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The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip 4:10 pm, 24th October 2019

I rise to speak in favour of the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend Ian Blackford. Ordinarily, the Queen’s Speech is the set-piece occasion for the British Government. It normally outlines the Government’s domestic priorities and legislative proposals for the year ahead. Instead, this Queen’s Speech is a total charade. In fact, it is nothing more than a fantasy wish list from a Government who have lost their majority and are now completely out of control.

To be frank, even if the Government did have a majority with which to plough ahead with the proposals in the Queen’s Speech, the legislative programme is still bereft of ideas and ambition for Scotland. All of us who undertake weekly surgeries know the priorities of the people whom we seek to represent in this place. Those priorities should be reflected in the Government’s legislative programme, but they are not. In Glasgow, people tell me that they want to see justice for the WASPI women, and this Queen’s Speech has failed to deliver that. In Glasgow, people want to see universal credit fixed and the most punitive measures removed from it, and this Queen’s Speech has failed to sort that out. Put simply, this Queen’s Speech fails Scotland and it demonstrates why we need to be a normal independent state.

Let us look at the proposed initiatives in the Government’s legislative programme that will have an impact in Scotland. The Government’s immigration Bill will end free movement, which has been critical to growing a strong and diverse economy in Scotland. Put simply, ending freedom of movement could cost Scotland £2 billion in tax revenues. That is why, since December 2018, the Scottish Government have been making the case for permanent membership of the single market and customs union. That has been deemed to be fine for Northern Ireland, but not for Scotland, which is a pretty peculiar approach for a supposed Union of equals.

We know that Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is predicted to come from migration. This makes the case for continuing freedom of movement, which, sadly, the immigration Bill will put an end to. That comes at an economic cost. When we do an analysis of the tax taken from EU citizens in Scotland, it shows that there will be a 4.7% reduction in Scotland’s revenue by 2040 if EU migration falls by 50%, as is projected following Brexit. So there is a hit to the economy from the immigration Bill, which will be bad for Scotland.

I want to turn to the consequences of Brexit, which continues to cast a dark shadow over these islands and our economy in particular. This week we have seen the introduction of the withdrawal agreement Bill, which, among other things, makes provision for Northern Ireland continuing to have access to the single market and customs union. It is an inescapable fact that this puts Scotland at a competitive disadvantage, which is bad for jobs and bad for our economy. But Brexit does not just pose a future threat to our economic prosperity, because Scotland’s economy is already £3 billion smaller than it would have been had the Government not pushed ahead with a damaging Tory Brexit.

If this Queen’s Speech and the Brexit process have done one thing, it has been to crystallise things for people in Scotland who are beginning to consider an alternative future and pathway. Throughout the Brexit negotiations, we have seen a tale of two Unions. In the European one, the small, independent Republic of Ireland has been shown immense solidarity from the European Union, which treats it as an equal member state and listens to its needs and sensitivities. In this British Union, Scotland and its people have been shut out and ignored by an intransigent Westminster Government, who are obsessed by the politics of little England. This Queen’s Speech simply makes the case that Britain has nothing more to offer Scotland. It makes the case that we must have the right to choose our own future and take our own path away from Brexit Britain and failed Tory economics.