This Week in Scotland

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Introduction

All eyes are on Scottish Labour as the leadership campaigns get underway and more polling comes out suggesting that the party faces a rout next year.

Labour Leadership

As nominations to succeed Johann Lamont MSP and Anas Sarwar MP closed this week, Jim Murphy MP and Kezia Dugdale MSP have taken commanding leads in their respective contests. Murphy secured the backing of 43 Scottish parliamentarians, double the total gained by Neil Findlay MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP. Dugdale took an even more commanding early lead over her challenger Katy Clark MP by securing 51 of Scottish Labour’s 80 parliamentarians.

Murphy, who is running on a unifying ticket, has pledged to seek election to Holyrood and to revoke the Scottish Government’s controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football & Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, which aims to crack down on sectarianism in and around football. However, Murphy’s critics say his Blairite tendencies, including his backing of the Iraq war and Trident, could prove a hard sell to Labour heartlands at a time when the SNP are moving ever Leftwards.

Meanwhile, Neil Findlay has secured the backing of Scotland’s two largest unions, Unite and Unison, and Aslef the rail union. Coming from the traditional Left of the party, these endorsements are not surprising particularly given the attention Findlay has paid to issues such as blacklisting.

SNP ahead….by a lot…

The latest Ipsos MORI poll looking at voting intentions for the Scottish parliament made for grim reading for everyone but the SNP. The poll found that the SNP has a commanding lead of Scottish Labour at both a constituency and regional level. Worryingly for Scottish Labour, these findings reflect last week’s Scottish UK General Election polling, which suggested that the SNP could gain multiple seats across Scotland.

Constituency Voting Intentions

57% SNP

23% Scottish Labour

8% Scottish Conservatives

6% Liberal Democrats.

5% Other

Regional Voting Intentions

50% SNP

23% Scottish Labour

10%  Scottish Greens

8% Scottish Conservatives

6% Scottish Liberal Democrats

3% Others

Smith Commission Update

The deadline for submitting views to the Smith Commission on further devolution to the Scottish Parliament passed this week. Smith has subsequently published the 380 odd submissions from businesses, charities and civic organisations. Smith also received over 14,000 letters and emails from the general public.

Smith will now sift through the responses ahead of publishing his recommendations on St Andrews Day. The UK Government will then respond to Smith through draft legislation expected to be published on 25th January. The legislation will then go into ‘cold storage’ until after the UK General Election.

Drink driving limit to fall shortly

The Parliament’s Justice Committee have recommended that Parliament approve an order which would reduce the blood alcohol limit in Scotland from 80mg in every 100ml of blood to just 50mg per 100ml. The move, which could be in place before the festive period begins, would, if approved, bring Scotland in line with most of Europe, but significantly would be different from the limit in the rest of the UK.

Darling to stand down

Former Chancellor and Leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling MP has announced that he is to stand down at the upcoming UK General Election

In an interview with the FT newspaper, Darling stated that he was stepping aside while he was still “relatively young” before speaking of his frustration that Labour had failed to capitalise on the No vote. He also gave his endorsement to Jim Murphy MP believing Murphy to be the right man to revive Scottish Labour’s fortunes in Scotland.

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