Tory leaders target First Minister for vision of nationalism at any price…

Senior Conservatives have attacked Nicola Sturgeon after she claimed that the cause of Scottish independence ‘transcends’ all the various factors her party have previously cited in support of it.

The First Minister said that the cause of breaking up the UK was more important than “fads” like oil prices, austerity, or Brexit, leading Ruth Davidson to write that “finally, the mask is coming off”, and a Number Ten spokesman to claim the SNP were skating over “fundamental issues”.

In the Times (£), Alex Massie argues that this honestly will undermine the First Minister’s future claims to have a cost/benefit case for independence – and may provide the basis for a unionist pact to see her out of office in 2021.

…as Conservative AM sets out his nationalist vision for Wales

Don’t think that all Tories have been taking the fight to nationalism, though – the Welsh Conservatives have been sharing a story in the Daily Express in which one of their Assembly Members sets out what looks like an application to Plaid Cymru.

David Melding, “the Assembly’s erstwhile Deputy Presiding Officer”, believes that if Scotland ever votes to leave independence the rest of the UK will be valueless and should be disbanded.

He also outlines plans for: a separate, (inevitably) codified Welsh constitution; the dissolution of the British parties in Wales; a guarantee that the Deputy Prime Minister will always be Welsh; and the replacement of the House of Lords with, to quote:

“[a] disproportionally large number of Welsh members and with some form of veto on decisions, altering the balance of powers in the Union”.

Melding believes this is necessary because Wales is being ‘assimilated’ into England and – I kid you not – having it’s autonomy “eroded” by Britain. Some context: last week Wales introduced is first new tax in about 800 years.

It’s no secret that there are plenty of Welsh nationalists outwith the ranks of Plaid Cymru, but until now they’ve mostly been Labour. This contribution fits a pattern of devolved Welsh politicians demanding whatever Scotland has, regardless of their own people’s much smaller appetite for such divisions.

The Welsh Tories should certainly not be boasting about an argument that sets so low a value on being British and demands such a satirically hollow and one-sided constitution.

Scottish Labour all but splits from UK party

Yet bold as Melding’s nationalist prospectus is in theory, the medal still goes to Labour for putting one into practice. Only yesterday the party decided to give its Scottish wing full policy-making autonomy… over reserved policy.

The separatist commentator I link to grumbles that it didn’t create an entirely separate Scottish Labour Party, but in truth they have in all but name.

If the central party has no say over candidate selection and party membership the idea of a single organisation is already stretching a point. But if the two groups can enter the same election on different manifestos then they’re not, for practical purposes, one party.

Absurdly Kezia Dugdale, the leader in Scotland, has replicated the traditional devolutionary have-cake-eat-cake demand and wants increased influence on UK-level policy-making even as she excises the UK dimension from Scottish policy-making.

She seems for the moment to have got her wish, with new Scottish representation on the party’s National Executive Committee. Whether this imbalance will prove as durable should the party ever get within sight of power remains to be seen.

Jones urged to remain First Minister to see off Corbynistas

Labour’s First Minister in Wales has been urged by colleagues not to step down lest the hard left mount a bid to capture his administration, Wales Online reports.

Apparently there is a widespread belief that Carwyn Jones will step aside in 2019, in order to allow his successor to bed in before the general election scheduled for 2020 and the Welsh elections in 2021.

But anti-Corbynites fear that if his post should fall vacant whilst a left-winger is still the national leader, one of Corbyn’s three supporters in Labour’s 29-strong Assembly group would be in “pole position” to take over.

The site previously reported in August that senior officials in the Welsh party risked being “purged” if the Islington MP were re-elected.

Also this week, Jones set out his ‘five year plan’ for Wales and refused to rule out axing the principality’s “flagship anti-poverty scheme”.

Foster and McGuinness ‘secretly changed law’ to hire spin doctor

This week the News Letter reports that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland exercised royal prerogative powers to avoid Assembly scrutiny as they changed the law to hire an aide.

David Gordon has been hired from the BBC to be what the Belfast Telegraph call the Executive’s chief “spin doctor”. Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness used an obscure power to avoid having to advertise the post publicly.

The Sinn Fein leader in particular has faced charges of hypocrisy for exercising the royal prerogative, something he claims to feel “absolutely grand” about.

Elsewhere this week Foster, who leads the Democratic Unionists, touted the province as a “great place to invest” on a trip to the United States, whilst the Executive set up a £7m bailout package for Londonderry’s “ailing” airport.