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Referendum Campaign

Volume 565: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2013

2. What steps the Government have taken to fulfil their pledge to campaign to keep Scotland as part of the UK. (160885)

The United Kingdom Government are providing evidence and analysis to allow voters to make an informed choice about Scotland within the United Kingdom. We are publishing analysis papers on all the key issues throughout this year and next.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the Scotland analysis programme is already highlighting the clear benefits of Scotland being part of the UK, and of the UK having Scotland within it?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend on that. It demonstrates that Scotland enjoys the best of both worlds, with a strong Scottish Parliament and a strong voice here in Westminster. Our economy is able to benefit from the scale and support of the whole UK. Our place in the world is all the stronger, and our voice in the world all the louder, for being part of the United Kingdom.

Yesterday, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce highlighted what it called information gaps, which are a result of Scotland not yet knowing how it would handle business and income taxes and not yet knowing what its currency, its status in the EU or its relationship with international organisations would be. What will this Government do to ensure that all voters in Scotland have the facts, rather than the assertions being made by the Scottish National party and the Scottish Government?

I commend the Scottish Chambers of Commerce for the work that it is doing, along with others. This week, the Scotland Institute has also highlighted some important deficiencies in the nationalists’ arguments on defence. Our papers on devolution, on the currency and on financial services are setting out the arguments and analysis so that Scotland can make an informed choice. I remain confident that we will decide to stay part of the United Kingdom.

May I commend my right hon. Friend on the positive case that he is making? As he has just been joined on the Treasury Bench by the Secretary of State for Defence, will he ensure that all Government Departments including the Ministry of Defence take every opportunity to examine critically the defence proposals of the Scottish National party and the Scottish Government, which have yet again been the subject of strong criticism in an independent report this week?

My right hon. and learned Friend makes a very important point. I can assure him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is very much engaged in this entire debate. Central to that debate will be the SNP’s attempt to have it both ways by reluctantly and belatedly signing up for NATO—three quarters of Scots support it, so that was perhaps inevitable—while not being willing to accept the obligations and rules that go with it, including a nuclear umbrella as part of the strategic concept.

It emerged at the weekend that insiders of the no campaign against Scottish independence secretly call the campaign “project fear”. This is a campaign based on scaremongering and negativity. Is the Secretary of State embarrassed?

I think people on the pro-UK side of the campaign could show their Twitter feeds to anyone to show what negativity and scaremongering are all about. I think, too, that hon. Gentleman should be a little careful about casting aspersions and should concentrate on getting on with the proper arguments. From his side of the debate, we have so far seen no arguments and no detail.

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the thought that a possible independent Scotland would have an army? Would that independent Scotland be able to employ the same number of Scottish soldiers as the British Army employs at the moment?

My hon. Friend, whose distinguished track record in these matters is well known to people across the House, makes a very important point. This week, the report of the Scotland Institute—an independent body—has put real and serious questions to the SNP and the yes campaign that they cannot answer.