Scottish funding talks 'have some distance still to travel'


Nicola Sturgeon has said there is "some distance still to travel" in negotiations over new funding arrangements for Scotland.

Speaking on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday the First Minister repeated that powers in the new Scotland Bill "don't go anywhere near as far as I would like".

Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands had talks in London over a fiscal framework last week to determine how much cash the Scottish Parliament will get from the UK Government once MSPs have new powers over tax-raising.

Ms Sturgeon said negotiations need to conclude by the middle of February.

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.

Andrew Marr asked Ms Sturgeon how negotiations were going.

She said: "We've got some distance still to travel.

"Now, you know, as people watching may not be aware, we have the legislative process for new powers which is, you know, coming to a conclusion. The new powers in the new Scotland Bill don't go anywhere near as far as I would like.

"I don't think they go as far as was promised during the referendum campaign but there are powers I would rather have than not have.

"But in parallel to that we are negotiating what's known as the Fiscal Framework that goes around that and in short that will determine the deductions and additions that are made to take account of the new tax and spending powers.

"Where the UK Government started in this discussion would have led to systematic reductions in the Scottish government's budget over the next few years, regardless of anything the Scottish government did.  So no matter how good our decisions, that would have been a downward pressure on our budget.

"So what was the starting point was not something I, as First Minister, with the job of standing up for Scotland, could ever sign up to.

"Now these negotiations are ongoing. If we're going to get these new powers agreed and in place before the Scottish parliament election, the negotiation's got to conclude by the middle of February."

She added: "I hope we can get to a deal because I want to have these new powers, but you know I said before and I will say again as First Minister of this country I will not sign up to anything that disadvantages in a systematic way the budget of the Scottish government."