{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scottishindependence","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/militant-successor-backs-leonard-for-labour-leadership-1-4591206","id":"1.4591206","articleHeadline": "Militant successor backs Leonard for Labour leadership","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508418243581 ,"articleLead": "

The battle for the Labour leadership in Scotland has been marked by more infighting after it emerged the successor to Militant Tendency is backing Corbynista candidate Richard Leonard.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4591205.1508418323!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Richard Leonard is the "Corbynista" candidate for the Labour leadership"} ,"articleBody": "

The Socialist Party Scotland, which refers to itself as “formerly Militant”, said unity with “Blairites” like Anas Sarwar is not possible and also supports a second independence referendum.

The hard left Militant group, known as Militant Tendency, was at the heart of 1980s Labour infighting, with key figures like Derek Hatton in Liverpool.

A source in the Anas Sarwar campaign said: “Militant tore the Labour Party apart and at its peak we were never further away from power. It has no interest in uniting the Labour Party so that we can be in government in both Edinburgh and Westminster.”

However, the Leonard campaign insisted the leadership will be decided by “Labour Party members only”.

“That is what we are concentrating our efforts on,” a spokeswoman said.

“Richard is winning over hearts and minds across the breadth of Scotland, with 42 local Labour parties nominating Richard compared to Anas’s 16.”

All but one of the main unions are backing Mr Leonard, but most MSPs back Mr Sarwar.

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4591205.1508418323!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4591205.1508418323!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Richard Leonard is the "Corbynista" candidate for the Labour leadership","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Richard Leonard is the "Corbynista" candidate for the Labour leadership","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4591205.1508418323!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tom-peterkin-ruth-davidson-must-be-ruthless-on-internal-strife-1-4590783","id":"1.4590783","articleHeadline": "Tom Peterkin: Ruth Davidson must be ruthless on internal strife","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508402870000 ,"articleLead": "

The Scottish Tories have made good progress but should be wary of resurrecting the nasty party tag, writes Tom Peterkin.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4590782.1508391554!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland Secretary David Mundell and Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson arrive at Downing Street for the weekly cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Ruth Davidson’s position as the darling of the Conservative Party at first glance seems nigh unassailable. Barely a day goes by without her being tipped as a possible successor to Prime Minister Theresa May.
Ms Davidson’s breezy, good-humoured and earthy style has become a breath of fresh air for UK party activists brought up on plummy public school accents.

She has quite rightly received much credit for the Scottish Tory revival, which has seen the party installed as the official opposition at Holyrood, with an enlarged group of 31 MSPs. And after years of getting by with just one Tory MP north of the Border, she has delivered 13 Westminster seats – an outcome which gives her much muscle in the UK party given Mrs May’s fragile grip on power.

READ MORE: Tory Government defeated on controversial Universal Credit

Her star is on the rise and her reputation as a popular politician of the people looks set to be cemented in icing sugar with an appearance on a celebrity version of the Great British Bake-Off looming.

But having soaked up the plaudits at the UK Conservative Party conference in Manchester, there is some business to be done at home where not all is sweetness and light. In fact, some might argue that the Scottish Tory leader would be well advised to swap her rolling pin for a swagger stick and try to instil some discipline in her troops.

While the arrival of reinforcements in the form of new Conservative politicians may be welcome for Ms Davidson, the bolstering of Tory numbers means more leadership is required to keep them in line.

Yesterday, for example, there was the unedifying spectacle of a row over the Moray MP Douglas Ross missing a vote on Universal Credit due to his being in Barcelona running the line at a Champions League match. Mr Ross’s refereeing career got him into trouble when he missed Holyrood events during his previous incarnation as a MSP. This latest trip to officiate over ­highly-paid sportsmen while his colleagues were debating how to provide for the poorest in society led to yet more criticism.

READ MORE: PM’s spokesman won’t say if Douglas Ross is fulfilling his duties

As the conqueror of the SNP depute leader Angus Robertson in this year’s general election, Mr Ross’s stock within the party and its supporters is high and the Conservatives duly issued a supportive statement defending his actions. But despite Scotland’s obsession with football, missing important parliamentary debates to swan off to the Nou Camp is not a good look. And it will be a source of irritation that Theresa May was taunted about his absence at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.

Of further concern to Ms Davidson has been the recent expenses row involving Finlay Carson, the MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries. Mr Carson has been criticised after he used his own IT firm to design his website then claimed the £1,200 costs back on parliamentary expenses. While hardly a misdemeanour of moat cleaning or duck house proportions, politicians of all hues should know the importance of being beyond reproach when it comes to the use of public funds.

There have also been the embarrassing controversies involving Alexander Burnett, the wealthy Tory MSP from the North-east, whose aristocratic background makes him a prime target of the class warriors at Holyrood.

Mr Burnett was recently given a two-week ban on asking written questions at the Scottish Parliament after the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life criticised him for failing to declare relevant personal business interests when asking a previous Holyrood written question.

Mr Burnett had asked a series of written questions to Scottish ministers about a proposed property development in his Aberdeenshire West constituency by Ross Developments and Renewables. But he failed to mention he owns rival firm Bancon Developments Holdings.

Meanwhile, the party’s image has also been tarnished by the unpleasant and insulting Twitter activity indulged in by a number of her councillors.

These episodes may be relatively small beer in the roll of dishonour chronicling great political scandals of our age. But neither can they be dismissed as the sort of teething problems that inevitably arise when a group of inexperienced politicians make the step up to parliament.

Recent reports suggest that Ms Davidson believes that there are those of her 2016 Holyrood intake who have failed to impress and there is talk of her seeking fresh talent to stand for the party. But with the next Scottish election still more than three years away, Ms Davidson needs to get a grip on her team in the meantime.

The need for discipline should not be confused with the sort of control freakery that does not tolerate dissent from the party line. That approach – as typified by the SNP, as it set aside all differences of opinion in the interests of Scottish independence – stifles freedom of thought. Rather, Ms Davidson needs to make sure that her politicians steer clear from mistakes which will compromise the party’s hard-won success. For decades the Scottish Conservatives have tried to shed their reputation as the nasty party. From Ms Davidson’s point of view, it would be a shame to undo the good work by succumbing to niggling controversies.

It is more than her status as a Conservative darling that could be damaged, it is the Scottish party as a whole that could suffer. That is why it would pay Ruth to be ruthless when it comes to sorting out her local difficulties.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4590782.1508391554!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4590782.1508391554!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scotland Secretary David Mundell and Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson arrive at Downing Street for the weekly cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland Secretary David Mundell and Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson arrive at Downing Street for the weekly cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4590782.1508391554!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scots-launch-catalan-defence-committee-to-defend-democracy-1-4590452","id":"1.4590452","articleHeadline": "Scots launch Catalan Defence Committee to ‘defend democracy’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508345810000 ,"articleLead": "

An online campaign is calling for Scots to show their support for Catalonia and ‘defend democracy’ in the aftermath of the contentious referendum in the north-east province of Spain.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4575089.1508345810!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A pro-Catalan march makes its way through Edinburgh on October 1"} ,"articleBody": "

The newly-launched Catalan Defence Committee Scotland follows the establishment of sister groups across Europe and has already won support from several prominent politicians and campaigners, including lawyer Aamer Anwar and Scottish Greens co-campaigner Maggie Chapman.

It promises to lobby MSPs and the Scottish Government “to do all it can” to support the civil rights of Catalans, as well as organising regular public demonstrations.

The Spanish Government was widely criticised for its response to a plebiscite organised by the devolved Catalan parliament on October 1, which the authorities in Madrid had previously declared illegal.

The top court in Spain this week upheld the ruling, saying the vote was unconstitutional.

READ MORE: Should an independent Scotland adopt its own currency?

“The brutality and repression that has been visited upon the people of Catalonia cannot be allowed to continue, or to be legitimised,” the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland said in a statement posted on its website.

“Hundreds of Scots have travelled to Catalonia to act as international observers, and to let the Spanish state know that the world is watching. At home, we have organised several demonstrations. News and pictures of these have circulated on Catalan social media, and we know that this has made a positive impact.

“But we need to do more. Catalan human rights organisations and social movements have called for international support. That is why we are organising the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland, to help maximise our solidarity efforts. The name mirrors the local referendum defence committees set up by Catalans to defend the referendum process by practising non-violent mass action.”

The UK Government has been firm in its support of Spain. Yesterday, a Conservative minister took aim at SNP politicians for ‘calling themselves official observers’ during the disputed referendum.

Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South-West, was among a number of European parliamentarians who were invited by the devolved Catalan government to observe the vote.

Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan said: “It is the duty of everyone in this house to uphold the rule of law, so I regret the SNP choosing to call themselves official observers at what was an illegal referendum.”

Ms Cherry later raised a point of order and demanded an apology after noting that the SNP did not send official observers to the referendum, but that the delegation was there as international parliamentary observers.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont last week announced he had a mandate to declare independence but would not immediately move to put it into effect to allow time for talks and mediation.

READ MORE: Spain’s top court confirms Catalonia referendum illegal

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4575089.1508345810!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4575089.1508345810!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A pro-Catalan march makes its way through Edinburgh on October 1","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A pro-Catalan march makes its way through Edinburgh on October 1","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4575089.1508345810!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1506945782305"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/should-an-independent-scotland-adopt-its-own-currency-1-4589945","id":"1.4589945","articleHeadline": "Should an independent Scotland adopt its own currency?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508325760000 ,"articleLead": "

The debate on what currency an independent Scotland could use might seem like it should be consigned to history along with the other minutiae of the 2014 referendum.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589944.1508325761!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The currency issue was a major talking point ahead of the referendum. Deputy Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and credit union worker Alison Dowling deliver a giant mock-up of a pound coin with Alex Salmond's face on it to Bute House in August 2014. Picture: SWNS"} ,"articleBody": "

While the likehilood of a new vote on the country’s constitutional future in the short to medium term seems small, the currency issue again reared its head this week.

Former SNP MP George Kerevan claimed his sources suggest the party’s Growth Commission will recommend a ‘Scottish Pound’ be established in the event of independence.

Mr Kerevan said the plan includes recommendations that the exchange rate and reserve trading of this new new currency would be effectively tied to Sterling.

Concerns raised over currency are still viewed by veterans of the Yes campaign as being responsible for some of the most damaging polling for the independence movement.

Alistair Darling’s memorable questioning of Alex Salmond on the issue during their first televised debate has been cited, not unreasonably, as a turning point in the 2014 campaign.

Mr Kerevan, who lost his East Lothian seat at the snap election in June, believes the former First Minister’s plan of keeping the UK pound was fatal to the independence cause.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon’s Universal Income is costed at £12.3bn

So what’s changed? The short answer is Brexit.

As confirmed by grim statistics in a report by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the increasing prospect of a ‘no deal’ could mean new lows for the pound.

The currency which the Yes campaign sought to embrace in 2014 as plummeted to near-parity with the Euro since the shock vote to leave the EU in June of last year.

A further slump as a result of the UK and the EU note reaching an agreement before April 2019 could become a reality, according to OECD and other independent analysis.

Despite the plunge, a return to the days when the official SNP line was that the pound was a ‘millstone’ around Scotland’s neck seems unlikely.

Then, Alex Salmond urged an independent Scotland to embrace the Euro, but a damaged pound if and when the question is asked of the Scottish electorate could make a new Scottish currency, even one pegged to Sterling, a much easier sell.

The commission, headed by former MSP Andrew Wilson, is not due to report for several months, and Nicola Sturgeon’s party is decidedly cagey on potential outcomes.

A spokesman gave little away in a statement to The Scotsman. “The SNP has established a Growth Commission which, as well as making recommendations for measures to boost Scotland’s economy, will consider the most appropriate monetary policy arrangements to underpin a programme for sustainable growth in an independent Scotland,” he said.

“The SNP looks forward to receiving the Growth Commission’s report which will be published in due course.”

The Scottish Conservatives dimissed the prospect of a new currency.

A party spokesman said: “After making such a mess of the currency argument in 2014, you can understand why the SNP might want to do this.

“But the Nationalists have to realise this - it’s not just their currency argument that’s dead in the water, it’s their whole case for separation.”

The Scottish Greens, meanwhile, have long advocated creating a new currency.

Maggie Chapman, the Scottish Greens’ co-convener said: “Greens believe that independence is the best way to create an economy that works for all our citizens and allows us to make a positive contribution to the world.

“This means having our own currency, a currency that isn’t tied to sterling or any other currency.

“A Scottish currency would allow us to develop the smart and creative economy we need, based on the skills of our people and the enormous potential of Scotland as a country.”

READ MORE: SNP under pressure for Plan B on Scottish currency

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ROSS McCAFFERTY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4589944.1508325761!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589944.1508325761!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The currency issue was a major talking point ahead of the referendum. Deputy Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and credit union worker Alison Dowling deliver a giant mock-up of a pound coin with Alex Salmond's face on it to Bute House in August 2014. Picture: SWNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The currency issue was a major talking point ahead of the referendum. Deputy Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and credit union worker Alison Dowling deliver a giant mock-up of a pound coin with Alex Salmond's face on it to Bute House in August 2014. Picture: SWNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4589944.1508325761!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon-s-universal-income-is-costed-at-12-3bn-1-4589520","id":"1.4589520","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon’s Universal Income is costed at £12.3bn","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508319367000 ,"articleLead": "

Introducing a citizens’ income for everyone in Scotland would cost the public purse an extra £12.3 billion per year and lead to punitive income tax rises, official analysis has revealed.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589519.1508311113!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon intends to consider a basic income for all."} ,"articleBody": "

A paper prepared by Scottish Government civil servants for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that taxpayers could face an income tax rate of 50 per cent across all bands to fund the scheme.

The analysis also suggests that the tax-free personal allowance would have to be removed in order to pay for the multi-billion pound scheme to give everyone cash, regardless of their wealth.

In recent weeks Ms Sturgeon has signalled she intends to consider introducing a basic income for all, despite receiving the document in March.

READ MORE: ‘SNP may be forced to make indyref2 call in early 2018’

The First Minister announced a Citizens Basic Income (CBI) would be trialled by several local authorities when she unveiled her Programme for Government last month.

She underlined her commitment to investigating the feasibility of the controversial scheme during her speech to the SNP conference last week. The briefing, obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through Freedom of Information legislation, was compiled by Liz Hawkins, the Scottish Government’s housing and social justice director.

READ MORE: Devolved nations must have a seat at trade talks, MPs told

The document was given to Ms Sturgeon, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and Social Security Secretary Angela Constance.

The briefing paper said: “It is a very costly policy that is unlikely to gain public acceptability and ultimately may not have the desired transformative effect.”

The paper said that whatever system was adopted it would require a tax rate on all earned income of 40 per cent – a figure that rose to 50 per cent if the universal income was to cover housing benefit.

It went on to warn that “due to income distribution between Scotland and the rest of the UK there may need to be an even higher tax rate in Scotland”.

It then made a series of calculations based on a CBI model proposed by the RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), which would see working age adults receive up to £71 per week. The increase in benefits expenditure resulting from a Scottish CBI came to £12.3 billion on the basis that the universal income would replace the majority of social security payments, except Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Severe Disablement Allowance, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and Housing Benefit.

READ MORE: Reversing Brexit would have ‘significant’ impact on UK economy

This would be accompanied by an additional income tax bill of £6.8bn (raised by the removal of the personal allowance) plus an extra £2bn in national insurance payments.

Despite the tax rises, there would still be a funding shortfall of £3.6bn.

Last night the Scottish Government said the scheme would require a “net investment” of £3.6bn once the increases in tax and national insurance had been taken into account.

The document further warned CBI would “have little incentivising impact” and that “most governments will not be able to afford both CBI and a generous welfare state”.

Another issue identified was the potential “to further entrench gender stereotyping” with evidence suggesting a CBI would see women reduce working hours and take on greater domestic roles.

At Westminster, Chancellor Philip Hammond is also being lobbied by SNP MPs to look seriously at the idea. The entrepreneur Richard Branson is an advocate of such a scheme, arguing that it would act as a safety net for those who fall on hard times.

But Ms Sturgeon was attacked by the Scottish Conservatives, who claimed she had ignored her own civil servants’ warnings about the cost of the proposal.

Shadow Social Security Secretary Adam Tomkins said: “Nicola Sturgeon and her finance team were told in no uncertain terms that a scheme for citizen’s basic income would be utterly unaffordable and not remotely sustainable. Despite these stark warnings, she continued to create an impression that she was going to introduce it.”

A spokesman for Ms Constance said: “With their disgraceful record of cruel welfare cuts while slashing taxes for the rich, the Tories are making inequalities in our society ever deeper – so their hysterical reaction to even considering a proposal such as a basic income is no surprise.

“Clearly a nationwide Citizen’s Basic Income would be a significant financial investment – and the document does not suggest that this could be £12.3 billion as the Tories wrongly claim - but the whole point is that it could potentially lead to significant savings elsewhere in the social security system and in the wider public sector.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4589519.1508311113!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589519.1508311113!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon intends to consider a basic income for all.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon intends to consider a basic income for all.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4589519.1508311113!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1505402556636"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-may-be-forced-to-make-indyref2-call-in-early-2018-1-4589779","id":"1.4589779","articleHeadline": "‘SNP may be forced to make indyref2 call in early 2018’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508317336000 ,"articleLead": "

The First Minister could be forced to make a decision on a second independence referendum much earlier than planned, a Scottish EU expert has claimed.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589777.1508317567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A pro-independence supporter outside the SNP conference. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Earlier this year, Nicola Sturgeon called for another separation vote to be held in the autumn of 2018 or the spring of 2019, but after June’s election, where the nationalists lost 21 MPs, she put the timing on hold until the terms of Brexit become clearer.

However, Dr Kirsty Hughes, the director of the Scottish Centre for European Relations and a former European Commission official, wrote in The National, the “hard or chaotic” Brexit being pursued by the UK Government may mean the SNP leader no longer has the luxury of waiting another year.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon’s Universal Income is costed at £12.3bn

She wrote: “If, by early 2018, it’s increasingly clear the UK faces a chaotic ‘no deal’ Brexit or at best a damaging hard Brexit deal, and economic conditions deteriorate further, the SNP may face some tough choices.

“As the damaging reality of Brexit hits home, it’s possible public opinion in Scotland might shift on independence. Currently, a hard or chaotic Brexit looks both most likely to happen and most likely to bring a second independence referendum back on the agenda.”

READ MORE: Scott Macnab: Time to ban Holyrood giving bans

Dr Hughes also warned independence supporters that they would need to make the case for a hard border between England and Scotland.

“This will not make the pro-independence arguments any easier,” she wrtoe. “And hopes of mirroring any Northern Ireland deal look slight.”

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she still has a mandate to hold indyref2 before the next Holyrood election in 2021.

Last week, the SNP leader said she stands by statements she made earlier in the year when she said a new poll on separation was “highly likely”.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "RUSSELL JACKSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4589777.1508317567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589777.1508317567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A pro-independence supporter outside the SNP conference. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A pro-independence supporter outside the SNP conference. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4589777.1508317567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4589778.1508317568!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589778.1508317568!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Dr Kirsty Hughes. Picture: Scottish Parliament","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Dr Kirsty Hughes. Picture: Scottish Parliament","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4589778.1508317568!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tory-minister-criticises-snp-mp-over-role-in-catalan-vote-1-4589209","id":"1.4589209","articleHeadline": "Tory Minister criticises SNP MP over role in Catalan vote","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508255752000 ,"articleLead": "

A row has broken out in the House of Commons after a Conservative Minister took aim at SNP politicians for ‘ calling themselves official observers’ during the disputed independence referendum in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589208.1508255754!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP MP Joanna Cherry."} ,"articleBody": "

Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South-West, was among a number of European parliamentarians who were invited by the devolved Catalan government to observe the October 1 vote, which was marred by violent scenes after a police crackdown.

The 33-strong delegation, which was made up of politicians from Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and the Lib Dems, was criticised by Spanish diplomats for ‘interfering’ after the secession referendum.

READ MORE: Catalan leaders sign declaration of independence

Ms Cherry, who is a member of the All-Party Group on Catalonia, was accompanied by her SNP colleague Douglas Chapman, and raised concerns about the Spanish Government’s approach during Foreign Office Questions at Westminster today.

Mr Chapman told Channel 4 in advance of the referendum that he was there ‘to oversee the vote’.

Ms Cherry asked: “As Amnesty International pointed out, the disproportionate use of force by the Spanish police is contrary to International Law - what representations has he made to his Spanish counterpart about the treatment of civilians?”

READ MORE: Catalan pro-independence leaders have been jailed

Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan hit back, saying: “It is the duty of everyone in this house to uphold the rule of law, so I regret the SNP choosing to call themselves official observers at what was an illegal referendum.”

An angry Ms Cherry later raised a point of order and demanded an apology after noting that the SNP did not send official observers to the referendum, but that the delegation was there as international parliamentary observers.

She also pointed out that Conservative MPs attended the referendum on sovereignty in Gibraltar in 2002, a vote that the then-Government of Spain had also deemed illegal.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4589208.1508255754!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4589208.1508255754!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNP MP Joanna Cherry.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP MP Joanna Cherry.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4589208.1508255754!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-economic-group-to-recommend-creation-of-scottish-pound-1-4588084","id":"1.4588084","articleHeadline": "SNP economic group to ‘recommend creation of Scottish pound’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508184215000 ,"articleLead": "

An economic advisory group set up by Nicola Sturgeon in the wake of the Brexit vote is set to recommend that an independent Scotland launches its own currency, one of the party’s former MPs has said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4552324.1508153582!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNPs Growth Commission are expected to propose the creation of a Scottish pound. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

George Kerevan, a former member of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, said “little birds” had told him the SNP’s Growth Commission is going to propose the creation of a Scottish pound.

The Commission, which is being chaired by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, has been tasked with exploring the possible economic policies of an independent Scotland.

READ MORE: Hard Brexit ‘threatens scientific research’ at Scots universities

The group of 14 economists, business leaders and politicians was set up by Ms Sturgeon in September last year and has been exploring how to grow Scotland’s economy after Brexit.

The Commission’s final report is now thought to be nearing completion, with Mr Kerevan saying a 400-page document with “three chunky appendices” had been delivered to the First Minister.

“Let us say it loud and clear: in arguing the case for independence in the next referendum, a basic red line is that Scotland has its own currency, sets its own interest and exchange rate, and regulates its own banks,” the former MP for East Lothian wrote in the National newspaper.

“The Growth Report, according to some little birds, might be proposing a separate Scottish currency but keeping our exchange rate tied to sterling as an interim measure. In other words, a Scots pound would equal one English pound.”

Mr Kerevan said he was unconvinced by this proposal, claiming that it could be seen as “keeping sterling in disguise”. He added that the case for independence ahead of 2014’s referendum had been “fatally wounded” by the proposal that Scotland would keep the UK pound.

READ MORE: Brian Monteith: Nicola Surgeon’s state energy company will never fly

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch: Brexit crisis more calamitous than most imagine

“The London markets would immediately test the will of the Scottish Central Bank to keep the Scots and English pounds equal by flogging off ours, thus draining our reserves,” he wrote. “Why give them a hostage to fortune?”

The former MP called on Ms Sturgeon to publish the findings of the Growth Commission as soon as possible, with the aim of setting off a “wider public debate” within the SNP and the independence movement.

However, he added that the First Minister would probably delay the publication until next year, as she would not want to distract from the Scottish Government’s draft Budget for 2018-19, due to be published in December.

Asked for an update on the progress of the report in August, Ms Sturgeon said it was still unfinished but insisted that she was planning to publish it “in full”.

The SNP have been approached for comment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Chris Green"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4552324.1508153582!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4552324.1508153582!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNPs Growth Commission are expected to propose the creation of a Scottish pound. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNPs Growth Commission are expected to propose the creation of a Scottish pound. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4552324.1508153582!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1504611144716"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/alex-salmond-to-appear-at-scottish-independence-rally-in-edinburgh-1-4588032","id":"1.4588032","articleHeadline": "Alex Salmond to appear at Scottish independence rally in Edinburgh","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508152876000 ,"articleLead": "

Alex Salmond will be among the speakers at a major gathering of independence supporters taking place in Edinburgh next month.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4588031.1508151012!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Mr Salmond will join delegates at the Scottish Independence Convention in Edinburgh. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

The former SNP leader will join more than a thousand pro-Yes campaigners at the revamped Scottish Independence Convention (SIC), which takes place at the Usher Hall on November 4.

Mr Salmond will join Scottish Greens co-convener Maggie Chapman, social security minister Jeane Freeman and Scotsman columnist Lesley Riddoch at the event, which aims to “build bridges to independence”.

Organisers said it would “outline practical steps that we can take to build bridges between ourselves and those who are not yet supporters of independence”.

Among the subjects up for debate will be a voter survey commissioned by the SIC and undertaken by Dr Iain Black of Heriot-Watt University.

The SIC was established in 2005 but became dormant following the launch of the cross-party Yes Scotland campaign ahead of the 2014 referendum.

Following the No vote, the SIC was relaunched in 2016 with the aim of building consensus ahead of a potential IndyRef2.

More than 1,000 tickets - at £15 a head - have been sold for the rally next month, organisers said.

Poet Alan Bissett and musician Eddi Reader will also perform at the Edinburgh concert hall.

“We believe it is important that we offer activities, advice, research and a forum for discussion for the Yes movement” an SIC spokesman said in July.

“To do that we must build broad consensus across the movement including the pro-independence parties before we make any of our plans public.”

Nicola Sturgeon shelved any immediate plans for a second referendum in the summer after her part lost 21 MPs at the snap general election, including Mr Salmond and Westminster leader Angus Roberson.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government would “reset” its plan for indyref2 and would not introduce her Referendum Bill “immediately” after the vote on June 6.

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “It won’t go unnoticed that Alex Salmond couldn’t be bothered with the SNP conference, but wants to be the main event at this convention.

“It seems after his defeat in 2014 he just can’t let it go.

“Even losing his Westminster seat hasn’t awoken him to the fact the people of Scotland don’t want another referendum.

“Instead, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP should be taking it off the table completely.”

READ MORE: Scottish Independence Convention brings together Yes groups in Glasgow

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4588031.1508151012!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4588031.1508151012!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Mr Salmond will join delegates at the Scottish Independence Convention in Edinburgh. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Mr Salmond will join delegates at the Scottish Independence Convention in Edinburgh. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4588031.1508151012!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brian-monteith-nicola-surgeon-s-state-energy-company-will-never-fly-1-4587613","id":"1.4587613","articleHeadline": "Brian Monteith: Nicola Surgeon’s state energy company will never fly","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508137272000 ,"articleLead": "

A not-for-profit company is more about chasing a cheap headline than reducing bills, writes Brian Monteith

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4587612.1508135337!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she will establish a state-owned not-for-profit energy company to cut the bills of Scottish consumers. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

The chasm between nationalism and unionism is now deeper and more bitter than anything achieved by Margaret Thatcher in the eighties.

The reasons are twofold; short of anything positive and credible to say, the SNP’s continuing independence campaign is based wholly upon grievance – while the unionist defence is too often based upon the inconvenient facts that the Scottish economy could not possibly survive the break with the UK. Be under no illusion: we would endure an austerity so severe it would strip the paint from Nicola Sturgeon’s ministerial limousine. The most astonishing thing about this is that some people actually think such an experience would be worth it.

This bi-polar political division gets in the way of good government for there is growing evidence that it clouds our collective judgment about what is good and bad public policy. The well-intentioned but over-the-top criminalisation of singing hateful songs at football matches is but one example. The ludicrous state guardian policy that loads responsibility on an already overburdened social work system is another. Both have been repudiated by votes at Holyrood but still the Scottish Government refuses to repeal them to avoid losing face.

READ MORE: Lack of leadership rivals keeping Sturgeon safe, says Jim Sillars

A more shaming example is the Scottish Government’s decision not to allow the process of fracking that could establish if cheap gas can be produced domestically – at a time when we have some 940,000 souls enduring fuel poverty, of which for a quarter of a million it is extreme fuel poverty.

Now our the SNP leader has compounded these errors by announcing to whoops of delight at her party conference that she will establish a state-owned not-for-profit energy company to cut the bills of Scottish consumers. If ever there was a competition for a policy that best demonstrates how jingoism can subvert the normal process of evaluating what works and what doesn’t, this would be a strong contender.

Call something Scottish and it wins three, or maybe four out of five stars for PR value; call something Scottish that is state-owned and by implication belongs to all of us, and it wins five out of five stars. Unfortunately, as bitter experience has shown, state businesses end up being owned by none of us but are instead captured by those that work for them and the vested interests that manage them. We have been here before when everything in the Seventies that did not work tended to have the prefix “British” and was “owned” by the state but very much managed by the employees’ unions and the corporate bosses for their own benefit. Thankfully Britain has managed to leave behind that sorry period of never-ending strikes, rationing of supply (party telephone lines, anyone?) and build quality worse than a three-year-old’s Stickle Brick car – but the SNP wishes to revive it and paint it tartan.

Those watching Nicola Sturgeon’s speech via social media were quick to ask what the new energy company might be called. Alba Energy was suggested, but I suggest Albatross Energy would be more appropriate. It will have considerable difficulty taking off and it is a harbinger of doom we do not wish to contemplate – our very own Scottish national socialism where an institution is placed beyond criticism because it is state-owned (ours!) and Scottish (ours cubed!).

The quickest way to reduce energy bills is for consumers to check their tariffs and switch to a lower cost supplier – of which there are now many. As the Scientific Alliance has pointed out, two-thirds of household energy bills are gas and there is a very small profit margin on electricity generation. They argue the regulator’s figures show there is only a profit margin of 5 per cent on dual bills of electricity and gas, therefore we cannot expect Albatross Energy to make a huge difference if it cannot cut gas bills – which is governed by the wholesale market.

A switch to fracked gas will come – but we will now have to rely on imported gas rather than our own – which would have created over 3,000 Scottish jobs and been cheaper and less polluting as it would not have been transported from the US. Crazy does not begin to describe it.

Now let us go beyond theory and look at practice. I have great faith in co-operatives – one of a number of competing capitalist business models – although they usually have to be local in scale to be optimal in maintaining their employee and customer relationships. A state-owned not-for-profit concern is an entirely different animal, rather like a sloth and a dolphin are both mammals but cannot live in each other’s environment.

It so happens there is already a not-for-profit co-operative companies supplying energy – so why replicate what exists? Political grandstanding is the reason – Ms Sturgeon needed a sympathetic headline to distract from her failures elsewhere and intervening in the energy market (just like Theresa May did the week before with her similarly absurd energy cap) provided the ready-made answer.

But surely the state can supply energy better? There will be no need for profit, after all. This ignores the state has to use its own funds to establish and run the organisation, meaning fewer funds for the NHS and schooling – at a time when we have a teacher and GP recruitment crisis, eye-watering waiting lists and primary school classes of thirty-plus have doubled.

If the SNP Government cared genuinely about tackling fuel poverty it would attempt two things; firstly doing all in its power to encourage and help with consumers switching to cheaper deals so this practice is at least at the same level as in the rest of the UK. Secondly, its ministers would campaign for the Chancellor to remove VAT from energy bills the morning after we leave the EU – saving about £70 on an annual bill of £1,344. Unfortunately the SNP want us to rejoin the EU.

As an idea Albatross Energy is already dead in the water.

l Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4587612.1508135337!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4587612.1508135337!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she will establish a state-owned not-for-profit energy company to cut the bills of Scottish consumers. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she will establish a state-owned not-for-profit energy company to cut the bills of Scottish consumers. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4587612.1508135337!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/lack-of-leadership-rivals-keeping-sturgeon-safe-jim-sillars-1-4587409","id":"1.4587409","articleHeadline": "Lack of leadership rivals keeping Sturgeon safe - Jim Sillars","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508089019000 ,"articleLead": "

Former SNP Deputy leader Jim Sillars has suggested that only a lack of candidates to challenge Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP leadership is keeping her safe in the post.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4587408.1508067464!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jim Sillars says there are no candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon"} ,"articleBody": "

The veteran independence campaigner also says there should not be another independence referendum for at least five years to allow Nationalists to reframe the case for a Yes vote.

Mr Sillars criticised Ms Sturgeon's judgement in pushing for a second referendum after the Brexit vote, insisting it caused the loss of 21 seats which the party suffered in this year's Westminster election. The party still won 31 of Scotland's 59 seats.

\"She's the only one we've got at the present time,\" Mr Sillars said on BBC Scotland's Politics Show today when asked if Ms Sturgeon should remain as leader.

\"Suppose Nicola was knocked over by a bus this afternoon where are the candidates of the necessary stature to take over the leadership of the SNP?

\"She's what we've got at the present time and I would like to see her improve.\"

He added: \"If there was someone better around who had the intellectual capability to understand that you've got analyse things first before you take a decision, yes I think she should step aside.

\"But there's no-one there at the moment.\"

Ms Sturgeon has indicated a second referendum is likely before the end of the current Parliament n 2021, but Mr Sillars said this is premature.

\"I'm for a second independence referendum but you cannot actually have one sensibly until you know exactly what the Brexit deal is in detail and then take time to assess it and take time to actually formulate an argument for independence.

\"We're in a new paradigm

\"What was in 2014 will no longer be the case after Brexit, so we have to have a new thinking of the structure which we put to the Scottish people.\"

A \"post-mortem\" is needed on the reasons for defeat in the first referendum, he said, or the Yes side will lose again.

He added: \"You're probably '22/'23 before you actually have the referendum.\"

This could mean the pro-independence majority is lost at the Scottish Parliament which would derail the prospect of a vote happening.

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4587408.1508067464!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4587408.1508067464!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jim Sillars says there are no candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jim Sillars says there are no candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4587408.1508067464!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/energy/insight-can-snp-deliver-green-energy-at-a-fair-price-1-4587170","id":"1.4587170","articleHeadline": "Insight: Can SNP deliver green energy at a fair price?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1508019388000 ,"articleLead": "

For hard-pressed Scottish families who have seen energy bills double over the past decade, it’s not hard to see why Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to establish a new state-owned energy firm was met with some enthusiasm. The First Minister’s announcement last week that her government was to become a player in the increasingly crowded energy supply market was certainly radical and went some way further than Prime Minister Theresa May’s move to impose a price cap on bills.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4587169.1508012411!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Torness power station, one of the two remaining nuclear installations in Scotland. Picture: Gordon Fraser"} ,"articleBody": "

The politics of this are a marked shift to the left by both leaders to meet the seeming appetite among sections of the electorate, particularly in Scotland, for the politics of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader has already proposed a network of public energy companies. But as energy generation shifts towards a de-carbonised, green network, can a state operator really do much more than other providers to keep down prices?

The prospect of such a company breaching EU state-aid rules, aimed at preventing governments from distorting the market place, has been raised by industry figures. But Scottish ministers point to the example of the arm’s-length company David MacBrayne, wholly owned by ministers, which runs the CalMac ferry brand and has operated effectively for decades with some delicate manoeuvring to navigate EU procurement rules. Similarly Scottish Water, another publicly owned Scottish utility, seems to get along without a problem from Brussels. The French government is also an active player in the energy market with its majority stake in the power giant EDF, although this is a profit-making enterprise unlike Sturgeon’s proposed body. EDF is also a player in the energy generation market and operates a number of major nuclear plants around Europe – including the two remaining in Scotland at Hunterston and Torness.

Could the Scottish Government become an active player in the generation market, possibly establishing it’s own state-owned network of wind farms? These have tended to be established by private operators and individual landowners, but Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP conference on Tuesday, when she set out her plan, was ambivalent about the prospect of ministers getting involved directly in the generation business through this new venture.

The SNP leader’s stated intention is that prices will come down, insisting power will be sold to customers as close to “cost price as possible”. If the new firm is to have a focus on renewables, which Sturgeon hinted at, this is likely to be more expensive. Specific agreements may have to be struck with renewable generators and much could hinge on the commercial deal secured. Otherwise, the new Scottish venture will be in the same boat as current operators like Scottish Power and Scottish Gas who buy their electricity and gas from “wholesale markets” – along with the 40-odd other suppliers in the UK today.

The UK domestic commercial energy market is split into geographical PEZ (public electricity supplier) regions and the Scottish Government could operate a Scotland-only outfit targeting customers north of the border, covered by the North and South PEZ regions here. This may operate in a similar manner to other small local firms such as Robin Hood south of the border, which covers Nottinghamshire. Or in Scotland, there is the Musselburgh-based People’s Energy Company, which opened in August and already has several thousand customers. It pledges to give 75 per cent of its profits back to customers, eventually rising to 100 per cent. Its founder, David Pike, a former Scottish Government official, said Sturgeon’s announcement surprised him because his venture had already stepped into the fray. Within three years, the firm will be wholly-owned by customers, providing green electricity and gas. He is not fazed by the idea of the Scottish Government firm coming along four years down the line and is sceptical about it undercutting People’s Energy.

“I’d like to be optimistic that a civil servant organisation will be as efficient as we are, but there’s a bit of a doubt in my mind that will be the case,” he said.

“The shareholders are the customers, which I think, personally, is better than the state.”

This is not the Scottish Government’s first venture in the domestic energy market. Two years ago the then Social Justice Minister, Alex Neil, unveiled £2.5 million of funding to help launch Our Power Energy, the first non-profit distribution supplier to operate in the UK. It was founded by 35 organisations, including some of Scotland’s largest housing associations. Ambitious plans were unveiled to sell gas and electricity to tenants in 200,000 homes across Scotland by 2020. Now it seems ministers are keen to extend those plans to the wider population.

It’s easy to see why the First Minister felt compelled to act as average domestic gas and electricity bills in Scotland have increased by up to 114 per cent and 50 per cent respectively between 2004 and 2015. And while the cost of a unit of gas is similar across Scotland and the rest of the UK, consumers in the north of Scotland pay between 8 and 9 per cent more than elsewhere in the UK.

But leading energy experts fear the ability of politicians to tackle the vagaries of Scotland’s power bills are limited. Far greater forces are at play here. The Scottish Government has taken a lead in shifting the way the country generates and consumes its energy in an effort to “decarbonise”. Traditional “dirty” power stations fired by coal and gas , such as Longannet in Fife, are gone or on the way out. Fracking has also been banned in Scotland to address global warming concerns. Oil and gas production levels have slumped in the North Sea and it remains to be seen how much life remains in this ageing, mature basin. Some say a decade, others that it could last between 20 to 40 years.

The SNP government has instead placed its faith in renewables. Wind, hydro, tidal and wave energy are the future. This has meant a proliferation of wind turbines emerging across Scotland, sparking concerns that much of the country’s dramatic landscapes are being scarred by developments. The shift to new forms of generation costs money. Renewables are still heavily subsidised with consumers facing an “environmental surcharge” on their bills to meet the cost of green energy. The new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in the south of England will also hit all consumers in the pocket with estimates of a £10-20 charge on everyone’s annual bill.

But this is the cost of policies like the Scottish Government’s plan for a 90 per cent cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2050 which is at the heart of the Climate Change Bill. Westminster has similar targets. Scottish ministers have also set out ambitious targets for half of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity energy needs to be met by renewables by 2030. For many this seems a wildly ambitious target.

In Scotland today, electricity only accounts for about a quarter of the country’s total energy demands. About the same proportion is used to power the transport system as petrol and diesel for cars, trains and buses. This leaves about half of Scotland’s energy needs, heating our homes and offices, largely being met by burning natural gases, producing carbon dioxide emissions which drive up global warming levels.

John Scrimgeour, Director of the Aberdeen Institute of Energy at Aberdeen University, said Scotland, like the UK, is “more and more reliant” on gas imports as North Sea production winds down.

“There’s a connector to Holland and you could say, in a way, that that’s Russian gas,” he said.

“If the Russians turn off the taps, there is gas supply in Holland and North Africa, but if the Russians turn off the taps, they’re not going to pump gas all across the continent when they’ll be shorter of power then we are.”

The problem with the Scottish Government’s emphasis on wind turbines is “intermittency” of supply. In other words, when the wind is not blowing and they’re not rotating, they don’t produce any electricity at all.

The recent Scottish Government draft energy strategy claimed the country is a “net electricity exporter” to the rest of the UK. But Dr Rob Westaway, senior research fellow in energy engineering at Glasgow University, says the situation is not that simple.

“On some days the wind is blowing strongly and the output from the very large capacity of wind farms that are already there – with more in the process of being commissioned – is very great.

“It can actually get so great that it raises the possibility of destabilising the National Grid. In those circumstances it is becoming standard to pay wind farm operators to shut their turbines down.

“The problem is for days when it isn’t windy, the supply is not there and so Scotland then has to draw its power from England over the links for the National Grid. What is quite important is on a typical day is Scotland self-sufficient for electricity – or is it relying on England?”

Since the UK energy market is all part of one UK grid, these statistics don’t routinely break down the net flow of energy between Scotland and the UK.

“It is quite widely suspected that on many days, Scotland is a net importer of energy rather like Ireland is,” he said.

This energy means power from coal and nuclear plants south of the border are effectively still keeping the lights on in Scotland.

At the moment, there seems no obvious escape from the quandary that Scotland is reaching the point where there a “great excess” in generating capacity, when all the wind turbines operating at full tilt on a windy day would produce far more electricity than the country needs or can export. The “holy grail” is storing electricity. Although this can be done through techniques like pump storage reservoirs, to do so on an industrial scale would be decades away and highly expensive.

“Having supply that’s intermittent and quite unreliable is quite problematic,” Westaway added.

It means we need the security of a “baseload” supply, largely from nuclear, which doesn’t aid global warming. But that brings environmental concerns over radioactive waste and is opposed by the SNP government. Plants like Hunterston and Torness, whose lifespan has been extended, provide a constant supply of power which can be relied on when the wind dies down. And the prospect of prices coming down when such major, transformational changes are happening in the way we get out energy and all the infrastructure costs seems unlikely.

“In the short term as we de-carbonise, energy prices will increase, gas and coal currently being the cheapest sources of energy,” Scrimgeour added.

Ongoing investment in renewables technology is likely to both increase its market share and reduce costs, meaning they could become competitive against gas and coal but consumers are facing a “ten to 20-year timeframe” before this happens.

Westaway agrees that prices are only likely to rise in the immediate term.

“The current wholesale price for electricity in the UK is about 5p per kilowatt hour,” he added.

“Consumers pay roughly double this amount, or thereabouts. The UK government predicts that the wholesale price for electricity will rise to maybe 7p per kWh in 10 years’ time; the increase will presumably be passed on to customers.”

Sturgeon may seek to do things differently, but the bigger picture suggests that the lot of energy customers in Scotland is likely to be intrinsically linked with the wider UK.

Professor Gareth Harrison, of the Institute for Energy Systems at Edinburgh University says in the energy world, Scotland “isn’t an island”.

Regardless of the political situation, there will be a “need for close working on energy supplies, particularly with electricity, where if you get it wrong the consequences can be very bad very quickly.”

The Scottish Government white paper on independence envisioned the country remaining within a British market after a Yes vote and retaining an integrated energy network.

Harrison added: “It can’t isolate itself fully in the same way as it can’t isolate itself from the effects of carbon dioxide and so on. We need approaches where people aren’t taking a hyper local view of energy, because you can’t.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4587169.1508012411!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4587169.1508012411!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Torness power station, one of the two remaining nuclear installations in Scotland. Picture: Gordon Fraser","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Torness power station, one of the two remaining nuclear installations in Scotland. Picture: Gordon Fraser","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4587169.1508012411!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/inquiry-call-after-ministerial-limos-used-at-snp-campaign-events-1-4586565","id":"1.4586565","articleHeadline": "Inquiry call after ministerial limos used at SNP campaign events","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507957200000 ,"articleLead": "

An official investigation is being demanded amid ­concerns that Scottish Government ministers used taxpayer-funded limos to travel from SNP functions.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4586564.1507924549!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being called upon to start an investigation into ministerial use of taxpayer-funded cars. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

Nicola Sturgeon journeyed in an official vehicle to and from an election campaign event in Stirling in April. The First Minister was photographed posing on an independence-branded motorbike at the event.

Eight Cabinet ministers also used taxpayer-funded vehicles to leave the SNP general election manifesto launch in Perth in May.

The Scottish Government has insisted the ministers were being picked up to be taken to official engagements.

Labour MSP James Kelly has now written to Ms Sturgeon demanding she launch an investigation to see if the ministerial code has been breached.

“These are serious accusations that must be immediately investigated,” Mr Kelly said.

“The ministerial code is a vital part of our democracy and is essential to retaining public trust in politicians.

“The public and parliament deserves to know how these trips came to take place, what the justification for them is and whether such journeys will happen again.

“Anything less than a full investigation would be a breach of trust and leave SNP ministers looking even further out of touch than they do already.”

Ministers must not use public resources for party political purposes.

Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said: “The public will be deeply uncomfortable at the idea of eight ministers swanning out of such a party political event and straight into a taxpayer-funded car.”

He added: “For half the Cabinet and the First Minister to be involved reeks of privileged complacency. SNP ministers seem to have forgotten that these cars are paid for by the public, and they risk not being taken seriously when they complain about limited resources available.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The government car service is available for the use of ministers and Cabinet Secretaries in travel to and from government business. On this occasion, ministers and Cabinet Secretaries were picked up and travelled to a variety of ministerial engagements.

“We continually look for ways to minimise the use of cars for official journeys, for example, by car sharing as happened on this occasion.

“Where practical to do so, ministers also use public transport or walk to their engagements. This is not always practical if it is necessary for them to carry out sensitive government business during their journey.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "SCOTT MACNAB"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4586564.1507924549!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4586564.1507924549!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being called upon to start an investigation into ministerial use of taxpayer-funded cars. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being called upon to start an investigation into ministerial use of taxpayer-funded cars. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4586564.1507924549!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/joyce-mcmillan-ireland-first-in-line-for-brexit-betrayal-1-4585516","id":"1.4585516","articleHeadline": "Joyce McMillan: Ireland first in line for Brexit betrayal","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507906495000 ,"articleLead": "

Our nearest neighbour has every right to be angry about the damage about to be inflicted on it, writes Joyce McMillan

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585515.1507836132!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Home from home: Dublin still has a very British feel despite going its own way, says Joyce McMillan"} ,"articleBody": "

It’s one of the paradoxes of urban architecture in these islands that the Irish capital, Dublin, is in some ways the most British-looking city of them all.

Its mixture of brick-built Georgian domestic architecture, grand grey public buildings, and tree-lined autumn streets, often recalls London with a surprising sharpness; and while the green post-boxes and Irish-language signs act as constant reminders that this is not England, there’s never a moment’s doubt that we are in the isles once called British, in a place whose very street names still speak of a long shared history, as well as of the moment of schism that led to Ireland’s independence, 95 years ago.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that the shockwaves of Britain’s Brexit decision, last June, seem to be felt even more strongly here than they are within the UK. Like Scotland, Ireland is a small country hugely dependent on trade with its large neighbour; and in the last decade – following the financial crisis, and the end of Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” years of massively increasing prosperity - the country has undergone a harsh education in the 21st century limits of national sovereignty, in times of financial stress.

READ MORE: Let us have a rest from referendums, says Bill Jamieson

So the last time I visited Dublin’s International Theatre Festival, two years ago, I saw a powerful play about the moment, back in 2010, when the Irish government had to accept the arrival in its corridors of EU and IMF officials sent to enforce not only general financial discipline, but specific policy proposals, from cutting rural bus services to raising prescription charges. And this time, I found a nation hugely preoccupied – to the extent of reports in every news bulletin I heard – with the question of what on earth is going to happen to Ireland’s huge trade across the Irish Sea, at the moment in 2019 when the UK leaves, or crashes out of, the European Union. A total of 47 per cent of Ireland’s agricultural and food exports go to the UK; and estimates suggest that total UK-Irish trade could decrease by more than 20 per cent if there is a reversion to World Trade Organisation rules and tariffs, knocking a huge hole in Ireland’s gradual but increasingly impressive economic recovery.

And all this is to say nothing of the key concerns surrounding the border with Northern Ireland, which has become one of the main stumbling-blocks in the current Brexit negotiations. When the British media report on the pronouncements of Michel Barnier, and on the three matters that must be resolved before Britain can begin to strike a new EU trade deal, they always give the impression that the key difference is about Britain’s so-called “divorce bill”, a subject which makes for juicy anti-EU headlines.

The fact is, though, that 16 months on from the Brexit vote, the UK has still failed completely on both of the other outstanding issues, neither offering a basic guarantee on the rights of EU citizens living here, or producing anything resembling a credible plan for the Irish border following Brexit. There were good reasons why Ireland and the UK, with their economies so tightly interlinked, joined the EU together, on 1 January 1973. And yet now, just a few years after the Queen’s historic 2011 visit to Dublin seemed to mark a new era of ever-closer partnership between the two nations, the British government and people have committed a huge act of betrayal against our nearest neighbour and ally, by unilaterally taking a step that will almost certainly inflict major economic and political damage on the whole island of Ireland, for the foreseeable future.

The Irish, in other words, have every right to be angry; angry with David Cameron for calling the referendum without consultation in a failed attempt to settle an internal Tory spat; angry with the abysmal level of debate during a campaign in which Ireland and its peace process was barely mentioned; angry with the constitutional ineptitude which allowed such a vast historic decision to be made by such a risibly narrow margin, and on such a demonstrably false prospectus. Morally, the Irish premier Leo Varadkar would be justified in doing everything in his power to block, delay and veto the moment of Brexit; and it’s likely that a huge, currently unrepresented chunk of British voters – those who never wanted Brexit in the first place, and for whom neither Labour nor Tory leaderships will speak – would wish him every success in doing so.

In a sense, though, the betrayal of our Irish allies entailed in the Brexit shambles is only one aspect, if an outstandingly important one, of the general betrayal of common sense, and of our shared futures, that characterises the whole Brexit process. I suppose it’s hardly surprising that a 21st century Brexit campaign based on 19th century fantasies of British power and sovereignty should fail to reckon with the recent history of that part of these islands which has had to learn most, and most rapidly, about the limits of modern sovereignty, and about the sophisticated, multi-layered quality of modern identity; we in Scotland, after all, have already been given an unpleasant crash course in just how much the UK government cares about our 62 per cent vote to remain, or about the general idea of diversity enshrined in the devolution settlement.

Even those who care nothing for Ireland or Scotland, though, should be wary of a process based on such a careless trampling of the peaceful and nuanced political structures, both internal and external, that have been built up over the decades since the Second World War. For half a century, those evolving structures – in various forms – have been creating and sustaining the peaceful reality in which most of us in this country have lived; and we have increasingly been able to take them for granted. Now, though, on both sides of the Atlantic, a form of simplistic retro-nationalism has been unleashed which actively wants to tear those structures down, almost regardless of the consequences. The danger to all of us, as human beings and citizens, is palpable, already visible in our looming loss of EU rights; and if Ireland is the first and most obvious victim of Britain’s Brexit folly, it most certainly will not be the last.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "JOYCE McMILLAN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4585515.1507836132!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585515.1507836132!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Home from home: Dublin still has a very British feel despite going its own way, says Joyce McMillan","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Home from home: Dublin still has a very British feel despite going its own way, says Joyce McMillan","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4585515.1507836132!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/mps-to-debate-indyref2-at-westminster-1-4585827","id":"1.4585827","articleHeadline": "MPs to debate indyref2 at Westminster","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507887878000 ,"articleLead": "

The prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum will be debated in the House of Commons after hundreds of thousands demanded a halt to any plans for another separation poll.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585826.1507887624!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporters march in Glasgow in September 2016. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

Earlier in the year, more than 220,000 people signed a petition titled, ‘Another Scottish independence referendum should not be allowed to happen’, in response to nationalist petition calling for indyref2.

In April, the UK Government responded to the calls, saying in a statement: “The UK Government is clear that now is not the time for a second independence referendum.”

Now, MPs on the House of Commons Petitions Committee have organised a non-binding Westminster hall debate on the issue which will take place on 13 November.

READ MORE: VisitScotland to shut 60% of tourist information offices

The pro-independence petition, which was lodged on the House of Commons website, attracted over 38,000 signatures and states: “The actions of the UK government after the Brexit vote do not align with the people of Scotland. We are not bigoted.

“We are not racist.

“We welcome everybody based on their contribution, not on where they come from. The UK government does not behave in this way, and so we must LEAVE.”

The counter-petition, which attracted over five times as many signatories, said: “We in Scotland are fed up of persecution by the SNP leader who is solely intent on getting independence at any cost.

“As a result, Scotland is suffering hugely. “

At the SNP conference this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in her keynote address to delegates that she already has a mandate for a second referendum and only the timing remained to be clarified.

“Scotland should have the right to choose our future when the terms of Brexit are clear,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“We have a mandate to give the people that choice. That mandate was won fairly and squarely. But exercising it must be done with the interests of all of Scotland at heart. People want clarity about Brexit first.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon speech: Independence offers Scots ‘a better future’

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "SAM SHEDDEN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4585826.1507887624!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585826.1507887624!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Independence supporters march in Glasgow in September 2016. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporters march in Glasgow in September 2016. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4585826.1507887624!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brian-wilson-snp-s-stance-on-brexit-lacks-political-imagination-1-4585413","id":"1.4585413","articleHeadline": "Brian Wilson: SNP’s stance on Brexit lacks political imagination","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507832329000 ,"articleLead": "

The Scottish view of the European Union is more nuanced than some in the SNP realise, writes Brian Wilson.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585489.1507832332!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Operating outside EU regulations may prove beneficial for Scotland but the SNP is unwilling to seek such opportunities. Picture: Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

The dichotomy at the heart of the SNP in its current phase was on full show this week. While maintaining the solitary objective of breaking up the UK, its enthusiasm for the European Union verges on the starstruck.

If this was purely a matter of rhetoric and positioning, it would be their own internal business. The problem is that their reliance on a doomed Brexit to revive their cause is preventing any pretence of positive engagement at government level, which Scotland urgently needs.

The Scottish view of the EU is more nuanced than the Nationalist leadership likes to pretend, as is their own party’s history on the subject. Most Scots might agree that the current objective should be to protect the best of what exists but also actively engage in developing the positive possibilities that emerge. There is absolutely no sign of that.

Instead, the contradiction becomes more glaring and absurd. While committed as a matter of high principle to free trade and open borders by remaining within the EU, they would cheerfully disregard these same precious benefits within our own small island, regardless of cost.

READ MORE: Is federalism the answer to the Scottish constitutional question?

Jim Sillars, the party’s former deputy leader, wrote this week of an “unhinged love that paints the EU in glowing colours” and “an unthinking paean of praise”. Unlike Jim, I voted to remain in the EU but that does not blind me to the fact that exaggerated cheer-leading for the status quo correlates inevitably to neglect of other options.

As Jim Sillars pointed out, the EU’s first obligation is still to the free movement of capital, its founding principle. He instanced the ruthless treatment of Greece as an example of that continuing priority. There have been many valuable add-ons which have given the EU a far more human face but it is delusional to assume that all its works are good.

For years, we have heard “Brussels” being held responsible for what government must do or is not allowed to do. I have suspected that a lot of this was questionable and that “EU regulations” became a convenient device in the hands of civil servants. But all these claimed constraints cannot now be airbrushed out.

If you localise it to where I live, much could be done at domestic level to improve fisheries management, to devise a system of agricultural support favouring marginal land, to ease the environmental designations that are scattered around like confetti against local wishes, and so on. In all these respects – truthfully or untruthfully – prevailing conditions have hitherto been attributed to the EU.

It represents a gross failure of political imagination if nobody in the Scottish Government can see anything positive in being able to act more sensitively outside frameworks of EU regulation. Instead of creating a bogus conflict about the process through which powers will devolve to Edinburgh, we need intelligent thinking about how these powers will be utilised.

The same is true of the wider Scottish economy. How often have we heard the “state aids” argument used to thwart useful public intervention? Is it not due to EU procurement policy that we have failed to create a renewables manufacturing industry which was supposed to be the “second industrial revolution” (© A Salmond) but instead has sustained jobs in Spain, Denmark and Germany?

If, by any chance, Brexit disappears into the ether, none of that thinking will be wasted and a lot of it would be useful and overdue in pushing out the boundaries of what is actually possible. Yet there is an omerta imposed on Scottish Ministers about how anything might be done differently or better in a post-Brexit world.

Instead, it is one long cry of woe taken to extremes when my constituency MSP issued a press release claiming the very existence of Stornoway Black Pudding is threatened by “Westminster’s Brexit shambles”. How can they expect to be taken seriously on issues of significance amidst this litany of doom? It is becoming a case of “the boy who cried black pudding”.

I certainly want no new barriers to trade with the EU and I like free movement of labour, which brings lots of valuable people into our society. These same arguments apply elsewhere in the UK and certainly to its economic engines. It is in the Scottish interest to ally ourselves to those who share the same objectives in securing a Brexit which protects benefits, rather than simply hoping the whole thing falls apart.

One irony is that while the SNP is pinning its colours even more firmly to the EU mast, their meddling in Catalonia makes it even more certain that, at some point, they will have to rewrite the entire script. More clearly than ever, Spain would be voting for its own dismemberment by giving house-room to the SNP’s claims.

Furthermore, the Catalonian imbroglio highlights the threat of fragmentation for other EU states which contain secessionist movements. From an EU perspective, Catalonia is not an isolated problem but part of a wider philosophical question – how can progress towards European unity be reconciled with the break-up of member states?

One of the 2014 fallacies was that Scotland would somehow stroll back into the EU after secession. Post-Catalonia, there will be wider understanding that this is non-negotiable hogwash, so any independence case will have to be based on Scotland being outside the EU. If one believed the current Sturgeon script, that would be a catastrophe worse than death so rewriting it will be tricky. Brexit demonstrates the difficulties entailed in breaking up a union. The seceding party does not get what it wants. The prospect of borders creates massive difficulties. There is no easy route out of one union and into another, and so on . . . even before we get to money.

Scottish voters are getting the hang of this even if the SNP leadership is not.

I would have no difficulty answering the question Mrs May avoided – if asked again, I would vote to remain in the EU because the alternative is too much hassle.

But it is the alternative which currently prevails and the Scottish Government should be making the most of it rather than lying in wait for political pickings that might or might not materialise.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "BRIAN WILSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4585489.1507832332!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585489.1507832332!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Operating outside EU regulations may prove beneficial for Scotland but the SNP is unwilling to seek such opportunities. Picture: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Operating outside EU regulations may prove beneficial for Scotland but the SNP is unwilling to seek such opportunities. Picture: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4585489.1507832332!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/pro-eu-supporters-to-rally-in-edinburgh-1-4585171","id":"1.4585171","articleHeadline": "Pro-EU supporters to rally in Edinburgh","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507821930000 ,"articleLead": "

Supporters of the UK’s membership of the European Union will stage another demonstration in the Capital this weekend.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585170.1507816359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A pro-EU march takes place in Edinburgh in July 2016. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

The event, Rally for Europe, takes place in Edinburgh on Saturday with the aim of urging the UK Government to “think again” on Brexit.

Speakers will urge other Scottish local authorities to follow the City of Edinburgh Council’s lead by signing an open declaration to become “hubs of EU activity and connections”.

It follows a similar event in July last year in which several hundred marchers gathered in the city centre.

Voters in the Capital voted 74 per cent to remain in the EU at last year’s referendum, 12 points higher than the 62 per cent who voted in favour across Scotland.

Vanessa Glynn, chairwoman of the European Movement in Scotland, said: “More than 15 fifteen months on from the Brexit vote, the current UK Government still has no clear idea of where it’s going.

“As groups rally up and down the country, information about disarray within the cabinet is trickling down. The clock is ticking with negotiations on Britain’s future relationship with EU still on the starting blocks, and yet we do not see any clarity about the relationship that will follow between the UK and the EU, nor between the constituent nations of the UK.

“One cannot help but wonder when the cabinet will hear the increasing concerns from the man or woman on the street.

“We are taking this opportunity to urge Scotland’s cities to spearhead opposition to Brexit and to mitigate the damage to our country as this process takes place.”

The event takes place at 2pm on 14 October outside the City Chamber in the High Street.

Speakers include Tommy Sheppard of the SNP, Labour’s Ian Murray and Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie.

READ MORE: ‘Greatest risk to free trade agreement is Scottish independence’, claims Liam Fox

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4585170.1507816359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585170.1507816359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A pro-EU march takes place in Edinburgh in July 2016. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A pro-EU march takes place in Edinburgh in July 2016. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4585170.1507816359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/anas-sarwar-scotland-can-t-afford-another-lost-decade-1-4585272","id":"1.4585272","articleHeadline": "Anas Sarwar: Scotland can’t afford another lost decade","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507820165000 ,"articleLead": "

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Anas Sarwar responds to criticism earlier this week from Scotsman columnist Darren McGarvey

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585271.1507820170!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anas Sarwar campaigns during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)"} ,"articleBody": "

After a lost decade in Scottish politics it is Labour that today offers hope to people across the country.

The SNP’s obsession with independence has blinded it to the workforce crisis in our NHS, the falling standards in our schools, and the rise in child poverty.

And across the UK, a cruel Tory government has inflicted misery on the most vulnerable in society and is now careering towards the cliff-edge with plans for a hard Brexit.

Scotland can’t afford another lost decade, which is why we need a Scottish Labour government. It is the prospect of a Labour government which offers hope to the next generation of Scots, not another decade of the SNP.

Earlier this week, Darren McGarvey questioned in the pages of this newspaper why I refuse to collaborate with the SNP.

I’m happy to respond: I believe in socialism, not nationalism.

The SNP adopted the slogan “Progress” at its annual conference in Glasgow this week, yet there is nothing progressive about a government that refuses to introduce progressive taxation, and has cut £1.5 billion from local services since 2011.

And there is nothing progressive about wanting to break apart the United Kingdom, which is why I was proud to lead Scottish Labour’s distinct, positive campaign to strengthen our place in the Union in 2014.

Darren is correct to state that I will never support independence, and we will have to disagree on the constitutional issue. I respect his position, and we both share a burning desire to tackle deprivation, but it is without doubt that independence would cause even further austerity in Scotland.

I do accept that many who voted Yes in 2014 believed that independence would bring change – and change which was desperately needed. Now, after a lost decade, we need change in Scotland more than ever and my offer to those voters is a promise to deliver change not through separation – but through socialism.

That’s what Jeremy Corbyn offers across the UK, and explains why so many SNP voters have come back to Labour, and it’s what a Scottish Labour government will also offer.

I do not agree with Darren’s claims it is the SNP which offers the message of “hope”.

I don’t believe in the illusion of hope; I believe in the realisation of hope.

It is unity and solidarity that gives hope; not the SNP’s division.

Across Scotland we have endured a lost decade where the recession has caused hardship for too many workers, with wages still lower than before the crash.

A lost decade where too many families are forced to rely on food banks just to put a meal on the table, with household debt up by two-thirds. A lost decade where too many young Scots can’t afford their own home, with ownership among young people down by a quarter since 2007.

The SNP cannot offer a message of hope when it is responsible for that lost decade. But as Scottish Labour leader I will offer real hope.

Real hope to families by introducing the most radical welfare policy in Holyrood’s history: a Scottish child tax credit, paying an extra £10 a week per child. Not a universal policy, but deliberately targeted at the poorest families in the country – instantly lifting 50,000 children out of poverty.

I will offer hope to the thousands of families who are on the housing waiting list by getting 35,000 empty homes back into use.

I will offer hope to the vulnerable people left behind by the Tories. I will use the parliament’s powers to reverse Tory cuts to Employment and Support Allowance, ensuring that 70,000 sick and disabled claimants do not lose their benefits.

I will offer hope to women who have been underpaid in the workplace by creating a commission to end the gender pay gap.

I will offer hope to hospital patients by rescuing our NHS through an action plan to deliver more training places and clamping down on spiralling private agency spend.

I will offer hope to school-leavers by introducing the innovative Scotland Guarantee – a guaranteed job, training place or education for every school-leaver. I will offer hope to older people as we face up to the reality of automation by opening up apprenticeships to all ages to retrain workers. I will offer hope to every worker because I understand the importance of the EU single market for jobs in Scotland.

That’s why I have announced that as Labour leader I will not just oppose a Tory hard Brexit, I will support permanent UK membership of the European single market.

That is what hope looks like, and it is simply not on offer from the SNP or the Tories.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of an influential figure in the Labour movement who offered our country hope: Donald Dewar. The Scottish Parliament is one of Labour’s greatest achievements in government, with Donald delivering on John Smith’s unfinished business.

I am part of the devolution generation and I’m restless to use the powers of our Scottish Parliament.

But Labour can only deliver the change people need if we win elections once again.

That’s why I’m standing in this contest, because I want to return the Labour Party to power and deliver hope to the people of Scotland.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Anas Sarwar"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4585271.1507820170!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4585271.1507820170!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Anas Sarwar campaigns during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anas Sarwar campaigns during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4585271.1507820170!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/greatest-risk-to-free-trade-agreement-is-scottish-independence-liam-fox-1-4584791","id":"1.4584791","articleHeadline": "Greatest risk to free trade agreement is Scottish independence - Liam Fox","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507803367000 ,"articleLead": "

Liam Fox has said that the greatest risk to economic instability is not spending plans over a ‘no deal Brexit’ but Scottish independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584789.1507803372!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (R) leave Downing Street following a Cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

The International Trade Secretary said there is no difference between himself and Chancellor Philip Hammond over spending plans for a “no-deal” Brexit.

Leading Brexiteer Dr Fox said it was correct the Chancellor should spend money only as necessary, adding that funds should be spent in areas where contingency plans were needed.

Mr Hammond has said he will wait until “the last point” before authorising spending on preparations for a “no deal” Brexit.

READ MORE: SPFL among organisations concerned with Brexit impact

However, on Wednesday Theresa May said £250 million of new money has been allocated from Treasury reserves to get Britain ready for EU withdrawal, prompting fresh speculation of Cabinet splits over Brexit.

At International Trade questions in the Commons, Dr Fox was pressed on his preparations should Britain leave the European Union without a new trade deal in place with Brussels.

He told MPs: “Our department - and I don’t really wish to trumpet this to other departments - does have a unique agreement with the Treasury, that we are able to increase our staffing levels where it relates to Brexit-related issues, and we’ll continue to do so.

“But as I said, we want to ensure that we will get a good deal.

Dr Fox said earlier the Government is extremely concerned about any perceptions of instability as the SNP challenged Westminster to “publish the reality” of the impact of Brexit.

SNP trade and investment spokesman Hannah Bardell said: “Yesterday, the Scottish Government published a report that showed what is at stake for business as the UK edges closer to the Brexit cliff edge.

“We know the Secretary of State has consulted the business community to find out how it will affect them but will he commit today to publish the findings, as called on by a range of MPs across this House, even if the findings show business wants to stay in the single market and customs union?

READ MORE: Brexit talks expected to close with ‘little sign of progress’

“At what point will this Government stop governing in secret and publish the reality of the impact of Brexit?”

Dr Fox replied: “The Government is, of course, extremely concerned about any perceptions of instability and we will consult widely, particularly when it comes to new free trade agreements.”

He added the greatest threat to causing instability, particularly in Scotland, is the Scottish Government’s threatening of a second independence referendum.

Dr Fox also told MPs there has been a positive response from other governments when it comes to transitional adoption of existing EU agreements.

He said: “They, like ourselves, want to ensure there’s no disruption of trade at the point of departure of the European Union.

“We will want to get as many of those in place as we can. Partly that depends on the willingness of partners to get it ready on time.

“There are obviously contingency measures available to us under WTO to ensure continued market access in any case.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANGUS HOWARTH"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4584789.1507803372!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584789.1507803372!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (R) leave Downing Street following a Cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (R) leave Downing Street following a Cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4584789.1507803372!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-talks-expected-to-close-with-little-sign-of-progress-1-4584590","id":"1.4584590","articleHeadline": "Brexit talks expected to close with ‘little sign of progress’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507792994000 ,"articleLead": "

The fifth round of Brexit negotiations is coming to an end amid growing frustration at the apparent failure of the talks in Brussels to break the deadlock.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584589.1507792996!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Brexit Secretary David Davis arrives at 10 Downing Street Picture; PA"} ,"articleBody": "

Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier are expected to hold their customary end of talks press conference amid little sign of concrete progress.

On Tuesday European Council president Donald Tusk became the latest senior figure to warn the negotiations had not advanced sufficiently to move onto the second phase - including a new free trade deal.

While Theresa May has said she remains optimistic about the prospects for an agreement, she told MPs this week that contingency plans were being worked up in case the UK crashed out without a deal.

Mr Barnier is due to brief the leaders of the other 27 EU member states on the state of the negotiations when they meet next week for a summit in the Belgian capital.

READ MORE: SPFL among organisations concerned with Brexit impact

So far, however, he has been adamant there has not been enough progress on the so-called “divorce” arrangements for him to be able to recommend they move on to phase two.

The EU side has been adamant that they need greater clarity on the issues of future citizens’ rights and the border with Ireland as well as the thorny issue of the financial settlement.

In her Florence speech, Mrs May sought to reassure other EU leaders that the UK would fully honour its outstanding obligations while continuing to pay into the EU budget during a proposed two-year transition.

However there is frustration in Brussels that Mr Davis has so far been unwilling to put an actual figure on the “divorce bill”.

Business leaders meanwhile have expressed growing impatience at the lack of progress, warning that they urgently need greater clarity as they come to make key investment decisions.

The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, will use a keynote speech in Birmingham to say that it would be “unforgivable” if trade was damaged as a result of the “brinksmanship” of the two sides.

“Further delays to trade and transition talks would create a lose-lose scenario for everyone with a stake in the game,” he will say.

READ MORE: Scots must board ‘lifeboat of independence’ before Brexit

“It would be unforgivable for politicians on either side of the Channel to privilege brinksmanship and disruption over thriving trade.”

Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon will reaffirm the UK’s continued commitment to the collective defence of Europe after Brexit when they meet their Polish counterparts for talks in London.

Sir Michael will renew the UK’s commitment to Nato’s “enhanced forward presence” in Eastern Europe - including 150 British troops stationed in Poland in support of a US-led battlegroup - designed to deter Russian aggression.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Mr Johnson said: “This meeting is another demonstration of the UK’s unbreakable commitment to European security, working with our allies such as Poland to ensure the stability and prosperity of our continent.”

His comments echo a similar assurance given by Mrs May when she visited UK troops in Estonia, in an apparent softening of the Government’s position after it previously appeared to threaten to end security co-operation if there was no deal on Brexit.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "DIANE KING"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4584589.1507792996!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584589.1507792996!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Brexit Secretary David Davis arrives at 10 Downing Street Picture; PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Brexit Secretary David Davis arrives at 10 Downing Street Picture; PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4584589.1507792996!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/kenny-macaskill-tax-rises-are-inevitable-and-it-s-simply-a-question-of-how-much-and-who-will-be-paying-1-4584096","id":"1.4584096","articleHeadline": "Kenny MacAskill: Tax rises are inevitable and it’s simply a question of how much and who will be paying","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507788021000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP conference was well-crafted and well delivered – you’d expect no less from a consummate politician. It was equally well received by delegates even if it was less revivalist than in past years. Some announcements had been trailed, others were delivered fresh to the excitement of party members and interest to the media. It certainly painted a picture of the fairer Scotland that she seeks.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584095.1507730780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeons speech to the SNP conference was well-crafted, well delivered and well received. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

However, of equal interest was what went unsaid. A second independence referendum, the EU and tax and the public services they provide were ignored or simply genuflected towards. They’ve been deferred or delayed. With some it’s understandable and sensible but with others its difficult, if not dangerous for the 

On the date for another independence referendum, trumpeted last year, there was no mention. She’s already had to backtrack and a further delay was inevitable. There can be no second vote without clarity on Brexit. Putting the option on the table was sensible, being so gung ho thereafter most certainly wasn’t, as her former MSP colleagues who lost their seats in June can testify.

Brexit creates more problems than opportunities for the independence cause. It creates uncertainty which is unhelpful but also causes problems with issues, whether over the currency or a potential hard border with England.

Until there’s greater clarity it’s hard to see how you could call for a vote, never mind win one. The electorate will wish to know what the position is on them, never mind where Scotland and the rest of the UK will stand with the EU. Waiting to see where the UK goes is therefore almost certainly essential.

On the EU it’s harder for her as the negotiations and final outcome are beyond both her and Scotland’s control. That influence was lost with a No vote, despite 62 per cent here wishing to Remain. Accordingly, the most the SNP can do is seek to mitigate harm for Scotland, whether in the loss of powers to Holyrood or the damage of a hard Brexit. It’s frustrating and frightening, even given the incompetency of the UK representation, but it’s the reality.

However, it was noticeable in the First Minister’s comments that she was less effusive about the EU than in the past. That’s actually a sensible position to take as it was out of kilter with SNP voters and many members. More voted to stay but held their noses when doing so. The institution had failed to deliver on promises of a social as well as an economic union, compounded by its brutal treatment of the Greek people with its enforced austerity upon them.

Since then, it’s not just been their failure to condemn the brutal actions of the Spanish authorities in Catalonia, but their abandonment of any reproach to Poland and Hungary for repressive actions that run counter to why Europe evolved post-Second World War. The EU is losing its appeal for many and other options should now be considered, as well as being the likely outcome.

A hard Brexit would be calamitous and no deal disastrous, but alternative arrangements that allow for single market and customs union access may now be preferable. The SNP will just have to await the outcome but an agreed UK/EU position that allows for access without membership would seem the best outcome for the SNP. A similar position could then be sought for Scotland and issues over a hard border and trade avoided.

Of more concern though is the tax issue and the public services they provide. The party was warmed up to tax rises which is no surprise. They’re inevitable and it’s simply a question of how much and upon whom they will fall. The Scottish Government is constrained in that it can only really tax income, not wealth, which hamstrings it. Punitive taxes on the rich, even if popular, won’t work and could even be counterproductive. So, it will be a modest increase with a limited take.

It seems that she’s setting the scene for middle earners to pay more. That’s understandable and right. The Scottish middle class can’t expect the universal services they mainly benefit from without paying for them. In all likelihood it will be a rerun of Alex Salmond’s call in 1999 for a penny for Scotland.

However, though money will be ingathered, the government’s also increasing its expenditure with long overdue public sector pay rises. Yet people’s satisfaction with public services was diminishing and as a result their satisfaction with the First Minister. Even as conference was meeting complaints about stress on police services and financial pressures on health services were widely running.

More just can’t be done with less or even the same. Until a strategic retreat is made from some areas of expenditure or savings made through reform, then the creaks and groans from overburdened and under-resourced public services will only increase. It’s hard to see how a tax increase can shore up the current services, never mind allow for expansion of new ones.

Yet, it’s on that that both the Scottish Government and Nicola Sturgeon will be judged. The long-term vision is worthy but folk vote on the here and now. In that there’s a danger for her and her administration. New offerings are welcome but old essential services need to be maintained. Providing ever more offerings without making current services better won’t work.

So Nicola Sturgeon has laid out a vision of the land she seeks though it’s not one that can be obtained just yet. She’s sent delegates away reasonably contented but most of all she’s bought herself some time to reposition the party. Neither she nor the SNP are in control of the major issue that affects them in Brexit. They just need to await the outcome and be ready to move thereafter.

In the interim they need to maintain the credible and competent administration that saw them elected in the first place. That’s the priority and the dangers for her now lie there, not in the constitution.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4584095.1507730780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584095.1507730780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeons speech to the SNP conference was well-crafted, well delivered and well received. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeons speech to the SNP conference was well-crafted, well delivered and well received. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4584095.1507730780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/bill-jamieson-please-a-rest-from-referendums-1-4584400","id":"1.4584400","articleHeadline": "Bill Jamieson: Please – a rest from referendums","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507784400000 ,"articleLead": "

Few developments in modern politics have been as seductive – and their outcomes more problematic – than the cry for referendums. Their appeal is popular and their outcomes surely compelling. Who would not wish for some divisive issue to be resolved by giving the people a vote through a national referendum?

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584399.1507748174!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The launch of the eurosceptic Vote Leave campaign at the group's headquarters in central London. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

But results have failed to live up to expectation. Scotland’s independence referendum in September 2014; the UK Brexit referendum in June 2016 and the Catalan independence referendum this month: all three promised a definitive resolution of highly divisive and contentious issues. But all three are wreathed in controversy and their outcomes challenged. This is despite the fact that the turn-out for both votes were the highest recorded for an election or referendum in the UK since the introduction of universal suffrage.

The provenance of the Brexit vote in particular has been challenged by ‘Remainers’ on the grounds that those who voted for Brexit did not understand the issues, or were deluded or misled by populists.

Are we chastened by these experiences? Are we more circumspect in calling for more? Or are we condemned to repeat the experience to the point of a sovereign self-destruction?

At the SNP party conference this week, First Minister and party leader Nicola Sturgeon held the door open for not one but two more referendums: another re-run of the Scottish independence vote; and a referendum on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Other speakers, including former MP Angus Robertson and the young firebrand MP Mhairi Black, were loudly cheered when they urged a second ‘indyref’ – and the minimum of delay.

Ms Sturgeon has made her preference clear on Brexit question: she is an ardent EU supporter and would like the UK to retain full membership of the EU Single Market and the Customs Union, no matter what the voters thought (or didn’t think) in last year’s referendum.

Why do we imagine more referendums might have more success in resolving political division than the ones we have held already? If a second vote is held to have greater validity than the first, would not a third be better? Or a fourth better still?

And where would a second vote on EU membership leave us? Indeed, a referendum on the terms of a Brexit ‘settlement’ opens the fiery possibility of a ‘No’ vote that would not only render null and void last year’s referendum result but also leave the UK having to repeal the parliamentary vote on Article 50 and to re-negotiate the terms of continuing EU membership.

That could see the UK losing its budget contribution rebate and having to give a solid commitment to the EU – in particular, to further European integration: “ever closer union”.

In such a circumstance, should there not be a further referendum to agree this? Some may regard this as a reasonable price to pay for a lasting settlement of the EU issue after years of division and uncertainty. Others would view it as little short of a national humiliation and an unacceptable loss of sovereignty.

Would this really settle an issue that has been a major source of contention in UK politics for the past forty years? Would it bring us together – or further entrench division?

No-one wishes to see a repeat of the explosive circumstances of the Catalan referendum: an event that has divided the SNP. Party members have strongly supported the Catalan cause and spoken out against the violent, truncheon-wielding interventions of the Spanish police to prevent the vote taking place.

EU officials have long been fearful that Catalan independence would feed a populist desire for separatist movements elsewhere in Europe, as if the wayward behaviour of the populist Hungarian and Polish governments were not enough for Brussels to contend with.

Catalonia’s drive to secede from Spain is fuelling calls for independence in ethnic pockets across the Balkans – an explosive ambition in a region where nationalist violence claimed tens of thousands of lives in the 1990s. Ethnic nationalists are drawing inspiration from the events in Catalonia: Why, they argue, don’t we do the same?

Little wonder there is unease within the SNP – a party whose raison d’etre is political independence but which is also avowedly pro-EU. Its members now look far from keen on the realities of “ever closer union” and highly critical of the failure of the EU to condemn the Madrid government for the repressive activities of the Spanish police.

All this poses a dilemma for the party leadership and one from which insistence on yet more referendums offers little escape. Party members may be highly sympathetic to the Catalan cause. But senior officials are anxious to avoid compromising the party’s relationship with EU leaders or falling foul of Madrid for fear that Spain might oppose a future Scottish application for EU membership.

Catalan independence sympathisers also have to reckon with the late but massive show of support for the Spanish government on the streets of Barcelona – reminiscent of the huge rally for General de Gaulle after the Paris student riots of 1968 threatened to topple the Fifth Republic. When it comes to “the voice of the people”, are they not also the people?

Here in the UK we have drifted dangerously towards a blanket acceptance of resort to plebiscite – justified on the argument that certain issues can only be resolved by referendums but without being at all clear on what the criteria are and what the qualifications might be.

There may in certain circumstances be an argument for referendums – held under the rule of law and with safeguards in place to ensure that a clear majority – say, 60 per cent – are in favour of constitutional change.

Do referendums enhance democracy? Germany, where they were deployed to catastrophic effect by the Nazis, now disavows them. Venezuela lived and breathed them – as the economy collapsed.

They do not necessarily enhance trust and unity in a democracy. And no democracy worthy of the name can survive without clear and firm constraints to protect the vulnerable, be they ethnic minorities, religious groups, gays and those deemed to be “the rich”: That is why democratic societies have imposed protections such as individual rights, freedom of the press, property rights and restrictions on confiscatory, retrospective legislation. There is more – much more – to a people’s democracy than crude majoritarianism. A representative parliament, obliged to debate, compromise and seek resolution by accommodation remains the better if slow and imperfect way to go.

“Let’s have another referendum”? Or maybe two? Or even three? Be careful what you wish for. Public forbearance with constant agitation and attempts to re-write the constitutional settlement by which we live may well break under the constant stress and strain placed on everyday life.

We need a break from this. Carry on as we are – with ever deeper division, families and communities split, civil disturbance and fighting in the streets – and we may end with the worst of all worlds: a bleak and divided polity of endless referendums while the key concerns of government sought by the public – health, well-being and economic growth – are pushed to second place.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Bill Jamieson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4584399.1507748174!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4584399.1507748174!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The launch of the eurosceptic Vote Leave campaign at the group's headquarters in central London. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The launch of the eurosceptic Vote Leave campaign at the group's headquarters in central London. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4584399.1507748174!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/is-federalism-the-answer-to-the-scottish-constitutional-question-1-4583903","id":"1.4583903","articleHeadline": "Is federalism the answer to the Scottish constitutional question?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507725676000 ,"articleLead": "

A fringe conference meeting of SNP delegates does not sound like the most obvious of places for a right-wing think tank to share a bold report on why federalism offers the answer to the UK’s constitutional question.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4583915.1507725683!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Federalism is regularly cited as an answer to the constitutional question, but implementing could prove difficult. Picture: Greg Macvean"} ,"articleBody": "

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) was in Glasgow on Monday to discuss the “economic myths and opportunities” of Scottish independence, with senior SNP MPs Pete Wishart and Kirsty Blackman, the party’s economy spokeswoman at Westminster, among those taking part.

What the left-leaning Nationalists have in common with the firmly pro-business IEA is a desire to see the current UK constitutional settlement radically altered. While the SNP is of course in favour of full independence, many in the party would be unlikely to dismiss the beefed up powers for Holyrood that ‘full federalism’ would bring.

The IEA claims that if Whitehall was willing to hand over a further 15 per cent of taxraising powers to the devolved nations, the stimulating effects could be “dramatic”.

Some estimates suggest it could boost GDP per capita by as much as six per cent, about £1,800 per person.

“If the UK is to hold together over the medium term, it is reasonable for foreign affairs and defence to be determined at a UK-wide level,” IEA director Mark Littlewood wrote in The Times this week.

“But the entire structure of the welfare system, the setting of all taxes and the level of private involvement in provision of state services of all kinds can be left entirely to the discretion of the four constituent nations.”

Mr Wishart himself said that “any proposal for an international, federal UK is, I think, something we should welcome and treat as part of that conversation about the future of our country.”

Welcoming the IEA report, he added: “There’s so much nonsense spoken about federalism.

“This idea that somehow Scotland would be equal to some region of England in terms of a federal solution across the UK is totally, utterly unacceptable to this party.”

READ MORE: Scots must board ‘lifeboat of independence’ before Brexit

So what is the IEA proposing?

It believes “the most appropriate system of governance” in the UK is an “entirely federal solution”. In practice this means creating a federal level of government which would be responsible for a limited number of powers including defence, foreign affairs, banking regulation and border controls.

All other powers would be exercised by two separate governments covering Scotland and the rest of the UK, which could be expanded in the future to grant Wales and Northern Ireland the same status as Scotland.

The IEA believes that the current devolution settlement lacks “meaningful tax competition” between the nations, with a tendency towards higher public spending as a result.

“Divorcing spending and revenue-raising decisions also blurs who should be held responsible for poor outcomes,” it adds.

Implementing such a radical restructure would, of course, be difficult.

As Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make up just 15 per cent of the UK’s population, the question remains whether popular support – and a majority of MPs – could be found.

Dr Wilfried Swenden, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and federalism expert, explained some of the challenges to The Scotsman in 2016. “Would the UK government be willing to give a veto right to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? The logic of federalism would say yes,” said Dr Swenden.

“If the UK was a truly federal 
multi-nation state, it would somehow have to accept that some decisions are subject to the consent of not just a popular majority, but a majority of the nations that constitute the UK.

“But geographically, this is difficult. I think one of the weaknesses of the UK set-up is the absence of regional governments in England or the absence of an English parliament.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4583915.1507725683!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4583915.1507725683!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Federalism is regularly cited as an answer to the constitutional question, but implementing could prove difficult. Picture: Greg Macvean","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Federalism is regularly cited as an answer to the constitutional question, but implementing could prove difficult. Picture: Greg Macvean","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4583915.1507725683!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4583902.1507725042!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4583902.1507725042!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Federalism is regularly cited as an answer to the constitutional question, but implementing could prove difficult. Picture: Greg Macvean","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Federalism is regularly cited as an answer to the constitutional question, but implementing could prove difficult. Picture: Greg Macvean","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4583902.1507725042!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon-announces-publicly-owned-energy-company-1-4583141","id":"1.4583141","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon announces publicly owned energy company","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1507663675000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled plans to create a new state-owned Scottish energy firm in a move aimed at driving down soaring energy costs.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4583297.1507663681!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives a standing ovation after speaking on the final day of the Scottish National Party (SNP) annual conference. Pic: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

It will be available to all customers across Scotland and operate as an alternative to the current privately-owned giants like npower and Scottish Gas.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon says independence offers Scots ‘a better future’

The new firm will be set up by 2021 and Ms Sturgeon told delegates at the SNP conference in Glasgow yesterday that the new firm would give allow low income Scots to turn to a supplier only concerned with “securing the lowest price for customers. A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon later said the new firm would supply electricity and gas.

The move will be seen as a bid to address fears among senior SNP strategists of a Labour revival in Scotland, and Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley accused Ms Sturgeon of “passing off” his party’s policies as her own.

It came as the First Minister pledged that a second referendum on independence would be staged in the coming years and called on delegates to make the case with “conviction.”

The SNP had pledged to explore the option of a new publicly owned, not for profit energy company during the campaign for last year’s Holyrood election.

And the First Minister yesterday pledged to establish such a firm by the end of this Parliament. More details will be set out in the government’s forthcoming energy strategy.

“Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland - renewable, of course - and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible,” she said.

“No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider.

“It would give people - particularly those on low incomes - more choice and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers.”

Both Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party and Theresa May have unveiled plans to cap energy prices, with Labour also having backed a not-for-profit energy firm.

Responding to Ms Sturgeon’s speech, Mr Rowley said: “From a not-for-profit energy company to teacher training bursaries, action on period poverty and promises on public sector pay, this conference shows that it is Labour which is setting the policy agenda in Scotland.”

Emma Grant McColm, energy spokesperson for the Citizens Advice Scotland Consumer Futures Unit last night cautiously backed the announcement. “We would welcome any intervention that genuinely increases fairness for energy consumers,” she said.

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said a state-owned energy firm could provide a “one-stop-shop” or gateway to accessing public funds.

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Some commentators have described the 2017 SNP conference as flat. But try telling that to the two angry men - one sporting a kilt - who were shown the door half an hour before Nicola Sturgeon’s keynote speech.

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It looked like they had fallen out with each other, rather than taken umbrage with the worthy conference motions being debated on stage. Security staff did briefly allow one of them back in - but only to retrieve his Glengarry bonnet.

This minor kerfuffle was small beer compared to the calamities that befell the Conservative event last week. When Angus Robertson took to the stage to introduce the headline act there was a sense of purpose among the delegates in the SEC.

Although wounded by the loss of his Moray seat at June’s snap election, Robertson fired up the faithful with a barrage of stats designed to sooth any worries about the party’s performance. “We have won the last seven elections across Scotland,” he said. Any Celtic-supporting SNP members in the room may have been tempted to begin a ‘Here we go, 10-in-a-row’ chant at this point.

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon came when the former MP added: “There are 1,300 and some days until the next Scottish parliamentary election. And there will also be a referendum on Scottish independence.”

That was as close to a firm date for IndyRef2 as delegates were going to get. Those hoping for the First Minister to add more detail on a second referendum were to be disappointed.

Instead they were offered a greatest hits medley of the SNP in power as well as some new domestic policies to dance to.

Before all that, there was a chance to bash the opposition. She held up a box of Strepsils to mock Theresa May’s cough-stricken speech the week before. There was a good line on the leader-less party that once ruled this city. “These days, ferrets in a sack distance themselves from Scottish Labour,” grinned the FM. Then there was a serious call to Ruth Davidson to find ‘some backbone’ and kick ‘the racists and bigots’ out of her party. Huge applause.

The plan to create a state-owned, not-for-profit renewable energy company received a standing ovation. There were cheers, too, for the promise to end the public sector pay cap.

When it came to Brexit, Ms Sturgeon was clear in her conviction that it was a bad idea. But there was no new detail on how the Scottish Government would protect itself from the power grab on devolved powers which SNP ministers have regularly warned is coming down the line.

The First Minister had earned her standing ovation - even if party members seemed more quietly satisfied than 2015-era ecstatic.

“It was an excellent speech,” said one in the SEC foyer afterwards. “But it would have been nice to hear a date for a second referendum.”

READ MORE: Mhairi Black: why should we put indyref2 on the ‘back burner?’

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