Sturgeon defends independence report as Yes movement divides

Nicola Sturgeon has been left trying to “paper over a major split among nationalists”, according to the Daily Telegraph, after the publication of a long-delayed report meant to make the economic case for independence.

The First Minister has been criticised by opposition parties after taking to Twitter to mount a ‘Trump-like’ defence of the so-called ‘Growth Commission’ report, which has angered left-wing supporters of independence by claiming that separation from the UK would require years of austerity.

Amongst the recommendations put forward by Andrew Wilson, a long-standing separatist, are ‘sterlingisation‘ – keeping the pound but outside a currency union – and paying £5 billion a year as Scotland’s share of the UK’s debt.

Unionist writer Kevin Hague argues that the report is nonetheless extremely optimistic, and that its claims to ‘realism’ are hobbled by the fact that it is reasoning backwards from the presumption of independence. He also points out that many of the measures it advocates do not require independence or even more devolution to be implemented.

None of this has been enough to assuage the utopian wing of the ‘Yes movement’, with many activists furious at the suggestion that separation would entail the rigorous implementation of the sort of policies they currently blame on Westminster.

The backlash against the report highlights the challenges facing the SNP as they try to revive independence as a realistic proposition. Sticking with the issue has seen them shed votes and seats to the unionist parties, primarily the Tories, whilst acknowledging the challenges involved is splintering the separatists too – and pushing left-wing voters towards Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Female minister pressure May over Ulster abortion law

The Republic’s vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution, which prohibited abortion, has thrust Northern Ireland’s holdout position into the spotlight.

Now Penny Mordaunt is leading calls from senior female Tories for the Government to take action to unilaterally bring Ulster’s abortion laws in line with the mainland, The Times reports. She has been supported by Nicky Morgan, Amber Rudd, Justine Greening, and Maria Miller – all previous holders of the Women & Equalities portfolio.

However, abortion is a devolved matter and Arlene Foster, the former First Minister and current leader of the Democratic Unionists, has insisted that the Republic’s vote will have no bearing on Northern Irish law. Her party previously used the ‘petition of concern’, an anti-majoritarian measure, to effectively filibuster previous bids to legalise abortion in Ulster.

James Cleverly, one of the new legion of Conservative deputy chairman, has ‘hit out’ at MPs campaigning on the measure, although he sidesteps the role of female Tories to attack Labour for trying to exploit the issue for political gain.

The Government is in a tricky position. Not only does it want to avoid antagonising the DUP over abortion specifically, but it is still doing everything it can to avoid facing up to the need to assume the responsibilities for direct rule over Northern Ireland, which has been being run on auto-pilot by the civil service for over a year.

Davies urges Tories to unite over Brexit as Welsh Labour are urged to oppose it

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has urged MPs not to put their “personal ambitions” ahead of the country’s interests when it comes to negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU, according to the BBC.

Andrew RT Davies, who backed Leave during the referendum, said that it was unhelpful that some Westminster colleagues were offering the media a running commentary on the negotiations.

Meanwhile Best for Britain, the campaign group fighting for a second referendum, has told Welsh Labour that it will reap an electoral dividend if it comes out in favour of remaining in the EU. Wales Online reports that the group’s new research found two thirds of the party’s 2017 voters backed Remain in the referendum, compared just a quarter of Tory voters.

However, this fact seems to be the whole basis for Best for Britain’s claims of an electoral boost. No mention is made of the share of former Remain voters who now believe the Government should respect the result, nor of the fact that Wales as a whole defied almost its entire political class to vote Leave.

Even if a majority of those who voted for each Labour MP backed Remain, the question for Labour remains how to keep the Leave-supporting minority on board and prevent further inroads by the Conservatives. Were Welsh Labour to swallow Best for Britain’s comfort food, Davies would doubtless spy the opportunity.