Henry Hill: Sturgeon under fire after Salmond wins case against her government

Also: Scottish and Welsh Labour re-admit AM and councillor in antisemitism rows; and SDLP look south to merger with major Republic party.

Sturgeon humiliated as Salmond wins case against her Government

Nicola Sturgeon is under mounting pressure to reveal the details of private conversations she had with Alex Salmond about allegations of sexual harassment against him, the reports.

This comes after the First Minister was forced to issue a “humiliating apology” after her predecessor won a legal challenge to the way the Scottish Government had handled the complaints. The Telegraph reports:

“The judge Lord Pentland ruled the inquiry was “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had “prior involvement” with the women before they complained.”

As a result of what Salmond calls the “abject surrender” of the Scottish Government he has been awarded costs, which apparently run to £500,000. He has also demanded that Leslie Evans, Sturgeon’s seniormost civil servant, resign. The Scotsman reports that Evans has apologised but has no plans to quit, and that the First Minister has given the mandarin her support. The Timesdedicated an editorial has to calling for Evans’ scalp, accusing her of “an egregious lapse of judgement”.

Jackson Carlaw, the interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has announced that the Tories are going to push for a committee of the Scottish Parliament to investigate why Sturgeon met with Salmond five times, including two at her home in Glasgow, whilst insisting that she had not interfered in the investigation. She has also now admitted to not informing the Permanent Secretary about at least one of these.

Welsh and Scottish Labour re-admit anti-Semites

Not the biggest stories of the week, but in light of Rachel Riley’s attack on Jeremy Corbyn for “sharing a bed with holocaust deniers and virulent anti-Semites”, two stories this week serve as an unhappy reminder of how far through Labour this problem runs.

First, the BBC reports that a Labour member of the Welsh Assembly has been re-admitted to the party after having made “offensive” remarks about Jews, despite the fact that the party has not yet concluded its investigation into the incident. Jenny Rathbone apparently suggested that the security fears of the congregation of a Cardiff synagogue could be “in their own heads”.

She also said she was “uncomfortable” with synagogues turning into “fortresses”, adding that a “siege mentality” probably played a significant role. Michael Rose, the Chief Rabbi, branded the remarks “extremely offensive”.

Meanwhile in Scotland the Jewish Chronicle reports that Labour have re-admitted a councillor who directly peddled an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. Mary Bain Lockart claimed that a joint front page by the UK’s three main Jewish newspapers – organised to signal the strength of feeling about antisemitism in the Labour Party – was a Mossad plot to discredit Corbyn.

An ex-Labour MP who originally complained about the post said the decision to re-admit Lockart illustrated that Labour was not a safe space for the Jewish community.

Fianna Fail and SDLP propose merger

Northern Ireland’s smaller, more moderate nationalist party is looking to merge with one of the major parties in the Republic of Ireland in a bid to inject some life into the flagging alternative to Sinn Fein.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), which was Ulster’s pre-eminent nationalist party during the Troubles until it was eclipsed – along with its unionist counterpart, the Ulster Unionists – by the rise of the DUP-Sinn Fein duopoly, is reportedly preparing to subsume itself into Fianna Fail, long deemed the Republic’s ‘natural party of government’.

According to the Irish Times the proposal would result in “one all-island party which will be called Fianna Fáil” – which has prompted Margaret Ritchie, a former SDLP leader and Member of Parliament, to say on the record how much she would regret the disappearance of her party’s distinct brand and identity.

Lord Empey, who as leader of the Ulster Unionists led his party into their ill-fated alliance with the Conservatives at the 2010 general election, warned Colum Eastwood, the SDLP’s current leader, that he might be ushering in the “obliteration” of his party. It’s internal coalition might fracture and only a smaller part of its already waning vote and membership end up inside Fianna Fail’s tent.

In other Irish news, new polling suggests that Irish people believe that the backstop will make a ‘united Ireland’ more likely – which perhaps explains why the DUP continue to believe Theresa May’s deal poses a greater threat to the Union than ‘no deal’.

The first department to need boosting post-March. The Treasury? Business? Transport? No: Northern Ireland.

The challenge to “our precious union” will be as much constitutional as economic – Deal, No Brexit…or No Deal especially.

Liz Truss wants to merge three smaller departments into a bigger one in the wake of the spending review.  Business, Culture and Transport would be folded into a new Ministry of Infrastructure.  B.I.S.C.U.I.T.S lives!

More prosaically, there is a danger, in weighing up the idea – the Chief Secretary believes bold measures are needed to raise productivity – of confusing three different though linked aims.

The first is saving taxpayers’ money through more efficient administration.  Amalgamating departments can help to achieve this end.  But it is always possible to find savings within the present set-up.  For example, Jeremy Hunt cut staff costs in one of those departments, Culture, by the best part of half, during his term as Secretary of State under the Coalition.

The second is restructuring departments to deliver political priorities.  Again, this shouldn’t be Mission Impossible.  However, it can go wrong.  The classic example is Harold Wilson’s Department of Economic Affairs, a “department of long-term go” created to balance the Treasury, the “department of short-term stop”.  Led by George Brown, it fought the Treasury.  The Treasury fought back, under Jim Callaghan.  Short-term stop is still with us and long-term go left very quickly.

The third is signalling priorities through ministerial appointments.  Consider the department at the head of the Chief Secretary’s list, Business.  Gordon Brown galvanised it by sending in a big hitter, Peter Mandelson.  David Cameron responded by appointing another as his shadow – Ken Clarke.

In that particular case, structural changes were made.  (Mandelson’s new department gained responsibility for universities.)  But these aren’t always desirable or even necessary.  By way of illustration, we offer a post-March 29 example.

If Theresa May’s deal eventually passes the Commons, Great Britain and Northern Ireland will have different regulatory regimes, assuming the backstop eventually kicks on.  Some argue that the two parts of the UK will potentially have different customs arrangements too.  This aspect of the deal has knock-on implications for Scotland, and therefore the Union, as a whole.

In the event of No Deal, it is possible that support for Irish unity and/or Scottish independence will grow faster than would otherwise be the case.  There is no way of knowing.  But Unionists should be alive to the possibility.  Relations with Ireland would certainly be tested in these circumstances, with an obvious read-across for Northern Ireland.  Whatever happens, we have paid for neglecting them.

In short, the latter will need a senior Tory player as Secretary of State when the next Cabinet reshuffle comes.  That person will need to know the Irish political scene, be on civil terms with the DUP and have a feel for how the island ticks.

Our suggestion is David Lidington.  He won’t be top of the DUP’s Christmas card list, but the party knows him well from his time as David Cameron’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, and vice-versa.  As a former Europe Minister he is familiar with the Irish side of the political equation: indeed, he has already been operating, in effect, as Theresa May’s emissary to Dublin.

Meanwhile, it follows that his replacement in the Cabinet Office would be tasked, as Lidington now is, with establishing how the whole UK can best work post-March 29.  In the event of No Deal, the challenge will be obvious – testing the UK Governance Group, presently charged with constitutional matters, to its limits.  In the event of No Brexit, it will be more subtle, but still present.

Our reflex is to send for Michael Gove when new thinking and action are required.  Perhaps we yield to it too readily.  And in any event, he can’t be everywhere.  Who else fits the bill?  Required: energy, brains, eloquence, seriousness and a passionate attachment to the Union.  These qualities are not in long supply.

The bold solution would be to send for a rising politician who has all five.

Rory Stewart is a Scot representing an English borders seat who is across the independence issue, having campaigned against it fervently in 2015.  He would not, repeat not, be Scottish or Welsh Secretary – any more than Lidington is now.  But a feel for what happens north of the border in particular would come in very useful.

These changes could be made without any structural change at all.  Or else DexEU could be folded into a new Department of Constitutional Affairs, with Stewart in charge, Chloe Smith staying on as the junior Minister, and perhaps a Scottish MP coming in too.

In which case, Steve Barclay could run the Cabinet Office.  Or Oliver Letwin return to do so.  Or Dominic Raab, if you prefer.  What’s that, you ask? B.I.S.C.U.I.T.S?  Well, it’s a long story.  Our theme today is shorter: mind “our precious Union”, post-March 29.

“For mighty dread had seized their troubled mind”

Unlike the angel, we’re unable to announce tidings of great joy. But it’s worth mulling why the Christmas season can pause even Brexit hostilities.

The United Kingdom has the right, like other member states, to leave the European Union. A means is set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, and others are arguably available too.  Since that right is available, exercising it should be uncontroversial – especially since the decision to Brexit was made by the biggest popular vote in British electoral history.  But it has not turned out to be so.  Why?

There are a mass of reasons.  Leave’s margin of victory was narrow – although most voters initially swung behind the decision, and very many continue to ask: why can’t the politicians just get on with it?  MPs split Remain-Leave by perhaps five to one.  This always had the potential to disrupt Brexit, and so it is proving now.  Departure was handled at the top of government by both Remainers and Leavers, and the muddle of aims and aspirations weakened policy-making and negotiation, perhaps fatally.  Leavers themselves do not all agree on the way forward: some hanker for EEA membership; others would actually welcome No Deal; most are somewhere in the middle, wanting a free trade agreement.  Above all, Theresa May lost her negotiating clout when she bungled last year’s election, and returned from it more at the mercy of the Commons than ever.

The civil service and state institutions are sensitive to political authority.  They didn’t swing fully behind Margaret Thatcher until after her landslide victory in 1983, and their identification with Tony Blair was exposed by the Iraq War inquiries.  Very many civil servants have worked extremely hard to help deliver Brexit.  But there can be little doubt that some at the top share the scepticism of Nick Macpherson, the former Treasury Permanent Secretary, or the hostility of Simon Fraser, his equivalent at the Foreign Office.  The views of both are available to readers on Twitter.  In parts of the City, among the bigger businesses, at the top of most unions, in the media (with a lot of exceptions), in the law (with fewer), and among the universities and the lobbyocracy there is sustained antipathy to Brexit.  This agglomeration controls the commanding heights of our culture.

If not exactly an elite, it is certainly an ascendancy – or has been.  Its take on EU membership has been that of government and state policy for over 50 years, and the popular decision to leave dealt a deep wound to its sense of status, self-worth and entitlement.  “The most striking and disturbing development since the 2016 referendum has been the emergence of what can without much exaggeration be termed a Remainer revolt,” Robert Tombs has written.  Its arguments, he added, “have rarely if ever been heard in any advanced country since the nineteenth century. For example: that most voters did not know what they were voting for; that working-class voters were too ignorant to make a choice; that people without advanced education should have their political rights reduced; that older people should have no right to an equal democratic voice.”

One should keep a sense of proportion.  As we suggested earlier, most people are fed up with the Brexit debate – turned off and tuned out.  But for a substantial minority it has an explosive power more commonly associated with political rifts outside this country: the Dreyfus Affair in France comes to mind.  Very broadly, the M25 belt leans one way and the rest of England the other; Scotland and Wales went in different directions in 2016; Northern Ireland is in the eye of the storm; there is class and age division (and some important ethnic differences).  An MP was murdered on the brink of the 2016 vote.  With the Prime Minister’s deal apparently becalmed, the options of No Deal and No Brexit loom – upping the rhetorical stakes, busting Cabinet unity, bending the main political parties and pointing towards constitutional unknowns.  There is displacement activity.  How else can describe the row over whether or not one politician called another a “stupid woman”?

This Christmas offers only a very brief break from Brexit.  Even if May’s deal clears Parliament – which looks very unlikely – the great drama will roll on, as the EU seeks to trade off access for its citizens (and to our fish) against access to its markets.  But it is worth asking what people or institutions have the power to bring reconciliation, calm and perspective, however temporarily.  The Queen is one – maybe less through the accumulated command of the monarchy, weighty though that is, than through her record of service and her own virtues.  The parades and silences of November 11 are another.  They carried a special weight on this hundredth anniversary of 1918.

Christmas is the last Christian festival with the same reach and universality.  Most people in Britain are not practicising Christians – and other faiths plus atheism are on the rise – but their background is a broadly Christian one.  Whitsun long ago vanished into a bank holiday.  Easter is a pause on the journey to summer.  Neither are particularly accessible.  The Holy Ghost seems, well, ghostly.  And though the idea of resurrection has an intuitive power, it is beyond imagination.  By contrast, Christmas offers something concrete – the birth of a child.  Most people can get on its wavelength.

“‘Fear not,’ the old carol has it, ‘for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind’.”  For many individuals and families, the season has its downs as well as its ups.  All the same, this may be a Christmas with even more than the usual share of troubled minds.  Unlike the angel, ConservativeHome is not qualified to redress the balance by announcing tidings of great joy.  But it may console our readers to know that we will pause publication for only two days, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  The site will be back on December 27.  We will say our temporary farewell on Monday.

20 December 2018 – today’s press releases

Today is topped and tailed by Brexit, hardly unusual, but there is also some good stuff responding to today’s events… Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course Govt must act to prevent deaths on our streets Govt must end ‘wild west’ drone market Lib Dems: Public health cuts demonstrate Tories’ duplicity Alun Cairns Must […]

Today is topped and tailed by Brexit, hardly unusual, but there is also some good stuff responding to today’s events…

  • Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course
  • Govt must act to prevent deaths on our streets
  • Govt must end ‘wild west’ drone market
  • Lib Dems: Public health cuts demonstrate Tories’ duplicity
  • Alun Cairns Must Resign if UK Government Back No Deal – Welsh Lib Dems

Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course

Responding to rival Brexit plans set out by Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has said:

While people at home over Christmas will be worried about Brexit uncertainty, these rival plans reveal a Conservative Government without a course.

Theresa May is looking more and more like Captain Bligh. Her mutinous crew have lost faith in her. We even have Andrea Leadsom so lost at sea that she is speaking irresponsible gibberish about an impossible ‘managed no deal’.

Amber Rudd has land in sight by accepting a People’s Vote is ‘plausible’. Not only that, Liberal Democrats know it is the only way to break the parliamentary deadlock. It is time all parties got on board.

Govt must act to prevent deaths on our streets

Responding to Government figures that nearly 600 homeless people died on the streets last year, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

These deaths are absolutely tragic. As a wealthy country, we simply cannot accept people dying on our streets.

The Conservative Government’s failure to look after these individuals is a shameful dereliction of duty. Conservative Ministers must recognise the urgent need to build more social homes. The Liberal Democrats want to see 50,000 social houses to be built every year, rising to 100,000 as soon as possible.

These figures also bring into sharp focus how homelessness services for mental health and substance abuse desperately need more funding.

The housing crisis is a human crisis. It is depriving people of a roof over their head with devastating consequences. The time for warm words and little action has long gone.

Govt must end ‘wild west’ drone market

The Liberal Democrats have demanded the Conservative Government end the ‘wild west’ drone market and tighten up laws on who can own drones following the disruption caused at Gatwick today.

Speaking after securing an urgent question in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Jenny Randerson said the incident at Gatwick “illustrated the frightening ease with which drone vessels can inflict massive damage to our safety, our security and our economy”.

The Liberal Democrat peer urged the Government to set out plans for “proper controls on drones early in 2019”. In response, the Minister accepted the Government must “absolutely introduce new laws” but failed to set out in detail what that would mean and when.

Following the exchange, Jenny Randerson said:

The failure of Conservative Ministers, despite ample opportunity, to implement tighter regulation on drones has allowed an irresponsible act this morning to cause disruption to thousands of people trying to get home for Christmas.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of drones will be bought as Christmas presents. There is a greater risk to aircraft and public safety than ever before. The rules are ultimately too lax.

Liberal Democrats demand better. Conservative Ministers must end wild west drone market, not least by starting with a compulsory registration of drones and compulsory training for all users.

Lib Dems: Public health cuts demonstrate Tories’ duplicity

Responding to the Government’s statement that confirms the reduction of money for public health by £85 million for the year 2019-20, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

It is outrageous that after months of the Conservatives claiming they care about health and the NHS, they have today have confirmed a further reduction in funding for public health.

This just goes to demonstrate the Tories duplicity, promising one thing and doing another. The Conservatives must stop following warm words and policies with insufficient funding.

Liberal Democrats are clear about the critical importance of public health. It is time the Government listened and prioritised public health by halting these cuts to funding and reinvest the money previously cut.

Alun Cairns Must Resign if UK Government Back No Deal – Welsh Lib Dems

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has written to Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns urging him to resign from the Cabinet and resign the Conservative Party whip if a no deal Brexit becomes UK Government policy.

The letter was sent after Justice Secretary David Gauke claimed “that several Cabinet members could resign if no deal became the government’s policy” and Conservative MPs Nick Boles, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston said they would resign the Conservative Party whip if a no deal Brexit became party policy.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

Everyone but the most extreme Brexiteers knows a no deal Brexit would be a disaster. The Bank of England and the Government’s own figures show that a no deal Brexit would cause the Welsh economy to shrink by 9.5%. It’s deeply concerning the UK Government still appears to be treating a no deal Brexit as a serious option.

I was reassured to hear David Gauke claim that Cabinet Members will resign if a no deal Brexit becomes UK Government policy. I’ve written to Alun Cairns to ask if he will be one of them and whether he will join MPs Nick Boles, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston in resigning the Conservative Party whip.

I urge the Secretary of State to resign from the Cabinet and the Conservative Party if a no deal Brexit does become UK Government policy. This is the only way to show he opposes a no deal Brexit, that Wales opposes a no deal Brexit and to avoid facilitating this disastrous outcome.

Henry Hill: DUP MP calls for direct rule to stop unelected civil servants running Northern Ireland

Also: possible breakthrough for devoscepticism as ‘Abolish the Assembly’ projected to win seats; and Scottish Tories embroiled in EU referendum row.

Democratic Unionist MP calls for return of direct rule…

Emma Little-Pengelly, the DUP MP for Belfast South, has called for Westminster to resume direct rule of Northern Ireland, the Times reports.

Although taking pains to emphasise that they are “a party of devolution”, she argued that it is inappropriate that “life or death decisions” about the Province’s governance are being made by civil servants without political oversight or accountability.

March 2019 will mark two years since the collapse of Ulster’s power-sharing administration and devolved assembly. Since the UK Government has refused to step in, the local civil service – which is currently ramping up preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit – has been left to administer the Province on auto-pilot.

Interestingly, this is not the only integrationist noise from the DUP this month: Arlene Foster earlier floated the idea of the Northern Irish civil service (which has stood discrete for almost a century) being abolished and its responsibilities returned to the Home Civil Service.

The Government is deeply reluctant to resume responsibility for governing Northern Ireland, both because of the additional pressure it will mount on the parliamentary timetable and because it will signal – in a way that two years’ of civil service rule hasn’t, presumably – the failure of Karen Bradley’s efforts to get the Northern Ireland Assembly back on its feet.

Another concern might be that previous direct rule arrangements involved the Northern Irish Secretary assuming almost viceregal authority over all aspects of governing the Province, rather than integration into mainland governance arrangements. Bradley might not be the minister best-placed to fulfil that particular function.

The paper reports that the DUP believe that Boris Johnson, who recently addressed their conference, would support the return of direct rule, although he apparently denies this.

Finally, the story of the Constitutional Research Council’s ‘shadowy’ donation to the DUP reached its anticlimax this week when the Electoral Commission fined the CRC the princely sum of just £6,000, according to the News Letter.

This was levied for failing to notify them about the £435,000 donation, rather than any impropriety regarding the source of the money. Despite much paranoiac speculation about this so-called ‘dark money’, the Commission have ruled it to come from legitimate sources.

…as polls suggest anti-devolution party might break through in Wales

More good news on the devolution front, this time from Wales. For the first time, Professor Roger Awan-Scully’s polling has found the bluntly-titled Abolish the Assembly party on track to win representation in that self-same institution.

They appear to be the beneficiaries of the pretty much total collapse in UKIP’s position: the ‘People’s Army’ looks set to fall from seven seats in 2016 to just one, and that last may well just be a statistical artefact.

Unfortunately for the Conservatives, it looks as if they have missed the strategic opportunity posed by UKIP’s collapse that I wrote about during their leadership contest earlier this year. Despite the disintegration of another pro-UK, pro-Brexit party they look set to pick up just two seats, failing to match their 2011 total and still stuck in third behind Plaid. The gulf between their Westminster and Cardiff Bay polling positions also remains, testament to hundreds of thousands of Tory voters preferring to stay at home than endorse the party’s Assembly offer.

Whilst Abolish the Assembly may go the way of UKIP – it is never easy for a fringe party to adapt swiftly to the larger stage – if they can set down roots they could cause a real headache for the Welsh Conservatives down the line. If they start making a credible devo-sceptic pitch to core Tory voters, the current strategy of ‘leaning in’ to the devolutionary agenda and laying the ground to be (junior) partners with Plaid in an anybody-but-Labour coalition will be unsustainable.

As for their core goal, a second set of data released this morning suggests that at present about one in five Welsh voters would choose to abolish the Assembly if given the chance. Given that this idea is essentially unrepresented by any of the parties, think tanks, or newspapers, there could be worse starting points.

Scottish Tories in EU referendum row as Supreme Court deals blow to SNP Brexit bill

The Supreme Court ruled this week that a bill tabled by the Scottish Government to assert its control over various policy areas post-Brexit exceeded its powers, the Financial Times reports.

Adam Tomkins, the constitutional law professor and Conservative MSP, tweeted afterwards to show how swathes of the document had been struck down.

This comes in the same week that Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, announced that the “ship had sailed” on a soft Brexit compromise as the Nationalists’ toughened their stance regarding a second referendum. Nicola Sturgeon has reportedly made securing one her “top priority” – although Murdo Fraser points out that they won’t commit to respecting the result.

In fact, the row over a second referendum spread to the Scottish Tories this week after a seemingly well-sourced piece from Chris Deerin in the New Statesman suggested that they were preparing to back a second Brexit vote themselves. Given that this would set a clear precedent for giving the Nationalists’ another tilt at independence this was quite the claim, and acting leader Jackson Carlaw has quashed the rumour (in very robust language).

Nonetheless, since Deerin obviously didn’t invent his sources the event raises the question of which elements inside the Scottish Conservatives are flying a kite, and why. Perhaps the emerging divisions in the party, which I touched on last week, are deeper than they appear.

13 December 2018 – (not just) today’s press releases

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy… Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib […]

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy…

  • Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems
  • PM must now change course and offer people the final say
  • Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful
  • Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans
  • Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis
  • Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit
  • Cable: May running scared of meaningful vote
  • Local government finance hits poorer communities the hardest

Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems

Following Theresa May’s victory in the confidence vote in her leadership, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Prime Minister to give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit.

Conservative Party rules mean that once a leader has survived a no confidence vote, they cannot face another vote for at least another 12 months.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

Theresa May has survived the no confidence vote, but this is hardly a glorious moment for her and her Premiership. The fact Theresa May even had to face this vote speaks volumes about how even her own MPs feel she has mismanaged Brexit.

However, this victory also presents an opportunity for Theresa May. Now she cannot face another confidence vote for at least 12 months, Theresa May should use this opportunity to do what is in the national interest and call a People’s Vote. In doing so, she would have the support of MPs from across the House.

The Prime Minister may have survived this confidence vote, but this doesn’t change the fact there is no majority for her deal in Parliament and the EU is unwilling to renegotiate. The only solution to this Brexit crisis is to give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit.

PM must now change course and offer people the final say

Responding to the 1922 confidence vote on Theresa May, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Having seen the Conservative backbenches will not support her deal the Prime Minister must change course.

Her deal is doomed to defeat in the Commons, so she should show real leadership by putting this question back to the public in a People’s Vote.

The EU is clear that there is no more negotiating to do, so it’s this deal or No Brexit. That is the choice on which every voter should now have a final say – and Liberal Democrats will campaign vigorously for the UK to remain a full member of the EU.

Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful

Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has accused the Conservative Government of a “shameful dereliction of duty” as office figures show the number of children in temporary accommodation reaches an 11-year high.

Wera Hobhouse said:

It is an absolute disgrace that hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in temporary accommodation. The Conservative Government’s failure to look after these vulnerable families is a shameful dereliction of duty.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Every child deserves the best possible start in life. Conservative Ministers cannot stand by and ignore this tragedy.

Liberal Democrats would build 100,000 new social homes every year, ensure that housing benefits are sufficient for covering rent and bring the thousands of vacant properties across the country into use.

Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans

The Welsh Lib Dems have welcomed the decision of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to approve the use of non-invasive MRI scans to detect prostate cancer.

The scans have been piloted in three areas of Wales, but their approval paves the way for their use by health boards across Wales.

The decision follows a policy motion on Improving the Detection Rate of Prostate Cancer in Wales, passed by Welsh Lib Dem Autumn Conference this year.

Chair of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats and prostate cancer survivor Andrew Lye said:

I have spent most of 2018 dealing with my own diagnosis of prostate cancer and got the all clear in October, but I am still on treatment. We must remember 1 in 8 men will catch prostate cancer and every year 550 men will die of it in Wales. We now see more men dying of prostate cancer than women dying of breast cancer.

It is a sad indictment that Wales currently has fewer multi-parametric (mpMRI) facilities than available to men in England. This has to be rectified urgently. We have to improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer and reduce the large numbers that die from it.

It was a pleasure for me to bring this matter to the Welsh Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference in October, at Aberystwyth. We supported this petition to the Welsh Assembly. I am proud the Welsh Liberal Democrats gave their full backing at Conference to the motion I proposed from the Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire Local Party. We need better facilities in West Wales as well as in North Wales.

Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis

Responding to NHS England’s first weekly report of the winter which shows hospitals are so overcrowded care is being put at risk, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

It is intolerable to think that patients are being turned away at their hour of need. These reports bear all the hallmarks of yet another Conservative NHS winter crisis. People deserve better.

It’s essential that Ministers urgently set out plans for tackling the challenges facing our NHS and social care. That starts with ensuring hardworking NHS staff have sufficient resources to provide the care people need.

The Liberal Democrats would deliver a dedicated NHS and Care Tax to guarantee that the system has sustainable funding for the future.

Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has written to the Leader of the House demanding Parliament doesn’t rise for Christmas unless MPs get a vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The call follows the publication today of the business in the House of Commons for next week. The business confirms the Conservative Government has no intention of moving a vote on the Brexit deal before Christmas.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said:

At a time of so much uncertainty caused by this Brexit mess, it is an insult to the British people that Theresa May is happy for MPs to go on holiday without voting on the biggest issue in generations. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.

Liberal Democrats do not believe Parliament should rise for the Christmas recess until Theresa May does what the people expect and give MPs a vote on her deal. Now more than ever MPs should be working to help their constituents, not least by giving them a final say on Brexit with the option to remain in the EU.

Cable: May running scared of meaningful vote

In Brussels today, Vince Cable met with leaders from other liberal parties across Europe, including prime ministers, where he led a briefing on Brexit.

Updating them on the changing political mood in the UK, the growing support for a people’s vote, and the Government’s failure to bring forward a meaningful vote in parliament on her deal.

Commenting on the meeting in Brussels, leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

From meeting with liberal leaders and prime ministers today it is clear Theresa May needs to change course.

Substantial changes are not going to be on the table and she is running scared of giving parliament a meaningful vote.

The only way forward is to offer the public a people’s vote with the option to remain.

Local government finance hits poorer communities the hardest

Responding to the Local Government Finance Settlement, Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

This settlement does nothing to address the growing inequalities across our country. The highly regressive council tax system means that, as the Conservative Government continue to underfund local government, subsequent council tax rises hit poorer communities the hardest.

There must be a reform of council tax to prevent the places with the highest demand for services for vulnerable people, struggling the most to fund it.

Liberal Democrats demand better than the sticking plaster that has been presented today. The Tories are once again kicking the can down the road, instead of setting out a long term financial package that provides security for our local services.

Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson for the House of Lords, Baroness Pinnock added:

The local government funding settlement that was released today is a drop in the ocean. The offer of £650 million for social care in 2019-20 falls drastically short when the funding gap is expected to reach £3.5 billion by 2025.

Social care should not be a post code lottery.

12 December 2018 – today’s press releases

So, another day when much has happened, but little has obviously changed. It’s a bit like ‘Waiting for Godot’, in that Brexit is supposedly coming, but never actually seems to turn up… Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions Agreement Reached Between new First Minister and Kirsty Williams Lamb: Labour’s abstention on cannabis vote ‘deeply […]

So, another day when much has happened, but little has obviously changed. It’s a bit like ‘Waiting for Godot’, in that Brexit is supposedly coming, but never actually seems to turn up…

  • Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions
  • Agreement Reached Between new First Minister and Kirsty Williams
  • Lamb: Labour’s abstention on cannabis vote ‘deeply depressing’

Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions

Responding to the reports that the Prime Minister will face a vote of confidence in her leadership, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Theresa May’s deal is a total mess and is the latest backdrop for yet another Conservative meltdown over Europe.

The Leave campaign’s promises clearly cannot and will not be delivered, and the Conservatives are now engaging in a self-indulgent internal spat which won’t resolve their deepening divisions.

Theresa May should now show real leadership in calling a People’s Vote, to break the deadlock, with an option to remain in the EU. It is the way forward out of this mess.

Agreement Reached Between new First Minister and Kirsty Williams

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have announced that an agreement has been reached between Education Secretary Kirsty Williams and new First Minister Mark Drakeford.

The agreement affirms both parties’ commitment to the 2016 Progressive Agreement and its shared priorities. Alongside noting the significant progress made since Kirsty Williams became Education Secretary, the agreement also unveils new education policies and reforms that will be implemented over the coming years.

The agreement recognises the distinct identities and policies of each party, while allowing each party to on occasion express different positions on reserved matters. This has previously happened on certain occasions regarding UK/EU relations.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

The Welsh Liberal Democrats and I are proud of the work Kirsty is doing within the Welsh Government to implement Welsh Lib Dem policies and improve the lives of people across Wales.

Kirsty has already delivered many of the transformational policies contained in the first progressive agreement, including increasing funding for disadvantaged pupils, increasing the supply of affordable housing and delivering the most generous and progressive student finance system in the UK.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a proud tradition of delivering for our communities and this agreement does just that.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams commented:

I am pleased to reach this agreement with the new First Minister today. This agreement allows us to build on our achievements over the last two years and to continue on our national mission of raising standards, reducing the attainment gap, and delivering an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

Lamb: Labour’s abstention on cannabis vote ‘deeply depressing’

Responding to the narrow defeat of his Cannabis (Legalisation and Regulation) Bill yesterday, in which Labour MPs were whipped against supporting the legislation, former Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

While it was sadly predictable that the Conservatives would block reform of our harmful and outdated drugs laws, it was deeply depressing to see the vast majority of Labour MPs sit on their hands and abstain.

It underlines the hypocrisy of Labour’s claim to offer a radical, progressive alternative to the Conservatives. The truth is that Labour remains a deeply small-c conservative party in many respects, driven by tough rhetoric and a tendency to ban what it doesn’t like rather than following the evidence. I applaud those MPs who voted in support of the Bill and strongly encourage others to reconsider.

The war on drugs has been an unmitigated failure, leaving young people vulnerable to dangerous strains of cannabis sold by dealers who have absolutely no interest in their welfare.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party calling for a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to cannabis which focuses on protecting public health. Only by legalising and regulating cannabis can we minimise the harms of this drug and protect the well-being of our children and young people.

6 December 2018 – today’s press releases

You begin to sense the uncertainty emanating from Whitehall, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere in the governance jungle… Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal Mental Health Review must lead to more investment Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal Responding to the […]

You begin to sense the uncertainty emanating from Whitehall, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere in the governance jungle…

  • Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal
  • Mental Health Review must lead to more investment
  • Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems

Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal

Responding to the Department for Exiting the EU’s policy paper on Citizens’ Rights, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Ed Davey said:

The Government has finally admitted that free movement of labour won’t end this March.

The fact they tried to sneak this out shows yet again that people can’t trust anything this Government says on Brexit and immigration – they are still refusing to publish their Immigration White Paper, which is supposed to tell us how immigration policy will work after Brexit.

The reality is this Government knows immigration benefits the UK and is needed – but they dare not tell people the truth. So instead the Prime Minister panders to prejudice and calls EU citizens aren’t ‘queue jumpers’, – when in reality they are our neighbours and our friends, our NHS workers and our farm labourers.

And even today’s statement is misleading. Everyone knows that many eligible EU citizens won’t get their settled status papers from this incompetent Government and Home Office by the end of the application period. There’s now a danger of a European Windrush.

Mental Health Review must lead to more investment

Responding to the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

I am grateful to Simon Wessely for the work he has done on the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act.

While I welcome the outcome of the review, I believe this must be a first step towards more radical reforms.

In the Government’s response to the Review, there must be a commitment to invest more money to support those at crisis point and help people before they reach crisis point. The Conservatives to date have failed to adequately invest in Mental Health. Without strong goals and commitments from the Government, rising detention rates will not be adequately challenged.

Liberal Democrats demand better for patients. Where the Conservatives have failed, the Liberal Democrats would invest money and deliver the reforms necessary.

Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems

The Welsh Lib Dems have condemned the housing and homelessness crisis being caused by the rollout of Universal Credit after evidence from Cardiff emerged showing far higher levels of rent arrears amongst Universal Credit claimants compared to housing benefit claimants.

Unfortunately, the number of Universal Credit claimants falling into rent arrears has led to many landlords across the UK refusing to accept any tenants in receipt of Universal Credit.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Cllr Joe Carter said;

It’s deeply disappointing but not at all surprising that Universal Credit is pushing more and more people into rent arrears. We’ve consistently warned this would be the result of Universal Credit, only for our warnings to fall on deaf ears.

The UK Government must listen now and allow the housing benefit section of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord. Doing nothing will only lead to more Universal Credit claimants being pushed into rent arrears and made homeless. That is not an option.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this will also mean a loss of rent for councils and housing associations, restricting their ability to build more social housing and provide other vital services. Meaning Universal Credit is already damaging future generations as well.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds added:

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently called for the UK Government to pause and fix Universal Credit, and this is one of the many reasons why. Universal Credit is causing increased poverty, increased homelessness and untold misery. It must not be allowed to continue in its current form.

Plaid Cymru’s new leader is delusional if he thinks his pro-EU separatism resonates with Welsh voters

Plaid Cymru recently elected Adam Price (pictured above) as its new leader. The Welsh Assembly Member for the 53% Leave-voting Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency evicted Plaid’s hapless former leader Leanne Wood and fended off Rhun ap Iorwerth to lead Wales’ pro-Brussels separatists in Cardiff Bay. Shortly after taking office, Price claimed to espy the […]

The post Plaid Cymru’s new leader is delusional if he thinks his pro-EU separatism resonates with Welsh voters appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Plaid Cymru recently elected Adam Price (pictured above) as its new leader. The Welsh Assembly Member for the 53% Leave-voting Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency evicted Plaid’s hapless former leader Leanne Wood and fended off Rhun ap Iorwerth to lead Wales’ pro-Brussels separatists in Cardiff Bay.

Shortly after taking office, Price claimed to espy the “dying days of the British state” with its “shackles” of post-imperialism and called Brexit “a cataclysm”. He said Wales’ heritage and culture “must be protected” from the “Brexit catastrophe” and “every opportunity should be taken to “stop this madness” rather than respecting Wales’ Brexit vote.

In a similar vein, the Cardiff University academic and former Plaid candidate Laura McAllister OBE opined on WalesOnline that Brexit means Wales will be “stuck on the Western fringe of a shaky, outdated union of four increasingly different nations” and “won’t survive outside the EU as we stare at a future without natural allies.”

This is an odd thing to say about Wales’ neighbours on the British archipelago. Wales has been in a union with England since 1536, with Scotland since 1707 and with Northern Ireland since 1800. Alongside the English, Scots and Irish, the Welsh enjoined in the progress of British parliamentary democracy, fought two World Wars and established a modern welfare state.

The roadblock to the Plaid’s separatist project is not Britain. Rather it is the people of Wales through their Brexit vote and their Unionism.

Price won Plaid’s leadership election with 2,863 votes. Yet 854,572 Welsh voters backed Leave, more than those voting for devolution in the Welsh referendums of 1979, 1997 and 2011. Indeed, the House of Commons Library’s EU Referendum constituency estimates show that even in Plaid’s Senedd seats an average of 49% of voters voted Leave, as did 45% of voters in their parliamentary constituencies.

At Plaid’s annual conference in Cardigan, Price claimed that Brexit means Welsh independence “must be on the table” and achieved by 2030. But Cardiff and Edinburgh universities’ recent YouGov ‘Future of England Survey’ found only 19% of Welsh respondents backing separatism. The same survey found that when Welsh respondents were asked which term best described them 47% said Welsh, 34% said British but only 4% said European.

Neither is Welsh politics becoming “increasingly different” from politics in England. In the European Referendum of 2016, the Brexit vote was 52.5% in Wales and 53.4% in England. And at the 2017 General Election, 90% of Welsh voters supported Unionist parties. Welsh turnout in this General Election to the UK Westminster Parliament was 69% compared to 45% in the 2016 elections to the Welsh Assembly (barely more than those voting in the 2017 Welsh local authority elections).

The vast majority of people in Wales are rightly patriotically Welsh and British, but unlike Plaid’s elitist ideologues they don’t want Wales run by the EU. Plaid’s problem is that the popular conception of sovereignty in Wales is that of a people who overwhelmingly self-identify as Welsh and British, most of whom also voted for their United Kingdom’s departure from the EU.

Simultaneously trying to overthrow the Welsh electorate while demanding independence by 2030 shows a lack of respect for the wishes of the people Plaid wants to govern. It is therefore unsurprising that at the 2017 ‘Brexit General Election’ Plaid candidates lost their deposits in over a third of Welsh seats and polled only 10% of the Welsh popular vote.

The nationalist paradox of supporting national independence and European integration comes from Plaid Cymru and the SNP’s attachment to the federalist ‘Europe of the Regions’ agenda through which the EU has sought to undermine nation state sovereignty from below by fostering separatist movements while stripping powers away from the United Kingdom Parliament in Westminster.

One of Price’s first acts as leader of Plaid Cymru was to pledge fealty to the Remainist SNP at their Glasgow conference where he told SNP activists to ‘Let old Britain die’ in the wake of Brexit. Price also travelled up to meet Nicola Sturgeon in Remain-voting London to promise that Plaid’s MPs would be lined behind the SNP in a league of losers calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ to overturn the Welsh people’s historic Brexit vote.

Wales appears to be incidental to Plaid Cymru’s EU nationalism. What looms larger in the rhetoric of Plaid politicians often seems to be first and foremost a negative anti-British nationalism similar to the anti-imperialist left-wing ideology espoused by Jeremy Corbyn.

George Orwell wrote about negative nationalism in his Notes on Nationalism, observing that “intellectuals follow the principle that any faction backed by Britain must be in the wrong. ‘Enlightened’ opinion is quite largely a mirror-image of Conservative policy.”

Plaid’s left-wing pro-Brussels elitism has little resonance outside of the CF10 postcode bubble. Adam Price’s neo-Corbynista politics might go down well with voters in the London Borough of Islington and London-based Guardian journalists. But neither have a vote in Welsh elections.

Plaid’s SNP fanzine is enthralled with all things Scottish. Yet they seem less interested in the experience of Wales’ Celtic neighbour to the west which, after all, is both independent and in the EU. The inconvenient truth is that Brussels doesn’t have a good track record of looking after small countries like Ireland where Euroscepticism is on the rise.

Now that it is a net contributor to the EU budget, the terms of Ireland’s EU membership are changing. The European Commission has played fast and loose with Ireland’s land border and its trade with the UK disregarding the Republic’s economic interests.

Brussels has treated Irish democracy with contempt. When 54% of Irish voters rejected ratification of the EU’s Nice Treaty in its 2001 referendum, the EU pressured Ireland into a second referendum in 2002 to reconsider. Then in 2008 53% of Irish voters rejected ratification of the Lisbon Treaty before being told by Brussels to vote again in 2009.

The Irish Republic will soon become the only Atlanticist, economically liberal and English-speaking EU member state, in an increasingly dirigiste, anti-American bloc, which is already hungrily eyeing up the Ireland’s corporation tax regime with Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for a single European Union corporate tax remittable to Brussels.

Plaid Cymru would leave Wales languishing in the stifling embrace of a European Union that by 2030 will either be well on the way to becoming a fully-fledged Bundesrepublik Europa or it will be in the process of unravelling through its omnicrises.

And since we have never been good Europeans, Wales would be saddled with Carthaginian, not Cambrian, terms of membership. Wales would be made to sit on the naughty step all the better to punish Welsh voters for voting to Leave in 2016 and for being less enthusiastic than the English in the European Community Referendum of 1975.

Wales would end up with at best four out of 751 Members of the European Parliament, no Commissioners and possibly one seat on the Council of Ministers. Plaid would give control over Wales to the remote and unaccountable Brussels apparat in which we have no “natural allies”.

Plaid’s new leader claims Brexit is a “disaster” for Wales. Yet Brexit is only really a disaster for the left-wing state-building ambitions of Plaid’s delusional would-be governing class. Their soft nationalist left-wing elites in Cardiff Bay seem to be undergoing an existential crisis as their worldview implodes. They want Wales to be more ‘progressive’ and ‘supranationalist’ than England. But Wales’ Brexit vote denies their SNP allies the charge that Eurosceptic England is pulling the Celtic nations out of Brussels’ orbit.

Wales voted to Leave the bad union of the EU, not the good Union of the United Kingdom. In seeking to repudiate Brexit and Welsh Unionism, Plaid Cymru repudiates the people of Wales.

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Henry Hill: Unionist parties unite against backstop as Varadkar rules out fresh talks

Also: Welsh Labour choose their new leader (and First Minister) this afternoon; Scottish Tories attack SNP over tax divergence plans.

Unionists unite against backstop as Varadkar says no to new talks

The leaders of all three of Northern Ireland’s principle unionist parties – the Democratic Unionists, Ulster Unionists, and Traditional Unionist Voice – have maintained their lock-step opposition to the backstop this week, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Although there was no joint press conference to mirror that held by Remainers, Arlene Foster, Robin Swann, and Jim Allister made it clear that none of their parties was going to follow Lady Sylvia Hermon – the pro-deal independent unionist MP for North Down – and fracture the united front.

This is electorally significant, as it means that in the event of a snap election the three are much more likely to be able to come to some sort of vote-maximising pact. The prospects of a similar arrangement on the Remain side are slim, because the various pro-EU parties would need Sinn Fein to take their seats in order to include them and have little hope of unseating them otherwise.

Robin Swann, the UUP leader, launched a stinging attack on ministers for trying to “downplay” unionist concerns when “he legal advice that was sitting on their desks from the Attorney General tells us we were right to reject this deal”. His party campaigned for Remain in 2016, so its rowing in behind the DUP is especially significant.

Meanwhile in Dublin, the Irish Taoiseach ruled out the prospect of the European Union re-opening the negotiations if Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was defeated in the House of Commons. Speaking in the Dail, Leo Varadkar specifically criticised the idea that talks could be conducted with a legislature, as opposed to a government:

“The suggestion that somehow if it is defeated, we would somehow find ourselves negotiating with a parliament really is quite unworkable. To see a parliamentary delegation entering the tunnel to reopen the talks is just not something that is feasible.”

He also ruled out publishing the Irish Government’s own legal advice on the backstop, although it seems unlikely to contradict the Attorney General’s.

All this will do nothing to assuage unionist fears, articulated this week by Dr Graham Gudgin of the University of Cambridge, that elements in Ireland view the Withdrawal Agreement as ‘a “stepping stone” towards a united Ireland’.

This united unionist front once again puts the spotlight on the 13 Scottish Conservative and Unionist MPs – especially in light of Jackson Carlaw’s tough talk about a “pro-Union ticket” for the party in the 2021 Holyrood elections. David Mundell has still not explained why he hasn’t resigned, as he threatened, over this deal’s differential treatment for Northern Ireland.

Welsh Labour select their next leader this afternoon

The three candidates vying to replace Carwyn Jones will find out which of them is Wales’ next First Minister this afternoon, Wales Online reports.

Jones will step down next Tuesday and hand over to whichever of Mark Drakeford, Eluned Morgan, and Vaughan Gething emerges triumphant today. Amongst the inspiring pitches on offer was Drakeford’s plan to ban smoking (outdoors) in every town and city centre in Wales.

The current First Minister has been beset by scandal since the suicide of Carl Sargeant, a former minister whom Jones sacked. An inquiry into his handling of the matter is still ongoing: just last week the presiding coroner rejected a bid by Jones’ lawyer to consider evidence on the late AM’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

Whoever wins will have a few years to get their feet under the table before facing their first electoral challenge, currently scheduled for 2021. At present the Welsh Government holds a narrow majority in the Assembly thanks to the support of Kirsty Williams, its last remaining Liberal Democrat, and Lord Elis-Thomas, who resigned from Plaid Cymru to support the executive and now holds a cabinet brief as an independent AM.

Scottish Conservatives attack SNP over tax plans

The Scottish Government has been warned against widening the tax gap between Scotland and England in its upcoming budget, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The CBI counselled that it would make Scottish firms less competitive by making it harder for them to attract the best talent from elsewhere in the UK, and thus risked “economic damage”. Murdo Fraser, the Tories’ Shadow Finance Secretary, echoed these concerns. The Conservatives fear any gap will drive away “wealth and investment”.

However, the IPPR think-tank has warned that the SNP would have to plug a £1 billion hole in their budget if they emulated the tax cuts unveiled by Philip Hammond in the Budget. Derek Mackay, the Finance Secretary, has also signalled his personal opposition to the cuts.