“just over two months ... already we’ve achieved so much together.”
I think that Jeremy Corbyn is being modest. He and Chairman Mao are doing much more to destroy the Labour Party than even I have managed.
Alongside the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s misguided budget statement yesterday, the impartial and independent Office for Budget Responsibility published updated oil revenue figures. To say that they make grim reading is not to talk Scotland down.
Yesterday was a significant day, and so is today—it is an important anniversary. Two years ago today the First Minister published a white paper on independence. In that document, the First Minister promised a future free from Tory austerity, based on oil revenues of £8 billion a year at the point of independence. Will the First Minister say how much oil revenues are expected to be this year?
On the day after Labour’s partners in the better together campaign—otherwise known as the Tories—announced plans to cut the Scottish revenue budget in real terms by £1.5 billion by the end of this decade, for Kezia Dugdale to stand up and talk about cuts, or anything like that, is breathtaking hypocrisy.
This is a challenging time for the oil and gas sector, which is why the task force that I established earlier this year is working hard to support the industry at this time.
Every time people hear Labour gleefully crowing about the challenges in the oil and gas sector, they realise how little Labour actually cares about people’s jobs and livelihoods. They realise that for Labour, this is all about getting one over on the Scottish National Party.
If Kezia Dugdale wants to cast her mind back to the pre-referendum period, I will give her something else on which to ruminate—[Interruption.]
Does Kezia Dugdale remember when the better together parties told us before the referendum that the only way to protect jobs in HM Revenue and Customs was to vote no? Can she explain why it is that after the referendum the United Kingdom Government has announced plans to slash those jobs? Perhaps she might want to reflect on that.
I was born in Aberdeen and I grew up in the north-east, so I know the damage that decline in the oil and gas industry will cause to communities. I ask the First Minister, please, not to question my motivation when I bring the subject to Parliament.
I asked a specific question about oil revenues. The problem for the First Minister is that she was not just a wee bit wrong. She did not tell a half-truth or even a quarter-truth. She was not out by a factor of 10, 20 or 30. The SNP’s oil figures were wrong by a factor of more than 60, because according to the OBR, oil and gas revenues this year are expected to be just £130 million. The Weirs won more than that on the lottery.
We know from today’s “Oil & Gas UK Activity Survey 2015” that things are not going to get much better any time soon. Will the First Minister tell us where the SNP’s failure on oil lies? Does it lie in the SNP’s ability to do the numbers or in its ability to tell the truth? [Interruption.]
Back in the period that Kezia Dugdale is talking about, she was in a campaign with the Conservatives, and the Conservative Government at that time was forecasting oil prices even higher than the forecasts of the Scottish Government.
I have to say to Kezia Dugdale—I am sorry to have to say it—that I question the motivation of a party whose members were happy to tell Scotland to leave its finances in the hands of George Osborne, but who now have the cheek to stand up in the Scottish Parliament and complain about cuts.
The fact of the matter is that the choice that is facing Scotland today is the same as the choice has always been: do we allow the Tories to control our finances or do we take control of our destiny into our own hands? I know which choice I prefer.
The First Minister accuses me of hypocrisy; she is the one who promised a second oil boom. It would be bad enough if the Government that is responsible for collecting an increasingly large share of our taxes had been out by 10 per cent or 20 per cent, but the First Minister was out by 6,000 per cent—6,000 per cent, Presiding Officer—on the money that is needed to fund our schools, our hospitals and our pensions. The Government’s ability to get those things right—[Interruption.]
The Government’s ability to get those things right really matters to our future, because this Parliament will be responsible for more tax and spending than ever before. We will have a chance to make different choices and to take a break from Tory austerity, so we cannot ever again be in a position in which our Government’s numbers are wrong on such a grand scale. [Interruption.]
However, I think that what Kezia Dugdale does says everything that Scotland needs to know about the priorities of the Scottish Labour Party. On the day after George Osborne’s budget—a budget that announced plans to reduce the revenue budget of this Parliament by £1.5 billion in real terms over the remainder of this decade—what does she come to the chamber and do? Does she criticise the Conservatives? No. She wants to play politics with the SNP instead. [Applause.]
If Kezia Dugdale wants to know some real facts about the oil and gas sector, I know that she will not take my word, so let us hear what Oil & Gas UK’s economics director had to say just yesterday about the OBR figures. He said:
“Oil & Gas UK believes there is room for greater optimism, given the fact that production from the industry is likely to increase this year—for the first time in more than a decade—and is set to continue throughout the remainder of this decade.”
We in this Government will get on with the job of supporting the industry, supporting the Scottish economy, and standing up for Scotland against the Conservatives, and we will leave the Labour Party to the slow and painful death that it is currently experiencing. [Applause.]
We are on the cusp of major change. With new powers heading our way, Scottish politics will never be the same again. This Parliament needs impartial and independent oversight of Government finances. Scots cannot be let down like that ever again.
I think we will recall that it was at the recent Labour Party conference in Scotland that “CHANGE” was emblazoned across the backdrop. The only party in Scotland, apart from the Conservatives, that badly needs to change its ways is the Scottish Labour Party. [Interruption.] I am being heckled by Conservative members to say that the Lib Dems need to change their ways. I am happy to concede that that, too, is correct. [Laughter.]
Kezia Dugdale quoted a former adviser to the Scottish Government. I often enjoy quotations from former advisers to political parties. I particularly enjoyed this one, from a former adviser to Kezia Dugdale—a Mr John McTernan:
“If Scottish Labour were a football team it would be in Division 3, struggling to avoid relegation.”
That was just before he talked about the stupidity of the Scottish Labour Party under Kezia Dugdale. I will tell you what, Presiding Officer—I and the Scottish National Party in this Scottish Government will continue to stand up for Scotland. We will continue to fight Scotland’s corner against the Conservatives and we will leave the Labour Party wherever it is that it has ended up in Scottish politics.