Sturgeon insists that Corbyn will pay her price for power…
Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that Jeremy Corbyn will grant her another referendum on Scottish independence if that’s what it takes to get into Downing Street, according to the Daily Mail.
The Labour leader has already conceded that he would not “stand in the way” if such a vote but has been flip-flopping over the timing. The SNP have been ratcheting up their price, with Ian Blackford, their Westminster leader, also hinting that the future of Trident could be on the table in any negotiations.
If that wasn’t bad enough for Labour’s beleaguered Scottish wing, Corbyn was also sucked into a row this week over whether or not he’s even a unionist, sparking fresh confusion over his already-ambiguous stance on independence.
Meanwhile Richard Leonard, the Party’s leader in Scotland, was reportedly left “ashen-faced” by the news that Labour could include a stinging windfall tax on the oil industry in their manifesto. The proposal has already been attacked by the trades union representing oil workers, which is one of Scotland’s largest.
…but Salmond trial casts shadow over the SNP
But the Scottish Nationalists’ muscle-flexing over the past week should not disguise the fact that it is anything but sunny skies for Sturgeon’s forces.
Today will see the first court hearing in the case against Alex Salmond, the former First Minister and SNP leader and still one of the independence movement’s few superstars. He has been charged with two counts of attempted rape, nine counts of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one breach of the peace.
Labour blogger Ian Smart has previously provided some background on what might occur during the trial here and here. It could potentially have ramifications which extend far beyond the fate of Salmond himself. The key question will be who else amongst the tight-knit SNP leadership knew what, and when. It might even bring an early close to Sturgeon’s own career.
Meanwhile there are straws in the wind that the Nationalists may have a tougher time in the general election than previously supposed. In an earlier column I set out the thesis which holds that the Tories could yet make a few gains in Scotland, but now two on-the-ground pieces (from Stephen Daisley and our own Andrew Gimson) suggest the SNP might even be struggling in Stirling, the most marginal Tory-held seat north of the border and one they ought to take at a canter.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson, in contrast to his Labour counterpart, continues to try to bolster his Party’s pro-UK credentials in Scotland. He gave an unequivocal answer to the question of whether the Union was more important than Brexit in the TV debates (although his u-turn on Ulster suggests limits to that sentiment) and reiterated that he would neither debate Sturgeon nor grant her a re-run of the 2014 vote.
As a result, Murdo Fraser suggests that traditional Labour voters are switching to the Conservatives as the anti-SNP option – the key thing which needs to happen for the Tories to hold their position.
Donaldson claims DUP will still have leverage after the election
A senior Democratic Unionist MP has claimed that his party might still carry influence with the Conservatives in the wake of next month’s general election.
According to the News Letter, Sir Geoffrey Donaldson said that he doesn’t expect the Tories to secure a ‘huge majority’, which in turn will give the Northern Irish party ongoing leverage over a Conservative government.
However, this hope will have been undermined by Arlene Foster’s (perfectly understandable) announcement that the Unionists will do nothing to support putting Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. This really leaves them little option but to support Johnson, despite his jettisoning the DUP and his promises on a border in the Irish Sea in a bid to ‘get Brexit done’.
Welsh Government proceeds with plans to give 16-year-olds the vote
Wales Online reports that plans to extend the franchise to those aged 16 and over have taken a ‘huge step forward’ after the Welsh Government decided to bring forward new legislation.
The plans will allow them to vote in Welsh local government elections, along with prisoners serving sentences of less than four years’ duration. The next Welsh local elections are due in 2022.
Other measures included in the bill include extending the number of foreign citizens eligible to vote; forcing independent candidates to declare any party allegiances, and allowing individual councils to choose between using either First Past the Post or the Single Transferable Vote system.