Cameron attacks SNP’s monopoly on power
This week the Prime Minister launched a fierce attack on Nicola Sturgeon’s Nationalist administration in Scotland, and claimed that the Scottish Conservatives were voters’ best hope for an effective opposition.
Meanwhile Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, has watered down her party’s tax-cutting offer for May’s Holyrood elections, due to tougher than expected spending cuts planned by George Osborne. We set out more on the thinking behind this earlier this week.
But Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, stepped in to reinforce her bid to make Trident a central feature of the campaign: the Tories are running as the only avowedly pro-nuclear weapon party, on both employment and security grounds.
Villiers accused of side-stepping Brexit questions as UUP campaign for ‘Remain’
Labour have accused the Northern Irish Secretary of avoiding questions about the impact that Britain leaving the EU would have on the province, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Secretary, criticised her for having a junior minister fielding many economic questions and highlighted how strong support for EU membership is amongst Ulster businesses.
Also this week the Ulster Unionist Party, the smaller of Northern Ireland’s two main pro-UK outfits, decided to campaign for Remain. This puts it at odds with its larger rival, the Democratic Unionists, who back a Leave vote.
Tom Elliott, a former UUP leader who unseated Sinn Fein to win Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2015, also claims to be undecided on the issue.
Welsh Conservatives propose ‘scores on doors’ system for hospitals
Hospitals would be forced to prominently display information to let patients quickly and easily assess their customer service performance under plans being proposed by the Welsh Conservatives.
WalesOnline outlines the system, which it describes as an expansion of the existing regime for hygiene standards. Scores on issues such as waiting times and infection rates would be “prominently” displayed near the doors of hospitals.
This is part of a broader package of measures designed to help the Tories go on the offensive against Labour on health, including an ‘NHS Safety Bill’ and a charter of patient choice, which would give people the right to choose their GP and hospital.
Ex-SNP MP risks court after defaming unionist group
Natalie McGarry, the former Scottish Nationalist MP who lost the whip due to questions over £30,000 in missing donations to a referendum group, has landed herself in hot water on Twitter yet again.
Meanwhile, Total Politics reports that a large number of the SNP’s 54-strong bloc of MPs are getting increasingly bored and frustrated in Westminster, and that the party’s Leninist discipline may crack as a consequence.
Jones sets out rival devolution vision
After crossing swords with Stephen Crabb, the Welsh Secretary, over the next stage of devolution Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, has set out his own proposals.
These include a much narrower range of reserved powers, the invention of a distinct concept of ‘Welsh Law’, and the renaming of the National Assembly as the Welsh Parliament.
However it fights shy of new fiscal powers, which Jonathan Edwards, a Plaid MP, has branded “pathetic”. Two-thirds of AMs would need approve the acquisition of income tax powers by the Assembly.
SNP take cover from financial figures
Ministers from the Nationalist administration in Edinburgh will not be on hand to answer questions tomorrow on the Government Expenditure and Revenues in Scotland (‘GERS’) report, despite doing so last year.
The Herald reports that tomorrow’s figures, which are “the closest thing we have to Scotland’s accounts”, will likely show the Scottish Government to be even deeper in the red than last year.
By failing to respond, the paper notes that it is difficult to judge how seriously Sturgeon is taking the bullish talk of a second independence referendum in the event of Brexit.
Ex-SDLP leader storms out of Commons committee
Alasdair McDonnell, the MP for Belfast South and until recently the leader of the soft-nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, baffled MPs when he dramatically walked out of a select committee on Monday.
According to the News Letter, this reaction was provoked by Kate Hoey, a Labour MP with Ulster connexions, whom he felt was treating an SDLP witness disrespectfully. She dismissed the complaint.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was convened in Belfast at the time, although it normally meets in London.
Campaign to fund Independent MPs may extend to Holyrood
The Campaign for a Free Parliament, which is putting £10,000 behind an Independent candidate in every UK constituency at the next general election, has announced that it will extend to this year’s Holyrood poll.
Bankrolled by a mystery Scottish industrialist and backed by figures such as Digby Jones, the recipients of the funding will be chosen by open primary and The Herald reports that applicants are already expressing an interest in a Scottish Parliamentary version.
A spokesman says that there probably won’t be time to set anything up ahead of May’s vote, but it is something they will consider in future.