Fiscal framework talks delayed as chief negotiator goes on holiday

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands. Picture: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands. Picture: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

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TREASURY Minister Greg Hands came under fire last night for going on holiday at a crucial stage of the fiscal powers deal.

Hands had been due to speak with Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney on Monday to try and reach a fiscal framework deal but the meeting was cancelled due to Hands’ holiday.

A spokesperson for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Deputy First Minister offered to clear his diary to... do whatever was required to thrash out a deal.

“We now find out the reason a Monday meeting was not agreed to as the UK Government’s chief negotiator has gone on holiday - before having the courtesy to respond to the revised proposal.

“It is time for the UK Government to decide if they are really serious about reaching a deal. Otherwise, they will stand accused of breaking their Vow.”

Hands’ absence came as Holyrood’s devolution committee warned that if a deal is not reached by Friday, the Bill on the new powers has little hope of being passed before May’s election.

READ MORE: John Swinney: No more Mr Nice Guy?

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury left for his holiday home in France without responding to a new proposal by Swinney, which is yet to be made public.

Peter Murrell, Chief Executive of the SNP, tweeted: “Everything you need to know about the Tory attitude to Scotland, clock ticking on fiscal framework deal and Treasury boss is on his holidays.”

Discussions are expected to go ahead tomorrow in a bid to break the deadlock in the tax powers talks.

The Treasury said: “The UK Government remains absolutely committed to implementing the Smith agreement in full.

“We stand ready to do a deal that is fair for the rest of the UK.

“Negotiations are still ongoing and the Chief Secretary stands ready to talk to the Deputy First Minister early this week.”

The original deadline of February 12 has now been pushed back to February 23.

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