{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scottishindependence","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/bret-stephens-think-trump-is-losing-think-again-1-4640746","id":"1.4640746","articleHeadline": "Bret Stephens: Think Trump is losing? Think again","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513404000000 ,"articleLead": "

The US President’s approval rating may be low, but prosperity trumps morality, writes Bret Stephens.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4640745.1513365776!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Donald Trump may seem like he's in trouble, but there are signs he could turn things around (Picture: AFP/Getty)"} ,"articleBody": "

Take a walk with me, dear reader, into the yard, down the street — anywhere, really, just so that we can step outside of our house of outrage. It’s a roomy house, with space for everyone from woke progressives to disillusioned conservatives. It’s a good house, filled with people united in a just and defiant cause. It’s a harmonious house, thrumming with the sound of people agreeing vigorously. And lately, we’ve started to believe we’re ... winning.

We breathed relief on Tuesday night when Roy Moore went down to his well-earned political death, like Jack Nicholson’s Joker at the end of “Batman”.

We roared when Robert Mueller extracted a guilty plea from a cooperative Michael Flynn, and the investigative noose seemed to tighten around Donald Trump’s neck. We cheered when Democrat Ralph Northam trounced Ed Gillespie after the Republican took the low road with anti-immigrant demagogy.

It’s all lining up. Democrats have an 11-point edge over Republicans in the generic congressional ballot. The president’s approval rating is barely scraping 37 per cent. Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States is on the “wrong track.” Isn’t revenge in 2018 starting to taste sweet — and 2020 even sweeter?

Don’t bet on it. Democrats are making the same mistakes Republicans made when they inhabited their own house of outrage, back in 1998.

You remember. The year of the wagged finger and the stained blue dress. Of a president who abused women, lied about it, and used his power to bomb other countries so he could distract from his personal messes.

Of a special prosecutor whose investigation overstepped its original bounds. Of half the country in a moral fever to impeach. Of the other half determined to dismiss sexual improprieties, defend a democratically elected leader and move on with the business of the country.

READ MORE: Scottish independence ‘would be terrible’, says Donald Trump

Oh, also the year in which the Dow Jones industrial average jumped by 16 per cent, the unemployment rate fell to a 28-year low, and Democrats gained seats in Congress. Bill Clinton, as we all know, survived impeachment and left office with a strong economic record and a 66-per cent approval rating.

If nothing else, 1998 demonstrated the truth of the unofficial slogan on which Clinton had first run for president: It’s the economy, stupid. Prosperity trumps morality. The wealth effect beats the yuck factor. That may not have held true in Moore’s defeat, but it’s not every day that an alleged paedophile runs for office. Even so, he damn well nearly won. The year 1998 also showed that, when it comes to sex, we Americans forgive easily; that, when it comes to women, we don’t always believe readily; and that, when it comes to presidents, we want them to succeed. However else one might feel about Mueller — or, for that matter, Ken Starr — nobody elected them to anything.

Which brings us back to Trump. Democrats may like their polling numbers, but here are a few others for them to consider.

The first is 3.3 per cent, last quarter’s annual growth rate, the highest in three years. Next is 1.7 per cent, the core inflation rate, meaning interest rates are unlikely to rise very sharply.

Also, 4.1 per cent, the unemployment rate, which is down half a percentage point, or nearly 800,000 workers, since the beginning of the year. Finally, 24 per cent, which is the rise in the Dow Jones industrial average since Trump became president — one of the market’s best performances ever.

READ MORE: Number 10 condemns Donald Trump for spreading Britain First videos

Democrats will find plenty of ways to explain that these numbers aren’t quite as good as they sound — they are not — or that we’re setting ourselves up for a big crash — we might well be — or that the deficit is only getting bigger — it is, but so what?

Politically speaking, none of that matters. Trump enters 2018 with a robust economy that will, according to the estimate of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, grow stronger thanks to the tax bill.

What about the outrage over the president’s behaviour? Kirsten Gillibrand and other Senate Democrats have called on Trump to resign following new accusations of sexual harassment and assault. Good luck getting him to agree. Tom Steyer and other liberal plutocrats want the president impeached and thrown out of office. Good luck electing 67 Democrats to the Senate.

Every minute wasted on that whale hunt is a minute the Democrats neglect to make an affirmative case for themselves.

Which leaves us with Mueller. All of us in the house of outrage are eager for the special counsel to find the goods on the president and Russia, obstruction, financial shenanigans, anything. The clues seem so obvious, the evidence so tantalisingly close.

Yet we should also know that the wish tends to be the father of the thought. What if Mueller comes up short in finding evidence of collusion?

What if the worst Mueller’s got is one bad tweet that, maybe, constitutes evidence of obstruction? And what if further doubts are raised about the impartiality of the investigation?

The president’s opponents have made a huge political bet on an outcome that’s far from clear. Anything less than complete vindication for our side may wind up as utter humiliation.

Dear reader, I too live in the house of outrage, for all the usual reasons. Just beware, beware of growing comfortable in it. As in 1998, it just might turn out to be a house of losers.

© The New York Times 2017

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Bret Stephens"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4640745.1513365776!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4640745.1513365776!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Donald Trump may seem like he's in trouble, but there are signs he could turn things around (Picture: AFP/Getty)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Donald Trump may seem like he's in trouble, but there are signs he could turn things around (Picture: AFP/Getty)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4640745.1513365776!/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/tom-peterkin-kezia-s-journey-from-jungle-to-political-wilderness-1-4639107","id":"1.4639107","articleHeadline": "Tom Peterkin: Kezia’s journey from jungle to political wilderness","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513253118000 ,"articleLead": "

Ex-Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s brush with celebrity contrasts with Ruth Davidson’s upward political path, writes Tom Peterkin.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4639106.1513247172!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale faced questions after arriving home in Scotland. Picture: SWNS"} ,"articleBody": "

When the sun set on her Australian adventure and she embarked on her long flight back from the jungle, Kezia Dugdale could have been forgiven for pondering the curious alignment of the stars.

A mere seven months ago, she was basking in a General Election result that saw Scottish Labour surpass expectations.

Under her leadership, the party had returned seven seats north of the border. Although nowhere near the kind of support once enjoyed by Labour in Scotland, it was an encouraging result given the previous UK poll had delivered just one Scottish seat.

Ms Dugdale’s position in the triumvirate of female leaders who bestrode the Scottish Parliament seemed assured.

Alongside Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP and Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Tories, Ms Dugdale symbolised a new progressive politics and if the ascension of her star was not exactly rocket-fuelled, it was at least shining brightly.

Since then a few things have changed.

Ms Sturgeon remains First Minister for Scotland but she no longer commands the adulation that saw her address rock concert-style rallies of independence supporters. But perhaps most the most notable observation of recent weeks is the way that Ms Dugdale’s star has waned while Ms Davidson’s has waxed.

READ MORE: Kezia Dugdale escapes Labour Party suspension after I’m a Celeb stint

As Ms Dugdale made a tricky return to Holyrood yesterday, it was difficult not to mull over the contrasting fortunes of the two politicians, who, at first glance, appeared to have much in common aside from their political allegiances.

Both had political leadership thrust upon them a little earlier than they might have expected. In Ms Davidson’s case, she found herself leading the Scottish Tories rather than the more obvious heir apparent, Murdo Fraser.

Mr Fraser’s fate was sealed when the party rank-and-file rejected his proposal to address years of almost terminal decline by completely rebranding the party.

Ms Dugdale was persuaded to stand against Ken Macintosh at a particularly difficult time for Scottish Labour following Jim Murphy’s resignation amid the electoral humiliation of the 2015 General Election.

Both are strong role models for the LGBTI community and personify the fact that a politician’s sexuality should simply not be issue when it comes to reaching for the top.

Both are personable politicians who are accomplished media performers and both have proved passionate debaters in the Holyrood chamber.

So how come Ms Dugdale’s political career has been reduced to an early exit from “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here” and a written warning from her successor, while Ms Davidson is being touted as a future Prime Minister? Much must come down to the relative resilience and leadership abilities of the individuals concerned. But some explanation can also be found in how their respective parties have reacted to having Ms Dugdale and Ms Davidson at their helms.

Contrary to popular expectation, Tory traditionalists seem not have had any problem embracing a “lesbian kick-boxer”. Ms Davidson has won round Conservative voters with aplomb.

In this task she has been helped by the binary nature of Scottish constitutional politics. Given the strength of her party’s bond with the United Kingdom, Ms Davidson’s firm anti-independence stance has played well and cemented her position as Tory darling.

READ MORE: Kezia Dugdale ‘hunted’ by party’s left, say Labour insiders

As the anti-independence vote flocked to the Tories in May this year, Ms Davidson found herself at the head of a party with 13 MPs that had claimed the scalps of Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson.

The Scottish Conservative revival contrasted with Theresa May’s dismal election which produced the hung parliament, leaving Ms Davidson’s 13 MPs as hugely important power brokers at Westminster.

Given the leadership vacuum at the heart of the UK Tories, it is understandable that people should sit up and take notice when Ms Davidson signals – as she did this week – that she will consider her Westminster options should the Scottish Tories fail to win the 2021 Scottish elections.

In contrast, the independence issue has been more difficult for Ms Dugdale and Labour. True, Labour has benefited from the anti-independence tactical vote in constituencies like Edinburgh South. But the drift of Labour supporters to the SNP during and after the 2014 referendum left Labour in an unenviable position on the constitution. Admittedly this was not helped by suggestions of ambiguity when it came to Ms Dugdale’s own commitment towards maintaining the Union.

But most problematic for Ms Dugdale has been the constant suggestions that she was being undermined by an increasingly influential Corbynista wing of the party.

That is what Ms Dugdale blamed for driving her out of the top job. Quite why she thought her next career move would be to Australia to take part in a reality show is less easily explicable. Perhaps she thought the snakes in the jungle would make a pleasant change from dealing with her Labour colleagues. But, despite all the warm words about using the show to spread the Labour message, it is difficult to see how her bizarre decision to leave parliament for a few weeks to down smoothies made of bull’s penis and ostrich and pig’s anus will boost her credibility. She may have enhanced her profile, but she has done little for her reputation.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4639106.1513247172!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4639106.1513247172!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale faced questions after arriving home in Scotland. Picture: SWNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale faced questions after arriving home in Scotland. Picture: SWNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4639106.1513247172!/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/kenny-macaskill-no-voters-angst-over-brexit-uk-s-shift-to-the-right-1-4638293","id":"1.4638293","articleHeadline": "Kenny MacAskill: No voters’ angst over Brexit UK’s shift to the right","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513238985000 ,"articleLead": "

The angst among No voters about Brexit Britain’s shift to the right is palpable, writes Kenny MacAskill.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4638292.1513238992!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "No voters celebrate victory in 2014 but the Britain they fought for is changing before their eyes. Picture: Lisa Ferguson"} ,"articleBody": "

To the victor belong the spoils is a phrase attributed to New York Senator William Marcy after Andrew Jackson’s presidential election victory in 1828.

However, it applies not just to President Trump’s favourite political leader, but more widely in politics and Scottish politics is the same as across the Atlantic.

Triumph brings reward, as defeat comes at a cost. In elections people go into government and others lose their ministerial posts. Referenda are slightly different entities but still possess a victor and a vanquished. The Scottish Independence referendum was the same, with the No campaign celebrating while those of us on the Yes side commiserated.

Yet since that outcome there has been a change in some aspects of received wisdom. The Yes campaign, far from shrinking and disappearing has remained strong. Opinion polls show little shift though no discernible decline in support for independence. It might not be coming any time soon but it most certainly hasn’t gone away. It’s simply a question of timing.

Of course, for some on the No side there were the spoils. The Prime Minister stood outside 10 Downing Street taking the plaudits and basking in the glory of telling Her Majesty the union had been saved. Lord Alistair Darling, who led the Better Together campaign, has become a director of Morgan Stanley bank though whether that’s the reward Jeremy Corbyn would have wanted for him is debatable.

However, for many on the No side, both politicians and commentators, there has been post-referendum angst. They fought for the union and were successful in their arguments and pleas. They had celebrated the result and to be fair had conducted themselves decently and with dignity during it.

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

Yet, the Britain they fought for is changing before their very eyes and not in a way they like. Cool Britannia is long gone but for some it seems it’s Woe Britannia. A United Kingdom they had anticipated, promoting goodness and virtue around the globe has been replaced by a deluded entity, arrogant abroad and nasty at home.

In some ways I feel sorry for them. They are good people with whom I just disagreed on the constitution. But I do feel like saying, “just what did you expect?” The revelation that Cameron couldn’t care less about Scotland after the result comes as no surprise to those of us on the Yes side. It was simply about preserving his reputation and not being the PM who presided over the end of the union.

The “Scotland please stay” pleas are long gone and have been shown to have been insincere by many.

But, what sort of UK did many No campaigners anticipate it would be? Gordon Brown was never going to ride in to save the country from Tory rule as he protected Scotland from independence. The UK was on a rightward trajectory and still is. I recall a stock speech I made during the campaign where I reminisced how much my parents had loathed Ted Heath when I’d been a boy. Yet within years he was some old buffer who was effectively the leader of the opposition – even when sitting on the government benches as Thatcherism took hold.

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit would cost Scottish economy £30bn over 5 years

Even during the Blair years, the shift right has continued. I predicted that Cameron would be gone to be replaced by Boris Johnson. I was wrong, he’s only become Foreign Secretary, but in a Government of the hard right. To be fair the Brexit vote couldn’t have been predicted during the independence referendum campaign, though arguably should have been factored in. A shift rightwards was always coming but the violent propulsion of it was never anticipated. Now leading No campaigners agonise over a Government of incompetents, impoverishing the land they thought they’d saved, while the alternative of Corbyn remains unpalatable or unelectable.

But, we are where we are. Which as why in many ways the Yes campaign is now in better heart than its erstwhile opponents. Those of us active in the Yes campaign knew there would be a price to paid if we lost and that bill is growing. Not just a power grab but the imposition of austerity, while opprobrium falls on the Scottish Government as it seeks to mitigate the harm being caused and plug the gaps.

There are reasons for optimism, even if some who are agonising over the Great Britain that they saved are still unwilling to support independence. WThe Scottish Government needs to remain competent and capable. But, others issues are being resolved.

The loss of the UK’s global influence won’t be lamented as they poison not just the EU well but insult nations at will around the globe. Moreover, the suggestion that small nations have little power has been exposed in recent days by the Republic of Ireland. The Celtic Tiger may have crashed but the country is back and the so-called Irish leprechaun has been leading the British Bulldog a merry dance in the Brexit talks.

The idea that an independent Scotland would not be allowed in the EU or the single market and customs union has been exposed as a lie, though it was both a concern and a factor for some during the referendum campaign. Both the position of the EU and that being taken by the UK mean that either membership or a close-working relationship would be possible.

Equally, the threats of ending trading links and a hard border between the Solway and the Tweed in the event of Scottish independence have been exposed as lie – ironically by those arch unionists the DUP. It’s for the Yes side to make the case and issues remain like currency where action needs taken, though the Bank of England Governor confirmed after the last vote that currency relationships were feasible. Another demon slain.

Most importantly though the Yes side know the Scotland they seek. One that’s just and fair to its own people and acts decently and respectfully abroad. But, for many No voters, the country they thought they were supporting has gone and isn’t returning any time soon. There are no victor’s spoils for them, but it’s certainly energised the vanquished.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Kenny MacAskill"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4638292.1513238992!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4638292.1513238992!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "No voters celebrate victory in 2014 but the Britain they fought for is changing before their eyes. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "No voters celebrate victory in 2014 but the Britain they fought for is changing before their eyes. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4638292.1513238992!/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/msps-agree-to-shelve-named-person-plans-1-4638787","id":"1.4638787","articleHeadline": "MSPs agree to shelve Named Person plans","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513190032000 ,"articleLead": "

The Scottish Government’s controversial scheme to appoint a named person to every child in Scotland was last night dealt a further blow when MSPs formally agreed to park the legislation.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4623238.1513190660!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "MSPs unanimously agreed a Holyrood business motion annulling a crucial deadline for the legislations passage through the Scottish Parliament."} ,"articleBody": "

MSPs unanimously agreed a Holyrood business motion annulling a crucial deadline for the legislation’s passage through the Scottish Parliament.

It had been proposed that Holyrood’s Education Committee should produce a report on Stage One of the legislation by 22 December.

READ MORE: Revealed: what can happen when a Named Person reports on your children

Earlier this month, however, a majority of MSPs on the committee voted not to produce a report on the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) Bill until Education Secretary John Swinney had produced a new code of conduct for the health visitors and teachers expected to become named persons.

READ MORE: Will Scotland’s controversial football act be scrapped?

READ MORE: Russians ‘tried to discredit 2014 Scots independence vote’

The Committee said it could not proceed because he had failed to provide the “critical guidance”. This meant the committee were unable to scrutinise the named person’s powers to share sensitive information about children, or decide whether they were now lawful.

Although Mr Swinney produced a draft code, he later had to withdraw it after it was criticised by expert witnesses for being confusing and legalistic.

Mr Swinney has said he cannot produce a revised code until September 2018 “at the earliest”. He said failing to support the Bill at the first stage would mean “significantly delaying” its implementation.

MSPs passed the motion tabled by the SNP’s business manger Joe Fitzpatrick agreeing “that the deadline of 22 December 2017 for consideration of the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1 no longer applies”.

No new deadline has been established. A report has to be produced in order for the legislation to go on to the floor of the house for stage 2.

Last night the Scottish Conservatives called for the legislation to be axed. Critics of the scheme to make named persons responsible for children’s well-being believe it is too intrusive and undermines family life.

Tory shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “It’s welcome that the SNP has formally admitted this scheme cannot proceed. But now the nationalists should do the decent thing and scrap it altogether.

“The bill is a mess, and remains hugely unpopular among parents and practitioners across Scotland.”

Controversy over the bill has escalated in recent weeks with the Scottish Government facing claims that it has lobbied key witnesses before they gave evidence on the legislation to the Education Committee.

The Government has been urged to publish the minutes of the private meetings.

Despite the clamour for the scheme to be abandoned, Nicola Sturgeon has said she has not intention of doing so. At First Minister’s Questions last week she said she would push ahead with the plans because they are in the best interests of children.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4623238.1513190660!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4623238.1513190660!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "MSPs unanimously agreed a Holyrood business motion annulling a crucial deadline for the legislations passage through the Scottish Parliament.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "MSPs unanimously agreed a Holyrood business motion annulling a crucial deadline for the legislations passage through the Scottish Parliament.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4623238.1513190660!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5640604672001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/russians-tried-to-discredit-2014-scots-independence-vote-1-4638210","id":"1.4638210","articleHeadline": "Russians ‘tried to discredit 2014 Scots independence vote’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513180988000 ,"articleLead": "

Russian internet trolls helped spread a conspiracy theory that Scotland’s independence referendum was rigged, it has been claimed.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4638209.1513162120!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "It has been claimed that Russian cyber-activists used social media and video to spread false allegations that the referendum was rigged."} ,"articleBody": "

Ben Nimmo, an analyst for US think tank the Atlantic Council, said pro-Kremlin social media accounts had fuelled suggestions the 2014 vote had not been free and fair, and had amplified demands for a re-vote.

Following the No vote, accredited observer Igor Borisov told Russian news agency RIA Novosti the referendum had failed to meet international norms.

READ MORE: What the latest polls tell us about Scottish independence

His comments were seized upon by those who believed fraud was to blame for a result in favour of Scotland remaining part of the UK.

A YouTube video which advanced those claims proved to be particularly influential and has now been viewed nearly 900,000 times.

READ MORE: Euan McColm: Nicola Sturgeon’s chance to forge lasting legacy

Mr Nimmo said that while the majority of social accounts sharing the video were Scottish, a “significant minority” appeared to be pro-Kremlin trolls.

These accounts were among the most vocal amplifiers of the video,  posting it repeatedly and tagging different users, he said.

Mr Nimmo’s analysis for the Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab was published on Wednesday morning ahead of a discussion of Russian state interference in elections and referendums by an all-party group at Westminster.

Mr Nimmo said: “We know that some genuine voters in Scotland had genuine concerns about the referendum.

“What this shows is that pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts amplified those concerns, and spread the message that the vote was rigged.

“We also know that the Electoral Commission found more voters than ever before had concerns about vote-rigging, partly because of what they read in the media.

“This is worrying because it shows that pro-Kremlin accounts were actively undermining the credibility of the referendum, just as they attacked and undermined the credibility of US democracy in 2016, and it looks like it may have worked.”

Mr Nimmo said he also had suspicions about a petition on Change.org launched by Rally for a Revote, which attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

A similar petition on the UK parliament website attracted 23,700 signatures.

Mr Nimmo said the larger petition had been heavily promoted by pro-Russian Twitter accounts and at least one network of “bot” (short for robot) accounts.

Last month the US Congress published a list of more than 2,700 Twitter accounts with links to the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, sometimes referred to as the “troll factory”.

Researchers at Edinburgh University have identified more than 400 accounts operating out of the agency which have attempted to influence UK politics.

Mr Nimmo said: “We know that, in the US case, over 2,700 Twitter accounts that posed as Americans were run from the ‘troll factory’ in St Petersburg. We simply don’t know how much presence, if any, the troll factory had in Scotland. What the presence of these pro-Kremlin accounts shows is that we need to ask the question.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4638209.1513162120!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4638209.1513162120!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "It has been claimed that Russian cyber-activists used social media and video to spread false allegations that the referendum was rigged.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "It has been claimed that Russian cyber-activists used social media and video to spread false allegations that the referendum was rigged.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4638209.1513162120!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1508852437194"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/what-the-latest-polls-tell-us-about-scottish-independence-1-4636493","id":"1.4636493","articleHeadline": "What the latest polls tell us about Scottish independence","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513164292000 ,"articleLead": "

Brexit may be preoccupying most political minds this festive season but in Scotland there is always another constitutional issue bubbling below the surface.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636491.1513008752!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporters gather in Glasgow Green in 2016 on the second anniversary of the referendum which delivered a 10 point win for the pro-UK campaign. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

Two recent opinion polls have provided further insight into what the public is thinking on the matter of Scottish independence - a subject many presumed settled for a generation in September 2014 but still very much on the agenda for the Scottish Government.

The SNP has endured a difficult 2017 after losing a third of its MPs at June’s snap election, a result which forced Nicola Sturgeon to “reset” her plans for a second referendum.

But Nationalists are heartened that support for independence appears solid - even if it remains little changed from the 2014 result of 45 per cent in favour and 55 per cent against.

Unionists will however note there is little sign of protracted Brexit negotiations leading to No voters switching to Yes at any potential indyref2.

An online survey of 1,006 Scots by pollsters Survation published last weekend found support for independence at 46 per cent for and 54 per cent against.

The previous week, another poll by the same firm had Yes at 47 per cent and No at 53 per cent.

Green MSP Ross Greer tweeted it was “still hard to emphasise just how amazing it is that support for indy has held so firm since 2014 despite everything thrown at us”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon ‘resets’ indyref2 plans

Professor John Curtice, senior research fellow at ScotCen Social Research, told The Scotsman that previous SNP expectations there would be a shift towards independence in the wake of the 2016 EU referendum had not been realised.

“Equally, no one should mistake the revival of the Conservative party in Scotland - which appears to have now stalled - as an interpretation that support for the union has increased,” he said. “It hasn’t.

“We are still in a situation in which the SNP cannot achieve its objective. There is no immediate prospect they would be able to win a referendum.

“But the idea has not died and the issue has not been put to bed.”

Prof Curtice continued: “At the moment, Nicola Sturgeon is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If she is looking for an opportunity to hold a referendum before 2021, it’s not in her interest to rush at it because she still doesn’t have a majority for independence.”

The UK’s political landscape is changing rapidly thanks to Brexit, but the polling expert said the decision to leave the EU has not significantly changed people’s minds on independence.

“We have learned a few things already,” added Prof Curtice. “Brexit on its own will not produce a change of attitudes. A few people have changed from Yes to No but there are others have gone in the oppositie direction.

“The second thing we know is that the public being upset with the UK Government’s handling of the process of Brexit, or the feeling they are not handling it terribly well, that on its own does not change attitudes towards Brexit.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4636491.1513008752!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636491.1513008752!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Independence supporters gather in Glasgow Green in 2016 on the second anniversary of the referendum which delivered a 10 point win for the pro-UK campaign. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence supporters gather in Glasgow Green in 2016 on the second anniversary of the referendum which delivered a 10 point win for the pro-UK campaign. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4636491.1513008752!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1508852437194"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/poll-snp-set-to-lose-pro-independence-majority-1-4561249","id":"1.4561249","articleHeadline": "Poll: SNP set to lose pro-independence majority","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513164161000 ,"articleLead": "

The SNP is set to lose their pro-independence majority at the Scottish Parliament at the next election as Labour make up ground, according to a new poll.

" ,"articleBody": "

Support for Nicola Sturgeon’s party has dropped by 4.5 per cent on the constituency vote and 11 per cent on the regional list vote since last year, the Survation study for the Daily Mail found.

The figures suggest that the SNP is set to lose nine seats at the next election in 2021. With the Greens set to win eight, this means that the current pro-independence majority would be lost.

READ MORE: Far right group Scottish Dawn faces ban under UK terror laws

The poll results may harden Ms Sturgeon’s resolve to push for another independence referendum after Brexit, despite her decision in June to move her focus away from securing another vote.

The survey also suggests that Labour has turned a corner and is fighting back in Scotland despite slipping into an embarrassing third place at last year’s Holyrood election.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour MEP calls for Holyrood coalition with SNP

Support for the party, which is currently without a leader in Scotland following the resignation of Kezia Dugdale, has risen by 2 per cent in the constituency vote and 6 per cent in the regional vote.

Projections suggest that Labour is set to win 30 seats, overtaking the Scottish Conservatives on 24 to become Scotland’s second largest party again.

The SNP would remain the largest party with 54 seats, but even with the support of the Greens would lose its pro-independence majority at Holyrood, falling short by three seats.

The survey of 1,016 Scots was carried out after the First Minister published the Programme for Government last week.

The findings come as a veteran Labour MEP called for his party to form a coalition with the SNP at the next election, arguing that their constitutional differences could be put aside.

David Martin said that while a power-sharing deal between the two parties may currently appear “unthinkable”, it was time for the “ground work” to be laid, the Herald newspaper reported.

Scottish Labour’s business manager James Kelly hailed the “encouraging” poll figures, claiming they would be a “worry” for Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.

However, a Scottish Tory spokesman said the survey showed “the shine has come off the SNP” and that Ms Sturgeon’s plans for independence were now “dead in the water”.

SNP business convener Derek Mackay claimed the “Tory bubble has burst”, highlighting the party’s handling of Brexit as being responsible for its fall back into third place.

He added: “Although we are a long way from another election, it’s hugely welcome that after ten years in government the SNP is recording double-digit poll leads.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS GREEN"} ,"topImages": [ ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/what-political-parties-are-saying-ahead-of-the-budget-1-4637459","id":"1.4637459","articleHeadline": "What political parties are saying ahead of the budget","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513095723000 ,"articleLead": "

Thanks to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to make what was previously the Autumn statement his main financial speech, politicians and journalists in Scotland now get two set-piece Budget events within a month.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4637458.1513262953!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secreatry Derek Mackay"} ,"articleBody": "

Derek Mackay will follow his Westminster counterpart Mr Hammond when he reveals his draft budget proposals for the next financial year at Holyrood on Thursday.

The Finance Secretary will present a range of options for spending, and more importantly, raising the money needed to pay for Scotland’s public services.

SNP proposals launched in advance of both budget statements make it almost inevitable that some form of tax rises will be announced.

After the speech, the negotiations with other parties will begin, with the minority government led by Nicola Sturgeon requiring some opposition support to pass the budget.

Here are the positions of the parties ahead of that horsetrading.

The Conservatives

Ruth Davidson’s party are the second largest in the Scottish Parliament, and have had their numbers bolstered at Westminster from just a single MP to 13.

Under the tenure of Ms Davidson’s predecessor, Annabel Goldie, the Conservatives were arguably the most willing to work with the last SNP minority government, then headed by Alex Salmond.

Now, with Ms Davidson having her eye on gaining the keys to Bute House, not just influencing its occupant, any budget deal like the ones struck between 2007-11 is highly implausible.

After their recent election successes, the Tories are unlikely to change their formula, and have made any tax rises a red line ahead of any budget negotiations.

READ MORE: What outside groups are saying ahead of the Scottish budget

Instead, they insist that the Scottish Government can raise revenue not through the changes proposed to the income tax bands, but by ‘cutting waste’.

The party’s finance spokesman Murdo Fraser has outlined several examples this week of what he terms Government waste, which we can expect to remain the key theme for the Conservatives throughout the budget process.

Labour

Labour’s position on the budget is much harder to determine, with new leader Richard Leonard still yet to assemble a shadow cabinet.

Their parliamentary tactics, at least, were easier to divine, as the party forced a vote in Holyrood in September which meant the parliament backed the principle of raising tax.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch on the budget

The SNP abstained on the motion, maintaining that in advance of the budget they would keep an open mind, as Labour urged them to choose a side on the issue of ‘progressive taxation’.

The party still seems wedded to their manifesto ahead of the election of 2016, in which they slipped to third.

That manifesto raised taxes on every basic rate payer who earned more than £20,000 a year, making any negotiations with the SNP potentially difficult, as Nicola Sturgeon’s party want to guarantee that no-one earning less than £31,000 will pay any more in tax under any of the four proposals for taxation they are considering.

The others

In keeping with their long standing campaign pledges to pay for specific policies, the Liberal Democrats in 2016 aimed to raise all income tax rates by a penny to pay for education.

At the UK-wide snap general election in June of this year, Tim Farron had finessed Willie Rennie’s pledge to increase income tax to fund the NHS.

Like the Labour proposals, that could mean a deal is hard to get, but not impossible if, for example one of the Scottish Lib Dems’ main policy specialities gets a funding boost – mental health, for example.

The Greens, for their part, are likely to push for the top rate of tax to rise, as they continue to outflank their fellow independence supporters in the SNP to the left.

While they remain the most likely partners in backing the budget, as they did last year, Patrick Harvie’s party can push a hard bargain knowing that the SNP’s options are limited, and Nicola Sturgeon is keen to avoid a budget collapse that could trigger an election.

No matter how the parties line up, it is clear all will have a part to play after Derek Mackay presents his budget to a parliament that remains divided on so many key issues.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4637458.1513262953!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4637458.1513262953!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Finance Secreatry Derek Mackay","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secreatry Derek Mackay","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4637458.1513262953!/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/what-can-we-expect-from-the-scottish-budget-on-thursday-1-4636645","id":"1.4636645","articleHeadline": "What can we expect from the Scottish budget on Thursday","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513085712000 ,"articleLead": "

For most the early days of December are a chance to start looking ahead to Christmas, doing some shopping for gifts, or even planning the big day itself. Not for Derek Mackay.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636644.1513085719!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay said a tax rise is being considered"} ,"articleBody": "

The Scottish Finance Secretary’s big event, at least at the start of this month, is the set-piece budget he will deliver to MSPs on Thursday.

As the SNP is once again in a minority administration, the hard work starts, rather than ends with the speech that Mr Mackay gives in submitting his draft budget proposal at Holyrood.

By and large, we already know the demands of the other parties as Mr Mackay prepares in earnest to begin political horsetrading.

But what of outside groups? What do pressure groups, business leaders and other bodies want to see from one of the most important days of the Scottish political calendar?

Business leaders

There aren’t many things that can unite big-business industry group the CBI and the pro-Scottish independence network Business for Scotland, but it seems that the income tax rises predicted to be unveiled on Thursday appeared to have done just that.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party outlined detailed proposals earlier this year that would change Scotland’s income tax bands.

READ MORE: Small businesses oppose tax rise

While the SNP notes that those earning less than £31,000 would not see their taxes increase, those earning more would be impacted by a rise in their basic rate of tax, depending on which of their four ‘approaches’ the Scottish Government takes.

The CBI, which represents the employers of half a million people in Scotland, has called for ‘parity of income tax’ with the rest of Britain.

Their director, Hugh Aitken, said last month: “On income tax and business rates, we simply can’t afford for a chasm to open up between Scotland and the rest of the UK if we want to remain competitive.”

The Federation of Small Business is also on record as being ‘unconvinced’ by the move to raise income tax.

Perhaps most surprising is the intervention of pro-independence Business for Scotland, who say that the tax plans ‘are not a positive move’.

Charities

As those who opposed the ‘swim tax’ will attest, Derek Mackay has shown himself willing to listen to charities and charitable trusts when it comes to his decisions.

The extension of a business rate that would have negatively impacted leisure trusts and potentially have closed sports centres and swimming pools was eventually scrapped.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch on this week’s budget

With the tax position unclear, it is on individual issues that many charities are pursuing their agendas ahead of Thursday’s budget.

The Arts and Business Scotland charity collected the signatures of over 100 leading figures in both those worlds to urge Mr Mackay to protect funding for the arts.

Homelessness is very much an issue in the news at the minute after 8,000 people took part in a ‘sleep out’ in Edinburgh over the weekend.

Homeless Action Scotland chief Gavin Yates said in advance of both Mr Mackay’s budget and that of Westminster equivalent Philip Hammond that action was ‘at a crossroads’.

He called for substantial investment over five years to help make changes that the charity feels can end homelessness entirely.

Others

Councils will also undertake an intense lobbying operation before, during, and after Thursday’s budget, with concerns over their funding from the Scottish Government once again writ large.

While there are no changes expected to be announced this week, the thorny issue of the charitable status of private schools could also come up as part of a larger political attack on the SNP with regard to middle class families.

Their exemption from business rates was challenged in a report earlier this year, and representatives of private schools could use the budget to once again press their case.

Whatever happens on Thursday, it is sure to spark days, weeks and months of intensive debate on Scotland’s economy and finances, with no immediate political solution obvious as it stands.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4636644.1513085719!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636644.1513085719!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay said a tax rise is being considered","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay said a tax rise is being considered","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4636644.1513085719!/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/paris-gourtsoyannis-may-s-brexit-deal-is-actually-a-trap-1-4636730","id":"1.4636730","articleHeadline": "Paris Gourtsoyannis: May’s Brexit deal is actually a trap","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513058400000 ,"articleLead": "

The words “full alignment” in the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU don’t mean what either side hopes they mean, writes Paris Gourtsoyannis.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636729.1513023742!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "All smiles: EU President Jean-Claude Juncker greets Theresa May at the EU Commission in Brussels. (Picture: PA)"} ,"articleBody": "

The safest assumption to make about politics in polarised Brexit Britain is that whatever the UK Government does, it will always make at least half the country unhappy.

So it was a strange and novel experience to see the deal struck by Theresa May last week, clearing the deadlock in the first phase of negotiations with the EU, celebrated pretty widely.

It was tolerated without much complaint by staunch Brexiteers in Cabinet on the Tory benches, despite Boris Johnson passing up few opportunities to derail the Prime Minister’s agenda, and the ‘Leave Means Leave’ group of MPs issuing a last-ditch appeal to respect their red lines that was largely ignored.

Compromise is said to be a foreign concept to the DUP, but they loved this. Not only has it demonstrated their power over the UK Government, but in the words of Ian Paisley Jr, they think they’ve “done over” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

READ MORE: Draft Nicola Sturgeon into Brexit trade talks, Theresa May told

But the deal was also hailed by Remainers, many of whom see the commitment to “full alignment” in order to keep the Irish border open as an admission that a “soft Brexit” inside the single market and customs union is inevitable. Tumbling out of the EU without any deal at all is now impossible, they claim.

One side or the other must be mistaken. On this occasion, it’s probably both.

At the heart of the confusion is the idea of “full alignment”, which has been included in the text of the phase-one agreement between the UK and EU as a “backstop” to ensure the Irish border stays open.

Fittingly, in the wake of a referendum that saw the winning side present a blank slate on which voters could project all their unrelated fears and desires, full alignment is ill-defined, misunderstood, and is being interpreted very differently, most worryingly by the two sides that are about to sign off on the agreement.

David Davis believes the language paves the way to a deal on “mutual recognition” of regulations, allowing the UK to set and police its own trading rules provided they lead to the same outcomes as those in the EU. That would form the basis of the comprehensive trade deal the UK Government craves, giving the country deep access to the single market. It’s also anathema to Brussels, where “full alignment” is seen as being akin to a vassal state – the UK accepts EU rules without power to influence them.

Both sides seem content to let this clear difference in opinion slide in the interest of making progress – but it will be impossible to ignore once trade talks begin in earnest.

Striking a phase-one deal has finally given a sense of momentum to Brexit after months of stalemate and negative headlines. The sense that the UK is finally on its way out of the EU might be enough to keep Brexiteers happy this side of Christmas.

READ MORE: What Brexit deal means for Irish border and other issues

But any truce within Cabinet and the Conservative Party over the shape of Brexit will be short-lived. Downing Street knows that “full alignment” isn’t a phrase to lift the spirits of true-believer Eurosceptics, which is why it allowed not just David Davis but Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to go on TV and suggest last week’s deal wasn’t legally enforceable.

For Remainers, “full alignment” has prompted them to marshall their forces for another push towards a soft Brexit. The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, toured the TV studios reminding the nation that they didn’t vote to become poorer. Keir Starmer has tried to bounce the far-left eurosceptics in the Shadow Cabinet to accept this as the direction of travel. The problem with this approach is that it forces Remainers to advocate for “vassal” status, an economic position their opponents, if they get their act together, can easily construe as thoroughly undesirable. Brexiteers have so far failed to engage on this point, simply arguing that because the UK voted to leave, it also has to leave the single market and customs union. Libertarian Conservatives probably can’t understand why consumers aren’t excited at the thought of the free market putting chlorinated chicken on the shelves.

But that doesn’t mean the case for single market membership is already won. The SNP have fallen particularly hard into this rabbit hole, with the First Minister tweeting last week that “a UK Government that is able to say that come what may, it will avoid hard borders with Ireland/NI after Brexit can never again tell Scotland that independence would mean a hard border” with the rest of the UK.

Putting aside the fact that Northern Ireland’s status is protected by international treaty, what the First Minister was also highlighting was the precarious position an independent Scotland would find itself in if it was outside both the UK and the EU.

Wishful thinking around “full alignment” isn’t limited to politicians. Some of London’s big banks, which have spent this year growing increasingly alarmed at the lack of progress in negotiations, and warning that they will accelerate plans to shift staff out of the UK without a clear transition arrangement agreed by Christmas, now appear to be optimistic of a deal that will allow them to keep operating in the EU single market after Brexit.

Several sources in the City were quoted telling the Financial Times that the bridgeheads they have set up in other EU member states, to ensure the loss of “passporting” rights doesn’t mean an end to their business, could be wound down.

This is premature. There is nothing in the phase-one deal that speaks to the future status of financial services, nor are they covered under Irish north-south co-operation within the Good Friday Agreement. “Full alignment” doesn’t mean the threat to London’s position as Europe’s banking hub is lifted, and the City is just as dependent on next year’s trade negotiations as it ever was. For a brief moment last week, the complex machinery of internal contradictions that is the UK’s Brexit negotiation finally came into contact with domestic political reality. As a result, the Rube Goldberg machine nearly shuddered to a halt. When both sides discover their preferred Brexit isn’t on offer in Brussels, expect it to do so again.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4636729.1513023742!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636729.1513023742!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "All smiles: EU President Jean-Claude Juncker greets Theresa May at the EU Commission in Brussels. (Picture: PA)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "All smiles: EU President Jean-Claude Juncker greets Theresa May at the EU Commission in Brussels. (Picture: PA)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4636729.1513023742!/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/world/corsican-nationalists-secure-historic-election-victory-1-4636737","id":"1.4636737","articleHeadline": "Corsican nationalists secure historic election victory","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1513020857000 ,"articleLead": "

Corsican nationalists secured an unprecedented victory elections on Sunday on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica for a new regional assembly, crushing President Emmanuel Macron’s young centrist movement and traditional parties.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636735.1513021105!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Candidates for the Pe a Corsica nationalist party Jean Guy Talamoni (4L) and Gilles Simeoni (5L) celebrate with party members and supporters after the annoucement of the results in the territorial elections in Bastia on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The nationalists on the island of 320,000 people want more autonomy from Paris but unlike those in Scotland and the nearby Spanish region of Catalonia, they are not yet seeking full independence.

In what French media called a historic result, a coalition of moderate and harder-line nationalists won 56.5 per cent of the vote in yesterday’s second-round election, according to figures from the Interior Ministry.

Local media showed nationalists singing Corsican songs and celebrating in the streets after the results were announced.

READ MORE: MSPs call for independent republic of Catalonia to be recognised

The nationalist coalition, which also won the most votes in the first round a week ago, will have 41 of the 63 seats in the new assembly, which takes office on January 1 after a territorial reform replacing previous assemblies.

Candidates from Mr Macron’s Republic on the Move! party won just six seats.

On the ballot were nationalist issues such as amnesty for political prisoners, the recognition of Corsican as the official language alongside French, and protections for locals who want to buy property on the island the French refer to as the Island of Beauty, which is also rich in history and famed as the birthplace of Napoleon.

The nationalists formed an alliance between the more popular, moderate group led by Gilles Simeoni, who wants devolved power, and a fiery movement led by Jean-Guy Talamoni, who aims to eventually get full autonomy for Corsica, though not immediately.

The vote came a day after French Basques marched through Paris demanding the release of fellow Basques held in prisons around the country for separatist activity.

Far away in the South Pacific, the French territory of New Caledonia is preparing for a referendum on self-rule next year.a

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Thomas Adamson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4636735.1513021105!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4636735.1513021105!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Candidates for the Pe a Corsica nationalist party Jean Guy Talamoni (4L) and Gilles Simeoni (5L) celebrate with party members and supporters after the annoucement of the results in the territorial elections in Bastia on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Candidates for the Pe a Corsica nationalist party Jean Guy Talamoni (4L) and Gilles Simeoni (5L) celebrate with party members and supporters after the annoucement of the results in the territorial elections in Bastia on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4636735.1513021105!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1509458249222"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brian-monteith-brexit-agreement-is-a-sham-to-save-the-pm-1-4635822","id":"1.4635822","articleHeadline": "Brian Monteith: Brexit agreement is a sham to save the PM","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512997247000 ,"articleLead": "

There is only one word required to sum up the agreement announced between the UK government and the European Union and it is to describe it as a “sham”, for it is designed to do one thing only and that is to keep Theresa May as Prime Minister, for now.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635821.1512997253!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image"} ,"articleBody": "

This suits not just Theresa May and most of her Conservative colleagues (including those who aspire to replace her) but the EU – for it leaves them all to fight another day.

Depending on where you view it from the conclusion of the Stage One negotiations can be presented as a success, a failure, a capitulation, or a triumph. Each point of view can and will be justified by the different parties involved – and those criticising or cheering from the sidelines.

The best that can be said of it for businesses or the public is that it allows the Brexit negotiations to move on to Stage Two.

The UK has made it clear it is willing to pay the EU a sum in the region of £40bn when the EU had been asking for as much as double only a few months ago.

This might appear a success in bargaining-down our country’s future financial commitments, yet we have no itemised invoice telling the public what we are handing over taxpayers’ cash for. Any auditor would protest that any such payment must be fully transparent or be an abrogation of fiduciary duties.

The UK has agreed not just to grant rights to EU citizens living in the country (as it always said it would) but will also allow a foreign court, where we shall have no sitting British judge, to adjudicate over such rights for at least eight years.

Set against the EU’s demands for a fifteen-year jurisdiction those eight years might appear a triumph, but do we let the US Supreme Court adjudicate on the rights of US citizens in the UK?

On the Irish border question the UK government has found a forms of words that appears to satisfy the demands of Dublin – and therefore Brussels, while squaring-off the need of the DUP to maintain UK integrity.

This is the least convincing of the three for the commitment to maintain full regulatory alignment between the UK and Ireland while maintaining UK integrity is contradictory and therefore undeliverable.

It is said that were a committee asked to design a horse the result would be a camel. What we have with this Stage One agreement is a camel with three humps that is being called a horse by its designers. Theresa May is delighted with her horse because she can ride on through Christmas as Prime Minister; the EU is delighted because the nag maintains the prospect of receiving those billions while keeping alive the possibility of wearing down the British people into submitting to some form of associate membership; and the Brexiteers in the Cabinet will put on a brave face for now, for they do not wish to bring their own party’s government down.

If ever there was an example of how political parties put their own interests before that of our country, this agreement is it.

Conservatives are saying they have delivered, but it is without a critical eye to the agreement’s inherent failings; Jeremy Corbyn is saying it all could have been achieved far quicker even though Labour spokesmen have had more positions on the Single Market and Customs Union in the last year than you will find in the Kama Sutra. Nicola Sturgeon effects mock outrage, calling May’s concessions a capitulation to disguise her disappointment that any agreement makes it impossible for the SNP to whip up enough grievance to justify a second independence referendum. Maybe if the SNP had spent more money campaigning on the EU referendum than it did for a parliamentary by-election in Glenrothes the First Minister might have earned some credibility.

And yet the real truth is that the “agreement” is no such thing. The Joint Report’s own communiqué makes it clear that any future Withdrawal Agreement will be drafted using the weekend’s “deal” as a basis but also on the outcome of negotiations on other issues. It does not bind Stage Two of the negotiations to accept anything “agreed” in Stage One, everything remains up for grabs and the consequently we may yet fail to have any agreement at all – or find the UK government makes even more concessions so that it can limp on avoiding a change of leader or having another general election.

This explains why the agreement was so eagerly accepted by Conservative critics, for they believe that any final agreement can be improved or will ultimately collapse, leaving us in the default position where, having invoked Article 50, we shall then depart the EU without any agreement.

As usual our political parties all find different things to say that blame each other, for they put their own interests before that of the country.

With brilliant timing a new campaign to reduce the influence of political parties to the point where our political representatives would not need them has been launched.

Called unify-uk.org the campaign website argues convincingly how so may of our political, economic and social problems are not solved by political parties but indeed caused or made worse by them. The tribalism that forever divides us, be it Conservatives or Labour or SNP, and presents one colour as always bad or another as always good means that our MPs and MSPs are whipped to vote for policies they know to be damaging or against ideas that could work rather than work together.

Shamelessly, parties offer policies that only the year before they were castigating as dangerous because suddenly they see it as in their advantage to do so – not because any objective assessment of evidence. In the case of Brexit they are now putting their own interests before finding the best outcome.

Whichever country you believe in, be it Scotland or the United Kingdom, the tribalism of the political parties is holding us back. We deserve far better and by having more autonomous or independent representatives in parliament we will have far better decision making than we enjoy at the moment.

Brian Monteith is a director of Global Britain.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635821.1512997253!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635821.1512997253!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "editorial image","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635821.1512997253!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5670822690001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-not-just-the-snp-on-trial-in-battleground-budget-1-4635749","id":"1.4635749","articleHeadline": "Lesley Riddoch: Not just the SNP on trial in battleground budget","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512972035000 ,"articleLead": "

The Scottish Budget may seem like a relatively low-key affair compared to the mighty issues and surreal politics at work elsewhere.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635748.1512934332!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay"} ,"articleBody": "

But unlike the smoke and mirrors which still beset Brexit, Derek Mackay’s budget on Thursday will be a tangible thing with clear winners and losers. It must set out different tax and spend priorities to Westminster or leave Nicola Sturgeon open to the accusation she’s presiding over a “Dickensian Scotland”. But since the SNP has rejected Green proposals on compulsory purchase, land tax, council tax reform, and ending the 100 per cent exemption on vacant and derelict land, Mackay will find it hard to tackle the high price of land and thus the on-going shortage of affordable housing in Thursday’s budget.

But the Finance Secretary does plan to scrap the pay cap and raise Scottish income tax -- making this budget a battleground for the social democratic vote, which, until now, has clung steadfastly to the SNP. But for how much longer if the SNP appears to be passing Westminster cuts down the line to local government?

In 2015 many felt the SNP made a political mistake by cutting council budgets, renewing the council tax freeze and opting not to raise income tax.

Then, the SNP could be excused for thinking the local domain was so fragmented and under-reported that local cuts might seem like a relatively victimless crime, or at least one that could be convincingly laid at the Tories’ door. If that was ever true, it’ll be different this time around – not least because local government elections mean the SNP is involved in running around half of Scotland’s 32 councils. If council leaders refuse to stand up to a local budget-cutting Scottish Government run by their own party, the SNP will soon be held in the same contempt as Scottish Labour for trying to manage away democratic dissent.

But will that happen?

Mackay has moved to assure Scotland’s businesses that his budget will prioritise “growth and innovation”, which probably confirms tax hikes for middle and high earners are on the cards. Business leaders have warned that could cause economic damage.

And yet, Scottish voters might be ready to accept that creating a society with a real living wage, genuinely affordable housing, transport and free childcare could be advantageous when it comes to attracting and retaining staff. Similarly, giving a pay rise to the poorest public sector workers may also seem like a pump priming investment as well as a long overdue bit of social justice, if the policy is argued convincingly. The Institute for Public Policy Research, for example, has estimated that a 2% pay rise would cost the Scottish government £380m, but would recoup half that amount through higher tax and national insurance payments and reduced benefit costs. Nicola Sturgeon would undoubtedly prefer that extra tax receipts from higher pay don’t leak from the Scottish economy to Westminster. But the public can see what years of self-defeating, demand-side destroying, belt-tightening austerity have done, and may now be ready to see Scotland head off in a distinctively different political direction. As long as it is bold enough to make a difference.

The latest Survation opinion poll gives the SNP an 11 point lead in Holyrood voting intentions and puts the Scottish Tories back in third place again. It’s not surprising Ruth Davidson’s honeymoon with Scottish voters has been fairly short-lived – voters have witnessed the Tories’ callous disregard over Universal Credit payments and calamitous cackhandedness around Brexit and seem unwilling to disconnect the Scottish Tory leader from these Westminster policy failures. Likewise, voters know the Scottish Government is paying millions to mitigate the bedroom tax and will use new welfare powers to simply block other Conservative excesses north of the border.

So the test for Mackay is not Ruth Davidson’s response to his modest tax hikes, but whether any small shifts in pay and tax will amount to a hill o beans, or leave him open to the charge he is yet again robbing Peter to pay Paul. Much of that is a trust thing – and though levels of trust in the Scottish Government are higher than in any other arm of government in Britain, they are nowhere near Nordic levels where 40 per cent personal taxation seems like a fair trade for public services of such a high quality, that no-one feels forced to pay twice and take out individual private insurance guarding against reliance on basic “safety net” services as middle class voters do here.

Recent statistics also suggest the Scottish Government’s determination to limit the marketization of public services is starting to pay off – a BBC investigation last week found Scotland is the only part of the UK performing better against the NHS four hour waiting times target for A & E patients than it was four years ago. The NHS in England has seen a 155% rise in “long waiters”, whilst numbers in Scotland fell 9% over the same period. But one indicator doth not an economic transformation make and the new Labour leader, Richard Leonard, will be keen to dent the SNP’s record on social justice and put clear red water between the Scottish Government and his own new Corbyn-friendly Scottish Labour Party. That could be difficult if Mackay comes up with inflation-busting pay awards for the poorest workers and heads off threatened strike action by nursing, civil service and teaching unions. As usual, the devil will be in the size of the pay awards and the number of workers helped.

In any case, Leonard has a lot less clout in budget preparation than Holyrood’s smaller parties because the minority SNP administration must court the Greens or Lib Dems to get its budget through.

Green MSPs warn they cannot support funding cuts to local council services like education, social care, transport and leisure. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie wants a penny on the basic rate of income tax to deliver “transformative investment” in education.

But Scottish Labour and the Tories should beware -- the public expects clear, bold, viable alternative tax and spending from them, not weary old taunts about “the day job” or a preoccupation with independence. One thing’s for sure -- it won’t just be the SNP who are on trial this Thursday.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635748.1512934332!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635748.1512934332!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635748.1512934332!/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/dani-garavelli-paisley-finds-itself-despite-losing-contest-1-4635146","id":"1.4635146","articleHeadline": "Dani Garavelli: Paisley finds itself despite losing contest","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512863098000 ,"articleLead": "

Confession time. Even though I have lived on the west coast of Scotland for most of my life, I had rarely been to Paisley before this year. Brought up in Prestwick, I had travelled through it, of course, on the train to Glasgow: Troon, Barassie, Irvine, Kilwinning, Dalry, Lochwinnoch and then Gilmour Street. Seeing that last sign brought a frisson of excitement, not in its own right, but because you knew it was the last stop before the bright lights and the big city; the place before the place you actually wanted to go.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Paisley Abbey lit up in anticipation of the City of Culture 2021 result last week. Picture: Kieran Chambers"} ,"articleBody": "

As an adult, I went mostly to cover stories; and most of those stories were about deprivation. I suppose I came to associate the whole town with post-industrial gloom and low life expectancy. That and its horrible one-way system, in which I seemed fated to become ensnared.

It wasn’t until I came to write a feature about its efforts to be named UK City Of Culture 2021 that I properly saw it; in the space of a few hours, I had my eyes opened to its rich heritage and stunning architecture.

The catalyst for this epiphany was meeting bid director Jean Cameron. If you haven’t encountered Cameron (and she’s been fairly ubiquitous over the past few days, so you probably have), she is an irrepressible force of nature. Small with jet-black hair and bright red lipstick, she brims over with such positivity she could probably have got Slough on to the shortlist; but Paisley is her hometown, so she had added motivation to evangelise about its many strengths.

On a blustery day in May, Cameron showed me around: my own personal tour guide. And what an inspiring tour guide she was, with an interesting snippet of information to match every sight. “Look,” she said, pointing at an imposing statue of a medieval knight on horseback on top of the town’s cenotaph, “one of the very few British war memorials created by a woman [Alice Meredith Williams]”. And then, as we gazed at the newly renovated Art Deco Russell Institute, a former clinic, with its great bronze angel clutching two babies: “I remember being brought here as a child for my jags.”

But it wasn’t merely Paisley’s history – its famous teardrop pattern imported from Persia, or the plethora of buildings paid for by the Coats and the Clarks, the town’s competing thread mill families – that was the focus of Cameron’s zeal. Without trying to underplay the town’s obvious problems – its poverty, drugs and high unemployment – she eulogised about its creativity, its art groups and its festivals and about how culture could be transformative; how it could revolutionise people’s lives.

I came away from Paisley that day feeling energised and uplifted; and a few weeks later I returned with my youngest son, to show him the museum, the Abbey and the many vibrant murals in lanes and on gable ends.

What Cameron did for me, the bid team replicated on a national scale. Those at the helm, including Renfrewshire Council chief executive, Sandra Black, and head of marketing, Louisa Mahon, created an unprecedented buzz around the town. They believed in its worth and its potential, and, because they did, others began to believe in it too. Such was Paisley’s conspicuous need that local MP Mhairi Black referred to the bid as “a cry for help”, but it was more like a yell of defiance. In Ferguslie Park, which in 2016 topped the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation for the second consecutive time, there was a renewed determination to challenge the stigma and demonstrate its vigour and resilience.

The solidarity engendered by the process was palpable on Thursday as the countdown to the UK City of Culture 2021 announcement began. From the evening before, Paisley – which had already won endorsements from famous natives such as Gerard Butler, Paolo Nutini, David Tennant and John Byrne – was being bombarded by good luck messages from across Scotland.

There was a degree of self-confidence too. No-one knew for sure what the politics of the decision would be – might Dundee’s failure to win in 2013 and its Brexit-related exclusion from the European City of Culture 2023 encourage the judges to throw Scotland a bone? Or would the possibility of an independence vote before 2021 prove a disincentive? But Paisley was the bookies’ favourite and it had laid out a pretty compelling case for its own success.

In the end, of course, it was not to be. The envelope was opened to reveal the word “Coventry” and those who had gathered in the University of the West of Scotland for the big reveal were temporarily crestfallen.

Still, all is not lost. Paisley (a town, not a city) is the smallest place to have made it this far in the process – a huge achievement in itself. And simply producing the bid has created a momentum that cannot be stopped by something as trivial as losing out to a rival.

When Dundee lost to Hull in 2013, it pledged to press ahead with a waterfront development that will see the opening of the £45m V&A building, and set its sights on becoming the European City of Culture 2023: an accolade which would have brought an estimated £128m to the economy.

The news last month that it was being ruled out of the latter was a huge blow because it meant money had been invested in plans that never had any chance of coming to fruition. But even so, the publicity around its attempt has kept Dundee and its cultural regeneration in the public eye.

Simply taking part in such competitions increases resources and raises a city’s profile. In the past few years, Paisley has attracted national events such as the Royal National Mod and the Say Awards, while the annual Spree festival, now in its sixth year, includes a collaboration between the RSNO and a pop group in Paisley Abbey; overall, visitor figures have been on the rise.

The town now has a better platform from which to attract even greater investment and is already committed to a multi-million-pound transformation of the town centre; included in this is an extension to the museum which will allow it to better showcase its superb collection of Paisley Pattern shawls.

But none of this is as important as what the experience has done for Paisley’s battered morale. A town which suffered once with the decline of the textile industry and then again with the decline of shipbuilding has rediscovered its sense of self. Though its troubles are still evident in the vacant high street shops and the beggars, there is no mistaking the shift in spirit. Thanks to the bid, Paisley is now walking a wee bit taller. And that’s something money alone can’t buy.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Paisley Abbey lit up in anticipation of the City of Culture 2021 result last week. Picture: Kieran Chambers","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Paisley Abbey lit up in anticipation of the City of Culture 2021 result last week. Picture: Kieran Chambers","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635145.1512838619!/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/tax-rate-hike-risks-hitting-revenue-derek-mackay-warned-1-4635236","id":"1.4635236","articleHeadline": "Tax rate hike risks hitting revenue, Derek Mackay warned","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512861552000 ,"articleLead": "

Senior figures in the SNP are concerned that a dramatic income tax hike in this week’s Scottish budget will be counterproductive and end up costing the Scottish Government revenue.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635448.1512895527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. Picture: Greg Macvean"} ,"articleBody": "

This week Finance Secretary Derek Mackay is expected to unveil a budget that uses Holyrood’s new powers to raise income tax further in Scotland.

With the minority SNP administration requiring opposition backing to get the budget through parliament Mackay is likely to rely on support from the Greens, a party advocating radical tax rises.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mackay have signalled they intend to put up income tax, despite some of their colleagues expressing concern at the impact it could have on business.

Yesterday independence supporting group Business for Scotland also warned against putting up income tax while calling for a review of the Scottish Stamp Duty replacement Land Buildings and Transaction Tax (LBTT).

Business for Scotland chief executive Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp said he was against increasing income tax and added that LBTT had to be reformed to free up the property market.

Business-friendly sources in the SNP are concerned that raising income tax too much on the highest earners will result in a loss of tax take.

One said: “With the Greens as the only tail that is going to wag the dog you can see the conundrum that Derek Mackay faces.

“Putting taxes up doesn’t necessarily mean you get more revenue. We are about to put that to test for the first time, it would appear. But we need to be very careful that this doesn’t damage revenue or the economy.”

MacIntyre-Kemp said: “Increasing taxes across the board in the hope of raising some £200m extra revenue is not a positive move.”

Instead, he said, the UK Government could raise cash by closing loopholes that allow large corporations to transfer profits out of the country.

On LBTT, he said: “We would like the Finance Minister to review the performance of this tax with a view to refining an optimal rate. Markets have been, becoming more volatile, there is great uncertainty around Brexit and the top end of the property market is not turning over as quickly as before.  So it may be that the level this tax is set at needs to be adjusted for maximum return and to optimise market activity.”

Scots earning more than £43,000 already pay more income tax as a result of Scottish ministers freezing the salary threshold for the 40p higher rate band. South of the border, the Chancellor has announced that the threshold will go up to £46,350.

Sturgeon signalled more hikes are on the way this week when she published a paper suggesting those earning £24,000 and over would pay more income tax.

In Thursday’s budget Mackay may choose to create new tax bands that would allow him to produce a tax cut for the lowest paid while introducing a modest tax rise on the basic rate for those earning £24,000 or more.

Those in the higher (£43,000 and above) and additional (those earning more than £150,000) tax brackets are likely to be hit by income tax rises.

The Finance Secretary has pledged to put economic growth at the heart of his budget.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635448.1512895527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635448.1512895527!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. Picture: Greg Macvean","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. Picture: Greg Macvean","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635448.1512895527!/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/euan-mccolm-nicola-sturgeon-s-chance-to-forge-lasting-legacy-1-4635118","id":"1.4635118","articleHeadline": "Euan McColm: Nicola Sturgeon’s chance to forge lasting legacy","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512861301000 ,"articleLead": "

During the Brexit chaos that dominates our national agenda and continues to expose Theresa May as a prime minister of uncommon incompetence, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed her status as one of the most skilled politicians anywhere in the United Kingdom.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sturgeon shakes Ruth Davidsons hand after a head-to-head TV debate. They should be able to find common ground on Scotlands future relationship with Europe. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

As the UK government fought to escape a whirlpool created by its failure, early last week, to find a satisfactory answer to the question of how, post-Brexit, the border with Ireland might operate, Sturgeon stamped her mark on proceedings, making the strong case that if Northern Ireland could expect some kind of unique status after the UK leaves the EU, so could, say, Scotland.

The Scottish Government has been arguing since the result of last June’s referendum was declared that Scotland should have a special agreement on issues ranging from immigration to membership of the single market. These had been pie-in-the-sky demands, based on political calculation rather than the realistic prospect of achieving them, until it seemed Northern Ireland might have special status. Suddenly, the First Minister had a case.

Politics can create the most unlikely alliances and so, while Sturgeon was making her argument, Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson issued a statement saying that if a frictionless border with Ireland required some alignment in the north with EU regulations, the PM should conclude that such arrangements should apply across the UK.

Both the First Minister and the Scottish Tory leader echoed the hopes of many Remain voters, and not just in Scotland. Not for the first time, while chaos engulfed the UK government, Davidson and Sturgeon tried to change the direction of the UK’s departure from the EU, moving away from the “sod-the-lot-of-you” approach favoured by hard Brexiteers and finding a path which would lead to the closest possible relationship between Britain and Europe after the country’s departure from the European club in 2019.

It was not long before Sturgeon and Davidson’s differences were exposed, however. When, on Friday, the Prime Minister announced that talks between the UK and the EU were progressing (though, since there is to be no agreement until the end of this negotiating process, it will be some time before we know whether that is truly the case) and that there would be no hard border, post-Brexit, dividing Northern Ireland from the Republic, the First Minister pointed out that this meant an end to Unionist claims that an independent Scotland would have to have a hard border with England.

Sturgeon had a point, though her Tory opponent wasn’t having it. It didn’t take much for the First Minister to start “banging the indy drum”, said Davidson.

I suspect many Scottish remain voters will have felt similarly disheartened by Sturgeon’s insistence on trying to make this issue about Scottish independence.

The First Minister can be a confusing figure for the pro-UK and pro-EU Scottish voter. Her warnings about the catastrophic impact of Brexit may elicit nods of agreement but it remains the case that many of those who agree with Sturgeon on the EU think she is completely wrong about the UK.

The intellectual incoherence of the First Minister’s case – remaining in one political and trading union is essential while remaining in another is madness – does, I’m afraid, rather undermine it and so Sturgeon’s line about borders was understandably tempting but not at all politically savvy.

What a depressing state of affairs this is for the Scottish Remainer. Right now, with the UK government in such a shambolic state, what’s needed from Sturgeon is focus on the central issue, not sniping about her own constitutional obsession.

The First Minister has already been forced by the prospect of devastating defeat to postpone plans for a second independence referendum. This being so (and, perhaps, with an eye to her own legacy) Sturgeon should be thinking about what she might actually achieve in the interests of the majority of Scots (even those who did not vote for her).

There is an opportunity, as some powers to be repatriated from the EU go to Holyrood rather than Westminster, for the First Minister to look again at the devolution settlement. And she should not approach this as a combatant but, instead, should look across parties at Holyrood to build support.

There are, on the Tory benches, many who would support a more muscular devolution agreement. Should Sturgeon push for something approaching full fiscal autonomy, increased borrowing powers and full control over welfare, she may find that some kind of consensus can be reached in the Scottish Parliament.

In these fractious times, with Scotland divided by one constitutional line and the UK divided by another, we are crying out for the restoration of some calm.

The First Minister can play a lasting role in achieving that, in Scotland at least.

We need MSPs to look at the mess of Brexit and ask how, by the end of the miserable process of departure from the EU, they can make a positive difference.

Davidson has made it perfectly clear that, after leading the Scottish Tories past Labour and into second place in Scotland, she intends to steal Sturgeon’s crown at the next Holyrood election.

This is quite the ambition which, if she is to achieve it, will require anything but amicable relations with the current First Minister. Pity.

Having voted by a substantial majority to remain in the EU last year, Scots are now watching the unfurling of a chaotic divorce they didn’t want. There is very little that political champions of these voters – whether in the shape of the First Minister or the Scottish Conservative leader – can do now to change the shape of Brexit.

But Sturgeon, Davidson, and others at Holyrood could try to restore some stability amid the current political turbulence.

If Brexit – with all of its miserable consequences – must happen, then I’d rather like MSPs to do what they can to ensure Scotland is in the best possible shape to deal with it.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Euan McColm"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sturgeon shakes Ruth Davidsons hand after a head-to-head TV debate. They should be able to find common ground on Scotlands future relationship with Europe. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sturgeon shakes Ruth Davidsons hand after a head-to-head TV debate. They should be able to find common ground on Scotlands future relationship with Europe. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4635117.1512892112!/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/leader-comment-uk-eu-deal-exposes-the-contradictions-of-brexit-1-4634741","id":"1.4634741","articleHeadline": "Leader comment: UK-EU deal exposes the contradictions of Brexit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512799200000 ,"articleLead": "

For supporters of a ‘soft Brexit’, Theresa May’s deal with the European Union appears to be good news – judging by the Brexiteers’ reaction.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4634740.1512761969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anti-Brexit campaigners wave EU and Union flags outside the Westminster Parliament. (Picture: Getty)"} ,"articleBody": "

For supporters of a ‘soft Brexit’, Theresa May’s deal with the European Union appears to be good news – judging by the Brexiteers’ reaction.

Arron Banks, founder of Leave.EU group, was distinctly unpleasant about the pro-Brexit MP Priti Patel, calling her a “typical Tory traitor” after she described the agreement as an “important step forward”. And former UKIP leader Nigel Farage tweeted huffily that “we can now move on to the next stage of humiliation” – a slightly odd turn of phrase given stage one was the decision to leave the EU.

It was left to the likes of Nicola Sturgeon to provide more measured comment. Scotland’s First Minister welcomed the deal, as it will allow the talks to progress to trade, but noted the “devil is in the detail and things now get really tough”.

READ MORE: What Brexit deal means for Irish border and other issues

Ms Sturgeon also made a not unreasonable point, for a nationalist, that the deal showed an independent Scotland would not necessarily mean a hard border with England; Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson then made a not unreasonable point, for a unionist, that the First Minister should stop banging on about independence.

A key part of the 7,200-word document is where the UK agrees to “maintain full alignment with those rules of the [EU] internal market and customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South [Irish] co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 [Good Friday] Agreement” unless some other arrangement is made.

So the UK would be outside the Single Market, have no say in any of its rules but still would have to abide by many of them, even ones the EU brings in after Brexit. You can see why Banks and Farage are so cross.

But, in reality, Ms May and the Government had little choice but to make the deal, as Cabinet Brexiteer Boris Johnson appears to have belatedly realised.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson slams Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit deal response

The only alternatives would appear to be either creating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic – risking the Good Friday Agreement and causing Britain to crash out of the EU with no trade deal – or putting a hard border between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, and thereby, as Ms Davidson warned, threatening the integrity of the UK.

When they campaigned so glibly for Brexit on the grounds the UK would “take back control” from Brussels, the Brexiteers do not seem to have thought these issues through. If anything, Brexit seems to be giving more control to Brussels.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4634740.1512761969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4634740.1512761969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Anti-Brexit campaigners wave EU and Union flags outside the Westminster Parliament. (Picture: Getty)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anti-Brexit campaigners wave EU and Union flags outside the Westminster Parliament. (Picture: Getty)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4634740.1512761969!/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/nicola-sturgeon-says-devil-is-in-the-detail-in-praising-brexit-bill-victory-1-4634053","id":"1.4634053","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon says ‘devil is in the detail’ in praising Brexit bill victory","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512745456000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has declared the “devil” will be in the detail as she praised Brexit negotiations finally moving to the second phase.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4629242.1512722417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon says the UK government must "limit the damage" of Brexit. Picture: Getty Images."} ,"articleBody": "

The First Minister has previously labelled Brexit as a “developing disaster”, arguing the process of leaving the European Union had left the UK “engulfed in chaos” and strengthened the case for a second Scottish independence referendum.

READ MORE: Nigel Farage mocks Brexit deal, says UK can move to ‘next stage of humiliation’

This morning she tweeted: “Move to phase 2 of talks good - but devil is in the detail and things now get really tough.

“If #Brexit is happening (wish it wasn’t) staying in single market & customs union is only sensible option. And any special arrangements for NI must be available to other UK nations.”

Ms Sturgeon has demanded that Scotland be allowed to “effectively” stay in the EU single market early this week ahead of the UK Government reaching an agreement with Northern Ireland to advance Brexit talks.

The First Minister insisted there was “no good practical reason” why one part of the UK should be allowed to align its regulations with the EU and “others cannot do the same”.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Theresa May achieves breakthrough in Brexit negotiations

Ms Sturgeon added: “A UK Government that is able to say that come what may, it will avoid hard borders with Ireland/NI after Brexit can never again tell Scotland that independence would mean a hard border between Scotland the UK.

“While the Scottish Government remains clear that we wish Brexit was not happening and that the UK as a whole was not leaving the European Union, today’s proposed agreement is a welcome step forward in the negotiations. The next phase will be significantly tougher and it is essential all the UK’s Governments are now fully involved in the negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU - something that has not happened to this point.”

The First Minister welcomed the guarantee there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland and said the Scottish Government would seek clarity on how full alignment with the rules of the single market and customs union would be delivered.

She added: “I am absolutely clear that any special arrangements for Northern Ireland must now be available to other nations of the UK - the Scottish Government will not accept any arrangements which risk putting Scotland at an economic disadvantage.

“Short of continuing EU membership, the best outcome for jobs and living standards is to retain membership of the single market and customs union - both in transition and permanently.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the development was “a real step forward”.

She said: “Throughout this process, my overriding priority has been to ensure we act as one United Kingdom and no home nation is left behind.

“I am therefore glad that this morning’s agreement ensures the integrity of the UK.

“The work on a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU27 can now begin.

“This will require more hard work and patience. But I am optimistic that Britain and Europe can together build a new relationship, underpinned by the ties of trade, shared values and mutual interest. It is in all our interests.”

Ms Davidson criticised Ms Sturgeon for linking the developments to Scottish independence, calling on the SNP leader to “give it a rest”.

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird MP said the news was a “step in the right direction” but careful scrutiny would be needed to shed light on the details of the proposal.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie renewed calls for a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4629242.1512722417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4629242.1512722417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon says the UK government must "limit the damage" of Brexit. Picture: Getty Images.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon says the UK government must "limit the damage" of Brexit. Picture: Getty Images.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4629242.1512722417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5672084943001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/ruth-davidson-slams-nicola-sturgeon-s-brexit-deal-response-1-4634203","id":"1.4634203","articleHeadline": "Ruth Davidson slams Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit deal response","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512731828000 ,"articleLead": "

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has urged Nicola Sturgeon to ‘give it a rest’ after the First Minister said that an agreement reached on the Irish border issue invalidated an argument against Scottish independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4602778.1512744137!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.png","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image"} ,"articleBody": "

Theresa May and her EU counterpart Donald Tusk announced in the early hours of this morning that a deal had been reached on Britain’s post Brexit ‘divorce bill’ and the thorny issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republican.

READ MORE: Breakthrough in Brexit talks as deal reached

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cautiously welcomed the move, tweeting that a move on to the second phase of talks was a good thing, but warning that there was still work to be done on several key areas.

The SNP leader followed up her tweet with an ‘aside’ on Scottish independence, sparking a furious response from Ms Davidson.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “A UK Government that is able to say that come what may, it will avoid hard borders with Ireland/NI after Brexit can never again tell Scotland that independence would mean a hard border between Scotland and rUK.”

READ MORE: Holyrood Brexit deal ‘very close’

Ruth Davidson quoted the tweet, accusing the First Minister of ‘using any Brexit development to bang the indy drum’.

She added: “Could set your watch by it. Give it a rest.”

The First Minister hit back almost immediately, claiming the response represented “Democracy, Tory style - shut up and let us inflict whatever damage on Scotland we want.”

Challenged by another Twitter user what she would have done differently from Theresa May, who praised the deal struck with EU leaders, Ms Sturgeon reiterated her desire to ‘not leave the EU’.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4602778.1512744137!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.png","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4602778.1512744137!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.png","alt": "editorial image","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4602778.1512744137!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.png","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5670822690001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/leader-nicola-sturgeon-and-scotland-face-a-historic-choice-on-tax-1-4633901","id":"1.4633901","articleHeadline": "Leader: Nicola Sturgeon and Scotland face a historic choice on tax","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512712800000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon may have felt like she was between a rock and a hard place yesterday.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4633900.1512725240!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon must balance competing pressures (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)"} ,"articleBody": "

First, Richard Leonard warned the First Minister that some Scots were living in “Dickensian” conditions because of council cuts and policies of austerity.

The famous Victorian author may have begged to differ, given some of the real-life conditions he fictionalised, but behind the rhetoric lies the reality that flat-lining wages and rising living costs are causing real problems for many people.

The resulting dissatisfaction has already helped to create the conditions for the rise of left-wing politicians like Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Leonard himself. The Brexit referendum vote was also influenced by the arguably misplaced hope that leaving the EU would lead to a brighter future. So politicians who ignore the harm caused by austerity do so at their peril.

READ MORE: Council cuts leading to ‘Dickensian’ Scotland, says Leonard

In a strikingly bold move, Ms Sturgeon has laid out proposals to increase income tax in Scotland. These could see tax cuts for those earning up to £15,000 but increases for people earning more than £24,000. She has spoken about the need to ask “tough questions” about how much tax people pay given our ageing population, a decade of austerity and the prospect of Brexit.

But, after being attacked from the left by Mr Leonard, Ms Sturgeon found no peace as she sat down to have her dinner last night.

Instead Tim Allan, president of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, told an audience of business people in Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel that increasing taxes above those south of the border would risk making Scotland uncompetitive at a time of “sluggish growth and faltering business investment”. While he did suggest higher taxes might be acceptable if they were “ring-fenced to drive growth and job creation”, the overall message was clear.

When the Scottish Budget is revealed next week, we should have a better idea of where Ms Sturgeon stands amid these two competing pressures.

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

Raising taxes is always politically dangerous and it has the potential to adversely affect the economy, so if the SNP decides to do so they will need to be careful. Failure could lead to the fall of the Government and the end of the independence movement for a generation. But if the SNP can restore our public services, ensure our economy thrives and put an end to the need for charity food banks, that would be a considerable achievement.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scotsman Leader"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4633900.1512725240!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4633900.1512725240!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon must balance competing pressures (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon must balance competing pressures (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4633900.1512725240!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5636791963001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/new-pro-union-campaign-pledges-not-to-be-better-together-mk-ii-1-4633411","id":"1.4633411","articleHeadline": "New pro-Union campaign pledges not to be ‘Better Together Mk II’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512651191000 ,"articleLead": "

A new anti-independence campaign is to be launched in Glasgow by former members of Scotland in Union eager to promote the benefits of Brexit.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4633410.1512728841!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Brexit looms large over business prospects."} ,"articleBody": "

UK Unity has been set up by a former Renfrewshire councillor aiming to push a more aggressive campaign on social media aimed at younger voters.

David Clews, a former development manager at Scotland in Union, will speak at a launch event in Kinning Park on Friday. He will be joined by Kyle Coats, who until last month was a social media co-ordinator at the same organisation.

While firmly against Scottish independence, UK Unity’s Facebook page is filled with pro-Brexit memes. One brands chancellor Philip Hammond a “traitor” over the size of the UK’s bill to leave the EU. Another calls for former prime minister Tony Blair to be sent to jail.

“We are a campaign that seeks to preserve and strengthen the United Kingdom,” explains the group’s mission statement on Facebook.

“We believe that our new relationship with Europe and the world offers us the opportunity to make the real change that we all desire.”

READ MORE: Pamela Nash to lead pro-UK Scotland in the Union campaign group

Mr Clews, 35, told The Scotsman that UK Unity was not intended to be a “rival” to Scotland in Union, which is led by former Labour MP Pamela Nash, but added his former employers were “unlikely to be happy about it”.

“I felt something different needed to be done,” he said. “I think Brexit is the elephant in the room. People in the UK have voted to leave. It was a UK-wide vote. It provides opportunities for change. Many who voted for the SNP at the last election also backed Leave.

“The last independence campaign encompassed a myriad of pro-Yes groups. Why can’t the Unionist campaign have a bit more variety or spice? If Scotland in Union want to be more centrist, that’s down to them.”

Mr Clews, who describes himself as an “on-off Labour supporter”, said UK Unity would speak out against a belief in “Scottish exceptionalism”

He added: “People in Coatbridge and Canterbury voted for Jeremy Corbyn. I don’t agree with a lot of what he is doing, but it is clear he is conncecting with people.

“What we’re offering is offering something different. We’re not Better Together Mk II.

“I encourage people to attend our launch event to hear more about we are about.”

Alastair Cameron, founder of Scotland in Union, denied his organisation had split over Brexit.

“Scotland in Union has no link to them (UK Unity) at all,” he told The Herald.

“I would not call them a breakaway group. I’d call them individuals who were with Scotland in Union who have decided to do something else.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CHRIS McCALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4633410.1512728841!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4633410.1512728841!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Brexit looms large over business prospects.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Brexit looms large over business prospects.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4633410.1512728841!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5670822690001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/general-election/brexit-special-northern-ireland-terms-could-have-unravelled-the-uk-1-4631894","id":"1.4631894","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Special Northern Ireland terms could have ‘unravelled’ the UK","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512511766000 ,"articleLead": "

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has warned that special Brexit terms for Northern Ireland “could have unravelled the entire United Kingdom”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631892.1512511772!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds (C) speaks to journalists outside the Houses of Parliament Picture: AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMENTOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The UK government backtracked on its strategy of earlier in the week when Brexit Secretary David Davis told the House of Commons yesterday that any “regulatory alignment” in order to prevent a hard border in Ireland would apply to the whole of the UK, in a bid to ease concerns from the DUP and Scottish Conservatives about a separate deal in Ireland undermining the Union. Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to abandon carefully choreographed plans to sign off on the first stage of Brexit talks on Monday after DUP leader Arlene Foster rejected a planned text committing Northern Ireland to match regulations in the Republic across a number of areas.

A leak of the draft agreement prompted calls from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for Scotland to be allowed to remain in the European single market and customs union, a demand echoed by the Welsh First Minister and London mayor.

Writing in The Scotsman today, Ms Davidson says: “A markedly separate deal for Northern Ireland – perhaps with membership of the single market – could have unravelled the entire United Kingdom; indeed, the alacrity with which Nicola Sturgeon spotted a political opportunity on Tuesday only served to demonstrate as much.

“That is why I made clear to the Prime Minister yesterday that neither I nor the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs at Westminster could support such an arrangement. It was why I was pleased to see David Davis and fellow UK ministers reiterate this was not what was going to happen.”

It emerged that Ms Davidson spoke to the Prime Minister and the DUP leader yesterday as the government scrambled to put together a new compromise to unlock trade talks between the UK and the EU.

However, a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon dismissed the Scottish Conservative leader’s intervention, saying Ms Davidson had “close to zero credibility” on Brexit.

The First Minister’s spokesman said of Ms Davidson: “She flip-flops on this issue constantly and has done since before the EU referendum.

“She’s held every position under the sun on this. So her comments today should be taken in that context.

“And I’m not even sure what her comments mean. Maybe they’re designed deliberately to be woolly and ambiguous.

“If she’s got something to say, she should say it unambiguously and clearly. Does she believe Scotland should remain in the single market – yes or no? And stop playing silly games.”

Last night Ms Foster said the draft text, which the EU and Ireland said had already been agreed by the Prime Minister, came as a “big shock” and would have “allowed a border in the Irish Sea” between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds revealed the party was not shown the draft text of the proposed agreement on the Irish border until the “late morning” on Monday, shortly before Mrs May was expected to sign off on it in a lunchtime meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

He said they immediately informed the government that it was “clearly unacceptable”.

But addressing MPs, Mr Davis said any suggestion that the draft agreement would have meant Northern Ireland staying in the single market was a “falsehood”.

“That is, emphatically, not something the government is considering,” Mr Davis said.

“So when the First Minister of Wales complains about it, or the First Minister of Scotland says it’s a reason to start banging the tattered drum of independence, or the mayor of London says it justifies a hard border round the M25, I say they are making a foolish mistake. No UK government would allow such a thing, let alone a Conservative and Unionist one.”

Mrs May was expected to speak to Ms Foster and Sinn Fein Michelle O’Neill last night, and is due to visit ­Brussels again later this week to try to finalise a divorce deal which would allow leaders of the 27 remaining EU states to give the green light to trade talks next week.

But Downing Street suggested that negotiations could go right up to the wire at the leaders’ summit in the Belgian capital on 14 December.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said that “the ball is now in London’s court” after the previous attempt to clear the deadlock in Brexit talks collapsed into disarray.

The Taoiseach told Irish MPs that the draft text included the commitment to “regulatory alignment” as a ‘backstop’ in case the UK fails to agree a comprehensive trade deal in the next stage of negotiations with Brussels.

Mr Varadkar’s deputy, Simon Coveney, said Dublin was ready to work with the UK on “presentational issues”, but insisted it would not budge on the issues, saying: “We don’t want to give the impression that the Irish government is going to reverse away from the deal we felt we had in place and agreed yesterday.”

The government could face further opposition to its latest stance on the Irish border from its own Brexit-supporting MPs over suggestions that EU regulations will continue to apply after the UK leaves.

In the Commons, Mr Davis sidestepped a demand from prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg to make it an “indelible red line” that the UK should be able to diverge from EU rules and regulations after withdrawal, telling him only: “The red line for me is delivering the best Brexit for Britain.”

The Brexit secretary stressed that “alignment” did not mean full harmonisation with EU regulations, telling MPs: “It’s sometimes having mutually recognised rules, mutually recognised inspection, all of that sort of thing as well – and that’s what we are aiming at.”

He added: “There are areas where we want the same outcome but by different regulatory methods.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4631892.1512511772!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631892.1512511772!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds (C) speaks to journalists outside the Houses of Parliament Picture: AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMENTOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds (C) speaks to journalists outside the Houses of Parliament Picture: AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMENTOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4631892.1512511772!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"1494950579770"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/arrest-warrants-withdrawn-for-catalan-separatist-leaders-1-4631477","id":"1.4631477","articleHeadline": "Arrest warrants withdrawn for Catalan separatist leaders","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512482755000 ,"articleLead": "

A Spanish judge has withdrawn international arrest warrants for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four members of his former cabinet who have been fighting extradition from Belgium.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631476.1512482761!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is among five former Cabinet members who have had international arrest warrants against them withdrawn. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

But a Supreme Court spokesman said the five could still be arrested if they go back to Spain because they are still being sought for possible crimes related to the independence bid in north-eastern Catalonia.

In a surprise move, Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena said that individual warrants do not apply any more because the alleged crimes were a group action according to new evidence.

He also said the probed politicians have shown their “intention to return to Spain” to run for regional elections in Catalonia.

But Mr Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer said the Catalan separatist leader was not planning to return to Spain immediately.

“For the moment he stays in Belgium,” lawyer Paul Bekaert told VTM network, adding that he assumed the extradition process in Belgium against the five Catalans would be ended now.

The five Catalans are facing rebellion, sedition and embezzlement among other charges for their roles last month in staging an illegal independence referendum that led to an independence declaration in the region’s parliament.

The crimes are punishable in Spain with decades in prison.

Spanish, European and international arrest warrants for the five who fled to Belgium were issued on November 3 after members of Mr Puigdemont’s government, who remained in Spain, were jailed on provisional charges.

The Spanish court spokesman said the judge’s decision applied to both European and international warrants, not to the domestic ones. He asked not to be named, citing internal court rules.

Two ex-cabinet members, including former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, and two separatist activists remain in custody.

Today’s decision seemed to leave up in the air the battle in Brussels over extradition for the five Catalan separatist politicians. A decision had been announced for December 14, but the Belgian prosecutor’s office said it was assessing the new situation.

The Belgian judge could have chosen to rule against the Spanish request or agreed to send the five back as requested, or reduced the number of crimes that Spain could try them for.

That possibility was mentioned by the Supreme Court judge in a nine-page document to withdraw the warrants.

Mr Puigdemont is leading his party’s campaign for the December 21 election called by Spain’s government in an attempt to find a democratic fix to the nation’s worst institutional crisis in nearly four decades.

Campaigning officially began today and early polls are predicting a close race between the parties for and against independence, foreshadowing a scenario of difficult post-electoral deals to end the deadlock.

READ MORE: Alan McDonnell: Why Scotland’s beavers are like Yellowstone’s wolves

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Russell Jackson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4631476.1512482761!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631476.1512482761!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is among five former Cabinet members who have had international arrest warrants against them withdrawn. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is among five former Cabinet members who have had international arrest warrants against them withdrawn. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4631476.1512482761!/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/david-davis-says-brexit-claims-about-northern-ireland-deal-are-a-falsehood-1-4631452","id":"1.4631452","articleHeadline": "David Davis says Brexit claims about Northern Ireland deal are a \"falsehood\"","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512480931000 ,"articleLead": "

The UK Government has denied it intends to treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK as part of any compromise to keep the Irish border open after Brexit.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631451.1512480255!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.png","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image"} ,"articleBody": "

Responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons following the failure to agree a conclusion to the first phase of Brexit talks, Mr Davis said it was a \"falsehood\" to suggest Northern Ireland was being 'left behind' in the single market.

A carefully choreographed attempt to break the deadlock in Brexit talks by agreeing a text committing the UK to allow \"regulatory alignment\" between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic collapsed after it was rejected by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

A leak of the draft text prompted calls from Nicola Sturgeon for Scotland to be allowed to stay in the single market after Brexit, a demand echoed by the Welsh First Minister and London Mayor.

\"I would like to take the opportunity to rebut one falsehood I saw being stirred up by various political opponents yesterday,\" Mr Davis told MPs.

\"This was suggestion that we might depart the European Union but leave one part of the United Kingdom behind, still inside the single market and the customs union. That is, emphatically, not something the Government is considering.

\"So when the the First Minister of Wales complains about it, or the First Minister of Scotland says it's a reason to start banging the tattered drum of independence, or the Mayor of London says it justifies a hard border round the M25, I say they are making a foolish mistake.

\"No UK Government would allow such a thing, let alone a Conservative and Unionist one.\"

At a meeting of cabinet on Tuesday morning, Scottish Secretary David Mundell is understood to have reiterated comments by the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson warning that any regulatory alignment had to be on a UK-wide basis.

A Number 10 spokesman said the cabinet shared that position, adding: \"That has been the Prime Minister’s view throughout.\"

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4631451.1512480255!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.png","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4631451.1512480255!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.png","alt": "editorial image","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4631451.1512480255!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.png","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/paris-gourtsoyannis-owning-a-home-in-scotland-like-a-caribbean-dream-1-4630968","id":"1.4630968","articleHeadline": "Paris Gourtsoyannis: Owning a home in Scotland like a Caribbean ‘dream’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1512453600000 ,"articleLead": "

The abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers in England poses a challenge to Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, writes Paris Gourtsoyannis.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4630967.1512455764!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A for-sale sign in Glasgow. (Picture: John Devlin)"} ,"articleBody": "

Nothing captures the breakdown in the postwar economic consensus than the birth of Generation Rent. In Britain, for the parents and grandparents of people my age, home ownership was a right of passage as natural as buying your first drink or getting your first pay cheque.

For most, it’s now a dream as distant as a Caribbean holiday. Less than 20 years ago, the majority of young people in Scotland owned their own home. But from 53 per cent in 1999, the proportion of homeowners among Scotland’s 16-34 year olds has fallen to just 36 per cent.

In that same 18-year period, the proportion of 16-34 year olds in private rented accomodation rose from just 13 per cent to 40 per cent last year, inverting the housing model. More young people in Scotland now help pay someone else’s mortgage rather than their own.

Home ownership figures have rebounded slightly from record lows in the depths of the financial crisis, in large part because the Help to Buy scheme has effectively halved the amount that young people have to save for a deposit, but that only put a dent in what is a worrying long-term trend.

Home ownership, bringing with it responsibility, independence and security, is increasingly out of reach. As a generation grows to believe the economy doesn’t work for them, it’s a pressing social problem, and therefore a political one, too.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon considers more help for first-time buyers

Conservative politicians know that growing numbers of young people, watching their bank balance drain away every month when rent is due while wondering how they’ll ever own their own place, aren’t likely to ever vote for them. Defending capitalism from Jeremy Corbyn won’t wash with a growing segment of the electorate that has little capital to defend.

So in his Budget earlier this month, Philip Hammond pulled a rabbit from his hat. Squeezed by his own (albeit gently loosened) fiscal rules and the likelihood of a Brexit writedown in economic growth, the Chancellor couldn’t magic up the £50bn demanded by the Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid for new homes.

He did, however, find the cash to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers. In England and Wales, buying your first home is now tax-free for properties costing less than £300,000 with a further tax cut on properties up to £500,000.

READ MORE: First-time Scottish house buyers face £21,000 hurdle

These are hefty sums in the Scottish housing market that would get you a handsome pad just about anywhere. However, the announcement still opens up a significant tax gap between Scotland and England, and poses a challenge for finance secretary Derek Mackay when he makes his own budget announcement next week.

On Budget day, when I pointed out on social media that meant first-time buyers purchasing a £250,000 home in Scotland would pay £2,100 in tax while their peers south of the Border will now pay nothing, it prompted a revealing response. “What planet are you living on?” was one of the first replies. It didn’t come from a nationalist keyboard warrior accusing me of #SNPbad bias, but from a Labour MSP representing the Lothians, a region with one of the most overheated housing markets outside London.

I won’t single him out because his comment was actually fairly typical. Dozens of people endorsed the view that it’s ridiculous to suggest young people in Scotland would pay such sums for their first homes.

Many seem to think that because the Scottish Government set the starting level for devolved land and buildings transaction tax at £145,000, only the wealthiest pay the government anything at all when buying their first home.

Evidently none of them have ever tried to buy a flat in Edinburgh. According to the latest figures from estate agents ESPC, the average sale price for a one bedroom flat in parts of the capital now exceeds £182,000.

With young people putting off buying a house due to rising costs, many first-time buyers can also be couples planning a family. In the capital, even after the government’s injection of credit through Help to Buy, the average age for a first-time buyer is still thought to be over 30. A one bedroom flat often just isn’t an option.

House prices in Scotland’s cities are now such that every quarter, nearly 2,000 first-time buyers seek loans to purchase homes costing between £175,000 and £500,000. Anyone paying £195,000 or more for their home is incurring an LBTT bill of at least £1,000.

That’s money that has to be found in cash and upfront. It can’t be borrowed, and it adds to the amount first-time buyers have to save before they can even consider buying a house.

Under Help to Buy, a 5 per cent deposit on a £195,000 property would normally mean a first-time buyer saving £9,750 for a deposit. Add another 10 per cent on top and it puts home ownership that bit further out of reach.

Denying that this is what first-time buyers in some parts of Scotland face is denying the reality of the housing crisis. It concedes that city centres should be slowly cleansed of young people, and that an ever-greater urban sprawl is inevitable as people look further and further out of town for a place to buy that they can afford.

Cities are economic engines, and policy-makers should be encouraging the young people who give them their cultural and economic vibrancy to live there, not tell them they’re on their own. If housing is too expensive, then prices need to come down for everyone.

Hammond’s tax giveaway probably isn’t the way to do it – the Office for Budgetary Responsibility says it will simply inflate prices further. New powers are needed to ensure development land is built on, and existing ones should be used to better effect so that developers keep the cost of new-build homes down. Planners and councillors must do better: Edinburgh’s abundance of unused brownfield sites, hotel developments and student housing are a policy failure.

Ultimately, only additional supply can lower the cost of homes, rather than boosting demand. But denying the true shape of the problem won’t help at all.

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