John Swinney has pledged to publish papers revealing details of key talks on the new powers coming to Scotland before Holyrood breaks up for May’s election.
The Finance Secretary’s pledge was made on the assumption that the Scottish and UK governments come to an agreement on the new powers over income tax and benefits before the Scottish Parliament rises on 23 March. Talks on the fiscal framework, the financial arrangement which will determine how of much of its block grant Scotland loses as a result of the transfer of tax powers, are reaching a critical stage.
Tomorrow, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands comes to Edinburgh for another round of talks with Swinney.
Both sides have been at loggerheads over the fiscal framework, with the Scottish Government claiming the mechanism proposed by the UK government would knock £3.5 billion off the block grant, which is determined by the Barnett Formula. Swinney wants a method that would protect Scotland should its tax take fall as a result of its rate of population growth falling behind the rest of the UK.
Speculation has mounted that a deal will not be reached in time for the election. Yesterday, however, Swinney said: “I agreed at the outset with Chief Secretary to the Treasury that the detail of our discussions, like any negotiation, should remain private while they are ongoing and that remains our position. There needs to be a private space in which talks can take place.
“Once this process has run its course, Scotland’s Parliament and people have a right to see all the key documents. That’s why I can give a commitment that I will publish these documents in time for Scottish Parliamentary scrutiny and before the Scottish Parliament dissolves. The fiscal framework must remain true to the Smith Agreement which said the Barnett Formula will remain and Scotland should be no better or worse off as a result of having new powers.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said both governments had a “huge desire” to reach a deal, adding that he is “confident that we will deliver”.