Labour Backs Scot Gov In Westminster Funding Talks

Labour has "fully supported'' the Scottish Government in its efforts to get the best deal for Holyrood in crunch talks over future funding, Kezia Dugdale said.

The Scottish Labour leader insisted she wants to see "a deal that's good for Scotland'' emerge from negotiations over how the block grant from Westminster should be adjusted to take into account new tax powers to be devolved to MSPs.

Discussions between Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands have so far failed to reach a deal on the fiscal framework for the new Scotland Bill, with time now apparently running out.

The deadline the Scottish Government had set for an agreement of February 12 has already passed, while Holyrood's Devolution Committee has warned that if a deal is not reached by this Friday, that ''very substantial impacts'' on the ability of MSPs to scrutinise the proposals.

The Scottish Government tabled new proposals on Friday which it said would address UK Government concerns over fairness to taxpayers across the rest of the UK.

Any deal must meet the principles of taxpayer fairness and ''no detriment'' - the idea that neither government should gain or lose financially simply as a result of the powers being devolved.

The Scottish Government believes a method known as per capita indexed deduction, which would take into account the fact that Scotland's population is growing more slowly than the rest of the UK, is the best way of meeting the no detriment principle.

The UK Government says a deal must be fair to all taxpayers and ''no detriment'' does not mean ''no risk''.

Ms Dugdale said said: "Taking on responsibility for Scottish taxes means we should shoulder the risks but it shouldn't mean losing the rewards we get from being part of the UK and the system that shares money out across the country.''

Writing in the Daily Record newspaper, she added: "It's absolutely right that Nicola Sturgeon should be arguing for this, as Labour always has. This is the glue that holds together the system of pooling and sharing across the UK and we're all stronger for it.

"There is now broad agreement amongst the parties here that the Barnett Formula - the calculation that determines how much money we have to spend on our public services - is a good thing that benefits Scotland and anything that puts it at risk should be resisted.

"The deal that is struck between the two governments will largely decide how much money the Scottish Government has to spend on schools and the NHS, not just now but for many years into the future.

"The Labour Party has fully supported the Scottish Government to get the best deal for Scotland since the start of these negotiations.''

The Scottish Government has threatened to block the Scotland Bill by recommending MSPs veto the legislation if it feels the funding deal is unfair to Holyrood, but Ms Dugdale argued the powers to be devolved, including responsibility for income tax and some control over welfare, are ``too big a prize to walk away from''.

She added: "I want to see a deal that's good for Scotland. One that protects the Barnett Formula which has benefited generations of Scots.

"I'll continue to support getting the best deal for Scotland. But make no mistake, no-one should leave the negotiating table until we have the best deal - the people of Scotland deserve nothing less.''


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