Scotland’s future on a ‘knife edge’: Nicola Sturgeon admits SNP hopes of majority will go down to wire as Boris Johnson blasts her plan for new independence referendum as ‘irresponsible and reckless’

Nicola Sturgeon was today aiming to push ahead with plans for a second Scottish independence referendum as Boris Johnson set himself on course for a dramatic constitutional clash with her in his defence of the Union as the tight election count resumed in Scotland today. 

The tense parliamentary contest looked on track for a record turnout, despite fears that the pandemic and poor weather would dent voter numbers – with the Scottish National Party leader admitting her hopes of a majority were on a ‘knife edge’, but it is ‘almost certain’ the SNP will win its fourth term in power at Holyrood.

Ms Sturgeon said ‘when the time is right’ she will offer Scots ‘the choice of a better future’ in a second referendum on independence – but Mr Johnson hit back, insisting he would not back the ‘irresponsible’ move, and senior minister George Eustice warned it was the wrong time to be considering another plebiscite.

Achieving the 65 seats needed for an outright victory in Scotland could make it harder for the PM to refuse, but if the SNP falls short of that target it could still achieve a majority for a referendum with the help of the Greens.

With 49 of the 73 constituency results declared in Scotland by noon today, the SNP had 40 seats, Liberal Democrats four, Conservatives three and Labour two. 

The SNP made it to 40 seats this morning as they held Aberdeenshire East in the only result declared so far on Saturday. Gillian Martin retained her seat with 18,307 votes, with Conservative candidate Stewart Whyte taking second place on 16,418 votes. The Liberal Democrats won 3,396 votes and Labour 2,900.

Some constituencies are still to be counted today, when the crucial regional list results of 56 regional MSPs will also be declared. Traditional overnight counts were abandoned after Thursday’s election due to Covid-19. 

Ms Sturgeon, who comfortably defeated Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to claim Glasgow Southside yesterday, said afterwards: ‘My focus, if we are re-elected as the government, is to get back to work to steer the country through the crisis and into recovery.

‘That remains the case. But once the crisis is over, and if there is a majority in the parliament for an independence referendum, people should have the right to choose our future. Scotland’s future should always be in Scotland’s hands.’

Speaking about the prospect of winning an overall majority, the SNP leader said: ‘It’s certainly not impossible, but nor is it guaranteed.

‘That was always going to be on a knife edge, it comes down to a small number of votes in a small number of seats, so at this midway point it is certainly still there as a possibility, but I have never taken that for granted.

‘It is a long shot, to say the least, in a PR (proportional representation) system, to win a majority – you effectively have to break the system. I would like to do it, but I have never been complacent about that.’

It comes as Labour this morning blamed the pandemic for ‘restricting’ the opportunities’ for its politicians to campaign across Britain after the Conservatives racked up a string of stunning poll victories in the local elections.

Labour will hope for better results today after a bruising Friday. With results in from 84 of 143 English councils, the Tories had a net gain of seven authorities and 173 seats, while Labour had a net loss of four councils and 164 seats.

In London’s mayoral contest, Labour’s Sadiq Khan goes into today with a lead of 24,267 first preference votes over Tory rival Shaun Bailey after the first seven constituencies declared, a closer contest than many had predicted.

Labour was thrashed in the Hartlepool by-election, with Jill Mortimer securing a majority of almost 7,000, while Tory Ben Houchen won a second term as mayor of Tees Valley with a whopping 73 per cent share of the vote.

And the Tories gained control of a series of councils, including Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Dudley, Harlow and Nuneaton and Bedworth – reversing the mid-term slump often suffered by governing parties.

With the Conservatives also winning seats across the West Midlands, senior figures were confident that the region’s mayor Andy Street will secure a second term in office when returns there are announced today. 

Meanwhile counting began of the 714,745 votes cast in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Mayoral elections this morning, with incumbent Andy Burnham widely expected to win the poll. Burnham won 63.4 per cent of the votes cast in 2017 and turnout is up around 5 per cent on the last election, to 34.7 per cent.

The outcome of the first round of voting is expected around 3pm, although with Mr Burnham running for a second term and nine candidates in all, the election could go to a second round, with second preference votes also then counted to decide the winner.

Thank you for visiting My Local Pages. We hope you enjoyed reading this post about United Kingdom and Political news published as “Scotland’s future on a ‘knife edge’: Nicola Sturgeon admits SNP hopes of majority will go down to wire as Boris Johnson blasts her plan for new independence referendum as ‘irresponsible and reckless'”. This article was shared by MyLocalPages Australia as part of our national news services.

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Taiwan’s Opposition Party Pushes for Referendum on US Pork Ban – The Diplomat

China Power | Politics | East Asia

The Kuomintang wants to overturn a government decision to allow imports of U.S. meat containing traces of a controversial feed additive.

Taiwan’s main opposition party is pushing ahead with efforts to initiate a referendum that could reverse the government’s decision to lift a pork import ban, which had been seen as the main obstacle to a free trade agreement with the United States.

Taiwan began allowing pork imports containing ractopamine, a controversial feed additive banned in much of the world but used in the U.S., on January 1, months after President Tsai Ing-wen announced her government’s intention to remove an existing import ban.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said Tuesday it had begun collecting signatures for the second stage of a public referendum that aims to reverse Tsai’s decision.

The KMT passed the first stage of the referendum process, but that’s not a difficult threshold to meet: The party was required to collect the signatures of 0.01 percent of eligible voters in Taiwan’s last presidential election, or 1,931 people. It reached that goal last month.

It must now collect the signatures of 1.5 percent of eligible voters – around 290,000 people – for a referendum to take place.

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If successful, the public will vote on a referendum question, which, according to the KMT, would ask: “Do you agree to a total ban on the importation of pork and related products containing leanness-enhancing additives (ractopamine and other beta-agonists)?”

Under Taiwan’s referendum laws, at least 25 percent of all eligible voters – around 5 million people – must vote in favor for the measure to pass. The number of yes votes must also outnumber the number of no votes.

Tsai said in August her government would allow imports of pork and beef containing safe levels of ractopamine starting on January 1, removing what had been the primary hurdle to negotiations on a free trade pact between Taipei and Washington. The move was a domestic political risk and faced immediate backlash from the KMT, along with pig farmers.

Health experts have been split on the issue in Taiwan and throughout the world. Ractopamine can allow an animal to grow larger and leaner with less food, especially in its last few weeks before slaughter. But many countries group it with other beta-agonist drugs, which have been shown to be harmful to human health.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) set standards allowing pork with traces of ractopamine it says are not harmful to human health.

KMT chairman Johnny Chiang has insisted his party’s opposition to the decision is an issue of public health, rather than politics.

But there are questions over whether Taiwan’s public referendum system allows voters to make informed decisions on complex issues that can be difficult to understand.

In 2018, Taiwan voted on a slate of 10 referendums, deciding to uphold restrictions on same-sex marriage and food imports from Japan’s Fukushima region while opposing plans by the DPP to decommission the nation’s three active nuclear power plants by 2025. (The legislature legalized same-sex unions months later by sidestepping the restrictions in that referendum decision.)

Experts criticized Taiwan’s 2018 referendums, saying they did not give the public enough time and information to make informed decisions. Referendums only required a one-month public deliberation period – far shorter than the time period required in other countries with referendum laws, such as Ireland.

The KMT may call pork imports a public health issue, but the public will see it through a political lens. Should the referendum drive be successful, Taiwan’s people will be asked to decide on an issue that even health experts have not agreed upon – and their decision could dictate the future of trade between Taiwan and the United States.

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pushes for independence referendum next year

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has said an independence referendum should take place next year.

The independence vote could wrench apart the United Kingdom after Brexit.

If there was another referendum and if Scots voted to leave, it would mark the biggest shock to the United Kingdom since Irish independence a century ago — just as London grapples with the impact of Brexit.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said she anticipated a vote would take place “in the earlier part” of the next Scottish parliament, which begins next year.

“The referendum for a whole variety of reasons should be in the earlier part of the next parliament,” the Scottish First Minister told the BBC.

Scots voted 55-45 against independence in a 2014 referendum.

But both Brexit and the British Government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for independence among Scots.

Support for Scottish independence has been bolstered by both Brexit and the British Government’s handling of COVID-19.(Reuters: Russell Cheyne)

The past 14 opinion surveys have shown that Scots want independence, in a support rating ranging from 51-59 per cent.

Ms Sturgeon’s SNP is expected to perform strongly in elections to the Scottish Parliament in May.

The SNP will argue that winning that election would be a mandate for another independence referendum.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the 2014 independence referendum was decisive and a once-in-a-generation event, so should be respected.

His government says there should not be another independence referendum in the near future.

But if Ms Sturgeon wins the May 6 Scottish election, Mr Johnson will have a difficult choice: refuse a referendum and thus allow Scottish discontent to simmer, or allow a referendum which could break apart the union he says is so dear to him and his party.

Today, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The United Kingdom as a whole voted 52-48 to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum: England and Wales voted to leave but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.


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Left’s local referendum wins spotlight causes of larger Dem losses

Although Democrats suffered unexpected losses in House races during the November elections, they found victories in local referendums. 

Cities like liberal San Francisco passed new laws, including an “Overpaid Executive Tax” that adds a 0.1% levy on companies whose executives earn 100 times more than the average worker. The city also partially defunded police by nixing a staffing law that required the department to maintain at least 1,971 full-time officers.

The city of Phoenix – a part of the nation’s fourth-largest county – approved a controversial bill that would raise state income taxes to fund public education and became one of the five states that legalized marijuana. 


The city of Portland, Oregon, voted to decriminalize possession of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, the painkiller oxycodone and other hard drugs.

Some 3,000 miles to the east, residents of Portland, Maine came out in favor of rent-control protections, a $15 minimum wage, banning police use of facial recognition software and establishing Green New Deal building codes. 

The socialist Jacobin Magazine wrote that the “viability of socialist and working-class candidates is no longer in doubt in Portland.”

A voting booth with sides blocked off with caution tape to ensure social distancing at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland, Maine. (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Despite progressive policy advances, however, Democrats blame down-ballot woes on the agendas of far-left candidates following in the footsteps of New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the “Squad” of liberal freshmen Democrats.

During a caucus call immediately following Election Day, moderate Democrats complained that ideas like the Green New Deal and defunding police were detrimental to their performance. 

“We should have won big but, you know, the ‘Defund the police’ issue, the Green New Deal — those issues killed our members. Having everybody walk the plank on qualified immunity with the cops, that just hurt a lot of members,” a Democratic source told Fox News. “No one’s taking responsibility for it.”

“We lost races we shouldn’t have lost,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., exclaimed during the call. “Defund the police’ almost cost me my race because of an attack ad. Don’t say socialism ever again. We need to get back to basics.”


Texas Democratic Reps. Marc Veasy and Vicente Gonzalez agreed with Spanberger. 

Even with a gargantuan fundraising and spending effort, Democrats made little headway in the Sunshine State — a crucial battleground on the pathway to 270 Electoral College votes. 

President Trump tripled his 2016 margin in Florida, dashing hopes for Democrats to make inroads in the state Legislature.

“I think progressives are going to make this argument that Democrats just weren’t progressive enough,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., told her fellow caucus members. “Either they are already partaking in the mushrooms that D.C. approved or they are living in their own fiction here.”

The District of Columbia voted to decriminalize the use of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic substances.

Despite the conflicts, leadership within Congressional Democratic ranks may remain the same. 

On Wednesday, the party tapped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., to reprise their roles. 

Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver warned his colleagues not to begin a “contentious internal battle over the leadership” before the full House of Representatives elects the speaker when it convenes on Jan. 3. 


“Clearly with Trump on the ballot, we knew it would be a steeper climb,” Pelosi told Democrats on the call.

“We did not win every battle but we did win the war,” she added, referring to the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. “Every one of you knows that incumbent protection is my number one priority.”

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The Trump Referendum – WSJ

‘The case for Donald Trump is political disruption.” So we wrote four years ago, and the Trump Presidency has certainly delivered that, for better and worse. His policies and breaks from convention have accomplished much that was needed. But his divisive governance and personal flaws have put him in danger of losing to a Democrat whose campaign theme is essentially that he isn’t Donald Trump.

This presidential dichotomy is summed up in the recent Gallup poll finding that 56% of Americans say they are better off than they were…

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New Caledonia referendum: South Pacific territory rejects independence from France

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Turnout in the referendum was high

People in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia have narrowly rejected independence from France in a referendum.

The archipelago voted to remain French with 53.26% of votes, according to final results reported by AFP news agency. Turnout – at 85.6% – was high.

In a similar vote two years ago, the margin was slightly wider, with 56.7% voting to stay French.

New Caledonia has been a French territory for nearly 170 years.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the result as a “sign of confidence in the republic”, adding he also felt “humility” in view of the results.

The referendum was part of a series of votes agreed two decades ago, following bouts of violence in the 1980s over the issue of independence between the islands’ indigenous Kanak people and descendants of European settlers.

Kanaks represent around 40% of the population, while Europeans, mostly born in the territory, make up about a third. Others come from other Pacific islands or are of mixed heritage.

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Kanak independence supporters wave flags after the referendum on independence in Nouméa, the territory’s capital

Several agreements were signed including the 1998 Noumea Accord, which set out a roadmap for greater autonomy for the territory.

Under this agreement, New Caledonia is allowed up to three referendums on independence. A third referendum can take place by 2022, if requested by a third of the local assembly.

New Caledonia has large deposits of nickel, a vital component in manufacturing electronics, and is seen by France as a strategic political and economic asset in the region.

It enjoys a large degree of autonomy but depends heavily on France for matters like defence and education and still receives large subsidies from Paris.

It is one of the UN’s 17 “non-self governing territories” – where the process of decolonisation has not been completed.

France first claimed the islands, home to some 270,000 people, in 1853.

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Referendum on the 20 th. Lankan Constitutional Amendment bill is a must, says M.A.Sumanthiran

By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Express

Colombo, September 8: There are legal grounds to seek a referendum on the proposed 20 th. Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, says M.A.Sumanthiran, spokesman of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and a leading Supreme Court lawyer.

According to Sumanthiran, the 20A seeks to change the basic principles embedded in the constitution. It gives all powers to the Executive President without any checks and balances. This is tantamount to changing the basic structure of the constitution. And if the basic features are to be changed, the amendment bill will have to be submitted to a referendum, Sumanthiran said.

Concept of Basic Structure

Explaining the concept of the “basic structure” of the constitution, Sumanthiran said that the constitution has to be necessarily democratic and cannot overly pile power on the office of Executive President. Although the 1978 constitution gave the directly elected Executive President all powers, there has been a strong and consistent movement in Sri Lanka against a powerful Executive Presidency since the time of President Chandrika Kumaratunga in the mid- 1990s. The most recent phase of the movement was in 2014-2015 when Maithripala Sirisena was elected on an explicitly abolitionist platform.

The constitution is not a lifeless document or an edict etched in stone and unalterable. It is a living, pulsating and growing organism, Sumanthiran said and added that over the years the concept of its ‘basic structure” has changed. Democracy sans concentration of power or power with checks and balance is the basic creed embedded in the spirit of the constitution, Sumanthiran averred. And when this is sought to be changed drastically, a referendum is a must, he said.

By repealing the 19 th.Amendment, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government will be depriving the country of the checks and balances which were embedded in the 19A. Under 20A, the Independent Commissions, appointed directly by the President, will be blindly carrying out the President’s wishes. The Parliamentary Council, which will replace the Constitutional Council, will not only be deprived of inputs from non-MPs and distinguished persons drawn from outside parliament, but will also lose its teeth because the President only needs to seek its “observations” and not its “consent”. On the other hand, the 19A makes it mandatory for him to go by the views of the Constitutional Council.

The 20A would give the President the right to recruit and sack anybody. He can join the cabinet, determine who others will be members of the Council of Ministers, what portfolios they will hold, and for how long. As the author of the 1978 Presidential constitution J.R.Jayewardene famously said about his Presidency, the President will have all powers except the power to change a man into a woman and a woman into a man.


A counter argument put out by some leading pro-government lawyers is that the 20A is only restoring features of the Lankan constitution which were there for long from 1978 onwards. The 20A will only restore the situation that existed till the 19A was passed in 2015. It is not something totally new. It is only a restoration. Besides, it is only meant to strengthen the Executive Presidential system, which, undeniably, is one of the basic features of the constitution. Since the 20A does not change the basic features of the constitution it does not need a referendum, they aver.

Simplistic Objections

But this line is rejected Sumanthiran who described it as “simplistic”. He said that one should keep in mind three things while discussing the basic structure of the constitutuon:

Firstly, the constitution is not a static thing but a living and growing organism to meet the changing aspirations of the people. Change is thus intrinsic to constitutions in democratic countries.

Secondly, change has to be in the direction of democracy and not a regression to autocracy. The former would be in the spirit of the constitution and the latter a violation of it. In light of these two principles, 19A could be deemed to be in accordance with the basic structure of the constitution and the 20A against it as it leads to the concentration of power not to its distribution to accord with the principle of checks and balances.

Thirdly, there has been a long-standing and consistent (albeit no fully unsuccessful) democratic movement in Sri Lanka to dilute or abolish the Executive Presidency and hand over power to parliament. Although a powerful Executive Presidency was created in 1978 and remained in place for long, in the mid 1990s, the people of Sri Lanka had got tired of the concentration of power in the hands of a President, and had begun to crave for dilution of power.

Chandrika Kumaratunga came to the Presidency to divest herself of much of her constitutional power and give them to parliament. Since then, getting rid of the Executive Presidency has been on the agenda of every major party and leading Presidential candidate. The last man to come to power with abolition as his platform was Maithripala Sirisena as recently as 2015.

Sumanthiran said and it was because of such a movement that the 17 th.Amendment was enacted in 2001 to establish Independent Commissions. This was done by a United National Party (UNP) regime with the cooperation of President Kumaratunga, who represented the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

However, when it came to the crunch, Kumaratunga did not want to shed power. During and after Eelam War IV, the need for a strong government was acutely felt by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The 18 th.Amendment which he pushed through in 2010, gave him all the powers he needed and much more.

But by 2014, absolute power had corrupted his regime absolutely and he lost the Presidency to Maithripala Sirisena who answered the peoples’ yearning for a regime without power being concentrated in one man or one post. The 19A was enacted in 2015 to reduce the powers of the President and re-establish the Independent Commissions.

But regrettably, the confusing system that came into being under 19A could not reconcile the innate interests of a directly elected Executive President (Sirisena) and the system that the 19A created. The flaws in the 19A were partly responsible for the poor performance of the “Yahapalanaya” government.

This Yahapalanaya’s failure led to a feeling among the majority Sinhalas that Sri Lanka cannot do without a strong government, which explains the record-breaking victory of arch centralists Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2019 and 2020 Presidential and parliamentary elections.

With the political moment being in favour of centralization, President Gotabaya introduced a draft 20 th Amendment bill to almost completely replace the 19A. Some of the structures of the 19A like the Independent Commissions will remain under his scheme, but only as shells.

The main opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has announced that it will go to the Supreme Court against the 20A. Sumanthiran said that the basic plea would necessarily be that a referendum should be made compulsory to pass 20A.

Sumathiran acknowledged that the 19A has flaws which stymie the work of the Executive President. But he added that these flaws could be discussed and ways found to make corrections in the system without throwing the baby with the bathwater.


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Taiwan opposition pushes pork referendum, could threaten US trade deal

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT) began a push on Sunday (Sep 6) for a referendum to block the easing of restrictions on US pork imports, which if passed could threaten a long-mooted free trade deal with Taipei’s key ally Washington.

President Tsai Ing-wen announced last month that the government would from Jan 1 allow in US pork containing ractopamine, an additive that enhances leanness, and US beef more than 30 months old.

Taiwan has long sought a free trade agreement with the United States, its most important supporter on the international stage, but Washington has complained about barriers to access for US pork and beef.

KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang, elected in March to help turn around party fortunes following a trouncing in January’s presidential and parliament elections, said the party would begin collecting signatures for a referendum to be held next August.

“Starting next weekend on Sep 12, we will spring up everywhere, getting signatures from counties and cities, showing the will of the people through concrete action,” he told the party’s annual conference in Taipei.

The KMT has pitched their opposition to the pork imports as a matter of food safety, Taiwan having been rocked by several safety scandals in recent years, pointing out that ractopamine is banned in major markets like the European Union.

Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party has previously also strongly objected to ractopamine.

The government has defended the easing of pork imports, saying they are bringing Taiwan into line with international norms and that the decision will boost Taiwan-US ties.

Washington welcomed the move.

Taiwan and the United States are expected this month to start high-level economic talks in what could be a precursor to a broad free trade deal.

The KMT will need to collect around 200,000 signatures to get the referendum approved and put to a vote.

Chiang has been trying to turn around the fortunes of the party, which traditionally favours close ties with China.

Beijing claims Taiwan as sovereign Chinese territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

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Russia meddled in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, report finds

Russia meddled in the 2014 Scottish referendum and the British federal government unsuccessful to talk to for a deep assessment of doable Kremlin-directed interference in the Brexit vote, the British parliament’s intelligence and safety committee states.

“There has been credible open up resource commentary suggesting that Russia undertook affect strategies in relation to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014,” the report, which was completed in March 2019 but shelved until eventually Tuesday, mentioned.

It said there ended up open up resource indications that Russia sought to affect the Brexit marketing campaign but that the British government experienced not sought deep evidence of meddling.

Glasgow prior to the 2014 vote.


The report cast Russia as a hostile power which posed a substantial risk to the United Kingdom and the West throughout a range of fronts, from espionage and cyber to election meddling and laundering soiled revenue.

“It seems that Russia considers the Uk a person of its prime Western intelligence targets,” the report mentioned.

The report, which was leaked forward of its publication time by the Guido Fawkes web page, said the British federal government unsuccessful to delve deeply sufficient into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The Kremlin claimed Russia has in no way interfered in one more country’s electoral processes. Russia has regularly denied meddling in the West, casting the United States and Britain as gripped by anti-Russian hysteria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.


When discussing the EU referendum, the Uk parliamentary report is greatly redacted and there was a categorised annex that was not printed, but the lawmakers known as for a correct investigation.

“In response to our ask for for penned proof at the outset of the Inquiry, MI5 initially provided just six strains of text. It stated that ***, in advance of referring to tutorial reports,” the redacted model reads.

“It is however the Committee’s check out that the United kingdom Intelligence Neighborhood need to make an analogous evaluation of opportunity Russian interference in the EU referendum and that an unclassified summary of it be released,” the report claimed.

The committee cast Russia, which haemorrhaged the money of a previous superpower adhering to the 1991 drop of the Soviet Union, as a source of corrupt funds that experienced been welcomed in London, the world’s leading intercontinental fiscal cash.

“The United kingdom welcomed Russian cash, and several thoughts – if any – had been questioned about the provenance of this considerable wealth,” the report explained. “The United kingdom has been seen as a specifically favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their cash.”

“It made available perfect mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled as a result of what has been referred to as the London ‘laundromat’,” the report mentioned.

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Russia referendum: All you need to know on the vote that could see Putin stay in power until 2036

Russia is set to hold a July 1 referendum that could see President Vladimir Putin stay in power until 2036.

The vote will be over whether to accept constitution changes that would allow Putin to run for another two presidential terms.

The proposed changes to the country’s 1993 constitution were revealed in January and backed by Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, in March.

What are the constitutional amendments set to change?

There are around 200 amendments proposed to the constitution even though Putin has traditionally been opposed to changes, experts say.

“The scale of the reform was absolutely surprising,” said Nikolay Petrov, a senior research fellow for the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House in London.

Many of the reforms involve transforming “the political system in a way which will make Putin’s position comfortable enough to not be opposed by any other strong institutions,” Petrov added.

The most consequential change would allow Putin to run for two more six-year terms after the end of his second presidential term in 2024. It resets the terms for Putin but would not apply to future presidents.

The 67-year-old president is currently serving his second spate of two terms as president after his 2012 election. He was previously president of Russia from 2000 to 2008.

He also served as prime minister between 2008 and 2012 while his ally Dmitri Medvedev was president. The constitution was previously changed to increase presidential term limits from four years to six years.

The other changes to the constitution include measures to respect the country’s heritage and the orthodox church as well as strengthen the Kremlin over local and municipal authorities.

One change also defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the constitution, thus formally outlawing same-sex marriage.

Some social changes would guarantee that the minimum wage does not fall under the cost of living and ensure that pensions rise over time.

Why is Putin having a referendum for changes already approved by the parliament?

“It’s of course just a symbolic referendum, and since the Russian electoral system is known for widespread falsifications, the result is preordained whatever the public thinks,” said Sergey Radchenko, a Cold War historian and the director of Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics.

Russia’s State Duma already approved the changes to the constitution in March, but passed a law that said they needed “popular support”.

“The importance of the referendum is that if that it provides a veneer of legitimacy for a constitutional change that would ‘reset’ Putin’s presidential terms, allowing him to run again in 2024,” said Cardiff University’s Radchenko.

“Unlike the Tsar, who claimed God’s mandate to rule all Russia, Putin still perceives himself as a ‘democrat’, so he wants to have a legal mechanism in place to legitimise the continuation of his rule,” said Radchenko.

Some experts think Putin is pushing ahead with the vote due to falling approval ratings amidst the coronavirus crisis. Back in mid-March, Putin enjoyed wide support among Russians.

Russia is the third most-affected country in the world with more than 500,000 COVID-19 cases and over 7,000 deaths.

According to the Levada Centre in Moscow, Putin’s approval rating is currently at around 59%, down from 69% in February before coronavirus cases rose significantly in Russia.

Is this a democratic vote?

Like many elections during the coronavirus pandemic, the referendum is taking place under particular circumstances.

Some polling stations will be set up outdoors and masks and pens will likely be available.

There is also an option to vote at home with distancing between election commission workers and voters, Petrov explained.

But despite a referendum traditionally being a mechanism of direct democracy, experts say this vote has a predetermined outcome.

“The voting is designed in a way to avoid any smallest threat,” said Petrov. “I think that it’s very typical for populist regimes just to well explain everything by people’s will and that’s why it’s organised this people’s voting all while violating democratic mechanisms and institutions.”

“Widespread irregularities in previous elections suggest that when the authorities face an outright defeat, they will resort to manipulation and ballot-box stuffing to achieve a desired outcome,” said Radchenko.

But others have held that Putin remains popular above 50% in Russia and that many of the constitutional amendments, including ones to maintain the minimum wage, are popular.

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