This Week In Scotland


With the political dust settling on the referendum, business is getting back to normal at Holyrood. Elsewhere the wheels continue to turn on both the SNP leadership and Smith Commission.

SNP Leadership
While Nicola Sturgeon remains the only member of the SNP to stand for leader of the party and First Minister, the race for Deputy Leader had a new entry. Following on from the announcement last week that Transport Minister Keith Brown and SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie MP were standing for the role, Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment, Angela Constance has thrown her hat in the ring.

In her opening bid for the role she made a commitment to focus on those groups who rejected independence, specifically women, older people and non-native Scots. She also stated that it would not be her intention to become Deputy First Minister. All candidates are currently campaigning ahead of SNP conference in November.

Poll Tax
In a dramatic flourish at First Ministers Questions this week, Alex Salmond declared that the Scottish Government would be ordering Local Authorities not to pursue people who had refused to pay the Poll Tax twenty five years ago, but had now come back onto the electoral register.

The move came following suggestions that some local authorities would be looking to go through the new names on the electoral rolls following the independence referendum to collect overdue debts.

However this has been stopped in its tracks, with the First Minister arguing that it was a threat to scare people. COSLA responded to the announcement arguing that Local Authorities had a duty to track down unpaid debts, especially due to the tight financial settlements that they are operating in.

Police Officers
The controversial issue of armed police officers on routine patrols continued this week with the news that Police Scotland has undertaken a review of the policy. Moving forward firearms will only be permitted when there is an incident involving firearms or there is a clear danger to life.

Opposition parties claim that this is a U-Turn, and in the Chamber Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for the resignation of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. This has been rejected by the First Minister who pointed to a successful record in reducing crime during the time of the administration.

Labour Reforms
It has been reported in the media this week that Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont will be undertaking an internal review of the party following concerns about the referendum result. While No won by a comfortable margin, key Labour areas such as Glasgow went Yes, while Inverclyde was No only by 86 votes, prompting concerns that the party could be routed once again by the SNP. The proposals could see devolving MP selections, and bringing in a one member one vote for leadership elections.

There is clear concern that the internal functions of the party have still to be solved, and this could have a detrimental impact on operations for both 2015, and 2016.

Smith Commission Update
Labour have this week announced that Iain Gray and shadow pensions minister Gregg McClymont MP will be leading the Labour team on the Smith Commission, therefore completing the party political representatives;

John Swinney
Linda Fabiani

Scottish Conservatives
Baroness Goldie
Prof Adam Tomkins

Liberal Democrats
Michael Moore
Tavish Scott

Patrick Harvie
Maggie Chapman

Gordon Brown called for 100,000 Scottish people to sign a petition calling on the UK Government to hold to their promise on more powers for Holyrood. The First Minister accused him of trying to guarantee something which Brown had claimed had already been agreed.

Panelbase has published a poll looking at Scottish voting intentions for 2015 and 2016. Its findings will be positive news for the SNP;

SNP: 34%
Labour: 32%
Conservative: 18%
Liberal Democrat: 5%
UKIP: 6%
Other: 5%

SNP: 42%
Labour: 27%
Conservative: 15%
Liberal Democrat: 5%
UKIP: 5%
Other: 5%

2016 (Regional)
SNP: 37%
Labour: 27%
Conservative: 16%
Liberal Democrat: 5%
Greens: 9%
UKIP: 4%
Other: 1%

While the SNP are comfortably ahead in the 2016 vote, they are neck and neck with Labour for 2015. Although the reality of that figure is put in perspective due to the SNP getting less than half the votes of Labour in 2010. It is clear that people continue to have different voting patterns depending on whether it is a Westminster or Holyrood election.

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