07 March 2007

S2M-5690 Small Business

Scottish Parliament
Wednesday 7 March 2007
[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 10:00]
… … …
Small Business
The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-5690, in the name of Jim Mather, on the economy and small business.

… … …

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I want to be parochial and talk a little about my constituency of Banff and Buchan. It is approaching 20 years since Scottish National Party parliamentarians began to represent Banff and Buchan. The constituency provides a micropicture that illustrates what can be done when people put their trust in the SNP as a party and in SNP parliamentarians.

I will start with unemployment. In the first quarter of 1987—the last quarter in which the Conservative party represented the constituency—116 out of every 10,000 unemployed people in Scotland were in the constituency that is now Banff and Buchan. That figure is according to the offices that measure unemployment in Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Today, the equivalent figure is 92, which represents a 20 per cent drop in unemployment in Banff and Buchan relative to the rest of Scotland. I express the unemployment figures in that way because to do so takes account of the change in unemployment levels in Scotland as a whole and the change in the way in which unemployment is measured. The improved employment levels are the first indication of the success that Banff and Buchan has enjoyed since moving from Conservative to SNP representation.

Mike Rumbles: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes—unlike the Liberals, I will accept an intervention.

Mike Rumbles: I point out that the SNP was not in government at any level during that period. Aberdeenshire Council is run by the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Executive is run by a Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition, and the UK Government is run by Labour. The SNP has had nothing to do with that success.

Stewart Stevenson: I am extremely grateful to Mike Rumbles for making my point for me. In the two other seats in Aberdeenshire—which were not represented by the SNP but were subject to exactly the same local council, Scottish Executive and Westminster Government regimes—unemployment relative to the rest of Scotland has risen rather than fallen. Therefore, the distinguishing feature of Banff and Buchan is its SNP parliamentary representation; the distinguishing feature of Mr Rumbles' constituency is its Liberal representation.

Similarly, although we are told that a deficit economy is good for Scotland because our good old pals in the south will bail us out, Banff and Buchan has moved to a position in which the average wage in the constituency is above the Scottish average. Previously, our average wage was below the Scottish average. We also have the second highest level of self-employment, whereas our levels of self-employment used to be much lower than those for the rest of Scotland. Finally, VAT registration in Banff and Buchan has not fallen at the same rate as it has in the rest of Scotland. The bottom line is that, in the most entrepreneurial constituency in Scotland, people have confidence that the SNP will represent them, promote their interests and deliver for small businesses as well as big businesses.

Banff and Buchan now has businesses that did not exist when SNP representation of the constituency commenced: for example, we have 650 people who work in the offshore oil industry for Score Limited, and 180 apprentices are being trained there. Our problem—which we would love to see in the rest of Scotland—is that we, in our SNP-represented area, do not have enough people to fill those good-quality jobs, which are paying the wages of people across Scotland.

I promised that I would be parochial and I have delivered on the first promise that has been made in this debate.

For VAT registrations, between 1999 and 2006 Scotland had a 4 per cent increase whereas England had a 9.5 per cent increase. That picture is repeated across our whole economy.
When the SNP runs things, things are run better—as in Banff and Buchan, so would it be in Scotland.

Stewart Stevenson
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