{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scottishindependence","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/your-say/letters-derek-mackay-s-robin-hood-budget-could-bring-him-an-arrow-in-the-back-1-4844054","id":"1.4844054","articleHeadline": "Letters: Derek Mackay’s Robin Hood budget could bring him an arrow in the back","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544777773000 ,"articleLead": "

Letters to the editor: Friday, 14 December

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4844053.1544777768!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay on their way to the debate on the Scottish Government's draft spending and tax plans for 2019-20. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s budget proposals mean middle and higher income earners in Scotland will continue to pay more income tax than elsewhere in the UK.

While everyone earning over £33,000 will decidedly pay more here, the amounts aren’t massive, at least for ­middle income earners – so why ­bother?

The generosity of the ­Barnett Formula has long allowed more to be spent on public services north of the Border – not SNP tax tinkering. The reality is that Mr Mackay simply adheres to the nationalist party line of making anything they touch different to the rest of the UK, merely for the sake of manufacturing a difference.

So, if indyref2 were ever to happen, cue Nicola Sturgeon inevitably constructing a ­narrative that pretty much ­everything is divergent already in Scotland – independence just rubber stamps matters.

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool nationalist you’ll nod approvingly – the rest of us marvel at the petty pointlessness of it all. Mr Mackay’s tax tinkering is a fiscal equivalent of adding Gaelic to road signs – different to England yet essentially futile.

Martin Redfern

Edinburgh

Finance Minister Derek Mackay is sticking to his guns with a determination to rob the rich and give to the poor in Scotland with the highest personal taxation system in the UK.

This in addition to the ­crippling commercial taxes introduced could well be the straw that will break the back of the Scottish economy, which is currently in the doldrums.

Derek Mackay should be warned that while pioneering a punitive taxation system for Scotland may make him ­popular in the SNP party, it is the pioneers that end up with arrows in their backs.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Aberdeen

Mr Mackay is being true to form and simply carrying on regardless with the SNP’s desire to close attainment gaps artificially ( ‘Mackay’s budget moves on tax will hit middle earners’, Scotsman, December 13.)

This budget is obviously counter productive as it cannot stimulate the economy, merely depress it, so where is the logic in running a taxation system based simply on the stick with no carrot being dangled?

Joined-up thinking is not the forte of the SNP, hence the ­myriad previous failed and abandoned policies and the lack of progress in education and the health service.

This budget fails to address these fundamental problems by making recruiting ­badly-needed senior staff even ­harder to do.

As the next Holyrood ­elections are now coming that much closer, the negative results of this budget will take on a big electoral significance. Mr Mackay has obviously not factored that into his calculations.

Dr Gerald Edwards

Glasgow

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4844053.1544777768!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4844053.1544777768!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay on their way to the debate on the Scottish Government's draft spending and tax plans for 2019-20. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay on their way to the debate on the Scottish Government's draft spending and tax plans for 2019-20. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4844053.1544777768!/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/why-tories-can-t-be-trusted-with-devolution-joyce-mcmillan-1-4843918","id":"1.4843918","articleHeadline": "Why Tories can’t be trusted with devolution – Joyce McMillan","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544785572000 ,"articleLead": "

The chaos over Brexit is of crucial importance to the powers Scottish ministers will have, says Joyce McMillan.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4843917.1544774651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon helped return politics to something like normality this week (Picture: Greg Macvean)"} ,"articleBody": "

There was a widespread sigh of relief, this week, as Scotland’s Finance Secretary Derek McKay rose at Holyrood to make his annual draft budget statement; not because the statement was a joyous or even particularly interesting one, but because it seemed to represent a brief oasis of ‘normal’ politics, amid the obsessive Brexit chaos now sweeping Westminster.

Among other familiar bread-and-butter issues, there were Tories arguing that taxes on the well-off should be lower, while the SNP suggested that maintaining those tax levels – while Westminster cuts them – is both sensible and right, to protect Scotland’s public services; and in a week that saw Westminster convulsed by one Brexit-related crisis after another, this straightforward budget discussion seemed like an old political colleague not encountered for a while, and greeted in the lobbies of power with a warm handshake. Nicola Sturgeon even said that it should remind people what “strong and stable” government really looks like; although that seemed a little bit of a stretch, for a Scottish Government not yet certain that its budget can even muster a Holyrood majority.

There is no room, though, for any complacency about the state of Scottish politics; and not only because of the growing threat of a chaotic Brexit. For while, at the moment, the focus is on the searing divisions in British politics opened up by the EU referendum of 2016, the fact is that the 2014 independence referendum also left Scotland deeply divided, with two roughly equal bodies of opinion completely unable to agree, in a dispute that encompasses every aspect of our future collective life, from practical economic policy to the deepest questions of identity and belonging.

And as if to remind us of those divisions, this week the UK Supreme Court delivered its opinion on the legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill, designed to transfer EU legislation in devolved areas into Scottish law, and overwhelmingly approved by the Scottish Parliament in March of this year, with only the Tories voting against. The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Ken McIntosh, had already given his opinion that the bill was beyond the Parliament’s powers; Scotland’s Lord Advocate disagreed. And the UK Government, particularly exercised by a clause which suggested that it should not be able to change the balance of powers on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Government, decided to take the whole matter to the Supreme Court, in order to ensure that the writ of its own EU Withdrawal Act – complete with sweeping “Henry VIII” powers – would run across the whole of the UK.

READ MORE: Parts of Scottish Brexit bill ruled to be outside of Holyrood’s devolved powers

Now it would be possible to elaborate at some length on the wisdom and elegance of the Supreme Court’s judgment, which both confirms the essential legitimacy of Scottish Parliament’s decision to enact a Continuity Bill, and points out one section of the bill in particular, the one involving consent, which is beyond the Parliament’s powers, along with a few other paragraphs which have become so, thanks to a special amendment written into the UK’s EU Withdrawal Act after the Continuity Bill was passed.

What is most striking about this ruling, though, is the extent to which reactions to it immediately became polarised, with the Scottish Conservatives hailing the result as a well-deserved humiliation for the SNP, while the SNP and ‘Yes’ supporters immediately highlighted the Supreme Court’s recognition that Holyrood had the right to legislate in this matter, and that the British Government had changed the relevant UK legislation – “shifted the goalposts” – following the passage of the Bill.

The response, in other words, was dictated – like attitudes to Brexit at Westminster – by a series of visceral emotional decisions about where we belong, and whom we trust. To me, as a “yes” supporter, it seems pretty clear that a British Conservative Government some of whose supporters still think Ireland – after almost a century of independence – should “know its place”, cannot be trusted with the UK’s devolution settlement of 1998; that their treatment of Scottish opinion throughout the Brexit process has been contemptuous at best, and that their high-handed attitude puts our current devolved institutions at some risk.

Yet to a Conservative like Adam Tomkins MSP, the Scottish Tories’ constitutional spokesman, it seems equally clear that the SNP are just nasty schemers trying to break up the British state by underhand means, and that the Westminster Government are true-blue trusty sorts who, if they do remove powers from Holyrood, will only be doing it for our own good. He described the Supreme Court’s decision as “eviscerating” the Scottish Government’s bill, rejoiced that it had been “left in tatters”, and declared that Holyrood should simply bin it.

And the question that lingers, of course, is how any nation finally moves on from this kind of emotional deadlock. If we look across the sea to Ireland, we see a country that would not now dream of giving up its independence, even though it had to sacrifice a large dissident chunk of its territory to get it, and was so divided on competing visions of it that a bloody civil war ensued; but only time will tell, this time round, whether it is my gut feeling, or Adam Tomkins’s, that is on the right side of history. The common wisdom of Europe, after 1945, was to argue that it never pays, at least on our continent, to indulge in the politics of national identity; and that unity and compromise is always better than separation.

That settlement, though, depended on two things; on the implementation of enlightened postwar economic policies aimed at winning popular consent through full employment and mass prosperity, and on a dominant set of liberal values which allowed full expression and recognition of powerful national and regional identities within existing states. And once a state like the UK falls into the hands of a party and government which accepts neither of those preconditions, all bets are off; which is why the current spectacle at Westminster, increasingly driven by Conservative pro-Brexit extremists, is of such crucial importance to our future, and to the powers and resources future Scottish finance ministers will have to hand, when and if they rise to present their annual budgets for 2020, 2030, and all the years beyond.

READ MORE: Brexit: Imperial dreams leading to Little Britain – Kenny MacAskill

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Joyce McMillan"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4843917.1544774651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4843917.1544774651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon helped return politics to something like normality this week (Picture: Greg Macvean)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon helped return politics to something like normality this week (Picture: Greg Macvean)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4843917.1544774651!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5796987730001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brexit-imperial-dreams-leading-to-little-britain-kenny-macaskill-1-4843420","id":"1.4843420","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Imperial dreams leading to Little Britain – Kenny MacAskill","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544680800000 ,"articleLead": "

As Brexiteers try to bully Ireland – a country where the Famine is imprinted on people’s collective memory – with talk of food shortages, the UK is trashing its international reputation and heading not to a new Golden Age of Empire but to state best described as Little Britain, writes Kenny MacAskill.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4843419.1544689930!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams take to the stage at the Point Theatre in Dublin (Picture: ShowBizIreland/Getty Images)"} ,"articleBody": "

“Oh, the Empire it is finished, no foreign lands to seize, So, the greedy eye of England, is turning towards the seas” is a verse from an Irish republican ditty from a few years back.

I was put in mind of it by comments from a Tory MP about using a threat of food shortages as leverage against Ireland in the Brexit negotiations. Whilst Priti Patel didn’t threaten starvation, the comments were crass, insensitive and downright disgusting. Imprinted on the Irish collective memory is the Famine and it was caused by Britain’s callous indifference.

The real rage is that Ireland, backed by the EU, isn’t susceptible to British threats, let alone Cromwellian commands. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is probably not as well known as previous holders of that office but possesses more clout than any in Irish history.

Patel’s attitude simply replicated that of so many other Brexiteers. As Theresa May has become more demented, the Little Englanders have turned more rabid. The insults have been flying from Nigel Farage’s disgraceful comments towards leading politicians in the European Parliament to the unseemly war sentiments by so many others against entire nations from Germany to France.

The unbridled arrogance of those seeking the “New Golden Age of British Empire” has seen them cast derision and scorn at all and sundry. If it’s not “Croppy Lie Down” then it’s “hop off Johnny Foreigner” that’s carelessly bandied about without a thought as to consequences. No wonder racism has been on the rise, when venting your spleen seems second nature to many leading political figures. And whilst May herself has been tempered in her comments her actions as Home Secretary on immigration set the tone.

READ MORE: Brexit chaos could snuff out signs that austerity is finally ending – leader comment

Yet the great irony is that whatever the final outcome of Brexit, restoration of the glory days of Empire there won’t be and Britain will be diminished and tarnished. The cause of that? Those self-same zealots for whom Britain’s rightful place in the world isn’t duly recognised. It wasn’t the return of sovereignty they sought, but the right to command.

So instead, we’ve been subjected to a Prime Minister jetting to European cities pleading for something, anything, to provide a fig leaf for her nakedness. But the door’s as firmly shut now as it was briefly in her car when meeting Chancellor Merkel. An act of utter futility and total pointlessness, as the EU’s position was stated at the outset and has been adhered to consistently.

The problem has not been their intransigence nor even Theresa May’s failure to properly negotiate as the European Research Group of hard-Brexiteer Conservatives suggests. Frankly, she’s appeared less maladroit and indeed less downright useless than Davis, Raab or Fox.

Meanwhile, European leaders from countries large or small have appeared statesman-like, acted diplomatically and their negotiator Michel Barnier has oozed more class and intellect individually than the British team collectively.

For Britain has come up against not just realpolitik but its real place in the modern world. Britain is no longer the major power it once was. Nothing is going to bring that back and certainly not leaving the EU, where power can be increased and prestige enhanced, as the Irish have shown. The clues though had been there for decades and not just with long overdue decolonialisation, after the war.

From being bailed out by the IMF in the 1970s to more recent times with American involvement in supposedly “sovereign affairs” of Northern Ireland, power has waned. In some ways, it’s been harder for Britain than many other countries, as most Empires collapsed after war or revolution. That hasn’t been the case with Britain where it’s just slowly sunk. But, gone it has. That ought to have afforded advantages not least in less upset and dislocation.

READ MORE: Labour warns UK at risk as Scots pick independence over Brexit

Britain was well-placed in the EU. London especially but Britain more generally were the preferred places for inward investment. Now, the Japanese and Chinese are incredulous at the self-harm inflicted. And the Indians are gobsmacked that it was simply assumed they would welcome back the Raj, rather than enjoy being able to dictate the terms of trade. Eastern Europe looked to London through choice, as well as being a bulwark against Berlin and English, not French, became the lingua franca of the 28 EU countries.

But actions have consequences and that applies as much in politics, as in ordinary life. It’s not just sterling that’s crashed but fondness for Britain and it’s not just investment that’s ebbing but respect. Whatever the Brexit outcome, Europe and indeed the world will look differently upon the UK. That’ll be damaging for the economy and for influence, whether through direct say or soft power.

World leaders have looked on incredulously as British politics has become dysfunctional, with the opposition as inept and divided as the administration. The supposed Mother of Parliaments simply looks like a House of Contempt, and Brexit Britain has replaced Italy as the failing European democracy to scorn.

Admiration and friendships are also being lost. I remember ribbing a young East European about his support for the English football team and reverence for London. It was real and genuine, for him it was the country he admired. But no more, as his own country’s economic well-being is threatened and obvious contempt heaped upon it.

Likewise, I recall a friend’s elderly Irish father demurring at my condemnation of British actions in his native land, expressing gratitude instead for what he had received having left a poverty-stricken country. Irish self-confidence, that has grown and grown despite the Celtic Tigers crash, has retained a genuine warmth towards Britain, even if mixed with some laughter. But now it’s turning to contempt, even if not yet dislike.

There’s some schadenfreude for Scots like me that never bought into the glory days of Britain. It being neither as benign nor great as portrayed and the Indyref showed its capacity for ruthlessness when threatened.

But there’s still been much to celebrate with many friendships and much-shared history. Even if Britain was not so Great, it’s still tragic that it’s now Little Britain that beckons.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Kenny MacAskill"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4843419.1544689930!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4843419.1544689930!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams take to the stage at the Point Theatre in Dublin (Picture: ShowBizIreland/Getty Images)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams take to the stage at the Point Theatre in Dublin (Picture: ShowBizIreland/Getty Images)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4843419.1544689930!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5796987730001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brexit-tory-chaos-shows-need-for-general-election-danielle-rowley-mp-1-4843152","id":"1.4843152","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Tory chaos shows need for general election – Danielle Rowley MP","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544626526000 ,"articleLead": "

The Tories are in crisis and Theresa May has lost all authority. Having led her Government to be the first in history to be found in contempt of Parliament, lost three important Brexit votes and ducked another to avoid defeat, she now faces a vote of no confidence from her own MPs.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4843151.1544633768!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The latest YouGov poll has backed Theresa May staying in power. Picture: Matt Dunham/AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The Tories have never cared about the people of Scotland. And this latest grubby episode shows they are more interested in fighting among themselves than tackling the big issues facing our communities.

While they tear themselves apart, homelessness is on the rise – almost 100 rough sleepers died on the streets of Scotland last year – one in four children are living in poverty, and more than 6,500 youngsters face Christmas without a home.

More and more people are going hungry and relying on foodbanks. Charities and community workers are telling us they’re seeing parents who are going without food so their children can eat.

Something is going very seriously wrong in our economic and political system and needs to change.

Labour has a clear plan, not just for negotiating a Brexit deal that protects jobs, our economy and people’s rights – something the Tories have proved they are incapable of doing – but also for transforming Scotland and the rest of the UK, so we can fix these urgent issues.

READ MORE: Tory MSP says SNP risk wrath of fishermen over Brexit

Ultimately we need a general election. And Labour is ready to fight one and win.

It is increasingly clear the SNP does not want an election. And their game-playing this week has been exposed today, with the news that Tory MPs will vote on May’s leadership.

Nicola Sturgeon was clear that her demand for Labour to trigger a no-confidence vote in Parliament was not because she wanted, or even expected, to win it – Ian Blackford shared a platform with Tory MP Anna Soubry, who confirmed that if there was such a vote, she would back the Government. The First Minister also admitted their tactic might actually unite the Tories to rally around Mrs May when she looked at her most vulnerable. Thank goodness we didn’t listen to them.

The SNP made clear that what they really wanted was to move immediately to a second Brexit referendum. They are calculating that this would create the conditions for another vote on independence.

None of this is about helping the people of Scotland. It is about causing even more instability and chaos. It is shocking, but not surprising – the SNP have form, having helped Thatcher into power in 1979. And we all know what happened then.

READ MORE: Theresa May’s handling of Brexit a ‘classic’ case of bad leadership

The crisis happening now in our communities is an emergency, yet the SNP are prepared to keep the Tories in power rather than tackle it, because their first thought is how they can opportunistically use events for their own, singe-track motive.

Serious times like these call for serious responses. We need Labour’s sensible plan for Brexit and we need a general election to get rid this hopeless, divided Government so we can bring about the real change we need for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Danielle Rowley is Labour MP for Midlothian

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Danielle Rowley"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4843151.1544633768!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4843151.1544633768!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The latest YouGov poll has backed Theresa May staying in power. Picture: Matt Dunham/AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The latest YouGov poll has backed Theresa May staying in power. Picture: Matt Dunham/AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4843151.1544633768!/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/derek-mackay-promises-to-transform-public-services-in-draft-budget-1-4842844","id":"1.4842844","articleHeadline": "Derek Mackay promises to transform public services in draft budget","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544594790000 ,"articleLead": "

Finance secretary Derek Mackay will today set out his draft budget vowing to transform public services as Scotland’s tax system looks set to diverge further from the rest of the UK.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842843.1544566563!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Mr Mackay said investment in health and education would be prioritised along with measures to help “mitigate against UK austerity” and the impact of Brexit.

But the finance secretary is likely to ignore calls to bring the higher rate of income tax into line with the rest of the UK.

Devolution over powers of income tax last year led to the introduction of a new 41p higher rate for those earning more than £43,431.

In October’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond raised the threshold for the 40p higher rate in the rest of the UK to £50,000.

Speaking ahead of presenting his third budget to Parliament, Mr Mackay said: “The programme for government sets out our vision to build on the progress of the last decade and the budget I present to the people of Scotland will help realise those ambitions and ensure we remain focused on delivering for the needs of today while investing for tomorrow.

“The 2019-20 budget will set out how we will prepare the country for the future. Our spending plans for the year ahead will include long-term strategic investments that allow us to protect our essential public services, boost our economy and deliver on our commitments to the people of Scotland.”

Mr Mackay said his budget was set against a backdrop of UK austerity, which was having “devastating impacts” on the most vulnerable.

He added: “This is also a budget presented under the shadow of the UK government’s chaotic approach to Brexit, which hangs over our economy, our public services and risks making us all poorer in the future.”

But Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary, said the SNP’s ­reliance on support from the Scottish Greens would mean higher taxes.

He said: “My message today to Derek Mackay is to back blue, not Green. Rule out a second referendum on independence, address the widening gap between tax rates in Scotland and the rest of the UK – and let’s talk.

“Thanks to decisions made by the Conservative UK Budget, he has an extra £950m in his back pocket to spend. There is no need to keep driving up taxes.”

Labour called for a range of measures to tackle poverty, including a £5 per week increase in child benefit, an end to the two-child cap on tax credits and a £10m cash injection into discretionary housing payments to tackle the roll-out of the UK government’s Universal Credit system.

Scottish Labour finance spokesman James Kelly said: “Our communities are being held back by Tory austerity and inaction from the SNP, who are failing the people of Scotland. The time for tinkering at the edges is over.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4842843.1544566563!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842843.1544566563!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4842843.1544566563!/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/budget-talks-collapse-over-scottish-independence-row-1-4842785","id":"1.4842785","articleHeadline": "Budget talks collapse over Scottish independence row","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544594494000 ,"articleLead": "

Budget talks have collapsed between finance secretary Derek Mackay and the Liberal Democrats amid claims the SNP Government refused a “short cessation” to their campaign for independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842783.1544554863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie. Picture: PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie says the party had set out “constructive proposals” to boost public services, but wanted a commitment from the Nationalist administration to set aside its pledge to hold a second referendum when the terms for Brexit became clear.

“The Liberal Democrats have put forward constructive proposals for investing in mental health services, for a good pay deal for teachers and investment in local government services,” Mr Rennie said ahead of today’s statement by Mr Mackay.

READ MORE: Tory MSP says SNP risk wrath of fishermen over Brexit

“All we asked was for the SNP to put aside their campaign for independence, to have a short cessation, but they refused.

“The last thing we need just now with all the chaos of Brexit is more chaos with another campaign for independence. We should be focusing on the big issues that matter for the country.

“We’ve walked away from the talks for now, but the door is still open. If the SNP want to focus on the things that matter for the country, the Liberal Democrats are there to help.”

Labour wants the budget to establish a dedicated women’s health fund.

This would finance research into specific conditions such as endometriosis, as well as increasing the availability of advice and treatment through initiatives such as training to GPs on women-only conditions,

More cervical screening could also be commissioned at sexual health clinics, as well as developing new women-specific interventions and technologies.

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Experiences that will affect most women, from menstruation to menopause, lack basic provisions.

“Women do not currently have access to sanitary products on a universal basis and there is little support available for women experiencing menopause.

“Women make up more than half of our population and Scottish Labour believes that it is time that the Government invest resources in their healthcare. A women’s health fund demonstrates a strong commitment to redressing the imbalance and will improve our health service in the long run.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4842783.1544554863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842783.1544554863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie. Picture: PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie. Picture: PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4842783.1544554863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5734512594001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/scottish-budget-must-help-business-cope-with-brexit-edinburgh-chamber-of-commerce-1-4842693","id":"1.4842693","articleHeadline": "Scottish Budget must help business cope with Brexit – Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544547725000 ,"articleLead": "

Brexit has produced greater uncertainty for business than during the Scottish independence referendum campaign, writes Liz McAreavey, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842692.1544547721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Liz McAreavey, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, is calling for the Scottish Budget to help business cope with Brexit"} ,"articleBody": "

Can anyone remember such extraordinary political times? It feels like it’s time to wake up from this feverish bad dream and resume normality.

Sadly, this is it. So, with the Scottish Government Budget looming, we can no longer just hope for some serious support for business, the time has come for business to ask.

Refreshingly, we are seeing increased engagement with business by the Government, so it will be interesting to see if this translates into policy and real business support.

The Scottish Government’s draft budget on 12 December could not come at a more critical time. We are currently trapped in possibly the greatest period of uncertainty I can remember, including the run-up to the independence referendum in 2014.

There is no clear indication how the Brexit soap opera will conclude, especially as this week’s “meaningful vote” has been postponed indefinitely.

So, in these uncertain times, we need a budget from the Scottish Government that unashamedly backs business.

Whether it is the corporation with thousands of employees, or the 81 per cent of Scottish businesses that employ less than 10 people, business is the lifeblood of our economy.

This is particularly true in Edinburgh, which has developed at an unbelievable pace over the past two decades and is set to grow even faster in years to come. By the late 2030s, we could be the largest city in Scotland, with more than 750,000 people.

READ MORE: Scottish Greens reluctant to pledge support for SNP budget

Growth in business start-ups in Edinburgh has increased by 18.2 per cent in the past five years, compared to a Scottish average of 10.5 per cent and, reassuringly, the survival rate of businesses in Edinburgh is the second highest in the UK at 44.1 per cent, just behind Leeds at 44.2 per cent. We also have the highest percentage of skilled jobs in the UK at 38.6 per cent, ahead of London at 34.6 per cent. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say a budget that backs Edinburgh is a budget that backs Scotland.

What do we need to focus on? At its simplest, we at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce want to see progress made in the following areas – plans for a high-performing, post-Brexit economy that supports our exports; measures to tackle our productivity challenge; and support for greater skills training, both in the workplace and beyond.

We need to ensure that our great city continues to attract talent, whilst simultaneously providing the opportunity for those already here to develop their own capabilities and reach their potential.

The Scottish Government funding to support an internationalisation programme must become a long-term commitment to help us build capability and depth to support more businesses on the export journey. We must also find ways of encouraging small and medium enterprises to invest in the skills and training of their workforce, particularly management training and digital skills.

READ MORE: Bill Jamieson: Perfect cover for ‘no change’ Mackay budget

We are particularly concerned that Edinburgh, Scotland and the wider UK does not become more inwards looking as a result of Brexit, because the more exposed to global trade and global practices we are, the more productive we will be.

One key element of the 21st century economy is that education must not stop when you leave school, college or university. We must constantly keep learning and expanding our skillsets, whether to prepare for increased automation or to enhance productivity levels.

We also need to invest in supporting women returning to the workplace, flexible working and affordable childcare, all of which can unlock huge potential talent.

The signs are encouraging. I know the Finance Secretary has made huge efforts to include other ministers in his economic action group, so there is a more joined-up approach and better understanding of the economic implications for Government policy.

However, the perception that the Government is not pro-business is still strong. We all support an inclusive society but business must now be acknowledged as a key driver of growth that will facilitate improved living standards.

By putting businesses of all shapes and sizes at the heart of his budget plans, the Finance Secretary can deliver a real boost to the city and, by extension, the country as well.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Liz McAreavey"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4842692.1544547721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842692.1544547721!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Liz McAreavey, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, is calling for the Scottish Budget to help business cope with Brexit","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Liz McAreavey, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, is calling for the Scottish Budget to help business cope with Brexit","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4842692.1544547721!/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/labour-veteran-dennis-skinner-accused-of-calling-snp-mp-a-piece-of-s-t-1-4842600","id":"1.4842600","articleHeadline": "Labour veteran Dennis Skinner accused of calling SNP MP ‘a piece of s**t’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544541791000 ,"articleLead": "

Veteran left-wing Labour politician Dennis Skinner has been accused of calling an SNP MP a ‘piece of s**t’ amid a deepening row between the two parties over how to tackle Theresa May over Brexit.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842599.1544561735!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Labour MP Dennis Skinner. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr"} ,"articleBody": "

The SNP’s Stewart McDonald claimed in a tweet that Mr Skinner - who is famed for his outspoken approach in the House of Commons - had insulted him in an emergency debate on the Government’s delayed Brexit vote.

READ MORE: SNP-Labour talks cancelled in growing row over confidence vote

Glasgow South MP Mr McDonald tweeted: “A new parliamentary habit seems to be forming, whereby any time an SNP MP sat behind Dennis Skinner verbalises any frustration about what Jeremy Corbyn says, he angrily turns round to tell us off.

“He has just turned round and called me a ‘piece of shit’. He has become a thug.”

Mr Skinner, who has been the MP for Bolsover in Derbyshire since 1970, previously clashed with the SNP when they were accused of trying to take over his customary seat in the Commons when their number of MPs swelled in 2015.

READ MORE: Support independence over Narnia of Brexit

He now sits in the front bench often occupied by SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford.

The SNP and Labour have clashed over the latter’s failure to table a no confidence motion in Theresa May’s government.

Mr Skinner has been suspended from the Commons on several occasions, including when he called David Cameron ‘dodgy’ and made allegations about George Osborne taking cocaine.

He is also famed for quips at the state opening of parliamentary ahead of the Queen’s Speech.

Stewart McDonald told the Scotsman: “It’s becoming an almost daily occurrence.

“The most minor criticism or even suggestion that Corbyn isn’t getting something right leads to increasingly angry and abusive chastising from him. He is a romanticised thug.”

Mr Skinner’s office has been approached for comment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4842599.1544561735!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842599.1544561735!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Labour MP Dennis Skinner. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Labour MP Dennis Skinner. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4842599.1544561735!/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/brexit-why-uk-must-delay-eu-departure-date-leader-comment-1-4842082","id":"1.4842082","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Why UK must delay EU departure date – leader comment","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544508000000 ,"articleLead": "

If the UK cannot make up its mind over Brexit, the Government should request more time from the EU.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842000.1544514402!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May called off a vote in the Commons on her Brexit deal because the Government was certain to lose"} ,"articleBody": "

“For as long as we fail to agree a deal, the risk of an accidental ‘no deal’ increases.”

Confirming she would not put her Brexit deal to a vote in the Commons – because it was certain to be defeated – Theresa May yesterday raised the spectre of an economically damaging departure from the European Union simply because time runs out. The ‘ticking clock’ counting down to 29 March 2019, the day when the UK is due to leave the EU, is now one of the main driving forces shaping the future of this country.

There were suggestions that, after seeking further assurances over the controversial Northern Ireland backstop from the other 27 EU countries, May could hold the vote as late as 21 January. On Twitter, Nicola Sturgeon questioned whether the Prime Minister was “simply trying to run down the clock”, adding this was “unacceptable” if true. Many hard Brexiteers would agree.

READ MORE: Brexit: UK heads for accidental no-deal disaster – leader comment

Faced with a stark choice between May’s deal and a no-deal exit, there really is only one acceptable decision for MPs with the national interest at heart, given warnings from the likes of the Bank of England that the latter scenario could create a recession worse than the 2008 crash. No sensible MP could blithely ignore such a danger and those who plan to do so should realise they will be held to account by the electorate – with the help of this newspaper.

However, by delaying the vote, May is trying to railroad MPs into backing a deal that the majority think is bad for the UK, to deny them the promised “meaningful vote”. This hardly seems fair.

A remain voter, she often repeats the mantra that the referendum result must be respected and yet her deal has failed to live up to its expectations. The proposed Withdrawal Agreement is not the vision that the pro-Leave campaign used to persuade just under 52 per cent of voters – as its leading lights have made abundantly clear – and so does not respect the ‘Will of the People’ as expressed two-and-a-half years ago.

Therefore, instead of rushing to a decision, it is perhaps time to seek a pause, to ask to delay the UK’s departure from the EU. This would allow time for a deal to be agreed that commands the support of a majority of MPs – without the need to put a metaphorical gun to their heads – or for Brexit to be scrapped if authorised by a second referendum.

The UK clearly cannot make up its collective mind. So we need more time to make a sensible decision.

READ MORE: Brexit: Scots prefer independence to no-deal, poll finds

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4842000.1544514402!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4842000.1544514402!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Theresa May called off a vote in the Commons on her Brexit deal because the Government was certain to lose","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Theresa May called off a vote in the Commons on her Brexit deal because the Government was certain to lose","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4842000.1544514402!/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/bianca-jagger-warns-of-brexit-threat-to-human-rights-1-4841934","id":"1.4841934","articleHeadline": "Bianca Jagger warns of Brexit threat to human rights","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544454597000 ,"articleLead": "

Bianca Jagger has said Brexit could threaten human rights as she welcomed plans to introduce a new statutory human rights framework across Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841932.1544454593!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Bianca Jagger was speaking at the Scottish Parliament to markt he 70th anniversary of the United Nations adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Picture: Scottish Parliament"} ,"articleBody": "

An independent review group set up by Scotland’s First Minister recommends the new law at Holyrood includes rights already provided by the Human Rights Act and additional economic, social and cultural rights from United Nations treaties.

Speaking at a Scottish Parliament event to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ms Jagger, who runs her own human rights foundation, said: “The 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights is a reason to feel proud and happy for all those throughout the world who have been defenders.

READ MORE: Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon says vote delay is ‘pathetic cowardice’

“As a British citizen, I feel that Brexit can be a threat to our human rights.

“Therefore, I thank the recommendations put forward today for considering and looking into the effects Brexit could have on all human rights and human rights here in Scotland.

“We are at a crossroads where we must make sure that those rights will not suffer if Brexit is imposed on those of us who feel like we want to remain part of Europe.

“As a Nicaraguan and a British citizen, I value being part of Europe and I value everything that Europe brought to us.

“Let’s continue to struggle.”

Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans to set up a taskforce as the first step in introducing the new law on a human rights framework, a key recommendation from the Advisory Group on Human Rights created to ensure Brexit does not erode these rights in Scotland.

Further recommendations include having a public participatory process as part of creating the new legislation, national monitoring of human rights and developing a written constitution including a bill of Rights for Scotland in the event of Scottish independence.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon moves to create new human rights framework in Scotland

Ms Sturgeon said: “I endorse the report’s overall vision of a new human rights framework for Scotland with a new act of Parliament at its very heart.”

She added: “As a first step, I will establish a national taskforce, early in 2019, to progress these plans.”

Group chairman Professor Alan Miller said: “The internationally recognised human rights belong to everyone in Scotland and must be put into our law.

“As, importantly, they must then be put into everyday practice. In this way, people are empowered to lead lives of human dignity, to have a sense of self-worth.”

John Wilkes, Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) head of Scotland, said the proposed law would mean Scotland leads the UK in “developing a progressive, rights-based society”.

He added: “This proposed Act of Parliament will for the first time clearly set out the roles and responsibilities of the Scottish state in relation to a wide range of rights and social issues such as children’s, women’s and disabled people’s rights.”

Scottish Human Rights Commission chairwoman Judith Robertson said if the recommendations are taking forward they could close the “persistent gap” between well-intentioned laws and everyday reality for people’s rights.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "LAURA PATERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841932.1544454593!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841932.1544454593!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Bianca Jagger was speaking at the Scottish Parliament to markt he 70th anniversary of the United Nations adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Picture: Scottish Parliament","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Bianca Jagger was speaking at the Scottish Parliament to markt he 70th anniversary of the United Nations adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Picture: Scottish Parliament","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841932.1544454593!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5977670352001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-second-scottish-tory-mp-says-he-will-vote-against-pm-s-deal-1-4841769","id":"1.4841769","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Second Scottish Tory MP says he will vote against PM's deal","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544444335645 ,"articleLead": "

The Borders MP John Lamont has said he will vote against the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, warning it will put the Union at risk.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841768.1544444456!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Lamont MP"} ,"articleBody": "

Mr Lamont said he had “reluctantly” come to the view that he could not support the deal as it stands. In the Commons last week, he told MPs that he had \"lost sleep\" over his decision.

In a statement, the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP said: “I have never doubted the Prime Minister’s commitment to deliver the best for this country... she has had an almost impossible job to do.”

READ MORE: Brexit: UK can revoke Article 50 unilaterally, EU judges rule
But Mr Lamont went on: “In coming to my decision, I have had to weigh up the risks associated with the agreement with the risks of the unknown.

“There are clearly significant risks associated with this Withdrawal Agreement, including the potential that fishing could be traded away and the possibility that we will be locked in to the backstop arrangement.

“This deal could mean that we retain some of the worst things about EU membership without being able to take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit. The UK could end up in an uncomfortable half-way house - having to follow EU rules without any influence or say over them.

“I have come to the conclusion that on balance, these are not risks I am prepared to take.\"

Mr Lamont was seen as a loyal backbencher, and served as a whip in the Scottish Parliament before being elected to Westminster. He also helped run Ruth Davidson's leadership campaign.

READ MORE: Labour warn UK at risk as Scots pick independence over Brexit
Mr Lamont added: “I want the UK to move on and be able to focus on other, more important things. This Withdrawal Agreement could mean that we are still talking about Brexit for many more years to come.

“While there is little consensus about what should happen next, the clear message that I have received from my constituents was that this agreement does not satisfy many.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841768.1544444456!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841768.1544444456!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "John Lamont MP","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Lamont MP","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841768.1544444456!/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/nicola-sturgeon-moves-to-create-new-human-rights-framework-in-scotland-1-4841734","id":"1.4841734","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon moves to create new human rights framework in Scotland","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544441477000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans to set up a taskforce as the first step in introducing a new statutory human rights framework across Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841733.1544441473!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to ensure Brexit does not harm human rights in Scotland. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

Creating the framework through a new law at Holyrood is one of the key recommendations made by the First Minister’s Advisory Group in Human Rights Leadership in its final report.

The group, set up to ensure Brexit does not lead to an erosion of human rights in Scotland, wants the new law to include rights already provided by the Human Rights Act and additional economic, social and cultural rights from United Nations treaties.

A further six recommendations include a public participatory process as part of creating the new legislation, a Scottish Government national mechanism for monitoring, reporting and implementation of human rights, developing human rights indicators for the national performance framework and setting up the taskforce.

The group also recommends developing a written constitution including a bill of Rights for Scotland in the event of Scottish independence.

READ MORE: Brexit: UK can revoke Article 50 unilaterally, EU judges rule

Speaking on Human rights Day, Ms Sturgeon said: “I set up the advisory group to offer advice on how we can further enhance human rights as I wanted to ensure Brexit does not harm human rights in Scotland and that we remain in step with future advances in EU human rights.

“I also asked for recommendations to ensure Scotland is an international leader in respecting and enhancing human rights.

“I share the ambition in this report that Scotland should introduce a human rights statutory framework and I support their recommendation that this should be done through public engagement, working across the public sector, civic society and parliament.

“As a first step, I will establish a national taskforce, early in 2019, to progress these plans.”

Group chairman Professor Alan Miller said: “There is an urgent need of human rights leadership in today’s world, so we were delighted that the First Minister asked us for recommendations on how Scotland can lead by example.

“The leadership steps that Scotland needs to take are clear.

“The internationally recognised human rights belong to everyone in Scotland and must be put into our law.

“As, importantly, they must then be put into everyday practice. In this way people are empowered to lead lives of human dignity, to have a sense of self-worth.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "LAURA PATERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841733.1544441473!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841733.1544441473!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to ensure Brexit does not harm human rights in Scotland. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to ensure Brexit does not harm human rights in Scotland. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841733.1544441473!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5746108438001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/lesley-riddoch-norway-plus-is-not-an-option-for-the-uk-s-brexit-1-4841537","id":"1.4841537","articleHeadline": "Lesley Riddoch: Norway Plus is not an option for the UK’s Brexit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544438142000 ,"articleLead": "

Amber Rudd and her colleagues are deluding themselves with their Brexit plan B, writes Lesley Riddoch

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841571.1544428298!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Amber Rudd supports a 'Norway-plus' approach. Pic: Jack Taylor/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Scots stand today, surveying the collapse of British governance, like folk on lifeboats watching the mighty Titanic start to slip beneath the waves.

Most of us do not vote Conservative and never will. Most of us voted to Remain in the EU in 2016. And now most of us would opt for independence in the EU if a self-harming Brexit goes ahead. And no matter which withdrawal deal is advocated by desperate members of both main political parties south of the Border, each one is more damaging than simply staying in the EU.

That includes Amber Rudd’s crazy, last gasp advocacy of “Norway-plus” as a Brexit option, if or really when Theresa May’s dead duck is finally allowed to waddle off the stage.

Of course, on the face of it, Norway-plus looks inviting.

The UK was one of the founding members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960. Britain left to join the EEC in 1973, so EFTA membership could be portrayed as a return to the fold we should never have left. Rejoining EFTA would let the UK remain inside the European single market by also gaining eligibility to join the European Economic Area (EEA) and that would guarantee genuinely frictionless trade.

Britain would leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, the common agricultural and fisheries policies and be free of the drive towards “ever closer union” from the end of 2020. And the “plus” bit – remaining in a temporary customs union – would allow goods to join services enjoying business as (almost) normal instead of the impending chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

But the price is high, especially for a party which consciously decided to follow the irresponsible and malicious path of blaming Brussels, EU nationals and immigrants for the Dickensian levels of poverty, inequality, starvation, collapse of public services and general hopelessness created by their own policies in Britain. There is therefore no way the Tories can sell a Norway-plus deal which accepts freedom of movement and “rule-taking” from Brussels while paying 75-85 per cent of full membership fees to feverishly Brexit-ready English voters.

Of course, there’s another tiny problem with the Norway-plus option.

Norway will block it.

Last week, Heidi Nordby Lunde, Conservative MP and president of Norway’s European Movement, kicked British membership of the EFTA roundly into touch, telling Channel 4: “I’m sceptic to letting the UK into the EFTA family because it’s kind of like having an abusive partner spiking the drinks and inviting them to the Christmas party.”

When asked if she felt that the potential of Britain joining the EFTA would upset the balance in that group, she added: “I think you would mess it all up for us, the way you have messed it up for yourselves.”

This kind of reality check has so far been completely missing from Britain’s pie-in-the-sky Brexit debate and is all the more significant because Norwegians are usually the world’s most diplomatic people – the product of compromise and consensus that comes from almost a century using PR in elections.

But Lunde summed up Britain’s Norway-plus problems succinctly: “The Norway deal has four issues that I don’t think UK politicians want. First of all, we accept migration internally in the EU, we also accept rulings by the European Court of Justice, we accept the rules and regulations that we get from the EU. Also, being in the EFTA bloc, we can’t make our own free trade agreements without having Liechtenstein and Iceland with us.”

Interestingly, none of these obstacles for “red line” Britain would create an insuperable barrier to an independent Scotland which wanted to pursue the EFTA/EEA route if EFTA members and Scots decided that was preferable to full EU membership.

But after this one short interview on Friday, Norway-plus stood roundly demolished as an option for Britain. Yet, unbelievably, the very next day, flying in the face of all that had just been said, Rudd became the first Cabinet minister to publicly back the Norway-plus model if May’s Brexit deal is defeated in the Commons tomorrow.

Even more incredibly, Rudd’s desperate advocacy of this non-viable Norway deal propelled the Work and Pensions Secretary back up the pollsters’ rankings in the race to become the next Tory leader. Mind you, since the attempt to keep legal advice from MPs also shunted Attorney General Geoffrey Cox into the running, why should anyone be surprised? Despite defeat in the Commons, Tory MPs and London-based political commentators were apparently moved and impressed by the gravelly, authoritative quality of his voice. These are the depths to which “leadership” in British politics has sunk.

In short, a proposal that was comprehensively trashed only 24 hours earlier by a Norwegian Conservative politician has earned the deluded or deliberately obfuscating Rudd an even greater chance of taking over when May has gone.

If folk believe this bourach can still be described as governance, they must be part of the minority – according to weekend surveys of Scottish public opinion – that still prefers Brexit in the UK to Scottish independence in Europe.

You don’t have to be a card-carrying Christian for a verse of Matthew to come to mind: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them.”

Well, now all Scots know how the Conservative Party and the British Government choose to operate. They are always focused on the short term, always seeking one-off deals instead of long-term relationships, always feathering their own nests – recent European investments by leading Brexiteers haven’t escaped public attention – and always suspicious or careless of neighbours’ interests. It’ll be a very long time before the Irish forget Priti Patel’s appalling suggestion that the prospect of food shortages should be used to scare Irish people into submission over the backstop.

Of course, Scots are not immune from Brexit or its ill effects.

But looked at from the perspective of those boarding the lifeboat north of the Border today, there’s only one question left as Britain embarks on its final act of jaw-dropping self-harm.

Must we really go there too?

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841571.1544428298!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841571.1544428298!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Amber Rudd supports a 'Norway-plus' approach. Pic: Jack Taylor/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Amber Rudd supports a 'Norway-plus' approach. Pic: Jack Taylor/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841571.1544428298!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5796987730001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/labour-warn-uk-at-risk-as-scots-pick-independence-over-brexit-1-4841618","id":"1.4841618","articleHeadline": "Labour warn UK at risk as Scots pick independence over Brexit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544421600000 ,"articleLead": "

Labour will accuse Theresa May of putting the UK at risk as debate on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons turns to the impact on the Union.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841617.1544439522!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird will accuse David Mundell of abandoning his “red lines” over the status of Northern Ireland under the Prime Minister’s deal, saying it “risks undermining the integrity of the UK”.

Her comments follow publication of a poll showing that most Scottish voters would prefer independence to either a no-deal Brexit or Mrs May’s deal, although most people said they would back the Union when asked how they would vote in a fresh independence referendum.

Yesterday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said voters would have the chance to opt for independence to avoid a post-Brexit future that she likened to “Narnia for idiots”.

It came after newspaper reports that Boris Johnson’s friends had compared him to Aslan from CS Lewis’s children’s book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, claiming he was ready to topple the Ice Queen – Mrs May.

“It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry,” Ms Sturgeon wrote on Twitter. “These idiots are actually revelling in the idea that they’re characters in a fantasy world.

“Scotland, we don’t have to stay in Narnia with them – we can opt to stay in the real world with independence.”

Several Scottish MPs are set to speak in the Commons on the penultimate day of debate on Mrs May’s deal, including Scottish Tories who have yet to declare how they will vote tomorrow.

Ms Laird said yesterday: “David Mundell is supposed to be Scotland’s man in the Cabinet, but that could not be further from the truth.

“His ‘red lines’ on the integrity of the UK and the fishing industry must have been written in invisible ink.

“After 20 months of negotiations with the EU, the Prime Minister has come back with a half-baked deal that puts jobs and our economy at risk and risks undermining the integrity of the UK.”

The Scottish Secretary defended his decision to stay in the Cabinet despite co-signing a letter to the Prime Minister with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson warning against any deal “that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK”.

Mr Mundell said it had “always been a condition of the withdrawal agreement” that it would contain a backstop arrangement for Northern Ireland, to prevent the return to a hard border there.

The Scottish Secretary accused the SNP of exploiting Brexit by voting against the Prime Minister’s deal, and said he “had to make a judgment on what is in the backstop, which is a temporary measure which may never come into force, and what risk that causes to the integrity of the United Kingdom”.

He added that the future of the Union “is most likely to be threatened by the crash, by the uncertainty, by the division, by the chaos which provides the backdrop Nationalists want to move forward with their independence referendum here”.

Mr Mundell said it was “simply not possible” for the UK to renegotiate the Brexit deal and remove the backstop, as has been claimed by the former Foreign Secretary and others. He said: “Mr Johnson knows that, he was in the Cabinet till relatively recently. I don’t understand how he has come to that conclusion.”

Asked if he would remain in the Cabinet if Mr Johnson became prime minister, Mr Mundell said: “I don’t see myself being able to serve in that way.”

Meanwhile, a Panelbase survey of 1,028 voters found 59 per cent of respondents agreed that Scottish independence would be better than a no-deal Brexit, with 41 per cent disagreeing. When asked if independence would benefit the country more than staying in the UK after a negotiated Brexit deal, 53 per cent agreed and 47 per cent disagreed.

The poll found 53 per cent of voters still intend to back staying in the UK in a new independence referendum. However, support for independence is at the highest level recorded by Panelbase in two years, once the don’t knows are removed, at 47 per cent.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “The simple fact is that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and is having its wishes ignored by Westminster.

“There is nothing that highlights Scotland’s democratic deficit as starkly as Brexit – and the untold damage it will inflict upon jobs, living standards and our NHS. No wonder support for independence is at historically high levels.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of campaign group Scotland in Union, said: “With uncertainty over Brexit, it’s clear that Nationalists are trying to capitalise on that in the desperate hope of boosting support for their campaign to leave the UK. Whatever your views on Brexit, independence is not the answer.”

Just over half of Scots (51 per cent) would back a fresh general election if the Prime Minister fails to get her Brexit deal through parliament, and 54 per cent believe she should resign if defeated, according to Panelbase.

The SNP would made modest gains in a general election, with the poll putting their support at 37 per cent, Labour and the Conservatives tied on 26 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 6 per cent and Ukip and the Greens on 2 per cent. But it found that Ms Sturgeon risks losing her pro-independence majority in the next Holyrood election, due in 2021.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841617.1544439522!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841617.1544439522!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Picture: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Picture: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841617.1544439522!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5796987730001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tories-tell-derek-mackay-he-can-boost-spending-without-raising-taxes-1-4841598","id":"1.4841598","articleHeadline": "Tories tell Derek Mackay he can boost spending without raising taxes","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544391237000 ,"articleLead": "

The Scottish Government can boost spending without putting up taxes, opposition parties have claimed ahead of Derek Mackay’s budget statement tomorrow.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841597.1544391234!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

The Conservatives highlighted figures showing that the Scottish Government received the third-biggest cash increase from the Chancellor at the UK budget in November when compared with Whitehall departments. It comes as Mr Mackay decides how to respond to tax cuts unveiled by Philip Hammond.

Scottish Labour have repeated their demand for further action from the Scottish Government to use its powers to ease austerity, including an end to the two-child cap on tax credits and the associated “rape clause”, a £5 top-up to child benefit, and a freeze on rail fares.

At the weekend, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats said they would not take part in budget talks with the minority SNP Government until their conditions were met.

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said he wanted a commitment to council tax reform before any talks with Mr Mackay could begin, while Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie pulled out of further discussions unless the possibility of a second independence referendum was taken off the table.

Figures from the latest UK budget Red Book show the Scottish Government will receive a cash boost through additional spending and the Barnett Formula worth £1.6 billion, the third highest increase behind the UK transport and health departments.

The Scottish Tories said the funds should be passed on to public services without asking taxpayers to pay any more.

Shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “These figures prove that the Scottish Government will benefit enormously from the UK budget.

“While the SNP can’t bring themselves to welcome it, this is a huge investment in Scotland.

“This shows that the SNP Government has enough cash to support our ailing public services without asking taxpayers more.

“The SNP has become a ‘pay more, get less’ government. With the Budget this week, that must end.”

Labour’s finance spokesman, James Kelly, urged the SNP to commit more money towards mitigating the impact of the UK government’s welfare reforms.

He said: “It would simply be morally wrong to leave children languishing in poverty whilst Scotland’s significant powers over welfare gather dust on the SNP Government’s shelf.

“Experts, faith leaders and charities have backed Labour’s call to use Scotland’s powers to lift people out of poverty, and it is time for Derek Mackay to listen. The time for tinkering at the edges is over.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841597.1544391234!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841597.1544391234!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841597.1544391234!/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-charlatans-on-both-sides-of-brexit-debate-deceive-the-public-1-4841391","id":"1.4841391","articleHeadline": "Euan McColm: Charlatans on both sides of Brexit debate deceive the public","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544381397000 ,"articleLead": "

In my daydreams, there’s a special place in Hell set aside for politicians who claim their remarks have been taken out of context. Theirs is the cowards’ defence, the weasel-worded response of the well and truly bang-to-rights.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841390.1544350945!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Priti Patel, who resigned as international development secretary last year over her unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials. Picture: 'Oli Scarff/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

No decent person in public life, so far as I can recall, has ever used this line. Rather, it is the last refuge of the charlatan.

When a politician says their words have been taken out of context, what they mean is they realise their words show them up to be the terrible person they are. These people never offer the correct “context” for their words because they are bullshitting. Their words were always taken perfectly in context.

Which brings me neatly to former Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, the latest unspeakable toerag to drop the context bomb.

It emerged on Friday that Patel, a Brexiteer of the killer robot variety, had suggested the possibility of food shortages in Ireland following a no deal departure from the EU should have been used as leverage to encourage the Irish government to drop support for a backstop plan.

Given the often dark history between Britain and Ireland, the very idea that our government might effectively threaten their Dublin counterparts with food shortages is especially nauseating. It’s a suggestion that reveals a uniquely unpalatable blend of cynicism and insensitivity. And there is no context in which this would not be so.

Later on Friday, Patel tweeted: “It is clear my comments on ‘No Deal’ have been taken out of context by some. We should go back to Brussels & get a better deal. There is still time. Let’s take back control of borders, laws & money.”

Anyone wondering in what context these remarks should have been seen was to be left guessing by Patel, who offered no clarification. Instead, she indulged the fantasy of the grifters and spivs behind the Leave campaign that the EU would offer the UK a more beneficial deal if only the UK would demand it.

This supremely arrogant notion, the idea that a puffed-up little UK – a UK made smaller still by their actions – could dictate terms if only more of us “believed” in Brexit, remains popular with hardcore Eurosceptics.

Patel and her fellow travellers – failed former Brexit secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the ludicrous back-bencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, for example – sustain themselves with a fantasy that the draft agreement struck between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU could have been made stronger through the power of self-belief.

It was always the case that the UK was going to be at a disadvantage in Brexit negotiations. We never had cards worth playing. The EU – as is its duty – has moved forward in such a way that the unique benefits of membership are protected. The very idea that we would be afforded some of those benefits from the outside was always a nonsense and no amount of interventions of the “we should have demanded more” variety can change that.

Whenever the downside of their case was pointed out in the run-up to the 2016 vote, Brexiteers parroted the line, favoured by Alex Salmond and those he led in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign, that such claims were a strategy of “project fear”. It didn’t matter how compelling the evidence, any suggestion that leaving the EU might not be entirely painless was grandly dismissed. It wasn’t that their case was flawed, it was that their opponents wished to terrify the people with a campaign of lies.

This project fear garbage continues, even as the EU – through the limited agreement it is willing to strike – shows us that many of the warnings given have turned out to be quite correct.

May presses on, trying to build support in Westminster for a deal that will satisfy neither the hardline Eurosceptic Little Englanders of Brexit nor the majority of MPs who backed Remain in 2016.

The arrogance of Brexiteers who think the UK can, as Boris Johnson once said, have cake and eat cake has echoes in the position adopted by a cross-party group of MPs that the UK should leave the EU but join Norway in a free trade area inside the European single market.

You’ll simply never guess – it turns out that the UK is in no position to demand that, either.

Senior political and business figures in Norway have made that abundantly clear.

The so-called Norway-plus plan, which would require the UK to seek to join the European Free Trade Area group, consisting of Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, is already dead.

On Friday, Heidi Nordby Lunde, an MP in Norway’s governing Conservative party, and leader of Norway’s European movement, was refreshingly blunt.

“Really,’ she said, “the Norwegian option is not an option. We have been telling you this for one and a half years since the referendum… so I am surprised that after all these years it is still part of the grown-up debate in the UK.”

Nordby Lunde added: “You just expect us to give you an invitation rather than consider whether Norway would want to give you such an invitation. It might be in your interest to use our agreement, but it would not be in our interest.”

All of the alternatives to the PM’s draft deal being suggested by senior politicians are non-starters because, simply, they would require other nations to weaken their own positions.

That’s not to say that May’s plan holds much appeal. It is simply the case that it really is the only deal on the table. Anyone who suggests otherwise is 
using the “project total bullshit” playbook.

No amount of bluff and bluster, whether it’s the suggestion we should demand the Norwegians let us into their club or the horrific idea that we should threaten Ireland with the prospect of food shortages, can change the fact that Brexiteers’ greatest achievement is the humiliating diminishment of the United Kingdom.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Euan McColm"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841390.1544350945!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841390.1544350945!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Priti Patel, who resigned as international development secretary last year over her unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials. Picture: 'Oli Scarff/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Priti Patel, who resigned as international development secretary last year over her unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials. Picture: 'Oli Scarff/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841390.1544350945!/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/thousands-protest-against-tommy-robinson-brexit-betrayal-march-1-4841525","id":"1.4841525","articleHeadline": "Thousands protest against Tommy Robinson ‘Brexit betrayal’ march","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544372251000 ,"articleLead": "

A so-called Brexit betrayal march led by controversial activist Tommy Robinson was “vastly” outnumbered by counter-demonstrators, opposition organisers said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841521.1544372238!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "People take part in an anti-fascist counter-demonstration against a "Brexit Betrayal" march and rally organised by Ukip in central London. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The English Defence League (EDL) founder and Ukip members marched with supporters through the streets of London on Sunday before a rally beside Parliament Square.

Amid fears of violence, Scotland Yard placed restrictions on the march as well as on a counter-demonstration organised by Labour supporters and anti-fascists.

Among those marching against the Brexit betrayal group were Labour grassroots group Momentum and Unite Against Fascism.

A Momentum spokeswoman said about 15,000 turned up to oppose Mr Robinson’s march, claiming it “vastly” outnumbered them nearly five to one.

A Ukip spokesman said “quite a few thousand” had turned up to its rally. Police did not provide estimates on crowd sizes.

Momentum national co-ordinator Laura Parker said: “Today is a huge blow for Tommy Robinson and his vile, hate-fuelled politics.

“Even with the Ukip machine in tow he only managed to bring a few thousand supporters out on the streets while we mobilised nearly 15,000 to march against his racism and bigotry.”

Mr Robinson’s supporters gathered to call for Brexit, with one brandishing a noose he said was for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell had urged Labour supporters to march against the “poison” of Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

“This march isn’t about Brexit, it’s about far-right extremists dressing up in suits and pretending to be respectable,” Mr McDonnell said.

Along the route, the counter-protest included songs and dancing, arriving at their final stop on Whitehall to the sound of Michael Jackson’s hit Black Or White.

Read more: Brexit: Scots prefer independence to no-deal, poll finds

As the demonstrators made their way from Portland Place, they held placards saying: “Oppose Tommy Robinson. Don’t let the racists divide us” and chanted “There are many many more of us than you”.

Marchers with their faces covered briefly made their way to the front of the march, and at a few points a handful of Robinson supporters were escorted away swiftly by police.

The protesters chanted the whole way, shouting “Nazi scum, off our streets”.

Gathering outside the Dorchester Hotel, Mr Robinson’s supporters marched along a specified route from Park Lane to Parliament Street.

Among Ukip supporters outside the luxury establishment was a man who gave his name as Laukan Creasey, from Stevenage, who was carrying a gallows with a noose hanging down.

Asked why he was brandishing it, Mr Creasey said: “That’s what the traitor May deserves. That’s what treasonous people get.

“It was a referendum not a never-endum. And they promised to implement whatever we decided and they haven’t, so two-and-a-half years down the line this is what you get.”

The Ukip group marched to outside the Houses of Parliament where they were to be greeted by festive music and speakers.

The crowd loudly booed when Ukip leader Gerard Batten brought up “Remainer” Mrs May and they cheered on his reference to a “treasonous political class”.

He added: “If Parliament does not take Britain out of the European Union it will be the biggest constitutional crisis since the English Civil War.

“In 1642 the king put himself in opposition to parliament. Parliament won and the king lost his head.

“If Parliament betrays Brexit they will be putting themselves in opposition of the people and if they win you will lose your liberty.”

Their opposition march, who had started outside the BBC building in Portland Place, were separated from the Brexiters by police barriers in Whitehall.

Police were on heightened alert after “serious violence” broke out at a Robinson rally in London in June, with five officers injured when bottles and barriers were hurled at them.

Scotland Yard said it also imposed the conditions based on the “current intelligence picture”.

Weyman Bennett, joint convener of Stand Up To Racism and one of the march organisers, said: “I believe that the majority of people in this country reject fascism and racism.

“There’s deep concern in Britain about the growth of the far right in this country, under the guise of Tommy Robinson and Ukip.”

He added: “We are excited about the amount of women organisers, Muslim groups and trade unions that have come out.

“We’ve had unprecedented unity. All of us have come together from whatever party or faction we represent and have agreed that we have to march together to defend our democratic rights.”

Read more: David Mundell: I would not serve in Boris Johnson’s cabinet

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Sam Blewett and Catherine Wylie"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841521.1544372238!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841521.1544372238!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "People take part in an anti-fascist counter-demonstration against a "Brexit Betrayal" march and rally organised by Ukip in central London. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "People take part in an anti-fascist counter-demonstration against a "Brexit Betrayal" march and rally organised by Ukip in central London. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841521.1544372238!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841522.1544372241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841522.1544372241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Tommy Robinson (left) and UK Independence Party Leader Gerard Batten (right) at a rally after taking part in a "Brexit Betrayal" march organised by Ukip in central London. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tommy Robinson (left) and UK Independence Party Leader Gerard Batten (right) at a rally after taking part in a "Brexit Betrayal" march organised by Ukip in central London. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841522.1544372241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841523.1544372248!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841523.1544372248!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Police officers attempts to keep rival protesters from clashing in Trafalgar Square, London, as people take part in an anti-fascist counter-demonstration against a "Brexit Betrayal" march and rally organised by Ukip. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Police officers attempts to keep rival protesters from clashing in Trafalgar Square, London, as people take part in an anti-fascist counter-demonstration against a "Brexit Betrayal" march and rally organised by Ukip. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841523.1544372248!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5838151705001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/david-mundell-i-would-not-serve-in-boris-johnson-s-cabinet-1-4841484","id":"1.4841484","articleHeadline": "David Mundell: I would not serve in Boris Johnson’s cabinet","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544362763000 ,"articleLead": "

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has revealed he would not be in Boris Johnson’s cabinet if the former foreign secretary became prime minister.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841483.1544362759!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Mundell. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Mr Mundell, who has served under both David Cameron and Theresa May, said his disagreements with the outspoken former London mayor would make it “extremely difficult” for him to stay on as Scottish Secretary.

He spoke out as Mr Johnson refused to rule out challenging Theresa May for the Tory leadership, as he called for her Brexit deal to be renegotiated.

The Brexiteer told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s a relatively simple job to do.

“We can have a withdrawal agreement that does not contain the backstop.

“We can do much, much better than this.”

READ MORE - Scottish farmer sued for £2 million after he ‘spoiled huge crop of Christmas trees’

But Mr Mundell, who campaigned for Remain in the run up to the 2016 referendum, hit back and said: “A lot of people have the fanciful idea that Santa is going to turn up and put a new deal in their stocking.

“That’s not going to happen.”

The Scottish Conservative MP told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland that it had “always been a condition of the withdrawal agreement” that it would contain a backstop deal for Northern Ireland, to prevent the return to a hard border there.

And he insisted Mr Johnson’s suggestion that this could be removed from the deal was “simply not possible”.

Mr Mundell added: “Mr Johnson knows that, he was in the cabinet till relatively recently.

“I don’t understand how he has come to that conclusion.”

Asked if he would remain in the cabinet if he replaced Mrs May in Number 10, the Scottish Secretary stated: “Given my views about Mr Johnson which are well known that would be extremely difficult.

READ MORE - Passengers baffled by old train doors reintroduced by ScotRail

“Mr Johnson and I don’t agree on a whole range of issues and I don’t see myself being able to serve in that way.”

While both Mr Mundell and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson had both threatened to quit their posts if the PM’s Brexit deal jeopardised the “integrity of the UK”, the MP insisted the future of the union would be more at risk if the UK was to leave the European Union without a deal being in place.

He stated: “The threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom, which I regard as the principle issue......it is most likely to be threatened by the crash, by the uncertainty, by the division, by the chaos which provides the backdrop nationalists want to move forward with their independence referendum here.”

And he said: “I have had to make a judgment on what is in the backstop, which is a temporary measure which may never come into force, and what risk that causes to the integrity of the United Kingdom, compared to crashing out of the EU in less than four months time, which I regard as the most significant threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841483.1544362759!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841483.1544362759!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "David Mundell. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Mundell. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841483.1544362759!/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/nicola-sturgeon-support-scottish-independence-and-avoid-narnia-with-idiots-1-4841480","id":"1.4841480","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon: Support Scottish independence and avoid ‘Narnia with idiots’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544359064000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s First Minister branded Tory politicians “idiots” as she called on Scots to support independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841479.1544439622!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Following an article in the Sunday Telegraph where allies of Boris Johnston likened him to Aslan in CS Lewis’s Narnia series ready to end he rule of the ice queen Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon took to Twitter, to say Scottish voters could “opt to stay in the real world.”

She wrote: “It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. These idiots are actually revelling in the idea that they’re characters in a fantasy world. Scotland, we don’t have to stay in Narnia with them - we can opt to stay in the real world with #independence.”

READ MORE - Scottish farmer sued for £2 million after he ‘spoiled huge crop of Christmas trees’

It comes as a poll showed ore than half of Scotland believe independence would be better for the country than remaining in the UK after Brexit.

Almost three in five (59%) said leaving the UK would benefit Scotland more than staying in, if there was a no-deal Brexit.

The Panelbase survey, carried out for The Sunday Times Scotland and LBC, also found 53% believed independence would benefit the country more than staying in a UK that had left the European Union via a negotiated Withdrawal Agreement.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841479.1544439622!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841479.1544439622!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841479.1544439622!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5746108438001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-boris-johnson-says-pm-can-stay-if-backstop-is-scrapped-1-4841472","id":"1.4841472","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Boris Johnson says PM can stay if backstop is scrapped","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544355575867 ,"articleLead": "Boris Johnson has said Theresa May can stay on as Prime Minister if her Brexit deal is defeated on Tuesday - as long as she returns to Brussels and demands it abandons the Irish border backstop.","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841471.1544355725!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson"} ,"articleBody": "

The former Foreign Secretary refused to rule out a leadership bid against the Prime Minister, but said she could stay on even if MPs reject her Brexit deal this week.

If defeated in the Commons on Tuesday, he said work to prepare for a no-deal Brexit should begin “in earnest” to convince the EU the UK was “serious”.

Mr Johnson claimed the backstop measure left the UK open to "blackmail" by the European Union.

READ MORE: Brexit: Scots prefer independence to no-deal, poll finds

He told BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "The real problem with the backstop arrangement is it gives the power to Brussels and to all the other EU member states effectively to blackmail us and to get what they want out of the future trade negotiation.

"It is a diabolical negotiating position."

Asked if he would promise not to stand against the Prime Minister he said: "I will give you an absolute, categorical promise that I will continue to advocate what I think is the most sensible plan."

But he said it was "nonsense" to suggest he had already begun offering fellow Tories jobs in a future administration.

Mr Johnson claimed it would be “relatively easy” to convince the EU to abandon the backstop despite Brussels insisting the deal will not be changed and that the insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Ireland was a crucial component.

“Do not underestimate the deep sense of responsibility I feel for Brexit and everything that has happened, do not underestimate how much I care about this because this is fundamental to our country,” he told Andrew Marr.

“It breaks my heart that after all we have campaigned for that we should consign ourselves to a future in which the EU effectively rules us in many, many respects and yet we have no say round the table in Brussels.

“That is an absurdity and we cannot go down that route. And unfortunately, the current backstop arrangements would commit us to those arrangements.

“We have to change it, it’s a relatively simply job to do. We can have a withdrawal agreement that does not contain the backstop. We can do much, much better than this."

Another former cabinet minister who resigned over Mrs May's Brexit deal, the ex-Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, said she was willing to stand in a leadership election if asked.

"If people asked me, then of course you'd give it serious thought and do it - if people asked me," she told Sky's Ridge on Sunday programme.

"But at the moment I'm looking at who is in papers, who we can get behind but it shouldn't be about the personality, it should be about the country and this deal."

Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary, claimed Brussels recognised the need to time-limit the Irish border backstop before officials took negotiations in "another direction".

Mr Raab said Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief negotiator, told him he understood the backstop "needs to be short" after being challenged over making it finite.

He described the Brexit deal as the "worst of all the alternatives" and said some of the no-deal Brexit warnings issued by the Government are "just not credible".

READ MORE: Brexit: Theresa May in last-ditch appeal to Brussels to avoid defeat

Speaking to Sophy Ridge, Mr Raab said he suspects the deal will be voted down but could still be "remedied" if the EU is willing to look again at the backstop and that the UK will transition to a free trade agreement.

"I made clear that it had to be time-limited and finite, and Michel Barnier, at one point in one of our meetings, said 'I understand it needs to be short', but I'm afraid after that the technical track for the negotiations took it in another direction and I was very clear with the Prime Minister that we should of stood firm at that point, and that was back in July," Mr Raab said.

"Now I'm not suggesting it's easy to go back. You lose moments in negotiations and you can't just claw them back. What I am suggesting is that there is probably more flexibility than is being suggested and actually we should have taken a robust line back then and we certainly should be taking one now."

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841471.1544355725!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841471.1544355725!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841471.1544355725!/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/brexit-scots-prefer-independence-to-no-deal-poll-finds-1-4841458","id":"1.4841458","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Scots prefer independence to no-deal, poll finds","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544351565366 ,"articleLead": "

Scots prefer independence to a no deal Brexit by a margin of three to two, a new poll suggests.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841457.1544351729!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon"} ,"articleBody": "

Voters also believe independence would be better than a negotiated Brexit settlement. However, when asked how they would vote in an independence referendum, voters would still back the Union by 53% to 47%.

A Panelbase survey of 1,028 voters found 59% of respondents agreed that independence would be better than a no-deal Brexit, with 41% disagreeing.

When asked if independence would benefit the country more than staying in the UK after a negotiated Brexit deal, 53% agreed and 47% disagreed.

READ MORE: Brexit: Theresa May in last-ditch appeal to Brussels to avoid defeat

The poll found voters still intend to back staying in the UK in a new independence referendum, but at 47%, support for independence is at the highest level recorded by Panelbase in two years, once the don’t knows are removed.

Just over half of Scots (51%) would back a fresh general election if Theresa May fails to get her Brexit deal through parliament, and 54% believe she should resign if defeated.

In a general election, the SNP would made modest gains at Westminster, with the poll putting their support at 37%, Labour and the Conservatives tied on 26%, the Liberal Democrats on 6% and UKIP and the Greens on 2%.

Analysis by Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, suggests that would translate into a gain of four MPs for the SNP, putting them on 39, while Labour would lose three seats, taking them down to four - making a minority administration supported up by the nationalists unlikely.

The Tories would retain 12 MPs, down one, and the Lib Dems would be unchanged.

“Although this poll suggests that support for independence may have edged up a bit, as things stand the nationalist movement still finds itself tantalisingly short of the support it needs to win a second independence referendum,” Mr Curtice told the Sunday Times, which commissioned the poll. “However, over half of those who voted no in 2014 still want Britain to remain part of the EU. Some of them at least find the choice between a UK that is leaving the EU and Scottish independence a tough one — and especially so, should the UK leave without a deal.

“In those circumstances over one in three 2014 No voters find it impossible to say which is preferable, while, even if there is a deal, one in five still finds themselves in that predicament.”

At Holyrood, the poll found that Nicola Sturgeon risks losing her pro-independence majority in the next Scottish election, due in 2021.

READ MORE: Scottish independence campaigners aim to thrive on Brexit turmoil
Panelbase found that support for the SNP in the constituency vote was unchanged since October on 41%, with the Tories on 25% (down one), Labour on 23% (up 2%), the Lib Dems and unchanged on 6% and 3% respectively, and Ukip on 1% (down 1%).

In the regional vote, the SNP is up three points on 38%, the Tories are unchanged on 26%, Labour are on 22% (up 2%), Lib Dems on 7% (down 1%), Greens at 6 % (down 1%) and Ukip on 1% (down 1%).

Those figures would leave the SNP on 57 MSPs, down six compared with the 2016 election, while the Tories would gain three, taking them to 34. Labour would gain three MSPs, taking them to 27, the Lib Dems would have seven MSPs, gaining two, and the Greens would lose two MSPs, leaving them with four.

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841457.1544351729!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841457.1544351729!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841457.1544351729!/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/scottish-greens-reluctant-to-pledge-support-for-snp-budget-1-4841454","id":"1.4841454","articleHeadline": "Scottish Greens reluctant to pledge support for SNP budget","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544349416000 ,"articleLead": "

Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie has issued a warning to Finance Secretary Derek Mackay that his party is not yet ready to offer its support ahead of this week’s budget.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841453.1544349412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

It has emerged that formal talks between the Greens and the SNP are yet to begin, with the smaller party insisting its preconditions for support have not been met.

The SNP rely on Green MSPs to give them the necessary numbers to get the budget approved at Holyrood.

Harvie said he wanted to remind the Finance Secretary that the Greens are the only party ever to bring down a Scottish budget.

He said that while discussions have taken place, there has been no “meaningful progress” on the Greens’ local tax reform agenda, which includes specific proposals on council tax and business rates.

READ MORE - Dani Garavelli: End of the line for sorry ScotRail strategy

Harvie said: “Scotland’s system of funding our vital local services is broken, and we urgently need the reforms which almost every party agreed to before the last election.

“Since then the government has stalled and this cannot be allowed to go on.

“Green influence has reversed cuts to local councils for the last two years, and we have delivered over £300 million extra for front line services such as schools and social care.

“But given the pressure from a decade-long squeeze on funds and growing demand for services, we need wider reform.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie announced his party had pulled out of budget talks with the government, citing the SNP’s insistence that “their damaging and costly plan for an independence referendum had to stay on the table” as the reason.

Areas of common interest were discussed over two meetings between the SNP and the Lib Dems, Rennie said, with his party wanting more cash for mental health services, local councils and teachers’ pay.

The Lib Dem said that it was “disappointing” that the SNP administration had been unable to “set aside their independence plans”.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841453.1544349412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841453.1544349412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841453.1544349412!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/business/tories-call-on-mackay-to-avoid-wider-tax-gap-in-budget-1-4841427","id":"1.4841427","articleHeadline": "Tories call on Mackay to avoid wider tax gap in budget","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544313299000 ,"articleLead": "

The tax gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK must not grow wider when Finance Secretary Derek Mackay unveils his Budget this week, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay has been urged by Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser to focus on growth. Picture: Andrew acColl/Rex/Shutterstock"} ,"articleBody": "

Mackay raised eyebrows last week when he hinted that there is still scope to tax higher earners more north of the border, despite concerns from business leaders over the impact on the economy and key professions.

He has been under pressure over the issue in recent months since Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled plans in his budget for 2019/20 to provide middle earners with an effective tax cut by extending the threshold at which they start paying the “higher” 40 pence rate to £50,000 – compared with £43,430 in Scotland.

Even if Mackay decides to raise this by inflation to £44,470, it would still mean an average Scot in the higher tax band would be left with a bill of £1,350.

Perhaps the more substantial issue is the impact on economic growth as Scotland’s tax base will have a direct impact on public spending in 2019/20 as the post-Smith Commission “safety net” is removed. If the public spending raised through devolved taxes such as income tax, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and landfill tax falls short, the Scottish exchequer loses out.

Mackay has been meeting with opposition parties in recent weeks as he seeks to do a deal, but a demand for local government tax reform from his usual budget partners, the Greens, has so far thwarted an agreement. Labour and the Liberal Democrats both want steeper tax hikes, which could prove problematic, while the Tories’ call for a second independence referendum to be dropped rules out a deal with Ruth Davidson’s party.

As the pressure builds on Mackay over tax, Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said it is time to focus on growth.

“We’ve asked them to commit to no widening of the income tax differential between us and the rest of the UK at the very least,” he said.

“We would like to see it closed, but politics is the art of the possible, so at the minimum: no widening.”

SNP strategists feel the popularity of policies such as free university education, free prescriptions and free personal care for the elderly, as well as lower water and council tax charges, has resulted in a broader acceptance among middle-class Scots of the case for modest tax hikes.

But it remains contentious and was raised with Education Secretary John Swinney as he appeared at a School Leaders Scotland conference a fortnight ago, with a warning that the tax gap was discouraging qualified teachers from applying for promoted positions because so much of their additional salary would go on tax.

“This is a process and, as devolved income tax become more understood and more part of the political climate and there becomes a broader political debate around tax rates and their impact both on the economy and public services, I think we’ll see people becoming more concerned about it,” Fraser added.

The Scottish Government overhauled the income tax system for 2018/19 after control over rates and bands was devolved to Holyrood. It saw the creation of five bands, including the new starter and intermediate rates.

The Chancellor’s changes for next year will mean higher earners pay significantly more in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. Even if the Scottish income tax bands only move with inflation, workers making £50,000 north of the border face a tax bill £1,300 higher than their UK counterparts from April.

The Scottish Government has already seen £700 million added to its budget of about £33 billion in 2019/20 as a result of so-called Barnett consequentials – extra cash from Westminster – unveiled last year. But a gloomy outlook for the country’s tax base saw these revised down by £400m last year by the Scottish Fiscal Commission.

This did not affect public spending last year, but it will next year as the Westminster “safety net” is withdrawn. The situation will become clear when the Commission unveils its forecasts on Wednesday.

Fraser added: “We could be in a position where Derek Mackay has been given all this extra money from the UK government, but that additional sum is reduced because the fiscal commission downgrades their forecasts for income tax receipts within Scotland, which would politically send a very strong message that it’s Scotland’s economic underperformance which is adversely affecting the amount of money we have to spend on the public finances.

“By focusing on economic growth and improving productivity you can deliver more money for the public services without having to increase tax rates.”

The SNP has accused the Tories of “trying to con” voters with unaffordable tax cuts. The party cites analysis by the think tank IPPR Scotland which shows that bringing Scotland into line with the tax regime in the rest of the UK would cut revenue by £1bn in the next four years.

SNP MSP Angela Constance said: “The Tories are trying to con voters by promising extra spending while handing high earners a tax cut – it just doesn’t add up.”

Mackay vowed to protect “vital public services” and prioritise spending on health and education. He said: “Our policies have already ensured that Scotland benefits from quality public services and our progressive reforms to income tax have protected those on the lowest incomes.”

While he cited Brexit as continuing to be the “biggest threat to Scotland’s prosperity”, he insisted his proposals would “not be defined” by this.

Instead, he said the Budget “will set out how we help protect Scotland as far as we can from the damaging uncertainty of the UK government’s Brexit policy”.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab and CHRIS MARSHALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay has been urged by Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser to focus on growth. Picture: Andrew acColl/Rex/Shutterstock","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay has been urged by Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser to focus on growth. Picture: Andrew acColl/Rex/Shutterstock","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/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/why-trump-shouldn-t-stop-us-from-loving-america-susan-dalgety-1-4841100","id":"1.4841100","articleHeadline": "Why Trump shouldn’t stop us from loving America – Susan Dalgety","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544248800000 ,"articleLead": "

The United States is still a place that believes, in its soul, that everyone is equal, writes Susan Dalgety.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841099.1544204702!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Donald Trump addresses a 'Make America Great Again' rally in Topeka, Kansas (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)"} ,"articleBody": "

Deb leaned over and asked, “What was the most troubling thing you saw on your journey round our country?”

We were in her lovely family home, in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, catching up with each other’s lives after six years, while bemoaning the state of our nations. I was berating the British political class for Brexit, all she had to say was “Trump”.

Her question caught me off guard for a moment. I had just spent the last ten minutes extolling the virtues of America, from its wide-open spaces to its wide-open car parks, perfect for our campervan.

“Troubling? Oh, the little boy living in a car in Aberdeen, in Washington State,” I said.

“The memory of his sweet, trusting face as he showed me his pet frog will stay with me for a long time. And the poverty in Alabama, and on the reservation in Montana.”

I was on a roll. “The cost of housing in San Francisco, and the homeless people in Seattle and Portland. Oh, and Trump. Always Trump.”

“I think it was the inequality that will stay with me,” I finished. “Millionaires living next door to people with nothing. Oh, and the cost of food. It’s much higher here than it is at home.”

America has always been a country of winners and losers, but in recent years the gulf between rich and poor has widened and deepened.

Fifty years ago, the Poor People’s Campaign, organised by Martin Luther King Jr, campaigned for economic justice for all Americans, black and white.

Pointing to the Declaration of Independence, and its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Dr King declared at the time that, “if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists ...”

Five decades later, and tens of millions of Americans merely exist. In 1968, a full-time worker on the minimum wage would have earned $20,600 a year (in 2017 dollars, about £16,100). Last year, a full-time worker paid the federal minimum wage earned just $15,080 (about £11,800).

READ MORE: Springsteen can help US rediscover its pre-Trump values – Susan Dalgety

Wandering round Walmart, the cheapest of the supermarket giants, it is impossible to imagine how an American family even “merely exists” on the minimum wage.

Groceries are around 25 per cent more expensive in the US than here; little wonder that the European discounters, Aldi and Lidl, have set their sights on the American market.

But it will take more than a German invasion to bridge the economic and social divide that segregates American society, and led directly to the election of Donald Trump.

Earlier this year, prominent economist and former US Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, went on a two-week road trip from Chicago to Portland, following much of our route through the plains of Montana, South Dakota and Iowa.

Like him, we were mesmerised by the empty vastness we encountered in these rural states. Montana is the fourth largest state in America. It is bigger than Japan. And it has a population of only one million people.

And just as Summers discovered on his road trip, we soon realised, as we left Wisconsin and drove into North Dakota, that life in the rural states is very different from that in the outer boroughs of New York, or the suburbs of Philadelphia. The population is much less diverse for a start. And the phone network doesn’t always work.

At the end of his short trip, Summers admitted that policy-makers like him should spend more time outside Washington.

“The US is a remarkable place because it is an amalgam of remarkable places,” he wrote.

“Americans want to live in very different ways. Perhaps more appreciation of that on the part of those who lead our society could strengthen and unify our country at what is surely a complex and difficult moment in its history.”

READ MORE: Embrace legacy of Otis and Elvis in name of freedom – Susan Dalgety

This mea culpa by an economic adviser to both Clinton and Obama is illuminating. If even progressives like Summers don’t properly understand their country, its economy and its people, what hope is there that life will get any better for those millions of Americans who are merely existing?

And yet...

Now that I am back home, people ask me what I liked most about America, and I respond without hesitation. “Its energy. Its enthusiasm. The endless possibilities.”

The very idea of the United States of America, a country that was inspired by the Enlightenment and created on the principle that all people are created equal, continues to fill me with hope, despite the hard, heart-breaking evidence of stark inequality.

There is poster in our flat of Barack Obama with one of his most famous quotes: “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible”.

It is worth pausing to remember for a moment that Obama was born to a white teenage American girl and a black African father. He was largely raised by his working-class grandparents in Hawaii. His middle name is Hussein, and yet he became the first African American President only 40 years after Martin Luther King was assassinated.

It is unlikely that, even in 2018, a British man, or woman, with a similar modest, diverse background, would become Prime Minister.

America, for all its faults, even despite Donald Trump, remains at heart the country Thomas Jefferson imagined as he scratched out the first draft of the Declaration of Indepedence.

It is a country that believes, in its soul, that all its citizens are equal, and that government can be a force for good.

On our very last day we visited Franklin D Roosevelt’s Presidential Library in upstate New York with another of our good friends, Nan. “To remind us of America at its best,” she grimaced.

Speaking in 1932, at the height of the terrible Depression that almost destroyed America, Roosevelt said, “In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice ... the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”

His country may have wandered slightly off that path for the moment, but I am confident that, before long, it will be back on track, marching hopefully, as it did under Roosevelt, Kennedy and Obama, towards social and economic justice.

That is why I love the United States of America. That, and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Susan Dalgety"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841099.1544204702!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841099.1544204702!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Donald Trump addresses a 'Make America Great Again' rally in Topeka, Kansas (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Donald Trump addresses a 'Make America Great Again' rally in Topeka, Kansas (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841099.1544204702!/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/general-election/john-mcdonnell-second-brexit-vote-may-end-up-as-the-only-option-1-4840890","id":"1.4840890","articleHeadline": "John McDonnell: Second Brexit vote may end up as the only option","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544196186000 ,"articleLead": "

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said there may be “no other option” but to hold a second Brexit referendum in which he would personally vote to remain.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4840889.1544196183!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Mr McDonnell said he hoped the deal with the EU could still be re-negotiated, but failing that or a general election, a second public vote would be needed to break the impasse.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to lose a vote on the withdrawal deal in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Brexit: Johnson says May’s deal ‘like being defeated in war’

Speaking to journalists in Glasgow, Mr McDonnell said he and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss their joint opposition to Mrs May’s deal.

But he said his party remained opposed to the “distraction” of a second independence referendum and would consider including a specific commitment in its next election manifesto.

Asked if he agreed with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey that a second referendum may be seen as a betrayal by voters, Mr McDonnell said: “No, if we get to a situation where we’ve tried everything.

“If we can’t get [an agreement] we need a general election because we can then change the team that will do the negotiations.

“If we can’t get [a General Election] I think people will recognise that we have no other option but to consider another public vote.

“People will respect us for doing our best to implement the spirit of the referendum, but we’ve got to resolve this issue – we can’t go on like this.”

Asked if there was likely to be a remain option on the ballot paper in the event of a second vote, he said: “I think it’s inevitable and if it was, I would vote remain.”

He cited the example of the Lisbon Treaty signed by EU states in 2007 as an example of how a re-negotiated EU withdrawal deal could be done quickly.

Mr McDonnell said he believed Parliament could re-open negotiations and reach a “speedy conclusion” with the EU based on a deal which would see the UK remain in a permanent customs union and retain a “close and collaborative” relationship with the single market.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon slams UK Government over fees paid by EU citizens in public sector

Asked if Labour would come to a supply and demand agreement with the SNP should there be a minority government after the next general election, Mr McDonnell said: “Jeremy and I met with Nicola Sturgeon two weeks ago. It was purely about the Brexit issue and we had a discussion where we shared our view about opposing a no-deal and opposing Theresa May’s deal.

“If we didn’t get a significant majority, we would govern as a minority government. You know our position around future referendums, which we oppose, and that’s what we will continue to do.

“We want a united country. Our view is that it’s a complete distraction.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4840889.1544196183!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4840889.1544196183!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4840889.1544196183!/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":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}