Tories attack SNP’s budget as ill-planned and hypocritical

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, hit the headlines several times this week as he helped to spearhead the Conservative attack on the Nationalist administration’s pre-election budget.

The Guardian reports that John Swinney, the Finance Minister, has resisted opposition calls to control public sector debt and Labour pressure to raise income tax.

His justification is that the current powers lock the various income tax bands, which means any rise would hit the poor harder. As Alex Massie points out in the Sunday Times (£), this is a specious case.

As a result the SNP have sparked opposition from trades unions and seldom-heard doubts from sympathetic commentators.

In a string of interventions recorded in The Herald, Mundell: claimed that Holyrood’s new powers left Swinney “nowhere to hide”; urged voters to vote Tory to prevent a one party state; and urged the Scottish Parliament to pursue a decentralisation agenda.

Meanwhile the party also accused the SNP of “passing the buck” to Scottish councils with stiff cuts to local government budgets.

IRA victims calls Corbyn out

A lady who lost both her parents in the 1987 IRA bombing at Enniskillen has challenged Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, to meet her “eyeball to eyeball” over his close links to Sinn Fein.

According to the News Letter Margaret Veitch has used the Islington MPs one hundred day anniversary to accuse him of “retraumatising” victims.

She asks: “How can my fellow British citizens support a party which is led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell?”

Welsh UKIP leader backs Farage against Carswell

Last week, it was revealed that the People’s Army could win up to nine seats in May’s elections to the Welsh Assembly.

Yet now the Welsh wing of UKIP risks being blown off course by the party’s internal ructions.

Nathan Gill, the party’s Welsh MEP and leader, has spoken up in support of Nigel Farage in the aftermath of a push for a change in leader by Douglas Carswell, the party’s sole MP.

Carmichael receives police advice after death threat

Alistair Carmichael, the former Scottish Secretary and last Liberal Democrat MP in Scotland, has taken safety advice from the police following a threat against his life, according to The Herald.

Although recently the focus of a huge amount of nationalist ire after he saw off a bid to overturn his election in the courts, the threat is believed to relate to his support for air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

Foster takes crown as first female DUP leader

Arlene Foster, the Finance Minister in the current Northern Ireland Executive, was on Thursday elected the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

She was the only candidate, and is indeed only the party’s third leader since it was founded in the 1970s.

Some commentators, such as Sam McBride in the News Letter, claim that Foster could provide an easier route to ‘unionist unity’ – cooperation between the major pro-UK parties to maximise their representation.

A pact could easily have delivered a third of Belfast’s four seats, Belfast South, to a unionist MP at the general election in place of then-SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.

McGuinness is reportedly expecting “business as usual” when Foster takes over from Peter Robinson, the First Minister, in January. Her father was shot, but not killed, by the IRA in 1979.

AMs concern over £104,000 fraud

Members of the Public Accounts Committee of the Welsh Assembly have expressed deep concerns that it took more than three month to catch on to a concerted effort to defraud the Welsh Government.

Wales Online describes how Tracey Baker, a worker for Transport for London, took £104,000 in false payments from the Assembly. Only £4,000 has been recovered.

Sinn Fein under pressure for links to tax-dodging IRA chief

The Irish press is hot on the tail of Gerry Adams, the former Sinn Fein MP who now sits in the Irish parliament, over links Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, an IRA boss facing a prison sentence for tax fraud.

Both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent report that Adams’ description of Murphy as a “good republican” has come back to haunt the party following the “hugely embarrassing” conviction.

According to the Belfast Telegraph Martin McGuinness, the current deputy First Minister, also praised Murphy’s contribution to the peace process in the past.

Independent councillor reverses SNP membership bid… because he’s a federalist

A councillor in Angus has resigned his months-old membership of the Scottish Nationalists after telling them he didn’t support Scottish independence.

The Courier relates how Bill Bowles remained an independent councillor whilst taking up SNP membership “in a bid to influence their policies”.

Attempts to sit as an SNP councillor foundered on the fact that he wasn’t a separatist, which led him to (somewhat belatedly) conclude that the SNP wasn’t for him.