Ex-SNP policy chief says party’s case for separation is ‘dead’

The Scotsman reports that Alex Bell, a former head of policy for the Scottish National Party, has claimed that the party’s current case for independence has exhausted its credibility.

Writing on Rattle, the Scottish current affairs blog, he accuses the SNP of wilfully refusing to scrutinise the economic case for independence, which has suffered grievous wounds from falling oil prices and instability in the Eurozone.

Bell further argues that the Nationalist leadership are reconciling themselves to being “the ‘Scotland’ party within a lop-sided UK, while pretending it is still fighting for independence to keep the party together.”

Welsh Government sets out to poach English doctors

As the Government’s dispute with junior doctors deepens, Carwyn Jones’ Labour administration in Cardiff Bay is moving to take advantage, the Guardian explains.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Government’s health minister, is fronting a campaign which emphasises that the NHS was “born in Wales” and the Assembly’s “partnership approach” with the medical profession.

The dire state of the Welsh NHS is one of his Government’s biggest political weaknesses, and exploited by the Conservatives in May’s general election, at which they climbed to their highest seat total since the 1980s.

Northern Irish health minister urges prescription charges

Simon Hamilton, the Northern Ireland Executive’s health minister, has warned that failing to re-introduce prescription charges in the province could have dire consequences for the seriously ill.

According to the News Letter, the Democratic Unionist MLA said he was resigned to the controversial charges not returning during his tenure – but that this would hurt those who needed expensive medication.

They were scrapped in 2010, at a cost to his Department which the paper reports at £600 million per annum.

Northern Irish departments face additional budget pressures as a result of fines imposed on the Executive by the Treasury due to Sinn Fein’s blocking of welfare reform.

SNP justice minister urged to take responsibility for state of Scottish police

Michael Matheson MSP, the Scottish Government’s justice secretary, has been accused of trying to shirk responsibility for the shortcomings of Scottish policing after an attempt to blame the British Government.

The Daily Record reports that he alleged that “austerity policies which are being pursued by the Tories” had forced cuts in the budget of Police Scotland, the entity created by his party’s much-criticised decision to merge Scotland’s eight local forces in 2013.

However responsibility for the police budget rests with John Swinney, the Finance Secretary in Edinburgh.

Welsh Assembly needs up to a hundred members, claims chair – but no second chamber

Rosemary Butler, the presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, has told the Welsh Affairs Committee that the body needs more members – up from the current 60 to somewhere between 80 and 100.

However, Wales Online relates that she spoke out against the creation of a second, scrutinising chamber, claiming that the people of Wales would not accept it.

This view was challenged by David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth and committee chair, who pointed out that bicameralism is the norm in Parliamentary democracies and that more MPs would not provide the same detached, scrutineering function.

Scottish Government might strip even well-managed property from highland landowners

Aileen McLeod, the SNP’s land reform minister, has provoked a horrified response from Scottish landowners with remarks which suggest that good landlords might be forced to sell their land.

The Scottish Government had previously maintained that those who managed their property well had nothing to fear from its Land Reform Bill, which will enable residents and community groups to forcibly purchase land, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In evidence to a Holyrood enquiry McLeod conceded that the triggers for compulsory purchase may not be clear cut and courts might be forced to “estimate” whether an application qualified.

She also provoked further criticism by admitting not to know how much the reintroduction of sporting rates for deer stalking would yield for the public purse.

Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson pointed out that they had been scrapped due to barely covering the cost of collecting them.

New SDLP leader won’t pledge to support DUP-Sinn Fein deal

Colum Eastwood, the new leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in Northern Ireland, has said he won’t automatically support a new deal between the province’s two biggest parties.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the Foyle MLA claimed that he wouldn’t back any arrangement he felt would need to be renegotiated again in six months.

Northern Ireland has been locked in a cycle of deal-making (and deal collapse) for the past three years, as Sinn Fein have tried to block the introduction of welfare reform.

Meanwhile Alistair McDonnell, Eastwood’s defeated predecessor, is being urged to focus on holding his marginal Westminster seat of Belfast South, which was held in May only in the face of a split Unionist vote.

Sheridan’s left-separatist party de-registered by Electoral Commission

Solidarity, the hard-left separatist party set up by Tommy Sheridan, has been struck off the register of political parties by the Electoral Commission.

The Daily Herald reports that this followed its failure to lodge essential paperwork on time. The party treasure blamed himself for an administrative error.

Sheridan founded the party after he split from the Scottish Socialist Party, which he previously led to a record six MSPs in the 2003 Scottish elections.

The SSP is part of a new left-wing alliance, RISE, which will likely be the main beneficiary of Solidarity’s absence from the ballot paper in May.