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Mundell says Government isn’t afraid of Scottish referendum rematch

The Secretary of State for Scotland has said that it is “pretty clear” that unionists would win a second Scottish independence referendum, but is wary of one because it would be “divisive and seriously unpleasant”.

David Mundell, currently the only Conservative MP from Scotland, intervened after Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, suggested that the British Government would block such a poll.

Healso remains unconvinced of Nicola Sturgeon’s demand that Scotland receive special dispensation to remain in the Single Market, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Meanwhile Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, revealed that she would advise the Prime Minister to allow such a referendum. The constitution is a reserved power, so the initiative would rest with Theresa May.

She could use it to good effect even without actually blocking a plebiscite. Mundell indicated this was the Government’s intention when he said any new referendum would require a second Edinburgh Agreement.

Elsewhere both Fallon and Michael Gove accused the SNP of using Brexit to distract from their poor record in office and thin parliamentary agenda at Holyrood.

The Defence Secretary also revealed that the Clyde will host Britain’s entire nuclear fleet from 2020, the Herald reports.

Sinn Fein launches ‘diplomatic offensive’ to win special status for Ulster

Mundell’s sceptical approach to the Scottish Government’s demands for special treatment reflect the Prime Minister’s broader, clearly-stated determination to extract the UK from the EU as one country.

But that’s not going to stop Sinn Fein from trying: the News Letter reports that they’re launching a diplomatic offensive on the continent to try to persuade other member states (including Spain?) that Northern Ireland deserves ongoing EU status.

If you thought this might involve talking to London, think again. Michelle O’Neill, the party’s new leader, had this to say to the Northern Irish Secretary: “it won’t be your decision – it will be the other member states who decide the terms of Brexit”.

Daisley attacks the SNP’s one-party state

Everybody should read this article by Stephen Daisley, the former digital politics and comment editor for STV, about how the SNP are slowly building something which looks worryingly like a one-party state in Scotland.

Readers might have run across this story before – Nick Cohen did an excellent piece on it in the Spectator last autumn – but the short version is that a couple of Nationalist MPs complained to his bosses that they didn’t like his coverage and they muzzled him.

So-called ‘civic Scotland’ was slow to come to his aid, to put it mildly, and in his Scottish Daily Mail piece Daisley sets out just how much the SNP have managed to suborn Scotland’s institutions – and the “home rule morality play” that leads people to acquiesce to them.

This week provided an illustrative example when the Times (£) revealed that the Scottish Government’s independent poverty adviser deleted criticism from a major report after showing a draft to the First Minister.

Trump: welcome in Belfast, but not in Cardiff?

John Bercow was not the only politician grandstanding about the President-elect’s visit to Britain this week: according to Wales Online Elin Jones, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, has said that Donald Trump wouldn’t be welcome in Cardiff either.

Jones, a Plaid Cymru AM, has since come under fire from UKIP. Neil Hamilton, who leads the party’s Assembly group, has called for Wales’ inclusion in the Presidential tour.

However it seems there is (or was) a much warmer welcome awaiting Trump in Belfast: the Impartial Reporter has revealed that Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness had already invited him to Northern Ireland before their administration collapsed.

Foster takes tough line against Irish Language Act

Arlene Foster, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, has said that her party will never support an Irish language act, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

The Democratic Unionist leader argued that the province had more Polish speakers, who are surely thus due an act first. Her party also argue that it could cost Ulster £100 million a year – and dispute that they committed to supporting such a bill in the St Andrews Agreement.

She also compared making continual concessions to Sinn Fein to feeding a crocodile (another analogy might be that of paying a danegeld, which Alex Massie explained last month).

Meanwhile the SDLP and Ulster Unionists are pitching themselves as an alternative government, perhaps the first one to feature in a devolved election under Northern Ireland’s current arrangements. The two moderate parties have been on the margins for a decade since being squeezed out by the DUP and Sinn Fein in 2007.

Nationalist MSP attacked for pro-IRA comments

John Mason, an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament, has sparked fury by refusing to support a campaign to bring to justice the killers of three young Scottish soldiers murdered by Irish nationalist terrorists in 1971.

Although insisting that he’s not pro-IRA, he said they could be called “freedom fighters” and that he’d not be taking sides on “British-Irish” questions. He then made some general condemnations of “all murders”, Corbyn-style.

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