Heavy snow drifted across Scotland this week and helped cool the already Arctic atmosphere between the SNP and Labour over a rare Labour procedural no confidence vote at the end of an initial debate on the Scottish Budget. The level of noisy hostility from the SNP was perhaps a small clue that Scottish Labour had scored a rare point against the auld enemy, even if the tactic itself was doomed to failure.
We saw the first opinion poll of 2018, suggesting that the SNP has a 12-point lead over the closest opposition party, the Conservatives, according to YouGov. It also shows a sharp decline in Labour support since last year’s snap Westminster election. The poll, reported in The Times, found that 38% of Scots would vote for the SNP in a Holyrood election, compared to 26% for the Tories and 23% for Labour. Detailed Holyrood voting intentions for the constituency vote: SNP 38; Con 26; Lab 23; Lib Dem 7; Green 3.
Brexit again, and Scotland’s economy could be £12.7bn a year worse off under a hard Brexit, according to new analysis by the Scottish Government. The figure is contained in a new paper on the impact of UK withdrawal from the European Union. It calculates the cost to Scotland of the UK leaving the single market with or without a trade deal. The Scottish government document, titled Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, considers three potential outcomes for Scotland’s economy when Britain exits the EU in March 2019.
There was a small crumb of good news this week, however. The Scottish economy grew by 0.2% during the third quarter of last year, according to new official figures published on Wednesday. Between July and September, services grew by 0.2%, while production was up by 1.2%. However, construction was down for a seventh quarter in a row, with a 2.9% fall. Equivalent UK growth during the third quarter was 0.4%. On an annual basis, the Scottish economy grew by 0.6%, compared with 1.7% for the UK as a whole.
The Finance and Constitution Committee has initiated an inquiry into the UK Government’s Trade Bill. The Scottish Government lodged a Legislative Consent Motion on the Bill in December and the Committee expects to begin considering the legislation in early March. A call for evidence has been launched and submissions are being accepted until Friday 23 February.
And finally … spare a thought for Labour MP Hugh Gaffney, first elected last June, who told a BBC reporter that some Tory MPs had been mocking his Scottish accent. Known as a bit of a rough diamond at Westminster, Mr Gaffney has kindly offered a tour of the more salubrious nightspots of his Coatbridge constituency to any persistent offenders….
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