Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 3:48 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Eric Joyce Eric Joyce Llafur, Falkirk 3:48, 26 Mawrth 2015

Half a century ago Mr Harry Ewing, a predecessor of mine as Member for Falkirk, described Falkirk as an iron town. He meant that in a worldwide sense, I think. The Carron Company was established in 1759 and sat at the forefront of the industrial revolution, and for over two centuries the iron industry defined the Falkirk area, feeding Glasgow’s shipyards and much else besides. Falkirk’s industry helped power Scotland. Today, a company in Denny called Specialised Castings can trace its lineage all the way back to the original Carron works, and Falkirk’s Alexander Dennis Ltd remains the wholly Scottish-owned manufacturer of the red buses we see across London and, indeed, the world.

Falkirk’s power remains central to Scotland’s industrial economy. Thousands of families in the Falkirk area will be sustained into the future by employment in petrochemicals and oil refining, shale gas importation and in the service industries that serve them. Ineos has committed huge investment to the area, as have the UK and Scottish Governments. Communities that once benefited from employment in mining are now leading the way in a different kind of underground activity—exploring for coal-seam gas. I know that that sometimes makes people in this place a little queasy, but I think it is one of the world’s future power sources.

It has been my great privilege to serve the hard-working folk of the Falkirk area in this place. They are as decent, realistic about human nature, forgiving and aspirational for their families as any people we could meet anywhere. They have been kind to me and my family in challenging times, as have you, Mr Speaker, and Members from across the House. I thank my constituents, all the Members here and the staff of the House for their great human generosity.

Like many Falkirk folk in the oil and chemical industries, and seafarers too, as quite a few come from the area, I have been able to apply the knowledge of oil, gas, mining and shipping that I have gained from representing those folk to other parts of the world, such as Africa—indeed, with yourself, Mr Speaker.

Falkirk people are the opposite of inward-looking wee Scots. They are the most decent and outward-looking people in the world. As a natural Unionist, who has served that Union in this place and in our very fine British Army, I recognised the narrow referendum vote in favour of the Union and the narrow win for the Union locally not as a sign of narrow-mindedness locally, but as the harbinger of the end of the Union as we know it. Most Falkirk folk, like most Scots, define themselves as Scottish first now, and many of those who chose the Union last year did so largely through fear. Scots are being asked for their votes now on the basis that they may get a larger share of UK wealth than many folk in England feel is fair. The Union cannot exist on the basis of fear or an appeal to greed. When greed and fear are the watchwords, we know that the tipping-point has been passed.

The Labour party in Scotland has not let anyone down, except people who did not like Labour Governments or Labour Prime Ministers, which admittedly included quite a few Labour party members, as I recall. However, from my modest participation in this place, I believe that the Labour party has done a great deal to be proud of. It faces great difficulties in Scotland. Scots feel that they face a choice between a new uncertain future in which they are masters and mistresses of their own destiny or behaving as if they are making menaces. That is how many people south of the border feel—that menaces or threats are being made that if great resources do not go up to Scotland, bad things will happen across the UK.

My strong view is that whatever the constitutional future of Scotland, the Labour party in Scotland needs to establish its own independent entity in Scotland. Two of my very close colleagues, my secretary May McIntyre, whom I thank, and Dennis Goldie, appear to own the trademark for the Scottish Labour party, so I suggest that the Labour party in Scotland treat them nicely and not threaten them. They are long-serving, very loyal Labour people.

Members of the English intelligentsia have already decided that Scots are on their way. They think it is a shame and hope it will all turn out for the best. Most English folk are concerned mainly about the impact of Scotland on their constituencies or where they live in England. They have discounted the result in Scotland—they think they know what is going to happen in Scotland.

The time has come for Scots to behave like the big boys and girls they are. Above all—this is what I am most concerned about—they need to convince energy businesses that Scotland will be stable economically, regardless of the new constitutional status. We have to move on from the Union we know to something altogether new. There is risk involved, and romance may well be the first casualty.