Police probe property deals of SNP MP

An investigation is underway into alleged irregularities in the property dealings of Michelle Thomson, the newly-elected Nationalist MP for Edinburgh West.

The Scotsman reports that she has stepped down from the SNP’s Westminster front bench, where she was spokeswoman for business, innovation and skills.

A solicitor has already been struck off by the Law Society of Scotland over the transactions, which occurred in 2010 and 2011, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile at Holyrood Fiona Hyslop, the SNP administration’s Culture Secretary, is defending herself against allegations that she improperly channelled public money to a music festival after a meeting brokered by a former aide to Alex Salmond.

Jones engulfed in transparency row

Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales and senior-most Labour politician in the Kingdom, has been forced to defend a decision to stop publishing a log of ministerial decisions made by the Welsh executive.

A series of brief notices, regularly posted on the Welsh Government website, was used by journalists and other interested parties, accor

ding to Wales Online, but they stopped appearing this week.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, describe this development – perhaps a shade hyperbolically – as “an unacceptable assault on Welsh democracy.” Other opposition parties and journalists have also registered concerns.

SDLP face leadership battle as McDonnell challenged

The Social Democratic and Labour Party, the smaller and more moderate of Northern Ireland’s main separatist forces, is witnessing an attempt to oust its leader.

Colum Eastwood, the party’s youngest MLA, has confirmed his intention to challenge incumbent Alasdair McDonnell, who in May narrowly defended his Belfast South constituency but has faced criticism for trying to lead from Westminster.

The election will take place at the party’s annual conference in November.

Legal challenge to last Scottish Lib Dem MP to proceed

Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland and the last of his party’s cohort north of the border to survive the SNP tsunami at the general election, has failed to see dismissed a legal challenge to his re-election.

According to the Scotsman the case, brought by four of his constituents, has been backed by £88,000 in crowd-funded cash, and judges have dismissed his counsels claim that the relevant law only applies to lying about rival candidates.

Carmichael is accused of lying over the leak of a memo, in which Nicola Sturgeon confessed her strategic preference for a Tory win at the general election, whilst he was serving as Scottish Secretary in the coalition.

UKIP debate Welsh candidates amidst pre-election optimism

The UK Independence Party looks set to secure its first substantial parliamentary representation in May, when it is predicted to win five or so seats in the Welsh Assembly.

Nathan Gill, the party’s Welsh leader, has even gone so far as to say that the principality might become UKIP’s strongest area, according to the BBC.

He told the party’s conference in Doncaster that his AMs would not act as wreckers, but aim to smooth out the “rough edges” of the Assembly – a far cry from the days when UKIP was home to counter-devolutionary holdouts.

However, this state of happy anticipation has reportedly left the party “over-excited” about selecting candidates, according to a senior member of the party’s executive.

Veterans of previous UKIP campaigns in Wales have also counselled against offering seats to high profile candidates from outside Wales – apparently both Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless have submitted applications.

Lo denies racists drove her from politics

Anna Lo, a prominent member of Northern Ireland’s liberal Alliance Party, has denied that she is standing down from frontline politics because of racism.

Lo, who was the province’s first elected representative from an ethnic minority background, has represented Belfast South in the Northern Ireland Assembly since 2007, topping the poll in 2011.

Explaining her decision, she is quoted in the Belfast Telegraph as saying: “When I was elected, there was optimism in politics. That has faded with crisis after crisis”.

Welsh prisons at the forefront of smoke-free rollout

Prisoners in Wales are to be amongst the first to experience the Government’s decision to ban smoking in all English and Welsh prisons, according to the BBC.

Critics have attacked the fact that the new ban will not even permit inmates the chance to smoke outside. At present, smoking is only permitted in exercise yards and cells.

Prison authorities reportedly have their fingers crossed that the measure might trigger serious disruption, not least because some 80 per cent of the prison population smoke.

PS: Scottish Conservatives disapper behind Davidson conference fringe guide

Having skimmed through the fringe guide which arrived in the post this week, a couple of thinks leap out to your columnist.

The first is the apparent absence of fringe events by the Welsh and Northern Irish Conservatives. Ordinarily I get a bit irritated that these all get scheduled against one another, but unless I missed them I’ll be able to attend the Scottish Conservative events with a clear conscience this year.

Not that they’re actually called Scottish Conservative events, mind: my guide makes mention only of a “Ruth Davidson MSP” fringe, and a “Ruth Davidson MSP” reception.