Scottish hustings … via NUS Scotland

Election anoraks in need of a regular fix of political argie-bargie may want to dip into last night’s NUS Scotland’s Big Election Debate last night with Anas Sarwar (Scottish Labour), Carole Ford (Scottish Lib Dems), Douglas Ross (Scottish Tories), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) and Ross Greer (Scottish Greens). Compared with any similar encounter with NI politicians, it felt remarkably calm and devoid of simple point-scoring.

A primer for the Scottish Elections.

Lucky people in Scotland and Wales are heading to the polls next month to elect their devolved parliaments. We would be heading to the polls too had our Executive not collapsed in 2017, so we get that treat next year. However, I thought it would be useful to set out some of the things to look out for and keep in mind when watching the campaign and election results. Scotland Voters will elect 129 members to the Scottish Parliament, but …

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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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Boris’s burrow? Boring in more ways than one.

I do not promise an absence of any further puns in this piece. So last Sunday the big news was: we can’t put a bridge over the top of the Beaufort’s Dyke, so sure we’ll just build a tunnel round it.  It’ll only be 25 miles long. Except… The Channel Tunnel is 37.92km (23.57 miles) from the English coast under Shakespeare cliff to the French coast at Sangatte.  It takes a further 9.14km (5.68 miles) to reach the tunnel mouth …

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Brexit blues and the future of the UK

Brian O’Neill beat me to it.  George Osborne the thwarted crown prince of Tory politics called Theresa May  “ a   dead woman walking “ long before  she lost the third meaningful vote. He was right there and he may turn to be right now.  Amazing how defeated politicians  turn into prophets. If you think you can see the right route at the fork in the road you have a 50% chance of being right in advance and 100% if you …

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Covid border measures look like rehearsals for the breakup of the Union

Photo:The Scotsman Only in corridors of power in London has the latest opinion poll on support for Scottish independence registered a modicum of shock to disturb the  prevailing confusion. The analysis of the results by Sir John Curtice contains only one small note  of comfort for the Union cause. A new poll from Ipsos MORI for STV has suggested that 58% now say that they would vote Yes in another independence referendum. Just 42% state that they would vote No, and thereby …

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The Bridge to Scotland. A Unionist Umbilical Cord or A Link to a Celtic Union?

The proposed bridge from Northern Ireland is back in the news. Boris Bridge an utter waste of money when we should be investing in saving jobs & safeguarding public services rather than wasting time and money on this white elephant which is little more than a dead cat strategy attempt to distract from Brexit shambles https://t.co/TKhy9M9J57 — Andrew Muir MLA (@AndrewMuirNI) July 22, 2020 The idea is utterly bonkers. Very expensive, and a major engineering challenge. Not to mention the …

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Why is the UK sleepwalking into final Brexit chaos and towards breakup?

As the notional deadline of October for final Brexit negotiations draws ever closer, the clouds if anything are growing darker. The UK’s statements on their withdrawal position and the NI protocol have clarified very little. Johnson and co seem like General de Gaulle in 1940, holding out for an impossible position of victory against the odds. But at least de Gaulle had allies. A City University webinar I linked up with yesterday confirmed growing pessimism over Northern Ireland prospects.( video …

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Slugger TV – the devolved nations fightback episode

This month, in episode 38, Slugger O’Toole’s deputy editor David McCann talks to Irish News journalist Allison Morris and Andersontown News columnist Andrée Murphy about the performance of the Northern Ireland Executive, the legacy of different devolved government strategies to ease the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Irish Government’s lack of cross-border consultation about their plans. Edited by Alan Meban and also broadcast (as a slightly shorter 30 minute edit) on Belfast’s community TV channel NvTv tonight at 20:35.

It’s all about the test: Counting COVID-19 deaths *updated*

Who is and is not being counted in this daily reported figure? What are the regional variations and why? We explain below.

Two sets of COVID-19 data are regularly being produced:

(1) Daily reports on the deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus (mostly dying in hospital, though may include some people discharged to care homes); and
(2) Weekly reports based on COVID-19 being listed on death certificates no matter where the person died — but there’s a delay to account for the registration process. (The Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency intend to provide a further level of breakdown to include deaths in care homes.)

Book Review: The Irish Presbyterian Mind by Andrew Holmes

At a recent academic seminar, I remarked (only somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that what defines Irish Presbyterianism is that it cannot agree on anything. I was alluding to the fact that historically, Irish Presbyterians have disagreed on a range of theological, social and political issues; indeed, over several centuries Irish Presbyterians have been preoccupied by such ‘family feuds’. Today, Presbyterian disagreements tend to be reflected in rather crude caricatures of so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative evangelical’ wings of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland …

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Ahead of the Stormont budget, should the Executive be rethinking its priorities?

With the first budget of the newly reconstituted Northern Ireland Executive expected shortly, there will be an opportunity to consider whether public resources are being directed appropriately to deal with Northern Ireland’s priorities for the decade to come. The table above shows UK public spending per person in each UK region for various expenditure categories for the 2018-19 fiscal year, in both monetary terms and expressed as a percentage of the UK average. For example, health spending in Northern Ireland …

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Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales rank amongst the lowest countries in the developed world for the number of intensive care beds

The response to the Covid-19 coronavirus has raised questions regarding the capability of health systems to deal with an influx of patients requiring intensive care. It is estimated that one in seven of those who get Covid-19 will require hospital treatment, and out of those one in five will require ICU care. A widespread outbreak of Covid-19 would therefore put an unprecedented strain on intensive care facilities across the world. The chart above shows the number of ICU beds per …

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Assorted thoughts on the realities of border polling and reunification

There is no question that the brexit process is having a seismic effect on the ties that bind the UK’s four constituent parts. The union has never been weaker, not just because the UK now has a government that clearly places little value on it, but also because the populations of Scotland and Northern Ireland are questioning its value in ever greater numbers. I’ve heard arguments – from supporters and representatives of one political party in particular – that these …

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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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What does the election mean for the union?

What does the UK’s seismic election result mean for the island of Ireland, Brexit and the union? We break it down in a new episode of The Irish Passport podcast: what will happen next with Brexit, whether an ‘Irish Sea border’ is really in the post, and why the vote is being described as the most serious for the union in a century. One reason Scottish National Party’s landslide victory and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a referendum on …

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The Beginning of the End of the United Kingdom

In 1918 the United Kingdom as it had existed was blown apart by a trifecta of landslides; a Tory landslide in Great Britain driven by a three-way split in the centre-left vote; a Sinn Féin landslide in most of Ireland; and an Ulster Unionist landslide in what would soon become Northern Ireland. This election is more most consequential than any in the 101 years since, and it too has been marked by competing landslides: a Tory landslide in England and …

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An hour-by-hour guide to election night

It’s almost over. The fights that didn’t happen, the interviews that didn’t take place, the ice statues that melted, an election campaign that would make even the most hardened election nerd feel like the kid in Matilda that had to eat all the chocolate cake, is nearly at a close. There is little to do but settle in for a long night of bar charts, ridiculous graphics, and the unique sight of watching politicians’ entire careers evaporate live on stage …

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This Strangely Misfiring Tory Campaign Just Makes Me Wonder

This is a very strange election campaign from the Conservatives. The Tory messaging for the final week is all wrong. My browser is full of Tory ads calling on me to “Get Brexit Done” when everyone knows Boris is all about that; if anything, they risk alienating the key group of Remainers who voted Tory in 2017. The Tories are currently hanging on to just five-eighths of these voters, and any further slippage could be fatal. As far as potential …

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Alex Salmond accused of sexual assaults on 10 women…

From the BBC report: Alex Salmond has appeared in court charged with carrying out a series of 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. Yikes, that will be …

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