Calls For 'Good Deal For Scotland'

Labour has called for the Scottish and UK Governments to "put politics aside and get a good deal for Scotland'' in negotiations over the country's future funding settlement.

The party has accused both sides of "dither and delay'' over the fiscal framework, which would underpin new devolved powers.

Labour also said Scots have been left in the dark by negotiations on the issue, which have yet to reach an agreement with less than 100 days to go until the Holyrood elections.

The fiscal framework will determine how much cash the Scottish Parliament will get from the UK Government once MSPs have new powers over tax-raising.

The Scotland Bill, which is currently going through Westminster, is set to transfer income tax powers and new responsibilities over welfare to Scotland from April 2017.

The UK Government has said it wants to strike a deal that is "fair for Scotland and fair for the rest of the UK''.

The SNP administration recently warned it could soon reject more powers for Scotland unless an agreement is reached on the amount of money it will receive from Westminster. Deputy First Minister John Swinney last week said negotiations are reaching "the end of the road'' and has set a February 12 deadline.

He is heading to London today for a further negotiating meeting on the framework.

At the same time, Scottish Labour has published a dossier which it said details "delays'' in reaching an agreement and the ``refusal'' of both governments to be ``fully transparent'' about the negotiations.

Labour's shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said the new powers which rely on the fiscal framework are too important to be abandoned at the 11th hour.

He said: "The new powers must go to the Scottish Parliament as soon as possible so that we can get on with using them. We need a deal that is fair to people across Scotland, but neither the UK nor the Scottish Government should leave the table until a deal is done. This is the job that ministers are paid to do - few people would get away with downing tools and leaving before the job is done.

"People across Scotland have been left in the dark by a negotiation that has taken place behind closed doors and away from any public scrutiny. These discussions should have been concluded before the end of last year, but we are now just months away from the Scottish election and no agreement has been reached.''

Mr Swinney said: "The fiscal framework is just as important, arguably more so, than the legislation on new powers because it will determine how much money this and future Scottish Governments have to invest in our vital public services. That's why we must get it right.

"We are not asking for any special favours. We are not asking for a penny more than the Barnett formula would have delivered to Scotland. But we do demand a fair deal - one that lives up to the key principles at the heart of the Smith Commission report.

"We are working hard to try to deliver a deal but we have to acknowledge that big issues still need to be resolved.''

A UK government spokesman said: "The UK government is absolutely committed to implementing the Smith agreement if full. The powers being devolved to the Scottish Parliament will make it the most powerful devolved parliament in the world.

"From the outset our position on the fiscal framework has been clear - we stand ready to do a deal that is fair for Scotland and fair for the rest of the UK.''


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