The week's events in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
• A number of SNP MPs were reported to be launching a campaign to see Tony Blair prosecuted in Scotland over his role in Iraq. The SNP declined to comment on whether Alex Salmond supported the latest move. Scottish Labour accused the SNP of trying to create “infantile political capital”.
• The Scottish Police Federation warned that cuts to police budgets could see crime increasing.
• The SNP secured their budget for 2010-11 thanks to a string of concessions to opposition parties, as well as the votes of the Conservatives. John Swinney described it as “a Budget for all of Scotland”. Labour however voted it down, in protest at the SNP’s refusal to reinstate the Glasgow Rail Link project. Labour’s Finance Spokesman, Andy Kerr concluded that the Government were “turning their back on the economy”. CBI Scotland said “the spending plans for the coming year are inadequate.” Unison said the budget would mean “cuts in services, cuts in jobs and cuts in the amount that public authorities pump into the economy”. Shelter accused Mr Swinney of misleading MSPs on housing spending.
• News emerged that the SNP were auctioning lunches with its leaders at Holyrood to make money for the party, with someone paying £9,000 for lunch with Alex Salmond. The SNP said they were acting within the rules. Former Scottish Secretary, Labour’s Des Browne however concluded “Cash for access demeans the office of First Minister.”
• The Assembly Government confirmed that Assembly Members would get the chance to vote on whether to hold a referendum on full law making powers on Tuesday. First Minister Carwyn Jones concluded “we could do even more if all new laws on subjects which are already our responsibility as a government could be made here in Wales.” The Lib Dems and Conservatives however were reported to be reluctant to back a vote without an exact date.
• Plaid Cymru’s Leader in Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd alleged that he had proof that Tony Blair had signed up to war in Iraq at the famous Crawford meeting with George Bush in April 2002. Llwyd continued, “I have offered to give evidence and Chilcot has said ‘I’ll come back to you’. At that stage I will have private discussions with him.”
• Wales got its first Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Harries of Imperial College London, a native of Aberavon. It was, claimed Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Science, an acknowledgement of “the importance the Assembly Government places on the role of science and technology.”
• Welsh MPs found out that they would be paying back a total of £67,000 in Parliamentary expenses following the review by Sir Thomas Legg.
• The weekend saw great hope that a deal on policing and justice was about to be brokered, with Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen reported to have been on stand by to travel to Northern Ireland to seal a deal.
• By Monday it was all looking a little pear shaped. DUP Assembly members were reported not to be prepared to accept a deal with 14 believed to have been ready to resign. DUP Minister, Sammy Wilson concluded, “We will not be pressured into an agreement.”
• DUP Leader, Peter Robinson, was back as First Minister having been cleared by Government Lawyers over any wrong doing in the financial dealings of his wife, Iris. The UUP called for the legal opinion to be published whilst Peter Robinson threatened to take action against the BBC for making claims of improper conduct.
• By the end of the week, Irish Foreign Minister, Micheal Martin said a deal on policing, justice and parades was “very close”. The question remains, just how close?
Quote of the Week
“We must be careful not to try people’s patience to distraction.”
Shaun Woodward during this week’s Northern Ireland Question’s being questioned on the ongoing talks over policing and justice.
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