De facto referendum polling

AN opinion poll appears to show that a majority of voters in Scotland do not want the next UK General Election to be used as a de facto referendum.  The poll will feed into the debate about independence strategy at next month's SNP special party conference and this result is likely to strengthen the position of those such as SNP MP Stewart McDonald who last week published a paper in which he argued that the next UK General Election should instead be used to secure a mandate for an independence referendum to be held under the auspices of Holyrood.

Deposit return scheme row

The row over the proposed bottle deposit return scheme is escalating as Green MSPs accuse veteran SNP MSP Fergus Ewing of "doing Alister Jack's bidding'. Ewing, who is on the right of the SNP, or as he would doubtless describe it, "pro-business", spoke out forcefully against the scheme at last week's FMQs. Ewing has previously spoken against other issues which are important for environmental protection. In 2015 he was accused of being a "fracking fan" after he apparently hinted that the Scottish moratorium on fracking could be lifted and spoke of the need to discuss the "opportunities" that fracking might bring to Scotland. 

The comments are born out of deep suspicion about Fergus Ewing amongst Green MSPs, who believe he is trying to derail one of the party's key policies. Similar schemes run successfully in several other countries but in a development which will only add to the controversy, it has come to light that Green MSP Lorna Slater, the circular economy minister did not speak to a single expert operating DRS schemes in other countries before announcing the new Scottish scheme.

Return of Douglas Alexander 

The National: Douglas Alexander is trying to get back into British politicsDouglas Alexander is trying to get back into British politics (Image: PA)

In an attempted comeback perhaps as unwelcome as that of Liz Truss, Douglas Alexander has been selected as the Labour party candidate for East Lothian. Although to be fair, while Truss trashed the British economy, Wee Dougie only trashed the Labour party in Scotland. Alexander lost his Paisley seat in 2015 to the then 20-year-old Mhairi Black, who is now the SNP's deputy Westminster leader. The East Lothian seat is currently held by Kenny MacAskill who was elected as an SNP MP but who defected to Alba in 2020. Alexander's bid for a comeback merely proves that Labour in Scotland never learns.

BBC in hot water over Nicola Sturgeon remark

BBC presenter James Naughtie became notorious amongst Yes supporters during the 2014 independence referendum campaign for his perceived lack of impartiality and making what appeared to be interventions which favoured the Better Together campaign. in 2013 the late broadcaster Derek Bateman accused Naughtie of giving UK defence minister James Arbuthnot an easy ride in a deferential interview but aggressively interrogating the SNP's Keith Brown and scarcely allowing him to get a word in edgeways.

Now Naughtie is once again at the centre of controversy after allegedly making a comment about the personal appearance of Nicola Sturgeon live on air. During the BBC Radio 4 programme The World This Weekend, presenter James Naughtie opened a discussion about Nicola Sturgeon by saying she was "looking tired". Arguably a greater sin on Naughtie's part was that he initiated a discussion concerning the Scottish First Minister by framing her negatively. The BBC's relentless pursuit of SNP-bad while giving the Tories a free ride has been "Looking tired" for years, but they don't show any sign of giving it a rest any time soon.

The GPC files

Talking of Tory scandals that won't be pursued with anything like the same vigour from the Scottish media that they'd devote to the outrage of an SNP councillor dropping an empty crisp packet in the street 100 metres along the road from a war memorial, "SNP shamelessly desecrate monument to heroic veterans," the Labour party has revealed the findings of its investigation into the alleged misuse of Government Procurement Cards, (GPCs). Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said that her party's investigation into the use of GPCs has revealed a "scandalous catalogue of waste". The cards can be used for government spending on items costing less than £20,000. 

The spending uncovered in the investigation includes almost £3400 on fine art photographs from the Tate Gallery to hang in the Treasury while Rishi Sunak was Chancellor, despite the Treasury having access to the paintings held by the Government's Art Collection. A spokesperson for Number Ten insisted that the purchase was a non-ministerial decision related to the refurbishment of some of the offices, and that Sunak had no involvement in it.

There was also a sharp rise in the amount being spent on drink, with tens of thousands being spent on duty free alcohol, thought to be intended for the use of British embassies abroad. This rose from £23,000 in 2021 to almost £96,000 in the first ten months of 2022. 

Proof perhaps that the Conservatives are driving one another to drink, and getting the public to pay for it. While Liz Truss, who knows a thing or two about splurging public money, was Foreign Secretary, the cards were used to pay £3240 for access to a Heathrow VIP lounge, £1443 on lunch and dinner in Jakarta and £7,218 on a reception at a Sydney amusement park. The Foreign Office also spent £344,803 on restaurants and bars in 2021. At least it was cheaper than the billions she cost us during her brief stint as PM.

While she was Attorney General, the current Home Secretary Suella Braverman used the card to spend £909 on an upscale dinner at fine dining Indian restaurant The Cinnamon Club in Westminster.

Labour claims that its investigation shows that the Conservatives are presiding over a culture of wasteful and self-indulgent spending while squeezing public services and refusing pay rises for essential workers. Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner has accused government ministers of “living the high life and treating taxpayers like a cash machine". She described the spending as a "scandalous catalogue of waste." There's no cost of high-living crisis if you are a Tory minister.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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