Alister Jack: Independent Scotland would have largest deficit in EU

An independent Scotland would have the largest deficit in the EU and it “would break member state rules”, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has said.

Facing down SNP questions over the granting of a second independence referendum, Mr Jack told MPs the Conservatives “respect democracy”.

Speaking during Scotland questions in the Commons, SNP MP Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) claimed Brexit had been “bulldozed through”, asking: “If he’s so sure of the strength of the union, why he is so afraid to test that strength with another independence referendum?”

Mr Jack replied: “The referendum took place in 2014, we respect that, it was a democratic outcome… The referendum in 2016, again a democratic outcome. We’re the party that respect democracy.”

Ms Black said “a lot has changed since 2014”, adding: “Now with 20 consecutive polls in a row showing that a majority of people in Scotland now support independence, given that he is a defender of democracy, can I ask him with that in mind how can the people of Scotland secure that preferred choice of independence?”

Mhairi Black
Mhairi Black

Mr Jack replied: “An independent Scotland would have the largest deficit in the EU and actually it would break member state rules.

“I believe as we focus on coming out of the pandemic, being all in the rowing boat together, pulling on the oars in these choppy waters, is the best place for Scotland and the best for the UK.”

He pointed to the “unprecedented economic support offered to people and businesses in Scotland and the rapid supply of vaccinations to all parts of the UK currently taking place”, adding: “Neither of these would have been possible if Scotland was not part of the UK.”

Conservative former Cabinet minister David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) said: “Rather than focusing solely on beating this pandemic and planning for a recovery, (Scottish First Minister) Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government are prioritising another independence referendum and breaking up the UK.”

Mr Jack said: “People in Scotland want to see politicians across the UK working in partnership to focus on defeating the coronavirus.

“That remains the top priority for the UK Government. It has supported jobs and businesses across the UK through the pandemic, as I say, unprecedented support and I say now more than ever we should be pulling together to strengthen our country instead of trying to separate it.”

Whisky in glass
Whisky in glass

Meanwhile, shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray asked whether the Government is “singing from the same hymn sheet” in order to end US tariffs on Scotch whisky.

He told the Commons: “No progress has been made so can (Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart) guarantee that the Government is fully singing from the same hymn sheet to end tariffs on Scotch whisky?”

Mr Stewart responded: “Unfortunately, we were not able to secure a deal with President Trump before he left office but I did speak to (International Trade Secretary Liz Truss) yesterday and she has reassured me it is her top priority while engaging with the new Biden administration.”

On the Covid vaccine rollout, Mr Jack said: “The devolved administrations are receiving their shares of vaccine based on population and the scheduled deliveries will fully support vaccinations of the first four priority cohorts by the 15th of February. All parts of the UK therefore have an equal chance of meeting that mid-February target.”