Scottish Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1976.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr David Lambie Mr David Lambie , Ayrshire Central 12:00 am, 5th February 1976

In listening to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this evening, I found that I was in agreement with him. I accept that the policies of the present Labour Government, given time, will be successful in Scotland. I accept that the Government have been unfortunate, in this time of severe economic restraint, in meeting an oil crisis that is outside our own control, and with one of the downturns in capitalist economies.

However, at the end of the day when we go back home to Scotland we find that there are still 162,000 unemployed there. As Labour people, we find great difficulty in justifying that figure. The same must apply to my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent areas in the north-west and north-east of England, where unempolyment can be higher than it is in Scotland.

I accept all that, However, my criticism of the present Labour Government is not that their long-term policies are not correct; it lies in the fact that their short-term policies as a Government—and the Secretary of State for Scotland, as a member of the Government, must carry his burden of responsibility—involve trying to run the capitalist system better than the Tories do. We are trying to do it as we did it from 1964 to 1970, and we shall get the same result that we got in 1970—the defeat of the Labour Government at the next General Election—unless we can show results. Such a defeat would not be of any advantage to the people of Scotland, because since the war we have suffered under the Tories more than we have suffered under the policies of any Labour Government.

If the Government want to retain the confidence of the Scottish people, they must examine their short-term financial policies. They must change them. They must realise that we are a Socialist party and are not here to repair the faults in the capitalist system. We are here to introduce a Socialist system of economy. If we do that we shall solve the problems of Britain as a whole.

Although in some respects I agree with certain of the policies of the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) in relation to the devolving of power within the United Kingdom, I would never advise anyone in Scotland who is a Socialist and a supporter of the Labour Party to support the SNP. Although the SNP believes in devolving power from Westminster to Edinburgh, its members are still the main supporters and exponents of the capitalist system, because the majority of them are Conservatives. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) is quite a decent Tory. Sometimes when I look across the Chamber at him I realise why he does not seem to be such a Tory, compared with some of the reactionaries such as the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). Therefore, I can well understand the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) wondering about the policies of the SNP.

The people in Scotland, especially in the west of Scotland, are being led up the garden path. Because they are dissatisfied with the economic performance of the Labour Government, they are voting for people who are more reactionary than some Tory Members. One has only to look at the voting record of SNP Members in Parliament, and to read the speeches they have made outside Parliament, to find justification for that statement.

I want to make only two points that affect my area. I represent one of the growth areas of Scotland, where we find difficulty in getting support from Government agencies. They always ask what we are worrying about, when everyone is doing well. But the latest figures show that in this so-called growth area in the west of Scotland there are now 1,652 people unemployed, of whom 1,268 are males. This is an unemployment rate of 14 per cent. in a so-called growth area.

In the Garnock Valley, which will soon be affected by redundancy in the steel industry, the January figures from the labour exchange show 624 unemployed—a rate of 11·3 per cent.

My constituency is not only a growth area; many people living there are now working in Hunterston, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie)—or they hope to get jobs there, having had their jobs in the Garnock Valley area, Kilmarnock, and so forth, made redundant. In the Saltcoats area there are 2,250 unemployed—a rate of 10·4 per cent. These are unemployment figures for a growth area in Scotland.

In our area we are finding great difficulty in achieving any improvement, because of the fact that the infrastructure—the sewerage, drainage and so on—is still comparable to what existed at the end of the last century. The roads of Ayrshire are not much more than modifications of the tracks of over 100 years ago. That is in spite of the fact that within the past 20 years or so we have been lucky enough to have representatives from Ayrshire constituencies in both Conservative and Labour Governments. The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) was in the last Conservative Administration. We have had the longest serving Secretary of State for Scotland representing an Ayrshire constituency. Despite this, we are the only major industrial county in Scotland without a connection to any motorway.

It is impossible to build a growth area without a good road system. I ask my

right hon. Friend—or whoever makes the winding-up speech for the Government tonight—to give us an assurance that we shall have motorway connections from the so-called growth areas of Irvine and North Ayrshire to the main motorway system.

We are also affected—as is everyone outside the Glasgow conurbation—by the proposals contained in the Strathclyde Regional Council's regional plan. It will be putting forward a policy under which all the resources in manpower and finance will be spent on the Glasgow conurbation, and suggesting that the Ayrshire people should be prepared to go easy in terms of resources and manpower inside the Strathclyde area, in order to divert resources to the Glasgow area.

As a Socialist, I cannot deny that the Glasgow conurbation is one of the main areas of urban deprivation in the United Kingdom, but my right hon. Friend cannot expect the Labour people in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and all the areas outside the conurbation to have their standards cut down in order to maintain development in the Glasgow conurbation. Glasgow is not a Strathclyde question. Glasgow, with its urban deprivation, is a British question. My right hon. Friend is always advising me of the advantages of the United Kingdom. I do not want the people in Irvine to have to divert much-needed development in order to help solve the problems of the Glasgow conurbation. I want the whole of the United Kingdom to help solve the problems of the Glasgow conurbation.

The Secretary of State must tell the Strathclyde Regional Council that we shall not accept these policies of spreading the help around while at the same time taking the crumbs away from areas like central Ayrshire and putting them in the Glasgow area. The Glasgow people need help, but it should come not from the surrounding areas but from the main area of the United Kingdom.

I was interested in the statement of the Secretary of State that we need increased investment in new types of industry. A week ago the Convener of Planning in the Strathclyde Regional Council, at a meeting between the new town boards and representatives of the district council, stated that 70,000 jobs will be lost in the Strathclyde area in the next few years. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it is all very well telling us about the jobs coming in, but if we are to lose 70,000 jobs simply in order to stand still, there will have to be a greater emphasis on development than we have at the moment.

We need a new industrial base in the west of Scotland. Those who have the magazine Clydeport News will see that in the January issue, under the heading "Photonews", it states that: Trans-shipments of oil from VLCCs are commonplace nowadays in Clydeport—which is hardly surprising when the deep and sheltered estuary provides such ideal conditions for this kind of operation. The report goes on: The 326,000 dwt. 'Universe Korea' was discharging 41,000 tons of her crude oil cargo into the smaller tanker 'Tasman Sea'. The camera went aboard the Adrossan tug Ardneil', which was handling the large buoys ranged along one side of the 'Tasman Sea'. Here we have a situation in which oil tankers are arriving from all over the world to discharge and trans-ship their cargoes in the best sheltered estuary in Europe, and the only jobs we are getting involve sending a wee tug into Ardrossan harbour.

We are lucky if we get any jobs. The people getting the work are those who are taking part in the refining process, whether in England, in the east of Scotland, in Grangemouth, or in European ports. Why should we give this unique facility of a deep sheltered estuary that only we in Scotland have, to the multinational oil companies, when the only jobs we are getting in our area in Scotland are those connected with a small tug leaving Ardrossan harbour?

The Secretary of State has still not given a decision on the planning application of the Chevron Oil Company in relation to planning developments to build up an oil terminal or oil refineries in the Hunterston area. If my right hon. Friend wants investment, why stop these companies putting millions of pounds into the Hunterston area? This is where he is falling behind the Secretary of State for the Environment, who, on 1st January, when all the Scots were drinking or recuperating from the New Year, gave planning permission for another oil refinery in the Thames area. If that had been built at Hunterston, it would have

provided 3,000 jobs in construction immediately, and eventually a new industrial base.

ICI has said that if it gets a closer source of supply as the byproduct of an oil refinery, it will extend its nylon plant at Ardeer, thus creating another 6001,000 jobs. But that is not happening, because my right hon. Friend has listened co SNP members in North Ayrshire and a handful of Tories in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire.

My right hon. Friend should live up to his word. We need new investment and the industrial base that petrochemicals could give us. Scotland should be not a source of exploitation for the trans-shipment of oil—that is not where the jobs are; she should be an integral part of the oil industry in refining and in the spin-off of petrochemicals. The only future for the west of Scotland is in petrochemicals. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give the go-ahead for the building of the terminal and the refinery, which will go a long way to replacing the 70,000 jobs that the west of Scotland will lose between now and 1981.