Belfast Telegraph

First Ministers 'seeking progress'

The heads of the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have agreed a "progress agenda" which covers financial, constitutional and policy reform for their respective administrations.

The governments are calling on Westminster to join them in seeking progress on issues such as fairer funding, increased financial and constitutional powers, and changes to the welfare system, energy policy and the Crown Estate.

A joint statement was released by the administrations outlining the agenda after they held their first meeting since being re-elected to government earlier this month.

The meeting was hosted by Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond and was attended by Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones and both Northern Ireland's First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness respectively.

The statement said: "We believe it is now time for the agenda of respect to deliver an agenda for progress on the issues of the greatest concern to those who elected us, including economic growth. We call on the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to work with us to make progress on financial, constitutional and policy reform across the United Kingdom."

Mr Salmond said the three administrations welcomed the "respect agenda" outlined by Prime Minister David Cameron when he entered office and would put it to the test at the forthcoming plenary meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in London.

He said: "All three administrations expect to see in light of the respect agenda the key issues of progress being made next week. We see the devolved governments setting out a progress agenda for these islands, to our benefit as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales but also to the benefit of all the peoples of these islands."

Mr Jones said: "Each administration will, of course, have different views on which powers to pursue for the respective nations, but nonetheless, it is important we build on the respect agenda and we approach discussions with the UK Government in good faith."

Mr Robinson said it was "in the interests" of the UK Government to have a more cohesive and co-ordinated response to the issues being raised by the devolved administrations.

He said he hoped Northern Ireland would make progress on receiving control over corporation tax - an area also being pursued by the Scottish Government as part of the Scotland Bill. He said Northern Ireland's unique situation, sharing a land border with the Republic of Ireland, where corporation tax is lower, could not be ignored.

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