Right of Reply: Donald Dewar

The Secretary of State for Scotland responds to a recent article by Deborah Orr

DEBORAH ORR'S vision of the new Scotland is no doubt meant to be very personal. I notice she left some 15 years ago, but has been back for the weekend. I did not recognise her Scotland in the confused whirl of anecdotes.

I am grateful for the tribute to Scotland's optimism, but found it difficult to follow her argument. I do not recommend an early return to Wishaw, given her spectacularly unkind description of that town.

She is entitled to her thoughts, but Scotland is not heading for full blown recession if there is not a further cut in interest rates within weeks. Nor can Scotland on any fair basis be described as finding itself "in an industrial slump which is 10 times worse than that of the rest of the United Kingdom".

Of course, Scotland cannot be insulated from the world's economic problems, and manufacturing industry does face difficult times. But Ms Orr should recognise that jobs are also being created in Scotland and around 20,000 more are in work than was the case one year ago. Can I draw her attention to the headline in the recent Bank of Scotland report - "Demand strengthens in service sector in January. Rate of decline in manufacturing continues to ease" - not quite in tune with her version of the industrial equivalent of Apocalypse Now.

Apparently, in the pubs there is nowt but talk of the "fabulously vocal booing" in protest against job losses that greeted me on a trip to Ibrox, where Rangers play. It's a little puzzling as I haven't been there for some five months. The score that day was 0-0 and I don't recall any booing, fabulous or otherwise. Still, it's nice to be remembered. Very flattering indeed, but I fear without foundation, even if a splendid piece of whimsy.

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