Michael Moore’s Westminster Notes

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

Energy prices

Rising energy continue to be a huge for concern for Borderers and I was pleased to meet with the Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey last week to discuss the Government’s plans to help people reduce their energy bills through the Green Deal, the most ambitious home insulation programme the UK has ever seen.

With the Green Deal, Borderers will be able to pay for some or all of the insulation work done with the savings they make on their energy bills as a result. The Energy Company Obligation, a subsidy from energy suppliers, will provide extra help for those most in need and for properties that are harder to treat.

We also discussed the possibility of ‘collective switching’ whereby energy customers get together and through strength in numbers switch to a better deal, saving themselves money. The consumer group Which recently ran a collective switching project which saw customers save £100 on their bills. I will certainly be meeting with the local council and housing associations to discuss this idea so we can see Borderers benefitting from a similar scheme.

 Royal Highland Show

As the MP of a rural area with many highly successful farm businesses, I always enjoy attending the Royal Highland Show to see the Scottish food, drink and livestock on display and catch up with local producers. This year’s show in Ingliston was promoting produce from our neighbours in Dumfries and Galloway and there was a fantastic array of products on display.

Attendance at this year’s Royal Highland Show was expected to exceed 160,000 people with over 5,000 cattle, sheep and goats, horses and poultry exhibiting. During the day I was pleased to meet with the NFUS president and vice presidents as well as senior representatives of Sainsbury’s to discuss the planned Grocery Code Adjudicator which will give local farmers here in the Borders a better deal.

 Scottish Questions

Adding to an already busy week, I took part in one of my regular sessions of Scottish Questions last Wednesday as Secretary of State for Scotland. Many of the questions posed to me referred to the SNP’s plans for Scottish independence and how independence would affect our armed forces, economy and jobs. I am absolutely convinced that in these areas and many others, Scotland is stronger in the United Kingdom and I outlined that leading up to the referendum, the UK Government will produce evidence to assess the benefits to Scotland of being part of the UK and the contribution that we also make to the UK. Our position in the world, the protection of our citizens and the future of our economy are the three key strands that we will examine to ensure that we are well informed in the debate to determine the future of our country.

Here in the Borders we have benefited from our membership of the UK in countless ways and particularly, as raised by Ming Campbell during the question time, in international trade disputes. When the United States some years ago tried to restrict the import of cashmere goods from the Borders, the fact that Scotland was part of the UK played a vital role in ensuring a resolution of that issue. Our membership of the UK gave us clout within the European Union and meant we could negotiate within the World Trade Organisation to get the right outcome. This is why I will be campaigning against the SNP’s plans for independence to ensure our local businesses and communities continue to benefit from the strong voice we have as part of the UK family.

* 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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