New report says Scottish independence will be ‘tougher than Brexit’

Last week, we reported that the SNP were divided over a call by Andrew Wilson, the man charged with producing their so-called ‘Growth Commission’ report, for the party to pursue a ‘sofy indy’ strategy

Now a new report has suggested that any divorce negotiations following a Scottish vote for independence could be much more difficult than Brexit, according to the Scotsman.

Dr Kirsty Hughes, of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, says that whilst some parts of any separation negotiations would be similar to Brexit, others – most obviously the division of assets and liabilities – would be different and considerably more complicated due to the added difficulty of unpicking a centuries-old, sovereign state.

However, she did say that the shambolic Brexit negotiations could provide both sides of any future independence negotiation a clear example of what to avoid.

In other news, David Mundell this week alleged that the Scottish Nationalists were trying to engineer a no-deal Brexit in order to further their campaign to break up the United Kingdom.

He accused the SNP of effectively backing ‘no deal’ by voting against the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement – and also apparently hinted that he might support efforts by Europhile MPs to usurp the Government’s control of the negotiations.

Meanwhile the Nationalists, fresh from bouncing the Scottish Tories into endorsing deeply damaging u-turns on ‘post-Brexit devolved powers’, are now trying to push Mundell into abandoning the Conservatives’ plan for UK Government funds – intended to replace EU investment – to be distributed directly by Westminster.

The Nationalists want as much patronage as possible controlled by Holyrood, and are likely to be especially wary of anything which undermines their efforts to bring Scottish local government under central control. The Scottish Government has been pushing to curb councils’ autonomy by holding down council tax and making up the shortfall with central funding which they control.

Poll shows significant decline in Labour support in Wales

Labour are on course to lose five Welsh seats at the next general election, according to a new poll commissioned by ITV, after a slump which would see them lose as many Assembly Members too.

Roger Awan-Scully, the Welsh psephological expert, explains that despite the Conservatives also seeing their lowest Westminster voting intention since January 2017, the sheer scale of Labour’s fall would see them pick up four seats: Cardiff North, Gower, Vale of Clwyd, and Wrexham. Plaid Cymru would also win Ynys Mon on the back of a relatively strong showing.

If translated into a devolved election, meanwhile, the Tories would pick up the same four seats whilst Plaid would take Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff West and Llanelli. This would leave Labour with just 20 constituency seats, its worst showing since the advent of devolution.

Compared to December’s poll for Sky, ITV find a lower level of support for Abolish the Assembly, instead suggesting that both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats might have recovered slightly – the latter are projected to retain two seats, whereas in December it looked as if even their one projected hold was likely a statistical fluke.

However, ATA have announced that they will contest the upcoming Newport West by-election, which has been precipitated by the death of Labour’s Paul Flynn. Richard Suchorzewski announced his candidacy after a Facebook poll of the party’s supporters strongly backed the idea of suspending ATA’s usual policy of not contesting Westminster seats.

The presence of a hard-line unionist candidate might unsettle the Conservatives, who have run a fairly close second in the constituency during the last few elections and might have been hoping to capitalise on Labour’s poor polling and the unwinding of Flynn’s personal vote. Others are worried about the impact that ATA candidates might have in close-run Assembly races in the next devolved elections in 2021.

Democratic Unionists resist reintroduction of 50/50 police recruitment

The DUP have spoken out strongly against calls from Sinn Fein and the SDLP to reintroduce the controversial 50/50 recruitment requirement for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the News Letter reports.

Introduced for a ten-year period, this mandated the PSNI to ensure that it took in as many recruits from the Catholic community as the Protestant one. Both nationalist parties are calling for its reintroduction to address a lack of confidence in the police on the part of their voters, but the DUP have branded the policy ‘institutionalised sectarianism’.

In other news Jim Allister, leader of the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice party, has stepped up pressure on the DUP over the backstop. This was ahead of reports in this morning’s papers that the party might be softening their stance on the Withdrawal Agreement, provided that Geoffrey Cox can bring a sufficiently tough codicil or other mechanism.

Leonard under pressure on Brexit and antisemitism

Both the major issues dividing Labour have cast a shadow over their Scottish leader this week. First, Richard Leonard has come under mounting pressure from the SNP to set out his position on a second referendum, specifically over whether Remain should be on the ballot paper.

Then the leader of Scotland’s Jewish community branded Labour ‘institutionally racist’, and revealed that Leonard had not been in touch with him despite several high-profile incidents of antisemitism within the party. Ephraim Borowski said the party’s failure to tackle the issue fit the definition of institutional racism set out in the Macpherson Report.