This week’s Insider comes to you from down-town Lahore. Our political guru Devin is making one of his regular trips east in his capacity as a volunteer trustee of a charity supporting primary schools across the Punjab region.
At the time of writing Theresa May was still hanging onto her role as Prime Minister, but Environment Secretary Michael Gove, one of the highest-profile Leave campaigners during the 2016 referendum, is considering his position, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reports.
It is understood Mr Gove turned down the post of Brexit secretary following the resignation of Dominic Raab. It’s also reported some ministers are considering trying to make the PM change the draft EU deal. Some Conservative back benchers are attempting to trigger a vote of no confidence in her, watch this space.
Closer to home and a new Survation opinion poll on Westminster voting intentions published yesterday suggests that support for the SNP remains strong, with that for Labour and the Conservatives declining. The new figures are as follows: SNP 40% (+3); Con 27% (-2); Lab 23% (-4); LibDem 7% (NC); UKIP 1% (+1); Green 1% (+1).
This week we heard that the health service will soon account for half of all Scottish Government spending, according to a new analysis of choices facing Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. The growing squeeze on many other services is set out in a new report by economists at the Fraser of Allander Institute. The report, from the Strathclyde University economics unit, applies the consequences of last month’s Westminster budget for the block grant for Holyrood. It leads to their call for “an urgent debate on future priorities”. One of the politically challenging suggestions they put forward is for the introduction of student tuition fees. They also welcome growing political pressure for sweeping reforms of council tax.
A few cracks have started to appear in the normally watertight SNP parliamentary teams as the potential impact of a second Brexit vote are being debated. This week, veteran MSP Kenny Gibson has become the latest Nationalist politician to warn it has implications for Scottish independence. Mr Gibson, the MSP for Cunninghame North, has joined Pete Wishart MP, Angus McNeill MP and the former cabinet secretary Alex Neil MSP in voicing concerns that a second Brexit vote would enable Unionists to argue for another vote on the terms of Scottish independence in the event of a Yes vote. Ms Sturgeon has said the SNP will support a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal.
Nicola Sturgeon did, however, receive support from an unlikely former foe this week. As well as opposing Theresa May’s 5-hour Cabinet deal on Wednesday, Gordon Brown has come out and backed the Scottish Government over post-Brexit devolution, warning that UK ministers have put the Union at risk by holding on to powers returning from Brussels. The former Prime Minister said devolved nations should be able to have their own relationship with the EU distinct from the rest of the UK in areas under their control.
Anyone interested in the full 585 page draft Brexit deal can find it via this link: draft deal
As the week progressed, the UK Government stated there has been ‘significant progress’ agreeing frameworks with devolved administrations, the Scottish Government says that the ‘unnecessary’ UK law curbing the powers of the Scottish Parliament is undermining devolution and should now be repealed.
Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP has said: “we have always said that co-operation between governments is clearly the right and best way both to ready our statute books and to agree common UK frameworks, where these are in Scotland’s interests – not imposing policies and laws on Scotland against our democratic will.”
And finally, Homes for Scotland (HFS), the voice of the home building industry in Scotland, has today launched a new five-year strategy with a focus on improving quality and customer satisfaction. The document was launched to an audience of 200 senior industry representatives and housing stakeholders at the HFS annual conference in Edinburgh.
Also announced at the conference was the extension of the ‘Five Star Builder’ initiative to Scotland, which will allow buyers of new homes to compare builders in terms of customer satisfaction. The scheme was previously limited to those building right across the UK, excluding those operating only north of the border.
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