Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes – Scotland better off in Union

Every week, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore writes a column for local newspapers in his constituency. These are the highlights of the last two editions. 

Afghanistan

 The loss of six young soldiers in Afghanistan last week shocked and saddened the whole country and was a grave reminder of the huge sacrifice made by our armed forces in one of the most dangerous places in the world. The work of our men and women in Afghanistan is absolutely vital for the security of the UK and the freedom of the Afghan people and the deaths of these young men remind us of the ultimate price paid by some to secure this goal. In the Borders we have a strong connection to the armed forces and I know that our thoughts and prayers will be with the families at this terrible time.

GERS figures show Scotland better off in Union

Last week, the Scottish Government published the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2010-2011 (GERS) figures which outlined the clear benefits to Scotland of being part of the United Kingdom. The figures show that while Scotland contributes £53.1billion in taxes to the UK Treasury, it receives £63.8billion in spending. They also outline that the UK Government spent £15.5 billion on social protection and welfare last year, double the oil and gas revenue alone. This support is vital for Borderers and Scots and shows that there are major questions to be answered by the Scottish Government about how such assistance would be provided in an independent Scotland.

It is up to those seeking independence to explain what the benefits of leaving a system which equally shares risk and reward would be. In my constituency in the Scottish Borders, we greatly benefit from the shared welfare and social security spending as well as in other areas, such as a shared currency and the freedom with which we can trade with our English neighbours. That is why I will be campaigning against separation from the UK and for Scotland’s place in the UK family.

How the Liberal Democrats in Government are helping women

The celebration of International Women’s Day last Thursday was a reminder of how much has been achieved in the last 100 years since IWD was founded. Yet it was also a reminder of how much still needs to be done to attain full equality for women at home and abroad.

The Liberal Democrat constitution outlines our party’s strong commitment to fairness, equality and human rights and I am proud that in Government, we are furthering equality for women. Abroad, we are doubling our aid to Maternal, Newborn and Child Health which will save the lives of thousands of women in pregnancy and childbirth and enable 10 million couples to access modern methods of family planning. We believe this support will help women stay healthy and empower them to make choices to determine their own lives.

Here at home, we are lifting 1.1 million of the lowest paid workers out of income tax, more than half of whom are women. We are also providing an extra £300 million for child care support under universal credit, establishing a new system of shared parental leave and promoting equal pay and good practice in the workplace. For too long, women have experienced a glass ceiling at work because of their gender and the Coalition Government is committed to tackling these barriers by bringing more flexibility and fairness into the system.

Referendum

 As discussions over the Scottish Government’s independence referendum continue, business groups in Scotland have come forward in the last couple of weeks, saying that delaying the referendum until 2014 would be extremely damaging for the Scottish economy.

Major companies such as SSE and the Weir Group have raised concerns about the uncertainty surrounding Scotland’s future and the affect this will have on their investment decisions. CBI Scotland has also raised issues about the length of time Scotland would have to wait for a vote under the SNP’s plans.

The prospect of this referendum is therefore clearly causing uncertainty to businesses and I am urging them not delay and hold the referendum as soon as possible. At the moment, the Scottish Government are insisting on a referendum in 2014, but we are proposing autumn 2013, a 500 day wait as opposed to a 1000 day wait.

* 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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