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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 7:30 pm, 21st March 2012

In fact, I do not anticipate people living there. But what is important are the oil exploration rights around Rockall, which have huge implications. What I want to ask my noble and learned friend is what takes preference. Is it Her Majesty's instructions to raise a union flag and it is taken for the union, or is it an Act of Parliament which gives administrative rights so that the island of Rockall is part of Scotland? That ought to be decided. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, that these are the sorts of issues that we need to be clear about when it comes to the referendum. If oil is found within the waters of Rockall, let us have a clear mandate as to who owns it and who is going to have responsibility for those areas, and indeed defend them against attack, perhaps by terrorists, if the oil is developed.

My last amendment in this group is to Amendment 94C, another amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock. It concerns the second question about the fiscal autonomy of Scotland, for which I know he did not get much support. I want to ask my noble and learned friend what the situation would be should Scotland vote to become a separate country from the United Kingdom. My amendment provides that Scotland should no longer be allowed to use the British pound sterling. I do not see how Scotland could use the same currency as England if it did not have a common Government. That has been the problem with the euro. My noble friend Lord Forsyth has argued strongly that we should not join the euro. Attempts have been made by many politicians, including the present Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to get us to become part of the euro and much more integrated. However, the decision not to become part of the euro has clearly been vindicated. In the event of Scotland becoming a separate country and not having the same Government, it would be quite detrimental both to the remainder of the United Kingdom and to Scotland to have the same currency. It has not worked in the past and it will not work in the future. I would like my noble and learned friend to confirm that Scotland would not be allowed to use the British pound sterling.

That would not be something sensational for Scotland to do because in the days of King David I, somewhere between 1140 and 1150, the weights and measures and the currency of Scotland were based by Act of Parliament in Caithness. It was decreed that there should be a common and even weight for the pondus Cathaniae, so it would be quite simple for Scotland to go back to that.