British PM rules out full fiscal autonomy for Scotland
British Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out full fiscal autonomy for Scotland on Friday after his first talks in Edinburgh since being re-elected but agreed to consider granting extra powers.
Cameron held talks with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose secessionist party won almost every Scottish seat in last week’s British parliamentary elections.
He agreed to implement in full the proposals of the cross-party Smith Commission on further devolution. That was established after the September independence referendum — in which Scots voted by 55 percent to 45 percent to remain part of the United Kingdom.
He also agreed to look at further devolution proposals from Sturgeon on business taxes, welfare and the minimum wage.
“I’m delivering on the commitment I made, which is that the Smith Commission report on further devolution will be implemented in full,” Cameron said after the meeting.
“It gives massive extra power to the Scottish parliament,” he said, adding: “I’m, of course, happy to consider other proposals”.
The Conservative leader added: “I don’t support full fiscal autonomy for Scotland.
“I think the idea of laying on to the Scottish people another £7 billion ($11 billion, 10 billion euros) of either spending cuts or tax increases, I don’t think that will be good for Scotland.”
Cameron said that after the commission proposals are implemented, Scotland would have control over 60 percent of its spending and be one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.
While Cameron’s centre-right party won enough seats to form a majority government in the UK, Sturgeon’s left-wing Scottish National Party made dramatic gains in the May 7 election and has a visceral dislike of the Conservatives.
Sturgeon said the meeting had been “constructive” even though the two were “worlds apart” politically and that she had pushed for further powers for Edinburgh.
“We’re talking about business taxes, employment legislation, the minimum wage and more powers over welfare,” she said.
“These are the key levers you need to grow the economy faster. As a priority, I want to see the Scottish Parliament able to exercise those powers on its own.”
The SNP chief added that she wanted Scotland to be given full fiscal autonomy at some point, but accepted it was not on the immediate horizon.
A bill granting more powers to Scotland is to be included in the May 27 Queen’s Speech, which sets out Cameron’s government’s legislative programme, indicating it is a priority for his second term in office.
Cameron on Friday ruled out another Scottish independence referendum, saying it was “not remotely on the cards”.