Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes

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

Scotland Bill

 Last week the Scotland Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons and received Royal Assent today (1st May). As a Liberal Democrat I have always supported devolution and Home Rule and as Secretary of State for Scotland I am proud to have piloted this Bill through Westminster to deepen devolution even further. Despite their initial opposition, I am pleased that the SNP have also come round to supporting the Bill which will bring about the biggest ever transfer of financial powers to Scotland since the creation of the UK.

The Scotland Bill will make the Scottish Parliament both more powerful and more accountable and will enable MSPs to make the decisions which suit Scotland’s needs. From next year we will have Scottish speed limits and Scottish drink-driving laws and from 2016 we will have a Scottish rate of income tax alongside a UK-wide tax. This is a major step forward for the relationship between Scotland’s two governments and I know it will greatly benefit communities and individuals here in the Borders and across Scotland.

GDP figures

 GDP figures last week were extremely disappointing and demonstrate that it is taking longer to recover from the biggest debt crisis of our lifetime – even after the recent fall in unemployment.

Here in Scotland and the UK we’ve witnessed an unprecedented combination of events: financial collapse; an overleveraged housing market and high levels of public and private debt. The Coalition Government’s task to rescue, repair and reform the British economy will take time, particularly as challenges continue to confront our major trading partner – the Eurozone. There are no short cuts or quick solutions to the economic crisis and the important thing is that we are taking action to reduce the deficit and encourage growth while reforming the welfare and tax systems to make them fairer.

As a result of the tough decisions the UK Government has made to reduce the deficit, the markets have been kept at bay interest rates have remained at record lows, which is vital for businesses and families in the Borders. Our plans also mean that the UK – the country which had the biggest budget deficit in any advanced economy, bigger than Greece, Portugal, Spain – will, by the end of this Parliament, have a deficit lower than the G7 average.

Locally, I am continuing to work with Borders businesses, the Job Centre and especially young people who are unemployed to ensure our local economy here is able to thrive and grow despite the economic pressures throughout the country and across Europe.

Court closures

 In December it came to my attention that the Scottish Court Service (SCS) was planning to close the courts in Duns and Selkirk. These plans have been brought to my attention again recently and I have contacted the Scottish Government and the SCS to urge them to rethink these plans.

I am very concerned that if these courts are closed this will restrict access to justice for many Borderers who will be forced to travel huge distances to have their cases heard. I will therefore be working with my local Lib Dem colleagues to urge the Scottish Government to consider these plans carefully and ensure that any reform does not negatively affect the speed and accessibility to justice for Borderers.

* 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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  • Nicola Prigg 2nd May '12 - 6:22pm

    The Scotland Bill received Royal Assent on the 305th Anniversary of the Union between the old kingdoms of Scotland & England!

  • Andrew Duffield 3rd May '12 - 7:56pm

    “and from 2016 we will have a Scottish rate of income tax alongside a UK-wide tax.”

    Let’s hope Scottish Lib Dems will be campaigning for a lower IT rate, with LVT making up the difference.

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