Standing up for Scotland

The deal we agreed yesterday with the UK Government is a good one for Scotland.

It means the new tax and welfare powers promised by Westminster will come to Holyrood, if the Scottish Parliament gives its approval.

And, crucially, it is a deal that lives up to the Smith Commission principle of “no detriment” – which means Scotland’s budget won’t be cut in the years ahead.

The agreement we reached yesterday, at the eleventh hour, only came after many months of hard bargaining with the Tory Treasury.

And make no mistake – it was the Treasury which blinked first in these negotiations.

When these talks began last June, the UK Government were proposing a package which would have seen a £7 billion cut in Scotland’s budget over 10 years.

But the deal we have secured ensures Scotland’s cash will not be cut by a single penny.

The Treasury – normally used to getting its own way when it plays hardball in cash talks with Whitehall departments – has had to accept it cannot mess with Scotland.

There will be no £7 billion cash grab – and that is down, in no small part, to the skill and perseverance of my deputy John Swinney in leading the Scottish Government’s negotiating team.

The sticking point in any deal was the issue of how much Scotland’s block grant should be adjusted to take account of the new tax powers.

Yesterday’s deal involves a transitional arrangement that delivers the outcome of no detriment that the Smith Commission outlined for the first five years

After that five-year period, there will be a review, informed by an independent report. And, crucially, any change to the block grant adjustment method after that point would have to be agreed by both the Scottish and UK Governments.

We have secured the Smith Commission’s principle of no detriment for the next five years – and we have ensured there can be no detriment forced on Scotland in the future.

The deal protects the Barnett Formula, and will allow the new powers in the Scotland Bill to be delivered, if approved by MSPs in the next few weeks.

And once we have those new powers, I am determined to use them as imaginatively as possible to make Scotland a better and fairer place for everyone who lives here.