20 Years of Devolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:19 pm on 11th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip 2:19 pm, 11th July 2019

It is a genuine pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Patricia Gibson, who, in her inimitable style, delivered a passionate speech. I commend my hon. Friend Pete Wishart for opening the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran spoke about a whole generation of young people in Scotland who have never known anything other than devolution. I was just seven years old when the people of Scotland voted for a devolved Parliament, so it is on that basis that I want to make some reflections about where we are and where we are going. Quite deliberately, I have not written a speech today. I want to try to avoid some of the party point scoring. I do not intend my speech to be that this House has confidence in the Scottish Government, tempted though I am after some of the various remarks, but I think it is worth reflecting on the record not from 2007 until now, but all the way back to 1999.

When I came to this place I did so as a nationalist MP, and we have an understanding—I sometimes think that it is missing in other parts of the House—that our primary job is to come here to scrutinise reserved matters. There are Members of this House who may have served in the Scottish Parliament, but they seem to speak more about devolved issues in this Parliament than they do about reserved issues, and I think that they are doing an enormous disservice to their constituents. [Interruption.] If the Parliamentary Private Secretary, Luke Graham, who is chuntering away, wants to stand up and intervene, I am happy to give way, but he appears not to be taking that opportunity.

The point I want to make is that one of the first things I put up on my office wall when I came here was the metrics of the Scottish index of multiple deprivation. It is no secret that there are a number of challenges in the constituency I represent. The metrics we have in the Scottish index of multiple deprivation cover employment, income, health, crime, housing, education and access, some of which are devolved. The argument I want to develop over the next four minutes is about how much progress we have made in the last 20 years, but how the reality is that our hands are tied behind our back, particularly on the first two—employment and income.

The reality is that legislation relating to the national minimum wage and all these things is still held at Westminster, and limited taxation powers have come to Scotland. The Conservative party would say, “Well, you’ve got your taxation powers—use them”, but when we use our taxation powers to try to lift people out of poverty, we get accused of the nat tax and all these other things. That seems a bit of a joke when we reconsider the council tax comparison between Scotland and England.

As I go around my constituency, I reflect on what devolution has actually meant. Particularly over the past few months, I have found that pretty much every single week there is a sod-cutting in my constituency where we are going to open a housing development. That is because of the record investment that the Government in Scotland are putting into housing.

I want to turn to some comparisons between devolution and the Union. The first one I will look at is the right to buy. The Scottish Government have decided that we are abolishing the right to buy because we want to invest in social housing; yet, down south, there is a major problem with housing, so I think that there is an opportunity for the UK Government to look at.

There are other areas as well. My hon. Friend Alison Thewliss has been campaigning very hard on the issue of drug consumption rooms. There is a recognition and a realisation that, on a public health issue, we have a problem there. Many politicians in Glasgow understand that drug-related diseases and all those things are a major challenge for us. We have a Scottish Government and local authority in Glasgow who realise this is a challenge—that it is a public health issue we want to try to sort out—but we have the Home Office standing in the way. That highlights some of the challenges we have as a result of still being tied to the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend Brendan O’Hara has been campaigning for a very long time for recognition that immigration is not a problem in Scotland, but emigration is. He has been consistently asking the UK Government to look at a regional approach to immigration policy. Any Member who comes to this House and represents Scotland but does not recognise that we have a challenge when it comes to migration, and that the one-size-fits-all policy pursued by this Government is not helping, is doing a disservice to their constituents.

On defence policy, the vast majority of people in civic Scotland do not want to have nuclear weapons on the River Clyde—whether it is the Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland or the trade unions. Public polling consistently shows that in Scotland and it is the view of the majority of MSPs, yet the Government just say, “That’s fine—you’re just leaving it there”. That does not strike me as much of a respect agenda.