The prospect of a financial deal to secure new powers for Holyrood edged a little closer last night after John Swinney met with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Hands.
A joint communiqué released by the Scottish and UK governments said the two men had “agreed” the “over-arching structure” of the fiscal framework document, which will underpin the transfer of more tax-raising and welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament.
The negotiations between Mr Swinney and Mr Hands were part of the sixth Joint Exchequer Committee meeting in Edinburgh.
The talks aim to deliver a fiscal framework, which will enable the new powers proposed by the Smith Commission in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum.
The communiqué said the ministers had “continued their discussion on the methodologies for the Block Grant Adjustment and also discussed administration and implementation costs”.
The transfer of new tax-raising powers will see a cut in Scotland’s block grant from the Treasury. The SNP has expressed fears that Scotland will lose money as a result of this process.
Ahead of yesterday’s meeting, Mr Hands said the next stage of devolution can deliver the best deal for taxpayers across the UK in contrast to the “disastrous” alternative of full fiscal autonomy – the more radical settlement for which the SNP had argued. The SNP’s opponents objected to full fiscal autonomy, because it would leave Scotland over-reliant on the volatile oil price.
The Scottish Government has refused to sign up to the Scotland Bill until it can negotiate a fiscal framework that causes no detriment to the people of Scotland.
Mr Hands said his over-riding objective was to fulfil the Smith Commission’s principle that the next stage of devolution should cause no detriment to Scotland or the UK.
Speaking at RBS headquarters in Edinburgh, Mr Hands said: “So far it’s been a very constructive and cordial set of discussions between myself and John Swinney. “John and I are both clear that we need to make sure that we get the right deal for all taxpayers in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“We’ve done it before in terms of the Scottish rate of income tax in the 2012 Act and I think we can do it again. When you look at what the alternative would be, full fiscal autonomy would be a disaster for the people of Scotland.”