Breakfast politics briefing: Jennifer Arcuri fails to comment on Boris Johnson affair | Time for ‘panic’ over Scottish independence referendum

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Welcome to The Scotsman’s morning politics briefing. Here’s all you need to know for the day ahead.

Jennifer Arcuri refuses to say if she had affair with Boris Johnson

The truth behind the allegations of Boris Johnson's relationship with Jennifer Arcuri remains unclear. Picture: Getty Images

The truth behind the allegations of Boris Johnson's relationship with Jennifer Arcuri remains unclear. Picture: Getty Images

An American businesswoman at the centre of allegations of impropriety and conflict of interest dating back to Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London has refused to comment on whether they had an intimate relationship.

Jennifer Arcuri said it was “really not anyone’s business” what sort of relationship she had with Mr Johnson, and claimed any answer would be “weaponised”.

The technology entrepreneur and former model was reportedly given £126,000 in public money and privileged access to three foreign trade missions led by Mr Johnson while he was in City Hall.

She insisted that Mr Johnson "never ever gave me any favouritism" and said he "had nothing to do with my grant. Absolutely nothing".

Last month, the Prime Minister was referred to the police complaints body to assess whether he should face a criminal investigation over his association with Ms Arcuri.

Full story in the Scotsman

EU will decide on Brexit deal 'at end of the week', says Macron

By the end of this week, the EU will make a decision on whether a Brexit deal is going to be possible, French President Emmanuel Macron has told Boris Johnson.

President Macron said talks should now proceed swiftly to see if an agreement can "respect" EU principles.

Mr Johnson said the EU should not be "lured" into thinking there will be a delay to Brexit beyond 31 October.

However, a law requires him to request one if a deal is not agreed by 19 October.

As part of a weekend talking to EU leaders, the prime minister told President Macron over the phone he believes a deal can be achieved, but that the EU must match compromises made by the UK.

Full story on BBC

Time for some ‘panic’ over Scottish independence referendum says Whitehall official

Downing Street is too complacent about the danger of a second independence referendum a senior Whitehall official has said, with a lack of “panic” at the most senior levels about the strengthening trend in polling on Scottish independence.

The last three polls on Scottish independence voting intention have put support for leaving the UK at between 49 per cent and 52 per cent, when the don’t knows are removed.

An online poll at the start of August conducted by Lord Ashcroft also put independence in the lead for the first time in two and a half years, while polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice has said that “it can no longer be presumed that Scotland would vote ‘no’ again in an independence ballot”.

A dossier of Scottish coverage of the Ashcroft opinion poll - conducted in the wake of Mr Johnson’s first visit as Prime Minister to Scotland - was sent to Number 10 by former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. It also saw almost half polled – 47 per cent – say they wanted a second independence referendum to be held within the next two years.

Full story in the Scotsman

On today's agenda:

- The Court of Session is expected to decide whether Boris Johnson can be forced to seek an Article 50 extension. The PM has said he is willing to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

- Scotland’s highest civil court will also rule whether it would be appropriate to jail or fine the Prime Minister if he fails to comply with the Benn Act.

- Jeremy Corbyn is set to meet the leaders of other opposition parties to scrutinise the Government's new Brexit proposals.