Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Conservative, Epping Forest 1:40 pm, 27th January 2011

It was; the right hon. Lady is right. As I said when I paid tribute to Donald Dewar a moment ago, that was not what I said in 1997 and 1998. The position of the Conservative party at that point was to oppose devolution. Of course it was; it is no secret. I for one thought that that was the best settlement for Scotland. I appreciate, however, that the Scottish Parliament has grown in stature and become an important part of the lives of the people of Scotland. It is there, it performs an important duty and it defends the law of Scotland-the right hon. Lady will agree that I always defend that. The Scottish Parliament performs an important function in our new constitutional settlement in the United Kingdom.

Although I would originally have preferred to have seen an enormous amount of taxpayers' money saved by our not setting up the Scottish Parliament, I now appreciate-I speak only for myself, not for my party-that it performs an important duty. As I have said for more than 12 years, however, it is essential that the constitutional settlement be improved. Donald Dewar, to whom I am still in the middle of paying tribute, worked for decades to achieve the Parliament and I am sure that all hon. Members will agree how sad it is that he did not live to see the complete fruition of his labours. Had he done so and remained the First Minister for a longer term, I believe the standing and status of the Scottish Parliament would have grown more quickly. However, it is where it is now.