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Scotland Bill: Governments agree to final fiscal rules deal deadline

Published 14/12/2015

Nicola Sturgeon is meeting David Cameron at Downing Street
Nicola Sturgeon is meeting David Cameron at Downing Street

The Scottish and UK governments have agreed that a final deal on the fiscal rules accompanying the Scotland Bill should be in place by February, Nicola Sturgeon said following a meeting at Downing Street.

The First Minister said it was important to conclude a deal in time for the Bill to pass into law before the Scottish elections in May, but she would not sign up to a deal that was "unfair" to Scotland.

New tax powers for Scotland, as recommended by the Smith Commission in the wake of the independence referendum, are laid out in the Scotland Bill which is now being debated at Westminster.

Both governments must first agree the financial framework that will underpin the new powers - the subject of discussions between the Prime Minister and Nicola Sturgeon at Number 10 today.

The Trade Union Bill and UK security were also discussed.

The First Minister said: "Getting this agreement right is vital to ensure that Scotland isn't worse off by hundreds of millions of pounds a year simply as a result of the transfer of powers that have been promised.

"We were both able to agree that the financial deal that goes alongside the extra powers transferring to Scotland must be fair for everyone involved and that both governments want to secure a deal by February to allow the Scotland Bill to move forward."

Scotland Office Minister Lord Dunlop said following the meeting: "Everything the UK Government is doing on both the fiscal framework and the wider Scotland Bill is based on the Smith principles.

"These govern our approach and that will not change. We need a deal which is fair to Scotland, fair to the UK and will stand the test of time."

The Scotland Office said the Prime Minister and First Minister had agreed to strengthen co-operation between the governments on security and intelligence matters, in order to protect the UK from the threat of "Daesh-inspired" terrorism.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre in London will increase the number of reports it shares with the Scottish Government, and the First Minister will receive more frequent security briefings.

The UK Government is seeking support for the Investigatory Powers Bill which it says will enable police and intelligence agencies to better protect the country from terrorist acts.

Lord Dunlop said: " The UK Government is absolutely committed to working together with the governments of our devolved nations on security and counter-terrorism matters, and today's discussions reflected that.

"What we need to see now is wide support for our legislative efforts to allow the police and security services to keep the UK safe in the 21st century.

"The Investigatory Powers Bill is a vital piece of legislation if we are to prevent Daesh-inspired terrorists from having safe spaces in which to communicate in our country.

"I hope that when the Commons debates this in the new year, we will see support from MPs from across all parts of the UK."

The First Minister said: " We are aware of the challenges we face and we have said consistently that we support law enforcement agencies and the security and intelligence agencies in having the powers they require in order to keep our communities safe.

"However, we take people's civil liberties extremely seriously too and we need to make sure that these powers should only be used when it is necessary and proportionate to do so."

At the meeting, Ms Sturgeon took the opportunity to put forward her objections to the Trade Union Bill.

If passed, it will introduce a threshold for strike ballots, new measures on picketing and will allow companies to hire agency staff to cover for strikers.

She said: "There is widespread opposition from across Scottish society and the Scottish Parliament to the Trade Union Bill, and it is essential that the Prime Minister understands that.

"Unfortunately the Prime Minister does not share my concerns. However, we will continue to work to find ways to prevent this damaging legislation coming into force north of the border."

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