SNP divided on how fast to push for independence

It was the Scottish National Party’s conference this week, and it has exposed the divisions within the Nationalist movement about how to proceed towards another push for independence.

After having its fingers burned by the electorate after coming out hard for a re-run of the 2014 referendum after the Brexit vote, the party leadership has been keen to downplay the issue and kept it off the agenda, according to the Scotsman.

But the grassroots’ impatience with this approach was obvious: Mhairi Black hit out at anybody who wanted to put independence ‘on the back burner’, which as Kenny Farquharson points out puts her directly at odds with Nicola Sturgeon.

Writing in the Times, Alex Massie reports that the SNP still hope that Brexit will deliver the majority for independence they lacked in 2014. This seems a long shot: contrary to the orthodox assumptions of the Remain campaign, our vote to leave the EU has actually undermined separatism – as this site predicted it would.

Brokenshire reports progress in Ulster talks

The Northern Irish Secretary claims that “some progress” has been made on the issues stalling the restoration of devolution in Belfast.

According to the News Letter, James Brokenshire has said that whilst no deal has been reached and “clear differences” remain, language and culture issues have moved forward somewhat.

Sinn Fein’s insistence on a full Irish Language Act, which is deeply unpalatable to unionist legislators who see it as a bid to make the Province less British, is one of the thorniest issues in the discussions. The DUP have floated a cross-community language bill, which would include Ulster-Scots, as a compromise.

Elsewhere the Republicans have also proposed introducing an all-Ireland NHS in the event of Northern Ireland’s absorption into the Republic of Ireland. Fears about the state of public spending in Ulster without the British Treasury are a major stumbling block to nationalist hopes – but so, it turns out, are concerns about higher taxes in the Republic.

Plaid breaks off deal with Labour

Carwyn Jones’ administration suffered a blow this week after the Welsh nationalists called time on the deal between their two parties in the Assembly.

According to Wales Online, Plaid Cymru have grown dissatisfied with Labour’s “managerialism and centralist thinking”, which they feel is undermining economic performance.

Leanne Wood, the left-wing nationalist leader, apparently broke the news to the First Minister in a personal phone call but her Assembly group had apparently voted unanimously to end the arrangement before the summer recess, waiting only until the passage of the most recent budget.

As that budget is a two-year arrangement, Wood says it will last long enough that Plaid can now try to carve out a distinct position for itself ahead of next year’s Welsh elections. The Welsh nationalists have historically struggled to repeat the successes of their Scottish counterparts in no small part because Labour is also a left-wing and (small-n) nationalist party.

Northern Irish Speaker accused of misleading the Assembly

The News Letter reports that the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, mislead MLAs about his role in a group which may have paramilitary links.

Robin Newton has faced multiple questions from legislators since a year-long BBC investigation, concluded this week, made the allegations.

Last year he gave a statement denying ever had a role in ‘Charter NI’, a group run by an alleged Ulster Defence Association chief, and also blocked a question about the group without revealing his connexion to it. A UDA whistleblower also claims that the group’s members were told to vote for Newton at a closed meeting.

In response, the Speaker has announced that he will not stand for re-election for his East Belfast constituency at the next election.

The Spotlight programme also highlighted how the DUP and Sinn Fein had colluded to block attempts to investigate the £80 million ‘Social Investment Fund’, which appears to have paid out public money to many groups with paramilitary links.