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.

SNP refuse to promise restoration of 50p rate in an independent Scotland

John Swinney, the Scottish Government’s finance secretary, has refused to guarantee to restore the 50p top rate of income tax in the event of Scottish independence. However, Swinney said that the parliamentary SNP would support an attempt to restore the top rate at Westminster.

He was responding to a challenge by Margaret Curran, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, after Labour committed themselves to raising the top rate if they return to office. Labour have also attacked SNP plans to ‘slash’ corporation tax in Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. Swinney defended himself by maintaining the SNP’s commitment to the minimum wage and re-introducing empty-room subsidies for public housing tenants.

These attacks highlight the continued tensions within Scottish separatism between those ‘Tartan Tories’ who imagine a lean, competitive, business-friendly Scotland and those for whom independence is chiefly a vehicle for guaranteeing left-wing government.

Sinn Fein and DUP unite to condemn Alliance’s changes to Chief Constable selection criteria

The First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland have both condemned changes to the job requirements for the new Chief Constable of the PSNI.

David Ford, the Justice Minister and member of the centrist Alliance Party, has unilaterally lifted the requirement that any candidate have at least two years’ experience in a senior post with a mainland police force. Instead, such experience is now considered ‘desirable’ but not mandatory.

This will open the post up to more applicants from the province, since apparently the experience requirement meant that only one current member of the PSNI was actually eligible to apply. Ford defended his decision on the grounds that it would broaden access.

However, the DUP and Sinn Fein have both condemned the move, claiming that Ford should have consulted the executive and the Policing Board, and that the sudden announcement of the change had come as a complete surprise.

Plaid leader would ‘probably’ stand as dual candidate if they were reintroduced

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has said she would “probably” stand as both a constituency and a regional list candidate in the next elections to the Welsh Assembly, should that be permitted.

Such a desire is understandable – Wood, currently a regional AM for South Wales Central, has committed herself to contesting the constituency seat of Rhondda in 2016. Won by Plaid on its creation in 1999, it was captured by Labour in 2003 and they have held it ever since, with the Labour vote in 2011 being more than double that of second-placed Plaid. Thus if forced to abandon her place on the regional list to fight Rhondda, Ms Wood’s chances of re-entering the Assembly could be slim.

Dual-candidacies were banned by Westminster in 2007 in order to prevent candidates who had been directly rejected by the voters at the constituency level from being elected as List AMs regardless. Naturally, it was unpopular with local parties. The ban is currently set to be overturned as part of the Wales Bill which is presently working its way through the Commons.

Even under present arrangements a list seat is not perfectly safe – former Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne lost his Mid and West Wales list seat in 2011 following Conservative constituency gains.

E-cigarettes: The bans begin to roll

The spokesman of a medical charity has called for Northern Ireland to follow England in banning the sale of e-cigarettes to people below the age of 18. Andrew Dougal, of NI Chest Heart and Stroke, claimed that nicotine was ‘more addictive than heroin’.

He also claimed that e-cigs should only be used as a ‘last resort’ on a short-term basis by people aiming to be smoke- and nicotine-free, and that nobody else “should begin to think about the use of e-cigs.” Dougal makes no mention of the notion that e-cigarettes might provide a healthier, more socially acceptable way to enjoy a smoking habit than traditional tobacco.

Ulster council u-turns on ban of play that ‘pokes fun at Christ’

Newtownabbey council have voted to overturn a ban on a play set to be performed at a council-run theatre.

‘The Complete Word of God (Abridged)’, by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, was barred from performing by the council’s Artistic Board. The local mayor, who is a supporter of the ban, claimed that he supported it because the play was ‘poking fun at the Bible’, and thus at Christ. A DUP councillor is quoted as supporting the ban, and a local Presbyterian minister wrote to the council supporting their decision to uphold “the Bible’s authority”.

But an Ulster Unionist described it as an assault on his “British values” of “tolerance and mutual respect”, and both the Alliance and Sinn Fein opposed the ban.