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Treasury Spending: Grants to Devolved Institutions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 3rd July 2018.

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Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader 5:33 pm, 3rd July 2018

I am very sad that the hon. Gentleman does not recognise that £160 million of EU funding should have come to Scotland. It is important that Members across the House push for this money to come. It is also really important that it is guaranteed in future years as well and not lost now and therefore lost in future years. It is very important that we get that money. [Interruption.] The Minister asks where we will get this money from. What about the Brexit dividend that we are apparently supposed to be getting? The Brexit dividend could be spent on the EU convergence uplift money. I am very clear that there is not a Brexit dividend, but the Government seem to think that there is, so it would be great if some of could go to places where the EU would have spent it.

Scotland’s universities are world-leading. They generate wealth for our economy, support innovation and increase productivity, but they rely on close links with EU countries. Changes to their funding and collaboration structures could have a devastating effect and wide-ranging economic consequences.

But there are further threats from Brexit, and I want to highlight two. The first is the reduction in immigration from EU citizens that is likely to hit us. This is not just a problem in that it will reduce our cultural diversity and the richness of our society, but in that it will have a direct impact on tax generation. If we cannot attract migrants to live and work in Scotland, we cannot grow our tax base, and we will not have enough workers to support our ageing population.

Every week in my office, I speak to people from outside the EU who have been hit by the UK Government’s immigration policies. Many of them are particularly high earners and have paid a huge amount of tax into the UK Government’s coffers over the years, yet they are being denied the right to stay in the UK. The loss of the post-study work visa also means that the brightest and best cannot stay in Scotland. I am concerned that the system for EU migrants will become as bad as the system for non-EU migrants and that we will exclude highly skilled workers from outside the EU—I will get towards the end of my remarks shortly, Mr Speaker; I can see you getting a bit antsy.

I am really concerned about this. I am constantly shocked that the UK Government believe that making it more difficult to move here will help. They need to be honest with the general population about the fact that migration brings benefits in terms of tax revenues, and more Conservative Members could do with standing up and saying that more often, so that we can take better decisions about immigration. We expect to discuss the Trade Bill and the customs Bill in this place before the summer recess. I cannot make it any clearer to the UK Government: leaving the single market and the customs union is an economic catastrophe. Tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers will have a drastic effect on any company that exports to not just the EU but countries that the EU has trade deals with.

The UK Government are mismanaging Brexit, just as they are mismanaging grants to the devolved institutions. Scotland would be far better off if we were an independent country. If we had the levers to close the per capita income gap with small advanced economies by focusing on productivity, population and participation, we would have an additional £22 billion in GDP and a potential additional £9 billion in tax revenues. That is £4,100 per person. Being part of the UK is holding Scotland back. The UK is not working for us.