Tomkins accuses SNP of treating Holyrood with ‘contempt’

Adam Tomkins, one of the Conservative MSPs for Glasgow, has attacked Nicola Sturgeon’s administration for failing to debate legislation in the Scottish Parliament.

The Herald reports his claim that MSPs haven’t debated a bill since the new parliament was elected in May last year, despite no fewer than 17 debates on Brexit during that time. Only four of the 14 bills the First Minister promised to introduce in 2016/17 have been laid out.

Tomkins, who is the Conservative spokesman on the constitution and a professor of constitutional law, further criticised the SNP for pursuing a wildly unrealistic bid for a veto on Brexit at the Supreme Court whilst neglecting the day-to-day governance of Scotland.

May ‘intensifies’ UK-wide Brexit work

The Prime Minister was in Cardiff this week to meet the heads of the devolved administrations, where she informed them of her intention to step up “work on their proposals for Brexit”.

It will be a challenging role: both the Scottish and Welsh government are floating proposals that will allow them to stay inside the EU single market, which contradicts both Theresa May’s apparent determination to secure a country-wide set of departure terms and her pledge not to allow any new barriers or divisions within the UK.

May was also in Dublin this week talking to the Irish government, where she joined Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach, to promise a “seamless and frictionless” Irish border post-Brexit. How this is compatible with the Republic’s ongoing membership of the EU, and her promise not to introduce internal divisions within the UK, remains to be seen.

Brokenshire criticises ‘disproportionate’ focus on security services in inquiry

The Northern Irish Secretary has warned that investigations into killings during the Troubles are currently skewed against members of the military, police, and security services.

The Irish Times reports that James Brokenshire believes current inquires are “not working”, and that the “vast majority” of soldiers and Royal Ulster Constabulary officers served with “distinction”.

Former servicemen are apparently appealing to the Government to introduce a statute of limitations to curtail prosecutions. Their treatment contrasts with that of so-called ‘On The Runs’, individuals wanted by the police in connexion to terrorism offences who received a de facto pardon from Tony Blair’s administration.

Naturally Sinn Fein have described the Secretary of State’s remarks as “wholly unhelpful“.

Scottish Labour rule out support for a second independence referendum

Kezia Dugdale, Labour’s leader in Scotland, has written in the Scotsman that her party will “never” support a second referendum on Scottish independence.

She highlights the currently unassailable economic case for the Union, and the devastating impact the shock of separation could have on Scotland’s public finances and those who depend on them.

Dugdale has previously come under fire for seeming to be ambivalent in her unionism, especially when Scottish Labour’s immediate survival depends on staunching any further loss of unionist voters to the Conservatives.

In less happy news Tam Dalyell, the far-sighted sage who originally posed the West Lothian Question and Scottish Labour’s pre-eminent opponent of devolution, passed away this week. He held lots of other views which irritated conservatives but he’s been a bit of a hero to this column, so I’ll light a candle for him.

Republicans can do business with Democratic Unionists after election, says O’Neill

The new leader of Sinn Fein has said that her party will be able to “do business” with the DUP after next month’s snap elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Michelle O’Neill, who replaced an ailing Martin McGuinness as her party’s leader in Northern Ireland, has refused to set preconditions on Sinn Fein entering talks with the DUP, and indicated that she is willing to work with Arlene Foster, their leader.

A previously close, if not especially effective, working relationship between the two parties appeared only weeks ago to have broken down almost completely in the fallout from the ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ scandal. The prospect of a deadlock over Foster’s future bringing down the devolved settlement seemed possible.

O’Neill also revealed that she had been told a while ago by McGuinness and Gerry Adams that she was in line for the leadership.

Sinn Fein challenged over links to supporters of Trump’s immigration crackdown

The BBC reports that Fianna Fáil, a once-dominant opposition party in the Republic of Ireland, has put Sinn Fein under pressure to “spell out its contacts with US supporters of President Trump’s immigration ban”, including any donations.

Despite Gerry Adams attacking the President’s policy, apparently Congressman Peter King, one of its high-profile backers, is a “close personal ally” of the Sinn Fein leader, and has raised significant funds for the party.

Nor did King stop with Sinn Fein: he apparently used to be a vocal supporter of the IRA, describing them as a “legitimate force”.