Davidson accuses Sturgeon of trying (and failing) to ‘weaponise’ Brexit
Ruth Davidson has called for a fresh campaign to make the case for the Union as Nicola Sturgeon ramps up her posturing over a second independence referendum.
STV reports that the Scottish Conservative leader accused the First Minister of trying to ‘weaponise’ the Brexit vote – despite the fact that Britain’s departure from the EU makes separation “weaker and more illogical than ever”.
She said that: “…gainst their own expectations, all their attempts to weaponise Brexit to boost support for independence has simply not worked.” So far, at least, Christopher Howarth and my predictions are being borne out.
Elsewhere this week, the UK representative of the European Commission confirmed that Scotland would need to adopt the Euro upon joining the EU in its own right, whilst a new study found only one in five Scots would favour a new currency. Devolved finance ministers also called for greater clarity on the economic impact of Brexit.
Tories accused of ‘favouritism’ over DUP Westminster debate
Since June’s Brexit vote, the relationship between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionists has got a lot closer. Having to take ownership of our departure from the EU, and make a success of it, seems to have spurred the DUP towards wider British alliances they’ve neglected for decades.
The local Tories are running a low-key campaign for next month’s snap elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, but on the whole the national party doesn’t seem to be exerting itself in any way likely to undermine its new ally.
Now Stephen Bush, in the New Statesman, reports that the Government is being criticised for permitting the DUP a half-day debate in the run-up to polling day. Scheduled before Stormont collapsed there was apparently a widespread expectation that it would be rescheduled – apparently not.
This isn’t the only development which highlights the alleged tension between Westminster’s role as “honest broker” and the Conservatives’ commitment to Ulster as an avowedly unionist party. James Brokenshire has been criticised for campaigning for local Tory candidates too.
However such alliances and campaigning are essential if Northern Ireland is to be to any degree reintegrated into national political life.
Plaid council spark backlash by closing down English-language schooling
Leanne Wood, the leader of the Welsh nationalists, has demanded that the Welsh Government crack down on Labour councillors who are resisting the transformation of their local school into a Welsh-language one as part of a national campaign to force up the number of Welsh speakers.
According to Wales Online she claimed that a village’s local council candidates from Labour are collaborating with UKIP to resist the decision by Plaid-run Carmarthenshire County Council, presumably because they want their children schooled in English.
Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, agreed with her that the situation in Llangennech, near Llanelli, had become “toxic”. The BBC reports that one Labour councillor denounced the move as “segregation”, whilst a Welsh language campaigner said objectors could “cross the border.
Some parents have already moved their children to other schools, according to the South Wales Evening Post, with more to follow. They claim that demand for mono-lingual education has been “socially engineered” by nationalist campaigners from outside the village.
Nesbitt divides Ulster Unionists over plan to endorse nationalists
The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party announced this week that he would transfer his vote to the nationalist SDLP before other unionist parties, the News Letter reports.
His intention is to try to cement the partnership between the two smaller parties and forge a more coherent alternative coalition to the DUP-Sinn Fein duopoly. But it’s proved controversial.
Whilst none have rebuked him directly, several UUP candidates have already issued their own advice to supporters and recommended endorsing other unionist parties before making the switch to the least-bad nationalist ones.
Sam McBride explains in the News Letter how Nesbitt’s stance is logical as leader of the opposition – how can you urge voters to boot out the DUP and then second-preference them? – but conflicts with deeply-held unionist instinct.
For their part, the SDLP response has been rather graceless: Nesbitt’s constituency counterpart has refused to say he’ll reciprocate whilst Colm Eastwood, their leader, seems set on a strategy of “out-greening Sinn Fein“.