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Whether or not the allegations of price fixing in the gas market turn out to be true, they clearly show that the market is not transparent enough. Let me, then, ask the Secretary of State three very straightforward questions: first, does he believe that there is effective competition in either the wholesale or the retail energy market? Secondly, whether consumers get a fair deal will largely depend on the strike price the Government set for contracts for difference and the reference price in the market at the time, but if the market is structured in such a way that no one knows what the true cost of energy actually is, how will the Government even be able to set a robust strike price? Thirdly, given that the proposals were originally called “electricity market reform”, why does the new Bill fail to make proposals on how energy is bought and sold in order to make it more open, more transparent and more competitive?

This morning, I looked through the “Electricity market reform: policy overview” document. In paragraph 101, there is an indication that the Government are perhaps beginning to recognise that greater competition is necessary, in its reference to

“Powers for the Secretary of State to make changes to electricity generation and supply licences conditions”.

That is quite interesting. Does it indicate that the Secretary of State is moving closer to some of the more radical suggestions for reforming the market which Labour has been putting forward for the past two years and which were referred to in our 2010 manifesto?

The Secretary of State said that investment was running at a 20-year high, but independent figures produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance show that since this Government came to power, investment in renewable energy has fallen by more than half. He also said that the UK led the world in offshore wind, but figures out just today from Ernst and Young on renewable energy attractiveness show that, for the first time ever, the UK has been knocked off the top spot for offshore wind attractiveness and is now behind Germany. The reason that has happened is the uncertainty the Government have created. That is why firms have put investment on hold or scrapped it altogether.

In June, Vestas abandoned its plans to create a new manufacturing plant in Kent, which would have created 2,000 jobs. What did the local Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys), who is now Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the right hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), say at the time? She said that Vestas’ decision

“suggests a lack of confidence within the industry over the government’s commitment to the green economy and crucially, offshore wind. The market needs certainty from government if it is to deliver the thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of investment that could secure our economic recovery.”

Whether onshore or offshore, the business of firms such as Vestas is wind. What they wanted more than anything else in the Bill was a clear commitment to decarbonise the power sector by 2030. Just this morning, its chief executive told The Guardian:

“The failure to establish a firm 2030 power sector carbon cap prolongs uncertainty.”

In his words,

“This is a significant missed opportunity,”

and he is not alone in thinking that.

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It is not just businesses in the renewables sector but those elsewhere that are concerned about the Government’s lack of vision. I make no bones about it: we support a clear decarbonisation target in the Bill—and from what I read in this morning’s papers, so do many hon. Members on the Government Benches, including the Chair of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change. When the time comes, we will work with colleagues across the House to put a decarbonisation target in the Bill.

Mr Davey: I am grateful for the right hon. Lady’s initial remarks. I am delighted that she wants to work with the Government to attract investment and that she wishes us well in the Doha talks next week. I hope we can reach a cross-party consensus on some of these important measures to tackle climate change, which is incredibly important. Both coalition parties gave that support to the last Government, for their Climate Change Act 2008, and I hope we can continue that consensus.

The right hon. Lady said that the Bill had been delayed. Ever since I have been Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, I have said it would be published in November and it has been. We are on time and on track. She asked a number of questions, but gave no recognition to the fact that two parties that have had their disagreements have come together with an energy policy. She also failed to mention how that has been received by industry and the investor community. The director general of the CBI, John Cridland, gave a ringing endorsement to the policies that we have announced, after the discussions I had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That political certainty, backed with the policy certainty of today’s announcement, will bring the billions of pounds of investment into the UK that our economy and our energy infrastructure needs.

The right hon. Lady asked me about competition. One almost thinks that she is suffering from amnesia, because it was the previous Government who failed to tackle competition. We are determined to tackle it, but we will not be using ideas from the Labour party’s manifesto, because we have our own ideas on how to ensure competition in the retail sector, with our arguments about switching, and in the wholesale sector, with our arguments about greater liquidity and transparency in that market. Of course we have competitive markets, but they could be more competitive. We are determined to drive them further and faster, and our policies will do far more than the ones she is offering the country.

The right hon. Lady questioned our new policies on tariffs, which will simplify them in a way that I believe will drive competition. Time and again, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) asked the previous Government to simplify tariffs, to drive competition in the consumer’s interest, and what did they do? Absolutely nothing. We will take no lessons from her on that matter.

The right hon. Lady asked about strike prices. She does not seem to understand how they will be set, so let me explain, although we will no doubt do this on Second Reading of the Bill. They will be set administratively until 2017; then they will be set through auctions. Auctions are the way to get the real transparency and competition that the previous Government failed to deliver.

The right hon. Lady asked about the decarbonisation target. That has been a matter of some debate within the Government, and there will no doubt be a debate on

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it between Members on both sides during the passage of the Bill. I looked at the 2010 manifestos of all the parties—the Green party, the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives—to see what promises they had made on a decarbonisation target for the power sector. None of us had made any. There were no such promises in the coalition agreement either, but since becoming Secretary of State, I have gone into the discussions determined to make that argument. I have done so, and we will table amendments to the Bill to give the Secretary of State power to set a decarbonisation target. I am proud of that.

The right hon. Lady said that without a decarbonisation target, we would see no investment in the supply chain. I simply refer her to Arriva’s announcement last week on a turbine factory. The weeks and months ahead will show whether we will see that supply chain investment. I believe that we will, because this coalition Government have put the right policies in place.

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Lord Stern, whose discredited report still forms the rationale for the Government’s energy policy, calculated in 2006 the amount by which the price of hydrocarbons needed to be increased in order to decarbonise the economy. Since then, the price of hydrocarbons has risen faster and further than either Lord Stern or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change thought sufficient, so why does my right hon. Friend propose to pile Pelion upon Ossa by burdening British industry and households with these tripled taxes?

Mr Davey: My right hon. Friend has been consistent: he voted against the Climate Change Act 2008 and he clearly does not like our low-carbon policies today. The fact that fossil fuel prices have gone up is yet another argument for our policies. We need to insulate our economy, our consumers and our businesses from those high prices. This country has to import far more fossil fuels than we used to because North sea resources are going down, and that is leaving our economy exposed. We need to tackle that issue for reasons of energy security and to ensure that we have competitive prices.

Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): The Secretary of State is obviously very pleased with himself about the tariffs, but will he acknowledge that he has failed to deliver what the Prime Minister promised, which was to put everybody on the lowest tariff? Given that he has not done that, will he consider making a concession to over-75-year-olds, who could save £200 a year by being on the lowest tariff? The 3,500 pensioners in my constituency would greatly appreciate that.

Mr Davey: First, we want to give the benefits of switching to everybody, not just to pensioners. Hard-working families are struggling, and we want to ensure that they get the benefits as well. As for the Prime Minister’s commitment to get people on to the cheapest tariffs, we are delivering that. Ofgem’s retail market review of the four core tariffs will ensure that people who are on stranded or dead tariffs will automatically be switched to the lowest tariff, given their preferences. I would have thought that the Opposition wanted to ensure that people are on the lowest tariff, because it

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will bring them big savings and ensure that their preferences —whether on payment or other things—are recognised. That is the best of both worlds.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): The Secretary of State mentioned the important role that he sees gas still playing in the transition to the low-carbon economy. Will he give me an assurance that the record licensing round that he has just announced is an indication of the Government’s continued commitment to maximising the remaining potential of our North sea assets?

Mr Davey: Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Sometimes the debate is characterised as a choice between gas and renewables, but we need both. That is particularly important as coal-fired power stations go off line. The gas power stations that replace them will help to cut our carbon emissions. It is absolutely right for our country’s energy security and prosperity that we maximise the potential of the North sea and, indeed, the other offshore fields, particularly those west of Shetland, and we will do that.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): Can the Secretary of State explain why the Government have decided not to fund the Hatfield project in South Yorkshire, which was the top priority for the European Commission, and to cast it aside by failing to include it on the list of future carbon capture and storage projects?

Mr Davey: Right hon. and hon. Members will know there has been a competition to secure the support that the Government offer for carbon capture and storage. We had eight applications, and we had some rigorous criteria which differed from those of the European Union—ours were more suitable for this country and our energy needs—and which were applied rigorously, robustly and fairly. We have now moved on to the second round. Of course, there will always be some losers—not all eight applicants can win—but we are applying the criteria fairly and robustly.

Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on both his statement and the Bill, and I urge him to do all he can to take energy policy out of politics, because investors need to know that there is cross-party support and support across Government for the measures he is introducing for the longer term. In that respect, given the absence of a decarbonisation target in the Bill, how does he intend to reassure investors who need to make investment decisions during this Parliament that there will be a long-term market for the products we want them to build here?

Mr Davey: I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend: I believe Members of all parties know what a critical role he played in shaping the Energy Bill that is published today. Along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), he worked across the parties to bring these proposals forward, and he deserves a huge amount of credit today. I am determined, having made this agreement in the coalition, that we send out a signal—not just to the UK or Europe, but to the whole world—that the UK is open for energy investment. We have built a consensus in the UK Government, and in view of the remarks of the right

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hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), I believe we may well secure cross-party consensus, which would be valuable to this country and its people. My hon. Friend asked how we will continue the consensus. Let us see how we make progress during proceedings on the Bill, in Committee and so forth. I know that my hon. Friend will play his role in making that happen.

Mr Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): We, too, welcome the publication of the Energy Bill, much of which we can probably support. If gas is to continue to be an important part of the energy mix, however, it is essential that carbon capture and storage is brought forward quickly. There has been some speculation in the specialist press that the UK Government have missed the European Union’s target for submitting details to ensure funding. Can the Secretary of State assure us that this is not the case, and that CCS will be brought forward quickly?

Mr Davey: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support, as having cross-party consensus is so important, in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom. As he knows, I think Scotland is stronger in the United Kingdom and that the United Kingdom is stronger with Scotland in it, not least on energy policy. On CCS, we are pursuing our policies as quickly as we can, but we need to make sure that we get value for money for the taxpayer. We were fortunate to have eight applications; we have now whittled that down to four, and we are proceeding apace to choose between those remaining four. It is true that we did not get in the first round of the New Entrants Reserve 300 funding from the EU, but we are wholly able to get into the second round and get the same amount of money. I have spoken to the European Commissioner about that. I see no problem in ensuring that we use the money put aside to get the best value for money for the best CCS projects.

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): The Government have talked a lot about green energy generation, but I would like to ask the Secretary of State about green energy transmission. A number of countries in Europe are now removing the scars from their countryside of pylons and overhead lines, and there is a wonderful opportunity for us to leave a great environmental legacy to future generations—not least in my North Somerset constituency, where this is a problem. What does the Bill say about green transmission? If it says nothing, I can tell the Secretary of State that a number of Members on both sides of the House will be more than happy to amend it.

Mr Davey: I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s question. I know that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) have been campaigning in Somerset on the new transmission lines proposed by National Grid. He will know that there is a settled approach whereby National Grid consults widely and tries to take concerns into account. This is not a new issue arising from green energy; it has been an issue for many decades. The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings, is working hard and I am sure that he would be more than happy to have a meeting with my right hon. Friend.

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John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): May I give the Secretary of State some advice? He would gain a lot more cross-party support if stopped this petty point-scoring.

The right hon. Gentleman did not mention poor and vulnerable customers in his statement. They are the customers who do not talk to the energy companies and who need people to go and see them. What will he do to ensure that representatives of the energy companies go and find those vulnerable people so that they can help them?

Mr Davey: The hon. Gentleman always gives me a courteous and charming welcome when I appear before the Select Committee of which he is a distinguished member. However, I did refer to vulnerable customers in my statement. They are absolutely at the heart of our policy and at the heart of my concerns as I develop that policy. I have made it clear to the energy companies that I expect them to work hard, as the Government are working hard, to ensure that we reach out to people in fuel poverty.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): I congratulate the Government and indeed Ofgem on having accepted the key recommendation of the billing stakeholder group, which the Government asked me to chair, that energy companies should make clear in their bills how much their customers would save in pounds and pence if they were on their supplier’s cheapest standard direct debit tariff. That recommendation is open for consultation, and the energy companies do not like it. May I encourage the Secretary of State to do what he can to ensure that they do not push back on it?

Mr Davey: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has done. He is absolutely right: we must stand up against people who prevent us from pursuing the consumer interest. It was ignored for far too long, but we are not going to ignore it. One of our reasons for arranging the consultation was that, although Ofgem could proceed with its own work and change licence conditions relating to bills and what is on them, we wanted to provide a statutory underpinning—a back-stop—to ensure that the process took place as quickly and smoothly as possible. I think that that is sending a very strong signal.

Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State share my regret that, despite the 18-month gestation of the Energy Bill, a consultation paper on the possibility of its including provisions on energy efficiency and demand-side management was not published until today? Will he undertake to rectify that omission by ensuring that the consultation proceeds as speedily as possible, and that amendments are tabled as early as possible, so that the House can debate the matter during the Bill’s passage rather than its being tacked on at the end when the debate is over?

Mr Davey: I am very proud that we have arranged a consultation on electricity demand reduction. Other Governments have continually ducked the issue, but our Government will not, because this could make a major difference to the way in which our energy policy works. There could be great savings for the economy, for businesses and for consumers if we get it right.

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I urge the hon. Gentleman to engage in the consultation. We do not have a firm proposal, but we have a set of options on which people can comment, and if legislation is required as a result, we will legislate.

Sir Nick Harvey (North Devon) (LD): I commend my right hon. Friend for his statement and for the work he is doing to tackle climate change, but may I urge him to review the encouragement that his Department is giving to the industrial-scale burning of wood to generate energy? Will he make time to read a recent report by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace entitled “Dirtier than coal? Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad news for the planet”? Will he also note the way in which the Scottish Government are using the planning and subsidy regimes to protect the environment, protect existing users of wood, and ensure that help is directed at small community-scale biomass rather than industrial-scale plants?

Mr Davey: I shall be happy to read that report, but I have considered the issue and I have to say that I think that the conversion of coal-fired power stations to biomass will have a beneficial effect on the UK’s carbon emissions. As my hon. Friend will know, a consultation is taking place on sustainability criteria relating to biomass energy. I believe that it will close on 30 November, and obviously we will respond to it.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): As a consistent pro-nuclear, pro-renewables and pro-energy efficiency Member, I welcome the announcement as an important step forward—although I have to say that the decarbonisation issue will be seen for what it is: a political fudge. Does the Secretary of State intend to table amendments to the Bill soon, so that Members have a chance to see them before Second Reading and we can have a proper debate, rather than have them hidden away in Committee where only a small group will debate them? Also, has the Secretary of State had time to respond to the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s recommendations?

Mr Davey: The hon. Gentleman is a very well informed and very talented Member, and I congratulate him on having managed to ask three questions. We will introduce amendments on both the tariff proposals and the decarbonisation powers, but we will do so in Committee, not before Second Reading. The whole House will be able to see them at Report stage, however. We want and value parliamentary scrutiny. I have lost track of the hon. Gentleman’s other two questions—he was a little greedy—but I am sure we will get back to him on them.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): Will the Secretary of State explain again how the UK will be able to meet its commitment to cut CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 if we are not ready to commit to decarbonising electricity by 2030?

Mr Davey: We are on track and we will hold to our commitments in the Climate Change Act. I refer my hon. Friend to my recent comments on the decarbonisation target being set at the same time as the fifth carbon

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budget. The fifth carbon budget covers the period from 2028 to 2033, and it therefore covers 2030, the year of the decarbonisation target in the power sector. The two approaches will therefore be brought together.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab): Can the Secretary of State confirm that people who are on prepayment meters or who cannot access online services will be able to enjoy the cheapest tariff their supplier offers?

Mr Davey: Under the Ofgem proposals, those on prepayment meters will be on the lowest tariff, given their payment method. We are consulting on the Ofgem proposals, and we are committed to them.

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): The Secretary of State’s statement is positive news for the nuclear new build programme. When will he start considering the sites for stations that will open beyond 2025, and will the Government consider sites that are not currently on the approved site list?

Mr Davey: As my hon. Friend knows, there are eight sites in the national plan, which is quite a lot to be getting on with, but any developers of a new nuclear proposition are free to propose sites not currently listed. I know that my hon. Friend has vigorously campaigned for Dungeness to be added to the list. I think there is a letter in the post to him about that, and I will be very happy to talk to him in detail about it.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): Despite the Secretary of State’s responses to two questions about customers, the fact of the matter is that when he referred to regulatory matters in his statement, he mentioned only industry and investors. Who will represent consumers worried about fuel poverty growing and instances of hypothermia increasing, especially as Ofgem seems to be both tepid and toothless?

Mr Davey: First, I worry about consumers; I made them one of my top priorities on day one in office. Ofgem has a duty to consumers, and it is working on their behalf. The Labour party wants to get rid of Ofgem, even though it is currently doing a very good job with its retail market review. The last Government were asked to simplify tariffs in order to help consumers; they failed to do so, but Ofgem has brought forward proposals on that.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): The investment and competition that the energy sector needs will be dependent upon attracting independent generators. Will any of the Secretary of State’s proposals help to ensure that new independent generators can enter our electricity market?

Mr Davey: My hon. Friend makes a good point, and when he reads the Bill in detail he will see that we are addressing this matter. We believe there must be greater liquidity in the wholesale markets, and the independent generators also want that. As my hon. Friend knows, last May we issued a call for evidence on independent generators’ concerns in respect of accessing purchase power agreements, which are crucial to them. We have set out our response and what we intend to do in the Bill and its associated documents published today.

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Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): On 17 October, the Prime Minister promised that he would ensure that energy companies put consumers on the lowest tariff by law. We know that that was a sleight of hand; the Secretary of State has just said that metered customers would not be on the lowest tariff, only the lowest in their band. Will the Secretary of State be clear today that he is limiting the tariffs to only four per company and that there is no guarantee that they will be the lowest? The lowest tariffs will now be higher than they were before.

Mr Davey: If the hon. Lady has read Ofgem’s proposals, she will have seen that it proposes four core tariffs. People can then express preferences in respect of both their payment method and whether they want dual discounts. Our consultation paper’s proposals are very similar to Ofgem’s.

Caroline Flint: They are identical.

Mr Davey: They are not identical; the right hon. Lady probably needs to read them in a little more detail. However, we believe that Ofgem’s are very good proposals. They were based on two years of study and will see that people, once they have expressed their preferences on how they wish to pay and so on, will be on the lowest tariff. The last Government failed to deliver on that.

Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) (Con): This week Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said three interesting things about the development of unconventional oil and gas. He called it

“the biggest change in the energy world since World War II”,

and went on:

“This is bigger even than the development of nuclear energy…This has implications for the whole world.”

Does my right hon. Friend agree?

Mr Davey: I do think that shale gas has implications for the whole world, although sometimes some commentators get rather expansive and over-enthusiastic. Shale gas is important. I want it developed in the United Kingdom, but we have to make sure that that is done safely and in a way that protects our environment. I believe that that can be done.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I very much welcome what the Secretary of State said about trying to put British companies at the forefront of the green energy revolution. However, last week Tata Steel announced 600 job losses in Wales and the future of the British steel industry is very dependent on UK demand. What can the Secretary of State do to encourage the development of renewables such as offshore wind turbines, which use thousands of tonnes of steel per turbine? What can he do to promote the use of UK steel in those endeavours?

Mr Davey: Our legislative, financial and levy control framework has been warmly welcomed by the offshore wind industry as the biggest boost it has ever seen. I hope that that will reassure the hon. Lady.

The hon. Lady mentioned Tata Steel, which, obviously, is an energy-intensive user. Energy-intensive industries have often been concerned about energy prices and the impact of moving to low-carbon energy. In his autumn

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statement last year, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor put forward proposals for supporting them and those have been taken forward. The hon. Lady will see in today’s announcement that we are helping energy-intensive industries with respect to contracts for difference in the electricity market reform regime. I think that will be widely welcomed.

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): I welcome today’s statement and the Energy Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm that we are now on track with our aspiration to be the greenest Government ever.

Specifically, what effect will his announcement have on projects such as Eggborough power station—a coal-fired station on the starting blocks and ready to convert to biomass and eventually carbon capture? It is waiting to go ahead.

Mr Davey: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we are on track to be the greenest Government ever. Yesterday, I was at the launch of the green investment bank, which is just one example, in Edinburgh.

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), is meeting Eggborough representatives today. I cannot comment ahead of that meeting, but I believe that Eggborough and other power plants will like our proposals.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State mentioned the Doha negotiations. What are the Government’s specific objectives —I do not mean just getting agreement—for those negotiations? Which members of the ministerial team will represent the UK there?

Mr Davey: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s question. I will be attending the Doha negotiations, along with the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker). On our objectives, we have been arguing for a balanced package. In the pre-COP discussions in Seoul, we argued that the European Union and other members of the Kyoto protocol need to commit to a second period and that we need the long-term co-operative action negotiations to come to an end, and in return we need a work plan to take us from now until 2015 so that we can implement the international, legally binding treaty promised at Durban. In addition, we want ambitious proposals to come from other countries on climate change finance and we would like to see more mitigation measures.

Just before this statement, I was at Clarence house with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales attending a meeting on forests. We have made an announcement today of the use of UK climate change finance money to support new forest projects, which I believe will help the climate change talks and show that this Government have an ambitious agenda.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): Some great companies in Pendle are working in the energy sector: Graham Engineering works in the nuclear supply chain; and Kirk Environmental is internationally renowned and is the only UK company specialising in the manufacture

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of large anaerobic digestive tanks and double membrane biogas holders. Will the Secretary of State commit to working closely with Ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who are delivering things such as the advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative, to ensure that British companies, such as those based in my constituency, can deliver the low-carbon economy and the energy security he seeks to achieve?

Mr Davey: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; the potential for growth and jobs resulting from our energy policies is huge. He will be pleased to learn that I have been working with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on exactly these issues. We will be producing strategies on the supply chains in nuclear and offshore wind, and we have been working together to maximise the potential for British jobs from this investment and these energy infrastructure plans.

Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes) (Lab): What level of continuing subsidy does the Secretary of State envisage for wind turbine generation? Does he consider that to be a cost-effective investment?

Mr Davey: Our investments and our policies for offshore wind have been widely welcomed, and we are seeing the industry really get going. We have the largest amount of offshore wind capacity already installed and we have some of the greatest potential in the world. It is important that we get costs down. We are working with the offshore wind developers and the forum that has been established to get cost reductions, and they produced a report just a few months ago showing how we could get cost reductions across the piece, which will make a huge difference to competitiveness.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I welcome the Bill, which at last gives us the possibility of unleashing nuclear power at scale in the UK. The Secretary of State will have seen the recent EU figures showing that every EU industrial country except France has higher carbon emissions per head than the UK. Yet Germany, which has 20% more carbon emissions per head than

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the UK, has recently embarked on a project to build 20 unabated coal power stations. How does he reconcile Germany’s position with ours?

Mr Davey: I work closely with my German counterparts, particularly Peter Altmaier, and I know that they are having a big debate in Germany called the “Energiewende” looking at how they will deal with the implications of reducing their nuclear industry. I am sure that my hon. Friend would understand that, given our close partnership with Germany, I would not wish to tread on Herr Altmaier’s toes, but this country is investing in nuclear. We are putting forward a regime that we think is attractive, and Hitachi’s £700 million investment in the Horizon project shows that international companies and international capital believe we have got it right.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Last but not least, I call Martin Horwood.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Does the Secretary of State agree that, in time, feed-in tariffs with contracts for difference will provide a means of supporting a diverse emerging and fast-changing renewables industry that is good for the environment and fairer to households than the outgoing renewables obligation system? Will he reconsider extending that subsidy to a mature and inflexible nuclear industry dominated by a single French nationalised company that is trying to seal the deal in secret before we have even passed the legislation?

Mr Davey: First, on my hon. Friend’s last point, I have made it clear that we will be very transparent about negotiations with EDF or any other company. Of course, he would not expect me to comment on negotiations daily but he would expect me to bring to the House the results of them so that I can be held to account in the proper way.

On my hon. Friend’s first point, he is absolutely right. One of the huge advantages of feed-in tariffs with contracts for difference compared with the renewable obligations certificate system is that the deal is much better for consumers. The policies we are putting in place and electricity market reform will mean that consumer and business bills will be far lower than they otherwise would have been. That is one of the main reasons we are doing this.

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Points of Order

12.10 pm

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There has been some concern about today’s Westminster Hall Select Committee on Welsh Affairs debate on inward investment in Wales. It did not appear on the Order Paper at any point this week until today and notification only came in the business statement on 8 November. Furthermore, there is concern that that important debate will clash with the Prime Minister making a statement on the Leveson report. Will you look into what went wrong concerning the debate, which is obviously important for the people of Wales?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): The hon. Lady is absolutely right. It was an administrative error, which has been corrected, and we will certainly try to ensure that it does not happen again. The two debates would have taken place whether it was on the Order Paper or not, but the point is absolutely correct. It was an error—it was a mistake—and we must ensure that it does not happen again.

Mr Tom Harris (Glasgow South) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In a written ministerial statement on 9 November, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated that he had asked Professor Ian Boyd, DEFRA’s chief scientific adviser,

“to convene an expert taskforce on tree health and plant biosecurity.”

The Secretary of State said that he looked

“forward to seeing his interim proposals at the end of November”—[Official Report, 9 November 2012; Vol. 552, c. 50WS.]

He also said that he would update the House on receipt of them. Tomorrow is the last sitting day in November.

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It took Ministers five months from the point at which the presence of ash dieback in the country was identified to doing something about it and further delays cannot be tolerated. Have you received any indication from the Secretary of State that he intends to make a statement to the House today or tomorrow?

Mr Deputy Speaker: I have had no such indication and although the point is now on the record, it is not a point for the Chair, as the hon. Gentleman is aware.

Bill Presented

Energy Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Secretary Davey, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Secretary Hague, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Secretary Hammond, Secretary Vince Cable, Mr Secretary Pickles, Mr Secretary Paterson, Mr Oliver Letwin, Gregory Barker and Mr John Hayes, presented a Bill to make provision for or in connection with reforming the electricity market for purposes of encouraging low carbon electricity generation or ensuring security of supply; for the establishment and functions of the Office for Nuclear Regulation; about the government pipe-line and storage system and rights exercisable in relation to it; about the designation of a strategy and policy statement; for the making of orders requiring regulated persons to provide redress to consumers of gas or electricity; about offshore transmission of electricity during a commissioning period; for imposing further fees in respect of nuclear decommissioning costs; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 100) with explanatory notes (Bill 100-EN).

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Backbench Business

Scotland and the Union

[Relevant document: Sixth Report from the Scottish Affairs Committee, Session 2010-12, TheReferendum on Separation for Scotland: Unanswered Questions, HC 1806.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I inform the House that I have selected amendment (a) in the name of Angus Robertson.

12.13 pm

Mrs Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House believes that Scotland has always made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to the UK over the 305 years of the Union; notes the strong and enduring bonds that exist between Scotland and the other nations of the UK; further notes its shared history and the contribution that the Scottish people have made to public life in the UK in politics, academia, trade unions and the armed forces; notes the contribution that Scotland’s businesses make to the UK economy and their particular expertise in cutting edge industries such as life sciences and engineering; further notes that a referendum on separating Scotland from the rest of the UK will be held before the end of 2014; and believes that Scotland is better off as part of the UK and the rest of the UK is better off together with Scotland.

It is customary to begin debates that are granted by the Backbench Business Committee by saying how pleased we are to have a debate on a particular subject. I say that genuinely, not merely as a convention. Tomorrow is St Andrew’s day and Scots around the world are celebrating their pride in their nation and their culture. It is important when we are considering the future of Scotland and our United Kingdom that the debate takes place in this United Kingdom Parliament. We appreciate that the debate will take place in many forums around the United Kingdom and around the world over the next two years and particularly, of course, in Scotland and in the Scottish Parliament, but in addition to those debates we must have the opportunity to discuss these extremely important matters here in the United Kingdom Parliament.

There are many more Scots outside Scotland than within Scotland. Most of us now accept that only the people who are currently living in Scotland, be they Scottish or merely resident in Scotland with a right to vote, will take part in the referendum. Indeed, several of my constituents in Epping Forest have written to me or come to see me to ask why they, as Scots, will not get a vote in the referendum about the future of their country. I have told them not to worry, because as long as they keep on voting Conservative in Epping Forest there will be a Scottish voice here in the United Kingdom Parliament.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate, which is extremely important for the future of the United Kingdom. Does she not agree that there is also an argument in favour of allowing the people of England to have their say on the Scottish devolution question and on independence? If Scotland became an independent nation, that would have a real effect on the people of Wiltshire as well as the people of Scotland.

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Mrs Laing: My hon. Friend is, of course, absolutely correct. I have a great deal of sympathy for his point, but I accept that agreement has been entered into that the terms of the referendum have been broadly decided, although they have yet to be finally decided in the Scottish Parliament. I accept that the Scottish Parliament will decide on the franchise for the referendum and that, in doing so, it is unlikely to decide that people throughout the entire United Kingdom should have a vote in the referendum, but although those people will not have a vote in the referendum, they must have a voice in the debate. That will be provided in this Parliament and throughout all parts of the United Kingdom.

Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) (Con): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Is she aware of whether there might be any restrictions on which people living in Scotland will be entitled to vote in the referendum, such as on English people, EU citizens or people from further afield?

Mrs Laing: It is likely that the franchise will be the same as the franchise for the last Scottish parliamentary elections. I accept that and I do not think we should spend too much time arguing about the franchise as the line must be drawn somewhere. I trust the Scottish Parliament to draw the line in a reasonable way that is in accord with general electoral practice.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. She mentions the Scottish Parliament—does she agree with me that a strong Scottish Parliament in the United Kingdom gives us the best of both worlds?

Mrs Laing: Yes, it does. I entirely accept that—[Interruption.] Before the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) reminds me that I have not always accepted that, let me say that I accept it now—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) says that is progress, and I am proud of the progress I have made in that respect.

Yesterday, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland led the annual St Andrew’s day service in the crypt of the Palace of Westminster. He asked why the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland comes to London in this week every year and he answered that question by saying that at least 300,000 Scots live in London. London is probably the largest parish covered by the Church of Scotland anywhere. That emphasises the point: there are Scots in London, in England and all over the world who care about the future of their country—our country. The Moderator of the General Assembly comes to London because this is the capital city of the United Kingdom—the capital city of all our nations brought together.

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): My hon. Friend makes an important key point about the United Kingdom and its identity. On the numerous visits that I made to Iraq and Afghanistan, our armed forces did not ask one another whether they came from Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh or London. They fought for a country and a people that they love, united not just by instruments of parliamentary procedure, but by a country, intermarried and interlinked through many generations. We are a

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people united not by parliamentary instrument or law, but by tradition and convention, and much more by our human activities.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. A lot of Members wish to speak. We need shorter interventions. I remind Members that those who intervene who were on the speaking list will be dropped down if they continue to intervene.

Mrs Laing: My right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) makes an extremely important point, which is at the very centre of this debate. He mentions Afghanistan and Iraq, where he has seen recently and personally the contribution made by brave servicemen and women from every part of this United Kingdom and our allies in other parts of the world—from every part of the United Kingdom, and they do not ask each other, “Which is your country?”

It is our country for which we fight, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but going back in our history, through the second world war, through the first world war, which in two years’ time, just at the time of the referendum, we will remember. That war started 100 years before the referendum is due to take place. Brave Scots joined brave Englishmen, Welshmen, Irishmen—

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): And New Zealanders.

Mrs Laing: Indeed, New Zealanders and Australians—to fight against the oppressor. The oppressor is not within this United Kingdom. The oppressor is potentially outwith the United Kingdom, and together we have fought oppression and won against oppression for centuries.

Mr Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): I am listening to what the hon. Lady is saying and she seems to have fossilised history. Yes, of course we have fought together in the past. We have fought the Germans in the past, but we co-operate with them on other things now. History does not stand still, and Scottish independence is an evolution of history.

Mrs Laing: No one is suggesting that history stands still. I am referring to history as history. What happened 100 years ago we will commemorate as having happened 100 years ago, but we will not forget it. Those who forget history suffer for having done so. The point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset is that right now, at this very minute, brave servicemen and women from Scotland, England and other parts of the United Kingdom are fighting together to guarantee the freedom of our country, our whole country. That is not history. That is current. It is right now.

Last week or the week before last, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) will remember, we had a debate in Committee Room 14 organised by the Law Society of Scotland, a fine bunch of people. Before I took all those interventions, I was speaking about Scots outside Scotland. The Law Society of Scotland has an enormous number of members, of which I happen to be one, in London. Committee Room 14 was packed. We had a really good and lively debate but, despite his excellent speech, not one person

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in that Room voted to support the hon. Gentleman— not one, and I promise I had not invited them all personally.

Continuing on the same theme, last night I attended another packed meeting held here in London, in Chelsea, by Friends of the Union. It was a great surprise to me to bump into the chairman of the Essex Conservatives, a very nice gentleman whom I see frequently in my constituency. I said something along the lines, “I didn’t know you cared, Adrian.” He explained to me in no uncertain terms that he and many of the other people who were there at that event for Friends of the Union had come of their own accord because they are fed up hearing that people in England and the rest of the United Kingdom do not care about Scotland. That is simply not true and it will be proved not to be true as this debate takes hold throughout the whole country. He said to me, and other people came and joined in the conversation, “We are here because we care about the United Kingdom and we care about Scotland as part of the United Kingdom.” They value the United Kingdom. They know that we are better together.

As we consider the motion and the amendment, and as we seriously begin the debate in the country, let us at least try to get the language right. This debate is not about nationalism. Scotland is a nation. We are proud of our nation. I discovered earlier that it happens that tomorrow is the 140th anniversary of the first football international between Scotland and England.

Mr MacNeil: Who won?

Mrs Laing: It was held in Glasgow and I am pleased to say it was a no-score draw. But the point about it is that one can have an international only if one has a nation. We all go to Murrayfield, Twickenham and the Millennium stadium and cheer on our national football, rugby and other teams, because each of the component parts of the United Kingdom is a nation. So let us stop arguing about whether Scotland is a nation. That is not a question. Scotland is a nation, as is England, Wales, Northern Ireland and so on.

The debate is not about independence. That is another misnomer. Scotland is independent and is in charge of her own destiny. Scotland has and always has had her own institutions—the law, the education system, the Church. I speak as living proof as a graduate of Edinburgh university, a member of the Law Society of Scotland and a member of the Church of Scotland, but more important than that to me, I am a member of the Epping Forest Scottish Association. As the Member of Parliament for Epping Forest in the proud county of Essex, I have no conflict between my nationality as Scottish and British, and my constituents have no problem about having somebody represent their constituency who happens to have been born in another part of the United Kingdom. This is a time when people around the world are breaking down barriers and coming together. It is wrong to construct barriers that we do not need.

Mr Weir: The hon. Lady is making an impassioned speech but her point about people who were born in other parts of the United Kingdom is irrelevant. There are people representing all parties in the Scottish Parliament who were born in other parts of the United Kingdom and other places. The debate is about the right of the

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people living in Scotland to determine their future. It is not about whether people from other parts of the United Kingdom can or cannot be Scots if they are currently living in Scotland. There is no argument about that.

Mrs Laing: The hon. Gentleman is totally wrong. This is not about an argument or a debate about the right of people living in Scotland to determine their future. We all agree that people in Scotland have the right to determine their future. I have just said that and I have said it many times in the House and in other places. Everyone accepts that. Scotland is a nation. Scotland is independent. Scotland holds Scotland’s future in its own hands.

This debate is not about nationalism or independence; it is about separation. That is the word that should be used in debates in this Parliament, in the Scottish Parliament and in every forum across the country and further afield in the debate that will rage between now and the referendum in two years’ time. This is about separation, not pride in our country or whether Scotland can survive on her own. Of course Scotland can survive on her own; she is a strong and capable country full of brilliant and talented people. This debate is about drawing artificial lines that we do not need. As the motion states—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I point out gently to the hon. Lady that she has now been speaking for 17 minutes. She must be getting close to the end of her speech, because I know that she is desperate to hear the other arguments.

Mrs Laing: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am afraid that I have taken many interventions, this being a debate, but I will conclude shortly.

I will leave it to others to talk about why separation would be bad for industry, financial institutions, the currency, the armed forces, family and culture. I will turn to the motion and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson).

I would be minded to accept the amendment were it not for the first few words, which propose leaving out the last three lines of the motion, which state that this House

“notes that a referendum on separating Scotland from the rest of the UK will be held before the end of 2014; and believes that Scotland is better off as part of the UK and the rest of the UK is better off together with Scotland.”

I believe that the vast majority of Members will support our motion today. The amendment would leave out those lines and add

“recognises that special relationships also endure with Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and other members of the Commonwealth as well as the Republic of Ireland and the United States; and believes that this will also be the case with Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom after the 2014 independence referendum.”

I entirely agree, because after the referendum nothing will change. The people of Scotland are sensible, forward-looking people and they will vote to stay better together within the United Kingdom.

Most states in the landmass of Europe and other parts of the world have to draw boundaries somewhere, but we do not have to do so because we have a natural

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boundary: our shores. This is but a small island, full of people in every part whose individual lives, past, present and future, are bound up with each other. Each part has its own identity, but this House will agree this afternoon that we are stronger and better to go forward together as one United Kingdom.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I am introducing a 10-minute time limit on speeches.

12.34 pm

Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of the debate, alongside the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing), whom I am delighted to follow. In a way, as a Scot who represents an English constituency, she epitomises what the motion is about: the rich blend of the best of all four corners of our land that has made the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the success story it so evidently is. There is no doubt that the United Kingdom is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Although I might disagree with her politics, I have no doubt that we, as Scots, share a love of our country and want to see what is right and proper for its people and for future generations. It is also fitting that we are holding this debate on the eve of St Andrew’s day, the national occasion when we Scots come together to celebrate our patron saint and demonstrate our pride in all things Scottish.

As the motion states, Scotland has made a significant contribution to the United Kingdom over the 305 years of the Union, and it continues to do so. Indeed, our shared history goes back even further to the union of the Crowns in 1603, when a Scot, James VI, sat on the English throne as James I. He was the first of six monarchs in the Stuart line who ruled both England and Scotland, as well as Ireland, until the Glorious Revolution, and then again to 1714. In fact, it was Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart line, who became the first monarch of the political union of Britain.

With the Acts of Union in 1707, Scotland quickly took advantage of the abolition of trade tariffs with England and trade blossomed. The 18th century also saw the Scottish enlightenment, a period characterised by momentous intellectual and scientific accomplishments, so much so that Voltaire said:

“We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.”

With the advent of the Union, Scots took up positions of power in politics, the civil service, the Army and Navy, trade, economics, colonial enterprises and other areas across the emerging British empire. The historian Neil Davidson has observed:

“Far from being ‘peripheral’ to the British economy, Scotland...lay at its core.”

Indeed, throughout the industrial revolution Scotland more than punched above its weight and became known across the world for its excellence in engineering, as typified by Clyde-built ships.

Through advancements in medicine and its inventive spirit, distinct banking system and contribution to art, literature and culture, Scotland has always added greatly beyond its shores. Even in times of adversity, the people of Scotland have not been wanting. During the first world war, despite Scotland having a population of

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only 4.8 million, over half a million Scots went to the front. My purpose in touching, albeit briefly, on 300 years of Scottish history is to point out that many of our achievements and benefits were because of our place within the UK, not in spite of it.

Scotland is linked intrinsically to the rest of the United Kingdom socially, politically and economically. The single market within the UK affords significant economic, trade and employment opportunities to people on both sides of the border. Our membership of the European Union, through the United Kingdom, provides a vast marketplace for Scottish exporters. Together we have a place at the top table of the European Council of Ministers and we are one of the G8 forum of the world’s largest economies and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, all of which allows us to wield unprecedented influence on the European and global stages. As a member of NATO, we have collectively benefited since the war from international security and defence co-operation on a grand scale.

When it comes to the economy, Scotland has a very important relationship with the rest of the UK. Scotland benefits from access to a market comprising tens of millions of people within a single jurisdiction. Scots are employed by firms based in the rest of the UK, and people in the rest of the UK benefit from employment opportunities with Scottish-based companies. Indeed, in 2010 Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK were worth double its exports to the rest of the world— £44 billion and £22 billion respectively—and manufacturing exports were estimated at £13 billion.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I welcome my hon. Friend’s point about manufacturing industry. Does he agree that the sizeable increase in manufacturing, which is taking place as we speak, has arisen mainly as a result of the Scottish contribution?

Graeme Morrice: I certainly concur with my right hon. Friend on that point.

In addition to the shared opportunities, the pooling of resources across the UK allows risk as well as reward to be spread, as seen most notably in the bail-out of the Scottish-based banks during the financial crisis, when the UK, led by a Scot, injected £37 billion of capital into the banks—an amount in excess of the total budget of the Scottish Government.

The legal framework for business is more or less uniform across the entirety of the UK. That means that there is a similar taxation, regulatory and employment law regime throughout the UK. On the benefit of a single market both to Scotland and to the rest of the UK, the director general of the CBI has stated that the

“raft of common laws and regulations...make operating across the different constituent parts of the union more efficient.”

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has noted that the Scottish economy is

“more integrated with the rest of the UK than Europe or the rest of the world.”

With regard to jobs, people on both sides of the border benefit from employment opportunities engendered by Scotland being part of the Union. The UK Government are a major employer in Scotland, with more than

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30,000 civil servants bringing almost £700 million annually to Scotland in salaries alone. Thousands of jobs also rely on the defence sector in Scotland, with 40,000 people employed in more than 800 companies. Companies from the rest of the UK contribute about one fifth of private sector economic activity in Scotland.

On energy, North sea oil is an important contributor to the UK economy, accounting for thousands of jobs in the north-east of Scotland, and a valuable source of revenue for the UK Treasury. However, the supply is declining and unstable. Recent reports show that North sea oil production fell by 30% in 2011 compared with the previous year. For the past 18 years, the level of public spending in Scotland has dwarfed the total revenue from North sea oil; in 2009-10, the difference was £18 billion. In fact, welfare spending in Scotland in 2010 was three times higher than North sea oil revenue. Of course, oil and gas remain an important part of the Scottish and UK economies and will do so in the years to come, but to bet Scotland’s economic future on this sector, as the Scottish National party does, is naive at best and foolhardy at worst. Moreover, Scotland being outwith the UK would create uncertainty for the future of Scotland’s renewables industry, and potentially lead to higher fuel bills and a £2 billion burden on Scottish businesses, due to Scotland receiving a disproportionate share of the available subsidy compared with the rest of the UK. These figures highlight the many benefits of Scotland being part of the UK economy in that we are able to work together in partnership to share the risks and rewards involved in harnessing our energy resources.

Scotland being part of the UK also allows us to pool our resources and distribute them on the basis of social need across the welfare state. If it were outwith the UK, that would place a major question mark over its ability to continue to fund benefits at current levels and to meet state and public sector pension commitments. It is simply an illusion for the SNP to promise Scandinavian levels of welfare spending while supporting Irish levels of taxation.

There are many other positives on which I could elaborate, such as the flexibility across borders which has over the years benefited people on both sides and led to high levels of migration in both directions; indeed, I personally have been a beneficiary of that. Our common currency is one of the oldest monetary unions in the world. A practical and more recent example is the benefit derived by Scottish athletes from UK sports funding, facilities and coaching in the run-up to the Olympics and Paralympics. It is interesting to note that all but three of the Scots who won medals at the Olympics had team-mates from the rest of the UK.

Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware that three Scots Olympians have been nominated for the BBC sports personality of the year award?

Graeme Morrice: Indeed I am. All three—Sir Chris Hoy, Andy Murray and Katherine Grainger—train and reside in England and clearly benefit from Scotland being part of the United Kingdom. Of course, we pay tribute to those athletes as part of Team GB and wish them every success in the BBC sports personality of the year award. [Interruption.] Indeed, they cannot all win, but we would like to see them do so.

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There is much more I could say about the benefits to Scotland and the rest of the UK of Scotland remaining a strong partner within the Union. I am sure that other Members will fill any gaps in my speech and expand on some of the points I have made. I conclude by mentioning one of Scotland’s and the UK’s most notable achievements in its 300-year history—devolution. Devolution has been a great success and has provided new vigour to the United Kingdom. Whether in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, devolution is working but also developing, as it will continue to do in future. As we are all well aware, support for devolution and attachment to the UK in Scotland is stronger than support for independence. Scots share the same social attitudes and values as people in the rest of the UK. They are just as alert to the risks and uncertainties of separation and have a real comprehension of the benefits and advantages of remaining part of the UK. Therefore, all things considered, there is no doubt that we are all better off together.

12.46 pm

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to contribute to this timely and important debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) on securing it. I am proud to be a co-signatory to the motion.

The hon. Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) set out very well many of the practical benefits that Scotland and, indeed, the rest of the United Kingdom gain from the Union, be it in defence, finance and economic matters, or our influence on the world stage. We could, and should, have a full debate on each of those points, and I am sure that in the course of the next year or two, leading up to the referendum, they will all be fully explored. To summarise the benefits—I think that the hon. Gentleman used this phrase—the strength of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We are stronger together.

Scotland could go it alone as a separate country. I am not one of those who believes that it would be an impoverished basket case of a country that could not survive on its own. Of course it could, but at what cost? Together, we are stronger, more influential, safer and more prosperous. It would be much riskier for everyone if Scotland went it alone.

Mr MacNeil: Does the hon. Gentleman have a list of nations of about 4 million to 5 million people that might be better off joining the UK because they would be safer, more prosperous and more influential? Is he considering Denmark, Sweden or Finland? What is at the forefront of his mind?

Iain Stewart: I am puzzled. Is the hon. Gentleman asking for other countries to come and join us in the United Kingdom? That is a very interesting notion.

A few years ago, the global banking crisis sent economic shockwaves around the world. The SNP used to make a claim for the arc of prosperity that would link a separate Scotland with Ireland and Iceland, but that arc has rusted somewhat in the light of events. A separate Scotland could have weathered that storm, but the

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resilience that we had as a country was much stronger because we were the United Kingdom and not split up into atomised parts.

Mr MacNeil: I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to cast aspersions on Iceland and will therefore know its unemployment rate and GDP per capita as against those of the United Kingdom.

Iain Stewart: I cannot give those figures off the top of my head. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that Iceland was any better placed to weather the storm than the United Kingdom, that is a slightly revisionist view of history.

Another issue is Scotland’s role in the European Union if it becomes a separate country. There was an interesting debate on that in Westminster Hall last week. In the interests of brevity, I will not rehearse all the arguments. I believe strongly that if Scotland went its own way and wanted to be part of the EU, it would happen on the EU’s terms. Scotland would be sucked into full currency, fiscal and political union, which would not be to its benefit.

Mr Weir rose

Iain Stewart: I will not give way again.

The EU issue makes a mockery of the SNP’s independence policy. It is perfectly logical to argue that if Scotland does not like one economic union and wants to be the master of its own destiny, it should go its own way, but to argue that it should then join an ever-deepening union is utterly illogical.

The fact that we are having a referendum at all is risky as it may be a distraction from what we should be concentrating on. I do not doubt for a minute that it is perfectly within Scotland’s right to have the debate and to have the matter resolved. As a democrat, I fully accept that the Scottish National party won a majority in the last Scottish Parliament elections and that a referendum was part of its manifesto. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to have the debate. But at what cost? The constitutional uncertainty in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s had a severe impact on the economic prosperity of Quebec. The EU admitted that in a report.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Iain Stewart: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have a number of points that I want to make and I have already been generous in giving way to him.

A report by economists at the appropriately named Scotiabank in Canada said of the 1995 referendum:

“The palpable fear in the markets was keyed off deep intertwined concerns about the country’s fiscal, economic and political circumstances.”

The very fact that we are having this debate is therefore risky as it may distract us. However, I accept that it is legitimate that we are having it.

My main point relates not to the economic or defence arguments or to Scotland’s influence on the global stage, but is a personal and emotional appeal. My nationality is British. I do not want to be rendered stateless or to be forced to choose between the place of

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my birth and the place I now call home. The country that would be left would be the rest of the United Kingdom and its flag would be, as the noble Lord Forsyth described it, “an anaemic red asterisk” once the blue of the saltire was taken out.

As far as I can tell, my blood is 100% Scottish. My father has traced the generations of the family back to the 1700s. Unless there is something we do not know about, my family came from a small area in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. I spent my childhood in Scotland. My primary and secondary education was in Scotland, but my higher education was in England. Three quarters of my working life has been spent in England. Through marriage and my family, I have many relatives who are part Scottish and part English. I have stood for public office five times: twice in Scotland and three times in England. My Scottish ventures were somewhat less successful than my English ones. I stood for South Lanarkshire council and for Glasgow Rutherglen. Let us just say that I saved my deposit on both occasions.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest said forcefully, of course Scotland and England have distinct cultures that are expressed through the arts and on the sporting field, but both can be vibrant within the Union. Patriotism does not require nationalism to flourish. Beyond a patriotic pride, the United Kingdom has something that is much stronger. Team GB at the Olympic games exemplified it, the monarchy exemplifies it, and even James Bond exemplifies it. We have an identity that has been forged through more than 300 years of the world’s most successful and enduring Union. We do not need to change. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir) said that that is history. It is history, but it is also the present and I believe that it is the future. For goodness’ sake, let us not throw away what we have achieved and what makes us strong, prosperous and successful in an ever-changing world that is becoming more dangerous and uncertain. We have something that is strong and that works; let us keep it.

12.55 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I beg to move an amendment, leave out from ‘engineering’ to end and add

‘and recognises that special relationships also endure with Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and other members of the Commonwealth as well as the Republic of Ireland and the United States; and believes that this will also be the case with Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom after the 2014 independence referendum.’.

I reassure the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) that he can call himself Scottish, British or even Milton Keynesian—it is really up to him. This debate is all about identity and what we want to call ourselves.

I thank the many hon. Members who have passed on their regards and concerns for my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie). I reassure the House that he is back home and making a full recovery. I fully expect him to be back in his place very soon, talking about the Laffer curve and endogenous growth theory as only he can.

Another person who is missing is the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). We were all expecting his presence today and to hear his

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words of wisdom on Scotland and the Union, but he is not here. He is a bit like Brigadoon: one gets a glimpse of him only once a year.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) on the motion. It is a good motion. I take exception only with the last two lines of it, as she knows. There is so much more that she could have added, such as the contribution that Scots have made to the Union and the United Kingdom. She missed out the enlightenment, for goodness’ sake, which is an important way in which the Scots contributed to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom and the Union have also given much to Scotland. The Scots have helped to build and have shared the great institutions of the UK and the Union. We have fantastic cultural relationships and we have had great times. All of that is part of a social union and that will go nowhere. We will continue to be British after the independence referendum and when we secure our independence.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): I am surprised to hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, because he previously told this House that

“as Scotland moves forward to become a normal independent nation, all vestiges of Britishness will go.”

He went on to say:

“I have never felt British in my life. I do not even know what Britishness is.”—[Official Report, 12 November 2008; Vol. 482, c. 306-307WH.]

Pete Wishart: I expected that response. In fact, it said on Twitter that that intervention would be made.

I say to the Minister that, as we examine our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom, we discover some of these fantastic ties. I accept that there will be vestiges of Britishness. That is a personal interest of mine. We are British. I live in Perth in the north of the island called Great Britain. It is called that because it is the largest of the British isles. I am British as much as somebody from Stockholm or Copenhagen is Scandinavian. That is the reality of geography and it cannot be denied. Hon. Members may want to take forward their obsession with separation by building a channel between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That is the only way they could stop us being British.

I accept that being British is about more than just geography. Of course there is something cultural about Britishness. However, Britishness is an invention. It was a necessary social construct to unite all the nations of the United Kingdom. That is why it is so hard to define and describe. We have heard some great and excruciating attempts to define Britishness. Who could forget the attempt of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, when he talked about

“British jobs for British workers”?

I remember the attempt by Michael Portillo, when he described Britishness as anti-fanaticism. However, Britishness is more than that. It is the combination of the 300 years that we have shared and endured across these islands. It is about everything from the industrial revolution to how we stood together in the wars; the Queen has been mentioned, and, of course, there are great pop and rock bands.

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I was particularly disappointed with the views of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) who tried to scaremonger on the issue of culture. He said that British music would be no longer “our” music but “their” music—whoever “they” are. I played in a band for 15 years. I replaced an English keyboard player and the lead singer of my band is Canadian. To suggest that something as free-spirited as music can be confined to borders or frontiers is absurd and ridiculous. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West should be ashamed of trying to scaremonger about culture.

One good definition of Britishness—as has been mentioned fleetingly—was the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, which got close to describing and defining Britishness. Danny Boyle did a fantastic job with his cultural tour de force. The big irony, however, is that part of that fantastic presentation placed a strong emphasis on the country’s social ethos, and particularly on the NHS, which the Westminster Tories are currently disestablishing through privatisation. Already, part of that glimpse of Britishness disappears with that very statement.

Mrs Laing rose

Pete Wishart: I will not give way to the hon. Lady, because I do not have much time.

That Britishness has no place in discussions on independence simply because it cannot be un-invented. We cannot un-invent all our ties, heritage and culture; we will always have a shared history and joint heritage, and there will always be cultural relationships and collaboration.

Independence will bring a new, improved relationship between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, because we will come to it from a position of equality and mutual respect. Most people in Scotland now describe themselves as Scottish—some, of course, describe themselves as and feel profoundly British, but most surveys of social attitude suggest that most Scots now present themselves as Scottish.

As we have gone forward with our own national Parliament and strengthened our institutions, Scottish people are feeling more secure in their identity and more culturally relaxed about who they are. That is why we are able to adopt different identities and why we can easily accept the idea of being Scottish—we could be Pakistani Scottish, Indian Scottish, Polish Scottish, but we are all Scottish and that is how people now describe themselves. With independence, we could express our unique Scottishness in world institutions. We could bring Scottish values to international affairs and institutions, and that would only be good for people in Scotland.

Mr MacNeil: Does my hon. Friend agree that sharing a Prime Minister is not what makes hon. Members in the Chamber today British?

Pete Wishart: My hon. Friend is right. Britishness is about identity and geography. Our gripe is not with cultural Britishness or the social union—

Mrs Laing: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Pete Wishart: I do not have time. As the hon. Lady will know, I have used my two minutes’ injury time.

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Our gripe is with political arrangements within the United Kingdom. We want to recalibrate political relationships within the UK; we want powers to grow our economy and make our own international contribution. We want to complete the powers of our Parliament and take responsibility for our affairs. We have no issue with our British past, heritage and culture, and they will be defining features of how we go forward as Scottish people.

I find talk of separation and the idea that people will become “foreigners” dispiriting and depressing. Some of the language used has become quite chilling and I am getting a bit concerned. When people are described as foreigners I feel a little uncomfortable. I know that people have to build up the idea of Scotland as an unviable nation, and suggest that it is a risk and that there is scary stuff out there if it becomes independent, but can we please be careful with some of the language used when people build up that theme of separation? Negativity is a big and necessary part of the case and construct used by those who oppose independence.

We have heard about the past and the things that unite us, and about our great relationships and institutions and the contribution that Scotland has made to the United Kingdom, but what about the future. What does Scotland get if it says no in a referendum on independence? Can we have a guarantee that if it remains in the Union, Scotland will be part of the EU in 10 years’ time? We have heard lots of talk about rolling back the achievements of the devolution era, but can we be certain that the gains of devolution will be secure if Scotland says no? Will the Scottish Parliament get more powers and—most importantly—if Scotland says no to independence, will the Scottish people be more prosperous? People have had 300 years to think about these issues, but nobody will give us answers. Those against independence have to come up with a case for Scotland to remain in the Union, but we have not heard it yet. Some of today’s contributions have been a little more positive, but we must hear a lot more about what people want to achieve.

Those of us in favour of Scottish independence will, of course, be positive and put the case for it. I love my country and I want it to be all that it can. I want it to walk tall and for Scotland to have the national self-respect and dignity to make its own place in the world, take its own decisions, and ensure that the Scottish people are responsible for their own failures. We are a dynamic, inventive and resourceful people. Of course we will make a success of independence, and I am glad we no longer hear comments of “Too wee, too poor, too stupid.” Of course Scotland will be a success when it gets its independence; of course we will be great.

I am depressed about the fact that Scotland is tethered to a failing UK state which is almost relaxed about its own failure. Scotland deserves better. I do not want the welfare reforms or years and years of austerity. I do not want illegal wars or nuclear weapons just outside. I want my country to make its own decisions about its future. An independent Scotland will be better because those who care most about it will make the decisions, not the Westminster Tories. The Scottish people will run Scotland and be responsible for their own decisions. It will be better because we care more about our nation than the Westminster Tories. That is why we run our devolved institutions better—we care about them and ensure we look after them.

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After Scotland becomes independent, we will continue to have fantastic cultural relationships and ties with the rest of the United Kingdom. That is important to us and has shaped who we are as the Scottish people. We have heard about the 305 years in which we have served together, the wonderful institutions we have built up, and our great ties and associations. Those things will go absolutely nowhere. The social union is important to us as independent Scottish people and we will enjoy and build on it. It will be better because we will come together in a sense of equality and mutual respect. We will build new British arrangements and relationships and they will be better because Scotland will be an independent nation. The political union has failed Scotland. We no longer want to be tethered to a failing UK state. We can be better. We can walk tall in the world and make decisions on our own. Scotland as an independent nation will be welcomed as a full, peace-loving nation in the world community. I look forward to that day. The social union lives on; the political union is dying and it will be finished off in 2014.

1.7 pm

Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): I am almost tempted to wish that there was no time limit, because the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) was making the case stronger than anyone on either side of the House could have done. He clearly forgot his “Yes Scotland” positivity pills this morning, as it took nine minutes before we heard any positive case for Scotland’s becoming an independent country.

We need to change the language of this debate, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) and my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) who have pushed this debate and provided us with an opportunity to do so today. We need a positive, engaging debate about what is in the best interests of Scotland and the UK’s future, not the language of whether Scotland is too small or too wee to be a successful country—incidentally, only SNP Members say that; no Labour Members have ever used such language. The question that I would throw back to the nationalists is this. I believe that the people of Scotland are creative, talented and innovative enough to be successful in the United Kingdom—why don’t they?

The referendum is not about whether Scotland can or cannot manage on its own. Of course Scotland could be a successful, independent country, and it insults the intelligence of the Scottish people to suggest that it could not. The choice is not about whether Scotland can be successful but about whether it would be a fairer and more prosperous country with more opportunities if it works in partnership with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Labour Members believe that it will be, and we will be making that positive case in the referendum.

I am not modest about Scotland’s ambitions. I genuinely believe that Scotland stands taller and shouts louder when it works in partnership with other areas of the UK, representing ourselves on the global stage. Yes, the Union has a proud history—300 years of shared history, security and prosperity. It has enjoyed success, as hon. Members have heard many times before. A Scot created the Bank of England, a Welshman our NHS and an Englishman our welfare state—but this is not about history; it is about Scotland’s future.

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Scotland deserves an open, engaging debate, not only on its constitutional settlement, but, more importantly, on what kind of Scotland we want to live in and want our children to live in. What will Scotland look like in 20 years’ time? Will it be able to compete with other parts of the UK and in the world?

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that inequality in Scotland increased over the term of the previous Labour Government. Does he believe Scotland will fulfil its potential as an equal and fair society as part of the Union?

Anas Sarwar: It is untrue to say that health inequalities widened under the Labour Government, but it is factually correct to say that inequalities are increasing in Scotland under the watch of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government. Health inequalities are increasing and educational opportunities are decreasing. People from working class backgrounds in Scotland are less likely to go to college or university than people from working class backgrounds in England and Wales. That is happening on the watch of the Scottish National party, not of the Tories or Labour, so will the hon. Lady please not lecture Labour Members on our record? She should focus more on her party’s record in government.

What Scotland do we want to create for future generations? We want it to be a successful country in which to bring up our children, but what role do we want Scotland to play in the world? I want Scotland not to isolate itself, but to engage with its partners in the UK to take on the big challenges of global poverty, to fight climate change, and to fight for justice and fairness in the world. What differentiates Labour Members and SNP Members? Labour Members did not come into politics because we wanted to fight poverty only in our constituencies or our country. We want to fight poverty and create opportunity not only in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but in Manchester, Birmingham and around the world. I do not believe we will do that by creating a border between Scotland and England. There is a vote on a UN resolution today on enhanced status for the Palestinian people, which will hopefully work towards a positive resolution by which we have an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. I came into politics to fight for an independent Palestinian state and for self-determination for the people of Kashmir, not to break up my own country. I want to fight injustice in other parts of the world.

One big point is that we can make the positive case for Scotland economically, emotionally, socially and politically. The most successful aid agency in the world is headquartered in Scotland. It employs hundreds of people, has a budget of £7 billion, helps to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year, and lifts hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty every year, which demonstrates the collective strength of Scotland working in partnership. We are a key member of the UN Security Council not for power or prestige, but to fight tyranny and oppression around the world. I want Scotland to have its full voice in that process. We are a leading economy and country in the G8. A Scottish leader as Prime Minister worked with the G8 to stop a global recession becoming a global depression. Those are positive arguments for Scotland remaining part of the UK, not the negative arguments we get from the SNP.

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On the quality of the debate, we will have heated debates and the usual Scottish politics spats between Labour and the SNP and others between now and the referendum—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire wants to make an intervention, I am more than happy to take it. We are divided politically, but we do not want our country to be divided in the process. Whatever happens in the referendum and whatever decision Scotland makes, we must ensure that we come together in the best interests of Scotland and ensure that we fight and create a fairer, more equal country.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): I apologise for not being in the Chamber at the start of the debate; I was in a Bill Committee.

My hon. Friend mentions the quality of the debate. Will that not be enhanced if the First Minister is straight with the Scottish people and if his arguments stay on the same track? The arc of prosperity used to mean Ireland and Iceland, but now it has moved on to the Scandinavian countries. Until we have a consistent and honest debate, we will not have a fair playing field.

Anas Sarwar: I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. When the Minister systematically destroyed the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire on Britishness, he reminded me that, throughout the SNP’s existence, it has claimed it wants independence because England has never treated Scotland fairly, and because Scotland has never had a fair deal within the UK, but SNP Members imagine that everyone will treat Scotland fairly and work together to create a better country when it separates from the UK. That just does not stack up.

SNP Members make assertions on NATO and EU membership. The hon. Gentleman said today that the biggest threat to Scotland remaining part of the EU was from the UK, but he cannot guarantee that Scotland will remain a member of the EU if it chooses independence. We need facts rather than assertion. SNP Members say that Scotland will keep the pound and automatically have a seat on the Monetary Policy Committee; that the BBC will break up and Scotland will have better quality programmes; and that our credit rating and Royal Mail services will remain the same. They are assertions—not one of them is based on fact. The people of Scotland deserve better. Throughout the SNP’s existence, the answer to any question has always been “independence”, but now that the question is independence, it does not have the answers for the people of Scotland.

Scotland deserves a transparent and open debate. It deserves to know what Scotland will look like if it chooses independence. It deserves better than a First Minister and a Scottish Government simply asserting that independence will be whatever people want it to be. That is not good enough. The SNP cannot say to one audience that Scotland will have the Monaco taxes, but then say to another audience that we will have Scandinavian public services. It cannot say that Scotland will have none of the horrible welfare changes and reforms, but that it will have similar corporation taxes to Ireland. That does not add up and is not credible, and disrespects the people of Scotland.

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Mr Weir: The hon. Gentleman is making his points as he always does, but does he not accept that it is up to the people of Scotland whom they vote into power after independence, and that it is up to them to decide how the shape of the new Scotland develops? Surely he accepts that the people will decide that in the first election after we win independence in 2014.

Anas Sarwar: The people of Scotland have an opportunity, through strengthened devolution, to have more of a say in decisions on their lives made in the Scottish Parliament and in local government, which has taken a hammering under the current Scottish Government. They can recognise that although there is nowhere better than Scotland, there is somewhere bigger, and that is working in partnership with the UK and global agencies to take on the challenges.

Mrs Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab): Would my hon. Friend have more confidence in his statement if the SNP declared here and now that it will dissolve itself the day after a referendum if there is a yes vote?

Anas Sarwar: SNP Members are probably more concerned about what happens the day after Scotland votes resoundingly no and rejects their vision of independence. The SNP is two different factions glued together on one track. When they divide, it will be interesting to see how they cope.

We are having a heated debate today and we will have a heated debate in the next two years.

Pete Wishart: Only when the hon. Gentleman tries to shout me down.

Anas Sarwar: I feel very sorry for the hon. Gentleman, because we heard in the Europe debate last week the pre-published “speech they feared”. I promise him that the people of Scotland and the Labour party do not fear the SNP or Alex Salmond. We do not fear an open and honest debate on the future of Scotland, or fear challenges to our record. We do not fear debating the future of our country. The SNP should come forward with that open and transparent debate. Let us, for Scotland, keep ourselves in the Union.

1.19 pm

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate and I congratulate the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) and the co-sponsors on securing it. I will be pleased to go through the Lobby in support of the motion with parties from all parts of the House. We need to send a strong message that, in all parts of the United Kingdom, we believe that we are better together, and that this is not just a question of us believing that Scotland is better in the United Kingdom, but that people in other parts of the United Kingdom want Scotland to be part of the United Kingdom. I take part in the debate in that spirit, conscious that ultimately it is for the people of Scotland to decide how they vote in the referendum.

Hon. Members will know that the ties between people in Northern Ireland and in Scotland are very close. There is strong and growing interest in and support for Ulster Scots culture and heritage in the Province. Many people in Northern Ireland can trace their lineage and

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family history to Scottish antecedents—indeed, I would say that my name is more common in Scotland than it is in Northern Ireland. When I see those coaches coming over on the ferry with the Dodds name on it, I often say to my party colleagues that I wish we could hire some of them at election time and have them traverse north Belfast, but I have not been able to persuade them to do so.

Of course, I stand here as a member of a party that has “Unionist” as part of its title. Our party was formed at a critical time in the history of Northern Ireland, when the Union was clearly under threat. The years that followed were difficult: tragically, there was much violence and bloodshed; many people were injured, lives were lost and many still live with physical and mental scars. Thankfully, that period of violence is largely behind us, and although there are still some who would try to drag us backwards, they are small in number and it is clear that those who tried to destroy the Union by terrorism did not succeed.

Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom as a whole, is a much better and different place today. Gone is the uncertainty about our future and our place in the UK. Indeed, right hon. and hon. Members will know, or be interested to learn if they are not aware of it, that support for the Union is at an all-time high, and is actually growing. A recent survey showed that a majority of people who traditionally would have described themselves as nationalist would, if there was a vote today, vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. There are many reasons why there is growing support for the Union, not least the fact that the violence has diminished and that under the current devolution settlement people feel that everybody has a say. To a large extent, people are in control of many areas of policy. They see parties and politicians who, while they have their differences—strong differences, which are sometimes illustrated in debates in this House—are working together for the betterment of all the people of Northern Ireland on the economic and social issues of the day. It is therefore important that we continue to strengthen, maintain and improve devolution where we can in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It is dynamic and evolving, and we need to move it forward in that way.

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): I wonder what role the economic storm that hit Ireland at the end of the last decade and the recognition of the benefits of being part of a larger union have played in increasing support for the Union.

Mr Dodds: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and I was just going to come on to that. While there is the case for devolution and people having a role in deciding issues in Northern Ireland, there is no doubt that the people who would at one time have looked to the Celtic tiger and envied what was happening in the south have had a rude awakening about economic realities and the situation in the United Kingdom and other countries in the EU. It is clear that the massive economic boom in the Republic was built on a number of factors, not least a property boom that crashed dramatically. I have heard it said many times by people who traditionally look to the Irish Republic as their future, “Where would we be today if we’d been part of the eurozone? Where would we be today if we had been part of a country like

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the Irish Republic, instead of having our fortunes tied in with a bigger country like the United Kingdom?” That has been an important factor.

Who would have believed 20 years ago that we would be talking about the danger to the Union coming from Scotland, rather than from Northern Ireland? I heard the leader of Sinn Fein say that he was going to campaign for a referendum in Northern Ireland. There is absolutely no support for that. Of course, we do not fear a referendum in Northern Ireland. We know that people would vote overwhelmingly to retain Northern Ireland’s membership of the United Kingdom. We are not opposed to it for any reason of concern about the outcome; however, under the provisions of the legislation, once Northern Ireland has a referendum, it has to happen every seven years, and we believe that that would be extremely destabilising and unnecessary. When I hear Gerry Adams talk about the need for a referendum, it is a long way from his cry that there would be a united Ireland by 2016.

Thankfully, the debate on the future of Scotland in the Union has never been tainted or stained in any way by violence and terrorism. The debate is being conducted in a peaceful and democratic way, and it will be decided through the ballot box. As I said, we respect the right of the Scottish people to decide their future. Of course, it is right and appropriate that people from other parts of the United Kingdom should have their say as well. We believe that we are better off together. That is an excellent campaign description—it is positive and people are responding to it. It is not being stated in an arrogant or aggressive way. Instead, people are saying, “We want you in Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.”

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Gentleman mentions the Better Together campaign and I think I heard that the Irish Republic’s Agriculture Minister was at his recent party conference. Does he extend the Better Together ethos to the Republic’s Agriculture Minister, and would he like to be in one state with him?

Mr Dodds: I think the hon. Gentleman knows me and my party well enough by now to know the answer to the question of whether we think we would be better off in the Irish Republic. We had a very successful party conference this year. The shadow Secretary of State spoke at our conference dinner, and the Secretary of State spoke to conference on the Saturday. I was delighted to hear her declare in unequivocal terms that she would never be neutral on the Union. Of course, we also had the representative from the Irish Republic. We welcome visitors from other states, and we have visitors from outside the United Kingdom—of course we do. The reason the Agriculture Minister was there, appropriately, is that the Irish Republic is to take over the presidency of the EU, and the reform of the common agricultural policy is extremely important for Northern Ireland farmers. It is important to hear from that Minister and to lobby him directly, particularly at this time, on those important issues. The response to that in Northern Ireland was positive.

We will continue to build good relations with our friends in the Irish Republic, but we make it very clear to them that we do not wish to join it. We can have good neighbourly relations and, increasingly I think, those in the Irish Republic recognise that they have enough

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problems of their own without taking on any more in Northern Ireland. They are content to stick with the status quo, and they have declared clearly that until people in Northern Ireland vote otherwise, they will respect totally the principle of consent.

Time is going on and others have articulated the why Scotland would be worse off if it left the Union. I agree with what has been said. Not only would Scotland be worse off, but the United Kingdom as a whole would suffer from Scotland’s absence. A fragmented United Kingdom would not be as strong as we are together. Without Scotland, we would be a smaller nation in every sense, not just in population, economy and geography, and that is something that we do not wish to see.

Mr MacNeil: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Dodds: No, I will not give way any more. I have given way twice already and time is limited. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make his own speech.

This is a question not just of economics, but of our standing in the world. Our nation would be diminished if Scotland left, and with that would come a loss of influence and power. There are deep and lasting social and historical bonds that bind us all together in the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. The military links and the history of the regiments of the British Army have already been explored. It is the British Army—it is not made up of the nations of the United Kingdom. The UK did not evolve spontaneously; it came about as a result of our shared experiences and history, and of our bonds of language, culture and so on. Furthermore, of course, the union of the monarchy has been around for longer even than the political Union.

Those are the bonds that have brought and tied us together as four countries, and they have grown, deepened and developed over time, with enormous consequences for ourselves and the rest of the world. Each of our countries—Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England —and their people have all played their part in the development and prosperity of the UK, and those bonds continue. The contribution of the Scottish people and Scottish business remains vital, and the Union remains of benefit to both Scotland and the UK as a whole.

I hope that the debate on the referendum will be conducted in a constructive spirit. I am glad that there will not be the negativity—the descent into violence and so on—seen so often in Northern Ireland. I believe strongly, however, that it is important that other members of the United Kingdom and people from all parts of the United Kingdom—whether London and the south-east, Northern Ireland, Wales, or the north of England—say, with respect, while acknowledging that it is a decision for the Scottish people, “We want you to be part of the UK. We value your membership, and we feel we would be poorer without you in the United Kingdom.”

1.31 pm

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): On one point, I think all sides of the House can agree: that in the debate so far, we have made it clear that it is right that the people of Scotland determine

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their own destiny. Later, if I have time, I will refer to the position on 16 to 18-year-olds, but first I will make a few personal comments.

My own political motivation has been the need for action where and for whom it is most needed, whether in my constituency or in one of the poorest countries in the world. Representing my constituency is my No. 1 priority, as it is for other right hon. and hon. Members, but throughout my time in the House I have worked alongside organisations committed to helping people with disabilities and assisting people from the most impoverished countries in the world—nothing inward-looking, nothing introspective. I managed to get two Acts of Parliament on the statute book covering both the subjects I have mentioned, and I believe that both Acts were to the advantage of the whole of the UK.

Those twin factors are at the heart of my activity, and will continue to be so. In other words, lines on maps do not excite me at all. I do not judge people or their plight by where they live. Many people have no choice in where or how they are born and are not tempted by the ideological Disneyland of the Scottish National party. I abhor the jingoistic mentality that peddles the myth of a Scottish solution for this, or an English solution for that. Time and again in the House, we have seen that the best solutions are those that are in the interest of the whole of the UK.

I do not accept the politics of parochial arrogance, but I worry that Scotland is moving towards that, with the police becoming one authority, likewise the fire services, and the statement from a member of the Scottish Government this week about reducing the already rather small number of Scottish local authorities. I much prefer to take a more international perspective on these matters, and I am much more inclined to the view expressed by former President Bill Clinton:

“The world has become completely interdependent, but we can’t make up our minds what that interdependence is going to look like. Interdependence simply means you can’t get a divorce”.

Time does not allow me to develop the theme, but I think it is fundamentally true.

In 2010, the British people spoke and, like it or not, we have in place a coalition Government. Upon their election, the coalition Government narrative was that the economic mess was all Labour’s fault. It has to be said that that line was successful for a short period, but with the passage of time and increased borrowing, to an extent we have hardly ever known, no one now believes it to be true. Economies throughout Europe are on their knees, and our constituents can see on their television screens public demonstrations in countries where Governments are implementing severe austerity measures. The question is not how many countries are struggling financially; it might be easier to name countries that are not.

Why then am I against Scotland seeking a divorce from the United Kingdom? I am against it mainly for economic reasons, but there are other reasons that, if time allows, I will explain. One third of newly created manufacturing jobs in the UK have been created in Scotland recently. UK firms employ one in five Scottish workers. Scottish exports to countries outside the UK had a value of £22 billion. Scottish exports to England, Wales and Northern Ireland totalled £44.9 billion. The Scottish banking sector was saved by the UK

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and the decisions of the former Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling).

Leaving one economic union of 63 million to join one of 330 million and expecting an equivalent say in monetary policy is an absurd notion, while a race to the bottom with Ireland when it comes to corporation tax rates does not fill me with optimism—quite the reverse. Likewise, relying on oil when we have experienced 12 consecutive years of decline in the amount of gas and oil extracted from the North sea is not wise. It is a dwindling resource, not a foundation for the future.

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is making an exceptional and passionate case for economic co-operation within the United Kingdom. Does he share my concern that, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, by 2040 we will see an elevenfold decline in oil and gas revenues? Does that not demonstrate why, if we are to diversify the economy, we should do it from a position of strength within the UK?

Mr Clarke: That is an excellent point, and I am delighted that my hon. Friend makes it.

Last weekend, I was in a town centre of my constituency talking to my constituents and listening to their views, mainly on independence. I am bound to say that my experience was clear and unequivocal: there is no appetite in Scotland for a referendum, and people are curious to know why, if we insist on having one, we have to wait until 2014. They are worried about issues of concern to this House: unemployment, food prices, energy prices, petrol prices and much more. People are struggling to cope financially, and for many a referendum is a complete and utter waste of time and money, but that is the reality we face, so let us have the debate. Economies all over the globe are struggling with the worldwide downturn, so let us not pretend it is happening only in the UK. Of course some people want independence, and they are entitled to that view—I respect it, but disagree profoundly with them. When I visit schools in my constituency, I find that some pupils want independence, but the vast majority do not want to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom.

Mr Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab): When my right hon. Friend was out on the streets of Coatbridge on Saturday, how many people came up to him and said, “I would like an independent Scotland to join Schengen and to have the euro as my currency”?

Mr Clarke: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I cannot remember anyone saying that. I remember what I would describe as a great surge among my constituents against independence and them telling me to get down here and fight what they are opposed to: separatism.

Still talking about young people, I recently visited Cardinal Newman school in Bellshill—an important part of Scotland, represented by my hon. Friend and I —and spoke to a modern studies class. At the end, I asked about a subject that we did not touch on in our earlier discussion. I asked, “How many people here would reduce the voting age to 16 for the referendum?” Eight voted for, 22 voted against. I hope that the

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independent Electoral Commission will decide such matters, not those who have abused powers whenever they have had the opportunity.

Jim McGovern (Dundee West) (Lab): I recently visited a secondary school in my constituency. Quite a few pupils in the fourth and fifth years said it seemed crazy to them that in November they could not buy a packet of sparklers, but that they might be allowed to vote on the future of the country.

Mr Clarke: That is an interesting point and I am glad my hon. Friend has made it.

I am no different from the constituents I have described. In the last Parliament—my hon. Friends will not be surprised that I am raising this issue—I worked with my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls), now the shadow Chancellor. Our joint activity produced £340 million to help children with disabilities throughout the United Kingdom. Scotland’s share was £34 million, but none of the money was ever seen by children with disabilities. Sadly, children with disabilities did not receive one penny of the cash. It became known as the missing millions. Obfuscation was the response from the First Minster to questions posed by Wendy Alexander and Johann Lamont. The First Minster was given every opportunity to come clean on what had happened to the money. I wrote to him and asked for a meeting. He replied that he was too busy and his diary too full, but he passed my office on at least six occasions on his way to and from a neighbouring by-election, and I passed him on the stairs when he was down here voting against the Labour Government.

That was a shocking and disgraceful decision by a Scottish Government led by Mr Salmond. Indeed, that high-handed imperious attitude cast a doubt in my mind about whether the First Minister could ever be trusted as the leader of a country. In the last few years the SNP has attempted to define Scottish patriotism to the outside world—a patriotism that in their hands is simple to the point of being simple minded, self-loving to the point of being self-deceiving, and nostalgic to the point of being destructively naive. I have greater faith that the people of Scotland have a great sense of what is right and what is wrong, and will vote accordingly when the time comes.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. In order to try to accommodate everyone who wants to take part in this debate, I am changing the time limit to seven minutes. Depending on how long each speaker takes, it might be necessary to revise it again downwards before the end of the debate.

1.44 pm

Mr Frank Doran (Aberdeen North) (Lab): Our debates on Scottish issues are often tribal, so I was not surprised by the comments of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) or the degree of fundamentalism he showed in his speech, although I was surprised at his arrogance and his assumption that after an independence referendum the Scottish people would enter some sort of nirvana. That is not quite consistent with our history at any time I can recall.

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The way the hon. Gentleman approached the whole issue underlines one of the major problems with this debate: the lack of fact. If we look ahead at what sort of country an independent Scotland might be—and we need to, because that is one of the things that anyone taking the referendum seriously would want to know—we can see what the various sides of the argument are presenting us with. What the Scottish Government are presenting us with at the moment is: “We’ll keep the monarch”, “We’ll keep the pound sterling”—perhaps—“and the Bank of England as our central bank”, and “We’ll remain part of the EU,” although that is still an open question. I was quite taken by what Mr Barroso—in effect, the chief executive of the European Union, who should know a thing or two about these things—said about an independent Scotland having to reapply. Mr Salmond leapt to his feet and said, “No we won’t. I know better.” That is basically the way all this has proceeded.

We are not being presented with facts; as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) said, they are assertions. I would be a wee bit kinder than that: they might be aspirations, but they are more likely the product of politicians who want to remove difficult issues from the agenda before the referendum. We would see a very different Scotland afterwards if it were outside the EU, forced to create its own central bank and introduce a new currency. I mention the currency because the only other similar experience that I am aware of is when the Czech Republic and Slovakia split. I think it was the Czech Prime Minister who said that they had agreed to keep the same currency, but within a matter of weeks that decision was changed and a new currency had to be created. I cannot see a Scotland in the same situation being any different, even if I believed that that was the intention. However, what we know so far—about the monarch, the pound sterling, the Bank of England as the reserve bank and being part of the EU—does not sound very much like independence to me.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Doran: The hon. Gentleman has intervened many times and thereby had more than 10 minutes already. I would rather make my own contribution to the debate.

It is important that we have facts. One area where that is most important is the economy of an independent Scotland. It is quite clear from all their forecasts that the current Scottish Government would rely heavily on North sea oil revenues. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) has already made the point from the Front Bench, but I want to give a bit more detail, because it is extremely important that accurate facts are readily available. The first point to consider about the oil and gas industry is just how volatile these commodities are. Prices can rise or fall very quickly. I am old enough to remember in the 1980s when the oil price went from $32 a barrel to $8 a barrel virtually overnight. We lost more than 50,000 jobs in the north-east of Scotland when that happened. An independent country would have found it difficult to survive that event. Unless we are talking about a prosperous middle eastern country with no resources other than oil, it is very dangerous to rely on oil and gas for the economy.

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We have to look at the research. The most accurate and trusted UK commentator on the oil and gas industry is Professor Alec Kemp of Aberdeen university. For decades, he and his colleague Linda Stephen have studied the UK oil and gas industry, and their regular reports are respected and accepted throughout the industry. The most recent report looks at the prospects for activity on the UK continental shelf following the recent oil tax changes. The report is very detailed and considers the prospects for oil and gas production in the next 30 years in the UK sector. In the last two years production has declined, partly because of the tax changes in the 2010 Budget, but also as a result of the large increase in unplanned shutdowns. That has had an almost immediate effect on the amount of revenue coming into the Exchequer. Also, the North sea infrastructure is very old, and there has been a large number of unplanned shutdowns.

The report details scenarios in which the oil price is $70 a barrel, and the gas price 40p a therm. The potential number of fields in production in 2042— 30 years from now—will fall from 300 to about 60. In that same scenario, oil and gas equivalent production would fall from today’s level of about 1.8 million to 584,000 barrels a day. That is at a price of $70 dollars a barrel and 40p a therm. At a price of $90 dollars and 55p, production would fall from 1.8 million barrels of oil equivalent a day to 520,000. Most of the money and energy would go into decommissioning the North sea platforms that were being rendered redundant, and I do not think it appropriate for a new country to build its economy around the destruction of its most productive industry. We need to see many more such facts on the table before anyone can make a serious decision about what is best for our country.

1.51 pm

John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran). The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) talked about how, come independence, the Scots would be able to walk tall. I have been to Perth, and I have not noticed anyone walking with their head bowed of late. I know plenty of Scots who walk tall. Scotland walks tall; it is only little-minded people who do not.

“Scotland and the Union” is the title of our debate today. There would be no Union without Scotland. Scotland and England came together to form the Union under the two Crowns more than 300 years ago, and we have moved on since then. Who would have thought that, 300 years on, we would be having a debate and a referendum on how we might split ourselves up after all this time? The Scots have defended the Union with their lives and with their labour for centuries. We have led battles on the battlefield, and we have led in science and technology. The Scots not only pull their weight; they over-pull their weight. As a nation, we walk tall and we hold our heads high. Scots are known throughout the world for that. There are probably more Scots outside Scotland than in it, and as we get further away from home, we often get more nationalistic, with a small n.

I have great concerns about the way in which Scotland is being governed at the moment. It has a majority Government, but there is no scrutiny of any of the Bills that the Government pass or of any of the work they do. They have a committee system that is very similar to

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our own Select Committee system. In our system, when a Member joins a Select Committee, they do so not as a member of a party. Their job is to scrutinise the Government or the people who are running the industry of our country. We do not do that with any party bias. In Scotland, however, there is no scrutiny. The Committees are being run with a party bias. Whatever happens, the Scottish National party is right and everyone else is wrong. Any amendments that are tabled to a Bill are automatically shouted down.

The bullying by the Scottish Government that seems to be going on is an absolute disgrace. People are being threatened, and companies are told that if they do not do as they are told, they will not get contracts. That is no way to run a country. It is certainly no way to run an independent country. I have great fears about that, and we should look seriously at how the scrutiny of Government Bills is carried out in Scotland.

It will be no surprise to anyone that I also want to mention shipbuilding. Shipbuilding on the Clyde has sustained Scotland for centuries. When the tobacco trade first started up, the development of shipbuilding on the Clyde created employment and made Glasgow the second biggest city in the empire. That would never have happened if we had not been part of the British empire and of Great Britain. We led then, and I believe that, in many ways, we lead now. The Type 45 destroyer is the best ship of its kind anywhere in the world. It is envied by the Americans, by the Russians and by anyone who has any idea of what a destroyer should look like. It is a cut above everything else.

We would not have those ships without the decision by the British Government to build them. If the last Labour Government had not secured the procurement of those ships, the Clyde would now be closed. I have absolutely no doubt that, under independence, the Clyde would close almost the next day, and that 3,500 jobs would be lost—

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

John Robertson: Not this side of hell freezing over!

The Scottish Government want to sell thousands of jobs, and there would be no more ships on the Clyde. I am a Glaswegian. I am Scottish, but I am probably a Glaswegian before anything else. I am also British and proud of it. I want people to vote in the referendum. I want us to get through it so that Scotland can get back to where it should be. When we have voted down the proposal for independence, we need to give serious consideration to how the governing is being done in the Scottish Parliament. I believe that the threatening and bullying, and the lack of scrutiny of Bills, needs to be looked at seriously. Those are the most important things.

In the short time I have left, I also want to mention the cost of separation. There would be a cost not only to Scotland but to the United Kingdom. I have tabled a parliamentary question to various Departments to ask how much it would cost simply to re-badge everything from the day of independence. How many millions of pounds would it cost not only the people of Scotland but the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? How much would every single taxpayer have to pay? And there would be further costs when jobs were lost as the companies that are threatening to move out did so. Just this week, BAE Systems was threatening to do that.

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Scotland is better together with the United Kingdom, and I have no doubt that we will remain one of the leading countries of the world.

1.58 pm

Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes) (Lab): It is a great privilege to contribute to the debate after so many fine contributions from right hon. and hon. Members. I echo the sentiments of those on both sides of the House who have said that they are intensely proud to be Scottish or to have Scottish ancestry, but also to be British and to be citizens of the United Kingdom. I, too, fervently hold those joint allegiances. I would also say to the Scottish National party that it does not have a monopoly on care, passion and wisdom when it comes to the future of Scotland, and I do not believe its assertions about the land of milk and honey that it plans to create.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lindsay Roy: No, I am sorry; I want to make progress.

Like most in this Chamber, I am ambitious for Scotland and for the United Kingdom. I agree that, with a strong Scottish Parliament within the UK, we have the best of both worlds. I have always believed that there is a better choice for the future than divorce, secession and separation. I want to illustrate that through an aspect of Scottish life that is dear to our hearts—namely, sporting activity.

As an avid football fan, I have supported the Scottish team for many years, although I do not go back 140 years to the 0-0 draw. I would like to remind the House, however, of the 3-2 victory at Wembley in 1967. Just after England’s famous victory in the World cup, we beat them and, as a result, claimed our share of the Jules Rimet trophy. I have also suffered the trials and tribulations of a 5-1 defeat at Wembley, and vividly remember on the way back home the sign on the back of the bus on the M6 saying, “You couldnae make it 6”!

In football and rugby, we have a strong tradition of Scottish teams representing us on the world stage. Times are tough, and I dearly wish that our football and rugby performances were better at the present time, but we support our teams passionately through thick and thin. However, is it not ironic that many of the players exhibiting such passion for their national team, who live outwith Scotland but give their all for their chosen country, will not be able to vote in the forthcoming referendum. They are good enough to play for their chosen country, but are not allowed to vote on Scotland’s future. That applies to many people who support Scotland vigorously, too.

While in some sports we have full decision-making powers to select our own national teams on the world scene in football and rugby, in others we have Scottish representatives who make selections for UK teams. Nowhere was that more visible than the recent UK-held Olympics, and indeed the Paralympics, where we pooled our human resources and facilities to produce the best UK performance ever, with 55 out of 542 participants from Scotland taking part in 21 out of the 26 Olympic sports.