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.

Brits, Businessmen, Tories and… spies? Unionists publish donor list

Better Together, the pro-union campaign in the Scottish referendum has published a list of their financial backers. Some of the senior donors are described here in the Scotsman.

The main SNP line appears to be that the majority of the unionist big-money backers are Conservative supporters. This seems almost inevitable – I don’t believe Scottish Labour ever picked up the New Labour practise of cultivating ties to business, so unless the Scottish wings of the major trades unions declare for the Union Labour’s donors aren’t going to make their presence felt in the BT campaign chest.

And this trades union support is no longer the given that once it was – you only need to look at the make-up of the separatist campaign (SNP, Scottish Socialists, and Greens) and their constant digs at ‘Toryism’ to see how left-wing wish fulfilment is one of modern nationalism’s principle ‘hooks’.

The other jab directed from the nationalists was that they are only accepting donations from people entitled to vote in the Scottish referendum (even if they bought a flat for that purpose alone), whereas Better Together are taking money from British people. Bought and sold for English gold, and all that.

I did at first harbour the sincere fear that the pro-union campaign might be bounced into imposing a Scottish-only donation policy – getting unionists to dance to his tune is Alex Salmond’s special gift, after all – but it hasn’t happened yet. The fact that the Union means Scots always have a big group of people who aren’t Scots in their corner is one of our selling points, after all.

Finally there is also the entertaining titbit that a couple of the top unionist donors are “former soldiers with links to British Intelligence”. Doubtless Margo Macdonald is already on the case.

Accidental self-immolation marks upsurge in dissident republican violence

A would-be firebomber in Belfast set himself alight during an attempt to torch a sports shop after an improvised incendiary device exploded under his coat. None of the 15 people in the shop at the time were injured, although according to the PSNI the bomber almost certainly sustained serious injuries as he ran through the streets trying to beat out the flames.

This is the latest in an escalating pattern of attempted attacks which demonstrates a severe upswing in dissident republican violence. Police count 18 attempts in the last seven weeks, many of which target former and current police officers.

Welsh referendum on tax powers would be ‘too close to call’… so Plaid seek to avoid one

A referendum on new tax-varying powers for the Welsh Assembly – which the coalition has promised to legislate for – would be too close to call, according to a new poll from a Cardiff-based firm. The BBC has the full breakdown of the figures here.

Looking at the numbers, a couple of interesting things leap out. First, there appears to be a recurrence of the Scottish phenomenon whereby the youngest category exhibits the sort of devo-sceptic views normally associated with older voters, leaving a devolutionary ‘bulge’ in the middle generation. If this is a regular feature of devolution polling it would be interesting to see a proper examination of why that is.

Second, the tightness of the figures demonstrates quite how lop-sided the debate on devolution has become since 1998. With the Conservatives now the foremost cheerleaders for a more-powers plebiscite, there is nobody in mainstream Welsh politics articulating the very real scepticism harboured by much of the Welsh electorate towards the endless drive for more powers.

Regardless of how you might feel about the individual policy proposals under discussion, it is surely something of a democratic shortcoming that, in a possible referendum where public opinion is split along a razor’s edge, the Welsh body politic shows no sign of harbouring a viable ‘No’ campaign.

Not willing to let this Cardiff Bay group-think lull them into a false sense of security, Plaid Cymru responded to the revelation that there is no clear majority in favour of new powers amongst the Welsh people by declaring that the news powers would not actually require a public vote at all. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

From Below the Line: An Englishman’s View of Unionism

This might be of interest to those of my readers who complain about this column’s lack of English material. Ken Stevens, who is frequently to be found in RWB’s comments, levelled a similar charge at Open Unionism, the non-partisan pro-union site I edit.

Unlike this column, whose parameters are set out from on high, I can actually do something about OU – if I have the material to work with. So I said to Ken that, if he wanted to see some English perspectives on OU, perhaps he might offer me one. He did just that, and you can read his article here.

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