Cameron defies Sturgeon to take EU campaign to Scotland and Wales…
The Prime Minister plans to wage the campaign to stay in the EU to all of the Home Nations – despite demands by nationalists that he stay away.
According to The Herald, David Cameron will time his visit to coincide with the Scottish Conservative conference on Friday. He has already visited Wales, where he warned that Brexit threatened the EU funds available to those countries.
…as the battle spreads to Northern Ireland…
Cameron has also paid an early visit to Northern Ireland, one of the most Europhile parts of the UK and, for once, an equally important part of a national contest.
Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, the Prime Minister set out how access to the single market was very important to Ulster’s agriculture-heavy economy.
Boris Johnson has also been in the province, where he dismissed Cameron’s claims that leaving the EU threatened the territorial integrity of the UK.
With the pro-Brexit GO! Movement holding a rally in Belfast on Friday, the campaign looks set to be a truly national political event. Nigel Farage has also held a debate with Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Northern Irish Secretary.
In other news John Larkin, the independent Attorney General of Northern Ireland, has suggested that Brexit might “enhance protections of fundamental liberties” as he attacked the unaccountable nature of EU legal institutions.
…and UKIP hold out hope for Holyrood
The UK Independence Party may break into the Scottish Parliament in May – a prospect that seems to be playing havoc with the Conservatives’ prospects.
The Scotsman relates that a Survation poll suggests the party will take seven seats in the upcoming election – with the so recently-buoyant Tories only gaining a single extra for 16 MSPs.
According to some Scottish Tories – not to mention David Coburn, UKIP’s Scottish MEP – the close proximity of the EU referendum to the Holyrood election is putting wind in the sails of the People’s Army, as the local ‘Leave’ campaign suffers a “leadership vacuum”.
Jones challenges Crabb over next stage of Welsh devolution
The First Minister of Wales has accused Stephen Crabb, the Welsh Secretary, of failing to properly engage with his administration over the latest plans to pass power to the Assembly.
Yet the Welsh Office claim to have had “regular, wide-ranging discussions” with Carwyn Jones, and that recent announcements by the Secretary of State should not have come as a surprise either to him or his government.
Crabb has already announced several changes to his proposed Wales Bill – including a slimming down of reserved areas and simplification of lines of responsibility – following criticism from Welsh MPs and AMs.
Meanwhile, ahead of the Welsh elections Jones has ruled out any wholesale changes to the country’s NHS if Labour remain in power at Cardiff Bay.
The struggling health service has proved an Achilles’ Heel for his party, and was heavily exploited by the Conservatives to secure their impressive 11 seats in the general election last year.
Scottish Government’s care pay plan could plunge sector into crisis
The perilous fallout of the stand-off between local councils and John Swinney, the SNP’s arch-centralising Finance Minister, took on a new dimension this week.
The Herald reports that the Scottish Government’s plan to force councils to pay the living wage to care home workers – combined with continued pressure on local budgets due to the income tax freeze – could render their services unaffordable.
Sinn Fein rules out place in Irish Government after disappointing election
Gerry Adams’ hopes of leading his party into office in the Republic of Ireland – and having it in power on both sides of the border in time for the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising – have been dashed.
With their strategy of supplanting Fianna Fáil as the primary party of southern Republicanism thwarted, it seems they now hope to force both the Republic’s major parties into a coalition and lead the opposition.
This comes as Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, dropped his “broadest hint yet” that he might reveal more of his history with the IRA, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
Responding to a question from the TUV’s Jim Allister he claimed to be “absolutely willing” to take part in systems set up to investigate the past in the province, and urged others to do so.