Busy day—[Hon. Members: “Ah.”] It appears I have woken a few people up.
Scottish exports to the rest of the UK increased in 2018 by £1.2 billion to £51.2 billion. As a result, the rest of the UK continues to be Scotland’s largest market for exports, accounting for three times the value of exports to the European Union.
Given the Secretary of State’s assessment, will he confirm that Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth more than three times that with the EU, and this is only one of the benefits on offer of being part of the United Kingdom, not least for British firms?
The Scottish Government’s own figures show that Scotland’s most important trading partner is the rest of the UK and, as my hon. Friend said, that is worth more than three times the trade with the other 27 EU countries combined. In other words, the Scottish Government’s figures show that over 60% of Scotland’s exports go to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Indeed, I would argue that this is just one of the many benefits that Scotland has from being part of the United Kingdom.
Given the excellent figures my right hon. Friend has just given, does he share my concern that the separatist agenda peddled by the SNP is a direct threat to Scottish jobs and that it would inevitably end up, if its dreams come true, in a hard border?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that Nicola Sturgeon’s separatist agenda is a real threat to Scotland’s jobs, businesses and the economy, and that is why I am against the First Minister’s demand for another independence referendum. We want 2020 to be a year of growth, stability and opportunity for Scotland and for the whole of the United Kingdom, whereas the SNP wants 2020 to be a year of more political wrangling and wasteful debate.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon has introduced the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament to give free provision to women in Scotland, but it is opposed by the SNP Government because of “tampon raids” by the English into Scotland to steal the products. If that is the case, what kind of border does the Secretary of State think will be required in the event of an independent Scotland, with a separate currency, a different regulatory environment and different provisions on trade?
The hon. Gentleman makes an exceptionally good point. That is a border we need to avoid, and it makes no sense to have any sort of border between Gretna and Berwick. As for the SNP opposing that, and the opportunity to reduce VAT rates and other things that would help people on the poorest incomes, I simply do not understand what it is thinking.
If the Secretary of State truly values the trade between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, why is he prepared to countenance a situation in which we would lose frictionless trade between Scotland and Northern Ireland?
As the Prime Minister said, there will be “unfettered access” between Scotland and Northern Ireland and indeed the rest of the United Kingdom.