Westminster and Holyrood have been at loggerheads over various aspects of the referendum on Scottish independence. The things they disagree on are:
Now it seems as if the prime minister is preparing for defeat on the first of those points. Speaking at a reception at the Scotland Office, Cameron reportedly said he was “not fussed” over the timing but wanted a “simple, fair, decisive and legal question”. Read more
It was a curiously flat PMQs today, partially because we have heard the stock questions and answers from both party leaders on each of the issues that was raised.
Ed Miliband brought up growth, David Cameron countered with low interest rates. Miliband asked about police cuts, Cameron responded with figures about the proportion of back office staff to frontline officers. Miliband asked about nursing cuts, Cameron mentioned Labour’s refusal to guarantee real-terms rises in health spending at the last election.
But two issues caught the eye: the first is the battle over Francois Hollande. The socialist French prime minister’s election poses a risk for both leaders. Hollande’s rhetoric about growth versus austerity has echoed much of what Ed Balls has been saying in this country.
Therefore if the French economy begins to recover, it gives Cameron the headache of having an apparently viable alternative economic model thriving just across the Channel. If however it fails, with growth stagnating and the bond markets starting to punish France, it will give the prime minister the perfect ammunition with which to attack the Balls plan. Read more
With Kent county council pulling out £3m from Santander UK, questions are now being asked about whether others should worry about the Spanish-owned bank. We report this morning that Havering council has also removed Santander from its approved list – while Westminster city council took £10m out of the bank 18 months ago.
The concerns revolve around the parent company, Santander, amid nervousness about the vulnerability of the Spanish economy. One senior MP told us yesterday that the news reminded him somewhat of the early days of Northern Rock, even though the two situations are very different. Read more