Why the SNP must stop hoarding power in Edinburgh – The New Statesman

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As Glasgow prepares to host global leaders at COP26, the eyes of the world are turning towards the city for the first time since the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The pressure is on, and Susan Aitken, the SNP council leader since 2017, is bearing the brunt of complaints about what critics say are dirty streets, the many gap sites and the authority’s troubled relationship with trade unions. In a recent, excruciating television interview, she was repeatedly challenged to admit the streets were “filthy”, finally admitting the place could do with a “spruce up”.

For the past year, as November’s COP26 summit has drawn nearer, Aitken has occupied an elevated status among her fellow regional and urban leaders. She has addressed the World Bank, formed close relationships with the mayors and administrations of many of the world’s great cities, and worked closely with England’s directly-elected mayors such as Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan. She has also held discussions with private investors, and would like the UK government to stand behind the multi-billion-pound borrowing Glasgow and others need to renew their municipal fabric and create green infrastructure. She sees COP26 as an unmissable opportunity to accelerate the city’s economic resurgence and improve its global profile.

Aitken admits Glasgow isn’t what it could be. Covid, economic challenges, and strained relationships with the unions have all had an impact. And in important ways her hands are tied, not by international institutions or the UK government, but by Nicola Sturgeon. It’s generally accepted that Scottish local government is among the most circumscribed in Europe. Devolution to Holyrood has not been accompanied by devolution from Holyrood, where instead the SNP administration has overseen centralisation of power to Edinburgh.

A council’s ability to raise funds is greatly restricted. Scottish council taxes have been frozen then capped by successive SNP governments, while non-domestic rates are set centrally, collected locally, sent back to the centre then redistributed. Local authorities face criticisms from local people for challenges and cuts they have little power to address.

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Independent Scotland faces ‘difficult’ cuts, warns thinktank – The Herald

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A NEWLY independent Scotland would face years of deep public spending cuts as it was forced to drive down its deficit with only limited borrowing options, a leading thinktank has said.

In two new papers on currency and borrowing outside the UK, the Institute for Government (IfG) said Scotland was likely to have to run a “tighter fiscal policy than the position that it would be likely to inherit on day one”.

The IfG said an independent Scotland would “struggle” to borrow much more than 3 per cent of its GDP a year, requiring it find an extra £6.5bn to £8.5bn a year in higher tax or spending cuts.

As a country without a track record in the financial markets, its borrowing costs would be 0.4 to 0.9 points higher than UK rates, a premium equivalent to around 2p on every rate of income tax.

Scotland’s nominal deficit was around 8% of GDP before the pandemic and is now 22%.
The IfG said even an 8% deficit made Scotland “an outlier among international peers”, limiting its borrowing from wary markets.

To establish its credentials, it would therefore have to implement a “substantial fiscal consolidation – around 5 to 6% of GDP relative to its current position – over the first few years of independence”, depending on its share on inherited debt from the UK.

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Sturgeon gives ‘wrong pre-scripted answer’ to SNP MSP’s question – The Herald

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NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of giving the “wrong pre-scripted answer” to a question from one of her own backbenchers for the second time in a week.

Scottish Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr raised a point of order in Holyrood following the apparent mistake.

It came after Ms Sturgeon responded to a question from SNP MSP Stuart McMillan about a public inquiry into the coronavirus crisis.

Instead of addressing the issue, the First Minister referred to Covid measures in the education sector.

On Wednesday last week, Ms Sturgeon made a similar mistake after a question from SNP MSP Stephanie Callaghan about NHS Lanarkshire.

The First Minister read out the answer to the next question due in Holyrood, from the SNP’s Evelyn Tweed, and later said there had been “confusion on my part”.

Raising a point of order today, Mr Kerr said: “Presiding Officer, for the second time in two weeks, the First Minister has read the wrong pre-scripted answer to her backbencher’s pre-scripted question.

“Stuart McMillan asked about the inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic.

“The First Minister’s answer was all about schools.

“Can you, Presiding Officer, please advise as to what options there are to ensure that we hear an answer to the question that was actually asked?”

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SNP official under investigation over ‘threatening phone call’ claim – Daily Record

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An SNP official is under investigation after claims he made a threatening phone call to a new business owner.

Ian McPherson, a staffer for Westminster MP Allan Dorans, admitted making a “terrible error of judgement” in his call to Ayr painter Craig Hainey.

It followed the opening of Mr Hainey’s new business in Ayr’s North Harbour, to which he had invited Tory MSP Sharon Dowey.

He then claims to have received a call from McPherson asking why Ayr MSP Siobhian Brown had not been asked along instead.

Mr Hainey, who has opened Pro Paints, claims McPherson warned him: “I hope this doesn’t affect your business”.

The SNP worker this week admitted making the call and said he had been “trying to clear up confusion between list MSPs and MSPs”.

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Electric car chargers ‘to switch off at peak times to avoid blackouts’ – STV news

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Home charging points for electric vehicles will be shut off at peak times to combat fears they could cause blackouts.

The Government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, meaning the number of electric vehicles on the road is set to soar.

However, there are fears that millions of motorists plugging their cars in to recharge at home when they get home from work could put too much pressure on the grid.

The move would see home charge points turned off for up to nine hours a day, with randomised 30-minute shutdowns if demand is too high.

The Sunday Times reports that regulations submitted to the World Trade Organisation suggest home and workplace chargers would not operate between 8am and 11am, or 4pm to 10pm.

Public charge points, often found at the side of the road or at motorway service stations, would not be affected by these rules, allowing those charging on the move to top up at any time of day.

The strain on the National Grid has long been of concern as EV uptake has increased, with motorists encouraged to charge at off-peak times. Chargers and vehicles allow owners to schedule their charging, particularly useful for waiting until electricity is less expensive overnight.

Sales of electric vehicles have been slow to take hold, but there are signs that the switch is beginning to pick up pace. Although the pandemic has skewed last year’s numbers and the semiconductor shortage is limiting production this year, data shows electrified vehicles sales have increased significantly in the past year.

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Finance secretary Kate Forbes challenged by Tories after drawing a blank on figures – The Herald

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KATE FORBES has come under fire from Tory MPs for failing to get to grips with her figures.

Ms Forbes, Scottish finance secretary, was appearing at a session of the Scottish Affairs Committee this afternoon when she was asked about how much the Scottish Government had spent so far on city and region growth deals.

Scotland to receive more than £1bn from social care levy – STV news

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Boris Johnson has said Scotland will receive more than £1bn as he announced plans to raise additional cash for social care reform across the UK.

The Prime Minister announced that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic the UK Government is to introduce a new health and social care levy, based on a 1.25% increase in national insurance (NI) contributions.

Johnson insisted this was a “reasonable and the fair approach” to paying for the reforms – despite breaching a manifesto pledge not to raise NI contributions.

However the SNP warned the changes would be the Prime Minister’s version of the “poll tax”, with the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford accusing the Tory of taxing Scottish workers twice.

Johnson however insisted that the three devolved nations would “benefit from an extra £2.2bn a year”, adding that “this is about 15% more than they would contribute through the levy”.

‘Major gap’ between SNP’s policy vision and delivery — auditor general – The Herald

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SCOTLAND’S auditor general has warned that the country “remains riven by inequalities” as he criticised a “major implementation gap between policy ambitions and delivery on the ground”.

Stephen Boyle has urged caution over short-term targets and warned not enough focus has been placed on preventative measures by public bodies.

Writing in a blog, he insisted there is a “mismatch” between the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland “where poverty is reduced and economic growth is sustainable” and “how we assess public sector performance”.

The auditor general’s intervention comes 10 years after the Christie report was published, which he said “set out an inspiring agenda for change that would put people at the heart of public services”.

But Mr Boyle has warned that “Scotland remains riven by inequalities – in wealth, in education, in health and opportunity”.

Letters to the press, 04/09/21: Scottish bigotry, Be Careful, Tess White was right.

Letters to the press, 03/09/21: Westminster at least holds ministers to account, Greens clamour to scrap trident, SNP fears technicalities.