House of Lords debates Scotland: Independence — Question for Short Debate, 5 December 2013

 

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Conservative)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the Scottish Government’s declaration that, if the people of Scotland vote for independence, Scottish independence day will be 24 March 2016.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Conservative)
My Lords, I am most grateful for this opportunity to discuss the White Paper that was published by the Scottish Government on the advantages of an independent Scotland. It runs

to 650 pages, and I believe that an anagram of the title,

Scotland’s Future

, is “fraudulent costs”, which would certainly do a great deal to explain the content. It has all the deliverability and realism of a letter to Santa Claus. Such is its credibility that if it were put forward on “Dragons’ Den” as a business plan for an independent Scotland for the next 300 years, it would not even get up the stairs to be filmed before them.

We were told that it would answer all the central questions about Scottish independence. In fact, it ignores all the questions by simply asserting the answers that the Scottish Government would like. On EU membership, therefore, Scotland will able to join the EU. The Spanish Prime Minister says, “Not on your life”—but, of course, Alex Salmond knows better than the Spanish Prime Minister, the European Commission and others.

Yes, there will be free tuition fees, but our deal with Europe will mean that we can maintain this outrageous discrimination against students from England. The proposal in this White Paper, believe it or not, is that an independent Scotland will allow French, Italian and German students to come and get free university tuition fees, but England, Wales and Northern Ireland will still be discriminated against. This is from people who have the nerve to use the rhetoric of us all being a family together.

Similarly, an independent Scotland will not have to join the euro, even though the treaty requires it. It will have the pound, but without accepting any of the obligations that would come from the Bank of England in a monetary union when it comes to determining their interest rates, borrowing and the rest. It will be able to avoid Schengen as well—all because Alex says that this has got to be the case. On NATO, it can join a nuclear alliance while engaging in rhetoric about how offensive nuclear weapons are. The Scottish Government can put at risk tens of thousands of jobs on the Clyde by insisting on our nuclear deterrent being moved, without any suggestions as to where it might be moved, who would bear the cost of the tens of billions of pounds involved, or what the consequences for NATO would be of Britain consequently having to abandon its nuclear deterrent.

The Scottish Government fail to make the case in this White Paper for what amounts to the Balkanisation of Britain. To be fair, they do answer some questions. For noble Lords who have not had the opportunity, as I had last weekend, of wading through this document, I can announce that Scotland will be able to put forward its own entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.

I say to my noble friend on the Front Bench that it is a bit off that we should be debating a document as important as this on a Back-Bench Motion late on a Thursday afternoon. We really ought to have seen a debate in the House of Commons and one in this House on such an important document. I suggest to my noble friend that he might consider persuading his colleagues to set up a Joint Committee, perhaps chaired by someone of impeccable credentials such as a former Law Lord, to go through this White Paper—it will not take them long, although it might take a long time to read it—and set out what the consequences should be for both sides of the border. This is not a Scottish

issue. It is an issue for every part of the United Kingdom, with huge implications for Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

I have another request for my noble friend. I do not know if he has had a chance to read the White Paper, but you only have to get to pages xii and xiii to see set out a whole load of things, where on one side it says:

“Gains from independence—whichever party is elected”,

and on the opposite page it says:

“Gains from independence—if we are the first government of an independent Scotland”.

It sets out SNP party policy, including the renationalisation of the Royal Mail, which is not within the competences of the Scottish Parliament. What on earth are civil servants doing writing this stuff, with the Government of Scotland putting the bill for an SNP manifesto on to taxpayers?

I draw my noble friend’s attention to paragraph 14 of the Civil Service Code, which says:

“You must: serve the Government, whatever its political persuasion, to the best of your ability in a way which maintains political impartiality and is in line with the requirements of this Code”.

Section 15 says:

“You must not: act in a way that is determined by party political considerations”.

The Cabinet Secretary ought to have a look at this. If he concludes that it is party political and contrary to the code, the bill for this whole exercise should be sent to the SNP, which should pay it. I do not see why my taxes should pay for this sort of nonsense.

The subject of my Motion was the declaration in this document that if Scotland votes for independence, 24 March 2016 will be independence day. I have no idea where that particular date came from, but I was always told that if you were going to be in a negotiation—and if Scotland votes for independence there will be a lot to negotiate, because it is not answered in this White Paper—you never set a deadline, especially if you are the weaker party.

The other day, I pointed out to the leader of the SNP in the other place that if independence day was going to be 24 March 2016, it would be rather awkward if a Government had been elected with a majority that depended on Scottish MPs, who would presumably be thrown out of the House of Commons on independence day. He replied, “Ah, yes, we’ve been thinking about that, and we think that the general election should be postponed by a year”.

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I am not sure that I shall join in the thanks to my noble friend Lord Forsyth for arranging that we would have three minutes to speak on this subject, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord, Foulkes, that he was right to press for a proper debate on it.

The so-called White Paper is full of wishful thinking. It spells out what the SNP would like to happen, not what will happen. There is a fundamental difference between the two. Some of what it would like to happen, I would like as well. For example, it mentions currency union. We have that already. It is a funny kind of independence in which the Bank of England will call the shots in future. On defence, it wants a separate Scotland to stay in NATO, keep all Scotland’s defence establishments and get rid of Trident. It just wishes that that would happen. It wants a separate Scotland to be an “active participant” in the European Union. Not only the Prime Minister of Spain but many others will have views on that matter. There are pages and pages of wishful thinking.

My greatest fear, which is what I want to express today, is that the danger of a vote for independence is that Scotland would become ingrown. That is against the whole of our history. After all, the contribution that Scotland made to the building of empire and Commonwealth was far greater than our population would suggest. The contribution that we made in the

First and Second World Wars to the defence of Britain was far greater than our population would suggest. I take pride in that. I want to live in a country that continues that history of a major contribution to the well-being and success of the United Kingdom. I do not wish to live in a country that has its own wee broadcasting corporation feeding us on a continuous diet of “cauld kail het agin”, which I fear is what would happen. That is why I believe that the people of Scotland will vote decisively against this bogus prospectus of a bogus independence.

 

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