SNP bracing for by-election as Edinburgh MP investigated…

The Scottish Nationalists are preparing for a by-election in Edinburgh West as the MP, Michelle Thomson, comes under increasing pressure over multiple allegations of mortgage fraud.

Thomson was a leading figure in the group Business for Scotland, set up to represent pro-independence voices from the private sector. Indeed, she was apparently one of the few genuine businesspeople involved.

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland and SNP leader, has come under fire over the party’s handling of Thomson, and the MP is reportedly at the centre of a power struggle between Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond, the MP for Gordon.

MSPs are also set to interrogate Scotland’s top prosecutor about delays in investigating Thomson, according to the Daily Record.

The Law Society of Scotland has also faced criticism, after it turned out that an officer who allegedly delayed handing papers relating to Thomson to the Crown was a founding member of pro-separatist Lawyers for Yes.

…and face allegations of misconduct against a second MP

Meanwhile Paul Monaghan, the Nationalist MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross has also come under scrutiny.

The Scotsman reports that opposition leaders have urged the SNP to investigate claims that Monaghan, who ousted Charles Kennedy, former Liberal Democrat leader, in May, was involved in a care home which faced allegations of mistreatment of residents and the sexual harassment of staff in the 1990s.

Following an unexpected surge in support after their referendum defeat the SNP has ended up with many candidates winning what were viewed as no-hope seats, and are facing mounting criticism of their vetting process.

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has used our UK conference to attack the Nationalists’ “cronyism and incompetence”.

The Thomson crisis appears to have scratched the Teflon coating the party has enjoyed to date: even sympathetic commentators like Gerry Hassan are speculating that it might have peaked too early for next year’s Scottish elections.

Cameron increases pressure on Ulster parties to reach deal

The Prime Minister has declared that the end of this month is the deadline for the latest round of Northern Irish negotiations, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

He justified the date by explaining that continued delay would lead to the Assembly getting “stalled”.

The latest round of talks is intended to prop up Stormont, which has launched to the brink of collapse again after the unionist parties walked out of the mandatorily bipartisan devolved executive.

However, that was merely the culmination of a much longer-running dispute over the implementation of the British Government’s welfare reforms, which Sinn Fein have been vetoing – resulting in the Treasury fining the provincial government hundreds of millions of pounds.

Theresa Villiers, the Northern Irish Secretary, announced yesterday that there has not yet been any significant progress on that front.

Crabb claims chances of agreement on next stage of Welsh devolution are ‘very low’

Stephen Crabb, the Welsh Secretary, has warned that there seems increasingly little prospect of the British and Welsh governments reaching agreement on the next stage of devolution, Wales Online reports.

The intention is to establish the Assembly on a reserved powers model like that of Scotland, where AMs can legislate on any area not specifically the domain of Westminster.

However, the Preseli Pembrokeshire MP argues that the election of hard-left Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour leader, and Welsh Labour’s need to keep Plaid sweet as a potential coalition partner after next year’s Assembly election, make the task of reaching agreement much more difficult.

Scottish language charity accused of publishing separatist propaganda

The Scots Language Centre, an SNP-funded charity, has been accused of working overt anti-Union sentiment into “reading and exploring articles” intended to introduce the language to young children.

The Daily Express reports that one piece describing last September’s ten-point unionist victory in the independence referendum was phrased thus: “two million of the population voted against independence while the remaining three and a half million either voted for independence, didn’t vote, or never had a vote.”

Another item apparently referred to the 1707 Treaty of Union as a “betrayal of the Scottish nation”.

This comes in the same week that the Scotsman announced the end of its long-running Gaelic page.

Welsh government dodge Opposition over local government reform

The Labour administration in Cardiff Bay has postponed an Assembly vote on council mergers, according to Wales Online, in order to avoid a potential defeat in the chamber.

Legislation would have enabled ministers to approve the voluntary merging of local authorities as part of the Jones administration’s drive towards shrinking the number of Welsh councils.

Labour don’t have an Assembly majority, and with both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats opposed they would have needed a vote from Plaid Cymru, which did not look to be forthcoming.