Backbench Business — Scotland’s Place in the UK

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:19 pm on 6th February 2014.

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Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Liberal Democrat, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 1:19 pm, 6th February 2014

It is a pleasure to follow Sandra Osborne and I congratulate Mr Bain on securing this debate and the Backbench Business Committee on recognising the importance of addressing this issue.

I want to take a positive approach to Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. It has played a dynamic role and it is one that has evolved. With 300 years of common history, we have still got our distinctive legal system, our distinctive education system, our national identity, and we have recreated our own Parliament to deal with those issues that directly affect us in our lives in Scotland, so we do, as the slogan says, get the best of both worlds: a say in those decisions that affect us that are taken at the UK level, and a say in those decisions that affect us directly in Scotland in the Scottish Parliament.

In putting the positive case for voting no, I return to what Mr Tyrie said, and point out that the best and simplest way of keeping the pound sterling is to remain part of the UK. That is most easily achieved by voting no in the referendum. It gives us a say in how our currency is managed and it keeps us part of a borderless fully internal market, with a more diversified economy. The banking crisis reminded us that Scotland’s heavy dependency on the financial services sector—a great achievement by many people working in that sector—presents a challenge when it goes wrong. It was the rest of the UK’s economy and diversification that helped to sustain us through that crisis.

The oil and gas industry is also a great success story in Scotland, as the former Secretary of State my right hon. Friend Michael Moore mentioned. It is a great technical achievement and there are a lot of people with a lot of skills and the work they do has a lot of export potential. It is also a very unstable source of revenue to the economy, however, because it depends on the global oil price. When the price is high, the economy does well. When the price is low, being part of a larger economy, when other parts of the economy can benefit from the low oil price, gives the ability to transfer resources and sustain the economy. The UK’s diversified economy also allows us to come up with tax incentives to stimulate exploration, forgoing cash flow now for long-term benefits.