Good start to First Minister’s talks

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First Minister Alex Salmond’s historic visit to London as the first-ever head of a majority Scottish Government has started well, according to reports.

Talks with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne were “constructive,” according to both sides.

While the Westminster spin doctors were saying that “nothing spectactular” had emerged on the North Sea oil tax increase which was Mr Salmond’s main talking point this morning, it is clear that the First Minister’s assertion that 10,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the tax upsurge was a point well made.

The talks certainly must have been interesting – scheduled for half-an-hour, they ended up lasting two hours, and Mr Salmond could be running late for further meetings  today.

An important speech to the Foreign Press Association will be reported on later this afternoon.

Speaking about the oil tax issue on BBC’s Today programme this morning, the First Minister said: “The problem with the smash and grab raid, the extra £2bn on top of the other £11bn the chancellor was expecting from Scottish oil revenues this year, is that it is going to cost a lot of jobs.

“It will actually make future chancellors worse off in the long-term because it will lead to a substantial reduction in what investment would have been.”   

Before he left, the First Minister spoke of his priorities for his meetings with George Osborne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

He said:  “I am keen that we make progress in improving the Scotland Bill, currently proceeding through Westminster, to give it real economic teeth. The people of Scotland voted for the Scottish Parliament to take on greater financial responsibility and new job-creating powers, including an enhanced borrowing ability and responsibility for Corporation Tax and Excise Duty as well as for the Crown Estate – so we can ensure that Scottish communities benefit from the generation of our vast renewables resources offshore.

“The new Scottish Government will also continue to press for unfettered access to Scotland’s £200 million Fossil Fuel Levy funds to support green energy development. That is Scotland’s money, currently and ludicrously locked away in a London bank account, which must now be released.”

“I want the Scottish Government, together with all those elected to the Scottish Parliament, to be able to build a new relationship with Westminster – a partnership of equals that truly reflects the ‘respect agenda’, as well as the clear ambitions of the people of Scotland.”