Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:22 pm on 11th November 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary) 6:22 pm, 11th November 2020

I want to start in the only way possible, which is by thanking all those voluntary groups and individuals in my constituency for their immense work over the course of many months this year. That thanks of course extends to key workers and, indeed, to all NHS staff in Aberdeen. I want to pay particular thanks to those staff in Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, who just eight weeks ago delivered me a new hip, despite all the restrictions that are in place. I am incredibly thankful to them for their diligence, good humour and skill. Hopefully in the weeks to come I will be able to get rid of my crutch and run around here a bit more freely.

I want to turn to the wider situation in Aberdeen at this time, because I believe the House needs to be firmly aware of quite how drastically difficult the situation is. We are all facing challenging circumstances, but Aberdeen is unique in many respects, given the fact that not only have we had the pandemic, but we have had the perfect storm caused by the complete collapse in the oil price. We have seen from data in recent weeks that in the six months following March universal credit claimants in the city have more than doubled from just under 8,000 to almost 17,000. Oil & Gas UK has indicated that almost 35,000 jobs may be on the line in that industry. In recent weeks, it has emerged into the public domain that there has been a 75% reduction in job vacancies in the city that I represent. Those figures are terrifying.

We are a robust city—we are used to difficult times given the fluctuation in the oil price—but I am concerned about what the future holds. Ultimately the levers of power that can elicit positive change rest in this place, and because they rest in this place, it is incumbent on this UK Government to step up to the plate and deliver for my constituency.

In terms of universal credit, it is straightforward. The first thing that could be done is to extend the £20 universal credit uplift beyond the spring and to backdate it to legacy benefits. The second thing that must be delivered is an oil and gas sector deal, not just to protect industry now but to protect jobs in the future as we move towards a renewable transition—a just transition that protects all our futures and livelihoods within the city that I represent. The third thing, and perhaps the most important thing that the Government could do at this moment in time, is to provide the Scottish Parliament with the borrowing powers it has repeatedly asked for. The Scottish Parliament has repeatedly asked the UK Government for borrowing powers to provide the additional support that businesses and workers in Scotland need. That has fallen on deaf ears up to now, and that is a damned disgrace.

I will conclude, as I am conscious of time. We have been shown contempt in Scotland in relation to the lack of borrowing powers and by the fact we still have absolutely no idea what the totality of the Scottish budget will be next year, and that contempt will be seen at the polls. After 12 consecutive polls showing support for Scottish independence well in excess of 50%, this Government should be on watch, because the people of Scotland will decide a different path. We will take our future into our own hands.