Budget talks collapse over Scottish independence row

Budget talks have collapsed between finance secretary Derek Mackay and the Liberal Democrats amid claims the SNP Government refused a 'short cessation' to their campaign for independence.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie says the party had set out “constructive proposals” to boost public services, but wanted a commitment from the Nationalist administration to set aside its pledge to hold a second referendum when the terms for Brexit became clear.

“The Liberal Democrats have put forward constructive proposals for investing in mental health services, for a good pay deal for teachers and investment in local government services,” Mr Rennie said ahead of today’s statement by Mr Mackay.

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Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie. Picture: PA Wire

“All we asked was for the SNP to put aside their campaign for independence, to have a short cessation, but they refused.

“The last thing we need just now with all the chaos of Brexit is more chaos with another campaign for independence. We should be focusing on the big issues that matter for the country.

“We’ve walked away from the talks for now, but the door is still open. If the SNP want to focus on the things that matter for the country, the Liberal Democrats are there to help.”

Labour wants the budget to establish a dedicated women’s health fund.

This would finance research into specific conditions such as endometriosis, as well as increasing the availability of advice and treatment through initiatives such as training to GPs on women-only conditions,

More cervical screening could also be commissioned at sexual health clinics, as well as developing new women-specific interventions and technologies.

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Experiences that will affect most women, from menstruation to menopause, lack basic provisions.

“Women do not currently have access to sanitary products on a universal basis and there is little support available for women experiencing menopause.

“Women make up more than half of our population and Scottish Labour believes that it is time that the Government invest resources in their healthcare. A women’s health fund demonstrates a strong commitment to redressing the imbalance and will improve our health service in the long run.”