Alex Salmond appeared in court yesterday charged with carrying out a series of alleged sexual offences against 10 women while serving as Scotland’s First Minister. Mr Salmond faced a total of 14 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh. He denies all the allegations, which include one attempted rape, one intent to rape, 10 sexual assaults and two indecent assaults. The offences are alleged to have happened between June 2008 and November 2014. His QC, former Labour MSP Gordon Jackson, said Mr Salmond was pleading not guilty, and judge Lady Dorrian set the trial date for 9 March next year. The trial is expected to last four weeks.
On Tuesday, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over Brexit in the first TV election debate of the 2019 election campaign. Mr Johnson promised to “end this national misery” and said Labour offered “only division and deadlock”. Mr Corbyn said Labour would “get Brexit sorted by giving you, the people, the final say”. An average audience of 6.7m people watched the leaders lock horns over the NHS, trust and leadership, the future of Scotland – and the Royal Family.
After the debate, Nicola Sturgeon branded Prime Minister Boris Johnson a “scaredy-cat” after he said he would never face her on a televised debate. Ms Sturgeon, had been excluded from Tuesday evening’s ITV debate between Mr Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Johnson said ahead of the debate that he would only debate with “serious candidates” to become prime minister. But Ms Sturgeon said she was willing to face the PM “any time, any place”. A joint legal challenge by the SNP and Liberal Democrats to be included in the ITV debate was rejected by the High Court.
Also this week, Labour and the Conservatives set out rival plans to tackle the housing shortage. Jeremy Corbyn has promised the biggest affordable house building programme since the 1960s, including 100,000 new council houses a year by 2024. The announcement came as part of Labour’s manifesto launch on Thursday, which also included a windfall tax on oil companies as part of plans for a low carbon, green economy.
Labour’s Angela Rayner said the state was going to take “more direct control” of housing adding that “the market hasn’t delivered and many families are in sub-standard accommodation, paying huge amounts of money for it.” Promising to protect the green belt, she said the houses would be built on brownfield sites and unused public sector land.
Holyrood business continues, and this week Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP confirmed that due to the General Election and the cancellation of the UK Budget, it will not be possible to publish the Scottish Budget for 2020-21 until the New Year. A new date is to be agreed with the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee as soon as possible. Following discussions with parties’ spokespersons, Mr Mackay has written to the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Scottish Fiscal Commission stating that the Scottish Budget will not take place before Christmas.
And finally … Nicola Sturgeon spoke at the Race Against Dementia dinner in Glasgow, acknowledging the huge health problem which affects more people than cancer and heart disease. Set up by Sir Jackie Stewart following his wife being diagnosed with the disease, Race Against Dementia aims to borrow techniques from the world of sport to find a cure for dementia faster and smarter.
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