JAMIE Hepburn, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Independence, has hit back at the colonial governor Alister Jack after the top Tory attempted to block any civil servants from working for him.

It emerged last week that Jack had written to the UK's top civil servant, Simon Case, to tell him that no government staff should be allowed to work under Hepburn. The same instruction was relayed to Scotland’s most senior civil servant, permanent secretary John-Paul Marks.

Jack asked Case to advise on the “constitutional propriety” of appointing a minister for independence "in light of the United Kingdom Supreme Court's ruling of November 23, 2022" and secondly demanded that no UK civil servant be engaged in this new department. Jack is determined to ensure that the elected government of Scotland is prevented from fulfilling the mandate given to it by the people.

The move came after Labour peer George Foulkes wrote to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in order to raise his concerns about public funds being used to pay the ministerial salary. Many more of us have concerns about public funds being used to ensure that an unaccountable and unelected failed former politician like George Foulkes is still able to meddle in the business of a government which, unlike him, is democratically elected. But under the Westminster system we are lumbered with him.

Foulkes's attempts to stymie democracy are in themselves powerful arguments for independence. Jack doesn't think that the peasants should be permitted to get above their station, and he is aided and abetted in his patrician colonialism by a member of the so-called “people's party”.

Speaking on the National’s Holyrood Weekly podcast, Hepburn said that Jack's attempt to close him down was consistent with the approach he had taken to devolution more generally. Jack has consistently been high-handed and authoritarian and has made no bones about his intention to treat the Scottish Parliament as a mere regional authority which must be repeatedly slapped down lest it attempt to get above its lowly station.

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He has presided over numerous Westminster power grabs which the Conservatives have introduced in order to intervene directly on devolved matters and to by-pass the Scottish Parliament.

Indeed, Jack is even on record as saying that he dislikes referring to Scotland as a nation. In his view there is only a single British nation of which Scotland is a region with its own dialects. Jack (below) calls himself the Secretary of State for Scotland but he consistently acts as the Secretary of State Against Scotland, treating Scotland as a rebellious province which needs to be whipped into line.

The National: Scottish Secretary Alister Jack raised concerns about the Minister for Independence

Hepburn went on: "And he [the permanent secretary] has been quite clear that it's entirely legitimate for a democratically elected Scottish Government, within its manifesto, having set out to seek to advance Scotland independence, to be able to utilise the resources of government to continue to advance that case. That's something that Alister Jack's just gonna have to get over."

So Jack is going to have to, in his own words, "suck it up”.

The Welsh independence movement

It's not just the SNP which is facing internal turmoil, the other leading pro-independence party in Britain, Plaid Cymru – which seeks independence for Wales – has seen its leader Adam Price resign after a damning report which found that the party had an internal culture of misogyny, harassment and bullying. Nerys Evans, who led the review, said that Plaid had "let women down" and "failed to implement a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment”.

The party has dodged accusations for months about an internal toxic culture – and it emerged toward the end of last year that an allegation of sexual assault had been made against a senior member of staff. Separate allegations were made against Plaid Senedd politician Rhys ab Owen, who was suspended from the party pending an investigation into his conduct. The party then asked former Senedd member Nerys Evans to conduct a review.

The National: Adam Price has quit as Plaid Cymru leader (Ben Birchall/PA)

Her report found that victims said they felt that there was little point in reporting unacceptable behaviour because it had been tolerated for so long and put forward 82 recommendations needed to "detoxify" the party.

Although Price (above) said he felt morally bound to stand down, senior figures in the party – including Evans – urged him to stay in order to implement the report's recommendations. However, by Thursday it became clear that he no longer had the support of the Plaid group in the Senedd and tendered his resignation. Llyr Gruffydd will take over as interim leader until a leadership election can choose a successor. Gruffydd has stated that he does not intend to put himself forward as a candidate.

And Labour have their problems

Today it came to light that a Labour MP has reported a frontbench colleague, a shadow minister on Keir Starmer's team, to the Metropolitan police over an allegation of sexual assault. The incident is alleged to have taken place after a summer party in London in July 2021.

Just yesterday, it was reported that a senior adviser to a Labour frontbencher would be allowed to keep his job despite having been found to have groped a woman 20 years his junior.

It seems no party is able to take the moral high ground when it comes to issues of inappropriate behaviour.

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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