Nationalist Brexit minister accused of spreading ‘false picture’

The Scottish Government’s minister for Brexit has been accused of trying to mislead people about Scotland’s position, according to the Press and Journal.

In addition to telling a Brussels audience that five million Scots indicated they wanted to keep their EU citizenship (only 1.6 million voted Remain), Mike Russell claimed to have opened talks with the Spanish – only to be shot down by Madrid.

Spain is one of the chief obstacles to the SNP’s plan to try and pry Scotland loose from the UK in order to maintain EU membership, as Madrid doesn’t want any EU precedent set which might encourage its own separatists.

The leader of Spain’s EPP MEPs has called Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a special deal ‘impossible’, forcing the Scottish Government to deny charges that their diplomatic offensive has turned into a shambles.

Jones says SNP plan for staying in the single market ‘can’t work’

Another blow to the SNP’s half-in half-out strategy came from Cardiff when the First Minister of Wales said their plan to remain in both the single market and the UK as could not “possibly work”, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Whilst Carwyn Jones, who heads a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition with a working arrangement with the Welsh nationalists, agreed that maintaining access to the single market ought to be the Government’s priority he argued it could only work on an all-island basis.

Meanwhile the Herald reports that SNP’s Stewart Hosie has been called out this week for trying to downplay the importance of the British single market to Scotland by claiming that most Scottish exports went to the EU… and including the rest of the UK in that total.

Mundell calls for more devolution within Scotland

The Scottish Secretary has called for Scottish local authorities to be given more powers on issues such as transport and health in order to prevent them falling behind newly-empowered English cities, according to the Scotsman.

Speaking in Glasgow David Mundell said that: “True devolution does not mean sucking power down from Westminster only to hoard it at Holyrood.”

This came after news that, following the Autumn Statement’s deal for Stirling, every city in Scotland is now the recipient of a ‘City Deal’ from Westminster.

By contrast COSLA, the primary Scottish local authority representative, clashed with the Scottish Government over planned council tax rises.

They want the SNP to issue a leaflet making clear that the planned hike in higher-rate rises in the rate are the result of the Scottish Government, not local council decisions.

Also this week Mundell revealed that Westminster wouldn’t block a request for a second independence referendum should the Scottish Government seek permission to hold one.

Hammond praises Northern Irish economy

The Chancellor has taken the opportunity after the Autumn Statement to highlight the progress of the Northern Irish economy, and outline how the Government intends to include the province in any post-Brexit successes.

Writing in the News Letter Philip Hammond points out that last year Northern Irish earnings grew faster than those of any other region, whilst Ulster’s share of the jobs boom means 60,000 more people are in work than in 2010.

The Autumn Statement also provided the Northern Ireland Executive with an extra £250 million to invest through to 2020-21 as part of the Government’s decision to make funds available for “areas that are critical to driving up productivity and growth”.

Northern Ireland is a crucial area to get right as Brexit goes ahead, with the Government having to negotiate the challenges created by the UK’s only land border (including a dispute over territorial waters sparked by James Brokenshire last week) and the possibility of resurgent terrorism.