When the Secretary of States gets the opportunity to discuss with the STUC the economy of Scotland and the important part that the economy of Ayrshire can play, will he explain to it that, for 25 years, the people of Ayrshire have been desperate for a road that can lead them down to the south but have been landlocked? When he meets the STUC, will he be able to say that the M77 is either completed or that it is near completion and that the A77 will be upgraded to meet the M77, to release the people of Ayrshire so that they may travel south?
We are very well aware of the strong feelings of hon. Members from Ayrshire about road links. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the roads will proceed, and on schedule. I certainly hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to report positively in answer to the question.
Will the Minister test on the STUC the absurd equation often canvassed by the Government in the House between the proliferation in Scotland of temporary, low-paid, short-term and often contract jobs assembling other people's manufactures or forklifting other people's goods around empty warehouses, and the jobs that have been lost designing aircraft, building ships, mining coal and making steel—real manufacturing jobs that have been lost to Scotland during these dismal, bitter Tory years?
The hon. Gentleman lives in a rather unreal world. He must accept that conditions change from day to day and that businesses in Scotland have to adapt to those changing circumstances, but that what is important is that the Government put in place the right economic factors to guarantee that business can thrive. I would argue strongly that the Government have achieved just that and that with unemployment steadily falling that is being proved time and again. The worry of business in Scotland today is that the tax rises and cost increases that are likely to come from the Opposition's proposal for a devolved, tax-raising Scottish Parliament will drive business away from Scotland and not be in the best interests of the Scottish economy.
Bearing in mind the massive investment of the Government and Strathclyde in the M77, is my hon. Friend aware of the disruption being caused to the work there by protesters? Will he do what he can to protect that investment by ensuring that the new law on aggravated trespass, which he and I supported last year, is in force to ensure that the road goes ahead?
Of course I am aware of the instances referred to by my hon. Friend, but it is a matter for the police authorities. I can assure my hon. Friend that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for roads will keep a careful eye on progress.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) seeking clarification of the Labour party's policy. If it wishes to return business rates to the control of local government, I would argue strongly that that bodes badly for Scottish business. Under the Government, business rates have been brought down from 76p to 43p, which is good news for Scottish business.
Does the Minister accept that the state of the Scottish economy will be one of the issues under discussion in the forthcoming by-election in Scotland? Does he further accept that the anticipated defeat of the Conservative party by the Scottish National party by a majority of at least 10,000 to 15,000 reflects the view that the Scottish people seek to serve upon the Government that enough is enough and that Scots will unite behind any party which wishes and is able to defeat the Government?
I am confident that the economy will play a significant part in any forthcoming by-election. I am equally confident that the Government's argument is sound. The policies of the Scottish National party and the Labour party, to which I referred earlier, clearly point to increasing costs and taxes for Scottish business, which bodes badly for investment, both inward and within Scottish business.