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House of Commons Hansard
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Leaving the EU: Businesses in Scotland
19 March 2019
Volume 656
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2. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on fiscal support for businesses based in Scotland making preparations for the UK leaving the EU. [909865]

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8. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on fiscal support for businesses based in Scotland making preparations for the UK leaving the EU. [909872]

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I have regular discussions with the Chancellor about support for businesses in Scotland, as well as in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) will know, last Wednesday we announced up to £260 million for the borderlands growth deal, which is a cross-party—and clearly a cross-border—partnership that has been hailed as a game changer by all the bodies involved, including the Scottish Government. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the best way to support business in Scotland is to end the uncertainty that comes from Brexit and to join the Government in agreeing a deal.

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Actually, the best support for businesses in Scotland would presumably be for Scotland to stay in the European Union, because IDA Ireland reckons that its country has gained more than 5,000 jobs as a result of Brexit-related investment, so it is a little bit perverse that it seems to be that the countries staying in the European Union are enjoying the benefits that were supposed to come from leaving.

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The best chance for Scotland to enjoy prosperity in the future is to stay in the United Kingdom, and I hope the hon. Gentleman would support that. I am very surprised that he would mention jobs in the Scotland when, under the SNP, jobs growth in Scotland has been far behind the good statistics that I was able to give for the whole country. Indeed, if Scotland had matched the rate of job creation in England, there would now be nearly 200,000 more Scots with a job.

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An Ernst & Young survey found that only 8% of Scottish firms feel fully ready for Brexit. Does the Secretary of State regret his failure to accept the SNP’s and the Institute of Directors’ demands for a £750 million support service to help small and medium-sized businesses to navigate Brexit?

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No. Advice and support are available to every business across the United Kingdom, including, of course, businesses in Scotland. I work very closely with the Scottish Government. They are represented on the groups that are developing the contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit, and businesses are included in that.

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In Scotland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, there are grants of up to £1,050 per employee for training employees, and up to £200,000 for new IT systems for dealing with new customs arrangements. Given the importance of this, why is it not more widely advertised both in Scotland and in the United Kingdom?

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My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. As he knows from the industrial strategy—he was closely involved in its construction—grants and assistance for training, especially for employees whose jobs change as a result of technological change, is a very important contribution that we can make, and I am glad that he has brought it to the attention of the House.

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What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about making sure that the UK shared prosperity fund is UK-wide and allows the UK Government to work with public and private partners across the whole of the Union?

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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. That is absolutely the intention. The fund will be UK-wide and continue the progress that has been made, not least through the city deals programme. All the major cities of Scotland have benefited from a city deal that embraces the UK Government, the Scottish Government, and local authorities. That is a good model that is working and is successful.