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Is the SNP/Green deal in trouble?

Readers can be forgiven for being sceptical about reports of discord between the Nationalists and the Scottish Greens  During the last parliament, it was normal for reports of discord to precede the invariable, inevitable agreement between the two parties on whatever Nicola Sturgeon wanted to do.

However, the Daily Express reports that whilst the two parties remain united on independence, actual environmental issues have become a sticking point which could derail the compact. Both parties insist it will not be a formal coalition, although according to the Guardian it could involve appointing two Green MSPs as ministers. (Murdo Fraser amusingly suggests this might be why the Scottish Government dropped almost £100,000 on two brand-new Tesla cars.)

We can’t rule out that the Greens have simply toughened up since the election – as I suggested elsewhere, the very fact that Sturgeon has felt the need to try and formalise their arrangement suggests that the SNP are in a weaker position than they were before May. Patrick Harvie and his comrades may sense this.

But assuming the deal does go ahead, it’s unlikely to do much for the quality of Scottish governance. Alex Massie has branded the Greens “dangerous extremists“; another commentator calls the arrangement “a victory for cranks“.

This follows an extraordinary blog from Andy Wightman, the independent MLA who received so much attention during the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond scandal for his refusal to toe the separatist party line, setting out how he was effectively forced to resign from the Greens over their approach to transgender rights.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government continues to govern Scotland incredibly badly. This week saw fresh scrutiny of how the SNP “sunk tens of millions” into an airport they can’t sell, a Newsnight investigation into the £100m ferry fiasco (now with calls for a public inquiry), and Scots struggling to travel overseas because the Nationalists’ separate Covid passport system isn’t up to scratch.

As for independence, fresh polling shows support slumps when voters are faced with the prospect of joining the Euro – which an independent Scotland would surely have to do – and Boris Johnson has returned to tougher rhetoric against a second referendum (so much for the Government running scared of the SNP/Green deal). Honestly, who’d be Sturgeon at the minute?

Donaldson announces he will lead the Democratic Unionists from London

One question which has hung over the DUP since their recent leadership carousel is what to do about the post of First Minister after Edwin Poots separated it from the position of party leader.

Poots, who said he wanted to focus on rebuilding the party, installed his protege Paul Givan in the post. However, then he was almost immediately toppled by the party and replaced by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who represents the party at Westminster.

With no easy way of forcing Givan out – and reluctant to trigger a by-election at what the DUP must hope is a low ebb for their fortunes – he has decided that he is going to lead the party from London, the News Letter reports. The Times also reported that none of the party’s sitting MLAs was prepared to stand aside to make room for their new leader.

This is the first time the DUP has been led by a sitting MP since 2010, when Peter Robinson lost his East Belfast seat to Naomi Long of the Alliance Party. However, this was before the ban on ‘double-jobbing’, so he was also an MLA.

Donaldson looks to be trying to make a virtue of necessity by pointing out that several of the most important issues facing unionism, namely legacy issues and the Protocol, need to be tackled at Westminster.

Government must ensure the next ‘great British emblem’ is genuinely UK-wide

Ministers have set out to try and bed the electric car revolution into our cultural landscape by making charge points into a design landmark. From the Gov.uk site:

“Electric vehicle chargepoints across the UK could become as recognisable as the red post box or black cab, following the appointment of the Royal College of Art (RCA) and PA Consulting to deliver an iconic British chargepoint design, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced today (9 August 2021).”

This is a fine idea, but the Government must ensure that it is genuinely rolled out UK-wide, and not allow devolution to get in the way. For example, the world-famous British Rail ‘double arrow’, ubiquitous shorthand for the railways on the mainland, is not currently used in Northern Ireland – yet another small thing making it feel like a different country.