Former Chief Treasury Secretary Steve Barclay, who was reshuffled at the Cabinet Office on Wednesday, wrote to Kate Forbes in August to request a meeting to discuss the joint commission of an independent report to inform the review of the financial arrangement.
However, Ms Forbes has been accused of not responding yet – an assessment directly contradicted by the Scottish government.
Treasury sources said they believe Ms Forbes is ‘dragging her heels’ to broaden the scope of what is a scrutiny in the strict sense as spelled out in the agreement signed by the two governments following the commission. Smith, who gave more income tax powers to the Scottish government.
Contradicting claims, Ms Forbes told MSPs that she had “actively engaged” with the UK government since December “on options regarding the scope of the review as well as the independent report that precedes it”.
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A review of the framework is required by the end of this year under an agreement signed by the two governments following the Smith Commission, which gave more fiscal and social security powers to the Scottish government in order to ensure that it remains “fair, transparent and efficient”.
In his letter, Mr Barclay said he was willing to accept the “scope of the independent report” and added: “I don’t think either government should seek to deviate from the deal. -budgetary framework.
âDoing so risks simply delaying the start of report writing and subsequent consideration by our two governments. “
The Fiscal Framework Agreement was published concurrently with the Scottish Act 2016 and sets out new funding arrangements, tax rules and borrowing powers for the Scottish Government, including how the block grant determined by the Barnett formula is adjusted to reflect Scotland’s fiscal and social security powers.
The deal included a pledge to review the “actual functioning” of the framework after the 2021 elections in Holyrood to allow “an assessment in the light of the experience of a parliament”.
Accordingly, an independent report is expected to be commissioned, with its recommendations presented to the two governments by the end of this year.
A Treasury source said: “Despite the tight schedule, we have not received a response and it appears the finance secretary is dragging her heels in hopes of broadening the scope of the review to look at more credentials. tax and borrowing, when the agreement so stipulates should focus on the agreement to adjust the block grant.
Asked on Wednesday for an update on the review of the framework at Holyrood, Ms Forbes said: âI personally think the review and report should be broad in scope to take full account of how the framework has operated and to assess how Brexit and the pandemic have affected funding arrangements.
“I pushed for a meeting with the Chief Treasury Secretary to take place as quickly as possible to move this forward.”
Ms Forbes added that it was “critical” that parliament and government “have in place appropriate powers and flexibilities” to manage financial “risks”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘The suggestion that the Scottish Government has not responded to this letter is simply not true – the Scottish Government has contacted the Office of the Chief Treasury Secretary in response to the letter of September 2 to propose a meeting on the revision of the budgetary framework.
‘The Scottish Government, supported by the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Social Security Committees, believes that the review and the previous report should be broad in scope, to take full account of how the framework has worked and to assess the impact of Brexit and the pandemic. financing modalities.
‘The Scottish Government has also made it clear that the review needs to take place as quickly as possible and has been actively engaged with the UK Government since December last year to make progress, including seeking to arrange a meeting between the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Chief Secretary. to the Treasury. “
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