Welcome to "spring", and if you weren't aware that "spring" in Scotland is supposed to resemble a routine day in central Antarctica, you obviously haven't been paying enough attention. (My own personal theory is that our notion of when seasons start and end is about ten days out of sync with reality - ie. winter really finishes on around March 10th, summer really finishes on around September 10th, and so on. I have a feeling average temperatures would lend some credence to that idea.) Anyway, regardless of whether this is "spring" or not, it's most certainly the first day of the month, which means it must be iScot day. My column this month explains my view that, if the SNP depute leadership contest is to be a proxy vote on the timing of the next independence referendum, it's vitally important that the winner is someone who believes that the current mandate to hold an indyref before 2021 should be honoured. That might mean James Dornan, or it might mean someone who has yet to throw their hat into the ring. As you'll probably gather, though, the article was written before Pete Wishart announced that he wouldn't be putting himself forward after all, a development which may mean that any proxy vote won't be quite as clear-cut as we were expecting at one point. It remains to be seen whether any candidate will explicitly put forward the "let the mandate expire" view.
If you're not a subscriber to the print edition of iScot, you can see a Twitter preview of the first part of the article HERE, and a digital copy of the whole magazine can be inexpensively purchased HERE.
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Although there was immense satisfaction to be drawn from watching Adam "IT'S THE LAW!!!!" Tomkins fail to land any punches on a legal expert of 'even' greater eminence than himself, it remains the case that only the UK Supreme Court can decide whether Tomkins or the Lord Advocate is correct about the legality of the Scottish Government's Continuity Bill. That'll only happen, of course, if the UK government's law officers are reckless enough to escalate this constitutional crisis into a full-scale Bush v Gore-style showdown by referring the Bill to the courts in the first place.
The more definitive part of the Lord Advocate's remarks yesterday came in response to Neil Findlay. Labour have been trying to have their cake and eat it by posing as defenders of the devolution settlement, while arguing that the Scottish Government are blameworthy for not ensuring that the Continuity Bill is "compliant" in the same way that the Welsh Government have done. The Lord Advocate pointed out that, although there are differences between the devolution settlements in Scotland and Wales, and although there are a few differences between the Continuity Bills put forward in the two countries, none of those differences are actually relevant to the reasons for the Welsh and Scottish Presiding Officers reaching different conclusions about "compliance". What we were witnessing was simply different individuals coming up with different interpretations of the legal position. That seems to me to be an unanswerable point. It's hard to see how Labour can now oppose the Scottish Continuity Bill given that the Welsh equivalent, put forward by a Labour administration in Cardiff, is no more or less "compliant".
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I'm sure at least a few people reading this blogpost are residents of the Clackmannanshire North ward. If you're one of them, please try to brave the weather to cast a vote in the by-election today (within reason, obviously). The SNP won the popular vote in the ward last May, but there's a strong enough Labour vote for today's contest to go either way, with the Tories also potentially in the running if there's a low turnout (which, given the circumstances, there almost certainly will be).