THE Scottish Government could climb down on its Friday deadline to strike a historic deal on sweeping new powers for Holyrood as fraught negotiations with Westminster resume today.
Finance Secretary John Swinney had previously indicated that a deal would need to be struck by February 12 – the end of this week. But his SNP colleague and party deputy leader Stewart Hosie said both sides should be ready to talk a “little longer” if it means securing a settlement.
The Scottish and UK governments have been locked in protracted negotiations over the fiscal framework, which sets out how Scotland’s budget from Westminster – the block grant – will be altered when MSPs get new tax raising powers. Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Hands, will hold talks with Mr Swinney today with a view to striking a deal this week.
But Mr Hosie said: “I hope we can get a deal done within the timeframe set. If the parliaments or the Government are required to negotiate a little longer, than let them negotiate a little longer.”
The deputy leader warned that the current proposals could see Scotland lose out to the tune of £7 billion over the next decade and warned the sides are still some way apart.
He added: “The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister have been absolutely clear. If we cannot get a deal that adheres to the ‘no detriment’ clause then we will pull on the handbrake – or rather they will – and they will not sign off a legislative consent motion for these powers. That’s the responsibility and the power the Scottish Parliament has.
“In those circumstances against UK Government intransigence the public will perfectly well understand we’re not prepared to sign off a deal that embeds cuts to Scotland.”
The impasse centres on SNP concerns that Scotland could lose out if its population falls at a greater rate than the rest of the UK.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said he is “confident” that an agreement can be reached.
He added: “We want to reach an agreement, we’re taking forward issues the Scottish Government have raised in relation to population.
“We will not walk away, we will stay until a deal is done. It takes two to reach a deal but we’re not walking away.
“I know the people of Scotland want to see the Scottish parliament have extensive powers over tax and welfare, to become that powerhouse parliament.”