SNP asks Governemnt to delay handover of welfare powers

The Daily Record reveals that the Scottish Government have asked Westminster to retain control of newly-devolved welfare powers for an extra year.

In what the paper describes as a ‘shock move’, this would involve the Government retaining control of disability payments until 2021, even as the SNP lambast ministers for the alleged cruelty of the current system.

And as one devo-sceptic Twitter account points out, the Scottish Government has spent more on its welfare “sub-shambles” than it planned to set aside for the transition to independence had the separatists won in 2014.

‘Legislative competence’ has already been passed to MSPs as part of the fallout from the ill-conceived ‘Vow’ issued by the unionist parties ahead of the referendum, but the Scottish Government has yet to assume ‘executive competence’ from the Department of Work and Pensions and is apparently ill-equipped to do so.

The Record says that the powers devolved “include carer’s allowance, winter fuel payment, attendance allowance, severe disablement allowance, industrial injuries disablement benefit, funeral expenses, discretionary housing payments and some universal credit powers.”

Border Force recruitment ‘sparks fears’ of hard border for Wales

Plans drawn up by the Government to recruit 1,000 extra officers for the UK Border Force have raised concerns that Brexit might lead to a hard border between Wales and Ireland, Wales Online reports.

Stephen Doughty, a Labour MP for Cardiff, criticised Amber Rudd’s announcement of £395 million in Home Office funding, and Carwyn Jones raised the prospect that Irish trade with the EU could be re-routed more directly if onerous checks are introduced at Welsh ports. At present 70 per cent of the Republic’s UK-bound freight trade passes through Wales.

Doughty added that it would be “it would be unacceptable for there to be a situation where there was effectively no border on the island of Ireland and instead a maritime border down the middle of the Irish Sea”. He accused the Government of preparing for that scenario, despite the Prime Minister having explicitly ruled it out.

In other Brexit news, this week saw signs that some Welsh devocrats worry that voters might focus their discontent on the many and various failings of the Welsh Assembly after the EU is no longer there as a target of such sentiment. We can only hope.

SDLP denies rumours it is preparing to ‘stand aside’ for Fianna Fail

Northern Ireland’s smaller nationalist party has put out an official statement denying rumours that it intends to step aside to allow a party from the Republic to contest elections in Ulster, according to the News Letter.

‘Senior sources’ from within the party told the Belfast Telegraph that four in five SDLP members favour stepping aside if Fianna Fail, the more republican of the two largest southern parties, were to start standing in the Province, and leader Colum Eastwood has refused to rule it out in the future.

The SDLP, which traditionally takes the Labour whip in the House of Commons, has been being squeezed by Sinn Fein for over a decade and lost its last two MPs at last summer’s general election.

Wales sees first new taxes in 800 years

Two new taxes introduced by the Welsh Assembly have become the first Wales-only takes in 800 years, the BBC reports, and aim to raise over £1 billion.

A new ‘Land Transaction Tax’ will replace Stamp Duty, and a Landfills Disposal Tax will replace… landfill tax. It remains to be seen if future Welsh taxes follow this ‘different for the sake of it’ model – the Government has urged Welsh ministers to be ‘innovative’ with their new authority.

The head of the Welsh Revenue Authority, a new body set up to collect Wales-only taxes, has unsurprisingly hailed the “historic moment” in true nationalist form: “It’s something that stays in Wales. It’s for Wales, made in Wales and remains here”.

Elsewhere, Welsh universities are grappling with the Assembly’s latest measure to artificially inflate the value of Welsh language proficiency: giving students a legal right to use Welsh in higher and further education, including a right to a personal tutor who speaks the language.

Wales Online reports that the standards now apply to about 100 public bodies across Wales.