Scottish Parliament debates demand for second independence referendum

In what the Herald describes as a ‘bruising’ debate, MSPs spent yesterday arguing about the Scottish Government’s intention to request authority from Westminster to hold a second referendum on independence.

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, insists that she has a mandate to demand another go – although Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader of the opposition, gave this short shrift.

Unionist MSPs have saved particular criticism for the six Green MSPs, who are separatists (or thereabouts) but whose own manifesto contained a much more stringent precondition for supporting another referendum even than the SNPs.

With no rise in public support either for independence or even holding a referendum, it’s very difficult to see how Patrick Harvie can reconcile support for the SNP with his party’s pledge to wait until a referendum was the “clear will” of Scots.

Meanwhile Kezia Dugdale, Labour’s leader in Scotland, has reported that Jeremy Corbyn supports Theresa May’s position that no new referendum should be held until after Brexit, according to the Herald.

She also claims that he supports the creation of a ‘federal UK’. This will be very welcome news both to Gordon Brown, who has been pushing his confederal vision (again) this week, and to her Welsh counterpart…

Jones announces Labour grand council to save the Union

The First Minister of Wales intends to bring together senior Labour figures from across the country “in a bid to ensure the United Kingdom does not fall apart after Brexit”, Wales Online reports.

Carwyn Jones, an archetypical devolved politician of the “more powers!” mould, looks to be trying to push his plan to turn the UK into a “mini-EU”.

Outlining his federal model, he suggests that joint British decision-making should be avoided even where one British set of rules is ideal. Instead, a ‘council of ministers’ should meet to agree a common policy across different devolved regimes.

The First Minister has also called for Wales to get a “dividend” for supporting the continued existence of the UK – on top of the great economic benefits it reaps from the UK’s existence now, presumably – and threatens that the Welsh may decide to resort to “Scottish tactics” should such spoils not be forthcoming.

Such positioning is of a piece with Jones’ typical “more powers!” approach: during the EU referendum he implausibly claimed that Brexit might lead to Welsh independence.

Another Labour AM goes even further. Jeremy Miles wants a separate Welsh Labour Party, which would include a separate whip for Labour’s Welsh MPs.

Last but not least Martin Shipton, Wales Online’s small-n nationalist chief reporter, has hit upon the nefarious scheme hidden behind Theresa May’s Brexit rhetoric about a ‘global Britain’.

“A global role was what colonists from Britain were seeking to fulfil as they conquered much of the world and exploited other countries’ resources”, he notes.

Government rebuffs Irish leader over Northern Ireland

The Government appears to have gently rebuffed Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, over claims that he’s struck a deal with Theresa May over the current crisis in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the United States, Kenny indicated that he had agreed with the Prime Minister that there would be no return to direct rule in Ulster. However, when asked to respond the Government refused to substantiate this, instead insisting that maintaining political stability in the province was a British responsibility.

Kenny, who heads an embattled minority administration comprising his own Fine Gael party and a number of independent legislators, has said that he doesn’t want to step aside as prime minister until the current crisis in Ulster is resolved.

SNP accused of ignoring evidence to abolish British Transport Police

The Scottish Government has been accused of putting the interests of rail passengers below ‘nationalistic jingoism’ in their drive to merge the Scottish operations of the British Transport Police into their Scotland-wide superforce, Police Scotland.

According to the Scotsman Nigel Goodband, chairman of the British Transport Police Federation, accused the SNP of being motivated by nothing more than a desire to “play with their own train set”.

He has also reportedly written both to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, urging that rail policing be considered a national security issue and thus remain under Westminster’s aegis.

Meanwhile railway companies have expressed concern at reports that up to 40 per cent of the BTP’s 260 Scottish officers may depart the force rather than merge with Police Scotland.