Chancellor and First Minister accuse each other of arrogance over nukes

The Herald reports that a ‘war of words’ has broken out between the Government and the Nationalist administration in Edinburgh over the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

The spark was a decision by George Osborne to invest £500 million in upgrading the submarine fleet’s naval base in Faslane, Scotland – ahead of next year’s vote on renewing the UK’s nuclear capabilities.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, is reportedly thinking of using an SNP debate to try to force a divided Labour Party to take a positon – a party which would probably be led by hard-left unilateralist Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Murray, the Shadow Scottish Secretary and Labour’s only Scottish MP, is vocally anti-Trident – although Kezia Dugdale, their newly elected leader, is not.

For his part, the Chancellor boasted that the move has protected 7,000 defence jobs, and attacked the SNP for arrogance of their own: presuming that the world of 2060 – “when we are making this decision for” – will be one where the UK can afford the loss of international clout disarmament would entail.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives are reportedly on track for their largest-ever campaign war chest ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections.

A recent donation of £100,000 from Ian Taylor, an oil magnate and one of the UK’s richest men, has apparently set the party on track to reach its target of £1.2 million for the elections.

Taylor has previously donated £500,000 to the unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign in last year’s referendum, and is believed to have given a total of over £700,000 to what the Herald dubbed “the Tory cause”.

The SNP have demanded Ruth Davidson return the money, citing concerns about alleged shady dealings by Vitoil, Taylor’s company.

Davies attacks Plaid for ruling out coalition

Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservative leader, has attacked Plaid Cymru for ruling out a coalition with his party head of next year’s Welsh Assembly elections.

With the Liberal Democrats in disarray and already in fourth place, a blue-green pact looks like the only way that Labour’s unbroken hold on the First Ministry since the advent of devolution might be ended.

But according to the BBC Leanne Wood, the hard left nationalist leader, claims that the Tories have ‘no mandate’ in Wales.

This is a curious position given that: the Tories have 11 MPs in Wales to Plaid’s three; they overtook Plaid to become the second-largest Assembly party in 2011; and have taken more votes than Plaid at both the most recent Assembly elections.

In short, as we’ve described, the Welsh Conservatives are doing well. The Welsh nationalists, much to their bewilderment, are not.

Indeed, Wood’s leadership is in question after the party failed to make any gains at the general election, despite the unprecedented profile granted by the so-called ‘challengers debate’.

Senior sources in the Welsh Conservatives predict that a poor performance in next year’s Assembly elections would mark the end of her tenure.

Of course, the balance inside the Assembly might be dramatically altered if, as seems quite possible, UKIP secure a handful of seats via the regional lists.

Northern Irish Conservatives attack ‘pathetic’ UUP for quitting Executive

The Irish News reports that Neil Wilson, the Tory PPC for Belfast East, has criticised the decision of the Ulster Unionist Party to leave the Northern Ireland Executive.

The move has pitched Ulster’s chronically unstable devolved institutions into a state of acute crisis, the roots of which we set out on Monday.

But whilst the NI Conservatives have long been advocates of an opposition at Stormont – a feature missing from the province’s all-must-have-prizes system of mandatory coalition – Wilson has decried the UUP’s change in stance as ‘opportunistic’.

He also maintains that it stems from the party’s realisation that it was achieving little as the junior unionist partner in the Executive, and that it had been dominated by the larger Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

RISE, a new far-left Scottish separatist party, sets itself up for a fall

The Scotsman reports that the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), one of the two minnow-like junior partners in the cross-party ‘Yes’ campaign, is trying to capitalise on the surge of socialist sentiment by launching a new coalition ahead of next year’s Scottish elections.

The group is called RISE, which stands for ‘respect, independence, socialism, environmentalism’. It hopes that voters will be more open to a hard left alternative in the aftermath of the Radical Independence campaign.

For its part, the SSP will be hoping to recapture some of the momentum it seemed to have in the early years of devolution – it returned five MSPs in 2003, before a split with its charismatic but scandal-ridden front man Tommy Sheridan shattered it.

For his part, Sheridan split away to found a new party (Solidarity) and as reported in July is also hoping to re-enter the Scottish Parliament next year.

One might think that left-wing, pro-independence voters in Scotland are more than adequately catered for by the SNP, a party which has spared no effort to drape itself thoroughly in the red flag after the referendum. Scottish commentator Euan McColm certainly thinks so:

“Rise will provide us with a distraction, a sideshow run by the usual suspects who’ve spent decades on the fringes of politics. And when it comes to polling day, Rise will sink, drowning in the echoes of voices claiming mainstream media conspiracy and unfair electoral systems.”

His logic seems unanswerable. But it was the same logic that said Jeremy Corbyn would never lead the Labour Party, so who knows.

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