Scotland: General Election and Constitutional Future Debate

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Department: Scotland Office

Scotland: General Election and Constitutional Future

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Wednesday 17th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
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It will come as no surprise to many in this House that I am a proud Unionist, just like the vast majority of Scottish people in their most recent independence referendum.

I support our Union because we are better together. One of the amazing things that brings us together is how our towns and cities reflect one another. In Redcar and Cleveland, we produce more than 50% of the UK’s commercially viable hydrogen. We are home to the UK’s first hydrogen hub, linking us firmly to Northern Ireland and Wrightbus, producing the UK’s hydrogen bus fleet. Redcar and Cleveland is steel town. Although we sadly lost our blast furnace in 2015, we manufacture steel at British Steel in Lackenby, linking us firmly to the steel industry in south Wales, a lot of whose steel is still exported from Teesside. Redcar and Cleveland is home to a large petrochemical footprint—where I used to work. We transported ethylene molecules up and down the Wilton to Grangemouth ethylene pipeline, firmly linking Scotland’s petrochemical and oil and gas sectors to ours.

Our Union is better together, and it is time for the SNP to own up. It does not want independence. If it did, it would not want to join the EU. It just wants to break up our United Kingdom and will stop at nothing to achieve that. The latest polls are clear that the people of Scotland are turning away from independence, yet the SNP is desperately clinging to its sinking ship. It claims to represent Scotland, yet at every opportunity it ignores the voice of its own people when it does not fit the SNP’s narrative. We are now nearly seven years on from the 2014 referendum and the SNP still does not accept the result; just like the Labour on Brexit, it is constantly trying to overturn the will of the people. The SNP likes to tell us that a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence, but they know that that is not the reality. They prefer to shout as loudly as possible about independence so that they do not have to face the realities of their failures in leadership day after day.

While support for independence falls, the SNP shambles unravels. Scottish people can see for themselves the kind of Scottish Administration they have had for the past 14 years: one that is unfit to lead and unfit to listen, while they are breaking their necks in their obsession with the separation from our United Kingdom. If the SNP cared about Scotland, they would focus on improving education, not on separation. If they cared about Scotland, they would focus on cutting NHS waiting times, not on separation. If they cared about Scotland, they would focus on tackling rising crime and drug abuse, not on separation. The reality is that they do not care about Scotland—they just hate Britain. The SNP wants out of Britain and in the EU. The Liberals want to be in Britain, but in the EU. The Labour party will not tell us its view on either. Only the Conservatives are focused on a brighter future for Scotland as part of our proud United Kingdom.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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The last Back-Bench contribution in this debate will be from David Linden.

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Iain Stewart Portrait Iain Stewart
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No, I have already given way once, and I want to respond to some of the points that Members have made.

SNP Members have the wrong priorities, and I can only imagine that they chose this debate today to shore up their core support and distract attention away from their domestic troubles and their failures in government.

Let me turn to some of the points that Members have made in the debate. I apologise if I am unable to get through all 30-plus contributions in the next three or four minutes. The hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) made some very telling comments in his contribution. First, he made a vain attempt to wriggle out of being called a separatist, but that is the SNP’s mission. It is to smash apart one country, our country, even though so many Members on both sides of the House today have demonstrated the importance of family, business, cultural and other societal connections. It would rip apart our country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew) said, we are not just a family of nations; we are a nation of families. As my hon. Friends the Members for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie), for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti), for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), for Guildford (Angela Richardson) and many others have said, it would be a disaster to rip apart one of the most successful partnerships the world has ever seen.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh East also let the cat out of the bag when he said that the referendum might not be this year and that it might be very early next year. As my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) said, the challenges from the covid pandemic will not end with the flick of a light switch. The challenges that we will have to rebuild our economy, our society, our children’s education and the mental health of the nation will run on for many years. People in Scotland want their Government to focus on that, and I think they will take very badly this obsession with having a referendum within the next 12 months.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) made the telling point that when people cast their vote, they do not cast it on just one issue. The issues that drive people’s votes will be manifold. A poll out today, I believe, shows that only 8% of people regard the constitution as a driver of their vote, and I believe the hon. Gentleman referenced Professor John Curtice in making that point. It is therefore arrogant for SNP Members to assume that every vote cast for them is a vote for another divisive referendum. I do not think people want to see that take place.

The hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) mentioned the importance of connectivity across the United Kingdom, and I am delighted that we are addressing that through the Union connectivity review. The SNP refuses to take part in the review, because it dares to have the word “Union” in it. That, to me, is a mark of a very childish and single issue-focused party.

Unfortunately, time prevents me from referring to all the points I would like to refer to in this debate. I will conclude with this: Scotland voted decisively in 2014 to stay part of the UK and we are respecting that democratic decision. Now is the time to be focusing on getting livelihoods and the economy back after the covid pandemic.

Question put (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Serjeant at Arms, are you able to have a look in the Aye Lobby, as there does seem to be a problem? [Interruption.] Still have a look, just to make sure everybody is out, please.

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The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I give the usual warning that if anybody shouts for this Division, they are expected to vote in the way that they shout.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the proposed words be there added.

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The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I will not suspend the House for three minutes because both Dispatch Boxes were sanitised during the Division.

Karen Bradley Portrait Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con)
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you can give me some assistance. You, like I, will have been grateful, I am sure, to see in the road map out of lockdown that weddings will be able to start again from 12 April when we enter step 2. However, guidance that was issued yesterday implies that bespoke dedicated wedding venues will not be able to hold weddings after 12 April and must wait until 17 May, leading to the bizarre conclusion that one might be able to marry in the frozen food aisle of a supermarket, but not in a dedicated wedding venue. I wonder, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you may be able to assist me in how I could raise that point with Ministers to get some clarity so that we can help those dedicated wedding venues and the people who want to get married in them.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I thank the right hon. Lady for notice of her point of order. The prospect of getting married in the frozen food department of Iceland, or of any supermarket, does indeed beggar belief. None the less, this is clearly an important matter, and there are several ways, as she will know, of raising the issue, including urgent questions or an Adjournment debate, but we have business questions tomorrow, which provides the opportunity to call on the Leader of the House for a debate—[Interruption.] However, we also have a Cabinet Minister sitting here who is eager to get to her feet.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Paymaster General (Penny Mordaunt)
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Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In the spirit of trying to be helpful, I know that my right hon. Friend raised this matter previously with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and he is talking to the covid taskforce about it. I have just spoken to my office, and we will come back to my right hon. Friend this afternoon with some clarity. I shall ensure that any further clarity that Public Health England can provide is put on the parliamentary intranet’s covid hub for all Members to see.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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Rarely has a point of order been more effective—

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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But now there is a challenge.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I hope that this one is just as effective. The House has just voted on an amendment that said that we believe

“the priority of the Scottish people is to recover from the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, and that it would be irresponsible to hold a referendum at this time.”

I wonder whether you can clarify something, because I thought I heard you say, when you confirmed the numbers, that more than 50 MPs voted against it and, therefore, against prioritising a recovery from covid-19 over another referendum. Can you confirm that it was the SNP MPs in this House who voted against a recovery and for another referendum, and that it is unacceptable to the people of Scotland that they are putting party priorities above the public?

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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That sounds to me like an extension of the last debate. I could not confirm one way or the other which individuals voted which way, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will await with eager anticipation the delivery of exactly who voted which way either through Hansard or other electronic means. I think it is now time to move on to the next debate.