This Week in Scotland
While the 2010 – 2015 UK Parliament winds down and political parties ramp up their election campaigns, in Scotland much of the talk has been around what happens after May 7th.
The former First Minister, promoting his diaries which were published last week, has conducted a series of interviews, setting out the tone of a possible SNP role in the formation of the next UK Government.
With the expectation that the SNP will make huge gains, there are increasing questions over what exactly the leadership will do with this new intake of MPs. In the last week, Salmond, who is neither First Minister nor leader of the Westminster MP group, has been setting out his vision of how the party would fit into the House of Commons. Over the weekend he claimed that he would “co-write” the first Budget from Ed Balls. A suggestion which was sharply rebuked by the Labour leader Ed Miliband in a speech in Scotland.
In a separate interview he ruled out working with a minority Conservative Government, going so far as to say that the SNP would block such a government through voting down its Queen’s Speech (in conjunction with Labour).
However in making these pledges, Salmond has boxed himself in. Labour has ruled out any formal agreement with the SNP but has suggested if they voted against the party and bring it down a minority Labour Government, the people of Scotland would not forgive the SNP.
Questions have now been raised over who is running SNP policy, with Nicola Sturgeon having to reiterate that she is the leader of the party.
There has been further bad news for the oil and gas sector in Scotland, with the announcement that
350 jobs were to be cut between Shell and Taqa. The challenging economic conditions of the sector, combined with changing patterns of offshore opportunities were cited by both companies.
Elsewhere, the future of Longannet Power Station continues to be high on the agenda with the news that it is expected to shut next year, four years earlier than expected. The station lost out to Peterhead on a National Grid contract which was the key to its survival. The Scottish Government described the closure as a “national scandal” at a time of declining energy supply. The energy minister, Fergus Ewing, claimed that transmission charges disadvantaged the site from being competitive.
While the closure of this major coal station was welcomed by green supporters, questions have been raised about the future sustainability of Scotland’s energy makeup.
Scottish Labour Pledge
Jim Murphy delivered a speech in the City of London, and outlined his plan to commit £1bn that would be invested in Scotland’s “young working-class”. He committed the party to helping some 5,000 young people, aged between 18-24, will be able to access a “Jobs Guarantee Scheme”.
Measures would include
- A Scottish Jobs Guarantee
- A £1,000 increase in the bursaries for Scottish students
- A Future Fund worth £1,600 for every 18 and 19 year old in work
- Free university tuition
Murphy claimed that the schemes would be funded via a national tax on bank bonuses.
BBC Scotland has revealed that its first Scottish election debate will be held on the 8th April in Aberdeen and feature all the Scottish leaders, and representatives from the Green Party and UKIP.
A second debate will then be held on the 3rd May and feature the SNP, Labour, Lib Des and the Conservatives.
The SNP will hold their annual conference this weekend.