Skip to main content

Independence Referendum

Volume 583: debated on Wednesday 2 July 2014

To inform the debate, a variety of information, including a range of detailed analysis papers and a booklet for each household in Scotland, has been published. I have also participated in public debates and will continue to do so to set out the benefits of Scotland’s remaining in the United Kingdom.

For which we are eternally grateful, but is not the best way to inform people to debate? Instead, we have the leader of the no campaign, his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, running a mile, feart to do just that? What about the substitute-designate? It will be a slaughter worse than the Bannockburn re-enactment if they put up the angry, agitated Alistair to debate with the First Minister. The Secretary of State himself could do it; he is good at this stuff—he could even take Rhona with him. But what we really need is the organ grinder, not one of the Alistair monkeys to debate with the First Minister.

That was pitiful. I cannot believe it sounded good even when the hon. Gentleman rehearsed it in the mirror this morning. It is typical, though, of what we hear from the Scottish nationalists. They are desperate always to talk about how we will debate. They do that only because they want to avoid the actual debate, because they know that the force of argument is on the side of those of us who want to remain in the United Kingdom.

15. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that before 18 September the public have full information at their disposal about the significant extra powers for the Scottish Parliament for which this Parliament has already legislated? It is perfectly possible for Scotland to have more autonomy without ripping up our country. (904542)

That is exactly the position. As of next year, as a result of the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Parliament will have control over stamp duty land tax and the landfill tax, it will have a borrowing power and, come 2016, it will have the power to set a Scottish rate of income tax. Those are significant tax-raising powers. I want to see us go further on that. Of course, that will require Scotland to decide to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Does the Secretary of State agree that third parties such as businesses and trade unions need to be able to make their voices heard in the referendum debate? Will he join me in condemning those people who continue to intimidate those who speak out against independence?

I absolutely 100% and without any reservation condemn any intimidation, wherever it may appear. This is by a country mile the single most important issue that we, the people of Scotland, will ever have to resolve for ourselves. Nobody should feel that they are constrained in having their say or asking questions about what it would mean for them, their family or their business. Anybody who tries to silence people on the other side of the debate should be no part of it.

Is not the role of our Government to provide answers to the questions that those arguing for independence refuse to provide—either because they do not know the answer or because they do not want us to know the answer?

Indeed, that is the case. It has been remarkable that on every occasion when we could have been given hard facts and information by the Scottish Government throughout this exceptionally long campaign, we have instead been given opinion and assertion. People are not stupid, though. They draw their own conclusions from that, as was apparent from yesterday’s YouGov poll in The Times.

This is the last Scottish questions before the referendum. People across Scotland know the magnitude of this decision and that if there is a yes vote, it is irreversible. That is why people need as much information as possible. Does the Secretary of State agree that when presented with the facts, most Scots do not want to turn their backs on the United Kingdom, and that a message of a strong Scotland with a strengthened Scottish Parliament is gaining support in every part of Scotland?

The most important message that the people of Scotland have to get from any source is that the decision we make on 18 September is a decision from which there will be no going back. This has to be a once and for all decision. From that point of view I agree completely with the hon. Lady. Over the past 300 years, as part of the family of nations that is the United Kingdom, we have achieved a great deal of which we should be proud, and I and the people of Scotland do not want to walk away from that.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, which is particularly important this week, as we celebrate the naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Will he ensure that people across Scotland are informed about the value of such UK contracts to the shipbuilding industry in particular? Does he agree with the shop stewards at Rosyth and on the Clyde that the best way to protect the shipbuilding industry in Scotland is to say no thanks in September?

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady and with the shop stewards at Rosyth and on the Clyde, all of whom I have met on a number of occasions in recent weeks. They are clear and unambiguous about the message that the hon. Lady has just articulated. The House should remember that that is not the view of a politician; that is the view of trade unionists—people who are charged with protecting the best interests and the jobs of their members. If they thought for a second that independence would be good for their members and that it would help to protect their jobs, I have no doubt that the trade unions on the Clyde and at Rosyth would be supporting it. The fact that they are not tells us all we need to know.

Will the Secretary of State ensure that Scottish voters understand that if they vote for Scotland to become a foreign country, they will lose the pound and all the stability and economic advantage that goes with it? Will he also make it clear that many of us in England—indeed, the vast majority—want Scotland to remain a vital and important part of our United Kingdom so that we can jointly share in our future prosperity?

I agree with my hon. Friend that that is the view of most people in England, and in Wales and Northern Ireland. I look at how we have tackled the challenges we have faced over the past 300 years, and I see that over that time we have identified the problems and reached out from Scotland, to communities such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast, and tackled them by making common cause. That has worked for us, and I believe that it will continue to work for us.