Sturgeon unveils timetable for ‘mass unlocking’ of Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon is planning a major easing of lockdown restrictions, the Daily Telegraph reports, including lifting a five-mile travel limit and opening up access to holiday homes.
In proper devocrat fashion, this new regime will kick in one Friday, July 3rd – the day before Boris Johnson’s own changes take effect south of the border.
This comes as the Scottish Government faces continuing criticism over its handling of schools, with its plans for so-called ‘blended learning’ coming under attack from both the press and SNP politicians. Scientists have also attacked the evidence base (or lack thereof) underpinning Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to lockdown.
(The Welsh Government is not doing any better, with their Education Secretary unable to say when schools will reopen and likewise committed to ‘blended learning’.)
Local government in the spotlight
The Scotsman reports that several Scottish councils are facing severe financial black holes as a result of the pandemic. Three council have deficits adding up to hundreds of pounds per resident – the highest is £411 – which adds up to hundreds of millions of pounds in total.
This is the latest twist in a long-running battle between the Nationalist administration at Holyrood and Scottish local government. Arch-centralisers, the SNP have been using Scottish Government financial support to reduce the independence of councils.
In Wales, meanwhile, the Centre for Welsh Studies has published a new report which suggests that the Shared Prosperity Fund – the UK-administered scheme which will replace EU funding post-Brexit – should be administered by Westminster and local councils, rather than being handed to the Senedd.
This proposal will doubtless outrage the devocrats, who are consistently opposed to letting Westminster control UK-level policy in the way that Brussels controls EU-level policy. But if the SPF is to become an instrument for strengthening the Union, keeping it out of devocrat hands is essential.
DUP again press Johnson on post-Brexit border arrangements
Their moment in the Commons sun may have passed, but the Democratic Unionists are still trying to hold the Prime Minister’s feet to the fire over his promises to Northern Ireland.
Speaking at yesterday’s PMQs, Sammy Wilson challenged Boris Johnson over the fact that the Port of Larne is reportedly making preparations for extensive customs infrastructure, ready to receive shipping from the British mainland.
In response, the Prime Minister said that “I can tell him absolutely, categorically that there will be no new customs infrastructure”, citing the Withdrawal Agreement’s recognition that Ulster remains inside the British customs territory.
Abolish the Assembly get their first MS
After a few months of growing media attention, following some good poll showings and the defection of their first councillor, the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party (‘Abolish’) have secured their first representative in that institution.
Gareth Bennett, an independent MS who previously served as leader of UKIP’s Assembly group, has now signed up to the group. (And if you want an idea of why devosceptics might be rare in Welsh political life, check out the extraordinarily aggressive interview he got from Wales Online).
Apparently Abolish, which recently launched a membership programme, will consider it a good result if they win three seats at the next Senedd poll.
(In other devosceptic news, I spoke to David Leask at the Herald on Sunday about why opposition to devolution appears to be waxing during Covid-19. Most of my section seems to be missing from the online version, but it may return.)