Sturgeon accuses Treasury of ‘sabotaging’ devolution talks
The First Minister of Scotland has accused the Government of trying to sabotage plans to deliver new powers to the Scottish Parliament, according to The Guardian – the Daily Record uses the term “shafting Scotland”.
Nationalists are trying to extract a guarantee that Scotland would never “suffer financially” as a result of taking on new powers.
The general idea seems to be: if good governance leads to rewards, Holyrood reaps them; if poor governance leads to losses, Britain bails it out. The Government, quite rightly, take a different view.
John Swinney, the Finance Minister, has promised to put a deal before MSPs before Holyrood breaks up for the upcoming election.
Meanwhile, the SNP leadership were discovered to be heading for a confrontation with their grassroots after the Daily Record was shown leaked documents that indicated there will be no talk of a second referendum on the party’s pre-election conference agenda.
Senior Plaid AM refuses to rule out deal with Tories
Wales Online reports that a senior nationalist member of the Welsh Assembly has refused to rule out striking a bargain with the Conservatives to oust Labour.
Whilst the leadership of hard left AM Leanne Wood makes such a bargain extraordinarily unlikely, Simon Thomas confirmed to reporters that Plaid had only ruled out a formal coalition with the Tories.
This might be an attempt to increase the nationalists’ bargaining power in the event that Labour lose their Assembly majority, as the Conservatives would be an essential component in any alternative administration.
Meanwhile, the Tories have themselves challenged Wood to rule out “propping up” Carwyn Jones’ ailing administration should Labour fall below 30 seats.
Ulster politicians press Villiers for historical investigation funding
Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary, and the Northern Ireland Office have been criticised by several Stormont politicians after refusing to release additional funds for historical investigations, according to the News Letter.
Arlene Foster, the First Minister and Democratic Unionist leader, had called upon the NIO to fund progress into a number of historic cases, including the enormous investigation into the Army agent known as “stakeknife”.
After the Government replied that yet more cash was not available both David Ford, the Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader, Ross Hussey, an Ulster Unionist MLA and policing board member, claimed that devolved institutions could not bear the cost.
Labour try to outflank SNP with tax rise pledge
Labour have tried to outflank the Scottish Nationalists, who boast of their progressive credentials, by pledging to raise income taxes to fund services if they win the upcoming Holyrood election.
As Euan McColm argues, it almost certainly won’t make much of a dent in the SNP in the short term – the aim is to start to apply pressure to the disconnect between the their progressive rhetoric and their separatist priorities.
Both Labour and the Conservatives are also keen to shift the pre-election debate away from the constitution and onto the Scottish Government’s less than stellar record.
Welsh UKIP in turmoil over candidate selection
The People’s Army’s only councillor in Wales has resigned from the party, following a bitter row over the selection of candidates for the upcoming elections to the Assembly.
Kevin Mahoney, who sits on Vale of Glamorgan council, opposed the imposition of candidates such as Mark Reckless, Neil Hamilton, and Alexandra Phillips, all favourites with Nigel Farage.
He claims credit for having forced UKIP to have passed final say on candidate selection to its Welsh membership.
Meanwhile Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, has urged Welsh protest voters to back his party rather than Farage’s “English nationalists”.
Labour bid to refresh Holyrood ranks stalls
An effort by Kezia Dugdale, Labour’s Scottish leader, to renew her party’s Scottish Parliamentary Party has suffered a severe setback, according to the Scotsman, with only four fresh faces likely to take their seats after May.
Many long-serving MSPs look set to lose out after she stripped them of protected status in the party lists – although hopeless former leaders Johann Lamont and Iain Gray look safe.
Despite a strict 50-50 gender balancing rule, Labour also look set to return only one non-white MSP – Anas Sarwar, the former Glasgow Central MP.
Meanwhile, an SNP councillor and Holyrood candidate at the upcoming election has been suspended after being accused of using racist language.