HC Deb 19 December 1990 vol 183 cc274-5
3. Mr. Maclennan

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his response to the proposals of the Scottish Constitutional Convention.

Mr. Lang

My views are well known. The organisation that calls itself the Scottish Constitutional Convention and its proposals are a distraction from the real issues that face the Scottish people.

Mr. Maclennan

If the Secretary of State believes that the proposals of the Scottish Constitutional Convention are not perfect, will he at least enter into a dialogue with the political parties in Scotland that represent the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people? The Scottish people are persuaded that constitutional change to provide a democratic means of controlling the centralised administration is necessary to achieve the result to which the Government no doubt aspire. Why must we in Scotland, alone in western Europe, remain without proper democratic control over our Government when Spain, formerly the most centralised country in Europe, and France, the next most centralised country, are both moving towards effective provincial government?

Mr. Lang

If the hon. Gentleman regards those views as important, he has the opportunity to put them forward in a number of places—not least on the Floor of this House, in the mother of parliaments.

Mr. Norman Hogg

Is the Secretary of State aware that the organisation that calls itself the Scottish Constitutional Convention is representative of the Labour party, which sends 48 Members to the House, of the Liberal Democrats, who have a substantial and meaningful representation in the House of the Major Christian denominations in Scotland, of the trade unions and of the regional and district councils in Scotland? Whom does the Secretary of State think that he represents?

Mr. Lang

I have the privilege to be the Secretary of State for Scotland and I thus represent Scotland and its people in the United Kingdom Parliament and in the United Kingdom Cabinet. What would happen to the Secretary of State for Scotland and his position in the Cabinet under the proposals of the Scottish Constitutional Convention? That is one of the fundamental questions that the body did not address.

Mr. Salmond

Now that there are three identifiable positions on the constitutional question in Scottish politics—devolution advocated by the convention parties, no change advocated by the Secretary of State for Scotland and independence in Europe advocated by the Scottish National party, why will not the Secretary of State for Scotland arrange to put the matter to the test and let the Scottish people decide on the three options in a fair referendum?

Mr. Lang

It is well known that, because the present constitutional arrangements do not work to the SNP's advantage, it seeks to change them. SNP Members may call it independence in Europe; what they actually mean is the separation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, which would be immensely damaging for the people of Scotland.

Mr. Andy Stewart

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Scotland does not need another tier of government—and certainly not one with the bureaucratic and interventionist aims put forward by the convention?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not only would the Scottish assembly proposed by the Scottish Constitutional Convention add an extra tier of government, it would be an extra source of tax-raising designed to imposed an additional burden on the people of Scotland and to make it the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom.