Last Wednesday we cleared our front page to give full coverage to the surprising result of the US election, so this is a two-week edition of Red, White, and Blue.
Sinn Fein refuse to rule out taking seats to vote against Brexit
The Belfast Telegraph reports that Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, has “refused to rule out” having his MPs take their seats at Westminster in order to vote against Article 50.
Sinn Fein have traditionally refused to take their seats in the House of Commons because it requires an oath to the Queen. It also mirrors the decision of Republican MPs to set up an Irish legislature after their landslide in the 1918 election.
Brexit has already noticeable affected the Democratic Unionists, who have been much more plugged into UK-wide politics since the vote. But getting Sinn Fein MPs through the division lobbies would be a truly historic moment.
Nor was this the only instance of suspiciously British sentiment on the part of Sinn Fein supporters last week: a front-page poll in the Irish Daily Mail found more than four-in-ten Irish voters would prioritise maintaining the Republic’s relations with Britain over those with the EU. Residents of the border counties and Sinn Fein voters were most likely to take this view.
Tories pick up two council seats in Aberdeen
It was a good week for the Conservatives north of the border last week, with the party winning two Aberdeenshire by-elections, unseating the Nationalists in Banff and picking up Inverurie too.
Ruth Davidson wrote on Facebook that the results prove the Tories can beat the SNP “in Salmond’s backyard” – and they do suggest that the Tories have finally shed their age-old millstone of attracting no transfer votes.
She also said in the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal that the Nationalists have used the North East as a “cash cow”. The area was once strongly Tory but has since become an SNP heartland, but voted heavily against independence and delivered the Conservatives some great results in May’s local elections.
Meanwhile the Scotsman reported Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, announcing that the contract for the Royal Navy’s new frigate fleet will keep the Clyde shipyards in business for 20 years. Nicola Sturgeon tweeted up a storm when the contracts were delayed… but was strangely mute on this piece of good news.
Jones demands immigration ‘compromise’ to protect Welsh jobs
The First Minister of Wales said that maintaining “full and unfettered” access to the EU single market is more important than immigration, according to the BBC.
Carwyn Jones spent the referendum campaign warning that a Brexit vote might lead Wales to choose the EU, and hasn’t let the Welsh leave vote knock him off his script. He has joined Sturgeon in suggesting his administration could try to join the legal resistance to the Government’s appeal on Article 50.
However he did say it would be impractical for different parts of the country to have separate relationships with the Single Market.
Meanwhile a nationalist peer, formerly Plaid and latterly Labour, has tabled an amendment in the House of Lords calling for Wales to be granted the status of a self-governing dominion.
SNP defeated on free speech at football measure
Opposition parties united to defeat the Scottish Government on a controversial act intended to control ‘offensive behaviour’ at football matches, according to the Scotsman.
A coalition spanning from the left-wing, separatist Greens to the Tories combined against the measure, which was described as both unworkable and discriminatory.
Those unfamiliar with the act should read these two articles by Alex Massie in the Spectator. It basically tries to criminalise speech which might be offensive to somebody, even if nobody is actually offended. But only at football matches. Or as Massie puts it:
“It cannot be stressed too often that the law, as interpreted by the judicial system, rigs the game against any defendant. It allows – and I am not kidding here or making this up – for imaginary persons to be conjured into existence who might have been offended had they, you know, actually existed and been present and thus in a position to be offended or incited to public disorder by the singing of a football song. In Scotland, these days, you can offend people who do not exist.”
And as Alan Cochrane points out in the Daily Telegraph, sectarianism isn’t even a plague on Scottish football as much as it is on one rivalry between two clubs.
Northern Irish politicians divided on Trump
The leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has come under fire for his refusal to visit the White House whilst Donald Trump is President, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
Sammy Wilson, a Democratic Unionist MP, has contrasted Colum Eastwood’s tough stance with his willingness to be a pallbearer for a member of the INLA, a terrorist group.
At the other end of the spectrum Jim Allister, the leader of the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice, has written in the News Letter that he ‘rejoices’ at the outcome, arguing that the Republican win “enhances the opportunities of Brexit”.
Scottish Labour deputy urges ‘federalism’ as Holyrood debates EU plan
The Scotsman reports that the deputy leader of Scottish Labour has called on his party to “abandon its association with unionism” to win back supporters lost to the SNP.
Alex Rowley, a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, dismissed both unionism and nationalism as “narrow ideologies”, and demanded “home rule within a confederal United Kingdom”.
Such a move would delight the Scottish Conservatives, who are making a concerted effort to woo pro-Union voters. After heavy losses to the SNP unionists make up the bulk of Labour’s remaining vote, so unless they plan to out-nationalist the Nationalists alienating them is a risky proposition.
On the subject of confederalism, the Scottish Parliament is considering a proposal by academics that would see Scotland issuing its own passports and National Insurance Numbers in order to allow Scots to continue to work inside the EU.
‘Naive’ mistakes by civil servants cost Welsh Government £1.25 million
The Welsh Government has been forced to pay out more than a million pounds in compensation after “ill-judged, naive” decisions by civil servants left it liable, according to Wales Online, in a move described by the Welsh Conservatives as “highly embarrassing”.
Apparently the officials involved may now be open to disciplinary action over their mishandling of a £12.5 million public contract, after a Welsh firm claimed it had been unfairly discriminated against in the tendering process.
This is the latest in a string of instances where the Welsh Government has been accused of ill-managing public funds: in one notable example it sold a plot of land in northern Cardiff for its farming value of £1.8 million, instead of its housing value of £39 million.