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[17th Allotted Day

] [ Second Part ]

Scotland in Europe

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister. 4.15 pm

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : I beg to move,

That this House notes the continued and overwhelming rejection of the Conservative Party's colonial re gime in Scotland, the willingness of the Labour Party leadership to place Trident submarines on the Clyde against the wishes of the Scottish Labour Conference and majority Scottish opinion, the results of the European elections which saw the Scottish National Party gain 26 per cent. of the vote and move into a clear second place in Scottish politics, the continued alienation of the United Kingdom from its European partners and the obstruction to European Community co-operation presented by the Prime Minister's little Englander attitudes ; and recognises that the only constitutional change which can meet fully the need for economic and social progress in Scotland is independence as a full and equal partner within the European Community.

The House will note that our motion refers to the Government's colonial attitude to Scotland. I know that his description of their policy programme has caused some anxiety to the Tory party in the past, and particularly to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has been anxious to disavow a quotation of 8 March attributed to him by the Scottish Field :

"In fact the powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland are not unlike those of a colonial governor."

If the Secretary of State maintains that he did not say that, the House will have to accept his word, although I am still perplexed about why the Scottish Field of all magazines should want to make up the quotation. However, the case for saying that the Tory party treats Scotland like a colony does not depend on quotations, accurate or otherwise : it rests on actions and facts.

The case rests on the actions of this Government in a range of policies, from the poll tax, to opting out in education, to the review of the National Health Service. In these areas the Government's policy programme is being imposed against the overwhelming body of Scottish opinion, using what the Secretary of State used to call--he does so less now--the "Gatling gun" of the Tory majority in this place and the army of political appointees north of the border who do the Tory bidding.

I was struck on Monday of this week by the irony in Brian Meek's column in the Glasgow Herald. He is something of a soulmate or confidant of the Secretary of State for Scotland, more so perhaps than is the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). Councillor Meek complained in the column about being bumped off the Lothian and Borders police board. He complained that the Tory party representatives on that board were being reduced from three to one, and said that it was disgraceful that the Labour party majority on the committee should abuse its powers in that way.

Councillor Meek may have a point in this case. The majority party on a committee should not use its powers to reduce the representation of minorities. The irony lies in the fact that I cannot remember Councillor Meek ever having written a column in the Glasgow Herald or

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anywhere else in which he noted the complexion of, for example, the health boards in Scotland. Trade union representation and opposition party representation on those boards has been systematically reduced by this Government. We look forward to Councillor Meek regaling Scotland on the unfairness of this--

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East) : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that 10 of the 15 members of the Forth Valley health board live in the constituency of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth)? Not one comes from the highly industrialised constituency of Falkirk, East and of the others, a small number are shared between Falkirk, West and Clackmannan. Is that the sort of bias to which he is referring?

Mr. Salmond : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and aware of what he says. My colleagues and I recently met a Scottish Trades Union Congress delegation, which gave us the facts and figures of how this pattern is being replicated all over Scotland. So it was ironic that Councillor Meek mentioned the Lothian and Borders police board but did not refer to anywhere else in Scotland--or even to his own appointment as a prominent member of Livingston development corporation. I do not think that the new town of Livingston has ever elected a Conservative councillor in its electoral history. So throughout Scotland there is a colonial system of government imposed by the Tory majority.

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton) : I was somewhat puzzled when I read the Order Paper because it says :

"This Opposition Day is at the disposal of the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13. The selection of the matter to be debated has been made by the Scottish National Party."

I cannot help wondering whether there is a quid pro quo involved in the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) giving up this day. May I ask the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) a question? We know that the SNP is in favour of an independent Scotland in Europe and that it is also in favour of an independent Wales in Europe. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether it is in favour of an independent Ulster in Europe?

Mr. Salmond : The hon. Gentleman demonstrates his ignorance of House procedures. I know that he has been here for some time but he has learnt very little. As I understand it, under Standing Order No. 13 the second Opposition party in the House is the Ulster Unionist party because of the name change and the disintegration of the alliance parties after the election. Just as in the previous Parliament it was the prerogative of the alliance to allocate the second party Opposition day, that is now the prerogative of the Ulster Unionist party. I must disappoint the hon. Gentleman. There is nothing more sinister in the Supply day than that. [Interruption.] As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am a great believer in the self-determination of nations. I believe in self-determination for the Scottish nation, the Welsh nation and the Irish nation. I should be interested to hear at some time from the hon. Gentleman how he squares his support for self-determination for peoples across five continents with his refusal to accept it in the one country, Scotland, where he has any influence.

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I was making the point that there is a colonial system of government in Scotland, imposed by Tory votes south of the border and implemented by Tory bagmen north of the border. In the argument about a colonial system of government, I can claim support from some sources in the Conservative party. Speaking in warning against colonial attitudes towards Scotland, the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), said on Channel 4 on 18 March that he found it quite insulting that anybody should say of Scotland : " Oh, they can't possibly be a nation, they can't possibly have a national Government, they haven't got the population or the size',--it is an absolute nonsense of an argument, it is a patronising argument and on the lips of Englishmen it really is quite disgraceful because it's almost a proconsular argument, as though we were colonial peoples who hadn't yet got the resources for independence and that is complete and utter rubbish."

Those were wise words that will stand the test of time. They were wise words not just for the English Conservative party but also for the Scottish Labour party because increasingly it is taking its agenda from politics south of the border.

A couple of months ago, in an idle moment, I turned on my television. There at Inverness was the Scottish Labour party in full flight in conference. The motion on the agenda was on unilateral nuclear disarmament. I expected a strong debate. Given the fundamental reassessment that is taking place in Labour ranks I expected a spirited exchange of views. No, there was not. So great was the unanimity within the Scottish Labour party that that motion-- a hard motion in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament--was passed without opposition, or at least overwhelmingly. That may reflect the consensus that exists in the Scottish Labour party. More realistically perhaps, the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) did not think it worth while to argue the case at a Scottish Labour conference. For whatever reason, the Scottish Labour party reflected the consensus that exists in Scotland both for unilateral nuclear disarmament and against the Trident missile system.

The Labour party leadership in this place will not reflect that consensus. It will reflect the consensus between the two Front Benches, where the major differences are whether we shall have four or three Trident submarines stationed on the Clyde, whether the nuclear strike force will be increased by a factor of eight or four, or whether, as one delegate said yesterday at the Transport and General Workers Union conference, it is a Labour or a Tory finger on the nuclear button.

Presumably there are still left among Scottish Labour Members of Parliament some real unilateralists as well as some gut ones. Perhaps they should reflect on the Labour party's attempt to out-yuppie the Tory party. Just like the Tory party, Labour party policies are relegating the Scottish dimension to accommodate the requirements of an electoral system south of the border.

The Tory amendment to our motion makes the point that the SNP is also a minority party in Scotland. Perhaps there is no great difference between achieving 20 per cent., or a fifth, of the vote, which is what the Tory party achieved in Scotland last Thursday, and achieving 26 per cent., or a quarter, of the vote, which is what the SNP achieved in the Euro-elections. We feel that there are fairly substantial differences between us and them. One is that the SNP claims no mandate to run or govern Scotland until it obtains a majority of the seats and has a mandate

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to negotiate independence. That is in clear contrast with the Tory party, which claims its mandate to run Scotland on a basis of 10 parliamentary seats, no European seats and a vote now reduced to 20 per cent.

Another substantive difference between the position of the SNP and the Tory party can be seen in the detail of Scottish opinion polls. Even at 20 per cent. of the vote, the Conservative party can at least claim that it is out -performing the support for the constitutional status quo in Scotland, which the latest MORI poll, in June, put at no more than 15 per cent. across Scotland. However, that is not the position of the SNP. Even with our vote rising to 26 per cent., we are under-performing when measured against the support for Scottish independence, shown in that poll to be 35 per cent., and when measured against the between 51 per cent. and 62 per cent. support for independence in Europe, shown in other polls.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden) : I know that the hon. Gentleman is fastidious in these matters, so I make this point for the sake of accuracy. Is not the support for a Scotland independent in Europe at 22 per cent. in the latest MORI poll? The hon. Gentleman has added another factor--Scotland independent outwith the EEC--to get his 35 per cent.

Mr. Salmond : I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman appreciates where his argument is leading him. Will he differentiate, in the devolution element of the poll, between his policy of independence from the United Kingdom, the Democrats' policy of quasi-federalism, the old devolution policy of the Labour party and the policy of David Martin, which is quite different from that of any of the other policies? We were given a choice between independence, devolution and the status quo. The figures that I have quoted are those recorded in the poll. I suspect that even the hon. Gentleman will not deny the figures of between 52 per cent. and 61 per cent. saying yes to a direct question of yes or no to independence in Europe, in three successive opinion polls.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central) : May I pursue the hon. Gentleman on the question of independence for Scotland inside or outside Europe? As I understand it, the nationalists see much of their appeal coming from the fact that they are offering Scotland independence within the European Community. If the terms for Scotland remaining in the EEC are renegotiated and found to be unsatisfactory, do I take it that the nationalist line is independence outside Europe, come what may?

Mr. Salmond : I shall be dealing with that matter later in my speech.

The SNP policy is absolutely clear. If we obtain a majority of seats in Scotland at the next general election, we will have a mandate to negotiate independence with Westminster--

Mr. Darling rose --

Mr. Salmond : If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself, I shall answer his question.

The SNP will have a mandate to negotiate independence with Westminster and simultaneously to negotiate with the EEC. The constitutional settlement resulting from that will be put to the Scottish people in a referendum, so the Scottish people will decide. I do not

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understand how, as a democrat, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) could possibly object to that process-- Mr. Darling rose --

Mr. Salmond : I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue.

Despite the SNP's improvement to 26 per cent. of the vote, it is substantially under-performing, the support for independence shown in successive opinion polls. The SNP may not yet be winning the elections in Scotland, but it is winning the arguments--

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Salmond : I wish that hon. Members would contain themselves. When one wins the argument--

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian) rose --

Mr. Salmond : The hon. Gentleman must contain himself.

Mr. Home Robertson rose --

Mr. Salmond : I have been very generous in giving way. to Labour Members. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman later if he allows me to develop a few more points.

During the European election campaign I was struck by the similarities--as I will no doubt be similarly struck in this debate--in the arguments of the two main Unionist parties--the Tory party and the Labour party, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The response to the independence in Europe argument makes that especially evident. Both Labour and Tory spokesmen have claimed that Scotland would not be allowed to be independent in Europe ; that somehow the nasty foreigners would keep out Scotland--

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Salmond : If hon. Members will allow me to develop a few points, I might be generous enough to give way later.

During the European election, the SNP published substantive legal opinion from Professor Victor McKinnon and the French advocate Maitre De Roux pointing out that the conventions of state succession and the treaty of Rome-- [Interruption.] I cannot understand why Labour Members are laughing, because we published legal opinion from other Europeans. I should have thought that the views of other Europeans on this issue were very important.

Both those substantive legal opinions pointed out that the laws of state succession and the treaty of Rome would keep Scotland within the Community during the negotiations. There was an intervention in the debate by Professor Emile Noel who, until 1987, was the Secretary-General of the European Commission. Indeed, he held that position for more than 20 years and is probably the greatest living authority on Community rules and procedures. As far as I know, he has no axe to grind on Scottish politics. On 5 March he said about Scotland :

"There is no precedent or provision for the expulsion of a member state, therefore Scottish independence would create two member states out of one They would have equal status with each other and the other eleven states. The remainder of the UK would not be in a more powerful position than Scotland."

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Professor Noel expanded on those remarks in an article in The Scotsman on 12 June. At the same time, The Scotsman revealed what had happened to the Conservative party legal opinion threatened to be commissioned by Mr. James Proven, who had promised to make it the centrepiece of his re-election campaign in the north-east of Scotland. The Scotsman revealed that senior Tory sources said that the Conservative party had decided not to publish that opinion because it was "ambiguous" and could be "misinterpreted". The greatest living authority on EEC procedures-- [Interruption.] I am surprised by the laughter that greets the credentials of Professor Emile Noel--

Several Hon. Members rose --

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) need give way only if he chooses to do so.

Mr. Salmond : The position is that the greatest living authority on EC procedures volunteers support for the argument advanced by the SNP, while the Tory party cannot even pay someone to make their particular argument.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross) : If, without payment, another living authority on that subject may comment--if the greatest living authority in France pronounces the concept that Scotland is already a member state, in order to make the point that there could be no objection to its being a separate member state, the whole basis of that opinion is false.

Mr. Salmond : The hon. and learned Gentleman should have read Professor Noel's article, for I am certain that he is well aware of Scotland's status and, having been the European Commission's Secretary- General for 20 years, of the procedures, regulations and likely reactions of the European Community.

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) : Does the hon. Gentleman distinguish between legal opinion--all those whose views he quoted are either lawyers or officials--and political reality? How many years does he envisage that the negotiations would take to complete? Does he accept that the last thing that countries such as Spain and France, with their separatist problems, want is to see the principle of separatism introduced into the Community? Negotiations would be long, painful and difficult--and the hon. Gentleman might not be in power by the time that they were completed.

Mr. Salmond : If the hon. Gentleman had familiarised himself with the subject of today's debate, he would know that Professor Noel's article dealt with that aspect. Professor Noel wrote that Scotland's membership of the Community would be accepted, and that any negotiations would concern only matters of detail. I quote again from the article about Professor Noel in The Scotsman, stating that he "has confirmed his view that an independent Scotland would be entitled to EEC membership, with negotiation on the detail and not on the principle."

The suggestion by the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr Curry) is deeply insulting, because it implies that Scotland has nothing of value that the Community

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would find attractive--such as 80 per cent. of Europe's oil reserves and 40 per cent. of its fish reserves. Even more insulting--to other Europeans also--is the argument, made against all available evidence, that other member states would somehow want to flout the democratic will of the Scottish people.

Today's debate is about how Scotland's interests can best be represented in Europe and how Scotland can best be governed at home.

Mr. Home Robertson : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for introducing to the House the important views of Professor Noel, although I must confess that I had not heard of him before. Why is the hon. Gentleman making those important arguments in this "colonial" Parliament, as he refers to it, when he has an opportunity to make them instead before a body that does represent the people of Scotland--the Scottish Constitutional Convention?

Mr. Salmond : If I were the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), I would not boast about not knowing the name of the person who has been Secretary-General of the European Commission for 20 years, for that displays his ignorance of European politics. Several Hon. Members rose --

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. This is not "Mastermind".

Mr. Salmond : The hon. Member for East Lothian knows very well that the Scottish National party is willing to have its arguments judged by the Scottish people, but it is not prepared to have a veto placed on them by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). The case made in Scotland by the Tories is remarkable. They say that somehow Scotland is better represented by English Tory Ministers chosen by the Prime Minister than by Scottish Ministers chosen by the people of Scotland. In reality, in most cases Scotland has no representation in Europe. In the two years to the end of 1988, out of 151 Council of Ministers meetings, representatives of the Scottish Office attended only five--and then in a junior capacity. Of the 95 major ministerial speeches made over the same period on Community topics, Scottish Office Ministers managed none at all. That is how influential the Scottish Office is in European policy determination. Perhaps, as Member of Parliament for a constituency in north-east Scotland, I can take some consolation from the fact that the five meetings that Scottish Office Ministers managed to sneak into were all concerned with the fishing industry. In the House last week, however, we were given a working example of the priority that the Government allocate to that industry. The mid-year Council meeting made some fundamental decisions affecting the future finances of the Scottish fleet, and refused to act on the low Scottish North sea haddock quotas. The Government did not even consider it worth while to make an oral statement to the House, substituting a written answer in which the Scottish case was dismissed in two sentences. The fact is that Scotland is not represented at the top table where the real decisions are made. We are not represented but misrepresented by Tory Ministers who share neither our political values nor our industrial priorities : that is the reality of our provincial position in the Community.

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When we had a similar debate last year, the Secretary of State for Scotland was unwise enough to unload some of his prejudices on to the House. He told us that the small countries of Europe rarely, if ever, had

"a decisive role to play in the major issues that affect the Community."-- [ Official Report, 6 July 1988, Vol. 136, c. 1089.] I found those remarks interesting and later in the year I tested them by putting down some questions to the junior Foreign Office Minister, whose post was formerly held by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I received entirely different answers to similar questions.

This is what the junior Foreign Office Minister said about the role of small countries in Europe :

"All member states, irrespective of their size, play an important role in the process of development of the Community."

She also said :

"The treaties provide for all member states to contribute on an equitable basis to Community decision-making."--[ Official Report, 31 October 1989 ; Vol. 139, c. 483-484. ]

There we have it. The official position of the Government is that small countries have an important role to play--except, of course, Scotland. We have the opportunity to build a consensus with our European partners, as all Community states must do, but that is something of which the Prime Minister is manifestly incapable. Within the European Community, Scotland would have twice as many MEPs as at present, a Commissioner as of right, votes on the Council and a turn to lead the European Community through the presidency of the Council as a full and equal partner. We would have real influence in Europe to match real power in Scotland. That is the other side of the "Scotland in Europe" argument, and the argument for independence.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South) : If Scottish representation were expanded, would the new representatives sit with the current Scottish MEP, Mrs. Ewing, with the Gaullists and others on the Right wing? Why has Mrs. Ewing not resigned from that grouping?

Mr. Salmond : The hon. Gentleman is manifestly out of date. The groupings in the European Parliament are currently being negotiated, and I am sure that Mrs. Ewing will continue to represent Scotland's interests. The hon. Gentleman will find that she has a superb voting record across a range of social and economic issues in the European Community. Clearly his lack of confidence in her is not shared by the electorate of the Highlands and Islands, who returned her to the European Parliament with a resounding majority.

I want to examine three examples of the domestic power that independence in Europe would give. At present the United Kingdom is pursuing policies that are not in Scotland's interest. The first example is monetary policy--the interaction between interest rate and exchange rate policy. No one in Scotland--not even, I suspect, the Secretary of State at his most effusive- -would claim that the Scottish economy was overheating ; the best that can be said is that it has undergone a slow recovery from the oil recession of 1986. Yet the monetary policy being applied in Scotland is designed to combat an overheated economy.

Can the Secretary of State tell us how inflationary pressures on the south- east of England will be eased by the imposition of penal interest rates on fishermen in the north-east of Scotland? How will a cost squeeze on

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Scottish industry help the problems of the balance of payments? For Scotland, a high interest rate is not just a blunt instrument ; it is the cure for a disease from which we do not suffer.

A recent paper from the Scottish Centre for Economic and Social Research pointed out that an independent Scotland we could look forward to low interest rates and a stable exchange rate regime as part of the exchange rate mechanism of the EMS, regardless of whether sterling decided to join.

My second example is that of Wang leaving Stirling. Let me say to the Secretary of State that there seems little point in throwing a tantrum at Wang executives : I suspect that lecturing them will be as effective as lecturing Caterpillar executives has been in the past. Clearly the relationship between a country and multinational companies has little to do with size. The strength of a bargaining position depends not on the size of the economy--otherwise Wang would not be on its way to Limerick--but on the strength of the overall economy. [Interruption.] I see that Conservative Members do not take my point. Let us take the example of Norway in the 1970s--a country of 4.5 million people which managed by general agreement to negotiate a deal with the international oil companies far superior to that negotiated by the United Kingdom. The bargaining position of the Norwegian Government was helped by the strength of the country's economy.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North) : The hon. Gentleman might also reflect on Ireland in the 1960s. Through massive tax handouts, Ireland was able to bring in multinational companies for about 10 years ; they disappeared as soon as the 10 years were up. The issue is related to size and economic muscle as well as to the wealth of the Government.

Can the hon. Gentleman answer a simple question? I have been wondering since I came into the Chamber why the hon. Gentleman moved the motion, rather than the leader of his party. Until now I had assumed that it was because the hon. Gentleman was considered to be better equipped to outline the intellectual basis for independence, but--knowing the attributes of the party leader, and having heard the hon. Gentleman's speech--I have had to abandon that assumption. Will he explain why he moved the motion?

Mr. Salmond : The hon. Gentleman may not know that the duties of my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) have been curtailed over the past week by illness in the family. I shall not take the matter any further than that.

Dr. Reid : I did not know.

Mr. Salmond : No one would argue that multinational investment is not an important factor ; it can be extremely valuable. The question is whether it is the sole arm of economic strategy, as it appears to be in Scotland at present. The key to a robust economic policy is building on resource strength, skill strength, areas of natural advantage and the promotion of indigenous companies. Those are exactly the economic policies that would be open to a Scottish Government.

If we had a Scottish Government this year it would be faced with a substantial budget surplus. Even hon. Members who suffer from the most dependent mentalities

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should not be surprised at that : after all, the United Kingdom Treasury is awash with funds at present. But there is a substantial difference. The United Kingdom Treasury is boxed in by inflationary and balance of payments constraints. Those constraints would not be faced to the same extent by an independent Scotland.

The Scottish National party has published our proposals for the economic regeneration of Scotland. I look forward to the Labour party publishing similar proposals, or indeed any precise programme. The SNP's policy proposals would create 78,000 jobs in the first year as we embark on a regeneration strategy for the Scottish economy, projecting Scotland on to a higher rate of growth and employment.

Mr. Dewar : Will the hon. Gentleman, who has been talking about the budget that he has done for an independent Scotland in Europe, comment on the letter dated 14 June 1989 which appeared in The Scotsman from a well- known supporter of the SNP, Professor Malcolm Slessor, in which he said :

"In fact, a financial forecast of what Scotland would be like as an independent country is about as meaningless as one of Chancellor Lawson's pieces of star-gazing."

Mr. Salmond : I commend the hon. Gentleman to read the SNP's economic plans for an independent Scotland.

Mr. Dewar : I have read them.

Mr. Salmond : In that case, he may have obtained some useful ideas and will now give us a clue about what the Labour party proposes for its first year in government for Scotland. I recall the Labour party's programme at the last general election, when it worked out its jobs plan for Scotland by dividing by 10 the figure that it promoted for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford) rose--

Mr. Salmond : The alternative to the economic regeneration of Scotland through independence is to continue at the lower end of United Kingdom growth and to fail to provide decent employment for all our people and a decent living for that one third of the Scottish population who currently live in poverty. Labour Members in particular should reflect on the fact that the working people of Scotland are those who pay the economic price of the union. This debate is a platform for the SNP, building on the substantial case that has already been promulgated for independence in Europe. For the Unionist parties, it should serve as a warning. Some of us, a growing number, have a broader ambition for our people than shoehorning Scottish priorities into the requirements of the English electoral system. The economic and political union with England has served its purpose. It will come under increasing pressure. It offers nothing which can stand comparison with the challenge and opportunity of independence within the wider Community of Europe.

4.52 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind) : I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and add instead thereof :

"notes the continued success of the present Government's policies in securing for Scotland record living standards and

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the advantages of membership of the European Community within the United Kingdom, alongside a strong defence of the United Kingdom's essential interests, and the rejection of the Scottish National Party's policy of independence in Europe by the overwhelming majority of voters in Scotland at the European elections ; and recognises the potential damage to the real interests of Scotland underlying the constitutional change advocated by opposition parties."

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) made it clear in the early substantive part of his speech that he accepts that the European elections were a severe rebuff for the central political strategy of the SNP over the last year--that is, the policy of independence in Europe.

During the election campaign, Mrs. Winnie Ewing was quoted as saying that Scotland's relationship with the European Community "is the central issue in this election campaign."

As the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan was frank enough to admit, about three quarters of the electorate refused to support the policy that his party had said was the fundamental and most important element in its whole political strategy.

In the motion, the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends refer to the change of policy that the Labour party is contemplating in regard to unilateral disarmament. I say as an aside that it is a matter of considerable interest that the only parties in Scotland nowadays that appear to be prepared to advocate support for CND and unilateral disarmament are the SNP, the Communist party and the Greens. I am sure that that is an aspect that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan proclaims as loudly and clearly in Banff and Buchan as he does in Glasgow or in the House.

I have noted that he and his hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) are sometimes less euphoric in the north-east of Scotland about their belief in unilateralism than they would suggest when they proudly present themselves as the new Clydesiders when they are campaigning in Glasgow Central, but I pass that by.

It is not appropriate for the hon. Gentleman to attack the Labour party for a change in policy, and certainly not during a debate on the European Community. We might have had some reference from the hon. Gentleman to the fact that for many years he and his hon. Friends were not the ardent enthusiasts for the European Community that they now present themselves as being. He and his hon. Friends bitterly opposed "Scotland in the European Community" and they spent the whole period of the referendum on the European Community advocating, unsuccessfully, that the people of Scotland should vote no.

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