This Week in Scotland: Salmond Stands Down. Sturgeon Stands Up

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Introduction

The final week of the Salmond era draws to a close, with the anointment of Nicola Sturgeon taking place today.

Salmond’s Final FMQs

As with the majority of his previous two hundred and fifteenth FMQs appearances, Salmond came out on top in his final weekly grilling. Accused by opponents that under his watch there had been no educational attainment improvement, no improvement in lowering reconviction rates and the satisfaction with public services worsening, he gave a full hearted defence of his, and his Government’s record before landing one or two hits himself.

Salmond’s FMQs career has seen him morph from angry ‘Eck’ to at times humor and charm. When he steps down officially on Wednesday, it will be up to his successor-in-waiting Nicola Sturgeon to shape her FMQs persona over the coming weeks.

Defence contracts – maybe not

The First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas has been quoted in Defence News as saying that the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Global Combat ship would not “necessarily” go to British industry given issues surrounding affordability of UK suppliers. Unsurprisingly, the Ministry of Defence has been quick to insist that the Royal Navy’s warships will continue to be built in the UK.

Nevertheless, given the prominence and importance of Royal Navy contracts to the future of Scotland’s remaining shipyards throughout the recent independence referendum campaign, Yes campaigners have been quick to state that the First Sea Lord’s statement as the latest plank in Project Fear to be removed.

Council of Economic Advisors reports on Devolution

The Scottish Government’s independent Council of Economic Advisors met this week to discuss how to maximise the economic impact of new powers for Scotland and how best these could be used to promote competitiveness and tackle inequalities. The Council, who have fed their recommendations into the Smith Commission, highlights the need for any new economic and financial costs and benefits resulting from new powers should be captured in Scotland, coupled with meaningful fiscal discretion and accountability.

The Council have called for a suite of taxes rather than a small basket of taxes; full authority to vary the rates and bands of any devolved taxes rather than tax assignment, which it argues would deliver the impression of autonomy without ultimately changing the powers of the parliament; and responsibility over the welfare budget to tackle inequalities.

Criminal Reform Act gains Royal Assent

The Scottish Government’s Criminal Reform (Scotland) Act has received Royal Assent this week. The law aims to modernise Scotland’s courts through changing the current procedures and processes to ensure that the right cases are heard in the right courts at the right costs.

The reforms include raising the exclusive competence of the sheriff court to £100,000; introducing summary sheriffs to deal with particular types of criminal and civil cases in sheriff courts; and establishing a Sheriff Appeal Court.

SNP Party Conference

The SNPs annual autumn conference kicks off today. The conference will see Nicola Sturgeon confirmed as the SNPs new Leader and sole candidate for First Minister and the winner of the deputy leadership contest.

The SNP are also expected to unveil plans to allow non-party members to stand as candidates in the UK General Election in May. The move is designed to appeal to pro-independence activists who stretch well beyond the rank and file of the SNP membership. While this isn’t quite a Yes Alliance, and would require local constituency groups to vote it in, it is likely that in reality very few nominees will come from outwith the SNP, but you may see it happen in seats where pro-independence candidates are unlikely to gain a seat.

UPDATE: Stewart Hosie MP has been elected as Deputy Leader of the SNP.

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