HC Deb 06 July 1988 vol 136 cc1083-121
Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are about to begin a debate in Opposition time on the political situation in Scotland. I wonder whether you have noticed that only 12 of 60 Opposition Members representing Scottish seats are present.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

That has nothing to do with the Chair. It is a waste of time on this Opposition day.

Before we proceed, I have to inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

4.48 pm
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

I beg to move, That this House, aware of the rejection by the Scottish nation of the policies of the Conservative Party at the General Election of 1987 and the further decline of the Conservatives into third place behind both the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party at this year's district poll, believes that the Government has no mandate to continue to impose its alien values and divisive programme upon an unwilling population; notes the Government's refusal to allow the Scottish people to determine their own constitutional future by the holding of a referendum or the establishment of a constitutional convention; further notes the developments in the European Community towards a single market; and considers that it is in the overwhelming interests of the people of Scotland to seek full independent status within the European Community, rather than accepting continued colonial status within the United Kingdom. In the motion we have attempted to reflect what we feel is the dynamism of the political situation in Scotland. Those of us involved in politics do not believe that the political dimensions close at the end of one general election and do not reopen until there is another general election. Political life is not static. The political tides ebb and flow. There are changes in opinion and differing attitudes that occur in the electorate between elections. If we did not believe that those changes occurred, we might well argue that there was no need to hold elections. Because we believe in those changes, we hold elections to gauge the political opinion of our electorate. Between elections we have a responsibility to take account of the change of opinion in the intervening years.

Our motion clearly reminds the House of the voting pattern in Scotland in June 1987. The Government amendment tries to deny that the last election in Scotland showed a demand for constitutional change. That seems to be a habit of the Government, who, it is worth noting, have managed to muster for this debate only 50 per cent. of Scottish Conservative Members. The Government always deny that there is a demand for constitutional change in Scotland, and their amendment clearly ignores the fact that in June last year 76 per cent. of the Scottish people voted for parties that are clearly committed to the idea of constitutional change within the United Kingdom. Sixty-two Members of this House are from parties that demand such constitutional change.

In their amendment, the Government speak about their mandate. It will come as no surprise to the Secretary of State for Scotland to hear that we feel we have the intellectual right to challenge the issue of the mandate because as nationalists we clearly stand for an independent nation state of Scotland. What does the Secretary of State see as a mandate? Surely a moral as well as a political issue underpins a mandate. Do 10 hon. Members out of 72 constitute a mandate for the imposition of Government policies? Surely the Secretary of State recognises the fragility of the position in which his party finds itself. He must be worried about so few people in Scotland supporting his party and his policies. Our motion clearly says that the lack of a moral as well as a political mandate gives Scotland colonial status. That means that the Government are governing a country without popular support.

If we look at what the Government have done with t he mandate that they claim, we see increasingly an acceleration of policies that were rejected at the last election. We think, for example, of the school boards legislation. In all the consultation processes that took place, there was a clear majority against the Government's legislation, but it was forced through the House by hon. Members who do not represent the Scottish people. We think also of competitive tendering. Our health boards and unions have worked closely together over the years to provide a service, and have now had imposed upon them policies that they wish to reject.

The Government cannot even muster enough troops to set up a Select Committee in Scotland to monitor what the Scottish Office is doing in the name of the Government It is surely a condemnation of the Government's lack of mandate that they have not been able to establish such a Committee to enable us to scrutinise the work of our Ministers in the way that every other Government Department is scrutinised.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Does my hon. Friend recall that, following the referendum in 1979, people who were opposed to the setting up of a Scottish assembly said that a Scottish Select Committee down here would do the work that such an assembly would have done? Does she agree that that argument is now patently without foundation, and does it now show how impossible it is for Scotland to get proper government from Westminster?

Mrs. Ewing

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) for that clear and precise intervention. Many of us do not think that a Scottish Select Committee is an alternative to an assembly. As long as the Government claim a mandate on a minority of the Scottish vote, it is their responsibility to ensure that Scottish Office legislation is monitored as effectively as possible. That does not happen. We have seen a lack of will by the Government to try to establish such a Committee.

It is not surprising that support for the Government in Scotland has remained virtually static since the general election. The opinion polls show very little movement. There has been no sudden swing by the Scottish people towards the Conservative party, even though the chief executive of that party, one of the many ex-Members of this House, keeps telling us that we need more Thatcherism.

More Thatcherism is showing that there is no rising support in Scotland for the Conservatives. It is the Scottish National party that has increased its share of the vote. The opinion polls show that our support has risen from 14 per cent. at the last general election to 23 per cent. Some Conservative Members smile at that, but I suspect that they would smile more if there had been a swing of nine percentage points to their party.

The people of Scotland are seeing a crystallisation of the options that are open to them. They see that it is either more of the same or an independent Scotland. That is an honest option, and the people of Scotland are facing up to it. That is reflected in an opinion poll conducted by MORI and published in The Scotsman on 13 April. It showed that 35 per cent. of people wanted a completely independent Scotland, 42 per cent. wanted an elected Scottish assembly within the United Kingdom and 20 per cent. wanted the present system to continue. That recognition of reality is evident in Scotland, and there is growing support for the concept of independence. Not all the votes are yet coming directly to the SNP, but there is the potential in Scotland for the recognition that the SNP can deliver a Scottish Government to our nation.

I should now like to deal with the need for a constitutional convention or a referendum in Scotland on constitutional change. These ideas are not propounded only by the Scottish National party or by other Opposition Members. That was shown by the support earlier this year for my ten-minute Bill on a referendum in Scotland. These ideas have a broad consensus of support throughout Scotland. The campaign for a Scottish assembly covers a large variety of organisations that wish Scotland to have the opportunity to discuss the future of Scotland within Scotland—a debate among ourselves about the opportunities that are open to us.

The Government are running scared; that is shown by their amendment, which rejects the idea of a Scottish constitutional convention and a referendum. If they are as confident as they claim in their amendment and about their support for the Act of Union, why are they so afraid to put it to the constitutional test in Scotland? Why not allow the people of Scotland to cast their vote, especially as we have argued that a referendum or a Scottish constitutional convention would operate in an advisory capacity and that we would work together to try to find the best resolution? At the end of the day I am sure that the Government would accept that. Why are the Government afraid to put the issue to the test? It is not just a question of the ostriches in the Conservative party in Scotland burying their heads in the sand. They seem to be prepared to tie their necks before they can even find the sand.

Brian Meek, a respected member of the Conservative party in Scotland, spoke about the rather desperate situation in which Scottish Conservatives now find themselves. He said that they seem to accept Thatcherism and that there was no questioning, no fight and no will power. He said that if the Prime Minister asked Scottish Conservative Members to jump into the Clyde the only question that they would ask would be whether they should take their trousers off first.

I turn now to Scotland's future, which the SNP sees as independence within Europe. We see that as much more challenging.

Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)

The hon. Lady talks about an independent Scotland within Europe. I would have voted for her motion if that phrase had not been contained in it. How could an independent Scotland gain freedom and support from Brussels and Strasbourg if it cannot get it from London? Does the hon. Lady not recognise that the golden triangle stretches from the south of England into northern France, Germany and Belgium? No matter what happens, as long as the European Community is run on present rules, Scotland would always be on the periphery. Surely an independent Socialist Scotland would follow the policies of the independent countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Switzerland and not the Conservative policies which, unfortunately, have been carried out by both Conservative and Labour parties.

Mrs. Ewing

I am interested to hear the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) give yet another reason for not supporting the Scottish National party in the Lobby. He comes up with a different argument each time. If he listens carefully to my argument about independence within Europe, he will see why we are taking a clear stance. I realise that that is an aspect of our motion at which the Social and Liberal Democrats and the Labour party may balk. However, I ask them to consider carefully why we argue for it.

The Labour party's proposal is for a devolved assembly with restricted powers. With the advent of the common internal market in 1992, what opportunity would a Scottish assembly have to argue the case for Scottish industry within the European Community, as the representative of a country in its own right? We should still be hanging on to the coat tails of Britain, British Ministers, the Foreign Office and all those who are sent to represent us at the moment. We would not have the right of access with a devolved assembly, but we would if we were independent.

Our future is in the international community, not as part of the sterile backwater of the British system. I want Scotland to play her part in the international community and to face the challenges. A devolved assembly would not ensure representation at the Council of Ministers, where vital policy matters such as marginal hill farming, fishing and steel are discussed, but an independent Scotland would have that representation.

Taxation is vital as we look forward to 1992 and beyond. How would a Scottish assembly break the stranglehold of the Treasury if the Treasury still controlled block grant? How would a Scottish assembly break the stranglehold of the Ministry of Defence with its massive expenditure programme and ensure that defence procurement contracts came to Scotland and were allocated fairly? An assembly would not give us such representation in Europe, but Scottish independence would. We need full independence if we want to be at the top table in international affairs. It is not good enough to complain that the Scottish voice is not heard and then lack the courage to look to the only method of making it heard. Only independence can make it heard.

Scotland could become a country where ideas and skills are readily available, and it could offer opportunities to the rest of the world. Thinking of Scotland as an independent nation within Europe brings a challenge and an excitement which would not exist in further decades of sterile political debate in this Chamber. The majority of Scottish Members want constitutional change, but they are denied it by the very processes of this place. Let us have the courage to look forward to challenge and excitement rather than sticking with the boring status quo.

Increasingly, decisions that affect our people are taken not here, but in Brussels and Strasbourg. The future of Scotland lies in bypassing London and going direct to Europe. In many ways, the House has become a clearing system for legislation passed elsewhere. We must be there at the top table. We do not want to spend our time rehashing arguments about legislation that has already been passed elsewhere. We want to he where the decisions are taken. We could have a place in the Council of Ministers—at the top table—and increased representation in the European Parliament.

Our motion challenges hon. Members to think of the responsibilities of being a Scot in modern society. It challenges them to think of themselves as internationalists and not merely as British. It challenges them to accept that with that responsibility will come self-respect and dignity. It is far too easy to blame, as many do, all that is wrong on the English or on London or on somebody else. Let us have the dignity and self-respect of being able to say that if mistakes are made, it is the Scots themselves who make them. Scotland must be an independent nation to attain the responsibility and self-respect that every other nation takes for granted. Why should we be different? I trust that those who see themselves as Scots, with responsibility and self-respect, will join us in the Lobby tonight.

5.7 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and add instead thereof, 'recognises the benefits to Scotland of being a free partner in the United Kingdom and the contribution which the Scottish people continue to make in many fields to the life of the United Kingdom; notes that the Government has a clear mandate to govern following a General Election fought on a United Kingdom basis, and that in the 1987 General Election more than four people out of five in Scotland voted for parties which support the Union; notes that in that election the Scottish National Party was the least popular party in Scotland and received the least support from the Scottish electorate; believes that Scotland can best meet the challenge of the single European Community market as part of the United Kingdom; acknowledges that many decisions affecting Scotland are already taken in Scotland by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office; considers as absurd references to Scotland's alleged colonial status; rejects completely calls for a constitutional referendum and independence; and reaffirms its support for the Act of Union.'. I begin by complimenting the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) on the style of her speech. My hon. Friends and I find her style and approach considerably preferable to that of the infant Robespierre, her hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), who takes a different approach to the conventions of the House and who consequently fails to impress.

While I admire the hon. Lady's style, I hope that she will forgive me for saying that I suspect that many of us found the content of her speech sadly lacking. This is the first time that we have had a debate initiated by the Scottish National party. Apart from a few ritual rhetorical comments about the alleged desirability of breaking up the United Kingdom, there was little in the hon. Lady's speech to which one could draw specific attention. It is significant that neither the motion nor the hon. Lady's speech made any reference to the Scottish economy. I feel sure that until recently the hon. Lady would not have been responsible for such an omission.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Rifkind

I shall certainly give way to the infant Robespierre.

Mr. Salmond

if the Secretary of State cares to contain himself, the infant Robespierre will have a few things to say about the Scottish economy at the end of the debate.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman appears to be saying that, such is the excellent state of the Scottish economy, it is sufficient for it to be referred to in the wind-up, and to have no mention either in the motion or in the main speech on behalf of the SNP. No doubt it is indicative of the rapidly falling unemployment, excellent economic growth and other economic improvements that we are enjoying in Scotland that in its single speech of this Session the SNP felt if unnecessary to make a single reference, complimentary or otherwise, to the economic issues facing Scotland.

There were two themes in the speech of the hon. Member for Moray. One was independence and the other was the mandate.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

Does the Secretary of State agree that the most rapid growth in our economy at present is in rent arrears, as a result of the housing benefit changes?

Mr. Rifkind

No, I do not. There will be other opportunities, particularly in the housing debate, for the hon. Gentleman to deal with rent matters if he wishes to do so.

The hon. Member for Moray suggested that Scotland should seek independent status, but she forgot to mention that the SNP put that issue before the electorate at the last general election. The House will happily remind her that at the last general election the SNP was clearly shown once again to be the least popular party in Scotland. It received fewer votes than any other major political party, and had the fewest Members of Parliament elected. The SNP's election manifesto carried the slogan "Play the Scottish Card", and on page 2 there is a photograph of Gordon Wilson, its chairman, wearing a badge which says "Play the Scottish Card". Clearly he did play it. It turned out to be a joker, and he lost his seat. If the hon. Lady and her colleagues are concerned to speak for Scotland, she should bear that factor in mind.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

I said that we were talking about the dynamism of the political situation in Scotland. If we want to concentrate on the last general election, we should remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman of his loss of 10 colleagues. More importantly, will he pay attention to the results of the district elections—the most recent trial of opinion in Scotland—at which his party declined even further and the Scottish National party showed a 10 per cent. increase in votes?

Mr. Rifkind

I am afraid that the hon. Lady has to live with the fact that, even if opinion polls suggest that her party may have made some progress during the past few months, that is only progress from fourth to third place. If that is of great comfort to her, she is easily satisfied.

Independence has been rejected consistently by well over 80 per cent. of the Scottish electorate at virtually every general election in the past 10 years, and the hon. Lady failed to give her reasons for believing it would be of benefit. She concentrated on Scotland having a place at the top table, but if she ever has the opportunity to attend any meetings of the Council of Ministers she will discover that the countries that determine the direction of the European Community are inevitably France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy. It is very rare—if ever—that the Republic of Ireland, Greece or Luxembourg has a decisive role to play in any of the major issues that affect the Community.

The hon. Lady constantly refers to the benefits that independence might bring to Scotland. I am always puzzled that she and her colleagues never refer to that part of the United Kingdom that opted for independence some 60 years ago. The Republic of Ireland today has unemployment running at 19 per cent., which is substantially greater than is found in any part of the United Kingdom, and it has a gross domestic product of only two thirds of that which Scotland enjoys. The suggestion that somehow independence will be the cure-all for economic or other problems finds little support in the experience of southern Ireland, which opted for independence, which is what the hon. Lady would recommend for Scotland.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees that not all the money in China, wealth creation or the lack of it would induce the people of southern Ireland to give up their independence. Nothing would induce them to do that.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Lady is right. What led to independence for southern Ireland was a deep sense of national oppression, which had existed for several centuries. Nobody in Scotland seriously suggests that that is a basis for independence or a break-up of the United Kingdom. The argument constantly used by the SNP refers to economic issues and implies that Scotland suffers somehow as a result of being part of the United Kingdom. If economic considerations are thought to be the relevant ones which justify breaking up the Union, which is the finest example of European integration during the past 250 years, we are entitled to draw attention to that part of the United Kingdom that opted for independence and does not enjoy the economic benefits which we are sometimes told flow from independence.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that the former joint chairman of the Anglo-Irish Conference has the new task of preparing for the 500,000 southern Irish people who will enter the United Kingdom in the next decade?

Mr. Rifkind

I accept that.

Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

It may have escaped the Secretary of State's attention that, yesterday, the Greek Foreign Minister made an important speech to the European Parliament, setting out the agenda for the Greek presidency during the next six months. Does he accept that smaller member states now play an equal role in the creation of the European Community?

Mr. Rifkind

I invite the hon. Gentleman to compare what the Greek Foreign Minister said yesterday with what the Greek delegation may have achieved in six months' time. Making speeches is remarkably easy, but results can be achieved only if the three or four larger members of the Community are prepared to endorse the proposals.

The motion raises the question of mandate. During the past few months the SNP has berated my party, the Labour party and others in Scotland, because it claims that only those who have a mandate from the Scottish people are entitled to put forward certain policies, to implement them and to argue certain cases.

That is an interesting proposition, and the hon. Member for Moray argued that it must be justified on legal and moral grounds. We can use her own criteria and ask her and her colleagues to review the claim about a need for a mandate, bearing in mind the policy which the SNP has advocated during the past few months. That party now advocates that the people of Scotland should break the law on the community charge and, by pursuing a policy of non-payment, frustrate an Act of Parliament. I think that the hon. Lady will agree that, whatever one thinks of that policy, that is a fundamental change in the SNP's stance. Hers is the first party in Scotland openly and without reservation to call on people to break the law. Several members of the SNP have said that they will break the law.

We are entitled to ask what mandate the SNP has for such a proposition. I have had the benefit of looking through the election addresses of the three SNP Members.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing


Mr. Rifkind

I have a copy of the hon. Lady's address. I have gone through it in detail, and nowhere can I find any suggestion that, if elected, she would call upon the people of Scotland to break the law.

I have here also the election addresses of the hon. Members for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) and for Banff and Buchan. In neither is there the slightest suggestion that, if elected, they would encourage non-compliance with an Act of Parliament and illegal behaviour by themselves or their colleagues.

Mrs. Ewing


Mr. Rifkind

I shall give way to the hon. Lady if she will tell me that her election address was not an accurate reflection of her views.

Mrs. Ewing

The Scottish National party is not instructing anyone not to pay the poll tax. It is asking the people of their own free choice to consider that option. That is a moral stance for them to take. I believe that individuals have every right to question laws when they are bad, as this undoubtedly is.

The election was fought when there was a hope that the poll tax would not be implemented. In the past year, the Government have refused to listen to the coherent arguments against the community charge, presented not just by the SNP or other opposition parties, but by a wide range of opinion in Scotland. I remind him again of the votes cast in the district elections for the Scottish National party.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Lady cannot escape her responsibilities in that way. She knows that, by the last general election, the proposals for the community charge had become an Act of Parliament. She knows that in her party's manifesto there was a suggestion that, if elected, the SNP would repeal the legislation. There was not the slightest suggestion in its members' election addresses that they would wish to encourage, as they are doing now, the breaking of the law and non-compliance with an Act of Parliament.

Mr. Salmond

I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is interested in historical perspective—that is really all that is left for the Conservative party in Scotland. It cannot have escaped his notice that, in the district elections. far more votes were cast for non-payment—our platform—than for payment of the poll tax, which was the Conservative party's platform.

Mr. Rifkind

We are talking about the basis on which the hon. Gentleman was elected. The hon. Gentleman invited the people of Banff and Buchan to vote for him. He has gone on regularly, and with boring monotony, about the need for a mandate to put forward certain policies. Not only is there no reference to breaking the law in the SNP's manifesto, but there is a most interesting proposal in the section on law enforcement and reform.

The House will enjoy hearing what the policy of the Scottish National party was when it was put to the electorate. In its section on law enforcement and reform, the SNP stated: The population"— presumably the Scottish population— will be encouraged to cooperate in upholding the Law. [Laughter.] Yes, it is an interesting statement of policy. The mandate on which those hon. Members were elected was one of encouraging the population … to cooperate in upholding the Law. However, once those hon. Members are elected, we find that they do not encourage the population to co-operate in upholding the law; they go out of their way to encourage the population to break the law. That the hon. Member for Moray can say, "We are not instructing them to do so," is self-evident. The hon. Lady does not have any power to instruct the population. There is a fundamental conflict between what was said in the manifesto and the policy that those hon. Members are putting forward.

This is not a trivial matter. The fact that a political party. which is seeking power and the endorsement of the electorate, adopts a policy of illegality for the first time in contemporary Scottish politics is an important watershed. I advise the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends that in adopting that policy they are putting an albatross around their necks and that of their party as a whole. I know perfectly well that the hon. Members for Angus, East and for Moray do not really believe in that policy of illegality. I know perfectly well that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan has forced them to support a policy which they personally repudiate. They must realise that their party is now indelibly tarred with that brush.

That policy of illegality has been adopted by those other than SNP Members of the House. The rector of Edinburgh university, Miss Muriel Gray, a prominent Scottish nationalist, recently made some worrying remarks in an interview reported in an Edinburgh monthly magazine entitled Cut when she stated: If I could advise the Scottish people to do anything, I'd advise them to get down to the plant where the newspaper The Sun is printed and firebomb it. Seriously, if I had to have any terrorism in this country, I would aim it at Murdoch. I'd like to see journalistic terrorism where they'd just keep setting fire to his newspaper printing plants, all over the country, all the time. I notice that the Scottish National party has not shown any desire to repudiate that remark or to dissociate itself from what has been said on its behalf by a prominent supporter.

I advise the hon. Member for Moray, and especially her hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East, that if they now say that they wish to support a policy of breaking the law or of non-compliance with it, such being the "unacceptability" of the community charge, all hon. Members wait with interest to hear why the one district council which is controlled by the SNP is not implementing nationalist policies. We know that the people of Scotland as a whole are being encouraged not to comply in any way with that Act of Parliament, yet we were informed on 22 January that on 21 January, Angus District Council, at a specially convened emergency meeting last night, agreed to act as a collecting agent of the poll tax for Tayside Regional Council.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

It was an emergency meeting, and I should like to make it quite clear that a gun was held to the head of Angus district council by Tayside regional council—[Interruption.] Would the Secretary of State for Scotland wish to have as a result the complete sacking of the housing staff of Angus district council? The SNP council in Angus creates employment and jobs—it does not destroy them. It was the withdrawal of support and the threats from Tayside regional council, which rushed to implement that tax, that posed the problem. I notice that the Secretary of State is quite happy to have a policy of sacking housing staff and increasing rents in Angus and in the other districts which would have been in a similar situation.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman has given an awful reply. He has a legal obligation to pay the community charge, but he says that he will break that legal obligation and the law, such is his distaste for that Act. He knows that Angus district council has no legal obligation to co-operate in implementing the community charge. It could easily decline to do so, without breaching the law, yet the hon. Gentleman seeks to justify breaking the law.

Mr. Welsh

To have done so would have led to the sacking of almost every member of the housing staff and a massive increase in rents. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's policy, I must advise him that I disagree with him. Conservatives have always said that they keep rents down and encourage employment. When people vote nationalist in Angus, which they do, they get the rewards of doing so. They do not get the reward of unemployment which they would if they voted Conservative. That is a strange turnaround for the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Rifkind

The fact still remains that the one council controlled by the SNP is to comply with an Act of Parliament although all its councillors belong to a party which is encouraging the Scottish public as a whole to break the law and defy the Act. If that is not an example of extreme hypocrisy, it is difficult to see what is.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

Before the Secretary of State leaves his point about Tayside regional council and Angus district council, I should explain that Tayside regional council, as is the wont of every regional council in Scotland, pays a certain sum of money to the district councils which collect rates for it. If Angus district council chose not to collect the rates or the poll tax for next year, it would not be paid by Tayside regional council because it would not have done that job. The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) may refer to that as blackmail, but it is not blackmail. It is simply that the district council is not being paid for a job which it refuses to do. I think that that is a reasonable position.

Mr. Rifkind

I rarely agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I am bound to say that he exposes yet again the absurdity, inconsistency and hypocrisy of the SNP position, of which the hon. Member for Angus, East has been unable to explain even one tiny whit.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves that point, may I draw his attention to the fact that the Scottish National party provost of Perth and Kinross district council said after the election that he would advise people in Perth and Kinross to obey the law and ignore the advice of his own party?

Mr. Rifkind

I believe that the SNP provost of Perth and Kinross district council has gone on record as saying that he believes that all Acts of Parliament should be obeyed and that those who encourage breaches of the law should be ashamed of themselves. In that respect, his comments are entirely to be supported.

I noted that, some weeks ago, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan was quoted as comparing the Scottish National party with the so-called National Rainbow Coalition in the United States, which is led by Senator Jesse Jackson. The hon. Gentleman is reported as saying that the links between the SNP and Mr. Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition showed they had a great deal in common. I can entirely understand the comparison that the hon. Gentleman wants to make. The Scottish National party is a party with a coat of many colours. It seeks to——

Mr. Salmond

I shall be interested to know why the Secretary of State finds the National Rainbow Coalition so amusing. It represents a substantial section of public opinion in the United States, with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Government always claim a special relationship.

Mr. Rifkind

I understand that it has lost the battle for the Democratic nomination, but that is another matter on which the hon. Gentleman might like to reflect. There is an obvious comparison because, as many of us have had cause to comment over the years, the SNP is a party which, apart from its desire for separatism and the break up of the United Kingdom, does have a coat of many colours. It uses a moderate voice in rural areas, anti-Socialist policies in areas where it believes that that would be popular, and a radical Left-wing Socialist policy elsewhere.

The hon. Gentleman expresses puzzlement and points to himself, but since he has been allowed to return to the fold of the SNP he has been less noticeable for his propositions of Socialist policy than he was some years ago. Perhaps that has something to do with representing Banff and Buchan.

Mr. Salmond

This will be my last intervention. I started the debate as Robespierre and end by being a moderate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to decide in what role he wishes to place me.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman has not changed in the slightest. He remains someone who wishes to put forward extremist policies and to adapt the SNP's extremist position as a party of illegality, which seeks to advance its cause by advocating ignoring or breaking Acts of Parliament——

Dr. Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy)

Except in Banff and Buchan.

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, perhaps except in Banff and Buchan. That is an important qualification that one should always make.

In conclusion, hon. Members representing the Scottish National party had an opportunity today to put forward a consistent and well thought-out alternative strategy on either economic or social issues. Instead, we have had simply a ritual incantation of a nationalist policy which was rejected by 86 per cent. of the electorate at the last general election and which is almost certain to be rejected by a comparable proportion at the next.

5.29 pm
Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I rise with a certain reluctance to involve myself in the wrangle between two of the minority parties in Scotland which, between them, represent less than 20 per cent. of the available seats in Scotland. All that we have heard so far from both sides have been fairly cheap attacks on each other. No one has had a go at the Labour party, and perhaps we should be grateful for that. It is a bit rich for the Secretary of State to attack the SNP for failing to deal with the Government's policies in Scotland and the Scottish economy and then to indulge in cheap attacks—some of them personal—on the SNP. Apart from a brief reference at the beginning of his speech, he failed to mention anything that the Government have done in Scotland, or rather have not done.

When the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) supported devolution I had a certain respect for him—[Interruption.] Perhaps reluctant respect. Since becoming Secretary of State, the way in which he has spoken and used his office in Scotland for cheap political purposes has made himself and his office the subjects of considerable contempt. It is fairly obvious that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is prepared to cover up matters and to mislead the House, either directly or through other Departments, about what happens. He wants to mention the economy, so I shall mention what the Labour party and even some Conservative Members consider to be of most importance to the Scottish economy—the Ravenscraig——

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. If I heard the hon. Member correctly, I think he said that the Secretary of State was misleading the House. If so, I ask the hon. Member to find another form of words and withdraw that remark.

Mr. Maxton

I withdraw the remark and I shall allow the House to draw its conclusions from my comments as to what the Secretary of State has done.

Mr. Buchan

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Maxton

I should like to be brief, so I apologise to my hon. Friend for not giving way.

Ravenscraig is considered to be a vital part of the Scottish economy. The Secretary of State for Scotland, his Minister of State, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and his junior Ministers have said repeatedly that there is a seven-year guarantee for Ravenscraig within the Scottish economy. In an interview on BBC radio at lunchtime today Sir Robert Scholey, chairman of the British Steel Corporation, said that he had informed the Secretary of State for Scotland, before the Government announced their plans for privatisation, that a privatised British Steel Company would probably—not possibly—close the Ravenscraig strip mill in 1989, just one year from now. I hope that the Minister of State will take the opportunity to tell the House whether that is true. It is no use the Secretary of State boasting about the Government's achievements in the Scottish economy—we dispute that—and at the same time essentially colluding in the closure of the strip mill at Ravenscraig, which would end steel production at Ravenscraig four or five years thereafter.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and the SNP on at least giving the House the opportunity to debate this matter. I congratulate the hon. Lady also on attacking the Government. It is rather unusual these days for the SNP to do that, and I hope that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) will show the same self-discipline, as he spends all his time attacking the majority party in Scotland—the Labour party. It is to the hon. Gentleman's long-term political benefit to ensure the continuation of a Conservative Government, in the hope that at some time the SNP will thereby gain votes. The hon. Gentleman does not give a damn about what happens to the people of Scotland because of the Government's policies, provided SNP votes increase.

We do not intend to support the motion. The Labour party is not in favour of an independent Scotland. We did not stand for election on that proposal, and it is not in any Labour party manifesto, so we cannot vote for any motion that puts it forward. Equally, it is not the policy of the people of Scotland, who clearly rejected the only party that put up independence as an option at the general election.

Whatever happens in district elections and opinion polls, it is the general election that counts. At the last general election, 14 per cent. of the Scottish people voted for the SNP and returned only three Members of Parliament. That was a massive rejection of the idea of independence for Scotland. Even the modest increases by the SNP in the district elections—the largest part of which was due to the modest number of candidates put up and had little to do with an increase in the number of votes—and in recent opinion polls give the SNP no right to say that the people of Scotland want independence.

Mr. Salmond

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maxton

I want to be brief and the hon. Gentleman has intervened four times. The Secretary of State threw out his line four times and every time the hon. Gentleman caught the hook with alacrity. I shall not throw out lines to him. I am not trying to hook him, although it would be remarkably easy to do so.

The Scottish people voted overwhelmingly at the last general election for a devolved Scottish assembly within the framework of the United Kingdom. The largest number of votes went to the Labour party. The Scottish people also voted for the alliance and, I accept, for the SNP. Seventy-five per cent. of the people of Scotland voted for a devolved assembly in Scotland. They say that there is separate Scottish legislation and a separate Scottish administration within the United Kingdom, but that it lacks the democratic structure that should go with it.

It is all right for the Secretary of State to say that there is no desire in Scotland for independence, but equally there is no desire there for this Government. The people of Scotland have said repeatedly that if there is to be the continuation of a separate Scottish entity within the United Kingdom, the Government of the day—whatever their colour—should recognise morally, if not constitutionally, the democratic care for ensuring that the Scottish people have a right to say how their education, housing and transport systems, which are administered and legislated for separately, should operate.

At the last general election the people of Scotland rejected both the SNP's futile, narrow nationalism and the Tory party's arrogant centralism. They voted for a devolved assembly. The Labour party understands the frustration and anger of many Scottish people at the Government's treatment of them. Most Scots despise the get-rich-quick, greedy society of the Government. They reject the poll tax and the income tax cuts, which are designed to give to the rich and take from the poor. They object to their Health Service repeatedly being cut so that increasing pressure is put on people to seek private medicine and thus line the pockets of Tory party supporters. They object to their public housing being returned to grasping private landlords in order to increase profits. They object to the cynicism of a Government who starve public services of essential funds and then denounce those services because they can no longer provide the help to public that they once did, so that they can hand over the provision of those services to private companies, which are interested only in maximising their profits.

We understand and agree with the Scottish people when they reject Tory greed and self interest, but we know that the only way to get rid of this despicable Government is to defeat them at a general election within the United Kingdom. The Labour party will do that at the next general election.—[Laughter.] I thought that that might raise a cheap laugh. Only one party in the United Kingdom and Scotland is capable of doing that—the Labour party. A Labour Government will give the Scottish people what they want, which is the right to control their own affairs through a Scottish assembly within the United Kingdom. I urge my hon. Friends to vote neither for the motion nor against it, because one would be a vote for national independence, and the other would be a vote in support of the Government.

5.41 pm
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) regretted that so far in the debate there had been not much comment on the Labour party's position. Perhaps I can repair that by making one or two positive and helpful comments for the benefit of Opposition Members.

It is not true that Opposition Members always say silly things about Scotland. One recalls in particular the splendid speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition at Perth, where he not only failed to praise Scottish Labour Members for their great victory, but, absolutely sensibly, in a 50-minute speech, said nothing about devolution. That showed a real appreciation of its importance to the people of Scotland. Subsequently, when asked why he had omitted any such reference, he said to an interviewer; Well I did not talk about weather conditions in the Himalayas either". The hon. Member for Cathcart is a Front-Bench spokesman for a fairly disparate band of 50 Labour Members of Parliament.

Mr. McAllion

Desperate Dan.

Mr. Stewart

They are probably fairly desperate as well. I thought that the hon. Member for Cathcart sounded remarkably confident, given that the front page headline of today's edition of the Glasgow Herald states: Labour slump now 11 points. It was remarkably good timing for the Scottish National party to choose this debate on a day when there is a clear swing to the Conservatives in the opinion polls. In the past year there have been a number of tendencies in the Scottish Labour party.

Mr. Maxton

Conservative Members always claim that the only poll that matters is the one on polling day. The opinion poll in the Glasgow Herald today shows the Labour party 2 per cent. down on the general election and the Conservative party 1 per cent. up. I assume that the hon. Gentleman considers that to be a remarkable turn around.

Mr. Stewart

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that one cannot read too much into any one opinion poll. I never suggested otherwise.

Opposition Members have divided into a number of tendencies during the past year. Initially there was what might be described as the headbanger tendency, led by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). He is not here today, and in the light of recent events he is rather a moderate exponent of headbangerism among Opposition Members. He has become an elder statesman headbanger.

The other tendency is what might be described as yuppie Socialism. The chief yuppie in Scotland, Bearsden's answer to Dagenham, who, unfortunately, is not present on the Opposition Front Bench, is unquestionably the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith). I pay tribute to him. Where do we read his thoughts about the Scottish economy and the Scottish political scene? We do not find them in the Morning Star, nor in the Labour Weekly, but in that splendid newspaper the Sunday Post, a well-known non-union newspaper. I hope that his initiative in writing for the Sunday Post will be followed by other Opposition Members.

There are some signs of common sense on some Scottish issues. The paper on the Health Service by the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, which is in the press today, rightly points out the importance of giving patients the chance to choose their own doctor, surgeon and hospital and to choose between area health boards. It is a pity that, having described an internal market in the National Health Service, he went on to say that the Labour party was not in favour of it.

The hon. Member for Cathcart, who on this occasion is speaking from the Front Bench, has had a rather difficult time recently within his own party. Perhaps he will reassure me that that is not the case, but, following his article in the Glasgow Herald entitled, Non-payment campaign a dangerous diversion", he was assailed by all fronts of the Labour movement. A leading assault on him came from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) who, if she manages to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, will continue her attack on the position taken by her Front Bench, as no doubt will many activists in the Labour movement.

I understand that 7,000 of them will be attending a conference because they believe that the Labour party's fragmented battle against the poll tax will fail. According to today's press, they will be addressed by another leading Member of the Scottish parliamentary Labour group. The Labour party is fundamentally divided on its tactics in Scotland.

In opening the debate, the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) concentrated on constitutional change. I shall make two points about that. First, it is important to remember that each of the Opposition parties wants something different. They are not in any sense united in their proposals. There is a theoretical argument for independence, and I believe that independence would be a lesser evil than devolution, if that were the unfortunate choice, as devolution would lead to continuing chaos. There is a theoretical Right-wing argument in favour of independence, in that it would lead to the defeat of Socialism on both sides of the border. Without the Scottish Labour Members, Labour would be finished for ever in England and Wales, and north of the border, after 1992, and independent Scotland could not pursue Socialist policies. If it tried, people and companies would vote with their feet and move to Tory England. I hasten to add that I do not accept that argument, because I believe that independence would lead to considerable chaos, considerable economic problems and, fundamentally, a loss of influence, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State pointed out.

The hon. Lady mentioned the Scottish Select Committee, and the record must be corrected. The Government have not failed to set up a Select Committee. That is not the Government's responsibility. The Leader of the House wished to set up a Scottish Select Committee but Back Benchers do not want to serve on a Scottish Select Committee and cannot be forced to do so.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland was right in what he said about breaking the law, which action is advocated by the Scottish National party. Its election manifesto contained no suggestion that law breaking should be encouraged. The Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 was already on the statute book. Furthermore, the Scottish National party forecast that the Conservatives would win the general election. The campaign against the community charge is failing, as the regional registration figures amply demonstrate. I believe that most of the people of Scotland will obey the law, will want to obey the law and will not be seduced from that path by the wholly spurious arguments of Opposition Members.

The economy is fundamental to the wellbeing of the Scottish people. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State rightly pointed out that all the forecasts are favourable. Unemployment is still too high, but it is steadily coming down. Opposition Members cannot deny that fact. Manufacturing productivity in Scotland has been rising since 1979 at the rate of 5.6 per cent. per annum. It is higher than elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and it is higher than in seven other OECD countries. That is a sound foundation for the future, as is the fact that the number of self-employed has been rising consistently and that 15,000 new companies have been registered since 1979. My right hon. and learned Friend's policies are fundamentally sound. We must continue to pursue them in the interests of the Scottish people, who will benefit from them. The Scottish people will not be seduced by the Opposition parties' spurious campaigns.

5.51 pm
Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

I welcome the opportunity once again to draw the attention of the House to the democratic rights of the Scottish people. I congratulate the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) on her speech and on the sincerity of her purpose. Today we are debating the political situation in Scotland. Despite what the Secretary of State said, I want to concentrate on the political rather than the economic situation.

I have to admit, albeit reluctantly, that there is a certain constitutional legitimacy in having a Secretary of State, backed up by three or four Ministers, charged with running the Scottish Office in Edinburgh, but it is a poor substitute for a Parliament of our own, particularly when the five Ministers oppose their own people and, in order to hold on to their own ministerial posts, rely on support from south of the border—from another country.

The Secretary of State has made a series of speeches in Scotland in which he has tried to spread the gospel of Thatcherism. I am told, because I hardly know him, that he is a nice man and that he is intelligent. I am sure that he is, but that is puzzling when one looks at what he has said.

The United Kingdom requires constitutional reform to meet the needs and aspirations of all its people. A federal United Kingdom has been the policy of my party for many years. The Secretary of State acknowledges the arguments in its favour but says that it is not on, as there is no demand for it, particularly in England. But has he ever asked the people of England? He has never asked them. I believe that the ordinary Englishman would not deny the right of Scotland to look after its own affairs. England would lose nothing. I believe that it would gain a great deal. I am certain that this House would gain a great deal if it had more time to deal with its own affairs. That would be possible if we were able to do our own thing in Scotland rather than in this place. If the Government want to keep the United Kingdom together, federalism is the only option. It is a better form of government and it is practised by sensible countries.

I do not intend to argue the need for single-tier local authorities and proportional representation. That has been well rehearsed time and again. I do not want the Minister who is to reply to the debate to say anything about the imposition of another tier of government. That is not a necessary prerequisite.

The Secretary of State contends that unilateral devolution is impossible. That is rubbish. A precedent has already been set in Northern Ireland. He says that there is no evidence of a desire for home rule in Scotland. That myth has already been punctured. The evidence is there, from the referendum of 1979 to the most obvious evidence of all—the lonely 10 from Scotland who sit on the Government Benches.

The greatest canard of all is that a Scottish Parliament would mean higher taxes and that all the businesses would flee the country. I ask the Secretary of State: where is the evidence? Is he telling us that businesses run from state to state in all the federal countries of the world if taxes are raised or lowered? Such a contention presupposes, first, that the Tories would never expect to form a Government in Scotland and their fear that the Labour party would. Surely that is defeatism.

Mr. Maxton

The hon. Lady is absolutely right about companies, but the biggest threat facing Scottish companies is the Government's failure to tell Scottish businesses exactly what is happening about the uniform business rate and to bring Scotland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Michie

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the Government's failure to tell Scottish businesses what is happening about the uniform business rate.

Secondly, the Secretary of State contends that the members of a Scottish Parliament would not be elected by a fair system. If the Government were sensible, they would set up a Scottish Parliament, but I do not believe for a minute that they would introduce proportional representation. That would prevent domination by a minority party. As the Secretary of State is so fond of telling us, all the parties in Scotland are minority parties.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

The Labour party is not a minority party.

Mrs. Michie

The Labour party is a minority party, because it gained only 42 per cent. of the votes cast at the last general election. The majority of the people of Scotland voted for other parties, not for the Labour party.

I do not want to be completely unfair to the Government. It would be foolish to deny the worth of reforms such as ballots before industrial action. People should be allowed to buy their own houses and business and industry should be run successfully and competitively. But that should have been done long ago. Successive Tory and Labour Governments have kept Scotland and its people shackled for so long that they have prevented Scotland, as a nation, from releasing the initiative and enterprise that we see in Scots the world over. The sad thing is that in the past our people have left our shores, and they continue to do so, for jobs in London and in other parts of the world. One of the reasons why they do that is that in Scotland they are not allowed to express themselves in a nation that they can recognise as their own.

The Government imagine that they are passing power to the people by allowing them to buy their own houses or to sit on school boards, but they are at the same time taking more and more power to the centre. Scots are allowed to take a little individual responsibility but not political responsibility in shaping the destiny of their country. They are allowed to take the small decisions but not the big ones. I find that patronising and arrogant. I must tell the House that without our own Parliament we shall disappear as a nation.

When a small country lives alongside a large and domineering one, there are risks and it is always difficult for it to survive. Without a forum and a focal point giving leadership, the battle to preserve our culture, identity, values and way of life will become well nigh impossible. It so happens that England is the domineering country in this case. It could easily have been Canada, France or Germany. I stress that I do not object to England or to the English. Many of the most ardent proponents of devolution are English people who have settled in Scotland. My argument is with the House, which, over the years, has consistently denied Scotland her political birthright.

I would feel a great deal more confident if I heard Scottish Ministers defending their country at the Dispatch Box, particularly during Scottish Question Time, when they face questions put by hon. Members representing English constituencies. Scottish Ministers always sound apologetic. The only exception is the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), who at least stated during Scottish Question Time the other day that Caledonian MacBrayne provided a lifeline to the highlands and islands and that the Government are prepared to defend it. I should like to see Scottish Ministers being much tougher and harder in defence of their own country.

My party has no hang-ups about reducing the number of Scottish Members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons, provided that we have our own Parliament in Scotland. Nor would I contend that, having such a Parliament, everything in the garden will be rosy. That would be foolish in the extreme. However, we would not have introduced, for example, an unfair and regressive poll tax that is contrary to our sense of democracy and fairness. We would not have witnessed the staggering daily reports of attacks being made on our ancient and proud universities. Nor would we be contemplating the English idea of allowing schools to opt out of the education system. Instead of taking power away from local government, we would increase and give it back. We would extend it to community council level. We would also have more control over the activities of the Nature Conservancy Council and the Crown Estate Commissioners. There is a long list of what we ought to be doing in Scotland but which we are unable to achieve in this House.

Given a Scottish Parliament, many more Scots—in particular, women—would be able to participate in governing their own country instead of having to travel 500 miles to work in another country every week. Of course, we were all elected to attend a United Kingdom Parliament, but every Scot on this side of the House came to London with a view to removing some of the power of the United Kingdom Parliament and returning it to our own country. The only way in which that can be achieved legitimately and legally is through this House. That is why we came here.

Meanwhile, the Government deny us a Select Committee for Scotland. They bunch Scottish Estimates days into a couple of weeks. We sit on a Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh discussing education, but we are not allowed to pass our own laws. We must come to this place to do that, and that is humiliating.

Although concentrating mainly on the political aspects, I wish to say a few words also about economic matters. It is the Government's belief that if they get the economy right and if everybody has money in their pockets, we will all be happy in Scotland. The Government believe that money is all that matters, but we care about other values.

I must tell the SNP that my party will not be supporting this motion because it does not wholly reflect what the Scots want. However, I warn the Government again, and I do so with good will and sincerity towards Scottish Ministers, that by their persistent refusal to listen, it is they and not the SNP who will bring about the break-up of the United Kingdom. One needs to know one's history to understand what is likely to happen in the future.

I conclude by quoting Professor Gordon Donaldson, Her Majesty's historiographer in Scotland, introducing the Scottish Sunday Mail's "Story of Scotland": I don't know whether any of you have ever stood, as I have so often done, on the bridge of a ship leaving Aberdeen Harbour. If so, you may have wondered why the skipper keeps looking back over the stern. He does this because the channel is marked by two white beacons among the buildings of the town and, in order to keep in the channel, he must have those two beacons lined up. It is by looking BACK that he can be sure of his way FORWARD. I wonder if this is the case for knowing history. Do we need to look back sometimes to make sure we are on the right course ahead? Can we know where we are heading for without knowing where we have come from? I remember once hearing a man say: 'I'm not interested in the past, I'm only interested in the future.' I have often thought that a peculiarly silly remark. The man who made it is now a member of Parliament. The truth is that the past has shaped the present and the past and the present will shape the future. I believe that our Parliament will he restored sooner rather than later and that, in the end, it is the Scots' inalienable right to have it and to make a kirk or a mill of it.

6.8 pm

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate on the Scottish political situation. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) said in her concluding remarks that one must look at history to understand and possibly to plan for the future. To judge from recent events in her merged party conglomerate, I should have thought that there was a lesson in her remarks for herself and her party.

Recent events have shown very clearly that if the SLD party is coming forward with a proposal, as the hon. Lady seems to be saying, which it thinks that it can deliver, for some form of federal structure within the United Kingdom, it must first win the hearts and minds of eight out of 10 people and have its representatives elected to this Chamber in order to achieve its aims. Eight out of 10 people who live in the United Kingdom live in England, and until those people are persuaded there is no likelihood of such a measure getting through the House. That must be taken on board by the hon. Lady and all who propose theoretical programmes for constitutional change.

It is easy enough to go to a few people in any part of the country and present a package that those few will accept, but such a package—whatever it contains—will be for only a few people. That applies to all the various devolution packages that are on offer. We are talking about making proposals to one out of 10 of the United Kingdom population and the representatives in this place, but those proposals must make sense to the eight out of 10 before they can get through the House.

The hon. Lady expressed an interest in the recent history of difficulties in getting motions and legislation on devolution through the House. That clearly shows that, regardless of the political persuasions of hon. Members representing English seats in this and previous Parliaments, the important thing is to win the hearts and minds of eight out of 10 representatives. Until that is done, such proposals will remain theoretical.

It is important for any hon. Member speaking from these Benches to recognise that the Conservative party did badly in Scotland in the 1987 election. It would be wrong to pretend otherwise. We must ask ourselves why, when what we are doing south of the border is accepted by so many people there—those whom I would describe as the hard-working, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens of England—we find it so difficult to obtain the same support in Scotland.

Part of the answer must lie in the way in which we have put our message over, or rather failed to do so. There is no doubt that we have failed, and again it would be wrong to pretend otherwise. But that does not mean that the message is wrong, or that the policies are wrong. It means that Scottish Conservatives have not done their job as fully or as effectively as they could have or should have. I accept, as I must, my share of that criticism.

Mr. Maxton

I am only sorry that the Secretary of State for Scotland, who after all led the party in the years up to and into that general election, is not present to hear such a vicious attack on his appalling leadership.

Mr. Walker

I hope the hon. Gentleman understands that my comments are not made frivolously. I happen to be a Unionist. I make no apology for that, and I will stand aside for no one in my support for this unitary Parliament. That is much more important than my personal feelings or those of any of my colleagues. What is at stake is the Union, and the Union is not something on which we should take a frivolous or light-hearted view. It has taken a long time to create this United Kingdom, and to produce a parliamentary democracy that functions and is the envy of almost every other country in the world. We ought not to take lightly the success that has been achieved.

If we have run into failures, which we have, we must look closely at them and see what we should be doing better. I do not say that we should be doing things differently, but we should be doing them better. I could give a number of examples, but because of the limited time available, and because Opposition Members wish to speak, I shall not go into too much detail. Let me simply try to put some specifics on the record.

We need to look at developments since 1979 on the Scottish political scene. The Conservative party must recognise that our decisions in the House, for instance on Ulster, will have an impact on Scotland. Anyone who disagrees with that is not living in the real world. That is what I mean by the Union and a unitary Parliament.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his analysis. I am sure that he does not mean simply that the Conservative party is failing to get its message across in Scotland and that that is why it does so badly there and Labour does so well. If that is the case, conversely, the Labour party in Scotland can claim that it is not getting its message across in England because it is so successful in Scotland. If we reverse the position, we will win the next election, even if our position in Scotland diminishes somewhat.

Mr. Walker

On any mathematical analysis, if a party is getting its message through to one tenth of the population extremely well and doing very badly with eight tenths, something is not quite right about its message. What I am saying is that our message is getting through to eight tenths. What is wrong with getting through to one tenth?

We are the Government, and we must therefore be accountable and acceptable. We must recognise that the decisions that we make will be seen as such by the people of Scotland. But modern government is very complex, and much of what goes on is carried out by quasi-governmental bodies an arm's length away. Those bodies often disburse vast sums of taxpayers' money, while the Government determine the amount that they are to disburse and the policies on which they operate.

The Scottish Development Agency, the Scottish tourist board and the Highlands and Islands Development. Board disburse vast sums from the public purse, but if we wander around Scotland and chat to the individuals who have been in receipt of those sums, we find that the majority believe that the money is coming from those benevolent bodies and not from the Government. We are not getting the credit for what we are doing. Similarly, the health boards are non-elected, anonymous bodies, and generally speaking the public have no idea who they are, yet the Government carry the responsibility for their activities. Scotland has other quangos that operate on a United Kingdom basis, making decisions in Scotland about various important aspects of Scottish life.

The hon. Lady touched on the subject of the universities, and on that issue I agree with her. I have always been a strong supporter of a United Kingdom arrangement for our universities. Recent events—by which I mean events that have taken place in the past year, and in particular in the last few months—have caused me to review my position. I am extremely worried about some of the decisions that have been made, and may be made in future, by the University Grants Committee.

In particular, I see no sense in a decision which I am told is likely to be made tomorrow affecting the dental hospital in Dundee. On any objective criterion, it cannot be said that that is in accordance with Government policy. I defend the Government's policy of asking for the best possible value for money—we should get what we pay for—and I believe that the policies that we have introduced to achieve that have been largely successful, but I cannot, and will not, support a decision that cannot be defended on that criterion. According to the Fraser of Allander Institute, which produced an impartial objective report, Dundee dental hospital is top of the league for value for money, so it should be the last place to be considered for closure.

I agree that there is a Scottish dimension. We Scots are proud of our history and culture and of what has happened in our universities and education establishments. We have every reason to be. We have led the world in many things and we want to retain that—and our Scottishness. To do that, we must have bodies that are understanding of and sympathetic to what we are trying to achieve.

I have examined this matter with some care and I believe that if the University Grants Committee decides tomorrow that the Dundee hospital should close—because the Government have said that they want fewer dentists to be trained—and if the committee cannot justify closure on objective criteria of value for money, it is time we wound up this quango. It is of no use to us in Scotland. In 1979 I never believed that I would say things like that, but experience has taught me that there is a lack of sensitivity and understanding of what is required.

I do not know what deals have been made, or which university or school is being protected, but I know that if part of the whole is left out of a review, the review is not complete. I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe is right, and this matter is vital. This is probably the most important speech that I have made since my speech on Guinness. I was unhappy about the Guinness affair, and I am equally unhappy about what is happening on this matter. I leave it to hon. Members to judge whether Scotland's best interests are being served by the way in which these matters are being conducted.

6.22 pm
Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

The logic of the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) about Dundee dental hospital leads him down the road that the Labour party has taken in respect of devolution. The University Grants Committee and the universities in Scotland are under the control of the Department of Education and Science, not the Scottish Office. If the hon. Gentleman did not understand that before, perhaps he does now.

This morning in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser, under a banner headline two inches high, there appeared a story given to the paper by the hon. Member for Tayside, North, claiming that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), support the retention of Dundee dental hospital. Whether or not the UGC decides tomorrow that the hospital is to close, the Government will win. If the hospital closes, that will be the fault of the UGC; if it is retained, that will be to the credit of the Ministers. That was the import of the briefing that the hon. Gentleman gave the Dundee Courier and Advertiser

Mr. Bill Walker

The hon. Gentleman has the advantage of me, in that I have not read the article. What I gave the Dundee Courier and Advertiser was a verbatim report of what took place at a meeting that the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) and I attended. We were advised by the people representing the UGC—the secretary and two others—that the Secretary of State for Scotland had had two meetings and that his advice was that the Dundee hospital should remain open. The hon. Member for Dundee, West can confirm this. He and I were horrified at what we discovered.

Mr. Ewing

I mean no disrespect to the hon. Member for Tayside, North, but when Ministers commit themselves to the retention or closure of anything, I prefer to hear it from their mouths, not from a message boy. Whatever the UGC decides tomorrow, the Government will win. It would have been far better, if the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State were in favour of retaining the dental hospital at Dundee, that they should have told us.

I see that the Under-Secretary of State is in his place; if he wants to confirm the words of the hon. Member for Tayside, North—that he is in favour of retaining Dundee dental hospital and has made that view clear to the University Grants Committee—I shall gladly give way to him. Is he prepared to confirm what the hon. Gentleman has just said? His silence is eloquent testimony to the value of the headline in today's Dundee Courier and Advertiser. We owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Tayside, North for raising this matter. I suspect that he was scarping around for something to end his speech with and used an example that will be unfortunate for the Minister.

The hon. Member for Tayside, North also said that the Tories' problem in Scotland is that they are not getting their message across. I have news for him: the problem is not that they are not getting it across—they are getting it across only too well, and the people of Scotland understand it fully. That is why the Tories lost 11 seats at the last general election and were returned with only 10.

I enjoyed the speech made by the Secretary of State today—it was good knockabout slapstick stuff—but it lacked serious content and did not recognise the problem in Scotland. On both occasions since the 1987 election when I have heard him speak on the political problems of Scotland the right hon. and learned Gentleman has done himself less than justice. He should study rather more seriously the tensions that are developing there.

The Secretary of State said that unemployment was falling: of course it is. When the Conservatives came to power in 1979, unemployment stood at 133,000; now it is more than 300,000. The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) conceded that that was too high. To listen to the Secretary of State, one would think there was no problem, but there is, and the people of Scotland recognise that it has been caused by an unwanted Government forcing unwanted policies on an unwilling population. The people of Scotland do not identify with the policies imposed on them.

To be generous to Scottish Office Ministers, I must say that there have been times when they have wanted to act differently. They did not want to intervene in the school closures issue in Strathclyde. They did not want to go along with some of the social security provisions. But the leaks of the letters between No. 10 and the Scottish Office showed conclusively that the Ministers were instructed by the Prime Minister's office—in the case of the Strathclyde school closures, encouraged by the hon. Member for Stirling—to change their policies.

Let us not think for a moment that the people of Scotland did not notice this. They noticed that the Scottish Office Ministers wanted to do one thing but the Prime Minister told them that it was not on. They had to do something completely different to bring themselves into line with the rest of England and Wales—Northern Ireland must be excluded.

If the problem continues in this way, the role of the Scottish Office, far from being strengthened, will be diminished, and many of the powers that it enjoys and which have been devolved to it down the years will be sucked in by central Government Departments such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Education and Science, the DHSS and all the other mammoth Departments that make up the Whitehall complex.

That is the road down which we are travelling. That is the road down which the people of Scotland understand we are travelling better than we do here. That is why there are so many tensions in the Scottish political scene. It is a matter of judgment for each Member of Parliament whether he or she wants to respond to the tensions in the Scottish political scene or whether he or she wants to do what the Secretary of State and his colleagues do and turn their back on those tensions, ignore them and hope that they will go away.

I have bad news for the Conservative party. Those tensions will not go away. I have bad news for other hon. Members who would like to see them go away too. If politicians do not lead those tensions in the proper direction, other people will step in from other areas to lead those tensions in a bad direction. That will not be the fault of the people. That will be our fault. It will be our responsibility if something goes wrong in Scotland. It is almost as if a democracy has to stand still.

The hon. Member for Tayside, North claims that he is a Unionist, and I respect that claim. That does not mean to say that the constitutional make-up of the Union has to be constant. It can be changed, and that is what Labour Members are saying should happen. It should be changed and there should be devolution. I do not go down the separatist road. It is a credible position for the SNP, but SNP Members have no right to table a motion and then criticise those hon. Members who do not support them on issues in which they do not believe. We shall not stand on our heads merely to satisfy three hon. Members who came here on very small majorities and are likely to be out at the next election. They are not representative of Scottish opinion. We are, and we had better respond before the people of Scotland take the lead and are led down the wrong path. The matter is in our hands, and I beg the House to act.

6.32 pm
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

The Secretary of State, in responding to the motion, completely failed to answer the positive points raised by the motion and by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing). If his was the case for the Union then it is most certainly a lost cause.

The SNP motion puts forward a positive and dynamic role for Scotland, both within the nation and as part of a wider world. That contrasts with the nation's present stagnant and subordinate role within a London-dominated political system. That contrasts with the SNP's positive view of Scotland and its future. The Government amendment simply sums up the Government's arrogant misguided attitude towards Scotland. The Government amendment is simply misinformed, misstated and inaccurate. It states, for example: in the 1987 General Election more than four people out of five in Scotland voted for parties which support the Union. They want us to act upon that assumption, but they also neglect to say that 76 per cent. of Scots voted for a return of governmental decision-making powers to Scotland. The Government will not act on that assumption, but they cannot have it both ways.

The Scottish Grand Committee is no substitute for proper legislative machinery for Scotland. The Committee has no powers. It rarely votes, and, even then, it votes only on technical motions. It can never be in any way a substitute for a real Parliament for Scotland, but that is all that the present Government are prepared to offer the people of Scotland. The Government amendment states that the SNP was, in their view, the least popular party in Scotland and received the least support from the electorate". That is not true, although no doubt the Green party, for one, wishes it were.

However, things have moved on. Since then, the local government elections have confirmed the growing pattern in Scotland of the rejection of the Conservatives and the arrival of the SNP as the main challenger in Scottish politics. In the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Conservatives cannot even get a seconder when it comes to regional matters with regard to proposing members for top regional posts. They can barely do so when it comes to similar matters with regard to the districts. The SNP is now the second largest party in COSLA.

When the Scottish people vote for independence, it will happen because, unlike the Unionist parties, Scotland has a political party that owes allegiance only to Scotland and will deliver the goods whenever it is given the mandate. The Government claim that Scotland can best meet the challenge of the single European Community as part of the United Kingdom. They should tell that to Scotland's decimated fishing industry and to its agriculture, both of which were once told by the Conservatives that they had nothing to fear from entry into the Common Market. They now know the truth, when Scotland's vital fishing, agriculture and oil interests have been used as bargaining counters to suit the superior British interests within the EEC. Scotland, with direct EEC participation and representation, would ensure that that ceased to happen in the future. That would be a far better system of representation and would meet the needs of the Scottish people far better than the present situation.

The Government again reject a constitutional referendum because they are clearly unwilling to face the people. Ultimately, only Scotland will decide its own future. We will not be given independence. No country is ever "given" independence. Scotland will take independence as and when the Scottish people so decide. It will be done through the ballot box, unlike the sad situation in many other strife-torn parts of the world. The Scottish solution rests with the ballot box and the SNP has, throughout its history, firmly and correctly rejected violence as a suitable way of ever delivering independence for Scotland. We have correctly said that it is up to the Scottish people, and to them alone, to decide their own future through the ballot box and in their own good time.

In the amendment, the Government reaffirm their belief in the Act of Union, yet they reject or neglect that Act whenever it suits them. Part of the deal written into the Union was that there would be uniform taxation throughout the country. The Government's main flag-carrier, the poll tax, breaks that principle and, according to Professor McCormick, it breaches one of the major items within the treaty of Union. It is the old story— the Government accept the treaty when it suits them and reject it when it does not.

The Government have no Scottish mandate for many of their major items—school boards, their attack on local government and so on. Indeed, there is outright and obvious Scottish opposition to those measures. We are seeing the English mandate applied to Scotland, irrespective of the wishes of the Scottish people. That is at the heart of the Union because, ultimately, in the House, England will rule and England will decide. It would not matter if there were unanimity throughout the Scottish people and among our representatives, because, ultimately, England will decide. That is the price of the Union, and it is a price that anyone loyal to Scotland simply will not pay.

Why should Scotland remain subsumed within England and within the new European Common Market? Why should Scotland not be directly represented in Europe, rather than subsumed within the broader English interests, any more than Denmark, which has the same population as Scotland, or Luxembourg, which is tiny in comparison with our country? To assume that we can see Europe only through English eyes or that Scotland can act in Europe only while subsumed within England shows extreme arrogance and is a poor deal for Scotland. Why should we expect the majority English interests to get a better deal for Scotland in the EEC than direct representation from Scotland of our views? It is an absurd proposition which no Dane, Greek, Irishman, Spaniard or Luxembourger would accept for one minute, yet Scots are expected to accept such a deal as a permanent arrangement.

The Government object in their amendment to the description of colonial status when it is applied to Scotland, but how else can one describe the present Scottish situation? Scottish legislation is simply being tagged on to English Bills. Major Scottish amendments are shoved in on Report without proper discussion. When Scottish universities, including the Dundee dental hospital, were discussed as part of a general English Bill, Scottish Members with university interests were queuing up to have two minutes to discuss those matters that are vital to Scotland.

Again, the only major Department of State that does not have a parliamentary Select Committee is the Scottish Office. That is lack of control, through this Parliament, of those who control Scotland. All this goes on while the Scottish assembly building lies empty in Edinburgh.

We are asking only for basic democracy. Of the three arms of government, Scotland already has its own executive and its own judiciary. All that we are asking for is the third arm of government—a Scottish legislature, democratically elected and able to control and influence the fabric of our society, our economy and our life and to get Scotland on the move. Montesquieu rightly pointed out that the three arms of government spell the difference between despotism and a democratic system. We are asking for the fundamental right that every other democratic country takes for granted.

Edinburgh is a city with two parliamentary buildings and no Parliament. It is a city waiting for the return of parliamentary powers. Scotland is a nation awaiting the rebirth of its identity in Europe and in the wider world. It is to this that the SNP motion addresses itself. It is a pity that the House will not do the same.

6.40 pm
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I believe that, as a nation, Scotland has a right to self-determination, but that does not mean that I am about to apply for an SNP card. Correctly, the Labour party believes that Scotland has determined that its wants it own devolved assembly. It has shown that in its votes at the general elections and in opinion polls again and again. Clearly, the Scottish nation has spoken and wants what the Labour party in Scotland and the United Kingdom has been saying it wants.

The Scottish people do not want he status quo. That is why the Government's amendment begs the question: why is it that the Tory party does not want a constitutional referendum? Could it be because it is afraid of the answer? Suppose the referendum reaffirmed what the Labour party says—that the majority of Scottish people want devolution and their own assembly. Would the Government accept that result and implement it? I do not believe that they would, because they do not recognise Scotland as a "free partner" in the United Kingdom, as they claim in the amendment.

A "free partner" would have the right to decide whether to continue the partnership or to withdraw, or, as we would suggest, offer a change in the terms of the partnership. The Government are refusing to allow the people of Scotland to have a choice, and we are convinced that if the people of Scotland had a free say they would vote for Labour party policy. Labour recognises Scotland as a nation and as a "free partner" in the United Kingdom. For that reason we offered that policy at the general election, and for that reason, we shall continue to offer that policy. There is no doubt about this policy, from which we have not deviated one iota.

I have recently returned from a short visit to Nicaragua, a small country of only 3 million people with a young parliamentary democracy that has been in existence for only a tiny speck of time when compared to the long existence of this noble House. That young Parliament of a small nation has already accepted that two areas of its country, because of different culture, history, language and development, deserve devolution. The National Assembly has already passed the law to bring in devolution so that the areas can have their own economic development, education system and so on. Will this ancient and honourable Parliament take the opportunity to learn from that small nation something about democracy in action?

6.44 pm
Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

I agree with the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) about the Dundee dental hospital. There is no case for its closure. If the University Grants Committee makes that recommendation tomorrow, it will be a disgrace. I hope that every Scottish Member of Parliament will object to such a decision. In particular, I hope that the Ministers in the Scottish Office will lead a campaign against any such decision. As the recommendation of the working party that was set up by the UGC had to have been influenced by Scottish Office instruction, that working party could not take into consideration the position of the Dundee dental hospital but looked only at Edinburgh and Glasgow dental hospitals. That had to prejudice the working party's recommendations. It is up to the Scottish Office to stand up for Dundee dental hospital, as there is no case for closure, and to say that it will not accept the recommendations of the UGC working party.

In the Dundee dental hospital case, we see a classic example of the Scottish interest being squeezed between a United Kingdom Department that treats Scotland like another region of a unitary country and a Tory-dominated Scottish Office that will not stand up for the national rights of Scotland within the United Kingdom. It is time that Ministers in the Scottish Office began to argue the Scottish case rather than meekly accepting what is handed down to them from the Cabinet or the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

We can legitimately argue about the merits or demerits of the no-mandate case within the unitary Parliament of the United Kingdom, but no hon. Member can quarrel with the fact that Scotland has overwhelmingly rejected the Government's approach, which is generally termed Thatcherism. Scotland did not reject Thatcherism only in the 1987 general election. It did so in both the 1983 and 1979 general elections. Ever since Thatcherism came into being as a political creed, it has regularly been rejected, with an ever-increasing majority, by the people of Scotland. That has happened in every general election since 1979, and there is no case for the Scottish Office, or any other Tories, trying to impose on the people of Scotland the policies that constitute the Thatcher consensus.

Conservative Members would do well to reflect that, since the war, the Conservative party has been the only political party in Scotland to win an absolute majority of Scottish votes in the general election. It did that a generation ago in the 1955 general election. It should learn from its decline, which leaves it, 30 years on, with only an embarrassed rump of Scottish Members of Parliament and the lowest share of the vote in any general election since the war. The Tories must ask themselves why that is, and they must realise that if they continue down the road that they have been pursuing since 1955 the only end will be the break-up of the United Kingdom. That will be their fault, and their fault alone.

At the next general election, in 1991, the Scottish people will have to vote for the party that can deliver them from the yoke of Thatcherism. The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) said that, if the Scots want independence, they will vote for it. However, the SNP must make clear what they mean by Scotland voting for independence. A leaflet from the SNP has come through my door since the last general election. It says that 37 SNP Members of Parliament equals independence. That is nonsense. The Labour party has 50 Members of Parliament but only 43 per cent. of the vote in Scotland. Even if the SNP were to get into the Labour party's position, the majority of Scots would still be voting against independence, and for the continued link with the United Kingdom. The Government would ignore the fact that 50 SNP Members had been elected to Parliament and would go on as they are now, saying that there is no mandate for independence. A mandate for independence must be based on more than half the votes that are registered in Scotland at a general election, and the SNP could not achieve that.

I was staggered to learn that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has referred to the SNP as the equivalent of the Rainbow Coalition in the United States. I come from Dundee and I know about the SNP members on Tayside regional council. Only a few months ago, a prominent member of the SNP group on the council caused a sensation locally by referring, during a debate on the multicultural education policy of Tayside regional council, to the danger of Scotland being swamped by ethnic minorities. He used the very remark which the Prime Minister used disgracefully some years ago, a remark that will not be welcomed by any rainbow coalition on either side of the Atlantic. I hope that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan will denounce members of his party who use that sort of language in arguing against a proper multicultural approach to education in areas such as Tayside.

6.50 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

The debate has been notable for a number of factors. Probably the most notable is that virtually all hon. Members who have contributed to it, with a few honourable exceptions, have failed to address the perspective which was set out in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and in the motion—the exciting new perspective of an independent Scotland playing a full role within the European Economic Community.

It seems that the Secretary of State for Scotland has not graduated beyond university debating tactics. There was nothing in his speech that told us where he thinks Scotland is going. There are few enough opportunities in this place to debate the future of our nation, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in a disgraceful speech, failed to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to him. His speech contained no analysis of his own position in favouring the Union. It was purely a debating speech, worthy, perhaps, of a university debating chamber. It was not worthy of a Secretary of State for Scotland.

I shall analyse the positions of the three other parties in Scotland apart from my own. It is interesting that there is no Labour party amendment on the Order Paper. In a way, that is appropriate. The problem that the Labour party faces is that devolution, as proposed by the party which won the last general election in Scotland, is no longer on the political agenda. That is because it will not be conceded. It is not available and it will not be delivered. It is not on offer.

The Scottish National party supported the devolution Bill that Labour Members introduced last year on the ground that even half a slice of bread was better than no loaf. The reality, however, is that the Government will not concede devolution. With the Labour party 10 or 12 points adrift in the United Kingdom opinion polls a year after the general election—at the same stage after the 1983 election the Labour party was either level or ahead in the MORI polls—there is no realistic prospect in the foreseeable future of a Labour Government being able to implement Labour party policy, even if we accept as genuine the commitment of the Leader of the Opposition to the policy of devolution.

Mr. Harry Ewing

I accept that the reality is that the Government will not concede devolution. That is accepted also by the Labour party. The reality also is that the Government will not concede independence. That is the problem in Scotland. The people of Scotland are reacting to an obstinate Government who ignore every plea that is made by every political party. Every branch of society in Scotland is being ignored. There is no point in the hon. Gentleman concentrating on the fact that the Government are ignoring one political party. Everyone in Scotland is being ignored. That is causing the problem.

Mr. Salmond

I want to deal directly with that question later in my speech.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) and his right hon. and hon. Friends should listen carefully to the convoluted explanations of the Secretary of State when he is asked why he changed his position on devolution. I have heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman offer an explanation on several occasions in the past year. It seems that he changed his position because he thought 10 years ago that the Union was under threat. He was prepared to concede devolution only if there was a substantial vote in Scotland for independence. That is a lesson that the hon. Member for Falkirk, East should learn from the Scottish political scene.

As I have said, it is significant that the Labour Opposition have not placed an amendment on the Order Paper. I believe that they have chosen not to do so because devolution is no longer on the political agenda in Scotland. During the count in the 1983 general election, I remember the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) roaring like a lion, declaring what he would do with this Parliament after that election to ensure that an assembly was delivered. Since then, the hon. Gentleman has been as quiet as a mouse on the issue. During this period he has graduated towards a Front-Bench job. I can understand hon. Members being bought and sold for English gold, but to be bought and sold for the prospect of Opposition Front-Bench spokesmanship at this moment places a low price on the hon. Gentleman's abilities.

I was struck by a quote in The Scotsman of 16 January from the hon. Member for Cathcart. He was explaining then—as he has since in the Glasgow Herald—why the Labour party could not countenance a campaign of non-payment in opposition to the poll tax. The hon. Gentleman wrote: At the end of the day, it would be a campaign about the right to govern Scotland, aimed at ending Conservative English rule in Scotland. That is the nationalist case which the Labour Party does not accept. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman. It has taken him five years to understand the full implications of the mandate argument. Unfortunately, after five years he has come to exactly the wrong conclusion. If the hon. Gentleman graduates to a further elevation in the Whips Office, he will find a new generation of younger Labour Members willing to take his place. They will not challenge the "right" of the Government to run Scotland either. That is the position generally of the Labour party. I say to Labour Members that if they continue to accept the "right" of the Government to run Scotland on English votes, they will relegate themselves to the fringes. In the end, they will find that they are spectators of Scottish politics. The argument will crystallise between those who are prepared to accept that the Government have a right to pursue their policies on the back of the English majority and those who are prepared to reject that so-called mandate.

As far as I can understand the position of the Social and Liberal Democratic party, as expounded by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie), it seems that it is sympathetic to the SNP analysis. It is clear from the SLD's amendment that it accepts our analysis. The only difference is that it proposes another solution.

The case for federalism is in the same difficulty as that for devolution—it will not be delivered in the immediate future. The hon. Lady should consider the relative merits of federalism compared with independence within the European Community. The Liberal party—now the SLD—has had a variety of views on a variety of issues. One consistent theme, however, has been a belief in the European dimension. It is strange that the quarrel that the SLD has with the motion is on the need, as the SNP sees it, for an independent status within the wider community. The federalism which the SLD proposes would automatically deny Scotland access to representations at the top table of the Community. That is a strange position for a party which has long espoused the European ideal.

The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute should remember that we have supported motions and amendments, tabled by her party, that have set out its solution for Scotland. That was because we believed they represented an improvement on the status quo. The SLD should give serious consideration to whether it prefers the SNP's solution to the Scottish question or the solution that is put forward by the Government.

The Government's position was predictable. As I have said, the Secretary of State's speech did not make clear the position for the Union. I welcome the attacks that were made on the SNP by the Secretary of State. My colleagues said to me, "It is just like old times." When the SNP is under attack, that is a sure sign that it is rising and that the Government are frightened.

An attack was made also on Muriel Gray, the rector of Edinburgh university. Muriel Gray is not a political activist. She is not involved in politics. I do not know whether she is a member of the SNP, but I hope that she is. She is not part of the political debate in Scotland. She is most certainly not here to answer the charges that the Secretary of State made against her earlier this evening. It is demeaning for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be so reduced that he is driven to level such charges against a lady who is not able to reply to them.

Unlike the Secretary of State, I want to look at the amendment tabled by the Government.

Mr. Maxton

The hon. Gentleman made an attack upon my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) in a London hotel recently. Did he invite him to be present so that he could respond?

Mr. Salmond

The hon. Gentleman must forgive me, but I lost his question in the general hubbub from his hon. Friends.

As I was saying, I want to look at the content of the Government amendment. As I understand it, there are four principal arguments for opposing our motion set out in the Government's amendment. The first is the substantial role which, according to the Government amendment, individual Scots have to play within the United Kingdom. When I saw the amendment, I thought that they were referring to the "sudeten Scots" on the Government Benches who come to disrupt Scottish Question Time at regular intervals. The argument misses the point entirely. We are not arguing whether individual Scots should play a role within English society, or French or German society, or vice versa, but whether Scotland, as a national entity, will have the chance to play a collective role not on the British stage but on the wider stage of the European Community.

Secondly, the Government make the mandate argument most explicit—I refer to the question raised by the hon. Member for Falkirk, East. Basically, the Government say that as long as Scots vote for Unionist parties—the Labour party, the Democrats or the Conservative party—the votes are counted as being for the Union. The Secretary of State put it clearly in an interview in Radical Scotland of December 1986. He said: I think as long as the vast majority of Scots vote for unionist parties and by that I mean Conservatives, Labour, Liberal, or SDP, anything other than the Nationalists—and thereby express a clear political desire to remain a part of the United Kingdom—then the only mandate that matters is the UK mandate. That is a development of the Conservative party's position. In the 1979 referendum they wanted to count only non-voters on their side. Now the Conservative party's position is to count the votes for the other Unionist parties to recruit them in the Conservative party's supposed mandate in Scotland.

The votes for the Labour party and the Democrats are being used, in terms of the Secretary of State's argument, as the justification for the Conservative party's position in Scotland. I do not know whether hon. Members who represent those parties are satisfied with that position, but I believe that the members of those parties in Scotland would be profoundly dissatisfied to know that their votes are being use as the justification for the Conservative party continuing to rule in Scotland on a minority vote.

The third argument from the Government is that the Secretary of State makes decisions in Scotland and that many areas of Scottish life are under his direct determination. Anybody looking at the celebrated exchange of memos on the school boards legislation will be able to give the lie to how much power the Secretary of State currently has in Scotland. There is a vast difference between being Scotland's man in the Cabinet and the Cabinet's man in Scotland, which is the sorry position of the present incumbent. Perhaps the Secretary of State or the Minister would like to tell us whether the decision on the future of the Ravenscraig steel plant is one of the "important" decisions that will be made by the Secretary of State or the Scottish Office. Sir Robert Scholey, introducing the British Steel Corporation's annual report today, said that it was "reviewing strip mill production," that there were no more guarantees for Ravenscraig, and that "nothing is for ever. We want to know whether the future of the Ravenscraig complex will be decided in Scotland by the Secretary of State or by the BSC south of the border.

The Government's fourth argument rejects our claim that Scotland is a colony and has colonial status. When a country is ruled by a Government that it does not elect, when that Government make a comprehensive attack on Scottish values and institutions, when that country is denied the right of self-determination through referendum or constitutional convention, and when that Government are engaged in the pillaging of Scottish assets—I am talking about £70,000 million of oil revenues since 1979—that looks to me like a colonial position.

The Secretary of State was not always as averse to describing his position as that of a colonial governor. I shall quote from an article in Scottish Field of March 1986. Perhaps the Secretary of State drew courage from the fact that the readership of Scottish Field did not extend too far among the Scottish population. It quotes the Secretary of State as saying in respect of his position: It is not at all a narrow field as some people might suggest. In fact, the powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland are not unlike those of a colonial governor. It seems that the Secretary of State and the Conservative party were not always so sure that the analogy between Scotland's position and that of a colony was so absurd.

I want to reiterate some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray when she introduced the motion and to deal directly with the Scottish economy. If we listened to the Government, we would believe that the Scottish economy was a great success. That is a remarkable argument given that industrial production m Scotland is up only 7 per cent. since 1980—less than half the average increase throughout the United Kingdom as a whole. Unemployment in Scotland is the second highest in mainland Britain. The House of Commons research officers have released a paper showing that, of the 10 worst constituencies in Britain with the highest percentage of youth unemployment as a percentage of total unemployment, no fewer than seven are Scottish constituencies.

The Government argue that the prosperity of the south-east of England will gradually spread throughout the rest of Britain—first, to the midlands, then to the north of England and then to Scotland—and that our salvation will come if we wait long enough. That argument is reminiscent of that used for Third-world countries. They were told that if they waited until the Western world was more prosperous, prosperity would eventually drip down to them. Just as it was fallacious in the Third-world context, so it is fallacious in the Scottish context. Far from prosperity spreading out from the south-east of England, inflationary pressures which have been generated in the south-east mean that economic measures will be taken to put the economy into restraint. Thus, we have had five increases in interest rates in the past five weeks. The reality is that economic restraint will be applied before the Scottish economy is even out of deep freeze.

I want to look at Scotland's real choice—whether we want to play a bit part on the British stage or whether we want to find a new role for our nation within the European Community. I find the British state fundamentally unattractive. It is unattractive in the attitude displayed towards foreigners and unattractive in terms of the breakdown of social cohesion. It is a depressing vision for the Scottish people to have to continue to play a subsidiary role within a declining and out-of-date Britain. Steinbeck once wrote that Scotland was not a "lost cause" but a "cause unwon". The Scottish National party gives notice to the House of Commons that it intends to win that cause.

7.9 pm

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Ian Lang)


Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I understand it, no Opposition Member representing Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, has been called. Is that not a disgrace? Is that not strange, particularly as some of us want to support the anti-poll tax movements that are developing in Scotland and that intend to fight the Tories?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Only the Minister sought to catch my eye, and I will call him.

Mr. Lang

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland would be happy to feel that his speech represented the Unionist parties from the Edinburgh constituencies. There have been few surprises in the debate and the speech by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) contained none. The debate has identified the alien values mentioned in the Scottish National party motion, because we support the rule of law. If the SNP believes that it is alien to the Scottish people to support the rule of law, no wonder it gained so little support in the last election.

It was interesting to note how the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan distanced his party from the other Opposition parties because that suggests that perhaps the SNP is the party that espouses alien values. That is underlined by the fact that 86 per cent. of the Scottish people rejected separatism at the last election in favour of the Union. The greater curiosity in the debate is not the behaviour of the Scottish National party, which is always sadly predictable, but the behaviour of the Labour party. We have a nationalist motion, a Liberal amendment and a Government amendment, but no Labour amendment.

What is even more curious is that, on this of all days, when a Glasgow Herald poll revealed the full extent of Labour's crumbling edifice and when the party has lost one fifth of its support in five months, the leader of the Scottish Labour Members, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), chose not to speak in the debate, and his party has chosen not to vote.

Perhaps that comes as no surprise to us, because last November, in a debate on a motion by what was then the Liberal party but which is now travelling incognito, the Opposition leader in Scotland, the hon. Member for Garscadden, decided not to speak. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said at that time that the debate was rather like Hamlet without the gravedigger. I am not as learned as my right hon. and learned Friend but in my version of Gilbert and Sullivan the Duke of Plaza Toro led his regiment from behind because he found it less exciting. But at least he led his troops. In this debate, the Scottish Labour party has had no leadership at all. No wonder that two thirds of them have not bothered to turn up and are hopelessly divided on these issues.

In its manifesto for the last election the SNP said: Should the Conservatives win power again based on English votes, the SNP will cooperate with other parties to establish a Constitutional Convention as an immediate priority. We have seen the measure of that co-operation in the debate. There has been much high-principled concern for devolutionary matters, but when it comes down to the detail, the parties shelter behind different approaches and different nomenclature. The Labour party wants an assembly, the Liberals want a Parliament and the Nationalists want a convention. Labour will not have an assembly if it has proportional representation, the Liberals will not have one without PR and the SNP says that it will take anything as long as it gives it a chance to move on to separatism.

What I discern in these postures is not high constitutional principle but low political calculation. Self-interest is the driving force behind the Opposition parties, and Scotland's true interests are secondary to that. I do not know whether self-interest drives the leader of the Labour party on this issue or whether he just does not know what his troops in Scotland are saying. At least on this issue he has been consistent, even if, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) said, he is up in the clouds of the Himalayas. In 1978 he said that devolution will smash beyond healing the unity of Britain. In 1985 he said it will not provide a factory, a machine or jobs. As recently as last Thursday, he was quoted in the Western Daily Press and Times and Mirror as saying: what was needed was government which was more accountable and efficient in serving people and communities. `But those needs would not be met if they divided the country, and produced institutions with grand titles that were all dressed up with nowhere to go'''. Nothing better summarises the present state of the Scottish Labour party, which does not seem to listen to its leader any more.

To the vast majority of Scots, devolution is simply irrelevant. True devolution is the devolution of power that we have introduced. We have introduced the devolution that matters, because we have given power to the people through cuts in taxation, so that they may spend money as they think fit. We have done it through the sale of council houses, and that policy has enabled over 100,000 Scots to buy their own homes. Our privatisation programme has doubled the number of Scottish shareholders. We have given devolution by providing a stable economic base on which so many new companies have been able to start up. The economy is a sign of the devolution and the success that we have achieved.

It is a great pity that Opposition parties cannot speak up for Scotland but feel obliged to knock it at every opportunity and send out the sort of message that we heard in Dundee when Ford pulled out. The success of the Scottish economy is irretrievably bound up with the success of the United Kingdom economy, and the success of the United Kindom economy has recently been reflected in Scotland.

The report last week from the Fraser of Allander Institute said that the Scottish economy is now moving in line with that of the United Kingdom. Our economic success in Scotland is increasingly evident. The Scots are benefiting from the control of public spending and therefore from the control of inflation. They are benefiting from the reduction in taxation and are now sharing in the biggest fall in unemployment in recent times. All this has been achieved without the benefit of a Scottish assembly.

Looking ahead, we can see the prospect of this continuing, and the forecast is that 64 per cent. of construction firms expect to expand in the next few months. The Fraser of Allander Institute report predicts growth of almost 3 per cent. per annum over the next five years and the creation of about 100,000 new jobs. Scotland is more prosperous than it has ever been. Personal disposable income is up by 16 per cent. in real terms over the 10 years to 1986. Scotland had the highest average earnings outside the south-east of England and all this has been achieved without the benefit of a Scottish assembly.

Manufacturing output in Scotland is higher than ever, and over the last eight years Scotland's manufacturing productivity has come from the bottom to the top of the OECD league. We have seen our manufacturing productivity improve by more than that in America, Canada, France, Germany, the rest of the United Kingdom and Japan.

Now that we are competitive again, our exports have done well. They are better than for the rest of the United Kingdom and more per head than in Japan. That success has not been achieved by accident but because we have stuck to the policies that were needed to create success. We have taken the difficult decisions about getting Scotland back on the rails. We have been tackling the problems at their roots instead of going for cheap, short-term cosmetic solutions.

Scotland within the United Kingdom is now out in the world again and the world increasingly sees Scotland as a place in which to locate. We have put behind us the decline and despair of Socialist policies, and in the stable political framework of being part of the United Kingdom Scotland is seeing our policies bear fruit. Against that growth and success, how damaging and irrelevant is the posturing over devolution and separatism and the bickering over breaking the law on the funding of local government.

Scotland is where the vast majority of people want her to be—strong, prosperous and secure, and playing her full part in the United Kingdom. I urge the House to keep it that way, to throw out this irrelevant and damaging motion and to support the Government amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 5, Noes 206.

Division No. 399] [7.17 pm
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Tellers for the Ayes:
Kilfedder, James Mr. Andrew Welsh and Mr. Dafydd Wigley
Salmond, Alex
Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Allason, Rupert Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Amess, David Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Amos, Alan Carrington, Matthew
Arbuthnot, James Carttiss, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cash, William
Ashby, David Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Atkins, Robert Chapman, Sydney
Atkinson, David Chope, Christopher
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Churchill, Mr
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Batiste, Spencer Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Cran, James
Benyon, W. Currie, Mrs Edwina
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Day, Stephen
Boscawen, Hon Robert Devlin, Tim
Boswell, Tim Dicks, Terry
Bottomley, Peter Dorrell, Stephen
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bowis, John Dover, Den
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Dunn, Bob
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Durant, Tony
Brazier, Julian Emery, Sir Peter
Bright, Graham Evennett, David
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fallon, Michael
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Favell, Tony
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Fearn, Ronald
Burns, Simon Fenner, Dame Peggy
Burt, Alistair Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Butcher, John Fookes, Miss Janet
Butler, Chris Forman, Nigel
Butterfill, John Forsyth, Michael(Stirling)
Forth, Eric Mates, Michael
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Fox, Sir Marcus Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Franks, Cecil Mellor, David
Freeman, Roger Meyer, Sir Anthony
French, Douglas Miller, Sir Hal
Gale, Roger Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Gill, Christopher Moate, Roger
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Monro, Sir Hector
Goodhart, Sir Philip Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Moore, Rt Hon John
Gow, Ian Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Moss, Malcolm
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Moynihan, Hon Colin
Gregory, Conal Nelson, Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Neubert, Michael
Ground, Patrick Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hanley, Jeremy Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Porter, David (Waveney)
Harris, David Portillo, Michael
Hawkins, Christopher Raffan, Keith
Hayward, Robert Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Heddle, John Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Shersby, Michael
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hill, James Skinner, Dennis
Hordern, Sir Peter Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Stanbrook, Ivor
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Steel, Rt Hon David
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Steen, Anthony
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Stern, Michael
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hunter, Andrew Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Irvine, Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Jack, Michael Summerson, Hugo
Janman, Tim Tapsell, Sir Peter
Jessel, Toby Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Kennedy, Charles Thorne, Neil
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Thornton, Malcolm
Kirkwood, Archy Thurnham, Peter
Knapman, Roger Townend, John (Bridlington)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Trippier, David
Knowles, Michael Twinn. Dr Ian
Knox, David Waddington, Rt Hon David
Lang, Ian Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Latham, Michael Walden, George
Lawrence, Ivan Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Wallace, James
Lilley, Peter Waller, Gary
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Walters, Sir Dennis
Lord, Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Loyden, Eddie Watts, John
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Wells, Bowen
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Widdecombe, Ann
Maclean, David Wilshire, David
Maclennan, Robert Winterton, Mrs Ann
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Major, Rt Hon John Wood, Timothy
Mans, Keith Yeo, Tim
Maples, John
Marland, Paul Tellers for the Noes:
Marlow, Tony Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Richard Ryder
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Question accordingly negatived,

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House recognises the benefits to Scotland of being a free partner in the United Kingdom and the contribution which the Scottish people continue to make in many fields to the life of the United Kingdom; notes that the Government has a clear mandate to govern following a General Election fought on a United Kingdom basis, and that in the 1987 General Election more than four people out of five in Scotland voted for parties which support the Union; notes that in that election the Scottish National Party was the least popular party in Scotland and received the least support from the Scottish electorate; believes that Scotland can best meet the challenge of the single European Community market as part of the United Kingdom; acknowledges that many decisions affecting Scotland are already taken in Scotland by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office; considers as absurd references to Scotland's alleged colonial status; rejects completely calls for a constitutional referendum and independence; and reaffirms its support for the Act of Union.