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Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Tories could lose Scottish MEP to UKIP

A poll for the Scotsman has shown UKIP winning ten per cent of the vote as the European election race enters its final month – only one point behind the Scottish Conservatives. This would be a shocking blow to a party that has recently been enjoying an unprecedented string of good news, as the Conservatives have increased their vote in at least the last 11 Scottish by-elections.

The same poll shows the Liberal Democrats polling behind both the right-wing parties, at seven per cent just barely ahead of the Greens. The Scottish Nationalists are expected to take their seat in addition to holding their current two, whilst Labour are also expecting to hold their two.

If UKIP were to gain a Scottish European seat it would and do much to cement their role as a national, unionist party as opposed to a purely English phenomenon. They won a Welsh seat in the last European elections (and that in an election where the Conservatives topped the poll in Wales) and is proving steady in its support for its Northern Irish branch, with deputy chairman and former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton spending three days in Ulster last week supporting their candidate, Henry Reilly.

Bloody Friday: Possible Continuity IRA ex-leader shot dead in Belfast…

Tommy Crossan, rumoured to be a former leader of the Continuity IRA, was shot and killed in West Belfast on Good Friday. His killers are reported to be fellow republican dissidents, branded ‘criminals masquerading as republicans’ by one Sinn Fein MLA. Other senior republicans have also attacked the renewed violence.

The Continuity IRA is an active dissident group, having murdered a police officer in 2009. However it has since suffered a series of internal divisions. The Belfast Telegraph reports that Crossan was in the process of building a new terror outfit, the Irish Volunteers, which has been responsible for a recent series of security alerts. Rivals apparently believed that Crossan had stolen CIRA funds or was a British informant, or both.

…as Independent Unionist David McClarty passes after illness

David McClarty, the Independent Unionist MLA for East Londonderry, passed away on the same day. Formerly an Ulster Unionist before the departing in 2011 after being de-selected, he was one of the longest-serving members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. He also served as a Deputy Speaker in the 2007-11 Assembly. Tributes were paid from across the political spectrum.

Controversy as CBI’s Scottish wing registers as ‘No’ campaigning organisation

The Confederation of British Industry supports the Union. You might say there’s a clue in the name, although they support EU membership too. Nor are they afraid to step into the arena when necessary. It’s almost a certainly they’ll play a prominent part in any EU referendum campaign, and they have now formally registered as a support organisation for Better Together.

This has not been without cost – several organisations have withdrawn from the Scottish branch of the CBI over the decision. It has also come under attack politically for officially taking a side, and for doing so without holding a ballot of their members.

However, the Scotsman points out that almost all the withdrawing organisations are either universities or government bodies who maintain strict neutrality policies, whilst only one is a business whose chairman is an active separatist. Meanwhile the great bulk of the membership has made no complaint, which suggests that the CBI’s leaders were in touch with their members when they made the call to join the Unionist cause. Whether or not they can help it regain the initiative, on the other hand, remains to be seen.

Polling the Welsh: No support for Scottish independence as Welsh Labour get the knives out…

A poll for Wales Online shows a decisive majority of Welsh people oppose Scottish independence – contradicting some earlier polls which suggested that Britons south of the border were indifferent to the referendum. Even amongst those who voted for the Welsh nationalists in 2010 only a bare plurality supported separation.

The figures get even worse when the subject turns to Welsh independence, with only 12 per cent of those polled supporting the move and even smaller percentages feeling it would make either Wales or themselves personally better off than under the Union.

These figures should not be too much of a comfort for Unionists – you’d have found similar in Scotland within living memory. Indeed Welsh Labour are giving a masterclass in exactly how to turn solid support for the Union into a knife-edge referendum campaign. Newport West MP Paul Flynn attacked Philip Hammond’s recent warning of defence sector job losses as a ‘Tory toff’ denying Scots the chance to ‘die in Iraq/Afghanistan’ – which if nothing else is rather patronising to our volunteer servicemen.

He also denounced the ‘war on Wales’, or the Conservatives’ ‘irrational, cynical lie’ about the dire state of the Welsh NHS. This idea – that an attack on Labour politics is an attack on the Welsh nation – is exactly the sort of short-termist partisan poison with which Labour has so undermined in the Union in Scotland.

Other political leaders responded to the poll with the usual line that the Scottish referendum must lead to lots more powers for Cardiff, despite polling showing the Welsh public split down a knife edge on any extension of devolved power.

…and a rebuke to the Cardiff establishment as public overwhelmingly reject smacking ban

Another poll showed only 19 per cent of Welsh respondents support a ban on parents smacking their children, despite a growing Cardiff consensus in favour of the measure. Supporters of the move have won the support of 130 Welsh organisations, and the Assembly has voted in favour of the principle in the past. Yet the notion does not even have demographically concentrated support amongst the Welsh people. Young people – 18-24 years – oppose it by 51 per cent to 34 per cent, and even Liberal Democrat voters show a strong plurality against the move, by 48 per cent to ‘a quarter’.

New unionist party NI21 launches Irish language billboards

NI21, the new non-sectarian unionist party founded by former UUP MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister, has become possibly the first pro-UK party to use the Irish language on election material. Five of the party’s thirty Euro election billboards, which feature candidate Tina McKenzie and the slogan ‘This is Fresh Politics’, are in Irish. The party appears to be pitching itself to a cocktail of moderates, including those UUP voters disappointed by that party’s apparent embrace of the DUP, Alliance voters put off by Anna Lo’s decrying of “very artificial” Northern Ireland, and the sort of Catholic voter who supports the Union in the Life and Times Survey.

Growing influence of professional politicians in the Scottish Parliament

It was meant to bring about a new style of politics, but an investigation by the Glasgow Herald reveals that since its inception in 1999 the professional political class has begun its long march through the Scottish Parliament. According to the Herald one in six MSPs has ‘little to no’ experience of work outside the realms of politics and public affairs.

Other white-collar professions such as teaching and law continue to be well represented, but in 1999 they outnumbered political professionals by almost three to one, compared to something close to parity now. The Scottish Parliament might have been well-served had Labour decided to make it part-time, as the old Parliament of Northern Ireland was, in order to ensure that MSPs both had and maintained a wider experience of working life.

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