HC Deb 18 June 1975 vol 893 cc1379-81
10. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with local authorities in Shetland and elsewhere regarding the Government's proposals on devolution.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)

There have been no discussions about devolution with local authorities in Shetland. Copies of the consultative document on devolution published in June last year were sent to all regional, islands and district councils in Scotland and to the existing local authority associations. Views on the document were received from the local authority associations and from some individual local authorities, and Scottish Office Ministers later held oral discussions with some of their representatives.

Mr. Rifkind

Is the Minister aware that the Shetlands Council, with its traditional feeling of independence on national issues, has said that notwithstanding the fact that devolution might be given to Scotland as a whole, they do not wish to have devolution but wish to continue their traditional links with Westminster? Will he inform the House whether the Government accept as a basic criterion of their devolution policy that it will not be imposed irrespective of the wishes of people in other parts of Scotland but only where it will demonstrably help the good government of those people?

Mr. Ewing

The hon. Member must accept that one of the cardinal aims of devolution is to promote good government, not only for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom. As for the specific point about the Shetlands, it is interesting to note that the policy committee of the Shetlands Islands Council was in favour of declaring complete independence for the islands, but this approach was amended by a full meeting of the whole council to one of "wait and see". In other words they want to wait and see what the Government propose when the Bill is published according to the timetable laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Sillars

Yesterday the Prime Minister said that the Labour Party was sticking to the White Paper which was published last autumn. Does he accept that the White Paper was somewhat ambiguous on the question of trade and industry powers, and will he confirm that this is not a closed matter as yet?

Mr. Ewing

It is true that the White Paper did not discuss the question of the devolution of trade and industry powers to a Scottish Assembly, but it must be accepted in all parts of the House that we are in a position of open discussion at the moment. In my view that was what was being said on Monday and yesterday by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison

Does the Minister realise that some of us do not want devolution? is he aware that the British public are fed up with chopping and changing, and want a period of tranquility and peace?

Mr. Ewing

I realise that there is a small minority in Scotland to which the hon. Gentleman undoubtedly belongs.