Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes

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

Scottish Questions and the Referendum

 My work in Westminster was particularly busy last week with Scottish Questions and a session at the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. Unsurprisingly, the Scottish Government’s independence referendum was high on the agenda at both, with numerous questions being raised on the timing, the question and the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland.

During Scottish Questions I highlighted the concerns felt by many people across Scotland that the SNP have not spelt out what an independent Scotland would look like. There is a distinct lack of detail on for example, the currency, the level of national debt, pensions and financial regulation and an independent Scotland’s credit rating. It is vital that these and many other questions are answered by the SNP as soon as possible to inform people of the choice that lies ahead.

There is also a lot of frustration at the SNP’s plans to delay the referendum until 2014. I cannot understand why the Scottish people should have to wait the best part of three years, with all the economic uncertainly that the delay will generate. Last week the Scotland Office published a legislative timetable which shows we can follow all the proper procedures and parliamentary processes and still have a referendum in September 2013. This would be the UK Government’s preferred option and we are urging the Scottish Government to agree to this.

During Scottish Questions many MPs also raised concerns about growth and jobs and I outlined the action the UK Government is taking on these important issues. For example, we are putting pressure on the banks to lend to small and medium-sized business and we are investing in a £1 billion youth contract to support young people into work. I am also pleased to see initial Government figures which show that many people in my constituency have already been helped by the Government’s Work Programme.

Textiles

 Last week I visited the Scottish Academy of Fashion at the Edinburgh College of Art to meet fashion students shortlisted for the Johnstons of Elgin Award. In my constituency we have a strong and vibrant textiles industry so it was great to see what the Scottish Academy of Fashion are doing to support the industry. The Academy aims to establish Scotland as a centre of fashion-related learning and research and seeks to enable companies to access these important resources. I’m sure our local textiles companies in the Borders and Scotland will benefit from the work the Academy is doing to strengthen this sector.

NFUS

 In my constituency, farming is an essential part of our local economy, producing food which is exported all across the UK and abroad. With decisions on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy imminent this year, I know the concerns felt by our local farmers on what this reform will entail. As part of the regular meetings I hold with the NFUS, we met last week to discuss CAP and I assured the group that the UK Government will be fighting the corner of Scottish farmers at the negotiations. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that support for Less Favoured Areas, which is so important for our local farmers, remains and that the many environmental goods produced by them are recognised in the Policy.

* 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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