Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th October 1976.

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Photo of Mr Douglas Crawford Mr Douglas Crawford , Perth and East Perthshire 12:00 am, 11th October 1976

The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) said that very few hon. Members could in this House speak in the national interest. I am speaking in the national interest, but my nation is not the nation of the vast majority of hon. Members. My nation is Scotland, and it is in the interest of Scotland that I speak.

It was with a sense of deep depression that I came to London after the Summer Recess. This sense of depression stemmed from leaving Scotland in general and coming to this Parliament in particular, a Parliament which has so patently failed to do anything for the economic, financial, business, commercial and employment problems of Scotland. My depression was countered by a sense of gladness that Scotland will not for much longer have to suffer its business being mismanaged by this House of Commons.

It is difficult to raise passions in this House. I except the ritual knockabout between the Chancellor and his Opposition Shadow, which we have seen again today and I suppose that, in general, this is a good thing. But for my party this is the time for some passion. The home rule Bill of 1969 got guffaws in this House and there is no doubt that the Scottish National Party's position will be received with the usual guffaws today, but in time people will realise just how serious we are and how successful we are becoming.

As far as Scotland is concerned, we have reached—if I may coin a phrase—the end of the road with this Government, this Parliament and the concept of the United Kingdom as a unitary economic State. Westminster has had its day as far as Scotland is concerned. The sooner we have a General Election in Scotland, the better. It cannot come soon enough. I do not know what the Opposition's position is on this matter. They made a lot of sound and fury in Brighton last week, but I am not sure quite how much this signified.

We in Scotland are concerned not just with the mismanagement of this Government but with the whole Westminster system. Successive Governments have dragged Scotland further and further into the mire. In 1973, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer engaged in a "print money policy" which increased the money supply and led to a rank proliferation of tertiary banks, and the result was the unacceptable face of capitalism. The present Chancellor has compounded the problem, and the illness from which the United Kingdom as a unitary economic state is suffering cannot be solved by medicine; the United Kingdom as a unitary economic State is in need of surgery. Economic physiotherapy will no longer do any good.

The Government's policies of panic are being pursued in the most disastrous way for Scotland because they are discouraging productive investment in my country. A short-term expediency of this kind is inimical to the medium and longer-term needs of the Scottish economy. This is another dose of benze-drine before facing up to the hangover shambles of a party which has gone on much too long.

I recognise, and I share, the despair of all people in these islands over what has happened to them. I will not exacerbate their sufferings by picking over the long sequence of economic mismanagement of successive Governments, and most notably of this Government, the list of which we saw articulated recently by the Blackpool brontosaur. From Scotland's point of view, watching the Callaghan Cliffhangers in operation—if operation is not too positive a word to describe their antics—has been like watching a marriage partner ruin the family finances and ruin its good name by a life style of spendthrift and wilful dissipation. Those of us who wish to see self-government in Scotland have been hearing a lot lately about the economic integrity of the United Kingdom. Some integrity, some economy.

It is more in anger than in sorrow that I remind those who are opposed to Scottish self-government that Scotland, more than any part of the United Kingdom, needs massive sustained investment to ameliorate unemployment, reduce the outflow of able people, and eradicate the appalling degree of social deprivation in the west of Scotland.

The unionists in all parties—Labour, Conservative and Liberal—no longer have an economic leg to stand on. Some businessmen say that devolution would cause economic upheaval in Scotland. But no economic upheaval could be as chaotic as that brought about by a 15 per cent. minimum lending rate, soaring mortgage rates, and the falling pound.

The Conservative Prime Minister of 1963–64 said in the late 1960s after he had lost office, at a St. Andrew's Society dinner in New York: The Scots know on which side their bread is buttered. Not only do we know that; we know that to stay within this Union means that we shall have not only no butter but no bread either.

The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) wrote in a pamphlet published last week: With the discovery of North Sea oil it is now no longer possible to use the crude and dubious argument that the Scots are the financial dependants of the United Kingdom. The value of Scottish oil production is now running at £2·5 million a day, or 320,000 barrels a day. How then can there be any further restrictions on the Scottish economy?

The Foreign Secretary is quoted in today's Financial Times as giving the following not quite so sotto voce answer in the United States to the question why London was refusing to grant independence to Scotland. He said: They have got a lot of oil. Of course, we shall recycle our oil reserves to help our friends and neighbours in the South. England is, after all, Scotland's largest single market, and it is in our interests that England's economy should be buoyant. But the recycling will he done on our terms and our oil will not, by itself, be a panacea for England's ills. It is time that England realised that it cannot go on living for ever on tick.