HC Deb 31 January 1996 vol 270 cc999-1000
14. Mr. Duncan Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has recently attended a meeting of the EC Council of Ministers. [10801]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

My right hon. Friend attended a meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 26 October 1995, and I attended on 21 and 22 December 1995.

Mr. Duncan Smith

When my hon. Friend returns from the next European Council of Ministers meeting, will he go on a special tour of Scotland to remind all of those who are selling the idea that Scotland will be able to cast itself adrift from the UK and that all the tax money that is spent and the trade that is conducted in Scotland by the rest of the UK could be replicated and replaced by Europe are talking utter nonsense? Would not such a course lead to bankruptcy and higher taxation?

Mr. Robertson

I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend and all my Scottish Office colleagues regularly travel to all parts of Scotland. Indeed, my right hon. Friend has just returned from two days in Shetland at the Up Helly-a celebrations. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that Scotland punches well above its weight in the councils of Europe and the world as a full and equal partner in this United Kingdom. That is in stark contrast to the immediate belittling of Scotland that is on offer from the SNP or the gradual marginalisation that is offered by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Maxton

When the Minister and the Secretary of State attend meetings of the Council of Ministers, do they discuss with their Spanish, German and French colleagues the development of regional government within these areas and the importance of devolution to their economies?

Mr. Robertson

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we discuss those matters—our Spanish counterparts are most concerned about having one of the worst unemployment rates in the EU.