SNP seek £1bn showdown amid anger over Tory-DUP deal

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The Scottish Government could move to instigate face-to-face showdown talks between Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May amid growing anger over the Tory-DUP deal.

The measure is among the resolution measures which the Scottish Government believes it can invoke as part of the arrangements between Westminster and the devolved administrations in handling disputes.

Devolved leaders including Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, left, and Nicola Sturgeon were among the politicians meeting for talks at the British-Irish Council Summit in Glasgow last year. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Devolved leaders including Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, left, and Nicola Sturgeon were among the politicians meeting for talks at the British-Irish Council Summit in Glasgow last year. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

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Economy Secretary Keith Brown said yesterday that the Scottish Government is prepared to “instigate the dispute process” with Westminster after Northern Ireland was handed an extra £1 billion as part of the deal which allows the Conservatives to hold on to power after last month’s general election.

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Mr Brown was in London for meetings with senior UK government ministers to “make the case” for Scotland receiving an extra £3 billion which he claims the country should be entitled to as part of the normal funding allocation process if Northern Ireland gets extra cash.

Treasury minister Liz Truss has already rejected the prospect of extra cash for Scotland, insisting the money for the DUP deal was not part of the Barnett process.

But Mr Brown said: “That means that the money for Northern Ireland has to be found from within other UK budgets, and we have no clarity yet as to whether that means Scotland. So Scotland, far from getting its share of the deal, is going to have to contribute towards the deal potentially in Northern Ireland.

“Everybody knows why they have given this money to Northern Ireland – it’s to sustain themselves in power. If that’s the case, then they should be treated other parts of the UK fairly as well.”

He added: “The transformation in terms of what we could do with £2.9bn in order to ameliorate some of the worst of austerity would be huge”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has already threatened to trigger a formal dispute resolution mechanism with Westminster over the deal.

Mr Brown added: “There is action, which is through the disputes process of the statement on fair funding.

“That’s the action that should be taken, and Derek Mackay is considering that action just now.

“If there’s no resolution, then yes, of course, if it offends against the fairer funding principles, then we should challenge it. Of course we should challenge it.”

The Memorandum of Understanding covering such disputes states that the measures which could be sought include an independent third party report into the row.

Alternatively, in “exceptional” cases there could be “a request by any party that the dispute be considered by a JMC Plenary meeting.”

This is meeting between the heads of the devolved and UK governments and would mean Ms Sturgeon, Mrs May and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones would attend.

Downing Street has insisted the Barnett Formula does not apply to the new money as it is provided as an addition to the Northern Ireland executive’s block grant. The Barnett system concerns any additional spend by the UK government in England on matters devolved to other parliaments, and the Conservatives insist this is not triggered by the deal.

Mr Brown held talks yesterday with UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Tobias Ellwood and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke.

But a scheduled meeting with Business Secretary Greg Clark was cancelled by the UK cabinet minister, in a move branded a “snub” by Mr Brown.

“Having arranged that meeting last week with him, having changed an engagement which I had with a number of people, he has now cancelled that meeting, which is very unfortunate,” Mr Brown added. He also urged the Ministry of Defence to reconsider planned site closures in Scotland after talks with Mr Ellwood.

It was announced last year that eight military sites in Scotland - including Fort George near Inverness and the Glencorse Barracks near Penicuik, Midlothian are among more than 56 UK sites to close over the next 15 years.