{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scottishindependence","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-accused-of-disowning-scotland-s-oil-and-gas-sector-1-4727719","id":"1.4727719","articleHeadline": "SNP accused of ‘disowning’ Scotland’s oil and gas sector","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1524227309000 ,"articleLead": "

The Scottish Government has axed a flagship measure of the state of the oil and gas industry - prompting claims it is \"actively disowning\"  the sector.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4727718.1524226607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The oil and gas industry has suffered in recent years"} ,"articleBody": "

The Oil and Gas Bulletin was cited in the White Paper on independence and used by the SNP to bolster the case for leaving the UK. But it has only been published once - in 2015 - since the referendum, during which time the North Sea industry has suffered a crippling downturn as a result of a global oil price crash.

The Office for Statistics Regulation has now confirmed there are no plans to publish a further bulletin.

Read more: North Sea oil and gas outlook remains uncertain
Scotland's energy minister Paul Wheelhouse insists that the Scottish government has a wealth of information on the oil industry.

But Labour spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: \"This is a disgraceful decision.

“It shows that not only have SNP ministers given up trying to help the oil and gas industry – but they are now actively disowning it.

“In the run up to the independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon promised oil revenues of £8billion a year – and the SNP government published the Oil and Gas Bulletin twice in 2013 and once in 2014 in support.

“Since the oil price collapse, we have only had one Bulletin – as long ago as 2015. That is simply a disgrace.

“With thousands of jobs lost and the industry still in recovery, we need as much information as possible on the state of the North Sea. Instead, Nationalist ministers have decided to bury their heads in the sand in an attempt to avoid a political humiliation.\"

Read more: Scotland's oil and gas sector alive and kicking
But a spokesman for Mr Wheelhouse branded the Labour claims \"ridiculous\" and accused Mr Macdonald of \"talking down\" the oil industry.

He added: “In terms of backing the sector, we are doing everything in our power to support it, but it is the Tory government at Westminster who retain most of the key policy levers when it comes to protecting jobs and investment.

“While there is no bulletin scheduled for publication at present, the requirement for any analytical bulletins is kept under review, and there is already a wealth of other published information on the industry.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4727718.1524226607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4727718.1524226607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The oil and gas industry has suffered in recent years","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The oil and gas industry has suffered in recent years","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4727718.1524226607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5669920656001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-depute-leader-favourite-indyref2-could-be-set-for-april-2019-1-4727641","id":"1.4727641","articleHeadline": "SNP depute leader favourite: indyref2 could be set for April 2019","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1524221428000 ,"articleLead": "

The favourite to become SNP depute leader Keith Brown has said a second independence referendum could be held as early as April next year.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4727640.1524221884!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP depute leader candidate Keith Brown"} ,"articleBody": "

Mr Brown made the prediction in a election leaflet posed on social media which said: “The next independence referendum could be held in 12 months or two years”.

The issue of when indyref2 should be held has dominated the contest between Mr Brown, the SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council Chris McEleny and SNP activist Julie Hepburn.

Cllr McEleny is campaigning on the grounds that a second vote should be held within 18 months in a bid to attract support from hard line independence supporters.

Until now Mr Brown has confined himself to saying that the SNP “had a job to do” to get the party ready for a tilt at a second referendum.

READ MORE: Brian Wilson: Windrush scandal echoes Scots’ slave trade shame

But ahead of hustings this weekend, Mr Brown, who as Economy Secretary serves in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet, the National reported that he had posted a more direct message on social media.

He said: “The next independence referendum could be held in 12 months or two years. As the First Minister has said, the time to make the decision will be later this year when the timing and shape of the Brexit deal and the extent of the damage it will do to Scotland becomes clearer. That is something no-one can predict at this stage.”

He added: “My job if elected as depute leader will be to make sure we are ready to win the referendum whenever it comes, that we use the time between now and then to engage our membership, hone the case for independence and heighten our organisational and campaigning capacity to get us fighting fit to win.”

READ MORE: Heatwave over: Scotland set for sub zero temperatures

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4727640.1524221884!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4727640.1524221884!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNP depute leader candidate Keith Brown","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP depute leader candidate Keith Brown","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4727640.1524221884!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/madrid-urged-to-follow-uk-to-break-catalan-indyref-deadlock-1-4725900","id":"1.4725900","articleHeadline": "Madrid urged to follow UK to break Catalan indyref deadlock","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1524027600000 ,"articleLead": "

Former Catalan president Artur Mas has urged Spain to seek a similar deal on an independence referendum to the one agreed by the UK government during an appearance in Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4725899.1523997997!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former president Artur Mas and Clara Ponsati. Picture: Ian Georgeson."} ,"articleBody": "

Speaking at an event organised by Edinburgh University students, he said the support from Scotland for Catalonia’s right to self-determination in its “harshest days” would not be forgotten.

He said many Catalans had been “ashamed” by the response from other European countries to the stand-off since direct rule was imposed from Madrid in response to the region’s declaration of independence last year.

But Mr Mas, who was president of Catalonia from 2010 to 2015, said a majority of its people were still in favour of remaining in the EU.

“We are asking for an agreement to let Catalans vote on their political future, like in Scotland. It should not be difficult to sit down at the table, to start talks, and agree the terms of a consultation or referendum. That is our goal and aspiration.

“It’s something that you know very well as that was also the challenge in Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans staged a demonstration in Barcelona at the weekend to demand the release of separatist politicians and activists who were detained for their role in October’s independence referendum.

Former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati, a professor at St Andrews University who is fighting charges of rebellion for her support for the independence cause, was in the front row of the audience to hear Mr Mas speak.

He said: “I want to thank the Scottish people and the Scottish political representatives who have given their support in the harshest moments we have lived in Catalonia in the last few years.

“In these moments it’s very relevant and especially important to see that there are people in Europe and in the world who understand what is really happening (in Catalonia) and give their support.

“It’s something we’re not going to forget in the future.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4725899.1523997997!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4725899.1523997997!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former president Artur Mas and Clara Ponsati. Picture: Ian Georgeson.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former president Artur Mas and Clara Ponsati. Picture: Ian Georgeson.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4725899.1523997997!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/alex-salmond-questions-assad-involvement-in-chemical-weapons-attack-1-4725687","id":"1.4725687","articleHeadline": "Alex Salmond questions Assad involvement in chemical weapons attack","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523979156000 ,"articleLead": "

Alex Salmond has questioned whether the Bashar al-Assad regime was responsible for the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708517.1523978487!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Mr Salmond said the Syrian government 'certainly has the means but the motivation could lie elsewhere'."} ,"articleBody": "

The former First Minister said the Syrian government “certainly has the means but the motivation could lie elsewhere”.

The incident on April 7 in the formerly rebel-held city of Douma, close to Damascus, led to a series of air strikes by US, UK and French forces in the early hours of Saturday morning on bases controlled by the Assad regime.

The Syrian government and its allies, Iran and Russia, have denied using chemical weapons in Douma.

Mr Salmond, who has regularly spoken out against UK military intervention in the past, also criticised Theresa May’s decision not to seek approval of MPs before launching the attack.

Mrs May told the Commons yesterday that Saturday’s air strikes could not wait for parliamentary approval or a UN mandate.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for debate on a ‘War Measures Act’ that would limit the government’s power to go to war without the approval of parliament.

READ MORE: Syria is a power game where everyone wins, says Lesley Riddoch

“We don’t know for certain which chemical weapons were used in Douma last week and certainly not by whom,” Mr Salmond told The National in a “video diary” for the pro-independence title.

“Assad, jihadis and Daesh have all used them in this Syrian civil war. They all have form in the grisly book of war crimes.

“The Syrian government certainly has the means but the motivation could lie elsewhere. Two weeks ago, Assad was winning the civil war hands down and the president of the USA was publicly declaring his intention to withdraw from the theatre.

“Now Assad’s conduct is under fresh international scrutiny and the Yanks are not just coming but they are staying.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “This is a man who described Nato intervention in Kosovo as ‘unpardonable folly’.

“If that wasn’t enough to prove how utterly discredited he is on military matters, his increasingly cosy relationship with the Kremlin probably means he’s contractually obliged to spout such nonsense.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4708517.1523978487!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4708517.1523978487!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Mr Salmond said the Syrian government 'certainly has the means but the motivation could lie elsewhere'.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Mr Salmond said the Syrian government 'certainly has the means but the motivation could lie elsewhere'.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4708517.1523978487!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/jeremy-clarkson-urges-scots-to-forget-about-independence-1-4724192","id":"1.4724192","articleHeadline": "Jeremy Clarkson urges Scots to forget about independence","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523883356000 ,"articleLead": "

JEREMY Clarkson has described the Highlands as the most beautiful place on earth as he urged Scots to forget about independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4724191.1523871651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The presenter spent last week filming in Scotland with colleagues Richard Hammond and James May for their Amazon Prime series The Grand Tour. Picture: SWNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The presenter spent last week filming in Scotland with colleagues Richard Hammond and James May for their Amazon Prime series The Grand Tour.

They travelled the North Coast 500 route and Clarkson fell in love with the scenery, ranking it as the most stunning place he had ever visited.

The former Top Gear host, 58, told how his trip had turned his thoughts to the independence debate and insisted the country should not go to the polls again.

He said independence was not the top priority for the locals he met and getting rid of the English would not “unite the country and bring back Sean Connery”.

He said: “I spent several days recently up beyond Inverness, and I’m not trying to suck up to the Scots, but it really is absolutely eyes-on-stalks beautiful. We often talk about breathtaking views, but in the Highlands they literally do that.

“I drove on Wednesday along the coast road north of Ullapool, and never have I gone so slowly. Sometimes the views were so spectacular, I coasted to a halt and never even noticed.

“The sky was the colour of a Norwegian model’s eyes. Tendrils of cloud spilt over snow-capped mountains before being whipped into nothing by the wind.

“And it went on and on and on. Past turquoise water like you find in the Maldives and islands as weird and as enticing as those in Ha Long Bay. This was, and I will take no argument on the matter, by far the most beautiful place on Earth. As far removed from anything we have in England as Timbuktu.”

The loudmouth presenter compared the independence debate to Brexit and said people from different parts of Scotland had opposing views on what was best for them.

Writing in his Sunday Times column, he added: “Scotland had a vote on independence in 2014, and sanity prevailed. Then those who lost immediately decided they’d like another vote. And so it will go until, eventually, they win, and we will have to post soldiers on the road out of Gretna Green.

“I don’t understand the need for Scottish independence. The Battle of Falkirk was a very long time ago. And it’s not as if England can win the Calcutta Cup any more. What’s more, the Scottish have exactly the same problem with going it alone as we’ll have post-Brexit.

“The bi-curious artisan who’s opened a craft shop in the Highlands selling jumpers knitted from her own armpit hair does not want the same things from Nicola Sturgeon as a heroin enthusiast from the tenements in Glasgow.

“They may think that getting rid of the English will unite them all and bring Sean Connery back. But it won’t.

“Do they want different laws? Really? What laws? Legalisation of burglary? The age of consent raised to 48? Compulsory yodelling for anyone on a bicycle? No. They want the same things as you and I. Something to do in the day and some disposable income at the weekend.”

Clarkson, Hammond and May chose classic Italian cars - a Fiat X19, a Lancia Gamma and an Alfa Romeo GTV6 - to travel along the 516-mile North Coast route. Around 100 locals gathered to watch them finish filming at Inverness Castle on Friday.

Clarkson, sacked from his Top Gear role in 2015 following a bust-up with a producer, has previously caused controversy with his comments on Scotland.

He has said Scots should be grateful to the English for introducing them to “proper food and trousers” - and branded Gordon Brown a “one-eyed Scottish idiot”.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Stuart MacDonald"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4724191.1523871651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4724191.1523871651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The presenter spent last week filming in Scotland with colleagues Richard Hammond and James May for their Amazon Prime series The Grand Tour. Picture: SWNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The presenter spent last week filming in Scotland with colleagues Richard Hammond and James May for their Amazon Prime series The Grand Tour. Picture: SWNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4724191.1523871651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5771203880001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/alfonso-valero-clara-ponsati-is-no-freedom-fighting-underdog-1-4723903","id":"1.4723903","articleHeadline": "Alfonso Valero: Clara Ponsati is no freedom-fighting underdog","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523854800000 ,"articleLead": "

Even though I have been living in Britain for more than a decade, I have a rather limited knowledge of the history of this country. Yes, I have watched the epics (historical films and series) and I have visited the landmarks, but this can hardly allow me to discuss the historical background of the politics of today.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723902.1523861991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clara Ponsati with Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and other councillors. Picture: AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

I certainly have an opinion about current affairs, but I would be rightly discredited if I drew parallels between the nationalist movement in Scotland and the separatist movement in the Crimea peninsula. Indeed, in spite of the fact that nationalists in Scotland, the Basque region, Catalonia, Flanders and elsewhere may, to a degree, share a common goal, it does not make them any more similar. In fact, some of them are quite clearly xenophobic, racist and supremacist, while others have a much more social agenda and are Europhiles.

Certainly, I can understand that if I only had one source of knowledge of a controversy, then it would be more likely than not that I would be persuaded by those arguments. More so, if that source was none other than a lecturer at one of the most prestigious universities in the country with the appearance of the underdog in that conflict. Everyone loves the underdog. If that same source throws another element on to the scale, a dictator whose inheritance is felt in every walk of life (police, justice, education, television), then I am sure I would be marching the streets of my university in support of that academic.

That is, of course, what has happened in relation to Clara Ponsati, an escapee of the Spanish justice system for her involvement in the attempted secession of Catalonia during her time in the regional government, and a lecturer at the University of St Andrews.

Three different factors have coincided in this situation.

The first is a natural tendency to compare situations by reference to what we know. If you know, whether you agree or not, the reasons argued by Scottish nationalists, you will be inclined to assume a similar pattern elsewhere.

The second one is an incredibly well-funded (by taxpayers) propaganda machine which spreads the message of Catalan separatists. According to the latest figures, the regional government of Catalonia spent €2.6 million a year on its unofficial embassies; separatist grassroots organisations, with their own offices abroad, having received themselves millions in taxpayer funds. I am sure any nationalist movement (grassroots or official) would love to have a share of that budget.

The third factor is an intention to destabilise the EU by Brexiteers. Where the focus of the EU needs to be elsewhere, and where there are risks of internal conflict at the heart of Europe, there is less ability to maintain a united front in the negotiations with the UK. Brexiteers can be nationalists, but they are not separatists; the support of Catalan nationalists by pro-Brexit media has nothing to do with a newfound support for the right of self-determination, but an interest in creating conflict in the EU.

Against that background, the question I have been asked many times is why Catalonia does not have the right to a referendum on independence. The response is that according to the Spanish constitution, voted for by 90 per cent of Catalans in 1978, the decision over the future of Spain (to include its territory) lies with the Spanish people. Unlike other constitutions in Europe (France and Germany, for example), it is perfectly possible to defend and seek secession of a part of the country in Parliament. It is not an easy achievement, but there are mechanisms to attain that goal.

As things stand, there is not a majority of Spanish (not even a majority of Catalans) who want to hold a referendum on the separation of Catalonia from Spain. The regional elections in Catalonia held in December 2017 (with the former regional government on the run or in jail) gave a majority of votes to those parties in favour of the Spanish constitution, but this majority was not reflected in members of regional parliament due to the electoral laws.

The referendum organised by Ms Ponsati’s government in Catalonia on 1 October was an illegal referendum which was held against a series of rulings from the Constitutional Court. The Scottish Government would have never held such referendum against the law and in contempt of court.

The second question of those unbiased enquirers is the force with which the Spanish police forces conducted themselves in preventing the referendum of 1 October. As investigations by the court demonstrated, Ms Ponsati’s government actively sought clashes between voters and the police by way of: inviting people to vote even though it was an illegal referendum; instructing the regional police to disobey court’s orders and obstruct and confront the work of the Spanish police (called at the request of the Catalan judges); all this witnessed by ‘independent’ international observers who were paid, in some cases, 200,000 euros. The result was police charges, a large number of injuries (according to official figures: four civilians received treatment in hospital and 431 police officers) and an unlimited number of references in the international media. Even the German court dealing with the extradition of Carles Puigdemont recognised that Ms Ponsati’s government employed force in pursuing this referendum. This result was exactly what the government of Ms Ponsati planned in a document called Enfocats which is available in English.

I said at the outset that Catalonia lives under the influence of a dictator whose influence is felt in the police, justice, education and television. Catalonian regional government controls seven television channels (which broadcast only in Catalan); its own regional police with 17,000 police officers; an education system where no Spanish is taught until the fifth year and then only two hours per week.

Nationalists have been in government in Catalonia since 1980. Catalan separatists are not the underdogs, unionists are.

l Alfonso Valero is a Principal Lecturer at Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4723902.1523861991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723902.1523861991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Clara Ponsati with Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and other councillors. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clara Ponsati with Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and other councillors. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4723902.1523861991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5760379772001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/world/major-rally-held-in-catalonia-to-demand-release-of-separatists-1-4724409","id":"1.4724409","articleHeadline": "Major rally held in Catalonia to demand release of separatists","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523825624000 ,"articleLead": "

Hundreds of thousands of Catalan separatists rallied in downtown Barcelona yesterday to demand the release of high-profile secessionist leaders being held in pre-trial detention.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4724408.1523825618!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 15: Catalonia Independence supporters march during a demonstration in Barcelona. Picture: David Ramos/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Protesters waved Catalan separatist flags behind a huge banner reading “for rights and liberties, for democracy and unity, we want them back home!”

The demonstration was organised by two pro-independence grassroots groups, the National Catalan Assembly and Omnium, whose presidents are among the nine separatists in prison awaiting trial for their roles in last year’s failed breakaway bid by the northeastern Spanish region.

The regional chapters of Spain’s two leading labour unions, along with other civil society groups, supported the protest despite the complaints from some members who don’t want secession for Catalonia. Barcelona police said 315,000 people participated in the protest.

“The majority of Catalans, regardless of their political position, agree that pre-
trial jail is not justified,” said regional UGT union leader Camil Ros. “What we as labour unions are asking for now is dialogue.”

The secession movement in the wealthy region has plunged Spain into its deepest institutional crisis in decades.

Separatist lawmakers defied court orders and held an ad-hoc referendum on independence in October. Their subsequent declaration of independence for the region led to a crackdown by Spanish authorities acting to defend the Spanish Constitution, which declares the nation “indivisible”.

Pro-independence parties retained a slim majority in Catalonia’s parliament after an election in December, but courts have blocked their attempts to elect as regional chief any lawmaker who is either behind bars or has fled the country.

The latest opinion poll published by the Catalan government in February said that support for independence had decreased to 40 per cent from near 49 per cent in October. The poll surveyed 1,200 people and had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

Meanwhile in Scotland, a St Andrews academic facing extradition to Spain on charges of causing widespread violence against police.

Clara Ponsati, a former minister in the devolved Catalan government, is wanted by the Madrid authorities for her role in the hugely controversial independence referendum in the north-eastern Spanish province in October 2017. Spain say the vote was illegal.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Joseph Wilson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4724408.1523825618!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4724408.1523825618!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 15: Catalonia Independence supporters march during a demonstration in Barcelona. Picture: David Ramos/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 15: Catalonia Independence supporters march during a demonstration in Barcelona. Picture: David Ramos/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4724408.1523825618!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/business/indyref2-timing-is-red-herring-says-yes-campaigner-1-4724091","id":"1.4724091","articleHeadline": "Indyref2 timing is red herring, says Yes campaigner","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523775352000 ,"articleLead": "

A leading pro-independence businessman has claimed talk of indyref2 timing is a “red herring”, as he urged Yes-supporting groups to do more to make the case for splitting the UK.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4724119.1523775346!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, the chief executive of Business for Scotland, said independence campaigners had to 'up their game'. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, the chief executive of Business for Scotland, said independence campaigners had to “up their game” to persuade more people of the case for separation.

Macintyre-Kemp said the priority for Yes campaigners should be to convince 
voters of the merits of independence rather than arguing about the date on which a second referendum should be held.

His intervention came amid splits in Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP on the timing of a second poll.

SNP depute leader candidate Christopher McEleny has said a second referendum should be held within 18 months – a position backed by Angus Brendan MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an lar.

Others have urged a more cautious approach, with the Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart coming under fire from activists for suggesting that public antipathy towards a second vote was pushing voters away from the SNP.

When asked about indyref2 timing, Macintyre-Kemp said: “We think that’s a complete red-herring. What needs to happen is that organisations who support independence like Business for Scotland need to up their game and campaign more proactively.

“We need to increase the support for independence, which is exactly what we are going to do.”

Macintyre-Kemp said Business for Scotland would be stepping up its campaign in an attempt to move polling for independence above the 50 per cent mark.

“We are going to have a major push on that over the next few months. We hope to increase support for independence into the 50s, so we can say to the SNP we’ve hit the criteria for a new referendum. You don’t think about timing, you just campaign.

“We are training activists. We are pulling together a set of policies and a road map to prosperity with the powers of independence. We will be campaigning on that, putting up posters, distributing leaflets.”

The SNP is expected shortly to publish its Growth Commission, which will act as a blueprint for the economic case for independence. Chaired by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, it will tackle issues – such as the currency to be used in an independent Scotland – which were seen as a weak point for the party during the 2014 campaign.

Last year Sturgeon “reset” her referendum plan after a backlash against her proposal to have one by spring next year. The First Minister delayed referendum legislation but still said it was likely there would be one by 2021.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “Business for Scotland needs to understand that there is absolutely no appetite for another referendum. Support for independence is dropping and most Scots just want to move on from the constitutional division of the past.

“Instead of wasting their time on this pointless exercise they should just accept the result of the 2014 vote and move on.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4724119.1523775346!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4724119.1523775346!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, the chief executive of Business for Scotland, said independence campaigners had to 'up their game'. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, the chief executive of Business for Scotland, said independence campaigners had to 'up their game'. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4724119.1523775346!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4724120.1523775348!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4724120.1523775348!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp. Picture: Robert Perry","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp. Picture: Robert Perry","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4724120.1523775348!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/indyref2-campaign-must-start-right-now-says-snp-deputy-hopeful-1-4723769","id":"1.4723769","articleHeadline": "Indyref2 campaign must start right now, says SNP deputy hopeful","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523693742000 ,"articleLead": "

SNP depute leadership contender Julie Hepburn has declared it is vital the party launches a fresh independence campaign “right now” as nominations closed in the race for the post.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723809.1523693738!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Julie Hepburn is well-known in the party"} ,"articleBody": "

Ms Hepburn yesterday said work must begin to win over No voters as it was confirmed she would be standing against Economy Secretary Keith Brown and Inverclyde Councillor Christopher McEleny.

Around 100,000 party members qualify to take part in the vote and will be sent ballot papers to rank candidates in order of preference under the single transferable vote system. The winner will be announced at the start of the party’s conference in Aberdeen on 8 June.

So far the contest has been dominated by the question of when an independence referendum should be held. Cllr McEleny has made an appeal to the hard line independence supporters by suggesting it should take place within 18 months’ time.

Mr Brown, the front-runner in the race, has urged a more pragmatic approach.

As she called for a new campaign to begin, Ms Hepburn said the party should focus on how independence could be achieved rather than when a referendum should be held.

In the National, she said independence was “tantalisingly close” in 2014, but added the next campaign should not be a “re-run” of the last one.

“Simply shouting the same arguments more loudly is not going to convince those who can be persuaded,” she said. “We need to build a renewed case for independence and start laying those campaign foundations now. We don’t need a date in the diary to start this work. It is vital that we launch a fresh campaign for independence right now if we are to have a chance of winning a second referendum. At the heart of these early stages of a renewed campaign must be engaging and listening to those who voted No in 2014. Some people will never be open to the idea of independence, but significant numbers of people who voted No last time are there to be persuaded. We undoubtedly have a mandate for an independence referendum and I trust our First Minister to make the right judgement when the time comes and have every confidence our views as SNP members will greatly inform that decision.

“But if we continually focus on the when, then I believe we risk neglecting the more fundamental question of how – how do we win.”

Last night Mr Brown said the SNP had “a job to do” to get ready for another poll.

“I felt in terms of organisation and being ready for both future elections and any referenda, I think we have got a job to do to do that,” he said. “These days fixed term parliaments don’t seem to be fixed term any more, so you don’t know when they are going to come along. And referenda can happen, of course. The main focus I have is trying to make sure we are as ready as possible for this.”

Cllr McEleny said the contest was a chance for members to tell the SNP leadership what they thought about the timing of a referendum as he argued Scotland had to become independent.

He said: “The membership of the SNP should have a leading role in helping inform the key decisions we make as a party. This election comes at an opportune moment to help inform our leader Nicola Sturgeon of the wider party’s opinion when she makes a decision in the autumn on what course of action best protects the interests of Scotland.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4723809.1523693738!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723809.1523693738!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Julie Hepburn is well-known in the party","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Julie Hepburn is well-known in the party","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4723809.1523693738!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-msp-bids-for-recall-of-constitutional-convention-ahead-of-indyref2-1-4723110","id":"1.4723110","articleHeadline": "SNP MSP bids for recall of constitutional convention ahead of indyref2","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523614465000 ,"articleLead": "

A former SNP cabinet minister wants Nicola Sturgeon to recall the Scottish Constitutional Convention in a cross-party bid to increase Holyrood’s powers ahead of another independence referendum.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723109.1523614461!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Neil MSP. Picture: TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

Alex Neil says he does not expect a second referendum before the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021, but he argues there is support across the parties for another boost to devolution.

And he says the cross-party Scottish Constitutional Convention, which drew up the blueprint for the parliament, should be reconvened to agree an expansion of powers, including taking control of future referendums.

Mr Neil said: “There is broad agreement in parliament, even among some Tories – leaving aside the argument about post-Brexit powers – on the need to go much further.

“It’s ridiculous, for instance, that we have only got control over the rates and bands of incomes tax and no control over the tax on savings and dividends.

“We could now devolve that inside the UK because it was EU rules which stopped it last time.

“I would try to get broad-based agreement and consensus between people who are pro-independence and people who are anti-independence but believe in much more devolution of power from Westminster.”

He said a key aspiration from such a process should be securing for Holyrood the power to call a referendum on any issue “without requiring specific permission from Westminster”.

He said: “That would mean any future decision on the timing of a referendum on independence, or anything else, would be entirely in the hands of the Scottish 
Parliament and not the Westminster parliament.”

The details of the 2014 independence vote were decided in the Edinburgh Agreement signed by former First Minister Alex Salmond and the then Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the referendum.

But when Ms Sturgeon announced her ambition for a second referendum last year, Theresa May insisted “Now is not the time” and refused to discuss arrangements.

Pro-independence campaigners fear any future move to hold a referendum will run into similar problems.

Ms Sturgeon has said she will decide later this year whether to push for a second independence vote, but Mr Neil does not expect her to go for another referendum yet.

“We’ve got to see how Brexit turns out. We might not know until near the end of the transition period the detail of the trade agreement with the EU, and that could affect how we define independence post-Brexit.”

But he said reconvening the constitutional convention would allow progress to continue. “Saying no to a referendum before 2021 does not mean we need to freeze Scotland’s constitutional arrangements,” he said.

The convention, launched in 1989, brought together Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, trade unions, churches, business people and others to hammer out a devolution blueprint. The SNP withdrew at an early stage and the Tories did not take part.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "IAN SWANSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4723109.1523614461!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723109.1523614461!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alex Neil MSP. Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alex Neil MSP. Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4723109.1523614461!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/joyce-mcmillan-scotland-is-now-horribly-divided-1-4723172","id":"1.4723172","articleHeadline": "Joyce McMillan: Scotland is now horribly divided","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523600522000 ,"articleLead": "

A new promotional campaign can only offer a future Scotland shaped by outside forces, writes Joyce McMillan

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723171.1523600517!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said the campaign would bring together all the messages that promote Scotland"} ,"articleBody": "

To paraphrase Scotland’s former Makar Liz Lochhead, who once said the same thing about mothers, nobody’s government can’t never do nothing right – at least, not after 11 years in power.

This week, the Scottish Government launched a new advertising and branding campaign designed to promote Scotland not only to tourists, but also to potential incomers who might want to move here, and to companies considering inward investment.

It is called Scotland Is Now, and its primary targets are London, China, and the United States. Its main video advertisement is swish and good-looking, a handsome mix of traditional and contemporary images of Scotland; and its purpose is crystal clear to anyone who has studied the data on Scotland’s image beyond its borders. For if Scotland has a strong “brand image”, it remains one stubbornly associated with the past – with films and TV series like Braveheart and Outlander; with castles and islands, and with a general image of a wild and undeveloped land, far from modernity, whose more ambitious and forward-looking citizens would be well advised to leave, and make their lives in London, Los Angeles, or Shanghai.

And while Scotland has all that, and many tourists enjoy it, it is hardly the image that is likely to attract high-tech inward investors, or to encourage the movement of young people into the country that Scotland urgently needs.

READ MORE: New £6m campaign launched to sell Scotland to the world

From its title on down, the Scotland Is Now campaign is therefore designed to address that misperception of the place as a picturesque backwater; and to link the idea of Scotland not only with education, aspiration, and cutting-edge technology, but also with a future in which only countries that boldly face up to the “inconvenient truth” of climate change can hope to thrive. It is, in other words, well pitched towards companies and individuals looking for a place to build a future; and although it offers a glossy marketeers’ vision of Scotland now, it contains enough truth about the country’s potential to be persuasive and effective.

Yet for all that, some commentators have been playing the daft laddie, professing to find its slogan empty of meaning; and they do so because the campaign is associated with the Scottish Government, which, 11 years on, lives under permanent suspicion of caring for nothing but the cause of Scottish independence.

The lukewarm reception for Scotland Is Now here at home reminds us, in other words, of the profound truth that if Scotland is “Now”, then one aspect of today’s politics it reflects with heartbreaking accuracy is the tendency towards profound and completely disabling political division, often on matters of culture and identity. The 55 per cent (or so) who oppose Scottish independence would apparently rather put up with any degree of Brexit-related incompetence and disrespect from the UK government than undergo the horror of a second independence referendum; the 40-45 per cent who support independence have not gone away, but are waiting for the time when any second referendum will not end in failure.

And even within the SNP, the pressures created by this profound stalemate are causing strains and fissures; not only on whether the party should seek to exercise its mandate for a second referendum before it runs out in 2021, but also on what kind of “Scotland Now” it will be proposing, in an effort to reunite the Scottish people. The SNP’s so-called Growth Commission, chaired by political lobbyist and former MSP Andrew Wilson, has not yet produced its final report, but this week, signals appeared that after inspiring many of its troops in 2014 with the idea of a Scotland that would aim for a Nordic model of prosperity, sustainability and social justice, the SNP might now be about consider instead the free-market, heavily deregulated New Zealand model of how to run a successful economy of four or five million people, in today’s global environment.

Now, in a less divided nation, the advent of this idea could generate some vital, even cutting-edge civic discussion. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is clearly a social democrat through and through; and given the rankings which continue to show Nordic-style social democracy as by far the most successful system on the planet, in terms of prosperity and human development, my guess is that she, and a majority of SNP supporters, will take a lot of persuading that that super-successful model is no longer right for our times, and cannot be rebooted to make it so.

Scotland’s politicians and their supporters could therefore now be shaping up for an exciting and internationally significant debate on the kind of future we actually want, in Scotland now. Except for this: that more than half of Scotland’s voters seem increasingly irritated by the idea of Scotland having any autonomous strategy, since it might just be a ramp for another push to independence; and ever more doggedly determined that we should simply accept the majority decisions of the United Kingdom as a whole, whether they suit Scotland or not.

In happier times, when national boundaries were becoming less important, when supranational co-operation was in fashion, when the EU was strong and growing, and when differences of identity could be nuanced and lived with in deals like the Good Friday Agreement – that difference of opinion about Scotland’s ultimate destination mattered less; among the 75 per cent who supported devolution in 1997, thrilling debates were possible about the kind of Scotland we hoped home rule would help to promote.

Today, though – now the huge centrifugal forces of Brexit have been unleashed – to talk much of Scotland’s distinctive future is to rile resurgent British nationalism, and, in some areas, to invite serious conflict with the Westminster government. Today, we face a far starker choice than in 2014 between national rejection of Westminster rule, and national quiescence in it, whatever it brings. So far, to the dismay of Sturgeon and her party, we have chosen quiescence; we are too divided to do otherwise. And that suggests that whatever we say about Scotland Is Now, the future we can offer to those targeted in the campaign – the potential visitors and investors, the possible future students and workers – will not be of our own making; but will be shaped by politicians elsewhere, with vastly different priorities in mind.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "JOYCE McMILLAN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4723171.1523600517!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4723171.1523600517!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said the campaign would bring together all the messages that promote Scotland","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said the campaign would bring together all the messages that promote Scotland","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4723171.1523600517!/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":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/clara-ponsati-vows-to-fight-against-extradition-1-4722765","id":"1.4722765","articleHeadline": "Clara Ponsati vows to fight against extradition","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523535614000 ,"articleLead": "

The former Catalan minister battling against extradition to Spain vowed to fight against the charge of violent rebellion raised against her by Madrid when she appeared at court in Edinburgh.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4714415.1523535610!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati"} ,"articleBody": "

Two weeks in the summer were set aside for a formal extradition hearing for Professor Clara Ponsati’s at a preliminary hearing of her case at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

In a statement outside the court, Professor Ponsati’s lawyer Aamar Anwar claimed the Spanish were guilty of “an abuse of process” and that she has been the victim of a politically motivated prosecution.

Mr Anwar said Professor Ponsati “utterly refutes” the charges saying she faced up to 33 years in prison if extradited, despite having never committed a criminal act in her life.

The hearing was held after Prof Ponsati voluntarily handed herself in to Scottish police last month. After an initial court appearance then she was released on bail.

The academic returned to Scotland earlier in March and resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife.

The charges against her are contained in an extradition warrant from the Spanish Supreme Court issued last month.

READ MORE: Clara Ponsati faces charges of ‘violence against police’

The case has attracted a huge amount of public support with more than £230,000 raised through an online crowdfunder set up to help her fight the extradition.

As a former member of the Catalan government, she she faces charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds relating to the independence referendum declared illegal by Madrid.

Mr Anwar said the European Arrest Warrant had been issued to prosecute the academic for her political opinions.

He said the crime of violent rebellion did not exist in the law of Scotland.

If extradited, he said his client would be prejudiced at trial or punished or detained or restricted in her personal liberty because of her political opinions.

He added that extradition was “oppressive” and incompatible with human rights.

“Finally we will submit Spain has systematically abused the process of extradition treaty to set out allegations which they know cannot amount to crimes in their courts,” Mr Anwar said.

“In conclusion we believe that this warrant is a politically motivated prosecution of Clara.

“She is accused of orchestrating violence, yet the warrant fails in over 19 pages to ever specify a single act of violence or incitement attributable to her.

Unsurprisingly there is no mention of the actions of several thousand Spanish police and 6000 State Security Forces who are accused of carrying out brutal unprovoked attacks on peaceful Catalans at over 2000 polling stations.

“In a civilised democracy Police Officers are the guardians of law and order, yet the Spanish police’s brutality on October 1st has been compared to the dark days of Francoism.

“To date not one single Spanish police officer has been arrested or prosecuted for their violent actions against a defenceless population and we submit the warrant is a grotesque distortion of the truth.”

He added: “Clara denies that public funds were used to finance the referendum and the warrant has failed to provide a scrap of evidence to back up the allegation.”

A two week hearing will being on July 30th.

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "TOM PETERKIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4714415.1523535610!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4714415.1523535610!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4714415.1523535610!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5759663020001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/clara-ponsati-faces-charges-of-violence-against-police-1-4722490","id":"1.4722490","articleHeadline": "Clara Ponsati faces charges of ‘violence against police’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523480360000 ,"articleLead": "

A St Andrews academic facing extradition from Scotland to Spain faces charges of causing widespread violence against police, it has been reported.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clara Ponsati surrounded by supporters and lawyer Aamer Amwar after handing herself in at an Edinburgh police station last month. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Clara Ponsati, a former minister in the devolved Catalan government, is wanted by the Madrid authorities for her role in the hugely controversial independence referendum in the north-eastern Spanish province in October 2017.

She is fighting charges of “violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds”, both of which she denies.

The academic was released on bail in Edinburgh last month hours after handing herself in to a police station after being made the subject of a European arrest warrant.

BBC Scotland has since obtained a copy of the warrant for Ponsati, a former head of economics at St Andrews University.

The document includes reports of violent confrontations at polling stations across Catalonia during the referendum.

It also claims the more serious crime of rebellion applies to Ponsati, as those “who revolt violently and publicly” were doing so for the purpose of “declaring the independence of a part of the national territory.”

READ MORE: Clara Ponsati faces ‘threat to her life’ in Spain

The BBC report added the warrant lays out injuries it says were suffered by officers of the Spanish security forces as they tried to prevent October’s referendum from taking place.

Professor Ponsati is due back in court for an extradition hearing on Thursday.

Her lawyer, Aamer Anwar, told the BBC: “There is also no mention of the actions of several thousand Spanish police and 6,000 State Security Forces accused of carrying out brutal attacks on an unarmed civilian population at over 2259 polling booths.

“In a civilised democracy Police Officers are the guardians of law and order, who take an oath to protect the public they serve. Sadly the Spanish state security force’s behaviour on October 1st and since, has been described as a return to the dark days of Francoism and what we one would expect in dictatorship rather than a modern European Democracy.

“To date not one single Spanish police officer has been arrested or prosecuted for their violent actions against a defenceless population and we will submit the warrant is a grotesque distortion of the truth.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Clara Ponsati surrounded by supporters and lawyer Aamer Amwar after handing herself in at an Edinburgh police station last month. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clara Ponsati surrounded by supporters and lawyer Aamer Amwar after handing herself in at an Edinburgh police station last month. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5760379772001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/bill-jamieson-will-scottish-devolution-ever-be-settled-1-4722422","id":"1.4722422","articleHeadline": "Bill Jamieson: Will Scottish devolution ever be ‘settled’?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523476060000 ,"articleLead": "

Devolution has become like a never-ending Grand Designs-style building project, writes Bill Jamieson

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4722421.1523476056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland seems to be continually working on its constitution (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)"} ,"articleBody": "

In many neighbourhoods today there is always a house that seems to be in a state of constant reconstruction – a site overrun by builders, cement mixers, yelping hammers, grinding saws – and a skip overflowing with rubble and waste.

Welcome to Scotland, the house of ceaseless constitutional rebuild. Barely has a new feature appeared before it is freshly attacked by add-ons, modifications and rebuild. And lest you feel you could do with a rest after some 20 years of this, high-minded policy wonks at the Institute of Government have opined this week that the devolution settlement (sic) now needs to be radically overhauled because of Brexit. The document runs to 48 pages. I will spare you the details. Just when you thought we had exhausted all possible constitutional permutations, it concludes that the devolution arrangements of the past 20 years are “no longer fit for purpose” because of the extraordinary strains created by the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The Institute, comprising some of the finest minds from across the UK Government, business experts and social policy analysts, says the four nations of the UK must urgently “go back to the drawing board” and redefine their relationships to prepare for life outside the EU.

The think tank identified eight key challenges to create a stable system for the future, including new UK-wide frameworks, new regulators, and a mechanism to resolve disputes.

Thus is the door swung open for a new round of argument and disputation over what is euphemistically described as the devolution “settlement”. The SNP administration, which has lost no opportunity to denounce Brexit and all its works, now finds in our disentanglement from the EU all manner of powers it thought belonged to London really reside in Brussels. What an opportunity beckons for a recalibration – better still, a second independence referendum!

Constitutional wrangles? What, again? Yet more upending and upheaval and meddle. The cement mixer is back on the lawn, the builders at sixes and sevens, the architects rowing with the planners, the site inspectors having a go at the roofers, and in the mayhem everyone gets to be project manager.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch: Brute force can have consequences for devolution

Nothing seems to last more than 10 minutes. Do we have the stomach for it? It’s often said that in Scotland devolution is a process, a progression. What euphemism. It’s come to be an obsession, a national neurosis. There’s no end of noise and hammering and banging. It’s constant. I’m reminded of that quip of Noel Coward’s – that everywhere he went he seemed to be followed by a man with a pneumatic drill.

For here is the constitutional equivalent of the Channel Four TV programme Grand Designs. The owners are intent on knocking down a perfectly adequate house for the residential equivalent of an airport departure lounge.

Here in a bulging glass barn, the giant framework imported from ever on-trend Scandinavia, the hyperactive children of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe meddle away in vast rooms of glass and steel, staircases with no visible means of support, a suspended cinema screen for a television and bookshelves without a book in sight.

In the kitchen is a daunting expanse of brushed steel, a cooker with more knobs and dials than a jumbo cockpit, and perched on top of the workplace a rustic bowl hewn by Mongolian peasants, holding a Guatemalan pomegranate and two carefully spaced bananas. For the kitchen is not for cooking. It’s for showing, or for the way it looks, or for the approval of that preening slave to modernism, Kevin McLeod. Or just for having.

The owners press on with their constant innovation for the perfect house – a balcony here, a conservatory there. The cost overruns – coyly confessed, borne with smiling embarrassment – are massive. But the owners will never sell, or say they won’t. But many do. Perhaps the crippling cost of constant change and innovation has proved too much. Or perhaps they discover they do not wish to live in an airport hangar after all. Or maybe they yearn for something simpler, less grandiose, more comfortable, for an environment that doesn’t constantly strive for aching perfection: a home, not a contemporary statement. But they are the lucky ones. With some projects, there is no end. For there are people who love nothing more than a permanent project, that the upheaval itself has become the steady state, the constant refreshments and reconstructions to die for, the spare bedrooms a forever work-in-progress filled with plasterwork and rubble and the exterior scaffolding a laundry-pole cladding for eternity. Tracey Emin would love it. And on the front lawn, a mechanical digger has permanently sunk, surrounded by a moat of mud and enlivened by a sputtering fountain of muck.

This is what our obsession with constitutional politics has come to resemble. Politics is now defined by this constant re-arrangement of the structure of government. And it almost invariably involves extension, addition, enlargement – and expense.

READ MORE: Mike Russell warns of constitutional crisis over Brexit

Basement cinema and media rooms become a must-have. And a Juliet balcony for the bedroom is not enough: better, surely, a first-floor balcony walkway that would exhaust a strutting Mussolini.

Down the lane from my in-law’s house, planning permission is being sought – the fourth near-identical application in two years – to convert a modest bungalow into a ‘Gone with the Wind’ Savannah mansion with obligatory brushed steel spiral staircase and in the basement, in defiance of flood prevention officers, a fully kitted gymnasium: this for a retired couple where the husband is over 90.

Now there is nothing wrong – and much to applaud – in government adaptation and refinement. Circumstances change, as do the wishes and priorities of voters. And there is much in the Institute of Government paper to commend. But what if a stipulation was added that the cost of constitutional change should be met by savings elsewhere and that there should be no additional run-on costs for the taxpayer? How the churning cement mixers and singing hammers would fall silent!

Constitutional politics is also blind to the key concern in Scotland now: poor economic performance. Our growth is anaemic, and our industrial heartland in a state of geriatric decline.

A warning, then, for the constant constitutional fiddlers: just completed the polished granite steps to the entrance and imposing neo-Georgian pillars for the front door? It may now have to be knocked down – for the mandatory disabled ramp and supporting rail.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Bill Jamieson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4722421.1523476056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4722421.1523476056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scotland seems to be continually working on its constitution (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland seems to be continually working on its constitution (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4722421.1523476056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1496158247544"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/how-will-split-over-indyref2-affect-the-yes-movement-1-4722312","id":"1.4722312","articleHeadline": "How will ‘split’ over Indyref2 affect the Yes movement?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523461621000 ,"articleLead": "

When a movement as cosmetically united as one led by the SNP has a ‘split’, it is so rare that it can easily be blown out of proportion.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4713856.1523461614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Wishart SNP MP"} ,"articleBody": "

Nicola Sturgeon’s party has such a reputation for internal discipline that any sign of strife is prone to spark claims of a full-blown crisis.

However, it is important not to understate the impact of recent rows among some of the independence movement’s most senior figures on the timing of any potential second referendum.

Pete Wishart, one of the party’s most senior MPs, has detailed the extraordinary levels of abuse he received from his own side for his suggestion that cooler heads should prevail when considering the timescale of that referendum.

The Row

The essence of the row arguably has its roots in the history of the Scottish National Party’s approach to devolution.

For decades, the party was split between ‘Gradualists’ who wanted to embrace devolution as a stepping stone to independence, and the ‘Fundamentalists’ who rejected devolution as a distraction and demanded independence or nothing.

READ MORE: SNP MP details abuse from independence supporters

Clearly, the Gradualists won the day, but ironically it is Jim Sillars, a man who has described himself as an ‘unreconstituted Fundamentalist’ who has been one of the most prominent voices for a delay in the timetable for the next referendum.

Mr Sillars, a former depute leader of the party, who has been a critic of the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, says that another referendum shouldn’t be called until support for a seperate Scotland is consistently around 60 per cent.

With polls showing Yes struggling to make up ground on the 45 per cent achieved in 2014, Mr Sillars’ plan could see another vote kicked deep into the long grass.

The Impact

Already, the impact of the row is being felt in the party, with the timing of the referendum looking likely to dominate the race to fill the same role occupied by Mr Sillars.

The outsider for the SNP Depute Leader contest, Inverclyde Councillor Chris McEleny, has gone on the record supporting an independence referendum within the next 18 months.

READ MORE: No second referendum until Yes at 60 per cent, says Sillars

While still considered unlikely to improve markedly on the 3.4 per cent that he secured in the 2016 Deputy Leadership race, Mr McEleny’s flagship policy has lit a fire under what could have been a dull campaign and exposed differences within the SNP.

Mr McEleny’s stance has been backed by Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, who has taken a different position on the issue than that of his long-time colleague Pete Wishart.

While the party won’t be paralysed by arguments in an internal election, the SNP has been marked for well over decade by internal discipline, and if the row becomes bitter, the party could once again find itself accused of ignoring ‘the day job’ to focus on independence.

Problems for the leader?

That would present a problem for the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is still facing off accusations from rival parties that she places independence over all other policy matters.

It is arguably, however, a problem that the SNP leader could have avoided, had she not been so deliberately vague on what her ‘reset’ meant on the indyref2 question in the wake of the party suffering significant losses in the snap general election of 2017.

As Brexit continues to loom large over Scottish politics, Ms Sturgeon’s current position is that it is still more than likely that another referendum will take place before the next Holyrood elections are due to take place in 2021.

Theresa May has already tried to head that plan off at the pass by denying the Scottish Parliament the powers to hold another vote, a legal position that could yet be tested in Holyrood, or even in the courts.

By ending speculation on whether a second referendum is a short, medium, or long-term goal for her government, Ms Sturgeon could have ended a rare internal row in the party before it even begun.

By being uncharacteristically equivocal, The First Minister may have created a problem that could take considerable time and effort to solve.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4713856.1523461614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4713856.1523461614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Peter Wishart SNP MP","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Wishart SNP MP","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4713856.1523461614!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/snp-depute-candidate-backs-calls-for-indyref2-within-18-months-1-4722093","id":"1.4722093","articleHeadline": "SNP depute candidate backs calls for indyref2 ‘within 18 months’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523448772000 ,"articleLead": "

A candidate for the SNP Deputy Leadership has called for a second independence referendum to be staged in the next 18 months as the party split intensifies.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4722091.1523448766!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Chris McEleny (L) has backed a call from Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil (R) for a quickfire re-run of indyref2."} ,"articleBody": "

Chris McEleny, the SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council, has backed a call from Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil for a quickfire re-run of the 2014 vote on leaving the UK.

Mr McEleny is contesting the deputy leadership along with Economy Secretary Keith Brown and party worker Julie Hepburn.

The councillor told the Herald newspaper that the by Autumn, the terms of Brexit will be clear and he is not “holding his breath” for a good deal.

He added: “I believe that Scotland cannot afford to wait any longer to see if things can get better, we’ve been getting sold that message for decades.

READ MORE: MP calls for indyref2 to be staged in 18 months

“Simply put, decisions made in Scotland by the people of Scotland are better decisions for Scotland. That is why we should be independent and that is why I believe we should have a referendum on our independence within the next 18 months.”

His intervention means that the prospect of a second independence referendum is likely to dominate the deputy leadership contest which will be announced at the party conference in June.

Mr MacNeil said yesterday he backed the 66 per cent of participants who took part in Twitter survey he conducted calling for a referendum within 18 months. A further 22 per cent of the 5,000 participants wanted a vote after 18 months but before the next Holyrood elections in 2021, while 12 per cent want to delay staging it until after 2021.

The party’s longerst serving MP, Pete Wishart complained of online abuse this week after warning against a quickfire referendum and backing a more “pragmatic” approach. He said losing a second vote because Scots were not ready for independence would be a “national tragedy”.

Former SNP depute leader Jim Sillars has said support for independence should be at 60 per cent in the polls for more than six months before a second referendum is held.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4722091.1523448766!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4722091.1523448766!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Chris McEleny (L) has backed a call from Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil (R) for a quickfire re-run of indyref2.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Chris McEleny (L) has backed a call from Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil (R) for a quickfire re-run of indyref2.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4722091.1523448766!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/mp-calls-for-indyref2-to-be-staged-in-18-months-1-4721886","id":"1.4721886","articleHeadline": "MP calls for indyref2 to be staged in 18 months","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523429321000 ,"articleLead": "

A senior Nationalist MP has said he backs a second referendum on independence being staged inside the next 18 months.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721883.1523440568!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Calls for indyref2 to be staged in 18 months. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Angus MacNeil who represents the Western Isles spoke out after a social media poll he ran on Twitter found 66 per cent of those who took part backed referendum in the next 18 months, and a further 22 per cent before the next Holyrood elections in 2021.

READ MORE: SNP MP Pete Wishart rails against online abuse from indy supporters

“I voted with the 66 per cent but notable that 88 per cent wish to see #indyref2 happen in this Scot Parl ie by 2021,” he said.

It comes after The Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart complained of online abuse he has endured after calling for a more pragmatic approach to the timing of a second vote. A majority of MSPs have already voted in favour of a second referendum in this Parliament.

Wishart issued a call for respect among independence supporters after being branded an “Etonian boot licker” and having his lifestyle “questioned” over his proposed rethink on the timing of another vote on leaving the UK.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4721883.1523440568!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721883.1523440568!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Calls for indyref2 to be staged in 18 months. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Calls for indyref2 to be staged in 18 months. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4721883.1523440568!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4721884.1523440578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721884.1523440578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Senior Nationalist MP Angus MacNeil has backed calls for a second referendum.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Senior Nationalist MP Angus MacNeil has backed calls for a second referendum.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4721884.1523440578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/ayesha-hazarika-why-a-new-centrist-party-will-never-succeed-in-uk-1-4721640","id":"1.4721640","articleHeadline": "Ayesha Hazarika: Why a new centrist party will never succeed in UK","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523422800000 ,"articleLead": "

It’s a story which has had more comebacks than Kylie Minogue. It’s the old new centrist party ruse.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721639.1523369093!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The SDP's founding 'Gang of Four', Bill Rodgers, Dr David Owen, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, in Perth (Picture: PA)"} ,"articleBody": "

I was actually at a centrist party on Saturday night with some of my nearest and dearest Blairite loving/Red Tory scum/slugs/melts/insert own insult when the overnight headline dropped about the prospect of a new party with a massive £50 million behind it. Centrist dads, mums, uncles and aunties gathered round. There was a dramatic pause as we read our phones and Things Can Only Get Better started playing ominously.

But the crowd was split. Half were cheering, and the other half looked crestfallen. The Labour Party is so divided that even in a room of one now-minority faction, we can’t agree on anything. I should say that all the other the non-political folk quite rightly ignored us geeks, freaks and losers and enjoyed the free bar.

For what it’s worth, as someone who loves the party but despairs of what it’s become – especially with the anti-semitism problem – I do not think it’s the answer.

The first hurdle is obvious. Our first-past-the-post voting system would not favour a new party. This is not France. Our system works for the more established parties and it’s recently narrowed down to Labour and Conservative in UK terms, although Scotland famously bucked that trend in 2015 with the SNP landslide which wiped out everyone else. Those seismic electoral episodes happen rarely and at that election Labour in particular paid a heavy price for the Scottish independence result although there are signs of life in both Labour and the Conservatives north of the Border even if the SNP is still dominant.

It takes time for a new party to build a brand and get heard. Despite the hours spent slaving over what we columnists think are blistering hot takes and deeply insightful opinion pieces, the truth is most people think about politics very little in their busy and stressful lives. Jim Messina, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, famously said voters only spend four minutes a week thinking about politics. It’s hard for a new party to get through in that sliver of time. It’s true that more people get more politics through their social media feeds these days, but older, more reliable voters tend to still get the bulk of their political news through traditional forms of political communication, especially television news, and it’s hard to see how a new party would break through to the public and by that I don’t mean the London-centric media bubble, which I am of course proud to be part of (I’m pre-empting my own trolling these days to save us all time).

READ MORE: Joyce McMillan: Sullen Scots are retreating from politics

Two new parties have been set up recently. The Women’s Equality Party and the very recently created Renew Britain, a pro-European party. Heard much about them? Probably not unless you are a feminist and very anti-Brexit. The Women’s Equality Party has, to be fair, done pretty well on media coverage but has not converted this into electoral success.

Again, this is due to our first-past-the-post system and even though you may hate that, them’s the rules.

Who would this new party have as its candidates? For it to have any success, it would have to attract some high-profile MPs away from Labour and the other parties – like the SDP did back in the 1980s. I don’t see this happening – despite all the turmoil in both Labour and the Conservatives right now.

People fail to understand the level of tribal and emotional connection that MPs have for their party. They don’t just rock up and say they want to be an MP. They often have deep personal, family and community connections to the values and history of a party. Those roots go deep. That moment when they hear their name announced at the count at some ungodly hour and they hear the roar of their supporters never leaves most of them as one the proudest of their lives. There is a powerful sense of standing on the shoulders of others who have gone before you – of being part of a meaningful political tradition – whether it’s on the right or the left, but it’s particularly deep with Labour. It’s hard to walk away from that. Especially, to join a new party with no history, no proper leader and no real story other than everyone was really pissed off right now.

READ MORE: Scotland’s forgotten political parties – movements that have disappeared

And that’s how many voters feel, too. Commentators like myself can get very involved in the nuances of ideology, who’s up and who’s down and obsessed about mini Twitter storms and spats between factions within a party. But voters often just see the bigger picture and even though they may not like, love or have much time for our current political leaders, they still have an allegiance to a brand. I found this recently when I was campaigning in Nottinghamshire. Many didn’t have a good word to say about May or Corbyn but they were still sticking with their party.

Many commentators also say that people feel politically homeless – I certainly know that is true in my world – but a lot of people also feel really politically invigorated right now and love the fact that there is political definition in way that there hasn’t been in years, whether it’s on big issues like Scottish independence, Brexit, austerity or foreign policy.

People also forget that there is a third, centrist, anti-Brexit, pro-European party. They are called the Liberal Democrats and their vote fell at the last general election after the 2015 collapse. We are living in divisive times and people do quite like their political parties to stand for something clear – even though things are polarised. I have real dismay for how divided our country and political discourse is right now, but it hasn’t happened by accident and it’s not going away for a while sadly.

Any new party would also tend to split the left and would benefit the Tories. And as someone who wants to see a Labour government and who wants to get rid of the Tories, that prospect has no appeal and is supremely self-defeating – but let’s get real, that’s the true purpose behind this new idea. Its main aim is to stop a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn at any cost. The guys – and I gather it’s a bunch of very wealthy chaps in London – behind this need to come clean. That would be their only political mission and they should be loud and proud about it instead of making up some cringey, meaningless set of platitudinous fake values which no-one will believe. If they want to fight Corbyn at his own game, they should take a leaf out of his book and opt for some straight-talking, honest politics.

However, just because I don’t want to join another party, that doesn’t mean I don’t want mine to get its house in order – but that’s a whole different column.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Ayesha Hazarika"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4721639.1523369093!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721639.1523369093!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The SDP's founding 'Gang of Four', Bill Rodgers, Dr David Owen, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, in Perth (Picture: PA)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The SDP's founding 'Gang of Four', Bill Rodgers, Dr David Owen, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, in Perth (Picture: PA)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4721639.1523369093!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/scott-macnab-will-this-column-one-day-be-banned-1-4721805","id":"1.4721805","articleHeadline": "Scott Macnab: Will this column one day be banned?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523422800000 ,"articleLead": "

‘No platforming’ and other attacks on free speech in the UK echo the global rise of authoritarianism, writes Scott Macnab.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721804.1523384261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "In a liberal democracy, everyone has a right to get up on their soapbox and let rip, just like Labour firebrand Paddy Fagan, seen here speaking at The Mound, where he was a regular (although he did get arrested for insulting the Royal family and denouncing American GIs for having affairs with married Scottish women during the Second World War)"} ,"articleBody": "

When the former Chancellor Ken Clarke appeared at Holyrood’s festival of politics last year he bemoaned the failure of his generation. The centre-right “moderate” style of politics which the current father of the House of Commons espoused was being increasingly marginalised by a more extremist approach.

The UK’s Brexit vote, emerging hardline regimes across Europe and, of course, Donald Trump in the US were phenomena he struggled to comprehend. And this kind of approach, he feared, seemed to have filtered through to all levels of our political discourse.

Just last week students at Edinburgh University spoke out about the “climate of censorship” they faced on campus. The rise of “no platforming” and “safe space” initiatives, widely seen as banning those with views deemed unpalatable, even led two students to found a free speech website, the Broad, which has been enjoying huge success in the months since it emerged.

Co-founder Joe Kleeman, 19, voiced dismay over the sense that students had nowhere to “express their opinions” at Scotland’s top-rated global institution. Along with fellow founder Oliver Kraftman, they take the view that ideas are “strengthened” if they can withstand challenge and scrutiny. While once this was mainstream thinking, it now seems like a subversive idea.

READ MORE: Censorship on campus drives creation of new free speech website

Classic libertarian thinkers like John Stuart Mill have reasoned against restrictions on individual human behaviour and expression to save people from themselves – so-called “paternalistic” interventions. Instead only when such behaviour – like speeches and talks at universities – may directly incite violence or cause harm to others should they be stopped.

In one of the more high-profile “no platforming” cases of recent years, the one-time feminist icon Germaine Greer found herself frozen out by students at Cardiff University over sceptical comments about the legitimacy of transgender women. An unpalatable view for transgender campaigners and many others, of course. But isn’t the most effective counter to such opinons to argue the case and win the battle of ideas? The right to free speech, it seems, is increasingly being trumped by another’s right not to be offended by such speech. It even includes the right to define what offence means. The situation became borderline farcical when the veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell found himself “no platformed” when he spoke out against Greer’s ban. The man who faced down Putin’s boot boys as he campaigned for gay rights in Russia was suddenly deemed to be lending legitimacy to a “transphobic” standpoint. It prompted Jo Johnson, the minister responsible for universities south of the Border, to step in and warn that institutions could be fined or even suspended if they failed to protect freedom of speech on campuses.

READ MORE: Famine Song is racist, not free speech, judges rule

Some may suggest tolerance and open debate have never been a feature of student politics. But this is the breeding ground for our political, civic and judicial leaders of tomorrow. A greater fear may be that this is symptomatic of the wider extremism and intolerance affecting our politics in Scotland. The independence referendum campaign in the years building up to the 2014 vote is fondly depicted by many as a great democratic re-awakening in Scotland which engaged a new generation with politics. In many ways it was. The turnout for referendum was a record high and public meetings up and down the country were packed out as people rallied to the cause. But it was also marked by a nasty, divisive element which left Scotland bitterly split over the constitution and remains to this day. Both sides engaged, and still do, in vitriolic attacks on social media, one prominent pro-union leader was forced to abandon a speaking tour of the country’s high streets after escalating levels of intimidation, while the BBC found itself facing angry protests amid ridiculous claims of bias in its news reporting. And, of course, the leader of such “bias” accusations was Alex Salmond, last seen working for the Russian state propaganda machine Russia Today (RT). Oh the irony!

The rise of social media over the past decade and the dominant role it holds in political discourse has certainly heightened tensions. Rallies, demos and petitions demanding bans can be whipped up in an instant. Emotional responses replace considered rationale as the driving factor in exchanges. It’s a volatile environment. But is this all just an escalated form of the general knockabout which has always been a part of the cut-and-thrust of politics or something more?

Clarke’s dismay at the disappearance of the centre ground in politics was informed by the victory of the Brexiteers in his own party, the return of the hard left under Jeremy Corbyn in Labour and the rise of nationalism in Scotland. But it was also a nod to the victory of Trump in the US and the emergence of more extremist regimes in Europe with near-authoritarian governments in Turkey and Hungary signalling a growing willingness to turn away from the traditional western model of liberal democracy. Just a couple of decades ago, with communism collapsing in the east, experts were talking about the “end of history” with liberal democracy marking the final chapter in the evolution of human government. Russia was embarking on a democratic experiment under Boris Yeltsin, while it seemed market reforms in China would inevitably see it open up.

But today hardline regimes enjoy a stronger grip than ever in both, with other successful Asian tiger economies like Singapore and Indonesia adopting their own model of democracy where prosperity and security outweigh other considerations like individual freedom and human rights.

Perhaps the “no platforming” architects and online mobs should consider this next time they seek to restrict freedom of expression.

It’s a privilege – and one that’s not universally enjoyed.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4721804.1523384261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721804.1523384261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "In a liberal democracy, everyone has a right to get up on their soapbox and let rip, just like Labour firebrand Paddy Fagan, seen here speaking at The Mound, where he was a regular (although he did get arrested for insulting the Royal family and denouncing American GIs for having affairs with married Scottish women during the Second World War)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "In a liberal democracy, everyone has a right to get up on their soapbox and let rip, just like Labour firebrand Paddy Fagan, seen here speaking at The Mound, where he was a regular (although he did get arrested for insulting the Royal family and denouncing American GIs for having affairs with married Scottish women during the Second World War)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4721804.1523384261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/jim-sillars-impatience-on-indyref2-could-lead-to-another-defeat-1-4721287","id":"1.4721287","articleHeadline": "Jim Sillars: Impatience on Indyref2 could lead to another defeat","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523354530000 ,"articleLead": "

There were reports over the weekend of Yes being potentially split over what kind of Scotland will be promoted when the next independence referendum is held (a socialist or New Zealand market model); and Pete Wishart MP being abused on social media for daring to suggest it might be sensible to wait a while before demanding another go.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Wishart, an SNP MP, found himself on the receiving end of an angry mob on social media"} ,"articleBody": "

These are frustrating times for Yes people, and turning in on themselves is a natural political phenomenon that requires some sensible thinking and handling before it becomes damaging.

Those of us who have been a long, long time in the independence movement have seen this kind of frustration boil over several times as people fall out, not about the objective, but how to get there.

READ MORE: Pete Wishart rails against online abuse

But all those times were when things were bad, with the idea of independence widely derided.

Pete Wishart was in the SNP during those times, when it was difficult to keep the faith.

For anyone to believe this man would sell the jerseys now does their mental condition a disfavour, not his.

To stop a split developing and verbal bile via social media becoming the language of discourse, there is a need for some rational thinking with consideration of where Scotland stands at present, assessment of issues that will determine the new policy positions we shall need, and an honest admission of what the present Yes movement is and is not, and why that is a dangerous weakness.

The Brexit question

The Scotland that was in 2014, inside the EU, is not the Scotland that is going to be with Brexit; and that will not be clear until the Brexit treaty is signed, and studied in detail. Until that is done, we shall not have any definitive policy on a future Scotland on which to fight an independence referendum.

READ MORE: Will Indyref2 be called later this year?

That political, constitutional and legal equation has to be tackled first before we have any idea of when, and how, to fight another referendum and win.

And win: we cannot afford another glorious defeat brought on by impatience.

Then there is Yes itself. We have a movement, but not a coherent Yes organisation. That should be the priority right now.

If we are to build a majority, once we know what policies to deploy when the terms of Brexit are finally known, we need to be strong on the ground, capable of launching and sustaining an educational campaign to take us up to 60 per cent in the polls, and stay there over at least six months, so that our support is rock solid and our demand for a referendum unstoppable.

This analysis, which I suspect is shared by Pete Wishart, is not a sell out. It is the reality. The 2014 campaign gave us a foundation of 45 per cent upon which to build, but to raise that to a level of victory demands a high level of maturity, wisdom, and organisation so far missing.

Jim Sillars is a former Depute Leader of the SNP

A version of this article appeared on our sister site The i

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Jim Sillars"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Peter Wishart, an SNP MP, found himself on the receiving end of an angry mob on social media","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Wishart, an SNP MP, found himself on the receiving end of an angry mob on social media","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/darren-mcgarvey-snp-mp-who-once-inspired-the-mob-calls-for-tolerance-1-4721189","id":"1.4721189","articleHeadline": "Darren McGarvey: SNP MP who once inspired the mob calls for tolerance","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523347615000 ,"articleLead": "

Last year, I voted Labour at the general election. A decade ago that would not have been such a frightening thing to admit. Having voted SNP until 2015, initially drawn to their mid-2000s commitment to reform the unfair and discredited council tax, my enthusiasm for a nation draped almost exclusively in blinding yellow was beginning to dip.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Wishart, an SNP MP, found himself on the receiving end of an angry mob on social media"} ,"articleBody": "

All the things I was told we would talk about “after the referendum” were once again being thrown on ice as the Yes movement appeared to be charging forward with almost no inclination whatsoever to analyse how and why we lost.

My main reason for lending a vote to Labour seemed simple: Corbyn called my bluff. Throughout my life, I’ve made a lot of noise about my desire for more radical policies in several areas like social housing, welfare, healthcare and the general inequalities with which they are associated. When faced with the albeit distant prospect of a left-wing Labour government in Westminster – and despite my continued (albeit less zealous) commitment to Scottish Independence – the apparent pipedream offered by Corbynism became too hard to resist. I completely understand why many disagreed with that decision and why I (and others) were criticised. What many failed to recognise was that we were part of a broader trend of people beginning to tire of Yes movement internal politics.

On a personal level, I was receiving quite a bit of criticism from a section of the Yes movement prior to the election. This ranged from issues with my choosing to write for outlets like STV or The Scotsman, both regarded by some people as anti-indy ‘mainstream media’ outlets – even though this paper has other columnists, like Lesley Riddoch and Kenny MacAskill, who are very much in the Yes camp. But I also received a lot of very personal attacks and accusations.

READ MORE: SNP MP Pete Wishart rails against online abuse from indy supporters

Then came the slogans. “Stronger for Scotland” and “talking up for Scotland” and “the people of Scotland” which were deployed robotically as by-phrases for “SNP voters”. It frustrated me that nobody in the country’s most powerful party ever seemed capable of speaking in the language of humility and, dare I say it, reconciliation. Yes, the referendum needed to happen. Yes, the result was very close and for me the question is far from settled. But I had been naively waiting for some kind of “good game” moment, where we temporarily set our differences aside and conceded that we lost the referendum before reflecting honestly about why.

But expressing these things publicly would invite the most vociferous online pushback imaginable.

I also found myself increasingly disillusioned by some SNP figures, who seemed unable to grasp that constant adversarial rhetoric directed at No voters may not be the best long-term strategy for achieving independence. On one hand, Sturgeon was urging us to listen and to be respectful. On the other, block-lists were in circulation and elected politicians were stooping to playground level tittle tattle. One influential figure who I found myself particularly frustrated by was a Mr Pete Wishart who, from a distance, appeared to have bought into the rather simplistic idea that in every instance of disagreement between Scotland and Westminster then we in the north were “the good guys” and ‘Wastemonster’ was the bad.

This moral simplicity, while certainly appealing to many, was undermined by his party’s growing tendency to talk up the complexity of the issues they were increasingly becoming responsible for.

So, on one hand, we had to appreciate that the business of governing Scotland was complicated, like reneging on a pledge to abolish council tax or the debate around income tax, but when it came to issues like immigration or nuclear weapons, things were always much more black and white.

READ MORE: Pete Wishart under fire for ‘foul-mouthed’ Twitter post

If there’s one person in the SNP who came to galvanise and personify this irritating contradiction it was Pete Wishart. But alas, he now finds himself on the receiving end of the angry mob he once inspired for committing the crime of saying something moderately sensible. Perhaps his nail-biting finish at the last election, where he clung to his seat by just over 20 votes, has catalysed some overdue soul-searching?

Suddenly, he is keen to warn the rest of us about something we’ve all known for a long time: the Yes movement has a tolerance problem when it comes to diversity of opinion. The simplistic and vague nationalist rallying cry that nearly got us over the finish line in 2014 has run its course. We need a cleaner, more efficient energy source. People who prefer the more aggressive, gung-ho stuff, noted for lacking nuance and being rooted in horrendously bad faith, should feel free to cater to their own tastes. But those of us that have grown a bit fed up with some of this screeching pish need to show our teeth a bit more. Mute buttons are not enough. The movement needs a new soundtrack.

While I do maintain that the term “cybernat” is not only unhelpful, but wholly unwarranted in many instances in which it’s lazily applied – all communities contain a similarly unpleasant element and this is not exclusive to the Yes movement – I also believe we must confront the fact we never had that much tolerance for alternative points of view in the first place. We simply suffered them, thinking we’d only be excruciated by one another until 2014, when a wonderful utopia would come suddenly into view. Now we are left with the mess created by a movement which relied primarily on moral indignation and blind faith as political propulsion, running aground on the rocky shores of social media; a forum which creates as much conflict and confusion as it was designed to resolve.

What we do about that I’m not sure, but in the interests of comradeship, I would just like to welcome Pete Wishart aboard the ever-crowded train back to some kind of mutually agreed reality.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Darren McGarvey"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Peter Wishart, an SNP MP, found himself on the receiving end of an angry mob on social media","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Wishart, an SNP MP, found himself on the receiving end of an angry mob on social media","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4721242.1523347993!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/jim-sillars-no-second-independence-vote-until-yes-at-60-1-4721206","id":"1.4721206","articleHeadline": "Jim Sillars: No second independence vote until Yes at 60%","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523292947000 ,"articleLead": "

A second referendum on Scottish independence should not be called until support for leaving the UK is at 60 per cent for six months, a former Depute Leader of the SNP has said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721204.1523293804!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jim Sillars played a prominent role in 2014's referendum campaign. Picture: Neil Hanna/TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

Jim Sillars, who played a prominent role in 2014’s referendum campaign, cautioned against rushing back to the polls while the terms of the Brexit negotiations were still unclear.

In an article for i, he argued that the Yes side “cannot afford another glorious defeat brought on by impatience” and had to rebuild its case before thinking about the date of another vote.

READ MORE: Poll: Majority of Scots would still vote No in indyRef2

Mr Sillars also offered his backing to the SNP MP Pete Wishart, who received abuse from independence supporters on social media after cautioning against a rush to another referendum.

“Those of us who have been a long, long time in the independence movement have seen this kind of frustration boil over several times as people fall out, not about the objective, but how to get there,” he wrote.

READ MORE: SNP MP Pete Wishart rails against online abuse from indy supporters

“Pete Wishart was in the SNP during those times, when it was difficult to keep the faith. For anyone to believe this man would sell the jerseys now does their mental condition a disfavour, not his.”

Mr Sillars went on to argue that until a Brexit agreement is reached between the UK Government and Brussels, it will be too early for the Yes campaign to reach agreed policies.

“If we are to build a majority, once we know what policies to deploy when the terms of Brexit are finally known, we need to be strong on the ground, capable of launching and sustaining an educational campaign to take us up to 60 per cent in the polls, and stay there over at least six months, so that our support is rock solid and our demand for a referendum unstoppable,” he added.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4721204.1523293804!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4721204.1523293804!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jim Sillars played a prominent role in 2014's referendum campaign. Picture: Neil Hanna/TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jim Sillars played a prominent role in 2014's referendum campaign. Picture: Neil Hanna/TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4721204.1523293804!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/clara-ponsati-faces-threat-to-her-life-in-spain-1-4721095","id":"1.4721095","articleHeadline": "Clara Ponsati faces ‘threat to her life’ in Spain","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523284116000 ,"articleLead": "

The former Catalan minister and academic Clara Ponsati faces a ‘real threat to her life’ if she is extradited to Spain, her lawyer has claimed today.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clara Ponsati surrounded by supporters and lawyer Aamer Amwar after handing herself in at an Edinburgh police station last month. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Prof. Ponsati is currently fighting extradition to Spain on charges of rebellion, after being detained by police in Scotland on a European arrest warrant which was issued by Spain.

It comes after the contested referendum on independence in the Spanish region of Catalonia, which resulted in the detention of several political leaders in the Barcelona-based administration.

READ MORE: Who is Clara Ponsati?

Some of the politicians, including Prof Ponsati and former Catalan President Carles Puidgemont, left the region in anticipation of being arrested by Spanish authorities.

She accused the regime in Madrid of human rights abuses and says that she is worried about their ‘relentless crusade to crush the Catalans’ will to be free.’

Her lawyer Aamer Anwar insists that Spain’s charges are not punishable under Scots law, and is also urging the court to reject the arrest warrant on Human Rights grounds.

READ MORE: Clara Ponsati to appear on Alex Salmond’s chat show

He said: “Spain appears hell-bent on ripping up its image as a modern democracy and returning to its dark Francoist past.”

“We have concerns that if she was imprisoned in Madrid, Spain could not and would not guarantee Clara’s safety and she faces a real threat to her life whether it be from the authorities or fellow prisoners.”

Prof Ponsati, a director of the School of Economics and Finance at St Andrew’s University, is expected to appear as a guest on former First Minister Alex Salmond’s chat show on Russia Today.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Clara Ponsat, the former Catalan minister, “faces a real threat to her life” if she is extradited to Spain on charges of violent rebellion, her lawyer has said.Professor Ponsat is contesting a European arrest warrant issued by Spain for her role in the Catalan independence referendum last year. She has accused Madrid of human rights abuses and warned that they may be capable of further evil in their “relentless crusade to crush the Catalans’ will to be free”.Aamer Anwar, her lawyer, said that Spain had not produced any charges which could be punished under Scots law, a key test for the courts in their extradition deliberations which are expected to continue for months.Professor Ponsat, who is on bail in St Andrews, said that she was in tears before she surrendered to police last month. Writing in the Sunday Herald, she said she was looking ahead to the court proceedings with a mixture of determination and confidence. “I am hopeful that justice will prevail but the abuses of human rights by Spanish authorities are unprecedented they get worse and worse day by day,” she wrote.Professor Ponsat faces up to 35 years in prison for charges including violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds. She served as education minister in the Catalan government.Mr Anwar will urge the courts to reject Spain’s European arrest warrant on human rights grounds, which protect the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression and thought, the right to liberty and security, and the right of association. “Spain appears hell-bent on ripping up its image as a modern democracy and returning to its dark Francoist past,” he said, referring to the dictator Francisco Franco who ruled the country from 1939 to 1975.“We have concerns that if she was imprisoned in Madrid, Spain could not and would not guarantee Clara’s safety and she faces a real threat to her life whether it be from the authorities or fellow prisoners,” he said.Dozens of Spanish academics have protested to St Andrews University after its principal, Sally Mapstone, said that Professor Ponsat, director of its School of Economics and Finance, was being “targeted for standing up for her political beliefs”.Nicola Sturgeon has voiced support for Catalonia’s right to self-determination, but has not intervened in the case to protect the independence of Scotland’s judiciary. Her predecessor, Alex Salmond, has invited Professor Ponsat to appear as a guest in his live stage shows in Edinburgh and Aberdeen."} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Clara Ponsati surrounded by supporters and lawyer Aamer Amwar after handing herself in at an Edinburgh police station last month. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clara Ponsati surrounded by supporters and lawyer Aamer Amwar after handing herself in at an Edinburgh police station last month. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4715242.1523480494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5760379772001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-mp-pete-wishart-rails-against-online-abuse-from-indy-supporters-1-4720762","id":"1.4720762","articleHeadline": "SNP MP Pete Wishart rails against online abuse from indy supporters","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523265060000 ,"articleLead": "

A senior Nationalist MP has warned of a “difficulty” in the independence movement and legitimate views being silenced following “extraordinary” abuse he has suffered over his views on a second referendum.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4720761.1523220585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pete Wishart said he found the abuse he got in the wake of an article about independence 'extraordinary'. Picture: Chris Austin"} ,"articleBody": "

Pete Wishart, the SNP’s longest-serving MP, has now issued a call for respect among independence supporters after being branded an “Etonian boot licker” and having his lifestyle “questioned” over his proposed rethink on the timing of another vote on leaving the UK.

He said he was surprised by the “vehemence” of the attacks on him.

His comments came as a new poll released yesterday indicated backing for independence has slipped, with 43 per cent of Scots saying they would vote Yes, while 57 per cent want to stay in the UK.

The backlash against Mr Wishart, who chairs the House of Commons Scottish affairs select committee, stemmed from an article he wrote last week raising concerns about holding a second referendum prematurely, before a revised case has been put to the Scottish people.

The Perth and North Perthshire MP warned that losing a second vote because Scots were not ready for independence would be a “national tragedy”.

The response to this was “extraordinary”, he said yesterday.

“I’ve been called a ‘poster boy’ for the ultra unionist group Scotland in Union, I’ve had my commitment to Scottish independence questioned, my ‘lifestyle’ has been disapproved of, I’m apparently ‘settling down’ in Westminster and I’ve even been called an ‘Etonian boot licker’,” Mr Wishart said.

“None of this came from political opponents – all of this is from people who claim to support Scottish independence.”

He indicated that this was part of the reason he pulled out of the SNP deputy leadership contest, as he wanted to avoid the debate descending into such a row.

The abuse was almost exclusively on social media platform Twitter, he added.

“It would be easy to dismiss this as ‘just Twitter’ but I know that environment reasonably well and I have to conclude we might have an issue and ­difficulty in our movement,” he said.

“We need these debates. Positions have to be challenged and analysed. Evidence has to be presented and judgements have to be made.

“Shouting people down, name-calling and misrepresenting people’s views will not help anybody. If this happens, people with legitimate views will be silenced and discouraged in coming forward with.”

A spokesman for the SNP said: “Freedom of speech is vital in a democracy but abuse, online or otherwise, is not acceptable and we would encourage everyone taking part in public debate to behave with civility and respect to each other whether online or otherwise.”

The weekend opinion poll showed that 58 per cent of those questioned do not want another referendum in the next few years, while 17 per cent want one during Brexit negotiations and 25 per cent when these are finished.

The number of people who expect Scotland to become independent in five to ten years has dropped two points to 27 per cent. The number who do not expect independence in the next few decades has also dropped two points, to 30 per cent.

A total of 19 per cent (down one point) envisage it happening in ten or 15 years, while 11 per cent (plus one) expect it to take 20 or 30 years.

Labour’s Neil Findlay said: “It is no surprise this poll shows opposition to a second independence referendum and independence is as strong as ever.

“The reality is – despite delayed commission reports and fantasy forecasts – the SNP still cannot build an economic case for independence.”

The poll also shows the SNP remains the most popular party in Scotland with 40 per cent, ahead of the Scottish Conservatives in second on 28 per cent.

SNP business convener Derek Mackay said: “After 11 years in government, the SNP still hold a double-digit lead over the nearest opposition party.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “This poll confirms again we are the best placed party to take on the SNP.”

• READ MORE: MSP James Dornan withdraws from SNP depute leader race

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4720761.1523220585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4720761.1523220585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Pete Wishart said he found the abuse he got in the wake of an article about independence 'extraordinary'. Picture: Chris Austin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pete Wishart said he found the abuse he got in the wake of an article about independence 'extraordinary'. Picture: Chris Austin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4720761.1523220585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5681801427001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-scotland-can-follow-wee-country-template-for-success-1-4720785","id":"1.4720785","articleHeadline": "Lesley Riddoch: Scotland can follow ‘wee country’ template for success","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1523251878000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland can learn the prerequisites of success from nations like Norway, Finland and New Zealand, writes Lesley Riddoch

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4720784.1523223132!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A view of New Zealand's Parliament House and the Beehive in Wellington, the nation's capital since 1865. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Is New Zealand the SNP’s new preferred model for an independent Scotland, because previous favourite Norway is deemed too socialist? It’s a strange suggestion on a number of fronts.

Firstly, and pedantically, Norway has actually been run by a Conservative-led coalition since 2013. Perhaps though, that makes the point for folk who fear the Nordics are unachievable role models. Even with Conservatives at the helm, Norwegians support state ownership of assets and oppose private education. Norway has one of the world’s lowest rates of income inequality and highest rates of trust – it seems to be a “natural” social democracy, with fairness, participation and planning at the heart of governance, no matter whose hand is on the tiller.

Actually, you could argue Scotland is heading the same way, aided by a proportional voting system that avoids the damaging and polarising swings of political control still experienced at Westminster. The first Lib Dem/Labour Scottish Government passed free personal care, which was built on, not unravelled by subsequent SNP governments. Indeed agreement on Scotland’s future in Europe has broken out at Holyrood. All that really divides the parties is the issue of independence – and that’s essentially a question about the best way to protect Scotland’s distinctive interests. With long experience of the compromise and negotiation that arises from a century of proportional representation, the Norwegians are a lot further down the road of having a “settled will” on social and economic policy but is Scotland really on a totally different path? I don’t think so.

Secondly, this apparent leak from the Growth Commission report (commissioned by Nicola Sturgeon, headed by former MSP Andrew Wilson and apparently set for publication “soon”) appeared in an independence-supporting Sunday newspaper. The SNP officially made “no comment”. So was the New Zealand line a misunderstanding by journalists, a deliberate SNP leak to test public reaction towards a possible rightward move in economic policy or an attempt to discredit the Growth Commission by internal party critics? Who knows. But after the difficulties encountered by Alex Salmond’s Arc of Prosperity, when two affluent wee neighbours (Iceland and Ireland), almost went bust, you’d think the SNP would think twice before nailing its colours to the mast of any other individual country – however attractive. Like the stock market, the oil price and indeed life in general, the economic success of individual countries ebbs and flows – though growth in both the aforementioned “basket-case” economies exceeds the UK again.

Indeed that is the beauty of being a wee country. There are a wheen of ways to run the economy and a stack of reasons to go for independence – but historically almost none have centred on the certain expectation of economic growth.

Iceland and Finland capitalised on political breakdown in their respective “motherlands”. German occupation of Denmark offered Iceland the chance to declare UDI in 1944 and the October Revolution prompted an escape route for Russian satellite states like Finland. Norway, by contrast, acted over the relatively obscure issue of consular representation – though admittedly Swedish control was limiting the growth of Norway’s massive shipping fleet. Of course, after independence, all these wee nations found ways to develop their natural assets and use that wealth to keep successive generations living happily in the world’s most hostile terrains. But at the time of independence, none of these future economic possibilities were yet in the bag.

It would be madness not to learn from the experience of others. Yet that experience seems to show there is no single template for success – just a lot of slow, sensible growth based on co-operation and fairness rather than Britain’s toxic formula of Splendid Isolation and gross inequality.

But if there is no single template for wee country success – there do seem to be a few common prerequisites.

The first is an underlying level of sound democratic health based on thriving local democracy and a fair distribution of income, land and state ownership of key natural assets like hydro energy, oil and gas. Here, Scotland is sadly still playing catch-up, with chronic inequality and disempowering, centralised structures of control and ownership.

The second prerequisite is the ability to make the most of a crisis. With New Zealand, the turning point was Britain’s decision to join the European Community in 1973, which deprived the Kiwis of their biggest lamb export market almost overnight.

With Norway it was occupation by the Germans – in the first post-war election, all four main parties stood on the same manifesto, committing themselves to the creation of an equal society. With Finland, it was the devastating aftermath of their ill-fated attempt to regain Karelia from Russia which meant siding with Hitler during the 1940s. The Finns were so poor they made reparations to Russia in kind – developing skills in cable construction, paper-making and mobile telephony. With Denmark, the 1970s oil crisis was an opportunity for rebirth. Realising they had no indigenous energy supplies, the Danish government opted to keep oil prices high, tax cars and invest hugely in wind energy. Forty years and many changes of government later, that basic formula still applies. It’s the reason 52 per cent of Danes cycle to work and school. It’s the reason Copenhagen is probably the world’s greenest city and contributes to the Danes’ tediously consistent position in the top three of the World’s Happiest Countries. Just by the by, the top three are all small independent Nordic nations which are triple A credit-rated – they have learned to mitigate capitalism with equality and solidarity. But they do it in slightly different ways which reflect their culture, history, geography and economic interests.

Thus Finland is in the EU and euro (partly because of proximity to Russia), while Norway is not. Sweden has a relatively open door to immigrants – Denmark doesn’t. The important thing is that each small country knows where its’ interests lie and steers its democracy and economy accordingly.

If we agree that Scotland’s interests lie in full or halfway house membership of the single market, greater control over fisheries, expansion of energy resources, scrapping Trident, dramatically narrowing the income gap and the generational curse of inequality then we must have the courage to pursue the constitutional route which enables that future.

Whether we look to New Zealand, Finland, Norway, Slovakia or all the above –that’s the big challenge.

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