Constitution dominates closing stages of Holyrood campaign

Those hoping that the devolution of substantial tax powers would elevate Scottish political debate have been disappointed, just as such devolutionary expectations always are.

As Scots go to the polls tomorrow, a common complaint from voters is that the constitutional question is once again sucking all the oxygen out of the debate, leading to issues like poverty and education being marginalised.

Nicola Sturgeon has stoked speculation and said that she expects a referendum rematch whilst she is First Minister – prompting a unionist backlash which the Tory and even Liberal Democrat leaders cheered to the rafters at a televised debate as they denounced the SNP.

Polling expert John Curtice reports that there is some evidence that the focus on a second plebiscite is eroding support for the Nationalists amongst ‘No’ voters.

Jones pleads with minor party voters to scupper Tories

The First Minister of Wales has entreated the supporters of smaller parties to cast tactical votes for Labour in seats where his Party faces a tight fight with the Conservatives, according to Wales Online.

As I wrote last week, the Tories have slipped a little over the last couple of months and now face a series of close-fought, seat-by-seat struggles which may determine whether the party can hold on to second place.

Carwyn Jones has hinged his pitch on what life is like “in Labour Wales” – a country with health and education systems in such dire straits that the Tories made national issues of them ahead of the last general election.

Northern Irish Labour defiant as Party threatens to expel candidates

The News Letter reports that members of the Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee – a group set up to allow local Labour members to circumvent an official ban on contesting elections – are confident that they will avoid expulsion.

Labour’s General Secretary has written to the handful of candidates to threaten that they will be ineligible to continue to hold party membership if they are found to be defying the its tacit alliance with the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

However Kathryn Johnson, the NILRC’s leader, dismissed this as “nonsense” and claims that by standing as part of a separate organisation they have stuck to the letter of Labour’s rules.

Scottish Labour ‘civil war’ over Trident…

Labour’s conflicted position on Britain’s nuclear deterrent was highlighted this week when Jackie Baillie, a long-serving MSP whose constituency includes the Faslane naval base, tabled a pro-Trident submission to the UK party’s review on the subject – despite Scottish Labour being formally opposed.

As the SNP try to squeeze the left-wing vote their literature is playing up the confusion, contrasting their consistent anti-nuclear weapon stance with a party which is pro-Trident at the UK level (but with an anti-Trident leader) and anti-Trident at a Scottish level (with a pro-Trident leader).

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, has put her party’s staunch support for retaining the nuclear deterrent front and centre in her campaign, alongside the Union and the need for a strong opposition to hold Sturgeon to account.

…as Welsh Labour snubs Corbyn

The Labour leader has not visited Wales ahead of tomorrow’s elections because Welsh Labour told him not to come, according to Wales Online. The request came as Jeremy Corbyn and the far left became mired in the unfolding row about anti-Semtism.

Calling for Ken Livingstone’s expulsion from the party, the First Minister said: “There are incredibly serious issues for Jeremy to deal with in Westminster, and it is right and in the interests of the UK party that he stays there today and sorts this out.”

In fact, the great majority of Labour’s current spate of suspensions have been local councillors rather than MPs – but Jones has made a habit of defining himself against ‘Westminster’.

SNP urged to ‘shred’ £10 billion Chinese deal over human rights abuse claims

The First Minister has been urged to abandon an already-controversial deal with a huge Chinese construction firm after it was linked to alleged human rights abuses in the resource-rich region of Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An Amnesty International report on mining and human rights in the region, found and publicised by The Herald, named both China Railway Group Limited (CRG) and its local subsidiary, the Congo International Mining Corporation (CIMCO).

This comes in the same week that the SNP were accused by business leaders of ‘milking’ successful Scottish firms as they warned against another five years of “crippling” tax increases.

Ex-Tory Hamilton hopes to spearhead UKIP breakthrough in Cardiff Bay

Neil Hamilton, the one-time Conservative MP who lost his seat in 1997 in the aftermath of a “cash-for-questions” scandal, looks set to enter the Welsh Assembly as one of the very first UKIP AMs.

The Financial Times reports that the People’s Army expects to get six or seven seats in Cardiff Bay from the regional top-up lists which provide the proportional element of the Welsh electoral system.

Despite its sometime Thatcherite image, in Wales the party is performing best in Labour strongholds in the south east of the country.