KEY lawmakers will not be allowed to see the documents which led to the fiscal framework deal after the Treasury refused to pass them to MSPs.

Yesterday the MSPs charged with scrutinising the Scotland Bill urged Chief Treasury Secretary Greg Hands to release papers covering the nine-month negotiations process.

The Devolution Committee said they must see the material to ensure transparency and allow them to check whether the long-delayed agreement is in the best interests of Scotland.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he “would be happy” to set out key documents and was trying to secure agreement from Westminster to allow him to do so.

Yesterday Hands said publishing the material would be “unhelpful” and could harm future talks between the governments.

He told the panel a “reasonable” amount of information had already been released, adding: “It is very important for the two governments to negotiate in a space where they have confidence that the papers or matters under discussion will not be released.

“Given the fact this is not the first, and it certainly won’t be the last, negotiation between the two governments, I think it is important that the papers remain confidential.

“There has been a lot of commentary out there, I’m very happy to talk about the different models that have been proposed and so on, but in the long run it would be unhelpful to release those.”

Dismissing further calls, he went on: “I think it would be very unhelpful for the integrity for intergovernmental negotiations in this area. The most important thing now is to start talking about how the powers will be deployed rather than how we got the agreement.”

Labour’s Duncan McNeil said the refusal was a “complete departure” from the “warm words” from Swinney and Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who also appeared yesterday. Urging Hands to reconsider, McNeil said: “The heads of agreement have been signed. We fully expected until today that we would have sight of those key docs as promised.

“We’re entering a new era in moving on from devolution to shared powers. I’m sure the secretary of state in the briefing papers that you had indicated how important we believe that the shared information is essential to the success and sustainability of these new powers.

“Today it is clear, Chief Secretary, that you are putting an embargo on the information that this parliament and these committees can have and it’s not acceptable.

“We need to get what we expected.”

Hands, who said he could answer individual questions about fiscal framework mechanisms without having to show the documents, replied: “Whatever promises have been made to this committee have not been made by me. I’m not aware that documentation of this kind of negotiations has been published before.”

The Scottish Government previously pledged to release all important documents from the talks before the current parliament ends.

Yesterday committee chairman Bruce Crawford told Hands he was denying the public “access to information to enable them to decide whether this was the appropriate deal for Scotland”.

The deal allows Holyrood to handle £12 billion in income tax and £5bn of VAT. New borrowing powers will pave the way for investment of up to £3bn in infrastructure projects, with the UK Government retaining responsibility for population-related economic risks for a transitional period as further powers are passed to Edinburgh. However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claims initial talks saw the Treasury attempt a £7bn reduction in Scotland’s budget.

Yesterday Hands said he did not recognise this, saying it was “never the intention” to cut block grant funding and he has made his commitment to the continuation of the Barnett Formula “totally clear”.

A review of the deal is due after the Holyrood election in 2021, when a permanent arrangement will then be hammered out.

Speaking to Holyrood’s Finance Committee, Hands repeated the claim that the deal will make the Scottish Parliament “one of the most powerful and accountable of its kind in the world”. Independent MSP Jean Urquhart said this “is patently not true”, adding: “Will you stop using the phrase because it’s really irritating when it’s simply not fact.”

The National View: Treasury chief Hands must publish – and be damned