The week outside Westminster

The week's political news and developments from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

• The Scotsman reported that the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Ulster Unionists and Irish nationalist parties were engaged in secret talks to maximise their influence in a potential hung Parliament.


• Left Foot Forward reported on news from a BBC poll which found that nearly half of Welsh voters support Gordon Brown and Carwyn Jones as the best team to secure an economic recovery for Wales. Wales Office Minister, Wayne David, concluded that it “shows that people recognise the steps we have taken to support business and families through these tough times”, while Conservative leader at Cardiff, Nick Bourne said, “Wales can’t afford another five years of Gordon Brown.”

• Fifty-six per cent of people in Wales indicated support for the Welsh Assembly to gain full law making powers.

• Figures obtained by Scope Cymru found that nearly a quarter of polling stations across Wales were inaccessible for disabled users.

• Education minister Leighton Andrews announced a review into the governance of higher education, saying: “Higher Education in Wales receives over £400 million a year in public money and I want to ensure that there is proper and transparent accountability for how that money is spent.”

• First minister Carwyn Jones invited the Pope to visit Wales during his visit to the UK later in the year.

• The Assembly government expressed “disappointment” that ambulance crews failed to hit a target of 65% responding to call outs within 8 minutes. Meanwhile, Conservative Andrew RT Davies said: “The assembly government’s obsession with centralised control is undermining transparency and accountability in NHS Wales.”

• Plaid Cymru described their exclusion from the main leaders debate at the election as a “London stitch-up”.

Northern Ireland

• Police in Northern Ireland faced a fresh wave of attacks from dissident republicans hoping to destabilise moves to devolve policing and justice powers. Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd spoke for many when he said: “This attack was wrong and should not have been carried out.”

• After 40 years as an MP, Ian Paisley announced that he would be stepping down from Westminster at the next election. In a sign of the progress that he had secured in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein deputy first minister, Martin McGuniess, spoke of having developed a “close friendship” with Dr Paisley.

• Experts warned that thousands of people in Northern Ireland were facing a mortgage “timebomb”.

• Alliance leader, and the likely new justice minister, David Ford, met with Bloody Sunday families, declaring the Saville Inquiry into the attacks as “pointless”. Tony Doherty, whose son was killed on Bloody Sunday, said that Ford “should be ashamed of himself”.

• Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward warned that £800 million would be at stake if the Assembly failed to endorse the devolution of policing and justice next Tuesday.

• Ulster Unionist Party health minister, Michael McGimpsey, admitted to being disappointed over news of a huge increase in waiting times for outpatient appointments.


• There was shock over the news that one of Labour’s rising stars, Steven Purcell, would be stepping down as leader of Glasgow city council as he faced treatment for exhaustion.

• OFCOM launched an investigation into STV after letters revealed the channel had pledged to consider future programming “for the benefit of the [Scottish] Government”.

• Left Foot Forward reported on a bad week in the polls for the SNP as Labour achieved a 17 point lead for Westminster elections and support for independence slumped. Professor John Curtice concluded that Alex Salmond’s plans for an independence referendum were now “in tatters”.

Research by the ippr revealed that support for an English parliament was growing as the English increasingly saw Scotland has get more than its fair share of UK Government spending.

• Audit Scotland found that missed hospital appointments cost the NHS £5 million a year. However, they went on to conclude that waiting lists were now much fairer.

• Edinburgh City Council warned that class sizes in some primary schools could hit 30, far exceeding SNP aspirations for a cap at 25. Lib Dem cabinet member for education, Marilyne Maclaren, said: “The reality is that if we don’t have a back-stop to cap classes at a maximum of 25, it is highly likely that 50 other schools will see numbers go beyond 25.”

Alex Salmond warned whichever party forms the next UK Government not to alter the budget for Scotland, saying: “We are demanding no reopening of 2010-11 spending plans.”

• Reacting to news that they would be excluded from the main leaders’ debates during the election, the SNP said: “It is unacceptable for the people of Scotland to be short-changed in this way.” Scottish Labour MP David Cairns raised questions over the Logic of their argument.

Quote of the Week

“Michael was perhaps Wales’s most brilliant adopted son.”

Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain’s tribute to Michael Foot, a former MP for Ebbw Vale who died this week aged 96

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