported by all parties, including the SNP, and it is a wonderful example of the UK working together. It is the UK green investment bank, and it is hard to see how it could have been headquartered in Edinburgh if Edinburgh had been in a separate state.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the positive benefits that flow to Scotland from remaining part of the UK, and about the positive benefits the UK gets from Scotland’s expertise in financial services, which was one of the key reasons that led to the green investment bank being headquartered in Edinburgh.
This has been a heated debate, as such debates always are, for the topic is very important to the people of Scotland and the people of the rest of the United Kingdom. I believe that people, including me, who know in their bones that we are better together will deliver the result Scotland and the United Kingdom want in the referendum in 2014. We do not fear the debate to come; we welcome it—and we would have liked this afternoon’s debate to have been a little longer, rather than its being curtailed by having two meaningless votes.
I thank the Minister and the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran), for their excellent summing up of this good and lively debate. As the argument is advanced in the country as a whole over the next two years, it will be won in the hearts as well as the heads of the people—not only the people who will have the privilege of a vote, but everyone else, who will take part in the debate and have their voices heard throughout the whole of our United Kingdom.
The hon. Gentleman did not take a single intervention from anyone and I have one minute to speak. He has said more than enough. He said that the word “separation” is chilling to him; it is chilling to me, too, and to everyone who believes that we are better together as a United Kingdom.
As far as heads are concerned, we have heard some good facts and figures this afternoon, and I hope that they will be repeated over and again so that people with a vote in the referendum understand the reality of what separation would mean for Scotland and the whole United Kingdom. As far as hearts are concerned, I turn, as ever, to Robert Burns, who wrote in the most powerful verse of his excellent poem “The Dumfries Volunteers”:
“O, let us not, like snarling tykes,
In wrangling be divided,
Till, slap! come in a unco loun,
And wi’ a rung decide it!
Be Britain still to Britain true,
Amang oursels united!
For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!”
Question put, That the amendment be made.
Main Question put.
That this House believes that Scotland has always made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to the UK over the 305 years of the Union; notes the strong and enduring bonds that exist between Scotland and the other nations of the UK; further notes its shared history and the contribution that the Scottish people have made to public life in the UK in politics, academia, trade unions and the armed forces; notes the contribution that Scotland’s businesses make to the UK economy and their particular expertise in cutting edge industries such as life sciences and engineering; further notes that a referendum on separating Scotland from the rest of the UK will be held before the end of 2014; and believes that Scotland is better off as part of the UK and the rest of the UK is better off together with Scotland.