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New accord reached between parliaments

Sturgeon secures powers pledge from Prime Minister

Cameron meets SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon has secured early commitments from Downing Street that new powers over the economy and welfare will be delivered for Scotland.

Prime Minister David Cameron also agreed to consider ways to ease the austerity measures on Scotland and to hold more regular meetings on issues concerning the two parliaments.

During their first face-to-face talks since the general election, the First Minister welcomed Mr Cameron’s promise to look at proposals from the Scottish Government to extend Holyrood’s power beyond the plans outlined in the Smith Commission.

These include powers over the minimum wage, national insurance and certain welfare benefits, taking into account the report published by the Scottish Parliament’s devolution committee earlier this week.

The discussions, held at the First Minister’s official residence Bute House, were described by the First Minister as “constructive and helpful”.

They also covered her desire to tackle austerity, with further proposals on how this could be achieved within the UK Government’s own fiscal mandate now to be submitted by the Scottish Government and considered by the Prime Minister in due course.

To take forward these points, the First Minister and Prime Minister also agreed to much closer contact between their respective governments, with a commitment to increasing the number of bilateral meetings between the pair.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I was pleased to welcome the Prime Minister to Bute House for what were constructive and helpful talks on a range of issues following the outcome of the UK general election.

“During the meeting, we had a productive discussion about the Smith Commission proposals and where we might go beyond them. From that, two things of importance were agreed. Firstly, there was a commitment from the Prime Minister that the legislation being drafted will fully implement the Smith Commission proposals and take account of the conclusions of the Holyrood committee report that was published yesterday.

“Secondly, the Prime Minister agreed that he would look at proposals the Scottish Government will bring forward on how we go beyond the Smith Commission in various important areas. There was no agreement on the substance of that, but the Prime Minister has said he will consider our proposals and there will be a meeting, in the first instance, between the Deputy First Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland to look at how we take that further forward.”

The First Minister continued: “The Prime Minister and I have agreed to meet more regularly, which is a good step forward. We have also agreed to much closer contact between Ministers in the Scottish and UK governments to discuss issues of common interest and policies that impact on Scotland at a much earlier stage – that’s all very positive.

“David Cameron and I are a world apart politically but, where we can, I’m determined that we do business in the interest of people in Scotland and across the UK and I’m determined to have a constructive and business-like relationship.

“I hope that the Prime Minister can now show he can respond and deliver a better deal for Scotland, with an empowered Scottish Parliament with the powers over business taxes and employment law, the minimum wage and welfare that enables us to grow our economy, get more people into jobs, and lift people out of poverty. Because, ultimately, that is what this process is all about.”

The First Minister confirmed that discussions had also covered austerity and public spending across the UK. She said: “The Prime Minister has a fiscal mandate, but even within that that I believe there is enough flexibility to ease the pain of austerity, invest in the things that matter while still getting the debt and deficit down. We have agreed to send our analysis and proposals to the UK Government and he has agreed to look at them. I have a duty as First Minister of Scotland to stand up for the things I believe the people of Scotland want and I will not shy away from doing that.”

Responding to suggestions that more economic power could transfer to Scotland, John Cridland, CBI Director-General, struck a note of caution. He said: “Businesses supported the Smith Commission process and want to see the devolution proposals, which were agreed by all parties, brought forward in the Queen’s Speech.

“Any further proposals for devolution that go beyond what’s been agreed must be properly debated and there needs to be firm economic evidence that devolving a particular power will boost growth.  Above all, businesses want to see the UK’s single, internal market preserved, enabling firms across the country to operate under a common set of business taxes, employment law and financial regulation.”

> Why we need an Anglo-Scottish peace deal. Daily Business Comment

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