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Henry Hill is a Conservative and Unionist activist and writer.

Secret document reveals scale of NI Executive’s retreat over Universal Credit

A newly published document has revealed the Northern Ireland Executive’s negotiating position as it entered the final days of talks with the Prime Minister to end the province’s stand-off over welfare.

The so-called Stormont Castle Agreement was struck between the main parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly days before the Stormont House Agreement which ended the years-long dispute with London.

The Newsletter reports that it reveals the extent to which David Cameron faced down the demands of Northern Ireland’s political class.

They had sought to avoid the “vast new borrowings” ultimately agreed due to concern over the Executive’s debts.

Demands for yet more money from Westminster were also completely fruitless, leaving the Executive to fund its “top ups” to Northern Irish welfare claimants from its own funds, which are intended for other services such as education, health and policing.

London also refused to return Treasury penalties levied on the Executive, which total some £200 million, during its refusal to enact Coalition welfare policy, and further declined to pay for the redundancy packages of public sector workers who lost their jobs as a result of attendant budget constraints.

The Prime Minister came under fire for his handling of the negotiations at the time, but his firm stance appears to have secured a good result for the British Government in this instance.

Swinney accused of acting illegally on teacher numbers…

The Scotsman reports that Scottish local authorities are preparing to mount an “unprecedented” legal challenge against the Scottish Government.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Finance Minister, has reportedly broken the law by threatening to cut funding to councils that do not make a clear pledge to protect teacher numbers.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) claims that, according to legal advice, this represents Edinburgh coercing councils to enforce central government policy and is illegal.

Whilst COSLA still hope to reach a negotiated settlement, if the matter does come to court it will be the first challenge to Holyrood of this sort since it was founded in 1999.

…as Plaid want youngest taught mainly in Welsh…

The Welsh nationalists have called for the majority of teaching for all Welsh children aged three to seven to be conducted in the Welsh language.

Setting out its language strategy for the general election Plaid Cymru set a twenty year deadline for the adoption of Welsh as the primary language of tuition, although they demand some schools to reach the target much earlier.

The National Union of Teachers sees ‘merit’ in the idea, according to the BBC, but questions whether there are sufficient teachers for the task.

However a Welsh official of rival teaching union NASUWT questioned whether Plaid had taken issues like “parental choice and the views of pupils” into consideration.

…and Dundee SNP choose to maintain their alcohol allowance at the expense of a teaching post

As part of a £3.5 million round of budget cuts, the SNP administration in Dundee has elected to abolish a senior teaching position and effectively close a local service for young mothers.

The Courier reports that the post was the cornerstone of the local Young Mums Unit, which provides ongoing education to those who fall pregnant whilst in school. Without a teacher supporters of the YMU are uncertain about its future.

The husband of the teacher involved has also attacked the council leader for revealing personal information about his wife during the council debate.

The SNP – abetted by abstaining Labour councillors – preferred this course of action to an alternative suggested by Conservative councillor Derek Scott, who proposed a series of cuts in the council’s entertainment budget equal to the £44,000 saving found in the YMU’s diminution.

Campaigners in support of the YMU reportedly joined with opposition councillors and ‘Revolutionary Communists’ to protest against a broad range of cost cutting measures in the council budget, whilst the SNP boasted of their nine-year council tax freeze.

Flower of Scotland won’t become official Scottish national anthem

The Scottish Government has ruled out the possibility of Flower of Scotland becoming the country’s official national anthem.

Responding to a very narrow victory for the song in a poll by the Scottish Football Association, it is apparently felt that it does not command sufficiently widespread support to truly represent all Scots.

One reason for their reticence might be its nationalist connotations – many disillusioned Yes voters took to social media in the aftermath of September’s referendum claiming that unionists had betrayed the premise of the song and should no longer sing it.

Man who quit his job to vote yes appeals to nationalists for work

Speaking of the referendum, Buzzfeed relates the unhappy tale of a man who quit his job in England to vote Yes in September – and has been unemployed ever since.

Now Calum Craig, who has reportedly applied to over 200 jobs but had just half a dozen interviews, has reportedly enlisted nationalist blog Wings over Scotland to see if any sympathetic separatist has an opening for him.

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