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Strengthening the Union

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2020

The Government have always stressed the importance of the Union, and the current crisis demonstrates the value in responding collectively. We have world-leading expertise and the economic strength to support jobs and business with generous financial packages. It is the strength of our Union that will enable us to rebuild our economy quickly and fairly.

I thank my good friend the new Minister and congratulate him on being at the Dispatch Box. Devolution in Scotland has given the Scottish people a localised legislative body. It gives Scottish people greater powers over their own affairs and is replicated in Northern Ireland and Wales. Does my hon. Friend agree that this has caused a democratic deficit for England, and as devolution is now being revisited in my own constituency county of Greater Lincolnshire, what lessons can be learned from Scottish devolution to give the people of Lincolnshire greater powers over their own affairs?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the considerable powers that are being devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but England has also seen significant devolution and that is a process that continues with further deals in the pipeline and the Government’s commitment to a White Paper on devolution in England. I suggest that devolution has given Scotland the best of both worlds: localising decision making, but being able to access the collective resources of a strong United Kingdom.

More than 60% of Scottish exports go to the rest of the UK. That represents three times more than the rest of the EU. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as we emerge from this pandemic, trade between all four of the home nations is going to be critical not only to Scotland, but to the rest of the UK?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight these figures. We do not need the barriers and division that separation would bring, nor do we need the reckless talk of effectively closing the border when tourism in Scotland needs all the help it can get.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to put off their preparations for a second Scottish referendum on independence while dealing with the coronavirus. Does the Minister agree that, once this pandemic is over, those plans will still be unnecessary and still be unwanted by the people of Scotland?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: the last thing Scotland needs is the uncertainty and division that another referendum would bring.