Davidson presses attack as Labour and Lib Dems withdraw support for Sturgeon

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has hit out again at the First Minister as the aftershocks of Brexit continue to be felt north of the border, according to the Scotsman.

Ruth Davidson has attacked the SNP for trying to exploit the EU referendum to revive their separatist agenda – has been joined, perhaps surprisingly, by her Liberal Democrat counterpart.

In a stinging attack in the same paper Willie Rennie – who made a memorable contribution to May’s pro-Union fightback in the Scottish Parliament elections by unexpectedly winning North East Fife – explained that his party was withdrawing its support for Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘exploration of the options’.

He claims that far from exploring “all the options” the SNP have been exploring only one, independence, and that the Lib Dems would not support the Nationalists if the Holyrood vote on the First Minister’s position were held again. Labour will also oppose a second independence referendum.

Dugdale attacks Scottish Conservatives as the ‘Brexit party’

The Conservatives were much criticised by the SNP for refusing to back that vote at the time, and Labour’s Kezia Dugdale has now attempted to brand them “Scotland’s Brexit party”, according to the Herald.

Predictably, the charge is nonsense: most Tory MSPs backed Remain, and that Davidson herself was one of the most nationally-prominent Scottish campaigners on that side of the argument.

But it does highlight the fact that there isn’t a “Brexit party” in the Scottish Parliament, despite four in ten Scots backing that position. Another reminder that Scotland’s political class can fall seriously short of speaking for Scotland.

Scottish Nationalists falter as polls refuse to shift

Sturgeon is herself discovering this as Scottish voters, despite the doom-laden certainties of many Remain campaigners, stubbornly refuse to swing into the separatist camp, as Theresa May has pointed out.

Indeed, Lord Ashcroft’s polling suggests that more SNP voters prioritise controlling immigration than retaining single market access, and even a former leader denies the case for a vote.

Meanwhile, the party’s much-vaunted ‘National Survey’ has landed Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, the SNP’s Chief Executive’, in hot water after experts expressed concern that it may “breach both data protection legislation and electronic marketing regulations”, the Daily Express reports.

The First Minister is planning to draw up a bill for a second referendum that can be introduced ‘immediately’, but this is a red herring: such a poll needs Westminster authorisation and negotiations, and the Government must not allow itself to be bounced.

Welsh Conservatives criticise Jones’ ‘snub’ to Cardiff Airport

Wales Online reports that the First Minister of Wales has come under fire from the Tories for his failure to use Cardiff Airport for a recent visit to the United States.

Carwyn Jones, the Labour leader, was on a visit to three American cities – Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Chigaco – to “sell Wales to the world”. Yet he opted to fly from Heathrow which, his Conservative opponents point out, is in England.

Andrew RT Davies, the Tory leader, argues that Jones cannot excuse himself with the fact that there aren’t any direct flights to the US from Cardiff because, in his words: “flying from London isn’t direct when it first entails a two-and-a-half hour drive to London.”

In the Conservatives’ defence, Jones’ administration has nationalised the airport and spends public money promoting its (indirect) links to the US. Let’s hope this critique is rooted in prudent concern for public finances, and not a parochial aversion to the UK’s premier air hub because it’s on the wrong side of a line on a map.

First draft of Ulster boundary review looks like boost for Sinn Fein

The boundary commission have released their first plans for cutting the number of seats in Northern Ireland from 18 to 17, and the News Letter reports that they look like bad news for unionists.

Amongst the proposals are a reduction of Belfast’s four iconic seats to three, with Belfast West broken up and divided between North and South and tipping both those seats (currently held by the Democratic Unionists and SDLP) towards Sinn Fein.

East Londonderry would also absorb much of Sinn Fein’s Mid Ulster constituency to become a new, likely nationalist Glenshane, although this might be compensated for by the creation of a unionist West Antrim seat, and Fermanagh and South Tyrone would also grow to absorb more nationalist areas.

Whilst no parties have made formal announcements yet, the DUP have apparently already indicated that FST – captured by the Ulster Unionists from Sinn Fein at the last election and a psychologically-important western win – is an area of concern.

Combined with the loss of the redistricted East Londonderry, the result could be to push the unionists farther east on the Province’s electoral map, a win for Sinn Fein that both the DUP and UUP will want to avoid.