Villiers claims that Stormont deal can be done

Theresa Villiers, the Northern Irish Secretary, has expressed hope that the province’s political parties can reach a fresh agreement – but warns of obstacles ahead, according to the BBC.

This is the latest attempt to forge agreement between Ulster’s disputatious factions after the Stormont House Agreement fell apart following a Sinn Fein u-turn.

Villiers told BBC Northern Ireland’s The View that she was “realistic” about what could be accomplished.

Since then the Ulster Unionists have withdrawn from the Northern Ireland Assembly, with the larger Democratic Unionist Party forced to follow them. The DUP have since resumed their posts.

SNP forced into u-turn on tax credits

Alex Neil, the Scottish Government’s Social Justice Secretary, has admitted that Holyrood will have the power to reverse the Chancellor’s proposed cuts to tax credits, the Herald reports.

This came less than 24 hours after he’d claimed that it would be ‘impossible’ under the new devolution legislation.

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, has since claimed that her administration will make up at least some of the income families lose to the measure.

Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, has been trying to outflank the Nationalists on the left by taking a firm line on making up tax credit losses and pledging to raise taxes to fund schools.

The Herald has described the row as signalling a new, more policy-focused politics in Edinburgh, which is the object of the new Scotland Bill.

Unionists want to shift the debate away from the constitution and put pressure on the SNP’s very broad electoral coalition, which they believe may fracture when faced with the compromises of tax and spend politics.

Welsh Government fears budget cuts as Osborne drives on with deficit reduction

Politicians in the Welsh Assembly have warned that the Government’s continued pressure on departmental budgets could have knock-on effects on devolved funds, Wales Online reports.

The Chancellor has announced that he has reached deals with four departments which will see their budgets shrink by an average of 30 per cent.

A Welsh Government spokesperson claimed that cuts on that scale could reduce the settlement available to Cardiff Bay.

Carmichael tells election court he misled enquiry

Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland and former Scottish Secretary, admitted to an election court in Edinburgh that he may have been “less wholly truthful” with a Cabinet Office leak enquiry, according to the Guardian.

The last Liberal Democrat MP in Scotland is facing a concerted recall attempt by nationalists for leaking a memo which claimed that Nicola Sturgeon confided to a foreign diplomat that she wanted the Tories to win the 2015 election. The court may strip him of his seat.

His majority stands at just 817, down from almost ten thousand in 2010.

Support for Irish unity falls to 13 per cent in Ulster

A joint poll conducted by BBC and RTE, the Irish state broadcaster, has found that only thirteen per cent of Northern Irish citizens support unification with the Republic in the short to medium term.

This number rises to 30 per cent on the more abstract future, “within their lifetime” – including only 57 per cent of the traditionally nationalist Catholic community.

This number rises to 32 per cent if it meant lower taxes – although only 11 per cent of it involved tax rises.

It also found rising support for direct rule – the end of devolution in the province – amongst the unionist community, although more Catholics supported it (14 per cent) than did Protestants support unification (three per cent).

Welsh Labour block behind-the-scenes Assembly documentary

Wales Online brings word that plans for a programme about the inner workings of the Welsh Assembly has been “shelved” after being blocked by the ruling Labour group.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru all denied objecting.

AMs previously criticised a decision to prevent the Assembly chamber being used by the producers of James Bond.

A previous documentary, Inside the Commons, was filmed inside Westminster without cauing undue disruption.

MSPs vote against Trident renewal

The Scottish Parliament has voted against the updating of Britain’s nuclear deterrent by 96 votes to 17.

After Labour voted against Trident at their Scottish conference both of the largest parties north of the border share an anti-nuclear stance. Only one Labour MSP, Jackie Baillie, defied the party line.

The Scottish Conservatives have responded by emphasising their own pro-nuclear weapon stance, emphasising its impact both on the defence of the realm and the thousands of jobs created by the base.

The issue, however, is reserved to Westminster.

Ex-UKIP figure founds anti-devolution party in Wales

David Bevan, formerly a prominent figure in Welsh UKIP, has founded an Abolish the Assembly Party to contest next May’s devolved elections, Wales Online reports.

The party criticises the poor record of Wales’ Labour government, in place since 1999, and claims the Assembly is an expensive and unnecessary tier of Government

He quit UKIP after Nigel Farage dropped his opposition to the Assembly. The UKIP leader has since expressed support for a federal Britain.

UKIP hopes for a strong performance in the Welsh elections, and may return five or more AMs. Senior figures, including ex-MPs Mark Reckless and Neil Hamilton, are reportedly angling for places on their list.

Orange Order hold first Dublin event since 1936 as UUP plan centenary memorial

Members of the Orange Order, a Protestant and unionist organisation, met in Dublin to lay a wreath of poppies in what is apparently their first public event south of the border since the days of the Free State.

The Belfast Telegraph reports than 15 or so people gathered in a low-profile event.

According to the paper the last such was held in 1936, to commemorate British soldiers killed during the Easter Rising of 1916.

Mike Nesbitt, the Ulster Unionist leader, has said that his party is considering holding its own event in the city during next year’s centenary of the Rising.

Former British soldier arrested over Blood Sunday

According to the BBC a former member of the Parachute Regiment has been arrested by detectives investigating the 1973 Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry.

The DUP have expressed grave concerns about the fact that ‘Soldier J’, if convicted, could serve far longer a prison sentence than those endured by Republican and Loyalist terrorists, who have profited from the early release scheme set up by the Good Friday Agreement.

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