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Scottish Independence

Volume 577: debated on Wednesday 19 March 2014

As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland’s economy is doing well. We benefit from being part of the large, integrated UK domestic market.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. He illustrates very clearly the benefits of Scotland staying in the United Kingdom, which will be good for everybody in this country. Having already mentioned the private sector recovery and jobs, does he agree that the Barnett formula provides a generous amount of public sector funding?

Indeed. The Barnett formula has been part of Scotland’s political landscape for almost 40 years and delivers a good level of public spending for people in Scotland—in the region of £1,000 per head each year over the figure for the rest of the United Kingdom. That reflects Scotland’s distinctive needs. That is why it is here to stay.

There is huge and growing inequality. Staggeringly, according to Oxfam, five families in the UK own as much as 20% of the population do. The Financial Times stated on Monday that the burden of austerity has fallen most heavily on the least well-off. Can the Secretary of State explain to the growing number of people using food banks in Scotland the benefits of being in the UK? They are not better together; they are at the food bank.

No subject, apparently, is so complex or involved that it cannot be trivialised by the Scottish nationalists. The reasons people have to resort to using food banks are complex, and many of them have more to do with the difficulties they face in work than with being on benefits. I am quite prepared to listen to representations from every part of the House about what the Government can do, but frankly I do not expect to hear anything constructive from the hon. Gentleman.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is more than a sense of irony about the fact that the devolution cause—to maintain but reform the United Kingdom—was based largely on the correct analysis that too many economic decisions were being concentrated here in London. Yet, now in Scotland, if we look at Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Crofting Commission, to take just two examples, we see that too many economic decisions are being centred politically in Edinburgh? Does he agree that Scotland’s long-term financial benefit is in the UK, but that we also need a more devolved Scotland?

Indeed. We see Scotland’s constitutional position as an evolving one. The experience to which my right hon. Friend points is exactly the same as that which I and my constituents see. Week in, week out, the Scottish Government take power and influence away from constituencies and communities such as ours, which know best what will work in growing their economies, and what we get is what people in Edinburgh think we need, rather than what we want.

I ask the Secretary of State to face the House so that we get the full benefit of his mellifluous tones.

There are tens of thousands of financial services jobs in my constituency, and my constituents are getting increasingly upset by the uncertainty around the independence referendum and the fact that many financial institutions might leave Scotland. What can the Secretary of State say to my constituents to ensure them that those jobs will not only stay, but increase in the future?

The best way to ensure that those jobs stay is to vote no on 18 September and ensure that Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. In recent weeks we have seen a growing number of companies—Standard Life, Royal Bank of Scotland and Alliance Trust Ltd—explaining that, if Scotland was to become a foreign country, as good Scottish companies operating through the whole of the United Kingdom, they would be required to remove their headquarters from Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom. That would not be good for Scotland’s economy.