This Week in Scotland: A Scottish BBC?

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has set out her party’s low tax business friendly credentials this week. Delivering a speech to the Adam Smith Institute in London, Davidson stated that Scotland should roll out the “red carpet” to its neighbours and called on the Scottish Government to pledge never to raise taxes higher than the rest of the UK.

The move comes as new Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale confirmed that she would look to reintroduce the 50p top rate of tax on people earning over £150,000 with the SNP sympathetic to such a move. Ahead of the election Davidson is aiming to position her party as the party of business and aspiration and hopes that such calls will attract new businesses and skilled workers to Scotland.

Davidson believes that making such a pledge sends the right message to everyone in the UK that Scotland is not about to punish the wealthy. Her argument being that punishing the wealthy could lead to Scotland’s already low proportion of top-rate taxpayers from moving south, thus denying Scotland of their tax share.

She also used the speech to criticise the SNP for continually “trying to find a wedge to drive between us and the rest of the UK” and the Scottish Government’s recent announcements on banning fracking and GM crops.

Scottish BBC

Nicola Sturgeon has stated that he government can be an ally of the BBC, but only if the organisation reforms. The SNP and the BBC have been in a tit-for-tat spat since former First Minister Alex Salmond criticised the organisation, and Nick Robinson in particular, for its coverage of last year’s referendum.

Addressing the Edinburgh TV Festival, the First Minister called for the BBC to adopt a more federal structure with the corporation in Scotland having more power, money and its own TV channel. The proposed reforms would see a separate board for each home nation operating under a UK-wide board. Sturgeon believes that this reformed structure would better represent the devolved nations.

Indyref v.2

Newspaper reports have suggested that senior SNP sources have warned against the party’s hierarchy pushing for a referendum re-run before 2020. The sources state that any talk of a second referendum should be hushed until the party has actually discussed ‘why we lost the last one’ and that they should not ‘mistake’ support for the SNP at the recent General Election with support for independence.

The warnings come as the party’s leadership comes under ever increasing pressure to confirm their intentions on the subject after a host of senior SNP members, including Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill, have suggested that a re-run is both “inevitable” and could happen in a matter of years. Previously, Sturgeon has said that a re-run is only going to happen when it is the will of the Scottish people and/or a momentous event occurs that goes against the wishes of the Scottish electorate – e.g. the UK voting to leave the EU but Scotland voting to remain.

T in the Park

John Swinney has become the latest Scottish Minister to be drawn into the on-going T in the Park cronyism row. The row is centred over the Scottish Government’s decision to approve a £150,000 “ad hoc state aid” package to help T in the Park relocate to Perth despite the event organisers making a pre-tax profit.

It has since emerged that Swinney, Derek Mackay (Transport Minister) and Fiona Hyslop (Cabinet Secretary for Culture) all held meetings with Geoff Ellis, chief executive of DF Concerts. The meetings were organised by Jennifer Dempsie, the former adviser to Alex Salmond and partner of SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, who also has MSP aspirations. Hence the suggestion of cronyism.

The Scottish Government has rejected the accusations, saying that Swinney held the meeting in his role as MSP for a neighbouring constituency. However, the Herald newspaper has learned that none of the other adjoining MSPs from across the political spectrum were offered such a meeting.

Police Chief steps down

Embattled Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Sir Peter House is to stand down. Sir Peter has been under severe political and public pressure in recent weeks following the forces slow response to a fatal crash on the M9, the forces stop and search procedures arming officers on routine patrols, and the centralisation of the force in general.

Scots Peerages Announced

David Cameron has confirmed that one-time leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Menzies Campebll and former MP Sir Malcolm Brue will both be ennobled. Former Chancellor and head of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling will also be entering the Lords.

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