Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore MP writes a weekly column for his local newspapers. Here is this week’s edition.
As discussions continue surrounding the process and timing of the Scottish Government’s independence referendum, the UK Government published the results of their consultation on the referendum last week. With nearly 3000 responses, the results demonstrated strong support from all quarters in Scotland for a referendum which is legal, fair and decisive.
Since our consultation was launched in January we have already made a good deal of progress with the Scottish Government – both agreeing that a Section 30 Order should be used to enable Holyrood to legislate for an independence referendum and that the Electoral Commission should play a role in reviewing the question.
The responses from our consultation also showed clear support for both Governments’ preference for a single, clear question, and most respondents said the referendum should be sooner than the Scottish Government’s proposed date of autumn 2014. While I believe that the timing of the referendum should not be a barrier to us settling the referendum process, I hope the First Minister will agree that we should get on with sorting this as soon as possible. Any unnecessary delay is extremely damaging for businesses here in Scotland.
The ongoing political and economic problems in the Eurozone remain extremely worrying for the UK, with the Greek Parliament unable to form a Government last week and Spanish banks struggling under bad debts.
In Scotland and across the whole of the UK, we have an overwhelming interest in seeing the Eurozone return to prosperity and stability because many businesses and jobs rely on the EU market – more than half of UK trade is with other Eurozone countries and around 60% with the rest of the EU. This is why I believe the UK needs to be fully engaged in helping our European partners resolve their problems.
It is also important to remember that as a result of the Labour Government’s economic recklessness, our public debt levels are on a par with Italy and far bigger than Spain’s. It is only because this Government has taken decisive action on tackling the deficit that we have so far managed to avoid the problems they now face.
Christian Aid week
Last week was Christian Aid Week and I was pleased to attend a Christian Aid coffee morning on Saturday in my constituency, to fundraise for the charity and raise awareness of the work they do. This year the UK Government is match-funding the first £5m donated to Christian Aid Week, meaning that any money donated to the charity could be doubled. The money raised will be used to support communities in Africa and Asia to improve access to healthcare and build sustainable livelihoods. It’s not too late to give to Christian Aid Week so I would encourage people to make a contribution if they can.
As part of my regular catch ups with local public services and businesses in my constituency, I was pleased to meet with the Scottish Borders Council and the NFUS last week. At the Council we discussed the priorities of the new Council administration and how we can continue to work together, both politicians and officials, to ensure we get the best deal for local people. I also had an extremely productive meeting with the NFUS, where we discussed CAP reform and the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill scheduled to be introduced in the new Parliamentary session. The UK Government is absolutely committed to fighting the corner of Scottish farmers both in Europe and here at home and it is always useful to meet with the NFUS, to discuss the current challenges and opportunities faced by the farming industry.