Scotland

Sunak won’t be much help to the Scottish Tories

The first few days of this general election campaign have been characterised by Rishi Sunak’s dismal campaign management. From wet suits and sinking ships, his whistlestop tour of the four nations seemed more like a box-ticking exercise than anything else. The key to any Tory success is to augment the notion that independence is still a threat A prime minister from the Conservative and Unionist party must find some way to appeal to Northern Ireland and Scotland, the two parts of that union which in the longer term still represent a realistic flight risk. It was, however, hard not to reflect on Sunak’s irrelevance in these parts of the UK. Irrelevant

Why are Scottish nationalists so thin-skinned?

Scottish nationalists are not happy. What’s new, I hear you ask. Did they lose another leader? Has Sainsbury’s been selling Somerset strawberries in Stornoway supermarkets? Nothing quite so grave, but they are displeased nonetheless. The cause is Rishi Sunak, who has offended them with his Big Serious Speech at Policy Exchange on Monday. It was just a single reference, but that is the most Sunak has done to confront the SNP since he entered No. 10. In a speech that spoke about rogue states like China and Iran and other ‘extremists’ who are ‘exploiting these global conflicts to divide us’, Sunak said:  From gender activists hijacking children’s sex education to cancel culture, vocal

Can John Swinney turn it around for the SNP?

John Swinney, newly inaugurated First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the SNP, has been in the job for a week. What have we learnt since he took up the job, and can he turn things around for the party in time for a general election?  James Heale speaks to Lucy Dunn and Fergus Mutch, former SNP adviser. Produced by Megan McElroy.

The Lisa Cameron Edition

32 min listen

Dr Lisa Cameron was born in Glasgow and grew up in East Kilbride, the constituency she now represents. After three elections under the SNP, she memorably defected to the Scottish Conservatives in 2023. At the time, Humza Yousaf described it as the least surprising news he’d had since becoming first minister.  On the podcast, Lisa tells Katy about the need for increased investment into mental health provision, her defection from the SNP to the Tories and why Scottish independence is a failed experiment.

Europe has no answer to its immigration problem

Pulling off the rhetorical trick that Brexit would undermine the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement, Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, said in 2018 that the agreement meant removing borders not only from maps, ‘but also in minds’. Even a single CCTV camera on the North-South roads was considered a threat to the peace process. Now it turns out, which is grimly amusing, that the Irish government has not banished the border from its mind. The Republic is upset that asylum seekers are crossing the border that it does not believe in, fleeing the threat of deportation to Rwanda from the United Kingdom. It talks of sending them back, ignoring a

Humza Yousaf quits – what next?

14 min listen

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has just announced his intention to resign. Lucy Dunn speaks to Katy Balls and Spectator contributor Iain Macwhirter about how the past few weeks have led to this point and what to expect from an SNP leadership contest.

Katy Balls

Humza Yousaf quits – sparking SNP leadership contest

Humza Yousaf is stepping down as first minister of Scotland. After feverish speculation over the weekend, Yousaf has announced this lunchtime in a press conference at Bute House that he intends to stand down from the role once an SNP leadership contest has taken place to find his successor. Acknowledging the events that had led up to this moment, Yousaf said he had ‘clearly underestimated the level of hurt’ that ending his party’s power-sharing agreement with the Greens caused the SNP’s minority partner. He said trust was ‘fundamental’. Yousaf went on to say that from his discussions over the weekend with figures in the Scottish Greens and Alba, he had

Can Humza Yousaf hang on?

11 min listen

Humza Yousaf faces the biggest crisis of his leadership to date – with his fate in the hands of former SNP leadership rival Ash Regan. Will Humza step down before he is pushed? Or is there a narrow gap through which the First Minister can fight on? Lucy Dunn speaks to Fraser Nelson and Katy Balls. 

Can things get worse for the SNP?

16 min listen

It’s been quite the week for the SNP. Questions remain over the future of the Sandyford gender clinic, ‘the tartan Tavistock’; the Scottish government ditched its flagship climate change target; and former party chief executive, and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell was rearrested on embezzlement charges.  What does this all mean for the SNP? Lucy Dunn speaks to Iain Macwhirter, columnist at The Times, and Shona Craven, columnist at The National. Produced by Natasha Feroze and Patrick Gibbons

We must never lose the treasured Orkneys

When, last summer, a group of Orcadians declared they’d like to leave the UK and join Norway, it became clear just how little most of us in the south understand Orkney. Friends who know I go there often ask me where it is (somewhere near the Hebrides?), how many Orkney islands there are, and whether they are mountainous or flat. As Peter Marshall explains at the start of this astonishing tour de force, the 70-odd Orkney islands lie just 25 miles north of Scotland, separated from the mainland by the Pentland Firth – the point, he says, at which ‘the North Sea meets the Atlantic, a place of hidden, treacherous

Who uses Grindr? 

Meet market Who uses the gay dating app Grindr?  – The site claims 27m users worldwide, 80.5% of whom identify as gay. – 13m users are active on a monthly basis. Some 923,000 are paid users. – 80% are younger than 35. – 39% are single. – 48% are in the US. – The average user is on the site for 60 minutes per day. – The ‘explore’ feature – which allows users to see who on the app lives in a particular town or city – is accessed more in London than any other city in the world. – Grindr accounts for 3% of global use of dating apps.

Scotland’s Hate Crime Act may have done us all a favour

Scotland’s Hate Crime Act (HCA) has, by common agreement, been an unmitigated disaster. Less than a week old, there are already calls for it to be repealed – like the equally misconceived but more awfully named Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. The police are now clearly hesitant of arresting anyone for hate crime The police have been swamped with thousands of complaints, many vexatious, all of which they are pledged to investigate. JK Rowling has blown the doors off with her ‘arrest me’ tweets, but the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, attracted more hate crime complaints in the first two days than she did. SNP Ministers like Siobhan Brown have been ridiculed for misrepresenting their own

Portrait of the Week: hate crimes, surprise knighthoods and flaming rickshaws

Home The Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into effect in Scotland, making it a crime to communicate or behave in a manner ‘that a reasonable person would consider to be threatening or abusive’, with the intention of stirring up hatred based on age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex. The Scottish government offered online training to 500 Police Scotland ‘Hate Crime Champions’. The author J.K. Rowling named ten people who call themselves women that she called men. Police Scotland said complaints had been received about her, but that but no action would be taken. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said: ‘We should not be criminalising

Charles Moore

The London Library should leave us in peace

Reading only slightly between the lines of US foreign policy on Israel/Gaza, I detect that its most urgent aim is to get rid of Benjamin Netanyahu. The same goes for the Foreign Office and Lord Cameron. The shocking killing of the World Central Kitchen workers is being pressed into the service of this cause by London and Washington. Obviously there are lots of reasons – corruption accusations, alleged divisiveness, Anno Domini – why it might soon be time for the Israeli Prime Minister to depart, but why is that a decision for Israel’s western allies? Don’t we normally allow fellow democracies to make up their own minds who leads them,

War on words: is Scotland ready for its new hate crime law?

51 min listen

On the podcast: Scotland’s new hate crime law; the man who could be France’s next PM; and why do directors meddle with Shakespeare?  First up: Scotland is smothering free speech. Scotland is getting a new, modern blasphemy code in the form of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which takes effect from 1 April. The offence of ‘stirring up racial hatred’ will be extended to disability, religion, sexual orientation, age, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics. The new law gives few assurances for protecting freedom of speech writes Lucy Hunter Blackburn, former senior Scottish civil servant. Lucy joins the podcast, alongside Baroness Claire Fox, unaffiliated peer and

An unenviable mission: Clear, by Carys Davies, reviewed

Carys Davies grew up in Newport, south Wales but her novels have been set in 19th- century Pennsylvania (West, 2018), contemporary Ooty in India (The Mission House, 2020) and now a small island off the north coast of Scotland in 1843. Her short stories have been set variously in the Australian outback and Siberia. She has said that when creating a fictional world, ‘I seem to require a certain kind of distance from my own life’. On an island ‘between Shetland and Norway’, a man called Ivar lives in isolation, talking only to Pegi the horse, whom he calls ‘old cabbage and a silly, odd-looking person’. One day he finds

The memory and legacy of Alistair Darling

14 min listen

Former chancellor Alistair Darling passed away this week, aged 70. To discuss his career, life and legacy, Katy Balls speaks to Fraser Nelson and Catherine MacLeod, former political editor of the Herald, and later a special adviser to Darling.

Portrait of the week: Starmer’s stall, high treason and the horrors of Hamas

Home At the Labour party conference, cheerful in the hall but overshadowed by the war in Israel, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said that in government he would build 1.5 million homes and a host of ‘Labour new towns’. He wanted to spend £1.1 billion a year on higher overtime payments within NHS England to reduce waiting lists. A protestor poured glitter over him. Angela Rayner, the deputy leader, and Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, also said Labour would ‘rebuild Britain’. ‘Rachel Reeves is a serious economist,’ said Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England. Labour took Rutherglen and Hamilton West in a by-election that the Scottish

If Chris Packham is anti it, it’s probably a good idea

If the broadcaster and eco-warrior Chris Packham describes something as ‘an act of war against life on Earth’, sensible people might suspect that it’s probably, on balance, a good thing. Such is the case with the Rosebank field – the UK’s largest remaining undeveloped reserve of oil and gas, in deep waters west of Shetland, which was green-lighted by the government last week. Leading this £3 billion project will be the Norwegian energy giant Equinor. Rosebank’s 69,000 barrels of oil per day will be shipped to Norway or elsewhere to be refined and sold into world markets. But its 44 million cubic feet of gas per day will be piped

The splendour of Edinburgh’s new Scottish galleries 

For nearly 50 years, the Scottish collection at Edinburgh’s National Galleries has been housed in a gloomy subterranean space beneath the main gallery, rarely visited, never celebrated. If you didn’t know it was there, don’t be ashamed. Just 19 per cent of visitors ventured into the bowels to find the jumble of Scottish paintings, dimly lit and hanging on colour-sucking, mucky green walls above a depressing brown carpet. Of those who did get there, lots immediately turned and fled back upstairs to the luminous comforts of Titian, Velazquez and Rubens. Safe to say, the space was not exactly showcasing Scottish art; a puzzling strategy for the country’s flagship gallery. The