Nicola Sturgeon could be gone as Scotland’s First Minister in weeks over the Alex Salmond affair, the Scottish Conservative leader has suggested. In an interview with The Telegraph, Douglas Ross said the Sturgeon-Salmond saga had brought “sleaze and scandal to the heart of ScottiRead More »
Prime minister says new measures will focus on rail links and pub closures. Boris Johnson has announced another election package costing hundreds of millions of pounds for neglected towns, some of which will be spent in marginal constituencies. Concentrating on rundown high streets, the closures of pubs and post offices and the restoration of rail links, the prime minister has claimed that the measures will build upon the £3.6bn towns fund first announced in July. Towns that have been singled out in the new measures include Cleveleys, near Blackpool, where the Conservatives are defending a majority of 2,023, and Willenhall in Walsall North, where they hope to improve on a 2,601 majority. Labour said last night the Conservatives were responsible for the destruction of the high streets they are now claiming they will help. Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, said: “The Tories are destroying our high streets and towns. A decade of vicious cuts to the services that people in our communities rely on has taken 60p in every £1 from council budgets.” Johnson said a future Conservative government would extend the retail discount on business rates to 50% next year. For businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000, this will mean an increase on the current retail discount of 33% in 2020-21. This would amount to “an effective £280m tax cut” for small businesses, the party claimed. A new £1,000 business rates relief for pubs would also be introduced under a Johnson majority government – an £18m tax cut for next year, it is claimed. The Conservatives said they would also introduce a £150m fund that will help groups trying to take over and run pubs and post offices threatened with closure. Following on from previous pledges to reverse rail cuts recommended by Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s, Johnson has also pledged to set up a £500m Beeching Reversal fund. Towns such as Ashington, Seaton Delaval and Blyth, with a combined population of 100,000, will receive cash following a request from Northumberland council for £99m to reinstate stations, the Tories claimed. Willenhall and Darlaston in the West Midlands will receive £18m to reopen stations – a further £10m has already been provided by the government, the party said. Investment will also be provided to connect Skelmersdale to Liverpool and Manchester. A disused railway line will be funded to improve transport connections for Thornton-Cleveleys and Fleetwood. In a statement last night, Johnson said: “For too long, too many towns and villages across Britain have been overlooked and left behind. When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, many communities felt their voices had been heard for the first time in decades and that their lives would improve. “We will invest in these communities and help people put the heart back into the places they call home.” One organisation representing retailers said Johnson’s plans did not go far enough to revive the UK’s troubled shopping districts. Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said the majority of the UK’s 3 million retail workers were employed in businesses that would not benefit from today’s announcement. “It is essential that the next government scraps ‘downwards transition’, which costs retailers £1.3bn, freezes next year’s rates increase, and introduces an improvement relief to encourage investment in our high streets. “To ensure the long-term vitality of our town and city centres, the next government should follow the recommendations of the treasury select committee and commit to wholesale reform of our broken business rates system,” he said. The Conservatives have been accused of using public money to boost their election prospects after it emerged that funding from the towns fund was going to wealthier Tory marginals. An analysis by the Times found this week that a third of the 100 towns due to receive some of the £3.6bn pot were not among the 300 most deprived towns. These included Loughborough, which was won by Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, at the last election, with a majority of around 4,000. Kirby was not on the list.
Uncertainty around the future of the Northern Ireland protocol has seen the construction of purpose-built inspection facilities at ports halted. There will still be checks on agricultural and food products, but these will be carried out in existing buildings that have been repurposed for the post-Brexit task, the country's agriculture minister has said. Gordon Lyons of the DUP said that recruitment of inspection staff for the new port facilities at places like Belfast and Larne had been stopped, and charges levied on traders bringing goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland were also shelved.
Experts criticise Boris Johnson for putting dates in Covid roadmapBehavioural scientists accuse PM of ‘dangerous strategy’ that risks undermining adherence to rulesCouples break lockdown rules to avoid breaking upSee all our coronavirus coverage Boris Johnson visits Accrington academy in Lancashire on Thursday. He had said the government would be guided by ‘data, not dates’. Photograph: Reuters
Mr Salmond said “some consequences” should follow on from the “unlawful conduct”
We’re still living through an era of deep sadness and rampant government incompetence, writes Adam White – who’d want to watch it all over again with ad breaks?
UK urged to change stock market rules to boost fintech sector post-BrexitReport by former head of WorldPay also recommends £1bn ‘fintech growth fund’ and fast-track visas Britain is home to fintech success stories including Revolut, Monzo, Starling Bank and Wise, formerly TransferWise. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
A cabinet minister today issued a warning to Tory MPs threatening to vote against the Budget if Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils tax hikes. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland stressed that the Budget was “central” to the Government’s programme and that historically, administrations that failed to get Commons backing for it resigned. Former Brexit secretary David Davis is among backbenchers warning against raising taxes, suggesting that it would lead to the loss of constituencies in the North.
Self-catering holidays in the UK will be allowed from April 12, but what about foreign travel? Cordelia Aspinall answers everything you need to know about holidays after lockdown
Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond is set to elaborate today on claims that his successor Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament. Mr Salmond will give evidence to Holyrood's harassment committee following his written submission which levelled accusations against Ms Sturgeon as well as senior figures in her government and party. Mr Salmond also claims that she breached the code on a number of other occasions, notably by failing to act on legal advice in a court action that cost the taxpayer more than £600,000.
The Guardian view on the SNP feud: the personal is political. The battle between Alex Salmond’s zeal and Nicola Sturgeon’s caution risks pushing the women at the centre of the saga to the margins
Boris Johnson says he entered politics due to the "beginnings of a midlife crisis" in his mid-thirties. The prime minister, 56, said he chose to be an MP because he wanted to "contribute more". Mr Johnson was elected MP for Henley in 2001 while he was still editor of The Spectator, which he wrote for until 2008 - the year he became London mayor and left the House of Commons.
If different people were running the UK, Brexit could be sold as a fair warning to Scottish ‘yes’ voters. But Johnson and Gove have been deprived of their most potent argument
Brakes slammed on negotiations to reassess ‘developments’ and confront ‘pandemic reality’
Nicola Sturgeon challenged over alleged naming of Salmond complainer. First minister pressed on what action she took over claims woman’s identity was revealed to former Salmond aide
I fear for our party’s future if we help stop a meagre corporation tax rise that would only affect the rich, writes Labour MP Ian Lavery.
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of damaging Scotland's institution to "save her own skin". In fierce exchanges during First Minister's Questions, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, said the Scottish government was tainted, the standing of parliament diminished, and that a culture of secrets and cover-ups had grown on Ms Sturgeon's watch. Ms Sturgeon called that a dangerous and deluded conspiracy.