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3 Apr 2001 : Column: 168W
Mr. Foulkes: My colleagues in the Scottish Executive have kept me fully briefed on developments in Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was able to witness first hand the action being taken to contain and eradicate and to discuss the impact of the disease on the Scottish economy on her visit to Dumfries and Galloway with the Prime Minister last Friday.
11. Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what procedures are being used to co-ordinate action to combat the spread of the foot and mouth outbreak straddling the Scottish-English border. 
Mr. Foulkes: Great Britain is a single epidemiological zone. The control of animal health diseases is exercised on behalf of the GB Agriculture Departments by a single State Veterinary Service under the management of the Chief Veterinary Officer.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment she has made of the impact of the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease on the rural economy of Scotland. 
Mrs. Liddell: My colleagues in the Scottish Executive have kept me fully briefed on developments in Scotland. I was able to witness at first hand the action being taken to contain and eradicate foot and mouth disease and to discuss its impact on the Scottish economy during my visit to Dumfries and Galloway with the Prime Minister last Friday.
My right hon. Friend, the Minister for the Environment, and the Scottish Executive have announced packages of measures designed to provide help for rural communities in Scotland. The Scottish Executive launched their Comeback Code on 23 March providing simple clear advice on how people can enjoy rural Scotland, while protecting farmers and their animals.
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3 Apr 2001 : Column: 169W
9. Mr. Eric Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made on the electricity interconnector to Northern Ireland from Scotland and the upgrading of the English interconnector. 
Mrs. Liddell: Progress is ongoing on upgrading interconnector links from Scotland to both Northern Ireland and England and I welcome the further expansion of business opportunities in the electricity market. Work is under way to have the Scotland--Northern Ireland interconnector fully operational by the end of the year, at a capacity of 480MW, which will be its design maximum. It is expected that at least some of the electricity exported to Northern Ireland would then be re-exported to the Republic.
Most recently, on Sunday 1 April, my right hon. Friend and the First Minister and I, along with colleagues, demonstrated the determination of the Government and the Scottish Executive to work in partnership in the fight against illegal drug dealers by participating together in the Daily Record's "March Against Drugs" which was held in Glasgow.
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Mrs. Liddell: The UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme provides for up to £110 million to be paid by the UK Government to the UK coal industry. Longannet coal mine in Fife was the first to receive money under this scheme, assistance which will help ensure its future.
This significant injection of Government funds has helped safeguard 700 jobs at Longannet. Scottish Coal is now looking to recruit an additional 130 staff, including 30 apprentices, which will bring the total number of employees to 830. This is the first time in 20 years that Scottish Coal, or its predecessor British Coal Scotland, has advertised for apprentices.
Mrs. Liddell: The New Deal has been a tremendous success in Scotland. 48,627 people have found jobs as a result of their participation in the New Deal for Young People, New Deal 25+, New Deal for Lone Parents and New Deal 50 plus.
Mrs. Liddell: The New Deal has made a significant impact on youth employment in Scotland. In January alone, 700 more young people in Scotland have found work through the New Deal. 32,000 more young people in Scotland are now in work thanks to the New Deal. Unemployment among young people has fallen by 67 per cent. since the introduction of the programme in 1998.
Mr. Foulkes: I have frequent discussions with the Scottish Executive on a wide variety of issues. On pensioner poverty, we have introduced a number of measures to target the poorest pensioners. These measures include the Minimum Income Guarantee, free television licences for those aged 75 or over and the Winter Fuel Payments for those aged 60 or over. From this month, the basic State pension will raise by £5 for a single pensioner and £8 for a couple. From 2003, we shall introduce the Pension Credit which will reward pensioners with modest savings. Together with Jackie Baillie I launched the Government's Fuel Poverty Strategy in Scotland.
15. Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the award of European City of Culture 2008. 
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Culture would be a boost for any of our cities and towns throughout the UK. I am aware of interest in the newly established city of Inverness in bidding to become the European City of Culture in 2008 and wish them well in their deliberations.
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