Every week, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP, writes a column for newspapers in his Borders Constituency. Here is the latest edition.
In my constituency I know that energy prices are a key concern for local people. It has been one of the UK Government’s top priorities to help tackle this issue by improving the energy efficiency of people’s homes, reducing the confusing number of tariffs available and making it easier for people to switch. The Green Deal, launched last week, will help with the first part by enabling people to insulate their homes or install double glazing without having to pay upfront costs. As people’s homes are easier to heat, this will reduce their energy bills and enable people to keep warm during the cold winter months. I therefore want to encourage people to contact Energy Saving Scotland on 0800 512 012 if they are interested in taking part in the scheme.
Last week the Electoral Commission produced a report on the independence referendum, which provides advice on how to ensure the neutrality of the referendum process. The UK Government’s aim is to have a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland and having passed the Section 30 order in Westminster and Holyrood we have achieved the ‘legal’ part. The Edinburgh Agreement also secured the ‘decisive’ part with the Scottish Government agreeing to pose not two questions, but one on the ballot paper. The work of the Electoral Commission is therefore to ensure the referendum is ‘fair’ and I welcomed their report which certainly achieves this.
The Commission’s report changed the SNP’s question, which was seen as leading, to ‘Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No’. They also established decent spending limits to ensure that Scots are properly informed of the choice ahead of them. I am glad that the Scottish Government have accepted the Commission’s recommendations to secure our three aims of a legal, fair and decisive referendum. Now I look forward to getting on with the real debate over Scotland’s future. I will be campaigning hard for us to stay in the UK because it is better for jobs, the economy and our security as a country.
It was good to hear news recently that unemployment in Scotland fell by 14,000 between September to November but there is certainly no room for complacency. Last week I was pleased to be able to take part in the Scottish Employability Forum with the Scottish Government, local authorities and other organisations to discuss ways we can work together to address unemployment.
Unemployment is a huge concern for families and individuals across the country and the UK Government is already taking significant action through Jobcentre Plus, the Youth Contract and Work Programme. This forum was however a good opportunity to look at further ways we can help get people back into employment and it was a really useful time.