Crabb criticises ‘messed up’ politics in Cardiff Bay

Wales Online reports that Stephen Crabb, the Welsh Secretary, has attacked the “furious” and “emotional” response to the draft Wales Bill.

He claimed that the hysterical response to “fairly technical legal arrangements” – which were covered here last week – were reminiscent of the divisive tactics employed by the SNP.

Singled out for criticism were the Welsh Government’s cries of an “English veto”: Crabb claimed that this “delegitimises [the] UK Government”, which there is “nothing particularly English” about.

Meanwhile Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, urged the Government to graduate the introduction of tax credit cuts to avoid families hitting a “brick wall”.

SNP under pressure on NHS as Scottish deficit grows

Audit Scotland, the public spending watchdog north of the border, has claimed that the Scottish NHS is under “significant pressure” and will have to reduce service levels unless urgent action is taken, according to the Scotsman.

The agency found the health service’s budget had suffered a real-terms cut of 0.7 per cent in the 2014-15 financial year, and had suffered “a general decline in performance in recent years”.

Staff recruitment problems had also led to a 53 per cent increase in the use of agency staff.

Elsewhere, David Torrance writes in the Herald that the Nationalists’ “half-baked” welfare policies, in addition to dodging NHS reform, are starting to weigh against them.

IRA crisis bedevils both unionists and republicans

The ongoing existence of the IRA – confirmed by a British Government investigation – continues to cause problems for Northern Ireland’s political parties.

This has created a serious problem for the Democratic Unionist Party – the larger and more hard-line of the province’s two main pro-Union groups – by undermining the narrative it has spun to justify sharing power with Sinn Fein since 2007.

The News Letter relates that Mike Nesbitt, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, has apparently ruled out a return to the all-party Executive unless the IRA is proven to disband or, alternatively, Sinn Fein stop denying its existence.

Nor are the problems confined to Northern Ireland – the Government’s report has been seized upon by the Irish press, with both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent reporting on the damage being done to the party’s southern prospects by ongoing associations with a criminal organisation.

Meanwhile Ed Moloney, a former Irish Times journalist and IRA expert, claims that the report proves the IRA has struck a deal with the British state: a blind eye turned to criminal activity, in exchange for an end to attacks on the security services.

Unite prepare to back anti-Trident stance as Scottish Labour seeks autonomy

One of Labour’s most powerful trade union backers is preparing to support a motion to oppose Trident renewal at the Scottish Labour conference, the Scotland on Sunday reports.

Ahead of what is apparently anticipated to be a “knife-edge” conference vote, anti-nuclear weapon activists are working hard to shore up union support. Unison, another of the largest unions, is already on side.

Left-wing allies of Jeremy Corbyn hope that this will help to move the UK party towards a disarmament stance.

Meanwhile Kezia Dugdale, the new leader of Scottish Labour and former deputy to Jim Murphy, is pushing for more autonomy from the UK party.

She wants candidate selection, constituency party control, and policy making to be transferred to the Scottish party. Johann Lamont, a previous leader, once claimed that London ran the Scottish party as a “branch office”.

Nationalist minister admits fresh evidence in cronyism row

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government’s culture secretary, has provided a Holyrood committee with fresh evidence regarding a grant she made to the profitable T in the Park festival, the BBC reports.

Following a meeting set up by a former SNP aide – who has since abandoned plans to stand for the party in the Scottish elections next year – Hyslop awarded a grant of £150,000.

Hyslop claims the grant was intended to cover one-off costs associated with a change of venue, but MSPs are critical of providing state funding to a popular and profitable private enterprise.

Wood attacks Labour and warns of Brexit crisis

Leanne Wood, the left-wing leader of Plaid Cymru, used the platform of her party conference to turn her fire on Welsh Labour ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.

The Guardian reports that she claimed that Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, has “taken people for granted and rewarded long-term loyalty with incompetence, inaction and indifference”.

Unfortunately for the nationalists, Wood’s stated refusal to countenance an alternative coalition with the Conservatives has almost certainly guaranteed continued Labour rule in Cardiff Bay, so Jones has no incentive to stir himself just yet.

The Plaid leader also echoed the SNP’s attempts to confect a constitutional crisis out of the upcoming EU referendum, reiterating the novel position that the four Home Nations should each have a veto over what is a foreign policy (and entirely un-devolved) question.

Nationalist site fined by the Electoral Commission

The Herald reports that Wings over Scotland, the Scottish nationalist website run by Bath-based Stuart Campbell, has been fined £750 for failing to provide proper documentation to the Electoral Commission about its spending during the Scottish independence referendum.