SNP forced into u-turn on business rates

It’s not just Sajid Javid who’s found himself in political hot water over business rate rises. According to the Scottish Sun that Derek Mackay, the SNP finance minister, yesterday delivered major concessions on his own rate hike after a torrid week.

Even SNP-supporting businessmen had begun to speak up against the Scottish Government’s proposals, and thousands of businesses now stand to see their rises capped. Alex Salmond has been forced to speak out against the idea of a party split.

Opponents were quick to point out that Mackay has somehow found £44 million for this retreat when he insisted on tax rises in order to give in to Green Party demands amounting to only £29 million.

EU politicians threaten to try ‘divide and rule’ with Scotland and Northern Ireland

A senior German MEP has warned Theresa May that Brussels may make a “big fuss” over Scotland and Ulster if the British Government tries to split member states over Brexit, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Elmar Brok, an ally of Angela Merkel, made his comments as the debate over Article 50 began in the House of Lords.

However it’s not clear that what looks like a good idea in a country like Germany, with no substantial separatist movement to speak of, will seem so wise in Spain or other member states.

Far-right nationalist passes SNP candidate vetting

The Daily Record reports that Sonja Cameron, a hard-line Scottish nationalist with links to a “tartan terrorist” and who has previously been suspended from the SNP, has passed the party’s candidate vetting.

Her suspension was a result of a court conviction for involvement in Settler Watch, a racist organisation which ran a hate campaign against English people moving to Scotland in the 1990s.

When the police arrested her over her involvement she was driving the car of Andrew McIntosh, leading police to him. He was subsequently sentenced to 12 years for conducting a hoax bombing campaign under the auspices of the ‘Scottish National Liberation Army’.

Elsewhere, the SNP had no qualms about barring the re-election of a sitting councillor over his support for Brexit, however.

Labour expels Northern Irish member for fighting Stormont election…

The Labour Party has expelled two Northern Irish activists after they set up their own vehicle to contest next month’s snap Stormont elections, the BBC reveals.

Donal O’Cofaigh, formerly of Sinn Fein, is running in Fermanagh & South Tyrone as a candidate for the ‘Cross-Community Labour Alternative’. Adam Gannon, another LPNI activist, was campaigning for him.

Once again, the Opposition prove much swifter to move against Ulster members with the temerity to stand for election than against those accused of anti-Semitism, an unfortunate trend we spotted last year.

However, there is some good news: apparently the party is currently conducting a review of its current abstentionist stance. The principle block likely remains Labour’s friendly relationship with the nationalist SDLP, which has three MPs and generally supports Labour in the Commons.

…as Welsh councillors find themselves in trouble

Wales Online reports that Labour councillors on Caerphilly Council have been warned that they face a backlash from the electorate if they don’t distance themselves from the group’s leadership over an ongoing financial scandal.

They apparently approved a sharp rise in senior officers’ pay which later turned out to have come about via an illegal process, over which the Chief Executive has been suspended since 2013.

Charges of misconduct in a public office were dismissed before coming to trial, but a disciplinary investigation is ongoing and the process is supposed to have cost taxpayers more than £2.5 million.

Meanwhile a couple of Labour councillors embroiled in the ‘toxic’ row over a Plaid-run council’s decision to shut down English-language education in their village have been accused of sharing social media content from far-right groups.

They also seem to have been collaborating with Neil Hamilton, the leader of UKIP’s Welsh Assembly group, to defend so-called “dual stream” schooling.

Shetland islanders again exploring separation from Scotland

Politicians in the Shetland Islands have responded to Nicola Sturgeon’s latest referendum threats by looking for ways to disentangle themselves from Scotland, the Daily Express reports.

Some of them apparently want a level of semi-detached, autonomous status within the UK, similar to that enjoyed by the Faroe Islands within the Kingdom of Denmark.

The archipelago’s waters not only contain a lot of what remains of Britain’s North Sea oil, but apparently they also land more fish than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland put together.

Alliance activists caught planning to ‘hijack’ BBC show

Northern Ireland’s liberal party has come under fire after leaks from a private social media group show it coordinating members to ‘hijack’ a phone-in, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

The Alliance Party’s senior press officer instructed an “inner circle” of members to dial in with tough question for rivals and soft ones for Naomi Long, their own leader, as well as to deny being APNI members.

Although nothing like actual misconduct, the leak will be embarrassing for a party which trades so heavily on its supposed occupation of the moral high ground.