George Osborne: Northern Ireland is already heading for the exit door…

Former Chancellor, and now editor of The Evening Standard, George Osborne, has been writing about the potential break up of the Union. Not any more. By unleashing English nationalism, Brexit has made the future of the UK the central political issue of the coming decade. Northern Ireland is already heading for the exit door. By remaining in the EU single market, it is for all economic intents and purposes now slowly becoming part of a united Ireland. Its prosperity now …

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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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Sailing West to Uncertainty… and Disaster

Nations soar or sink according to decisions made about how they are run, and this was seldom truer than of Scotland, 320 years ago this month. In the closing years of the 17th Century a combination of unpredictable woes and poor, ill-informed leadership set off a chain of events that ultimately led to the end of Scottish independence – and, coincidentally, the creation of a state known as the United Kingdom (and, by extension, the official beginning of the British …

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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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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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Scotland and Northern Ireland move centre stage, says Downing St. ” Save the Union” is the mission

Well what do you know? At the beginning of a very busy news week, the Times leads with a real revelation from right under their noses. After months of  patting the wee Celts on the head with bland assurances that Brexit will be fine all round, “sources “ now say that  “concerns about Scotland and Northern Ireland were discussed at last week’s cabinet.. and the impact of Brexit on the UKs devolution settlement is the government’s greatest concern about the exit …

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SNP pressure to stay in the single market boosts the UK case. Why not champion these ideas for Northern Ireland?

Nicola Sturgeon herself admits there are challenges in the SNP’s proposals to keep Scotland within the single market if the rest of the UK is without. The generous view of the paper Scotland’s Place in Europe is that at least it sets out a position, which is more than the than the UK government has done so far. Witness Theresa May’s stonewalling performance before the Commons Liaison Committee yesterday and the Guardian’s sketch of it. Furthermore the Scottish case could …

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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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So the DUP are leaving it all up to Theresa May to sort out our Brexit deal are they?

At last!  Only two months later, a reply from Theresa May to the joint concerns of FM and DFM on the impact of Brexit. Searching for detail in the Nolan “scoop” I can only find this on the BBC website. In her letter, Mrs May says the future of the border is “an important priority for the UK as a whole.” She also says she recognises the “unique issues” raised by the Single Electricity Market and that resolving these will …

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The Irish Times and the Guardian combine to ramp up pressure on May and in support of the “all-island Civic Dialogue”

“At this delicate moment, the Guardian and the Irish Times are collaborating on a week-long series exploring the predicament facing Ireland and the UK. Kenny told the Irish Times that he would summon all political players to an unprecedented All Island Civic Dialogue on 2 November. “ In support of the Guardian’s announcement the Irish Times has published a gloomy analysis of the effects of Brexit on both countries. The rough guide is that every 1 per cut in UK growth …

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Scotland and Northern Ireland’s legal consent for Brexit is not required – Theresa May

“There is no opt-out from Brexit. And I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious Union between the four nations of our United Kingdom.” Theresa May has Scotland in mind here of course but  the uncompromising “no opt out” applies equally to Northern Ireland. The  “consultation” that is promised is therefore  to be  by grace and favour of the UK government.  But  there is still no  word on what form that consultation may take. We know now that …

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Gordon Brown’s Modest Proposal for Scottish Home Rule

How’s this for weird? Gordon Brown now backs Home Rule for Scotland… Using terms like “co-decision making,” and suggesting Scotland could unilaterally sign up to international agreements on those policy areas the Edinburgh Parliament controlled, Mr Brown spoke of a more federal structure to the UK while recognising the benefits of pooling and sharing resources while part of the Union. He also noted how even leading Nationalists had to accept in light of the Brexit vote that “independence is far …

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With Brexit fever, lies,lies and damned polls

Lucid Talk have been conducting a curious self selecting exercise in the  Belfast Telegraph and finding that, as Lucid Talk’s Bill White explains, “The poll is currently running at 75% Yes to a border poll, and 70% Yes to a United Ireland, and I don’t need to tell you that common sense, and history, tells us that this is obviously not representative of Northern Ireland. Polling companies like ours are ‘easy’ with these ‘self-selecting’ polls as they’re known – i.e. …

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O’Leary’s Dalriada proposal keeps Northern Ireland and Scotland in the UK and the EU

The political scientist Professor Brendan O’Leary is one of the strongest supporters of power sharing in Northern Ireland and an deviser of political solutions to ethnic conflict throughout the world. On leave from Pennsylvania University and an old boy of St Macnissi’s Garron Tower, he has produced the Dalriada Document – inspired by the ancient North Antrim- west of Scotland kingdom. The Dalriada document is an ingenious attempt to square the circle of keeping Scotland and Northern Ireland in both …

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Westminster will find it hard to counter the Brexit case for Scottish independence

The UK Treasury chief who was at the heart of Project Fear during the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 is singing a different tune after the Brexit referendum. In an extraordinary article in the Financial Times (£)  summarised here,  Sir Nicholas McPherson sweeps away most of economic and financial problems associated with independence.. With the UK leaving the EU, there is a golden opportunity for proponents of Scottish independence to reappraise their economic prospectus. Clearly, membership of the EU will lie …

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The drive for independence suspected in new boost for Scots language. Sounds familiar?

The Financial Times (£ paywall) which is so good at making its limited space for non-financial themes count, reports a new boost for the Scots language which the writer Mure Dickie suspects is part of the longer term drive for independence.  In language policy, the parallels as well as contrasts  with both Irish and Ulster Scots hardly need much spelling out. But I hope you will – enjoy, is that the word? – the distortions  of  what we think of as …

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Should the Scottish Parliament and the Assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast control ” their” BBC?

The three wee Celts in the precariously devolved  UK have got together – convened wouldn’t you know it – by the Scots, to agitate for a bigger slice of the BBC licence fee during the coming round of the BBC Charter review. Northern Ireland’s culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin  declares: “The BBC must continue to embrace and further develop its commitment to its public obligations and the occasion of the charter renewal must be seen as an opportunity to deliver …

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The SNP have gone beyond the unionist-nationalist split – a new account of their success.

For those of us who can trot out the reasons for the dramatic rise of the SNP and still remain dissatisfied with the explanations, the writer David Torrance moves us closer in the Guardian today. Torrance is an open minded  unionist  who declares his views but doesn’t let them get in the way, a priceless asset  in a discussion of divided politics.  For me his key point is that the SNP have reached beyond the  basic unionist- nationalist, left right splits  …

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Votes for the SNP bind them closer into the Union

Votes for the SNP in the general election would bind the SNP closer into the Union especially if Labour  form the government. This was becoming even clearer from the analysis of the gap between Labour’s and the SNP’s austerity plans by Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies. ( Times £) What is clear is that there is a really quite substantial difference between Labour and the Conservatives. We can put it in the order of £24 billion of spending a …

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