May and Sturgeon both dismiss 2017 referendum…
Both the Prime Minister and the First Minister of Scotland have – albeit with different emphases – spoken out against claims that the SNP are making secret preparations for an independence referendum in 2017.
The Herald quotes Theresa May as reminding the world that Scots made a clear choice on their membership of the Union only a “couple of years ago”, and the Courier reports Nicola Sturgeon denying that any final decision on a poll had been reached.
This comes in the same week that, according to the Daily Express, Alan Duncan confirmed that the Foreign Office was overseeing the Brexit negotiations and the SNP could not pursue a separate arrangement.
As this column reported last week, post-Brexit polling has not provided the cause of independence with the boost that both nationalists and many remainers expected – indeed, focusing on the EU angle alienates more working-class separatist voters than it woos middle-class soft unionists.
…as Fallon announces expansion of Leuchars base
The Government is investing £8 million in expanding Leuchars Station – formerly RAF Leuchars – and will continue to spend in the area, according to the Defence Secretary.
In an exclusive interview with the Courier, Michael Fallon also reported that homing the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at the base has been a success, and guarantees the future of the famous Black Watch regiment.
Defence spending is widely seen as one of the SNP’s weak points, as an independent Scotland is highly unlikely – if it were even possible – to maintain UK defence assets in Scotland such as Clyde naval shipbuilding and the Clyde nuclear submarine base.
UKIP members to decide fate of Welsh leader…
Members of the UK Independence Party will decide whether or not to expel their Welsh leader after he reneged on a promise to avoid double-jobbing.
Nathan Gill, who recently lost the leadership of the UKIP Assembly group to Neil Hamilton, promised to stand down as an MEP if elected as an AM – but the BBC reports that there is no candidate to replace him and he doesn’t want to force a by-election.
This can be seen as a front of the broader power struggle in the ranks of the People’s Army: Gill is an ally of Nigel Farage, whilst Hamilton and Reckless are claimed to be part of the ‘ex-Conservative’ faction working against them.
…as Northern Irish leader announces plan to step down
David McNarry, who was until May’s elections UKIP’s only member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, has announced plans to step down as the party’s provincial leader after a new national leader is chosen to replace Nigel Farage.
The Belfast Telegraph tells us that this comes after the party’s regional secretary defected to the Ulster Unionists, claiming that UKIP had ‘lost its direction’ in Northern Ireland.McNarry’s resignation may cause fresh for UKIP, coming soon after its failure to win a seat in the Assembly.
Last year the party lost another leadership figure, Henry Reilly, to the TUV. He was the UKIP candidate for the province in the 2014 local elections and was viewed as someone who could win the party an Assembly seat in South Down.
Wales joins Scotland and scraps Right to Buy
Carwyn Jones’ administration in Cardiff Bay has followed Nicola Sturgeon’s lead and brought and end to the Right to Buy policy after 37 years.
According to the Financial Times, the First Minister cited the same concerns, namely that sales to tenants were rapidly depleting Wales’ social housing stock.
This contrasts with the position of the Conservatives in England, who are trying to make the policy sustainable by building in mechanisms to ensure replacement social housing is built as sales are made.
Man arrested over the Kingsmill Massacre
The Daily Mail reports that a man has been arrested by detectives investigating the sectarian murder of ten Protestant workmen in 1976.
Only days after a “long-delayed” inquest into the killings began, relatives were informed that a palm print from the getaway vehicle used by the republican paramilitaries who perpetrated the attack had a potential match in the PSNI database.
The attack was notionally carried out by a little-known republican group thought to be a front for the IRA, which was on ceasefire. In 2011 independent detectives on the Historical Enquiries Team found the IRA responsible.