The Economy

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 4th June 2015.

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Photo of Roger Mullin Roger Mullin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 4:07 pm, 4th June 2015

Many congratulations, Madam Deputy Speaker, from the Scottish Benches on your election.

In February 1974, I first stood for this Parliament. It has been a rather long campaign but here I am, representing that wonderful constituency, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. In the 2010 election former Prime Minster Gordon Brown had a majority of 23,000. I stand here today with a majority of some 10,000, an indication surely of a desire for change not just in my constituency, but mirrored the length and breadth of Scotland.

It is fitting on these occasions to recognise the work of the previous Member of Parliament. Gordon Brown was a giant in Labour party politics and in British politics. He went on to become Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Prime Minister—a very distinguished career to which I pay tribute. There were many issues where we disagreed, but I am sure the whole House will follow me in wishing him the very best for his future. I particularly look forward to the work he intends doing internationally among the poorest countries in the world to bring education to the most disadvantaged.

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is a constituency of many parts. Some of our communities, including Cowdenbeath, Lochgelly, Kelty, Lochore, Ballingry, Crosshill and the delightful Lumphinnans were hewn out of the very mines of the Scottish coalfields. That mining industry may have gone, but the strength of the community built by those miners is still there, although for the past 30 years or more they have been suffering from political and economic neglect such that I will have to do my best to address it.

In other parts of the constituency, people can meander down the coast from Dysart, through Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn and Aberdour, to the more modern Dalgety Bay, and gaze across the River Forth to Edinburgh. That coastal stretch was a favourite of Adam Smith, that much misquoted father of economics. He would often walk that way and contemplate the great philosophical questions of the day. As he did so, he would look at the impressive European trading ships that sailed up and down the Forth, providing that strong economic and social link to the many great nations of the continent. Standing on the shores of Scotland he saw the importance of international trade and of a European outlook. His perspective then, in the 18th century, challenges us all today to be just as outward looking and imaginative as he was in his time.

Adam Smith knew, too, that there is no centre of internationalism. It is something to be sought in the minds and deeds of people; whether you live in a great city of a great land or in a small seaside town on the northern shores of Scotland, you can be international. He knew, too, of problems, and as I look across at the Government Benches, I see many problems. If I were to point out just one thing where I share the view of Adam Smith, it would be that he could see readily that when looking at people with power and riches, you see that they are no protections against small-mindedness.

Turning to other matters, I was very impressed by the recent OECD report outlining the fact that excessive inequality is bad for growth. To talk of inequality is not to engage in the politics of envy. Rather, it is to engage in a debate about economic failure and missed opportunities. Let me finish with a quote from Adam Smith:

“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”