Scotland – The feud within the Scottish National Party | Britain

ALEX SALMOND and his successor, Nicola Sturgeon, turned the Scottish National Party from a fringe cause into a ruthless election-winner that reduced the Scottish Labour Party to a rump and in a referendum in 2014 came close to fulfilling its aim of breaking up the United Kingdom. It may yet succeed: independence leads in the polls. If it fails, the feud in which it is now locked may be partly to blame.

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On February 22nd, Mr Salmond’s evidence to a committee of lawmakers was published. In it, he claimed that Ms Sturgeon’s inner circle ran a “deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort” to damage his reputation “even to the extent of having me imprisoned”. Ms Sturgeon, he says, misled the Scottish Parliament and broke the ministerial code, which would be grounds for resignation. She calls it a conspiracy theory.

In January 2018, in the wake of #MeToo movement, the Scottish government received two complaints of sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond, dating back to his tenure as First Minister. It upheld them. Mr Salmond sued and in January 2019 won. The judge called the probe “tainted with apparent bias”.

Later that month, police charged Mr Salmond with 14 offences against ten women, including attempted rape and sexual assault. In his trial, the court heard that there was an informal policy of not letting women civil servants work in his residence alone at night; his defence portrayed him as a “tactile, touchy-feely” man who in a “victims’ world” had been branded a criminal. He was acquitted.

He is now seeking revenge. A committee of the Scottish Parliament is investigating how Ms Sturgeon’s government handled complaints, and an inquiry by James Hamilton, a lawyer, is examining whether she breached the ministerial code.

The #MeToo movement has exposed flaws in every organisation it has touched. In the SNP’s case, the closeness of those who have dedicated themselves to independence makes the feuding especially vicious. Mr Salmond served as leader for a total of 20 years. Ms Sturgeon, his deputy for a decade, first met him as a teenage volunteer. Peter Murrell, her husband, whom Mr Salmond identifies as a major plotter, was his bag carrier and is now the party’s chief executive. Such intimacy, once an SNP strength, has become a liability: dirt accumulates and resentments brew. The battle deepens policy rifts, over trans rights and when to hold a second referendum.

The charge that Ms Sturgeon knew more about Mr Salmond than she admits has stuck, because she is so dominant in her party and takes personal control of so much government business. “This government has been very much a centraliser. Under Nicola Sturgeon, the cabinet just rubber-stamps things,” says James Mitchell, professor of public policy at the University of Edinburgh. A Sturgeon loyalist blames a dearth of talent. “It’s the same under Nicola as it was under Alex—a very small group of the smartest people run the show and, you know what? We’ve won a lot of elections that way.”

The Scottish civil service has emerged looking weak. Leslie Evans, the permanent secretary, has apologised for the first botched probe. She and Ms Sturgeon are accused of pushing on with the subsequent doomed legal action. Lawmakers have found her evidence evasive and forgetful. The impression is of a machine that lacked the grip to handle complaints, and in which party and government business were too easily blurred.

The Scottish Parliament has also been embarrassed. The committee inquiry, chaired by an SNP lawmaker, has been chaotic: appearances by Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon have been repeatedly delayed amid tussles over evidence. Having published Mr Salmond’s accusations against Ms Sturgeon’s circle, the committee retracted and redacted his statement at the request of the public prosecutor.

Farce feeds conspiracism, which is rampant among nationalists. Mr Salmond’s case is that the internal probe was not merely bungled by officials determined to rise to the challenge of the #MeToo moment, but that it was a state hit-job. His backers speak of “dark forces” and MI5. The women concerned have been identified and hounded online. Rape Crisis Scotland, a charity, says the fracas may discourage women from making complaints against powerful men.

Ms Sturgeon will survive. She has no clear successor. An SNP hand reckons support for independence would drop by ten points if she went. But the party will be damaged. In May’s elections, she will seek a mandate for a second independence referendum, and ask Scots to believe her government is ready for divorce negotiations of remarkable complexity with the British government. It is a lot to ask.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Feuding nationalists”

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Coronavirus has made UK look ‘dysfunctional,’ Gordon Brown says


he coronavirus crisis has made the UK look “dysfunctional” at times due to a lack of co-operation between administrations, Gordon Brown has said.

In an article on devolution for the Scottish Fabians think tank, the former prime minister also said Boris Johnson risks becoming the “biggest recruiting sergeant for nationalism”.

Mr Brown authored part of a report for the Scottish Fabians which was released on Friday ahead of the results of the Scottish Labour leadership election.

The report said the Labour Party, in Scotland and across the UK, must find a way to articulate the purpose of the United Kingdom.

In a section of the report titled “state of the nation”, Mr Brown accuses Mr Johnson of undermining devolution with the post-Brexit Internal Market Act.

Mr Brown said: “If he continues in this manner, Boris Johnson risks becoming the biggest recruiting sergeant for nationalism and will lose any hope of persuading Scotland’s undecided voters to stay with the UK.”

He also said administrations around the UK had failed to work together through joint ministerial committees.

Mr Brown continued: “Co-operation during the pandemic has faltered with too many people having to pay the price for the absence of joined-up decision-making.

“At times Britain has looked like a dysfunctional state.

“While Scotland’s First Minister has attended some Cobra meetings on the pandemic there is no regular consultation between her and the Prime Minister.

“Instead, because of a failure to co-ordinate the machinery of government we are at the mercy of ad-hoc initiatives and informal conversations.

“This cannot be the basis of how two administrations work together.”

The former prime minister also said promises made by both the Conservatives and the SNP in their Growth Commission – the party’s economic blueprint for an independent Scotland – were “out of date” given recent events.

He called for new citizens’ assemblies and investigative committees of parliamentarians to look into claims made by both sides of the independence debate.

Mr Brown said: “Some may say that it is naive to think partisan MPs and MSPs can be trusted to provide a fair assessment, but if our newspapers and media do their job, and if the eyes of pressure groups and the general public are upon these investigations, such public scrutiny will force out the answers we need.

“They will compel our institutions to be fully accountable and will judge them harshly if they dodge the facts.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “We have been working closely with the devolved administrations at every stage of the pandemic – from providing business support, to rolling out the vaccine programme which has been an extraordinary success right across the UK.

“The Union is at the heart of everything the Government does and we are committed to delivering for all parts of the UK.”

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‘The problem is because people worship celebrities… but we are humans too’- Ghetts on cancel culture – Channel 4 News

The organisers of the Leeds and Reading music festivals have said that the two August bank holiday events will go ahead this year after the government spelled out England’s roadmap out of lockdown.

One of the last artists to perform at a major venue in England before lockdown was grime music pioneer Ghetts.

He has teamed up with musicians as diverse as Stormzy, Emeli Sande and Ed Sheeran to create his new critically acclaimed album Conflict of Interest, which is heading for the top of the charts.

We went along to meet one of UK hip-hop’s biggest guns.

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Ex-Corrie’s Lucien Laviscount unrecognisable after body transformation with 6-pack

Lucien Laviscount has completely transformed his body since his Coronation Street days.

The former soap hunk, 28, is now the proud owner of rippling muscles and a six-pack, and is now sporting a stylish bit of stubble.

He is best known for playing Sophie Webster’s church-going boyfriend Ben Richardson in Corrie, but he also starred as Jonah Kirby in BBC drama Waterloo Road and did a stint on Celebrity Big Brother in 2011, in which he famously flirted with Kerry Katona.

Taking to his Instagram account on Wednesday, Lucien posted a picture of his ripped physique and completely stunned his celebrity followers.

Lucien Laviscount has completely transformed his body since his Coronation Street days

Lucien as Ben Richardson in Corrie with Kym Marsh as Michelle Connor
Lucien as Ben Richardson in Corrie with Kym Marsh as Michelle Connor

In the photo, Lucien posed in nothing but a pair of black swimming trunks as he leaned against a brick wall.

He looked away from the camera and pulled a pout as he amped up the sexiness.

Lucien’s muscles were on full display, proving that he’s been hitting the home workouts hard.

His new body sent his celebrity friends wild
His new body sent his celebrity friends wild

In the caption, Lucien celebrated the news that lockdown will be lifted by the summer.

“June 21st yeah… Let’s be avin ya!!!” he wrote.

But his famous followers were more concerned with his hunky figure, with Example writing: “Damn bro. Didn’t know I had these feels.”

Lucien as Jonah Kirby in BBC drama Waterloo Road
Lucien as Jonah Kirby in BBC drama Waterloo Road

“Dreamboat,” James Haskell wrote.

Aston Merrygold said: “Haaa.. tell people u go gym without telling people u go gym.”

“Pow,” Anthony Quinlan wrote alongside explosion and fist bump emojis.

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School days ‘will not be longer’ says Gavin Williamson

The Education Secretary has ruled out lengthening school days and promised not to be “timid in terms of our aspirations” when getting children to catch up on the schooling they have missed. At a Downing Street press conference, Gavin Williamson also confirmed there will be “no algorithms whatsoever” in this summer’s exam results, adding it will be “firmly in the hands of teachers”. Mr Williamson also said:

However, there was a warning for grandparents from Dr Jenny Harries, England’s chief deputy medical officer. She urged pupils “not to go hugging them too much”, even if they have been tested at school until the impact of the vaccine rollout is fully understood. It is worth reading this from Telegraph readers debating face masks in schools.

Meanwhile, at least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities will be prioritised for a Covid vaccine, officials have announced following a campaign by Jo Whiley. The BBC DJ said it was a “seismic day” after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that all patients on the GP Learning Disability Register should be called forward, after conceding limitations in the GP system. Details here.

Woods was ‘agitated’ ahead of car crash, says witness

Tiger Woods almost hit another car and was “agitated and impatient” before his near-fatal crash in the outskirts of LA, according to a witness. Oliver Konteh, a fellow guest at the five-star resort where Woods was staying, said he saw the golfing legend in the carpark at 7am, shortly before he was meant to be at the Rolling Hill Country Club. Mr Konteh, part of a film crew at the resort, claims Woods grew frustrated as he waited for a vehicle blocking his exit to unload luggage, according to American news site TMZ. Read on for details and here is everything we know about the crash and the 15-time major winner’s recovery.

In pictures: How lockdown emptied the world

It’s hard to fathom that, just over a year ago, we would stand elbow-to-elbow with our fellow humans, without a second thought as to whether they might infect us with a highly contagious disease called Covid-19. Every February, revellers would take to the streets in Venice, wearing masks for fun, rather than to prevent infection. In spring, thousands of marathon runners would trample the streets in London, while on Easter Sundays the Pope would address the masses in St Peter’s Square. In this series of photographs, Greg Dickinson look at how, over 12 months, the pandemic has transformed some of the world’s busiest sights.

At a glance: More coronavirus headlines

Also in the news: Today’s other headlines

SNP civil war | Alex Salmond has been invited to give evidence on Friday to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched investigation of him. Nicola Sturgeon has insisted it is “downright wrong” to suggest the Crown Office’s intervention in the redaction of Mr Salmond’s evidence to the inquiry was politically influenced. Tom Harris analyses how Scottish voters may yet punish Mrs Sturgeon for her handling of the affair and Adam Tompkins sets out why Holyrood caving in to the Crown Office over the evidence is an historic mistake.

Around the world: Myanmar protests turn on China

The chorus of banging pots and pans begins in Chinatown at about 8pm. The district in Myanmar’s commercial city of Yangon is normally festooned with bright red lanterns to celebrate Chinese New Year. But when the Year of the Ox arrived in mid-February, the usual festive atmosphere was gone – replaced by tension. Read how swelling ranks of young ethnic Chinese protesters are joining mass rallies against the brutal junta that abruptly deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.

Wednesday big-read

Is the electric vehicle bubble starting to burst?

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Covid in Scotland: What's the state of the epidemic?

Using World Health Organization measures, it is possible to chart Scotland’s progress in tackling Covid-19.

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Pot luck – Growing cannabis on Britain’s smallest islands | Britain

THE ICE-CREAM parlours and music halls of the Isle of Man were once packed each summer with workers who travelled ten hours on a steamer to a Manx beach to escape the cotton mills of Lancashire for a week. “You see the best of the working class of the north away from their factories and workshops,” The Spectator informed its readers in 1880. “Their loud provincial tones are heard in boisterous merriment.”

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Since the Costa del Sol destroyed the island’s tourist trade, there is much less merriment, provincial or otherwise. But Man has reinvented itself, first as an offshore financial centre and most recently also as a hub for online gaming firms. Finance accounts for about a third of GDP; e-gaming 17%. Tourism makes up less than 1%.

Now Manxmen want a slice of another fast-growing industry: cannabis cultivation. And they need not beg permission from Whitehall. The island is a crown dependency, meaning that though the queen is head of state, it is self-governing. Last month its parliament approved a plan to sell licences to grow and export cannabis for medical use.

It is not the only outcrop to spot an opportunity. The channel island of Jersey, another crown dependency, also smells something in the air. It issued its first cannabis-production licence in December, to a firm that plans to grow the plant in a 75,000-sq-ft greenhouse. Its minister for economic development even flew to Canada to address a cannabis industry conference.

Why the sudden interest? Legal cultivation of cannabis was unheard of outside America until recently; it has leapt about 200-fold globally since 2000, according to the International Narcotics Control Board, an independent monitoring agency. And rules on its medical use are being relaxed across Europe. Britain followed suit in 2018, permitting limited prescription by registered specialists. Brightfield Group, a research firm, reckons the British medical-cannabis market will grow from a relatively paltry £9.6m in 2020 to £293m in 2025.

Britain is already a big player in the global market. It exports more medical cannabis than anywhere else, thanks to GW Pharmaceuticals, a company that uses the plant to make drugs for patients with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Yet new players grumble that the Home Office, which grants cultivation licences, is risk-averse. GW and its suppliers are the only firms permitted to grow cannabis potent enough for medical use. The department’s “starting point is effectively to treat anyone making an application as a criminal”, claims a lawyer who advises cannabis firms.

Both islands hope to outmanoeuvre the mainland. Laurence Skelly, the Isle of Man’s enterprise minister, promises the sort of business-friendly regulation that helped lure gaming firms to the island. And the 0% standard rate of corporation tax in both places—compared with 19% on the mainland—will help ensure that the islands don’t blow their chance.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Pot luck”

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Rogue letting agents face £30k fines after clampdown by trading standards

Under legislation which came into effect in 2019, letting agents are required to sign up to a “Client Money Protection” scheme that safeguards the money of tenants and landlords if an agent’s business fails.

But trading standards officers say that hundreds of agents in the capital are flouting the law by failing to comply with this and other legal requirements, and are preparing a purge to punish wrongdoers.

Around 100 have already been warned that they face a fine if they fail to comply with the law within 28 days and action against others is intended.

Announcing the crackdown, Nishi Patel, the chair of London Trading Standards, added: “London letting agents are handling billions of pounds of tenants’ and landlords’ money every year, so it’s vital that this money is protected in the event of business failure.

“Agents who think they can get away with failing to comply with the law need to think again.”

Tom Copley, London’s deputy mayor for housing, added that with nearly three million Londoners renting their homes, “it is vital that both tenants and landlords have absolute faith in the letting agents who are handling their money.”

The maximum penalty for failing to belong to an approved client money protection scheme is £30,000.

Agents are also required by law to publish their certificate of membership and other key information at their offices and on their websites. In addition, they must also belong to one of two government authorised “redress” schemes which can be used to resolve disputes. Failure to comply with their requirement carries a potential £5,000 penalty.

The enforcement operation is being run by London Trading Standards, which coordinates the activities of trading standards officers in the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London, and the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said the aim was to stop “rogue letting agents making life miserable” for tenants and landlords.

He added: “The hefty fines being issued should make clear that bad practice is unacceptable.”

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Bitter recriminations in Texas after millions left without power and clean water – Channel 4 News

Temperatures in Texas have returned to normal February levels, but after the bitter cold of Winter Storm Uri, there are bitter recriminations in the Lone Star State.

In Harris County, home to the city of Houston, some residents are still having to boil water to make it safe.

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Tom Parker heads back to hospital to continue cancer treatment after ditching vegan diet

Tom Parker shared an update with his followers as he underwent treatment for cancer at hospital.

The 32-year-old dad of two, who recently received his first Covid-19 vaccination, filmed himself as he underwent treatment on his stage four tumour.

His latest post came just over four months after The Wanted musician revealed to fans that he had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.

In Tom’s latest social media post, that the musician shared with his 212,000 Instagram followers on Monday, the singer revealed that he was ‘all hooked up’ as he underwent his latest round of treatment.

Tom later returned home to his wife and two kids where he later spoke to fans about the changes he has recently made to his diet.

While Tom initially opted for a largely vegan diet, he has since decided to add some meat back into his diet.

Tom Parker updated fans as he received treatment for his cancer

“When we first found out I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, everyone was like well on it for me,” Tom said on his Instagram story.

“All the information and stuff, I mean, you should have seen some of the stuff I was eating.”

“For the first couple of months, I pretty much went vegan didn’t I? Like I was eating lentils and s***.

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He added: “Anyway, I’m not doing the vegan thing, I didn’t really enjoy it. I’ve added a bit of meat back to my diet, nowhere near as much.”

Just last month, Tom also shared his pleasure at learning that his tumour had shrunk significantly since beginning treatment last year.

Following an MRI scan, the musician was told that he was responding well to treatment and vowed to continue fighting.

He wrote: “I had an MRI scan on Tuesday and my results today were a significant reduction to the tumour and I am responding well to treatment.

Tom later shared a tender moment with his wife as he spoke to fans about his latest diet
Tom later shared a tender moment with his wife as he spoke to fans about his latest diet changes

“Everyday I’m keeping on the fight to shrink this b******!”

Tom continued: “I can’t thank our wonderful NHS enough. You’re all having a tough time out there but we appreciate the work you are all doing on the front line.”

Tom and his wife Kelsey welcomed their son Bodhi in October, shortly after learning of his devastating cancer diagnosis.

Tom revealed he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2020
Tom revealed he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2020

Tom told fans he’s getting there ‘day by day’

The couple, who also share one year old Aurelia, have been sharing lots of adorable updates as they enjoy some precious family moments with their newborn.

In his January post, he also had nothing but praise for his wife.

Tom wrote: “To my amazing wife @being_kelsey who has literally been my rock. My babies- I fight for you every second of every day.

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