May to visit Scotland and Wales in ‘Brexit tour’

The Prime Minister will launch her national tour – marking one year to go until our departure from the European Union – in Scotland, the Scotsman reports.

It adds that Theresa May will reaffirm her “absolute responsibility to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom as a whole” as her ministers continue to wrangle with the devolved administrations over the future of powers repatriated from the European Union.

Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have passed so-called ‘continuity bills’, which the Government is expected to challenge in the Supreme Court on the grounds that they are beyond the competence of the devolved legislatures.

May will also be taking her unionist message to Wales. However, as the tour is apparently aimed at meeting non-politicians she will not be holding face-to-face meetings with either Carwyn Jones or Nicola Sturgeon.

Plaid leader ‘not convinced’ by tough stance on Russia

ITV reports that Leanne Wood, the left-wing leader of the Welsh nationalists, has said that she won’t “take the Prime Minister’s” word that Russia was behind the Salisbury attack.

Pressed by a reporter, she explained that “I don’t trust the Tories on anything”. This sets her apart from her Scottish counterpart – Sturgeon notably overcame her own anti-Tory instincts to strongly back the Government’s position, in defiance of the SNP’s hard-line fringe.

Andrew RT Davies, who leads the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly, has called Wood’s contribution ‘childish’, and Simon Hart MP attacked it as “puerile”.

In other Plaid news, Wood used this week’s party conference to announce her intention to lead the nationalists into the next Welsh Assembly elections in 2021, according to Wales Online. She also indicated that she was beginning to sketch out the party’s bid to be the next Welsh government, although insisting that it is too early to write the manifesto.

However, in a possible sign of dissent, Jonathan Edwards, a Plaid MP, warned that the party risked “electoral oblivion” if it answered the challenge of Jeremy Corbyn by tacking left and embraced “socialist theory” – an approach which Wood’s own very left-wing sympathies would certainly dispose her well towards.

Foster suggests DUP will proceed with ‘shadow assembly’

It’s been over a year since the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed, and despite some initial optimism it now looks as if Ulster might be without devolved government for some time.

However, with the Government deeply unwilling to formally declare direct rule, and the administration of the Province by unsupervised civil servants coming in for mounting criticism, the Democratic Unionists have suggested a way of incorporating some form of local politics into rule from Westminster.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that Arlene Foster, the former First Minister and current leader of the DUP, is proposing a ‘shadow assembly’, wherein MLAs would scrutinise the actions of the Northern Irish Office and try to have some input into the decision-making process.

Sargeant family concerned at inquiry delay

A solicitor representing the family of Carl Sargeant has accused the Welsh Government of unreasonably delaying an inquiry into how the former minister was treated by Jones, according to Wales Online.

The First Minister has been under huge pressure over claims that he mishandled allegations against Sargeant, sacking him days before the AM’s apparent suicide without telling him what he was accused of.

Both sides have been wrangling over the terms of the inquiry, causing further hold-ups: the family objected to several of the names suggested to oversee it, whilst the Welsh Government resisted a bid to broaden its terms of reference.

Jones previously blocked an attempt to set up an inquiry led by AMs – Kirsty Williams, his Liberal Democrat minister, apparently burned £5,000 of taxpayers’ cash cancelling an overseas visit in order to attend the crucial vote, which was forced by the Welsh Conservatives.

Scotland in Union cleared of donations charges

Scotland’s leading anti-independence campaign has been cleared of allegations that it failed to declare £150,000 in donations, according to the Herald.

The Electoral Commission said it was satisfied that Scotland in Union (SiU) had complied with the law, after an investigation launched after a spreadsheet of SiU donors was leaked to a pro-independence website. The leak has been referred to the police for investigation.