Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Welsh First Minister saves sick children from visits to England

First Minister Carwyn Jones has overturned a decision by a health board to transfer the treatment of seriously sick children in north Wales across the border to England, due to a lack of specialist staff.

Yet the prospect of having a visit to England added to the maladies of these unfortunate young patients was too much for some, with protests lodged from “parents, medical professionals and politicians” over the fate of what the health board estimated was 36 children a year.

Following his intervention, the First Minister was pleased to report that the number of children so ill they had to cross the border would be in the ‘low tens’. He did stop just short of a ‘Welsh only’ proposal for neo-natal care provision on the grounds that it would take at least a decade to achieve (not to mention that the resources to treat these children already exist, not very far away, just over an imaginary line on a map). A review has warned that, long-term, neo-natal care might need to be shared with England unless the Welsh government spends public money duplicating services on the right side of that line.

That prospect clearly chills the proud nationalist souls of Plaid Cymru, whose North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has attacked Jones for leaving “our most vulnerable babies” in the hands of “the NHS in England that the First Minister has been so critical of.”

Truly, the days of a truly ‘national health service’ are long gone.

Odds against ‘Yes’ reach record as mystery punter stakes £50,000 on the Union

Beneath the excitement of the endless stream of opinion polls, one interesting measure of any election lies in the betting – setting aside the wishful thinking of the partisan, where do people putting their money where their mouth is think things are going to end up?

In Scotland, the answer seems to be fairly decisive. Following a £50,000 bet by an anonymous Edinburgh resident with Ladbrokes that Scotland will vote ‘No’, the firm has lengthened the odds on Scotland ‘getting its freedom’ to a record-breaking 1/8.

 This is the latest in a string of large pro-union bets, including another £50,000 one from Edinburgh and two separate £200,000 bets against independence from Glasgow in January and July of this year – in what a Ladbrokes spokesman described as a sign of confidence in the referendum ‘failing’. Scots are predicted to bet a total of over £2m on the result by the time of the referendum next year.

Responding to this development, Better Together issued yet another warning to their supporters against complacency, and Yes Scotland insisted these punters had ‘wasted their money’ and that recent polls suggested it wouldn’t take much for their side to move ahead. Nobody’s betting on it, though.

Death of former SDLP MP who ended Enoch Powell’s parliamentary career

Eddie McGrady, a founding member of the constitutional nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, has passed away following a long illness.

He served the constituency of South Down between 1987 and 2010 after ousting Enoch Powell, who had served the constituency as an Ulster Unionist since October 1974 after leaving Edward Heath’s Conservative Party. After scraping in against Powell by less than two thousand votes, McGrady built the seat into the nationalist bastion of today.

Although ousting so famous a parliamentarian is perhaps his most memorable accomplishment, especially to those unfamiliar with Northern Ireland, colleagues also paid tribute to his dedication to peace and his contribution to the peace process.

Former Scottish leader joins the Lords

Annabel Goldie MSP, the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has joined the House of Lords as one of the latest tranche of peers announced by the Prime Minister. Lady Goldie will continue to serve as MSP for the West Scotland region and as the Conservatives’ constitutional spokeswoman at Holyrood, but argues that the Lords is “a significant part of British constitutional governance” which should reflect “the family of nations which comprise the United Kingdom”.

Northern Ireland to lower minimum firearms licencing age

Northern Ireland is considering a move to lower the minimum age for licensing the carefully supervised use of shotguns and air rifles to 12. This step would bring the province into closer step with the mainland, where there is no minimum age for the supervised use of these weapons.

The move, advocated by shooter’s and firearms organisations in Northern Ireland, is in part justified by the fact that the present high limit – licences for those aged 16-18 can be issued only in very specific circumstances for farm use – is handicapping Northern Irish sport shooting teams by preventing youngsters getting involved at the same time as the competition in other countries (a level of consideration not shown to the UK handgun team, mind).

A UK news item about the government easing up on firearms restrictions is quite astonishingly rare, and it would have been very easy for the NI Justice Minister, the Alliance Party’s David Ford, to have ignored the results of the public consultation with a politically-safe response of blanket hostility to guns, so this move is to his credit.

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