Prime Minister Visits Scotland to Promote Brexit Deal

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has travelled to Scotland in a bid to promote her Brexit deal to the people. The visit is a part of a tour around the country to try and raise awareness of the deal and to explain the benefits and issues with it.

The Prime Minister said in a statement:

“It is a deal that is good for Scottish employers and which will protect jobs. It includes a new free trade area with no tariffs, fees, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks—an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has.

At the same time, we will be free to strike our own trade deals around the world – providing even greater opportunity to Scottish exporters. I welcome the strong support which employers have given to the deal and the certainty which it provides.

Crucially, the deal also ensures that we will leave EU programmes that do not work in our interests. So we will be out of the common agricultural policy, which has failed our farmers, and out of the common fisheries policy, which has so tragically failed Scotland’s coastal communities.

At long last, we will be “an independent coastal state” again – taking back full sovereign control over our waters, and free to decide for ourselves who we allow to fish in our waters.

The EU maintained throughout the negotiation process that it wanted to link overall access to markets to access to fisheries. It failed in the withdrawal agreement and it failed again in the political declaration.

I have been robust in defending the interests of Scottish fisherman so far- and I will always be so”.

Damian Green Claims Progress Made Between Scottish and Westminster Governments on Brexit

Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, has said that progress has been made between the Scottish and Westminster Governments on the matter of Brexit. His comments come after a meeting between Green and David Mundell MP and Scottish Government Ministers John Swinney MSP and Michael Russell MSP.

Green said in a statement:

“We have come a long way in a few months. The two governments are now making real progress in ensuring that all parts of the UK are ready for the extra powers that are coming back from the EU to the UK.

We all accept that UK frameworks will be required in certain areas to protect the vital advantages of the UK domestic market. Ministers and civil servants on both sides are now getting into the deep detail of how we put in place the best arrangements for the day we leave the EU. I am confident we can keep up this momentum and have a successful Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) with all the devolved administrations in London next month.

The UK and Scottish Government ministers met in Edinburgh in August, then again in London on 25 September, where they discussed a set of principles to guide the discussions. These principles were agreed at a meeting of JMC (EN) on 16 October, and the Prime Minister and First Minister held a constructive meeting on 14 November”.

Russell agreed that progress had been made, but added in a statement:

“It is extremely important that the UK government continue to engage with the devolved administrations so we can find a path that works for all the nations of the United Kingdom”.

Theresa May Meets Nicola Sturgeon in Downing Street

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has met Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, in Downing Street today. Both leaders said that progress was made, especially on Brexit discussions, although final agreement has yet to be reached.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“The Prime Minister met the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon in Downing Street today. Both discussed domestic issues, including the recent allegations of improper behaviour and sexual assault in politics and agreed this behaviour was completely unacceptable. They agreed to work collaboratively to ensure that the right systems are in place to protect and support those working across the UK’s parliamentary institutions.

They spoke about the UK’s EU exit – the Prime Minister said that it remains her priority to provide certainty to businesses and people both in Scotland and across the country, as well as protecting our UK internal market.

They spoke about progress in agreeing principles on common frameworks at the recent Joint Ministerial Committee and the Prime Minister reiterated that as powers are repatriated from Brussels back to Britain there will be a significant increase in the decision-making powers for the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations.

The Prime Minister encouraged the Scottish Government to continue to work with counterparts to secure the best outcome for the people of Scotland and the whole of the UK.

The First Minister spoke about BiFab who has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators with the Scottish Courts. The Prime Minister said this is a worrying time for the workers of BiFab and their families and the UK Government is ready to provide whatever support we can”.

Nicola Sturgeon said after the meeting:

“We developed a better understanding of each other’s positions, and I made clear that the Scottish government wants to find agreement on the withdrawal bill.

We oppose Brexit, but we understand withdrawal legislation is necessary, so we want to find agreement. But I also made clear what our bottom lines are on that bill, so discussions will continue and hopefully we can reach some points of agreement in the weeks to come”.

Nicola Sturgeon Confirms that Public Sector Pay Cap will be Scrapped in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, has confirmed that the public sector pay cap will be scrapped in Scotland next year. The Scottish Government had been following the UK Government’s pay freeze and then pay cap over recent years, but has now decided to increase wages.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon said:

“I confirm that we will lift the 1 per cent public sector pay cap. The pay cap, although never desirable, was necessary to protect jobs and services. However, with inflation on the rise, it is not sustainable. Our nurses, teachers, police officers and firefighters deserve a fairer deal for the future. The need to recruit the staff on whom our public services depend also demands a new approach. We will therefore aim to secure from next year pay rises that are affordable but which reflect the real-life circumstances that our public servants face and the contribution that our public services make to our country’s overall prosperity”.

Kezia Dugdale Resigns as Scottish Labour Leader

Kezia Dugdale, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, has unexpectedly resigned her role and said that she wants to give her successor “space and time” before the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“I’d like to thank Kezia Dugdale for her work as Scottish Labour leader and the important role she has played in rebuilding the party in Scotland. Kezia became Scottish leader at one of the most difficult times in the history of the Scottish Labour party and the party’s revival is now fully under way, with six new MPs and many more to come. I want to thank Kez for her tireless service to our party and movement, and look forward to campaigning with her in future”.

Dugdale’s full resignation statement reads:

“As Chair of the party, I am writing to you today to resign as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

It has been an honour and a privilege to have served this party in a leadership position for the last two and a half years, covering four national elections and one referendum.

I have worked with many great people, not least the staff in our HQ led by Brian Roy and those in the Scottish Parliament, whose boundless energy, expertise and good humour has guided our party through some dark hours and difficult times.

I’d like to thank my shadow cabinet for their efforts, and in particular Iain Gray for his unflinching love and support and James Kelly for the thankless but crucial job he does so well as our Business Manager.

Earlier this year I lost a dear friend who taught me a lot about how to live. His terminal illness forced him to identify what he really wanted from life, how to make the most of it and how to make a difference. He taught me how precious and short life was and never to waste a moment.

Being leader has always been a difficult but fulfilling challenge. One that until now I have enjoyed, driven by a clear guiding purpose and goals, many of which I have achieved.

I am proud of the fact that I’ve demonstrated how the parliament’s powers can be used to stop austerity with progressive taxes and the creation of new benefits. Proud to have advanced the call for federalism across the UK. Proud to have delivered real autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party and a guaranteed voice for Scotland and Wales on the NEC.

Educational inequality is the number one issue in Scottish politics after the constitution because Scottish Labour under my leadership put it there.

I am proud to have delivered 50/50 slates of amazing and diverse candidates in both the Scottish and U.K. Elections and equally proud to have invested in the next generation of labour activists and parliamentarians with leadership programmes. These have already furnished us with two of our magnificent seven MPs. With that re-established Scottish Labour group at Westminster, and a talented and effective group in Holyrood, Scottish Labour has a bright future.

A marker of success for me was to leave as leader with the party in better shape than I found it and I have done that.

Emerging from the challenging times following the 2014 referendum, and the 2015 UK election, we now have a solid platform on which to build towards success, and government.

I have given the task of achieving this all that I have. But with nearly four years now until the next Scottish Parliament elections, I am convinced that the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.

I will continue as a Labour MSP for the Lothians and am already looking forward to spending more time with constituents and on constituency issues.

Too often our leaders leave in a crisis, with scores to settle. I love this party too much for that to be my way. There will be no press conference and no off the record briefing in my name. I choose to stand down because I believe it is best for me and best for Scottish Labour, at a time when we can be positive and optimistic about our future.

I remain in awe of all those party activists who devote their time to this movement without pay or reward. I thank them for their belief in me”.

 

All Scottish Job Centres Now Offer Universal Credit

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The Government has confirmed that all the job centres in Scotland now offer universal credit. The final job centres to convert to offering the new benefit are:

– Arbroath
– Blairgowrie
– Forfar
– Montrose
– Perth

The single benefit is designed to replace the following benefits:

– Jobseeker’s Allowance
– Income Support
– Employment and Support Allowance
– Working Tax Credit
– Child Tax Credits
– Housing Benefit

Eilidh Whiteford, the SNP spokesperson on work and pensions said in February:

“On the face of it Universal Credit sounds like it should work: a smooth, streamlined system to assist low income families. But just under the surface lurks many fractures and failings from set-backs and secrecy to hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money written off on IT changes”.

Stephen Crabb, the new Work and Pensions Secretary who replaced Iain Duncan Smith, confirmed that he is committed to the universal credit benefit.

The UK and Scottish Governments agree plans to Deliver Three Hour Journeys from London to Scotland

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The UK and Scottish Governments have agreed plans to cut journey times from London to Scotland to three hours. There are also additional plans to cut congestion on cross-border routes and to encourage investment across Scotland.

Robert Goodwill, the Transport Minister, said:

“Scotland will benefit from HS2 from the day it opens, with shorter journey times to London from the start. Once the full Y-network opens, it will only take around 3 hours 38 minutes to reach London from Glasgow and Edinburgh.

This report looks at ways we can build on these improvements and I thank HS2 Ltd for this work. Together with the Scottish government, we will be asking Network Rail to identify any options with a strong business case, for consideration for inclusion in future plans”.

Planning work on the new project will begin in 2017 with engineering works expected to start from 2019.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, Strongly Backs EU Membership

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Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, has written in the Guardian an article in strong support of the UK’s membership of the European Union.

She wrote:

“We would much prefer Scotland to be one of the independent member states of the EU – and hope that in future we will be. However, whether independent or part of the UK, we believe that we are better off in than out. As such, the Scottish government will make a positive and constructive case for remaining in the EU. I believe that we benefit from being part of the EU, and the EU benefits from having us a part of it”.

She also added:

“While I take nothing for granted, I believe that in June people in Scotland will demonstrate their support for remaining in the EU. My hope is that the rest of the UK will share that commitment. Because if it does, it will be good for Scotland, good for the UK and good for Europe”.

New Financing Deal for Scottish Parliament Agreed

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A new financing deal for the Scottish Parliament has been agreed by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister and David Cameron, the Prime Minister.

The announcement means that funding will remain at the same level as was established by the Barnett Formula in the 1970s where Scotland receives more spending per head than England. The Scottish Government will also now be able to borrow money to spend on schemes such as infra-structure projects. There will also be a fund of £200 million to help the Scottish Government to implement the new financial settlement.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

“Today we’ve secured a stronger Scotland in a stronger UK. The arrangements we’ve reached with the Scottish Government are fair to Scotland and fair to taxpayers in the rest of the UK.

This enables us to deliver on the vow we made to the Scottish people and delivers one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world and the economic and national security that comes from being part of the UK. This clears the way for the debate in Scotland to move on to how these tax and spending powers should be used”.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said:

“There will be not a single penny of detriment to the Scottish Government’s budget as a result of the devolution of powers during the transition period, for the next six years to March 2022″.

SNP signal their intention for a second independence referendum

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Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, has said that the SNP would consider laying out a timetable for a second independence referendum in 2016.

Referring to the Scottish Parliament elections Sturgeon said in an interview with the Sunday Herald:

“Our manifesto will set out what we consider are the circumstances and the timescale on which a second referendum might be appropriate, but we can only propose.

It’s then for people in Scotland, whether it is in this election or in future elections, to decide whether they want to vote for our manifesto and then if there is in the future another independence referendum, whether that’s in five years or 10 years or whenever, it will be down to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want to vote for independence or not”.