This week has been dominated by the tragic events in Glasgow over the weekend. Politicians from across the political sphere and country have united in grief and showing determination to learn from the accident.
Elsewhere, the Scottish Government has criticised the UK Government for continuing to “chop and change” its energy policy. The latest criticism came as the UK Government announced that support for solar and onshore wind would be cut, but more backing would be given to offshore wind. The UK Government has stated that this “rebalancing”, will not affect overall green spending and is due to the economics surrounding the development of onshore and offshore projects. It was particularly keen to stress that these changes were evidence based (gained through consultation with industry) rather than a reaction to increasing hostility towards onshore developments in England.
The Scottish Government has also raised concerns that this shift could hamper its ability to reach its ambitions renewable targets by making many onshore developments more difficult to bring into fruition. It was also highly critical of the UK Government’s decision to continue with a single Scottish Islands Strike Price, despite the individualist nature of the Scottish Islands.
Ahead of yesterday’s Autumn Statement, John Swinney challenged the Chancellor George Osborne to “come clean” about his future plans for Scotland, to “chart a proper course” for sustained economic recovery, and give assurances that Scotland’s budget will not be cut further. Swinney warned that a No vote next year could lead to Scotland’s public finances being cut by up to £4 billion, which would be “deeply damaging.”
As Osborne announced that “the plan is working”, he confirmed that the Scottish Budget would increase by £308 million over the next two years, meaning spending would be cut by less than 0.2%. This is in comparison to the majority of UK departments who are being asked to make a further 1.1% in savings. Reacting to the announcement, Swinney said that the slight increase failed to make up for earlier cuts to the Scottish Government’s budget and attacked the further increase to the retirement age. Scottish Labour called on the Scottish Government to use the additional money to pay for the childcare support which was outlined in the White Paper last week.
These demands come as a number of Scottish businesses figures – all openly supportive of independence – have publically stated that they believe that a currency Union, which would see the Bank of England continue to set interest rates and monetary policy, as the desired choice post-independence. Undoubtedly, this is not what Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael had in mind when he called on leading business figures to speak out about Scotland’s constitutional future earlier this week at an event in London.
The Financial Times and Daily Mail this week both reported that a “senior” Tory UK Government official has questioned Alistair Darling’s leadership of the Better Together campaign, describing the former Chancellor as “comatose most of the time” and a “dreary figurehead.” These reported comments come despite Darling’s assured performance last week in dissecting the Scottish Government’s White Paper and the latest polling on Scottish independence suggesting that Scots are still to be convinced about the virtues of independence.
Three polls this week continue to indicate a healthy lead for the Better Together Campaign. Progressive Scotland give the pro-Unionist’s a 19% lead (56-27%), Panebase a 9% lead (47%-38%) and TNS a 16% lead (42%-26%).
Finally, Scottish Labour has confirmed that the Leader of Fife Council, Cllr Alex Rowley will contest the Cowdenbeath by-election scheduled for late January 2014. The Scottish Conservatives have also confirmed that local Councillor Cllr Dave Dempsey will be their candidate.