§ 22. Mr. Nicholas Winterton
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the First Minister about the future of the rural economy in Scotland. 
§ Dr. Reid
I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a wide range of issues.
The Government are committed to the sustainable development of the rural economy and rural communities. Overall development of the rural economy in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive. However, recent announcements made by the Chancellor in the Pre-Budget Report to abolish Vehicle Excise Duty for tractors, extension of reduced VED for cars under 1500 cc and hauliers, and proposed reductions in duty on low sulphur diesel and petrol will help to address the issue of high transport costs in rural areas. This Government also recognise that post offices form a vital part of the rural community, and are fully committed to maintaining the existing size and shape of the rural network.