Davidson accuses Sturgeon of distorting EU referendum vote…

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has attacked the First Minister for putting the political priorities of the SNP ahead of her duty to represent all of Scotland in the aftermath of the EU referendum.

In an interview with The Guardian, Ruth Davidson explained why she thought that Scots have not – as many pro-EU commentators and Nicola Sturgeon seemed to expect – shifted towards separation after voting differently to the UK as a whole in June.*

She later told Buzzfeed that there was a “clear will” for the referendum in the country, pushing back against claims that David Cameron had “imperilled the Union” by calling it.

Meanwhile Professor Adam Tomkins, a unionist legal scholar who was elected as one of the Conservative MSPs for Glasgow in May, has told the Evening Times that he believes the party has every chance of expanding its support in the city if it has the grace and patience to earn a fair hearing.

And Sir Malcolm Rifkind took up a theme advanced previously on this site, arguing that the SNP’s fixation on independence would eventually cost it support in ex-Conservative, strongly unionist parts of the country that backed it as a bulwark against Labour.

…as Corbyn moves to rule out Lab-Nat alliance

Politics Home reports that a ‘key ally’ of the Labour leader claims he will rule out a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists following a fierce row stoked by his Shadow Scottish Secretary.

As we relayed last week David Anderson, the English MP from the North East who currently holds the brief, refused to rule out such a pact, despite clear opposition from the party in Scotland.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn is quoted as accusing the SNP of talking progressive in Westminster but not governing progressively in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, some of Scotland’s biggest Labour-run local authorities have taken the Party’s new ‘resist through local government’ maxim to heart and threatened the Scottish Government with legal action over budget cuts, the Herald reports.

The Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) broke away from Cosla, the primary local government body last year, insists that the SNP has to include it in budget talks.

More than 1,000 of the Party’s councillors backed Owen Smith for the leadership this week, citing the prospect of a second vote.

Brokenshire plans two-week tour of Northern Ireland to take soundings on Brexit

The Northern Ireland Secretary has announced his intention to canvass public opinion in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

James Brokenshire, who was promoted to the Ulster brief after serving as Immigration Minister in Theresa May’s Home Office, will aim to meet local businesses, politicians, and community leaders to make sure the Province’s interests are properly represented during the negotiations.

His experience with the immigration brief will come in handy as the Secretary of State tackles Northern Ireland’s greatest Brexit concern: the status of the border with the Republic of Ireland.

SNP criticised for ‘gagging’ journalist and putting payroll MSPs on committees

Two illustrations of the Scottish Nationalists’ authoritarian style of governing made the news this week. First was the startling revelation that two of their MPs had got STV to ‘muzzle’ Stephen Daisley, a popular and very active (and unionist-inclined) commentator.

Both Alex Massie and Iain Martin have good takes, but the gist is that Daisley’s articles seem to have stopped coming and his Twitter is much quieter than once it was. The two MPs apparently involved are Pete Wishart and John Nicolson, the latter of whom sits on the Culture, Media, and Sport select committee in Westminster.

Meanwhile, this article on Common Space reveals how a change to the Holyrood rules brought in by Alex Salmond (of course) has allowed the SNP administration to appoint so-called ‘Parliamentary Liaison Officers’ (PLOs) to Holyrood’s scrutiny committees, despite them being de facto members of the payroll vote.

The Nationalists have form in subverting the Scottish Parliament’s committee system, as the party’s constitution forbids its MSPs from criticising the Party – and thus, from scrutinising its policies.

Sinn Fein at centre of witness-coaching scandal

The Irish News reports that an up-and-coming member of the Northern Ireland Assembly has resigned following allegations that he coached a witness who gave “explosive” evidence to the committee he chaired.

Daithí McKay, who has resigned his North Antrim seat and been suspended from Sinn Fein, was chair of the finance committee when it was investigating NAMA, the province’s largest-ever property deal. It is claimed that he and a colleague communicated with Jamie Bryson, a loyalist blogger, before he gave evidence.

Now the committee – chaired by Emma Little-Pengelly of the Democratic Unionists – is calling for the suspension of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, the Finance Minister, whilst the allegations are investigated. However Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister, has resisted this, and the Times (£) reports that the DUP are trying not to let the scandal disrupt their coalition.

Welsh Labour accused of making stealth cuts as Smith attacked on devolution

The Labour administration in Cardiff Bay has quietly halved the level of support provided by its “flagship job creation programme”, Jobs Growth Wales, according to Wales Online.

Until recently it subsidised 100 per cent of a young person’s wages for six months, but now it is only 50 per cent. No announcement to this effect was made, and Wales Online say they only picked up on it thanks to a tip-off from the business community.

Russell George, the economic spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives, attached the Jones administration for sneaking out a major change to a high-profile policy without informing anybody.

In other news, Owen Smith’s leadership campaign rolled into Wales again this week – Guido Fawkes has described it as “Welsh-centric”. For all that, he managed to again land himself in hot water when Plaid Cymru tore into his claim to be an enthusiastic devolutionary, highlighting his poor attendance record at relevant Westminster votes.


*One small post-script this week: before the EU referendum I made that case that it was unlikely to lead to Scottish independence which drew a sceptical response from Alex Massie. He now has a piece in The Times (£) explaining why Sturgeon is rowing back from her initial bullishness about a second referendum.

For those without a subscription, the key paragraph:

“Be that as it may, I still think a referendum unlikely. I base that on six factors. First, Ms Sturgeon is a cautious creature. Second, she appreciates she may only get one shot at winning a referendum. Third, outside the already committed there is no evident enthusiasm for another referendum. Fourth, there is, as yet, no convincing sign Scotland would vote Yes if the question were asked again. Fifth, the imminent publication of the government’s latest Gers figures will reinforce the weakness of the current economic case for independence. Sixth, Brexit does not simplify the argument, it complicates it.”

Many unionists voted Remain in no small part because of a serious fear that Brexit might give separatism the push it needed to do what it could not in 2014. Happily, that does not look likely thus far.