Today’s daily politics briefing
Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond believes there was a “conspiracy” to prevent his political comeback.
SNP MSP Alex Neil, an ally of Mr Salmond’s, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the former leader alleges Nicola Sturgeon was involved in the plot.
“Everyone involved” would have to resign if the allegation was proven, Mr Neil added.
Ms Sturgeon has insisted that political influence played no part in the decision to redact evidence submitted by Mr Salmond to an inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of harassment claims made against him.
On Wednesday, the Tory leader at Holyrood, Ruth Davidson, said the saga had brought Scottish democracy into disrepute.
Over in Westminster, Tory backbenchers in the ERG have called on the prime minister to ditch the Northern Ireland protocol, a move backed by the DUP.
Labour raises concerns about human rights abuses in Cambodia
Shadow international secretary Emily Thornberry has said the government is not doing enough to address human rights abuses in Cambodia.
In the Commons on Thursday, she asked her Conservative counterpart Liz Truss why she had not suspended Cambodia’s trade preferences as a result of the abuses.
The minister responded by saying she shared Ms Thornberry’s concerns and that the government had raised the issue with the Cambodian government.
Ms Thornberry then pointed out the government’s advice to UK businesses working in Cambodia. Published last week, it said ‘while political disputes could trigger protests, these will be broken up rapidly by the security forces’.
“That sounds to me like her department doesn’t care. How does (Ms Truss) think that it sounds in Cambodia?” she added.
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 10:40
ERG urges PM to scrap Northern Ireland protocol
The European Research Group (ERG) has demanded that the Northern Ireland protocol be scrapped, saying the UK government should act in the interests of Stormont.
The group of hardline Brexiteers has released a 38-page report on the issue.
Here are its conclusions:
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 10:19
Salmond believes ‘conspiracy’ tried to stop his political comeback
Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond believes there was a “conspiracy” to prevent his return to politics.
SNP MSP Alex Neil, an ally of Mr Salmond’s, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “everyone involved” would have to resign if the allegation was proven.
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 09:56
Education minister ‘trusts the judgement of teachers’ amid warnings of grade inflation
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said he “trusts the judgement of teachers”, despite concerns that a new government grading system could undermine school qualifications.
Later this morning, Mr Williamson is expected to tell the Commons that teachers will give their students grades in lieu of exams this summer.
Our policy correspondent Jon Stone has the details:
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 09:36
Labour promises to restore Britain’s high streets through ‘empty shops order’
Councils should have the power to repurpose empty shops in order to revive the country’s high streets, Labour will say on Thursday.
Ahead of her speech today, the shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said Labour wanted to “secure the future of the high street” and give communities a “proper stake” in their town centres.
She added that her party would address the “decade of decline in Britain’s high streets” caused by successive Tory governments.
The proposed “empty shops order” would allow councils to work with the owners of empty shops to bring them back into use.
However, if this approach was not successful, the council could secure management rights and proceed without the permission of the owner.
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 09:21
Shapps becomes first minister to have coronavirus vaccine
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has become the first member of cabinet to receive a coronavirus vaccine.
The 52-year-old MP was eligible for the jab because he was classed as clinically vulnerable, since he underwent cancer treatment in the 1990s.
The minister he was “so surprised” to get a call from his GP offering him the vaccine that he “called back and checked they got it right”.
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 08:58
It is not only the DUP that wants the Northern Ireland protocol to be ditched.
Tory backbenchers in the ERG are calling on Boris Johnson to abandon the current arrangements over the Irish Sea.
Adam Forrest has more on this as part of his daily politics round-up:
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 08:41
Government should be truthful with public about economy, says Hammond
Ministers must be truthful with the public about the state of the economy, the former chancellor Philip Hammond has warned.
Speaking ahead of next week’s Budget, Mr Hammond expressed his fear that the government would prioritise popularity over trying to balance spending and taxation.
He told the BBC that his concern was“that as a populist government, giving money away is always easier than collecting it in”.
Lord Hammond described Boris Johnson’s pledges before the pandemic as “very extravagant” and said not all of them “can now sensibly be delivered”.
The former minister said admitting this would be “a big challenge” for a government that is obsessed by its “short-term popularity”.
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 08:24
Sturgeon insists redaction of Salmond’s evidence is not political
Nicola Sturgeon has insisted it is “downright wrong” to blame political influence for the decision to censor evidence submitted by her predecessor Alex Salmond to a Holyrood inquiry.
As a result of the censorship, Mr Salmond refused to appear before the inquiry on Wednesday.
He alleges that a “malicious and concerted” attempt was made to bar him from political life through claims of sexual harrassment.
The inquiry by the Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harrassment Complaints started after it was found that allegations against Mr Salmond had been “tainted by apparent bias”.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has more details about the scandal convulsing Scottish politics:
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 08:08
Foster blasts EU officials as ‘tone deaf’
Arlene Foster has described EU officials as “tone deaf” following a meeting yesterday on the Northern Ireland protocol.
The country’s first minister said the discussions were “hugely disappointing”, adding that the bloc has “refused to recognise the problems or offer any sensible solutions” to post-Brexit trade disruption.
She also repeated her calls for Westminster “to act unilaterally” so that Northern Ireland does not remain “cut off” from the rest of the UK.
“The prime minister told the House of Commons that there would be unfettered trade within the United Kingdom, yet the Northern Ireland protocol has completely ruptured the flow of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland,” she said.
Rory Sullivan25 February 2021 07:56