Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

Blaine McCartney is a Co. Down-based writer Yesterday, March 23rd 2021, the first anniversary of lockdown, is surely a day of mixed emotions for Nicola Sturgeon. Having yesterday been cleared of breaching the Scottish Ministerial Code, she nevertheless told reporters this morning that she wants to “leave politics to others today”. Scottish Tory Leader Douglas Ross, among others, have been happy to oblige on Twitter and elsewhere, as they proverbially rage, rage against the dying of the light at the …

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Nicola Sturgeon, the Angela Merkel of UK politics…

In this week’s Spectator Magazine, Alex Massie has a profile of Nicola Sturgeon. Being a Conservative Unionist publication, The Spectator has no love for the SNP. But there was grudging respect for the popularity of the First Minister of Scotland and her almost Donald Trump levels of Teflon. Nicola Sturgeon is seen by the public as the perfect counterweight to the blustering, bumbling Boris Johnston. From the article: But in modern Scotland, relative success counts for more than absolute success. …

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Life, Lockdown and the Pursuit of Safety…

‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ – Benjamin Franklin In late July Trump posed a question to his haggle of Twitter followers. He asked if the election could be delayed, citing concerns linked to Coronavirus. Naturally, this tweet was met with furore and anger from the media and most reasonable people – even many of ‘The Donald’s’ biggest fans. The condemnations which followed the tweet were well justified, …

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Differences over Covid management within the UK shouldn’t be exaggerated but they are provoking a rethink of how the UK is governed

Schadenfreude at the state of the United Kingdom is a familiar default sentiment among republicans who comment in Slugger.  They believe that  mishandling of Brexit and now Covid  is evidence of terminal decline. The notion is not limited to those predisposed against the UK . It crosses the community. What encourages the republican- minded depresses unionist Cassandras like Alex Kane. The most eloquent is the Guardian columnist Martin Kettle. To the surprise of many of those watching, and perhaps even …

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Labour’s defeat was their own guilty secret. But Boris Johnson’s matters much more

Andrew Parsons i/Images Now they tell us. Labour moderates had been watching the growth of the Conservative vote in north east of England council elections for years. But so had the Conservatives’ evil genius Dominic Cummings and he knew how to act on it. Forget  obsessions with social media, go knock on doors. As Tip O’Neill the old Speaker of the US House of Representatives memorably once said,  All politics is local.” And we can add,  it transcends ideology alone. …

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Meanwhile in Scotland, courtesy of Brexit, the long march to Indyref2 is about to begin

Tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will unveil the SNPs economic case for  another independence campaign.  As it will focus attention on Scotland’s sluggish economic performance under an SNP government on the defensive, it’s a high risk strategy. Support for Indyref2  would first exploit resentment that the UK government has given no weight to the  big Remain majority in Scotland and will ignore  the Scottish Parliament’s  refusal to give consent to a Withdrawal Bill   that would fail to devolve powers over agriculture and fishing  …

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“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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Theresa May misconstrues the Union as an English commonwealth. Instead, the best hope for “these islands” is to weather the storms of Brexit together

Theresa May’s tour of the devolved territories ( I wish we had a better collective noun) turned out to be a  jaw- droppingly empty gesture, quite apart from the inevitable omission of Belfast. Her semi-clandestine meeting with Nicola Sturgeon in a Glasgow hotel yesterday was a  stiff little ritual to confirm that Article 50 was being triggered today on behalf of the whole UK, Scotland naturally included. There was no pretence at accommodating the SNP.  Indeed there may even be …

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Mixed polling results leave it all to play for in the May v Sturgeon battle over Scottish independence

The war of words between Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May might  been expected  to boost Scottish support for  Indyref2 and independence. If so it hasn’t happened yet. The first snapshot of  a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times coinciding with the SNP spring conference but  before Nicola Surgeon spoke is not immediately  encouraging for her, with NO to independence recording at 56% and YES at 44%. However 44% still thought Scotland would become independent within the next 5-10 years compared …

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Gordon Brown storms in with a “third option” for Scotland and the UK. The ideal compromise, or too much, too late?

  Churn over Theresa May’s flat refusal to allow Indy ref 2 continues unabated. The reality of identity politics is proving a lot more complicated than the dream. The big move today is Gordon Brown’s “third option” of a federalising UK  of which more in a moment. But first a verdict on yesterday. May was caught short by Sturgeon springing the referendum demand on her. Did  the prime minister  over-react in haste and did she have only herself to blame …

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What does May running up the Union Jack mean for Northern Ireland as well as Scotland?

Theresa May has spoken out very directly  to reject Nicola Sturgeon’s demand to be allowed  to hold Indyref2   in emotional British patriotic language which marks it out starkly from the language of Scottish nationalism.   “Our Party believes heart and soul in our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The union is more than just a constitutional artefact.  It is a union between all of our citizens, whoever we are and wherever we’re from. So our plan for …

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Theresa May’s fightback to support the Union through Brexit is only work in progress. The Irish are creating a benign vision of a United Ireland. Do the British want to match it?

The imminence of triggering Article 50 has at last woken up the British government to the reality of the threat to the Union. In a reported forthcoming tour of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to explain a negotiating  position that has seemed to ignore them,  propping up support for her “beloved Union” has become  Theresa May’s priority. Her first line of defence  will be  to  convince the massed ranks of critics that a “hard Brexit” is a misnomer which  does …

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“If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit…”

The political gamble of Ms Sturgeon’s life, or so says Alex Massie in the Spectator. Well, maybe. She hasn’t actually called anything yet, just flagged her intention to do so within a set timeframe. However… Brexit, she confirmed, has changed everything. Before the EU referendum she had accepted there could be no grounds for a second referendum unless or until such time as there was evidence a significant number of Scots had changed their minds and were now prepared to …

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Theresa May launches high stakes confrontation with Nicola Sturgeon

The pace of big politics is quickening in the run-up to  pulling the trigger of Art 50.  In advance of addressing the Scottish Conservatives today, Theresa May says “politics is not a game and the management of devolved public services in Scotland is too important to be neglected.” But it’s high risk, high stakes  poker that the  prime minister and the first minister are in fact now locking themselves into.   May is calling Nicola Sturgeon’s bluff over the first …

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Tony Blair has made the case for a rethink on Brexit and Northern Ireland will need a new financial deal. Is anybody listening?

Hurtling at us like a comet but unnoticed by the local worthies is the prospect for repatriating powers direct from Brussels to Stormont, Holyrood and Cardiff Bay. Among them are powers over agriculture and energy, which in Ireland are linked or integrated north and south. How they’ll be divvied up is  hasn’t  even been examined. The British government retain a substantial interest in these areas where powers currently rest with Brussels as it  negotiates new trading arrangements to replace membership …

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The Supreme Court rules that devolved assembly consent is not legally required for Brexit. But the political battle is only just beginning

. So  the Westminster Parliament must vote on triggering Article 50 – but on what exactly and how often until Brexit is achieved?  The battle has only just begun. It’s  bad news for nationalists everywhere.  The Court ruled that the consent of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly is not legally required.  The argument put forward by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and in the courts by Raymond McCord that under the GFA the …

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New life in an auld relationship? The Scottish government may pay for Northern Ireland abortions

A tentative move to erode the prohibitive position over abortion in Northern Ireland may become a landmark shift, now that the issue has been raised.  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is open to the suggestion  as reported by the Guardian, that woman from Northern Ireland could have abortions performed free in Scotland under NHS devolution. I am happy to explore with the NHS what the situation is now in terms of the ability of women from Northern Ireland to access …

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Has Theresa May assessed the risks of toughing it out with Nicola Sturgeon?

  So Flexit -a flexible Brexit or  separate deals with the EU for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland –  are ruled out – for now at least. “We have been very clear that we should be working together to secure the best possible deal for the whole country,” the prime minister’s official spokeswoman said on Monday. “We expect representatives of the devolved administrations to act in that way and to in no way undermine the UK’s position.” “The devolved administrations” …

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