Westminster notes: Making the case for Home Rule for Scotland

I spoke in a debate a couple of weeks on Scottish Devolution in the House of Commons and urged MPs to come together to deliver real change for Scotland following the referendum.

An important way that we are doing this is through the cross-party talks as part of Lord Smith’s Devolution Commission. I have been asked to take part in these talks and during them I will be making the case for Home Rule for Scotland.

This would mean giving the Scottish Parliament the power to raise most of the resources it spends, devolving employability support and certain aspects of welfare. This would give the Scottish Parliament the power to do things differently, be a nimble and responsive government and one which can take significant decisions for the economy and for fairness. Lord Smith is aiming to produce a set of recommendations on further devolution by November 30 and it is a privilege to be part of this process to deliver more powers for Scotland.

Just under a year ago, I was appointed as an advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister on Europe and Business. Over the year I have been drafting a report as part of this role. Here in the Borders I know that many businesses depend on our trade with Europe and support close economic ties with our European partners. Many also feel that reform is necessary and that the UK needs to engage positively in Europe to deliver the best deal for local businesses. As I have met with businesses across the UK, I have certainly got the sense that the majority of them want to remain in Europe because they benefit from the single market. At the same time, they want the EU to reform to improve competitiveness and accountability. Last week I launched my report and I hope that it will contribute to the already lively debate on our place in Europe, in the months and years ahead.

I was pleased to hear a couple of weeks ago that Vodafone have extended their deadline for applications for their rural mobile phone scheme. The deadline had been October 14 but this has now been moved back to November 7 which gives local communities more time to apply.

The technology which Vodafone are using in the scheme can bring 3G signal to rural areas unreached by mobile phone masts. It means people can make clear calls and get online in locations where they couldn’t before and this is why I want to encourage people to apply. Lack of mobile phone signal is a huge frustration for rural areas like Berwickshire and it’s important that we make the most of schemes like this to improve the services we receive. You can find out more information about the scheme and how to apply here: www.vodafone.co.uk/rural

This scheme won’t however work for every community and this is why I am continuing to run the Borders Digital Forum which brings together local businesses, community groups, the Council and providers so that we can improve the broadband and mobile phone services we receive locally.

I continue to hold regular advice surgeries across the Borders and these are an opportunity for local people to come and discuss with me any concerns or issue they wish to bring to my attention.

My next surgery in Berwickshire is in Duns on Friday, November 7. Please call my office on 01896 663650 for more information and to make an appointment.