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Single Market

Volume 605: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2016

1. What assessment he has made of the value to the economy in Scotland of UK membership of the single market. (903484)

Mr Speaker, I am sure that everyone, particularly in Scotland, will share your warm wishes to Andy Murray and Kim Sears on the birth of their daughter.

Latest official statistics published last month show that in 2014 around 42% of all Scottish international exports were destined for countries within the European Union. The value of these exports is estimated at around £11.6 billion.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the package that the Prime Minister will discuss in greater detail with his colleagues on the European Council will bring about much needed reform and be a catalyst for further reform in the future, thus making it quite clear that the single market is good for the United Kingdom and, of course, good for Scotland?

In a reformed EU, we could have the best of both worlds—access to the single market while not being a member of the euro or Schengen. I believe that would be good for Scotland and good for the rest of the United Kingdom.

The single European market and the ability to affect the legislation that governs it is hugely important to the Scottish economy, especially the exporting sectors such as whisky. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, regardless of the ongoing negotiations, he will personally campaign for Scotland and the UK to remain within the European Union?

The right hon. Gentleman will know and will, I am sure, be pleased to have heard that the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, Ruth Davidson, has expressed exactly that position.

The good news is that I get a second bite of the cherry, so perhaps at the end of this question the Secretary of State will answer my question about whether he will support Scotland and the UK remaining within the European Union. Making a positive case for remaining in the EU will be crucial in the weeks and months ahead, so will the Secretary of State give a commitment not to repeat the grinding negativity of project fear and condemn ridiculous scare stories such as those from the Prime Minister on immigration and the refugee camp in Calais?

I will make my position known when the negotiations have been concluded, but I make this offer to the right hon. Gentleman: if the reform package goes ahead and if I am campaigning to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom I would be delighted to join him, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) and the First Minister on a platform to make that case.

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting the Scotch Whisky Association, which introduced me to some of the finer products from across the border. Simpsons Malt in my constituency produces an enormous amount of the malted barley sold across the border in Scotland to produce this whisky. Does my right hon. Friend agree that expansion into new markets that have nothing to do with the EU is the growth area for the whisky industry?

There are tremendous opportunities for development of the Scotch whisky industry. I think that the Scottish Government, the United Kingdom Government and all parties in the House are united on that. When the President of China was in the United Kingdom recently, we had the opportunity to present his wife with a bottle of her favourite malt whisky from Scotland, and both he and his good lady were able to make clear how important the product is to developing markets in China.

What discussions has the Secretary of State had with Scottish businesses about the possibility of a UK exit from the European Union, and what concerns have those businesses expressed about the impact it would have on their ability to gain access to, and export to, the single market?

The clearest message that I receive from businesses in Scotland is that they want a short EU referendum campaign so that we can have the minimum amount of uncertainty.