Welsh Tories clash with Labour ahead of Assembly elections

Parents will be offered up to 30 hours of free childcare a week under plans unveiled by the Welsh Conservatives, according to WalesOnline.

This matches pledges made by both the ruling Labour administration and Plaid Cymru, the nationalists, ahead of this May’s elections to the Assembly, as well as Government policy in England.

It intends to boost the economy by helping parents return to work. However the party has yet to clarify how many weeks per year their policy will cover – Labour’s is 48.

David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, also waded into the election battle with a hard-hitting conference speech attacking Labour’s record both in Cardiff and London.

The Conservatives are hoping for an aggressive showing in May: one commentator lists seats they might capture and includes Delyn, Wrexham and Newport West – seats missed even in the party’s strong showing at last year’s general election.

Meanwhile, an apparently Conservative barrister has attacked Stephen Crabb for not supporting the partition of the English and Welsh legal systems, claiming that critics of the scheme showed “scant commitment to Wales”.

SNP accused of overlooking human rights abuses to seek Qatari investment

The Scottish Government apparently held its tongue on abusive practises whilst seeking £1.3 billion from the government of Qatar, according to the Daily Record.

Humza Yousaf, the SNP’s international development minister, reportedly failed to mention the slave conditions of workers on the 2022 World Cup as he sought funding for “a string of high-cost projects”.

A briefing pack prepared for him, released under Freedom of Information rules, did include a Foreign Office memo on the Gulf kingdom’s human rights abuses, but these did not make it into the agenda at any of his meetings.

Both Scottish Labour and the trades union movement have condemned the Scottish Government’s involvement with Qatar, although the SNP claim Yousaf did discuss humanitarian issues on several occasions.

UUP MP criticises giving McGuinness’ role in terror investigations

Tom Elliott, the Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and former party leader, has criticised the decision to give Martin McGuinness a say in the composition of a commission to investigate paramilitary activities.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that the Deputy First Minister, a prominent Sinn Fein leader described as a former IRA commander, will share the decision on two members of the Independent Reporting Commission with Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist leader and First Minister.

Elliott believes that an impartial body, such the Policing Board, would be better placed to make the appointment.

Sturgeon accused of ‘abuse of power’ over teen rally

The First Minister of Scotland has been accused of manipulating the privileges of her office to host a pre-election stunt ahead of this May’s Scottish Parliament poll.

According to the Scotsman, Nicola Sturgeon invited teen representatives of schools from across the country to an “Ask the First Minister” event, to be held just days before the Scottish Government enters its pre-election “purdah” period.

Opposition parties claim that this was a clear attempt to use civil service resources to make the SNP’s case to young voters. The franchise extends to 16 and 17-year-olds in Scottish elections.

NI21 leader quits politics

Yesterday, the attenuating tragedy that has been the disintegration of NI21 finally seems to have drawn to a close. The BBC reports that Basil McCrea, its founder and sole MLA, is to stand down at the upcoming Northern Irish election.

He founded the new, non-sectarian party with fellow MLA John McCallister after both quit the Ulster Unionists in 2013 (to the bitter disappointment of some local Conservatives, who had been wooing the pair).

Yet it fell apart spectacularly just before the 2014 European elections as the two men fell out, and ended up winning only a single council seat. That councillor defected to the SDLP a few weeks ago.

Senior Scottish police officer to stand down over spying row

A deputy chief constable who led a unit which illegally spied on journalists’ sources will retire within months, according to the Herald.

This comes a week after the officer, Neil Richardson, was accused by one of his own detectives of “making up” some of the evidence he presented to a committee of MSPs examining the scandal.

Apparently the force sought phone data of potential sources, including serving police officers, who might be leaking details of an unsolved murder to the press.