Scottish Labour leader tries woo separatists…

Kezia Dugdale, the newly-anointed bearer of the poison chalice that is the leadership of Labour in Scotland, has decided to try to woo back nationalist voters by making Labour neutral on the constitution.

Her party “can be home for nationalists”, she is quoted as saying in the Scotsman.

This has already provoked a backlash from the likes of Henry McLeish, a former First Minister, and had its wisdom questioned by Alex Massie in the Spectator.

In a piece for this site later today I set out why Labour are very unlikely to win over left-wing, separatist voters.

…as she sets out to learn from Welsh Labour’s success

Compounding her errors this week, the Scottish Labour leader has struck out south-west to see what she can learn from her Welsh comrades about winning elections.

Of course, electoral success is a relative term – Labour had compared to all expectations a bad night in Wales, with a net loss of seats to the Tories – but from Scottish Labour’s vantage point it might look different.

In truth, Welsh Labour are driving the same road as their Scottish counterparts: using devolution to resist public service reform and filling the policy void by pandering to nationalism.

It will lead them to the same place in the end – if you turn politics into a game of who can wave the flag the hardest, sooner or later the nationalists always win.

Scottish Labour didn’t work that out, but their Welsh comrades have time yet to change course. Dugdale should be going to Wales as a teacher, not a student.

Northern Irish paramilitary investigation panel revealed

The members of a committee to investigate the current status of paramilitary and terrorist groups in Northern Ireland have been revealed, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has set up the panel in order to try to assuage unionist fears about the ongoing existence of the IRA.

After a Belfast man was apparently murdered by Republican terrorists the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) quit the Assembly, precipitating an acute crisis which has threatened to topple the province’s devolution settlement.

SNP MSP attacks ‘subservient’ colleagues

John Mason, the Nationalist MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, has attacked his fellow SNP members at Holyrood for being “overly protective of the party line” and failing to scrutinise the Scottish Government.

According to The Herald, he singled out for particular criticism the impact of the SNP’s fearsome discipline on the Scottish Parliament’s committee system.

After winning a majority the Parliament wasn’t designed for, the Nationalists hold a majority on most of the 19 committees intended to scrutinise the executive, with predictable results.

In March, the Herald also reported that the party had voted to ban its MPs from criticising their party in public, an extraordinarily draconian measure.

Campaign for elected Cardiff mayoralty prepares to trigger a referendum

An ongoing debate about whether the Welsh capital needs a single, elected leader is coming to a head as supporters prepare to force a vote on the issue.

Wales Online reports that supporters of a directly-elected mayor are waiting for the council to release the number of signatures needed for a petition to successfully trigger a referendum.

It needs to be ten per cent of the electorate, thought to be around 30,000 names. These would need to be collected so that a petition could be submitted between May and November next year.

Local politicians from Labour and Plaid are supporting the scheme, although the Liberal Democrats are opposed.

Northern Ireland bans GM crops

Ulster has joined Scotland by becoming the latest portion of the United Kingdom to ban the growing of genetically-modified crops.

Mark Durkan, Stormont’s Environment Minister and a member of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), claimed to be unconvinced of the advantages of GM crops, according to the BBC.

Wales and England have each taken cautious and highly restrictive approaches to growing GM plants but stopped short of a total ban.

Under EU rules, member states (or component parts thereof) are allowed to set their own policy on the matter. The EU must also licence a genetically-modified organism before it can be grown inside its borders.

UKIP launch campaign to christen referendum anniversary ‘Union Day’

The UK Independence Party have decided that the “democratic re-affirmation of the UK Union” warrants a national holiday.

STV reports that the party, which won its first Scottish representative at the 2014 European elections, is writing to politicians both at Westminster and the devolved chambers to solicit support.

A group of the party’s supporters gathered in Glasgow’s George Square – the unofficial heart of the Yes campaign – to launch the idea on Friday.

Questions over rejected DUP peerage nominee

There has been speculation this week about the identity of an individual nominated for a peerage by the Democratic Unionist Party.

The News Letter reports that the person in question was rejected by the watchdog which scrutinises Lords appointments after it received “unsolicited correspondence” about the proposed peer – highly unusual, given the secrecy of the process.

The DUP has since failed to make another nomination.

Whilst the watchdog won’t release the name (not wanting to cause “embarrassment”), amongst the possibilities is apparently a “senior businessman” from the Republic of Ireland, who is apparently a major DUP donor.