In her opening remarks, the minister raised a number of constitutional questions surrounding the UK Government’s proposals for the internal market. Before I deal with those questions, it is vital that we recognise the wider economic context in which we debate those proposals. We are in the middle of the most serious economic crisis in memory and people in Scotland rightly want the Parliament to focus on the issues that matter most to them.
Young people are entering the workforce, worried about whether they can find a job, small business owners face closure and thousands of workers are worried that their jobs might disappear at any moment. This debate should be about safeguarding the jobs, livelihoods and small businesses throughout Scotland that depend on trade with the rest of the UK for their survival. Trade with the UK internal market supports more than 60 per cent of all trade in Scotland. According to the Fraser of Allander institute, trade with the UK internal market supports some 550,000 jobs across Scotland.
That economic context was emphasised by the Confederation of British Industry earlier this week, when it said that the UK internal market is key to increasing prosperity and raising living standards and opportunities for people across the UK. The Scottish Retail Consortium made it clear that Scottish consumers benefit enormously from unfettered access to the internal market, which helps to reduce shop prices and provides more choice.