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A Trading Nation

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 30th May 2019.

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Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

I am going to make some progress.

What parts of our industry are we going to grow, and where is the export potential? An industrial strategy is essential for the export plan to work.

Of course, Brexit increases that uncertainty, and it is possibly delaying companies from pursuing foreign markets. As we approached 29 March, we heard of companies sending consignments abroad with no idea of the tariffs that they might face when they arrived. That was a worrying time for those companies, and it put off many others from taking that step.

That is not only the case with Brexit. Talk of indyref 2 has the same impact. Given that the UK is our biggest market, such talk puts Scottish businesses at risk. The Scottish Government talks endlessly about the problems of Brexit, but it fails to acknowledge that those of Scotexit would be much greater in magnitude. Not only is our trade with the UK four times greater than our trade with the EU, but our institutions are deeply embedded in the UK. Borders and tariffs would damage trade with our biggest market. Adding trading in a different currency to the mix would be a disaster that would exceed the damage of Brexit by some magnitude.

If the Scottish Government really wants to build trade, and with it the Scottish economy, it must end all talk of indyref 2. I understand the need to play to the gallery, but when that is damaging our country, the Government has to put our country before its party. Therefore, we will support the Conservative amendment.

I turn quickly to the Green Party amendment, of which we are mostly supportive, and surely a Government facing a climate emergency would take many of its points as read. However, we have concerns about how it would be possible to have trade agreements that differ between the countries of the UK. Our current membership of the EU, and the associated trade agreements, is through the UK—