How the Con-DUP deal took the Barnett Bypass…

Hat tip to John Campbell on Good Morning Ulster this morning for a link to this interesting piece on what the Barnett Formula is, and what it is not, and how the DUP-Tory deal stands up to scrutiny: on a technical level, there is nothing in the Northern Ireland agreement that that contradicts any rules or laws. And of course, there are clearly special needs in Northern Ireland that may justify additional spending. However, there are a few reasons why … Read more

“Look, this Carthage obsession of yours. For Jupiter’s sake, let it go, man!”

With the Scottish First Minister, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, backing down, for now, from her previous strident position on indyref2 the BBC’s Scotland editor, Brian Taylor, detects the “scunner factor” at work. Voters in Scotland have thrilled to seven electoral tests in three years. They are already anxious over the uncertainty attendant upon Brexit. Are they ready for yet more eager talk from the SNP and the Scottish Government about the prospect of indyref2? Nicola Sturgeon has concluded that they … Read more

And there could be more dosh to come! But the government rejects demands from a chorus of women MPs to fund abortions for NI women

The payout could be higher as a result of studies of the impact of lower corporation tax and scrapping air passenger duty.  In its financial analysis the FT points out that Costs will be higher if the renewed commitment to allow Northern Ireland to set its own lower corporation tax rate and air passenger duty results in lost revenues to the UK exchequer. The DUP has confirmed to the Guardian that they will seek assurances that the block grant will … Read more

Why has the liberal Protestant tradition all but disappeared with the onset of “peace”?

Living in London, I miss a lot of stuff from the substrata; that’s only to be expected . But today I read something from the superstructure  that left me gobsmacked. You might find it unremarkable when you’ve  far more exciting things to attract your attention like the doings of Emma Little Pengelly. It’s been too long since I had a browse in the Church Notes in the Bel Tel, now in the hands of the estimable Alf McCreary.  Whereas in … Read more

Do we want Westminster to impose uniform UK standards? On abortion and same sex marriage? How about an indemnity for soldiers?

 Social reform – on abortion and same sex marriage – is not only a bone of contention in the Stormont talks. It’s creating a clash with MPs across party at Westminster at a precarious time for the future of both legislatures. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal against the decision of the Health Secretary for England Jeremy Hunt not to allow Northern Ireland women to have free abortions on the NHS in England may now become entangled in Westminster’s … Read more

Can Warren Gatland see off his tribal critics with an historic Lions NZ win for only the second time in history?

When Warren Gatland announced his Lions squad for the tour to New Zealand there was considerable disgruntlement in Scotland that only two of their kith and kin and had been selected. Former Scottish internationals lined up to criticise the selection that also saw 16 players from England and 12 players from Wales even though they had finished below Scotland in the 6 Nations. Jim Telfer, himself a former Lions (and Scotland) coach stated: “Scottish Rugby should really feel as if … Read more

UK Supreme Court rules narrowly against free abortions in England for Northern Ireland women. But in Scotland?

Support for abortion reform in Northern Ireland becomes all the more relevant after the decision of the Supreme Court last Wednesday narrowly to reject the appeal against  Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary for England,  refusing to exercise his discretion to allow  women from Northern Ireland to have abortions free of charge on the NHS  in England. A triumph of democracy, opponents would say. From the Guardian report   The judges were ruling on the case of a woman identified only … Read more

Will YouGov’s election model be vindicated when the results are in?

Opinion polling firm YouGov have raised eyebrows in the run up to Thursday’s poll with the results of their forecast model, which at the time of writing is forecasting that the Conservatives will only win 307 seats. This would deprive them of their parliamentary majority, and leaves open the possibility that Jeremy Corbyn could become Prime Minister if Labour could secure support from the smaller parties in the Commons. The YouGov model is out of line with other election forecasts, … Read more

Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland should have a say in the Brexit negotiations- Labour

Keir Starmer the former English director of public prosecutions who is Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary has written an “ exclusive “ for the New European paper headlined, “We’ll give Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales their say on Brexit’ says Keir Starmer. It sounded great when I heard about it but it took me took me a couple of reads to find what turned out to be an anticlimax. ..we will have the confidence to bring Parliament into the Brexit process, … Read more

The UK rejects the EU timetable for negotiations. A border solution will have to wait

A pat on the back is due for Slugger for anticipating this reaction  to the EU negotiating guidelines. The FT (£)  has picked up Brexit Secretary David Davis’s interview on ITV’s Peston show yesterday   “How on earth do you resolve the issue of the border with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless you know what our general borders policy is, what the customs agreement is, what our trade agreement is?” he told ITV’s Robert Peston. “It’s wholly … Read more

After #IndyRef in 2014, seismic shifts appear to be everyday stuff in Scotland…

Interesting piece in the Economist on the changing state of Scottish politics, which notes that “in the aftermath of the referendum on independence in 2014, seismic shifts are everyday stuff.” It contains a pretty good historical briefing of the development of Scottish politics, not least how a small stream from the old Tory Unionist Party broke away to form the Scottish Party (which advocated Dominion states for Scotland inside the Commonwealth). But the core observation for me is how the … Read more

Sinn Fein’s tactical playbook does not include what to do if unionists play generous and smart

So Brexit, eh?  How’s that going for you? Will it affect your vote? Or is it business as usual? Signs are from England that since it is still impossible to define what Brexit looks like the strong Remain position the Lib Dems took isn’t paying off well for them. In Scotland, the whole thing is being run aggressively as an anti-SNP/anti-#ScotRef referendum. The SNP is protected by the ongoing weakness of Scottish Labour, yet those who predicted the Tories were … Read more

Over the cliff edge – what would happen if exports to the EU were subject to tariffs

The continuing deterioration of relations between the British Government and the European Union has led to a renewed focus on the possibility of a hard Brexit, where all trade between the UK and the European Union would be subject to tariffs in line with WTO rules. Previously, I had written about how Northern Ireland would bear a disproportionate cost of a hard Brexit, due to cross-border exports of dairy playing a substantial segment of the local economy. Under WTO rules, … Read more

Theresa May’s local victories are good for the Union cause but give no comfort to special status fans

  A note of caution is needed about  talk of a Tory landslide on 8 June. Although UKIP was obliterated in the GB local elections,  Labour might have done even worse. Michael Thrasher’s projections of the local results to the general election “ for a bit of fun” on Sky News   works out a majority of  48 seats, up a respectable 36 but well short of a landslide and barely worth  the trouble of calling a snap election. John Curtice, election … Read more

Who is Donald Trump?

[Donald John, or Dòmnall Iain is one of the most common names on the Isle of Lewis, the birthplace of Donald Trump’s ancestors. It translates, from the Latin and Norse roots, as dom and val, as The Ruler of the World] In a wide-ranging interview, the writer, activist and ecologist, Alastair McIntosh, has raised an intriguing possibility that US President Donald Trump’s personality and behaviour can be traced back to traumatic 19th century clearances and evictions in southern and western … Read more

Westminster’s reply to the SNP’s case for remaining in the single market was taken seriously after all. So why did May allow Sturgeon to claim she’d been ignored?

Here’s a strange thing. There we were, led to believe  that Theresa May had dismissed almost with  contempt Nicola Sturgeon’s  carefully  considered case for the UK, or at least Scotland,  to remain within the single market. It turns out it wasn’t like that at all. We know that because the Scottish Government itself has just published a reply to the SNP’s paper Scotland’s Place in Europe, from the Brexit Secretary David Davis in a letter dated 29 March. It lists … Read more

The EU summit’s declaration on a united Ireland exposes British isolation

EU prepares for post-Brexit united Ireland membership Summit endorsement would raise fears over fragmentation of UK The Financial Times  is getting  excited about today’s  EU summit endorsing special treatment for Ireland  in the Brexit negotiations and raises “ fears for the fragmentation of the UK “ The Irish Times political editor Stephen Collins is equally excited that a declaration on Ireland gives Enda Kenny the dignified farewell he’s been seeking. What does it amount to? The Irish Times gives a … Read more

Brexit (in the short term) re-engineers the environment around Scotland’s political trilemma

Brexit is changing the terms under which the UK’s internal politics are played. If you thought it could only drive Scotland out of the UK let me re-introduce Dani Rodrik‘s Political Trilemma: …economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable. We can have at most two at one time. Democracy is compatible with national sovereignty only if we restrict globalization. If we push for globalization while retaining the nation-state, we must jettison democracy. And if we want democracy along … Read more

Labour facing real risk of wipeout as their polling slump continues

The past days have seen a number of opinion polls released ahead of June’s General Election, and they continue to make grim reading for the Labour Party. The ComRes/Sunday Mirror poll gave the Conservatives a 50% share, double that of Labour on 25%. The last fortnight has continued to give Tories a vote share in the high forties, whilst Labour have been languishing far behind on the low to mid twenties. Were these results to be replicated in the election … Read more

Signs of dramatic Tory revival causes new headache for Sturgeon’s Indyref 2 strategy

From the Sunday Times £ SNP set to lose 11 seats according to shock poll The Panelbase survey of 1,029 voters in Scotland — the first Scottish poll since Theresa May called a snap election — points to a surge in support that would take the Conservatives to 33%, up 18 points from two years ago. It amounts to their strongest showing north of the border since the days of Sir Edward Heath’s government in the 1970s before the steep … Read more