MICHAEL Gove chose not to answer a serious question about Holyrood’s fiscal powers and instead talk about his opposition to Scottish independence during a Commons session this morning.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has previously avoided questions from SNP MPs in favour of sharing his Unionist views – particularly when facing questions about Brexit.
However this morning MP Tommy Sheppard was asking the Cabinet member about whether the UK Government will facilitate further economic powers for the Scottish Parliament, something Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has said will be necessary to avoid austerity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Astonishing (but probably not surprising) that Gove makes a cheap point about independence rather than answering a serious question at today’s Cabinet Office questions. pic.twitter.com/XPrr0PePiu
— Tommy Sheppard MP (@TommySheppard) June 11, 2020
Gove completely ignored the question and instead made a “cheap point” about Scotland’s deficit – an argument he used against SNP MP Margaret Ferrier just a few weeks ago.
Sheppard asked the Tory MP: “It is clear that while sharing the same objective, the nations of the United Kingdom have taken differing approaches to dealing with the pandemic. To enable restart and recovery the devolved national administrations may require additional powers under the devolution settlement, particularly with regard to the economy.
“If the Scottish Parliament seeks such powers will the UK facilitate this or will it restrict its ability to act?”
Gove said he was grateful for the question, as well as the “hard work” of ministers and officials in the Scottish Government co-ordinating the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic with Westminster figures.
READ MORE: Michael Gove completely ignores Brexit question to attack SNP
But he went on: “When it comes to the economy one thing is clear. It’s the strength of the United Kingdom, the strength of the UK Exchequer, the strength of Her Majesty’s Treasury, which has underpinned the economic resilience of the whole United Kingdom.
“We know that if Scotland were independent, as he fervently and honestly believes that it should be Scotland would have the largest budget deficit of any country in Europe. It is only in the interest of the Scottish people to maintain our Union and that is why we need to maintain the power of the Treasury to support Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and English citizens.”
READ MORE: FACT CHECK: Scotland’s 7% deficit – is it the worst in Europe?
The deficit issue mentioned by Gove is not as clear cut as he suggests, however. The Scottish Government actually runs an annual surplus and has done so each year since 2007.
Scotland only has a notional deficit if elements of endemic UK deficit are apportioned hypothetically to the normal Holyrood surplus, as happens in the annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) paper exercise.
Sharing the clip on Twitter, Sheppard said: “Astonishing (but probably not surprising) that Gove makes a cheap point about independence rather than answering a serious question at today’s Cabinet Office questions.”