Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:58 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland 1:58 pm, 27th January 2011

SNP Members have made no mention today of an analysis of what would have happened under fiscal independence during the period from 2007 to 2009. In fact, the SNP has produced no governmental analysis for that period. Recent estimates by experts indicated that Scottish tax income would have dropped by nearly £2.5 billion-and that includes a per capita share of North sea oil, before the Secretary of State and his colleagues on the Front Bench ask about that. The SNP Government have continually failed to produce detailed modelling of their case for separation. The analysis has to be done not only in the good times but in the bad times as well.

Indeed, the SNP's case for fiscal autonomy is so weak and unconvincing that its Ministers in Holyrood are now accused of having had to resort to playing fast and loose with the facts of economic research to substantiate any case at all. We are firmly of the view, based on sound, independent evidence, that the economic union is Scotland's greatest economic opportunity and that together we are stronger.

Let us be clear that the Scotland Bill was born of consensus and consultation and is a model example that Government should always follow, whether here in Westminster or at Holyrood, before laying legislation of such fundamental constitutional reform. While in government, we sought political consensus from the start. We initiated independent commissions and reports, embarked on a robust consultation with the public, civic society and experts, and we listened carefully when those people spoke. There is no such consensus and there was no such consultation prior to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill or, indeed, the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill, and the result has been rushed and biased legislation, which insults our democracy. The Tory-led Government have steamrolled those Bills through this House of Commons and into the House of Lords, showing scant regard for proper scrutiny and completely disregarding the opportunity to engage with interested parties and experts or the electorate whom they serve.

However, the Bill we are debating today is the antithesis of the Government's other shoddy constitutional efforts. On the whole, it reflects most of the Calman commission's recommendations, and accordingly there is much that we agree on. As the official Opposition, however, we will rigorously scrutinise the Bill to ensure that it represents the best deal for the people of Scotland. There are some areas of concern and issues that will require further clarification and amendment as we continue into the Committee stage, although I can assure the Secretary of State that we will not press the Antarctica clause to a vote. I am astonished that the dogma of the SNP is such that this one simple clause, which was clearly a mistake in the original legislation and has now, I understand, been corrected, will enable one of our finest universities to mount an expedition to Antarctica. Instead, Pete Wishart seems to be more concerned about where the First Minister might spend his summer holidays.