Scottish Conservatives are gaining ground on Labour

The Herald reports that the Tories are closing in on Labour in the battle for second place in May’s Holyrood elections – amidst signs that they might finally be starting to overcome long-standing stigma.

Ruth Davidson’s troops were polled at 17 per cent in both the constituency and list vote preferences – compared to just 21 an 19 per cent for Labour. John Curtice suggests they could achieve Davidson’s stated goal of 20 seats.

This has prompted the Shadow Cabinet to rally around Kezia Dugdale, who reportedly “wowed” them on a visit to London this week.

Meanwhile, members of the Government are reportedly considering timing Parliament’s debate on Trident renewal to cause grief for Scottish Labour, according to Isabel Hardman in the Spectator – although Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, accuses the Tories of jeopardising the Union.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, accused the SNP of “scaremongering” on the subject last week, and Davidson has taken a staunchly pro-nuclear stance.

She has furthered a differentiation strategy by advocating a clear tax-cutting agenda, backed by an independent report commissioned by the Party.

Welsh Conservatives hit out at Labour’s £825k ad buy

The Welsh Tories claimed that the Cardiff Bay administration has cranked up its “propaganda machine” ahead of May’s elections to the Assembly, according to Wales Online.

Andrew RT Davies, who leads the party’s Assembly group, has denounced record spending on “advertising Labour’s policies and programmes”, calling it “a flagrant abuse of taxpayers’ money” – a charge backed up by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

The Labour administration dismissed the charge, claiming the surge in advertising was connected to the tourism cycle.

This same week, Davies clashed directly with Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, and other Welsh leaders in a live radio debate, and set out his party’s pitch to blue-collar voters.

Perhaps he might seek assurance from the Government that they don’t intend to allow devolution to break up cross-border railway services between England and Wales.

Sturgeon refuses to back probe into MP’s charity

The First Minister has claimed that it would “not be appropriate” for her to authorise an investigation into a charity alleged to have been suborned to promoting one of her MPs, according to The Herald.

The Scottish Asian Women’s Association was founded by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, now a Nationalist MP – but gave only three per cent of its substantial, taxpayer-funded income to good causes prior to her resignation as trustee following her election – whilst doing much to promote Ahmed-Sheikh.

Meanwhile, the trend of weekly woe for the Parliamentary SNP continued as the Scottish Daily Mail landed a frontpage scoop that Ian Blackford, its pensions spokesman, has lucrative connexions to a firm under investigation for nuisance cold-calls – despite personally calling for a crackdown on the same.

Also this week the Scottish Police interviewed the office manager of an SNP minister as part of their investigation into the alleged disappearance of £30,000 in donations from Women for Independence, which has led another Nationalist MP, Natalie McGarry, to resign the whip.

SDLP offer Sinn Fein ‘Stalingrad’ battle for Foyle

A looming contest between Northern Ireland’s two nationalist parties looks set be hard-fought as the moderate SDLP laid down the gauntlet to their larger rivals, the News Letter reports.

According to the Belfast Telegraph Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, is set to seek a seat in the Assembly from the SDLP-dominated constituency of Foyle, which spans western Londonderry.

The seat has provided a redoubt for the SDLP as Sinn Fein supplanted it as the Province’s major nationalist party, and its loss could be terminal to the party’s long-term future.

Nationalists face internal revolt over fracking

Rumblings of dissent from inside the SNP were felt this week, as activists reacted to the decision to block a debate on banning fracking from the Party’s conference.

Party leaders stand accused of ignoring “thousands” of members by SMAUG, the awesomely-named anti-fracking group in the party, whilst environmental campaigners accused them of “rigging” the conference agenda.

This came as Sturgeon urged the Chancellor to cut taxes on the oil and gas sectors to help alleviate the crisis in the North Sea oil industry.

Welsh Labour under pressure on tuition fees and land sales

The Labour government in Wales has refused to repeat its 2011 election pledge to hold down university tuition fees, according to Wales Online.

Opposition parties have attacked the scheme as unsustainable, and now Jones’ party has postponed a decision until a review panel reports – in the autumn.

Also this week the First Minister apologised for a “land deals scandal” which saw property sold off at a greatly underestimated value, at a cost to Welsh taxpayers of some £37 million.

Sillars announces he’s backing Brexit (or at least Scoxit)

Jim Sillars, a former deputy leader of the SNP and husband to the late separatist heroine Margo Macdonald, has offered his service to the ‘Leave’ campaign in the EU referendum.

The Scotsman reports that the former MP, who has since parted ways with the SNP, professes surprise that so many nationalists support membership of the European Union, a “profoundly undemocratic organisation”.

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