‘The SNP has leadership pygmies to choose from post-Sturgeon’ – STV news

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Nicola Sturgeon is a “giant among pygmies” in the SNP when it comes to leadership credentials, according to a senior Conservative MP.

Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party’s co-chairman, took aim at the First Minister as he outlined his hopes for winning seats in Scotland once Sturgeon is no longer SNP leader.

Speaking at the party’s conference in Manchester on Sunday, Dowden said: “I do think there’s a real opportunity for us in Scotland for a couple of reasons.

“First of all, Nicola Sturgeon is not going to be there forever and after Nicola Sturgeon the rest of them – I’m not saying in any way Nicola Sturgeon is a wonderful person, but compared to her comrades as it were, she’s a giant among pygmies, and so I think as she goes they will be very weakened.

“And secondly, I think we have a real opportunity to focus on the actual delivery of the nationalists in Scotland, which has been completely lamentable – whether it’s education, whether it’s health, they are falling massively behind the rest of England.

“Nicola Sturgeon constantly tries to distract from this by talking endlessly about independence.

“We need to bring that focus back on their delivery in Scotland, which is lamentable.”

At Westminster, the SNP currently has 45 MPs compared to six Tory MPs, four Liberal Democrats, two Alba Party, one Labour and one independent from the Scottish seats.

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”.

Scotland’s justice institutions ‘not fit for purpose’, says veteran journalist in first Holyrood speech – The Scotsman

Russell Findlay, who was elected to Holyrood via the Scottish Conservative list at last month’s election, criticised the “bad faith, back covering and secrecy” within Scotland’s justice institutions.

The West Scotland MSP has changed careers after 27 years as an investigative journalist, including stints at STV, the Scottish Sun and Sunday Mail.

Russell Findlay MSP Conservative has delivered his maiden speech in Holyrood.

Mr Findlay spent much of his career investigating organised crime. In 2015, he was the victim of an acid attack from a hitman hired to maim him.

It was this incident, he told the Scottish Parliament chamber, that inspired him to get involved in politics and move away from journalism.

In his maiden speech, closing for the Scottish Conservatives in a justice debate, Mr Findlay said that injustice was “rife” in Scotland, with legal regulation such as police complaints, judicial complaints, and parole boards “not fit for purpose”.

He said: “Injustice is rife in modern Scotland. It has a corrosive impact. Its effects are profound, often consuming lives or cutting them short.

“While injustices will always occur, they are compounded when there is no redress and no accountability.

“Too often, public bodies use unlimited funds to crush legitimate complaints, wage war on whistleblowers and use non-disclosure agreements to hide the ugly truth from the paying public.

“Bad faith, back covering and secrecy contaminate too many of our institutions.”

Mr Findlay also attacked the SNP and nationalism, stating that Holyrood “has the power” to fix the issues facing Scottish justice.

He said: “Elsewhere in our United Kingdom, many of these very same serious problems have been identified and reformed – to the benefit of the public.

“One of the most nauseating aspects of nationalism is the myth of self-righteous superiority and exceptionalism.

“The injustices I am speaking about are entirely made in Scotland. This Parliament has the power to fix them.

“But the SNP prefer to dupe our citizens with a relentless diet of manufactured grievance and dishonestly blaming all our ills on Westminster. Scotland deserves so much better.”

He added: “My personal experience of the criminal justice system confirmed everything I had seen as a journalist. It made me angry.

“It made me realise that unless people stand up and be counted, nothing will change.”

Mr Findlay’s maiden speech was delivered as Scotland’s new justice secretary Keith Brown said there was a “very strong case” for abolishing the nation’s controversial not proven verdict.

Mr Brown said there were “complex issues” involving the verdict – which is not used in other parts of the UK – and these needed to be carefully considered.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said it is time to look at whether Scotland retains not proven, as part of efforts to tackle the “shamefully low” conviction rates for rape and sexual assault.

The SNP manifesto for May’s Holyrood election committed the party to consulting on its abolition.

Mr Brown said it was “fairly plain that amongst the various parties in this chamber there are different views” on the issue of not proven.

He said it was right that a proper consultation was carried out, adding there would be “implications for other parts of the justice system” if the verdict was scrapped.

Economic case against Scottish independence ‘even more stark’ than in 2014, says Douglas Ross – Edinburgh Evening News

Mr Ross commented while on the campaign trail in Moray, and ahead of his visit to Edinburgh on Monday – in the run-up to the Holyrood election on May 6.

Analysis from the Financial Times published today has determined that a major deterioration in Scotland’s fiscal position since the independence referendum in 2014 suggests it will face a persistent deficit of nearly 10 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) if it leaves the UK by the middle of this decade.

The newspaper added that the nation has seen its budget deficit widened by lower-than-expected tax revenues, Brexit and the coronavirus crisis – and reducing its GDP deficit from about 10 per cent to a “manageable” 3 per cent would require raising taxes or slashing public spending annually by the equivalent of £1,765 per person in the period after exiting the UK.