PMQs Live: Rishi Sunak battles Keir Starmer in The Commons after Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish independence plan ruled out

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak takes questions in parliament.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Commons: “When it comes to Scottish democracy, I’m pleased that the Scottish Government has one of the most powerful devolved assemblies anywhere in the world.

“I was pleased, very shortly after becoming Prime Minister, to be the first Prime Minister in over a decade to attend the council, to sit down with the First Minister, to explore ways in which we can work together with the Scottish Government to deliver for the people of Scotland.

“Whether that’s delivering on growth deals, delivering freeports or ensuring that the £1.5 billion of extra Barnett money can go towards supporting public services. That’s what we’re committed to doing in Scotland.”

He was responding to SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s second question at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Theresa May has urged the SNP to put the people of Scotland first and end its “obsession” with “breaking us apart” following the Supreme Court ruling.

Speaking at PMQs, the Conservative former prime minister told the Commons: “Scotland is a proud nation with a unique heritage. It is a valued member of our family of nations, a union of people bound through the generations by shared interests.

“Does my right honourable fried agree with me that this morning’s Supreme Court decision gives the Scottish nationalists, the SNP, the opportunity for once to put the people of Scotland first and end its obsession with breaking us apart?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak replied: “My right honourable friend put it very well.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday November 23 2022.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday November 23 2022.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked the Prime Minister: “What right does a man with no mandate have to deny Scottish democracy?”

Asking his second question at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “It is right that we respect the decision of the court. But the Prime Minister can’t claim to respect the rule of law and then deny democracy in the very same breath.

“If democracy is to matter, if elections matter, then mandates matter. Since 2014 the Scottish National Party has won eight elections in a row, last year we won a landslide.

“The Scottish Parliament now has the biggest majority for an independence referendum in the history of devolution.

“The Prime Minister doesn’t even have a personal mandate to sit in 10 Downing Street. What right does a man with no mandate have to deny Scottish democracy?”

In the House of Commons, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “The Prime Minister has every right to oppose independence.

“He has no right to deny democracy to the people of Scotland.

“If the Prime Minster keeps blocking that referendum, will he at least be honest and confirm that the very idea that the United Kingdom is a voluntary union of nations is now dead and buried?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told MPs: “We respect the clear and definitive ruling from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “The people of Scotland want us to be working on fixing the major challenges that we collectively face, whether that’s the economy, supporting the NHS or indeed supporting Ukraine.

“Now is the time for politicians to work together and that’s what this Government will do.”

Sir Keir Starmer has accused the Prime Minister of being weak in the face of his own party and business interests.

The Labour leader told the Commons: “The failure of the last 12 years and the chaos of the last 12 weeks are compounded by the decisions he is taking now. He won’t follow Labour’s plan to scrap non-dom status. Instead, we have got an NHS staffing crisis.

“He won’t follow Labour’s plans to make oil and gas giants pay their fair share, instead he hammers working people.”

Sir Keir added: “Too weak to take on his party, too weak to take on vested interests, 12 long years of Tory government, five prime ministers, seven chancellors. Why do they always clobber working people?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “He talks about leadership, this summer I stood on my principles and told the country what they needed to hear even though it was difficult. When he ran for leader, he told his party what they wanted to hear.

“Even now, he says one thing and he does the other. He says he cares for working people, but he won’t stand up to the unions. He said he’d honour Brexit but he tried to have a second referendum, and now he tries to talk tough about immigration but he promised to defend free movement.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said some oil and gas firms “haven’t paid a penny in windfall tax” due to loopholes in the levy.

Referencing a stunt by comedian Joe Lycett, Sir Keir added: “You may have seen this week that somebody shredded £10,000 in protest at those propping up an oil and gas giant. But he shreds £10,000 every other minute propping them up. Which does he think is the more absurd?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “This is the Government that has actually put in place an economic plan that will deliver confidence and stability to our economy.

“All I have heard from him today, there is no answers, there is no substance, because there is no plan.

“He talks about the NHS, we are delivering record funding for the NHS, but we can only do that on the foundations of a strong economy, you can’t deliver for the NHS unless you have a plan for the economy, and he doesn’t have either.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “If they’d grown the economy at the same rate as the last Labour government, we’d have tens of billions of pounds more to spend.

“It wasn’t a trick question, the answer is he’s not asked non-doms to pay a penny more. He talks about the money, every year that’s £3.6 billion thrown away because he won’t make them pay their taxes here. How many extra doctors could Britain afford with that money?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “I’m pleased that he brought up doctors because last week we delivered record increases in funding for the NHS. Not just more doctors, but more nurses, more scans, more operations.

“That shows our commitment to prioritise the NHS, not my words, the words of the NHS chief executive.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “There’s only one party that’s crashed the economy and they’re sitting there.

“He won’t say why Britain is set to be first into a recession and the last out, so I will. Twelve years of Tory failure followed by 12 weeks of Tory chaos. For a decade they’ve let our economy drift aimlessly before suddenly cutting the parachute ropes and slamming it to the ground.

“Because of changes he’s made a typical household will end up with tax increases of £1,400 … contrast that to a super wealthy non-dom living here, but holding their income overseas. How much more has he asked them to pay?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “Labour had 13 years to address this issue and did nothing. It was the Conservative government that took action and tightened the rules, but the problem with his idea is that it would end up costing Britain money, not my words, the words of the former Labour shadow chancellor.

“Rather than peddling fairy tales and gesture politics, let’s actually tell him what we’re doing to deliver for this country. A record increase in the national living wage, protecting millions from energy bills, protecting the pensioners’ triple lock, that’s what we’re doing for this country.”

Rishi Sunak has said Sir Keir Starmer is not interested in “substance”, but is an “opportunist”.

His comments came after the Labour leader said: “He’s in total denial. We are bottom of the 38 OECD countries, but we are all in the same boat when it comes to Covid and Ukraine, and he wants a pat on the back.”

He added: “Why is Britain set to be the first country into recession and the last country out?”

The Prime Minister said he was pleased Sir Keir brought up the OECD report “because it contained actually three very important points”, before adding: “Firstly, it made the point that actually in the years following the pandemic, we are projected to have almost the highest growth amongst our peer countries and it also made the point, it was crystal clear, that the challenges we face are completely international in nature.

“Thirdly, it supported our fiscal plan because it’s credible and ensures sustainability. Now, he would have known all of that if he actually read the whole report but he’s not interested in substance, he is an opportunist.

“In four weeks, I have strengthened the economy, we have put more money into the NHS and schools, we have delivered a deal to tackle illegal migration.”

Sir Keir Starmer has pressed the Prime Minister on why Britain faces the lowest growth of any OECD nation over the next two years.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour leader said: “The World Cup doesn’t belong to Fifa and it doesn’t belong to the host nation. It belongs to everyone who loves football.

“It’s totally unacceptable that during this tournament gay football fans are unable to acknowledge who they love and players have been threatened with suspension if they show solidarity with those fans. Shame on Fifa.”

He added: “Britain faces the lowest growth of any OECD nation over the next two years. Why?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “This country has experienced, since 2010, the third-highest growth in the G7. This year, the fastest growth in the G7 and unemployment at a multi-decade low.

“We are getting on to deliver more growth, we are delivering free ports, we are investing in apprenticeships, we are protecting R&D.

“If the Labour Party is serious about actually supporting growth, maybe they should get on the phone with their union paymasters and tell them to call off the strikes.”