HC Deb 23 April 1975 vol 890 cc1451-3
1. Mr. Crawford

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next be meeting the Scottish Council (Development and Industry).

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

I and my colleagues have met the Scottish Council on a number of occasions since we came into office. We shall continue to do so as necessary.

Mr. Crawford

Today is St. George's Day, when we send our best wishes to our English cousins. When he next meets the Scottish Council will the Secretary of State apologise to it for the Budget introduced last week by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer —a Budget that will do the Scottish Council no good in its efforts to develop the industrial base in Scotland? It is one of the most vicious Budgets that Scotland has had to suffer for many a long year. Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether he is happy to preside over what will be the longest dole queues in Scotland since the 'thirties, as a result of the Budget?

Mr. Ross

The answer to the first question is "No". The answer to the second question is that, as usual, the hon. Gentleman is misinformed. I shall take the opportunity to apologise to the council on behalf of the House of Commons for a Member of Parliament misleading us in relation to statements made by the council.

Mr. McElhone

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the Scottish National Party Member is being less than honest when he omits to praise the efforts of the Secretary of State for Scotland in setting up the Scottish Development Agency and granting £300 million to help the Scotish economy?

Mr. Ross

We have already had meetings with the Scottish Council. It welcomes, without any criticism at all, what we are doing on this matter. The one thing that the Scottish Nationals had better realise is that we cannot isolate Scotland from the economic effects of what is happening in the whole of the United Kingdom. The sooner they realise that, the sooner some of their policies will make sense, but not while they are guided by the counsels of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Sproat

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the inability to divorce Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, but does he not agree that it is also impossible to divorce Scotland from Europe? Will he seek an early opportunity to discuss with the Scottish Council the deprivation of up to some 10,000 jobs and over £50 million a year in grants from EEC sources? In particular, will he discuss with the Council the decision by Seagram's, largely because of the Common Market uncertainties, to cancel two projects in Scotland that will lose Scotland about £28 million in investment and 800 new jobs?

Mr. Ross

No, Sir. If the Scottish Council wants to consult me about anything, it usually does, and it usually states what it wants to speak to me about. It has not asked to speak to me about this matter. On other occasions, we suggest certain things about which it is worth taking the council's views. However, on many of these aspects the hon. Gentleman exaggerates the effect of the Budget. He should not take at face value what is said in the Press about the reasons for this or the reasons for that. I assure him that there is a considerable element of exaggeration in what has been said.

Mr. William Hamilton

When my right hon. Friend next meets the Scottish Council, will he ask where the SNP obtained the figures on which it has based its assertion that Scotland does not have a balance of payments problem? When we faced the Scottish Council with this matter, it said that it had no such evidence and that none could be obtained.

Mr. Ross

The Scottish Council has made it clear that it entirely disagrees with the statements of its former employee and that it certainly does not agree with many of his remarks about the statistics produced in respect of the balance of payments. Like most things, they come out of his head. His remarks change from week to week, from day to day, and according to who is making the speech.

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