Henry Hill is a Conservative and Unionist activist and writer.
Scottish and Welsh nationalists aspire to veto Brexit
As the general election draws near and neither main party looks set to secure an overall majority, the emboldened nationalist parties are gleefully signalling to the rest of the country how vexatious they intend to be in a hung parliament.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Leanne Wood, the stridently left-wing leader of Plaid Cymru, has declared that in the event of an EU referendum the votes of the four home nations should be counted separately.
If even one of them votes to remain in the EU then Britain would, under nationalist proposals, be unable to leave. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has also called for Scots to receive a veto.
Outside the logic of Welsh or Scottish nationalism such a proposal makes no sense: there can never be devolution of foreign policy, and it is one area where the British should make decisions as the British.
Yet despite this some Europhile unionists have proved in the past worrisomely willing to indulge this argument in an attempt to stymie attempts to hold a referendum.
Happily, David Cameron firm in his view that: “We are one United Kingdom, there will be one in/out referendum and is that will be decided on a majority of those who vote. That is how the rules should work…”
UUP accuse Sinn Fein of “rolling over” on welfare reform
The Ulster Unionists have accused Sinn Fein of “rolling over” on welfare reform, costing Northern Ireland over £100 million in Treasury fines without securing concessions from Westminster.
According to UUP leader Mike Nesbitt his party had put forward several proposals to “tailor” Universal Credit to Northern Irish conditions – and get more money from Westminster.
Yet despite deadlocking the provincial legislature for almost two years, incurring huge fines and necessitating deep cuts in Stormont budgets, Sinn Fein eventually conceded the matter of welfare reform without the David Cameron providing “one extra penny” towards covering it.
Instead the cost of provision will come from the Block Grant given to Stormont by the Treasury.
The Northern Ireland Executive has announced that transitional funding will ensure that no Ulster welfare claimants will be disadvantaged by the transition to Universal Credit.
Anglesey floats 100 per cent council tax hike for second homes
The owners of more than five thousand second homes on the island of Anglesey could find their council taxes doubled as the cash-strapped local council makes use of new powers granted by the Welsh Assembly.
According to Wales Online almost 70 per cent of local residents support the plan to squeeze outsiders in one of the UK’s holiday home hotspots.
The council has the power to do this under new measures being introduced by the Welsh Executive’s Housing Act. It is also seeking permission to suspend the right to buy, being reluctant to invest in more council housing if the owners can buy it.
Local estate agents have warned the council not to be “greedy” lest they do more harm than good. Councillor Hywel Eifion Jones fears that some homeowners may redesignate their properties as business premises if the rate is too high, paying a much lower business rate and losing the council money.
Scottish bureaucrats try to revive New Labour ID card scheme
According to politics.co.uk, the Scottish Government is attempting to revive a policy most thought had been interred with New Labour: identity cards.
Not the physical cards themselves, but the underlying idea of a unified database allowing public agencies easy access to all the information the state holds on any individual citizen.
A proposal in a minor NHS consultation proposes taking data the Scottish Government already collects – names and addresses of people who use bus passes and student cards and thus have “unique citizen reference numbers” (UCRNs) – available “to every Scottish institution and local authority.
The article suggests that this could then be used to identify people in need of assistance, or winnow down the claimants of means-tested benefits.
Certainly, once such a tool was in the hands of civil servants they would find use for it.
The UCRN is a legacy from the last Labour administration, before it lost control of the then-Scottish Executive in 2007. Yet it suits the well-established centralising instincts of the SNP.
Recently a Nationalist MSP denounced those who favour devolving power within Scotland as trying to destroy the Scottish Parliament, whilst Nicola Sturgeon’s government is pressing ahead with plans to appoint state guardians for Scottish children.
Northern Irish courts could be heard in Irish under Sinn Fein proposals
Proceedings at the Northern Ireland Assembly could be translated into Irish and court cases heard in the tongue, if the NI Executive’s Culture Minister has her way.
Carál Ní Chuilín, of Sinn Fein, aspires to give the Irish language the same protected status in Northern Ireland that Gaelic languages currently have in Scotland and Wales.
Measures proposed include granting the language official status, providing place names, the establishment of Gaeltacht language zones, guarantees for Irish language education and the use of Irish by public bodies.
Coming in the wake of the flag protests the move is likely to further unsettle many alienated unionist communities. Jim Allister, who sits in Stormont for the Traditional Unionist Voice, claims the programme is an assault on the province’s British identity.
The Belfast Telegraph makes no mention of the cost of such a language programme. The NI Executive has faced several rounds of budget cuts in recent months, and public spending dominates the Northern Irish economy as nowhere else in the UK.