Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes 1 February 2012

Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore MP writes a regular column for local newspapers in his constituency. Here’s this week’s edition.

Jobs

Economic recovery and jobs remain the most important issues for people here in the Borders and last week was tough in terms of unemployment news. There has sadly been an increase in unemployment since the summer and these figures are a reflection of problems in the Eurozone and the tough economic climate here at home and in the wider global economy.

Finding work for the unemployed is therefore top of the Government’s agenda, and we are taking action to tackle youth unemployment through the £1 billion Youth Contract. Over the next three years, from this April, the Youth Contract will create at least 160,000 wage subsidies and 250,000 new work experience placements.

Here in the Borders, it is vital that our young people benefit from the Youth Contract. Far too many have to leave the Borders to find work or sign on if they stay. This has got to end and this scheme can give the young people the opportunity they need to break into the job market. I want to encourage local businesses here in the Borders to take advantage of this scheme to bring in new talent to their companies and provide opportunities for young people here in the Borders. Employers can find out how they can get involved here.

Big Energy Week

Last week was Citizens’ Advice Scotland’s Big Energy Week and I was pleased to be able to attend an event at the CAB in Eyemouth on Friday. I know that many people in the Borders worry about their fuel bills, especially as prices rise, so the purpose of the week was to help people learn how to reduce their energy usage, get a better deal and so save money on their bills.

During the week, CAB advisors were working with people to give them tips such as checking their current tariff, switching suppliers and insulating their home. I want to encourage Borderers to think about how they could also take action to save money. There’s more information and advice here or you could visit a local Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Referendum

Since last week, the debate surrounding the referendum is getting under way and in my role as Secretary of State for Scotland, I have outlined my commitment to working with the Scottish Government to agree on the way forward. There are key issues surrounding the referendum which need to be addressed, namely that any referendum on Scottish independence held by the Scottish Government would not be legal.

In a lecture last Friday, the Advocate General for Scotland outlined this point: that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for a referendum on independence at present. This is because the constitution, including “the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England” is a matter reserved to the UK Government under the Scotland Act. Therefore, any Act of the Scottish Parliament that relates to a reserved matter, such as a referendum to break up the UK, would not be legal.

While the Scottish Government has a mandate to hold a referendum on independence since their election victory in May, it is vital that we work together to ensure its legality. This is not about the UK Government interfering but it is about us working together to ensure that the referendum is ‘made in Scotland’ and its outcome is fair and legal. I have been urging the First Minister to meet with me to discuss this so we can resolve the legal issue and I hope we can begin to make progress on this in the weeks ahead.

* Michael Moore was the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1997-2015 and Secretary of State for Scotland from 2010-2013.

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