FMQs LIVE: ‘Playing into Putin’s hands!’ Sturgeon issued grim warning about indyref2 plot

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been warned she risks “playing into Putin’s hands” with her ambition to hold a second Scottish independence referendum in October 2023. Despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine initially uniting Western countries in opposition, the unity of purpose appears to be wearing thin as the SNP marches ahead with dividing the union. Writing in the Scotsman, Professor Azeem Ibrahim said: “[Russia] wishes to derail and derange the discourse in Europe. It has historically supported secessionist movements from California to Croatia, with Scottish independence a clear and longstanding entry on the Russian list. One of its most visible state-funded English-language propaganda networks, Sputnik, is based in Edinburgh.

“Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said publicly this year that Russia is notably interested in influencing the tenor of Scottish politics, and the shape of its debate on secession.

“Division weakens the Western alliance, and secession affords new friends in Europe for Russia to influence.”

The subject is likely to be broached by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross in today’s session of First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) which begins in Holyrood at 12pm.

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Robert Peston warns Liz Truss ‘toughing it out’ in ‘risky’ move after crunch finance talks
Liz Truss is “toughing out” the storm as she insists an official economic forecast publication not be brought forward in…
Truss urged to ‘get back on side of homeowners’ to wipe out Labour Party’s 33-point lead
Political commentator Tim Montgomerie has urged the Tory Government to “get back on the side of homeowners” as mortgage payments…
  • 6 минут назад 30.09.2022Politics
    Robert Peston warns Liz Truss ‘toughing it out’ in ‘risky’ move after crunch finance talks

    Liz Truss is “toughing out” the storm as she insists an official economic forecast publication not be brought forward in the hope her economic gamble will be proved right, according to a political commentator. The outcry from financial markets following last week’s mini-budget has seen a dramatic fall and small recovery in the pound, and Labour gaining a massive polling lead not seen since Sir Tony Blair was first elected.

    ITV’s Robert Peston declared Ms Truss on the verge of “political disaster” as the economic crisis threatens to savage housing prices and undermines cost of living support. After an unprecedented emergency meeting with Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) chiefs, Ms Truss has insisted that their economic forecast be published, as normal, on November 23 – despite widespread calls for the forecast to be brought forward to calm panicking markets.

    Pointing out the small recovery seen in the pound today, Mr Peston said of the refusal to bring forward publication of the crucial forecast: “They are toughing it out, hoping they’ll be proved right. Risky.”

    The Treasury had previously claimed that last week’s mini-budget would not be accompanied by an economic forecast by the OBR, due to the regulatory body lacking enough time to put together an effective prediction. However, this was later contradicted by a statement from the OBR themselves, who in a letter to the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford and the party’s shadow chancellor Alison Thewliss, confirmed that the body sent “a draft economic and fiscal forecast to the new chancellor on 6 September, his first day in office”.

    OBR chair Richard Hughes wrote: “We offered, at the time, to update that forecast to take account of subsequent data and to reflect the economic and fiscal impact of any policies the government announced in time for it to be published alongside the ‘fiscal event’.”

    “In the event, we were not commissioned to produce an updated forecast alongside the Chancellor’s Growth Plan on September 23, although we would have been in a position to do so to a standard that satisfied the legal requirements of the Charter for Budget Responsibility.”

    The lack of an economic forecast to accompany the budget has been widely touted as something that contributed to the panicking financial markets, whose reaction to last week’s announcement is what caused the pound to plummet in value. As they emerged from the meeting, the Treasury reaffirmed that it “values” the “scrutiny” offered by the OBR, and aims to “work closely” with it.

    This may also have a knock-on effect on housing prices – which Mr Peston highlighted could land Ms Truss in “political disaster”, due to much of Britain’s wealth being tied up in housing.

    He said: “If the YouGov prediction of a Labour majority of close to 350 is anywhere near true, one explanation is that voters are incandescent about how the mini budget led to soaring market interest rates, soaring mortgage rates and a potential house price slump. Truss and Philp can say ‘not us guv’ all they like, but the Bank of England begs to differ.

    “Anything that threatens a dramatic drop in the value of those homes is both a big economic problem and a political disaster for any government that can be accused of causing it. And there is the associated squeeze on disposable income, on living standards, from the big increase in mortgage interest payments that is on its way.”

    Building society Nationwide earlier today reported that housing prices flatlined in September due to rising inflation and mortgage rates. More than 40 percent of mortgages were withdrawn from the market in the past week, according to Moneyfacts.

    This is due to an expectation of higher interest rates to be brought in response to the sweeping tax cuts of last week’s announcement. A typical UK home cost £272,259 in September, a zero increase on the previous month and the first time house prices did not grow month on month since July last year, according to Nationwide.

    Overall, 10 of the UK’s 13 regions recorded slower annual price growth in the third quarter of the year as the housing market cooled.

    The only regions to show an increase in annual house prices in September were the east Midlands, West Midlands and London. Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner warned: “Housing affordability is becoming more stretched”.

    He said a 10 percent deposit on a typical first-time buyer property was now equivalent to almost 60 percent of annual gross earnings – an all-time high. Mr Peston also highlighted the difficulty approaching Ms Truss as she prepares to take the stage at the approaching Conservative party conference.

    He said of the conference: “ she surely can’t stick with her line that this is an issue for the Bank of England and not for her – because voters seem unpersuaded and hundreds of her MPs will tonight be concerned that they may be looking for new employment much sooner than they would like.”

    Multiple significant Tory MPs will not be attending the conference in what appears to be a boycott. Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, David Davis – the former Brexit secretary – and Mel Stride – chairman of the Treasury committee – have all said they will not be attending the annual conference, which is due to start this weekend in Birmingham.

    Mr Sunak’s spokesperson said he would not be attending in order to give Ms Truss space to “own the moment”.

  • 6 минут назад 30.09.2022Politics
    Truss urged to ‘get back on side of homeowners’ to wipe out Labour Party’s 33-point lead

    Political commentator Tim Montgomerie has urged the Tory Government to “get back on the side of homeowners” as mortgage payments are set to soar. Speaking to GB News, Mr Montgomerie, commenting on the seismic lead the Labour Party currently hold in the polls over the incumbent Tories, said the new Prime Minister must calm people’s fears over the loss of their homes to “unwind” that deficit. As the number of home-buyer mortgages soar, the figures suggest Britons are scrambling to lock in mortgage deals ahead of the expected interest rate hikes.

    Asked where he thought it all went wrong for Ms Truss, Mr Montgomerie said: “How long have we got? Look, the one thing I will say is the Englishman’s home is his castle.

    “The British voters’ attachment to their idea of property and their home is an incredibly big one. And in the last week, we can analyse how it has happened and why it has happened, but in the last week people have been very frightened about their ability either to buy a home or continue to afford their mortgage, or for their own children to get onto the housing ladder.

    “The Conservative Party, through its actions, rightly or wrongly, we can blame the markets if we want to, has got to a place where the Englishman’s home, their castle, is under threat.

    “And if the Conservatives are going to have any chance of unwinding this massive 33-point lead for Labour, somehow it has to get back on the side of homeowners.

    “I do not know whether or not they can do that, but that in essence is why as a Party we have gone through something so seismic by threatening something so core to the identity of the British person and, particularly, the type of person that votes Conservative.”

    The number of home-buyer mortgage approvals increased sharply in August, to the highest level since January, according to the Bank of England.

    But experts said the jump in loan approvals is likely to reflect people trying to lock into mortgage deals amid expectations of rising interest rates, rather than being evidence of a strengthening in demand.

    Some 74,300 approvals were recorded in August, marking an increase from 63,700 in July.

    This is the highest level since 74,500 approvals were recorded in January, and a notable rise following a downward trend over the previous several months, the Bank’s Money and Credit report said.

    The “effective” interest rate – the actual interest rate paid – on newly drawn mortgages increased to 2.55 percent in August and it is expected to rise again.

    This week, many mortgage products have been withdrawn from the market as the economic fallout from last week’s mini-budget has continued.

    Lenders have been increasing their rates, following a rise in swap rates, which are used to price mortgages.

    Founding director of Revolution Brokers, Almas Uddin, said: “Mortgage approvals have continued to climb skyward in recent months, despite mortgage rates increasing in line with numerous base rate hikes by the Bank of England.

    “This has been spurred by a sense of urgency from the nation’s home-buyers, who are keen to secure what remain fairly reasonable rates in anticipation of further increases to come this year.”

    Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey warned on Friday of “mortgage misery” and urged Liz Truss to recall parliament to prevent people from “losing their homes or closing their businesses”.

    He said: “Delaying this forecast means shutting the door long after the horse has bolted. Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng are allowing the economy to fly blind for two months while their reckless plans cause pension and mortgage misery for millions of British people.”

    He added: “Families and businesses can’t afford to wait any longer for this Government to fix their botched, unfair budget. Truss and Kwarteng must cancel the Conservative conference, recall Parliament and propose a new budget now before any more people lose their homes or close their business.”

  • 6 минут назад 30.09.2022Politics
    Truss warned she could be ‘out by Christmas’ as voters turn against tax cuts in new poll

    Liz Truss has been warned that she could be “gone by Christmas” unless she can turn around the financial crisis caused by last week’s so-called “mini Budget.” A leading Tory donor, who until recently was backing Tory MPs in marginal seats as new exclusive polling for Express.co.uk reveals that the public has turned against Ms Truss’ tax-cutting policy.

    According to the findings from Techne UK, 50 percent think the government cut taxes too much while just eight percent thought it was too little and 16 percent thought the mini Budget got the balance right.

    In another damning finding, 55 percent thought Ms Truss was not on the side of working people despite reversing the National Insurance rise on their pay and lowering the basic rate to 19p.

    It comes after a week where she and her ministers were accused of producing a budget for the rich removing the top rate of 45p for those earning £150,000 or more and ending the cap on bankers’ bonuses.

    The poll of 1,629 voters on 28 and 29 September also revealed that Labour now has a poll lead of 20 points in a week where the pond crashed.

    In a mini Budget made to get the benefits of Brexit even 51 percent of Leave voters and 30 percent of Tory supporters thought it had cut taxes too much.

    Speaking to Express.co.uk the donor said: “This may be the shortest termed Premiership in history unless Liz Truss can turn it around.”

    The party donor was clear that he believed Ms Truss and her Chancellor had “done the right thing” in slashing taxes.

    “Something new needed to be attempted, we could not keep going on as before.

    “There were only three basic options – cut taxes, raise taxes or stay the same. They were right to cut taxes but did it in a bad way.”

    The donor added: “It’s basic management to not spook the markets, a child could have told them that.

    “It would have been much better to have made the changes slowly or trailed them properly before.”

    The intervention adds to the Prime Minister’s woes amid reports that she and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng are to hold an almost unprecedented emergency meeting with the independent Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR).

    It is a sign that the Conservatives could be losing financial backing even from those who were pushing for tax cuts.

    Ms Truss has come under pressure from her US allies with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo publicly attacking her policy.

    But a much bigger problem appears to be a collapse in public confidence with a Techne UK tracker poll for Express.co.uk giving Labour an enormous 20 point lead over the Tories.

    The picture is even worse in the Yougov poll which gives Labour a 33 point lead which if replicated in a general election would leave the Conservatives with just three seats.

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    Tory MPs who supported Ms Truss’ rival Rishi Sunak are already circling her and criticising the growth strategy mini Budget which saw £105 billion worth of tax cuts combined with a £155 billion energy bill rescue package largely funded by borrowing.

    But Ms Truss and her Chancellor have refused to back down on their economic strategy which is aimed at producing at least 2.5 percent of annual growth and avoiding a recession.

    She said: “”I understand that families are struggling with their fuel bills, and we had to take urgent action to get our economy growing, get Britain moving, and also deal with inflation.

    “And of course, that means taking controversial and difficult decisions. But I’m prepared to do that as prime minister, because what’s important to me is that we get our economy moving.”

  • 2 часа, 7 минут назад 30.09.2022Politics
    ‘Makes Starmer look charismatic!’ GB News panellists clash over Liz Truss staying in power

    Mark Dolan’s GB News show on Thursday saw a number of panellists debate over whether Liz Truss can ride out the current political and economic storm. The new PM and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng have come under fire for an economic policy that would cut taxes and stamp duty.

    Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror Kevin Maguire slammed the new PM’s chances of holding out in Downing Street.

    He said: “I used to think she’d be out of her depth in a puddle, now I realise it’s a damp pavement.

    “She’s in absolutely serious political trouble.

    “[Some Tories] are openly speculating that she could be dumped and replaced by Rishi Sunak.

    “You’ve mentioned that 33 percent poll lead, you’re not going to reverse that.

    “I think the mood has changed, people feel it is unfair”

    Journalist and broadcaster Angela Epstein, however, leapt to the defence of Ms Truss.

    She told the panel: “I think what we’ve heard is hysteria.

    “A lot of noise, a lot of catastrophising, and a lot of panic.

    “We need a steadying hand, if Labour are doing well in the polls I think it’s very much a knee jerk reaction.

    “At the moment Labour are doing well because there’s panic about the Conservatives, not because Labour are a better option.”

    Former Tory MP and criminal barrister Jerry Hayes expressed his anger at the party for their economic policy.

    He said: “The real person in difficulty is Kwasi Kwarteng.

    “For a party who actually is the party of the free market why don’t they understand the free market?

    “The hysteria’s coming from the markets, because the one thing that Liz Truss and the Chancellor haven’t shown us is how is this money going to be paid for?

    “She has no personality, she is the person who makes Starmer charismatic!”

  • 2 часа, 7 минут назад 30.09.2022Politics
    ‘Look at Germany!’ Treasury minister dismantles criticism as he points to Berlin inflation

    The Treasury minister defended Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng after a bruising week for the new Government. Speaking to Sky News, Andrew Griffith insisted it is a “difficult time for all developed economies” and that the UK was not alone in dealing with a financial crisis. He pointed to inflation figures released yesterday in Germany that showed unprecedented levels in the country.

    Sky News anchor Anna Jones said: “We have had chaos on the markets, we have seen the pound slump.

    “Chaos in the bond market as well, which has seen an unprecedented move by the Bank of England to intervene

    “What did spook the markets, what’s the reason?”

    Mr Griffith responded: “We have seen difficulties in lots of international markets.

    “This week the UK has been quite challenging but the German inflation figures that came out yesterday were an unprecedented level of inflation at 11 percent.”

    He continued: “That s the highest since the single currency came into being and I suspect one of the highest in German history.”

    Ms Jones questioned whether the City minister “accepted that last week’s statement caused the crash”.

    Former chief whip Julian Smith argued that “the Government must scrap the 45p, and take responsibility for the link between last Friday and the impact on people’s mortgages”.

    Mr Griffith hit back, adding that the government has taken “decisive steps” to deal with the energy crisis.

    He also hit out at Labour, claiming that they “committed themselves to increasing the energy insecurity of this country” during their conference in Liverpool.

    Mr Griffith later told the BBC that Germany’s inflation was “higher than in the UK”.

    German inflation soared to double-digit levels for the first time in more than 70 years, sparking concern and panic among analysts.

    Leading economists told the Finacial Times that Europe’s biggest economy could shrink by up to 7.9 percent next year in a worst-case scenario.

    Thursday’s inflation figures of 10.9 percent is the first time German inflation has reached double-digit levels since 1951.

    The increase is expected to lift overall eurozone inflation to a new record of 9.7 percent.

    Despite the crisis, the German finance minister took the time to mock the UK’s own financial turmoil.

    Christian Lindner vowed on Thursday that he will not follow the UK “down the path of an expansionary fiscal policy”.

    The Berlin government announced a €200bn (£177bn) fund designed to protect consumers and businesses from rising gas prices driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

  • 3 часа, 18 минут назад 30.09.2022Politics
    Georgia and Nevada on their minds: Senate watchers sweat two swing states

    The Democratic and Republican campaign chiefs agree on one thing about the battle for the Senate majority: Nevada and Georgia are at the center.

    “If you look at the polls, Nevada and Georgia are the two logical ones” Republicans can pick up, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the GOP’s campaign chair, said in an interview. Sen. Gary Peters, the Democratic campaign honcho, sees things similarly.

    “I’ve been saying that Georgia, Nevada are gonna be real close races,” the Michigan Democrat said.

    Of course, Democrats would love to pick up Senate seats in places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman has led every recent public poll. And Republicans dream of wins in Colorado and Washington.

    Yet Democrats’ most straightforward path to keeping the majority still means bringing back their so-called Core Four battleground senators: Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. And while Hassan and Kelly are breathing a bit easier these days, Cortez Masto and Warnock are sweating it out in extremely tight races. As Peters put it, “I feel more comfortable about — or I feel good about — the trajectory that we’re seeing in Arizona and New Hampshire.”

    There’s time for the political tide to shift before November, but the reality is that both parties have modest dreams at the moment. And Democrats have reason to worry if they can’t hold onto a majority of their four vulnerable incumbents.

    Currently a good Republican night would involve holding Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, while snagging Nevada and Georgia — a net shift of two seats. A good Democratic night would mean no lost incumbents, plus pick-ups in Pennsylvania and perhaps one other state, giving the party enough votes to comfortably confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees.

    Hassan and Kelly aren’t out of the woods yet, but both exploited messy GOP primaries to take steady leads in the polls and benefited from Govs. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) and Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.) passing on Senate runs.

    Republicans nominated former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia, a state where partisan polarization and his athletic fame are keeping him afloat despite his flaws. And Nevada is returning to its swing-state status as it recovers from the pandemic’s chilling economic effect.

    That makes Cortez Masto and Warnock the two incumbents whose campaigns keep Democrats up at night.

    “You’re climbing a hill if you’re a Democrat running in Georgia,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who expressed confidence in both Cortez Masto and Warnock.

    The GOP nominee in Nevada, former state attorney general Adam Laxalt, lost a gubernatorial race in 2018 but counts a powerful political legacy from his grandfather, the late Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.). Kaine observed that the name “Laxalt in Nevada is like a Sununu in New Hampshire. Nevada is the one place where [Republicans] got the candidate they wanted.”

    Though Democrats significantly outraised their foes in every Senate battleground, Laxalt and Walker are holding their own. Recent polling shows both Republicans locked in tight races and even occasionally leading, whereas Hassan and Kelly have led all public polls in their states since the GOP nominated Don Bolduc and Blake Masters, respectively.

    “Georgia is the most competitive battleground state in the country,” explained Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.). Warnock hit 50 percent in some recent public polls, but if neither candidate reaches a majority threshold on November’s ballot — as was the case in the state’s regular and special 2020 Senate elections — the race will go to a December runoff.

    In Georgia, both Walker and Warnock’s campaigns concede there are few swing voters to win over. The Peach State’s winning strategy is all about turnout, then, while Nevada has more independents to compete for. Nevada ballots even have a “none of these candidates” option that can affect the outcome of a close Senate race.

    Cortez Masto contended the state is not as blue as its reputation, even though Democrats won the state’s last two Senate races and carried it during the last four presidential elections.

    “Nevada is always competitive,” she said. “It’s a swing state.”

    In conversations with more than a dozen strategists and senators, members of both parties said Nevada and Georgia represent Republicans’ strongest opportunities to flip seats, while Pennsylvania is Democrats’ best bet for a pickup. New Hampshire will now be a tall order for the GOP, the consensus goes, and top Republicans also see flipping Arizona as a pipe dream.

    The New Hampshire GOP nominated Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, despite Republican challengers spending millions of dollars to stop him. Fergus Cullen, the former New Hampshire Republican Party chair who supported state Senate President Chuck Morse in the primary, said Bolduc lacks the skills or field operation to run a competitive general election campaign.

    As of the end of August, Bolduc had less than $84,000 in cash on hand, compared with Hassan’s $7.3 million.

    “Nothing has changed to suggest that the pre-primary concerns were not valid,” Cullen said of handwringing over Bolduc’s history of gaffes and controversial positions. “Democrats can’t put this one in the bag yet, but they have to be breathing a huge sigh of relief.”

    Bolduc spokesperson Kate Constantini said he has been “underestimated by the pundits and critics, and yet he won his primary without spending a dime on television advertising.”

    The top Senate Republican super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, has kept its committed $23 million in the state. Yet Hassan holds a significant early lead in the first public general election polling, and Bolduc quickly recanted his past endorsement of false voter fraud claims about the 2020 election and support for the privatization of Medicare and Social Security. Nonetheless, Republicans say they are staying in.

    “We see a path to victory, but don’t take our word for it: National Democrats are pouring millions into New Hampshire over the month of October,” said Jack Pandol, a spokesperson for SLF.

    Hassan and her allies, notably, still insist that the race isn’t over.

    In Arizona, Republican Blake Masters is polling behind Kari Lake, the state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, who has spent less on her campaign than he has. Members of both parties say Masters is wounded by waffling on the state’s abortion ban.

    On Thursday, Kelly launched a new ad about Masters’ support for abortion restrictions, one of several Democratic spots about his stance on the issue. In an interview, Kelly said voters “realize that this is what my opponent wants: an abortion ban with no exceptions.”

    A Masters spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Before winning the primary, he advocated a federal anti-abortion “personhood law,” but has since sought to soften his stance while still embracing a proposed national 15-week ban.

    The Senate GOP’s main super PAC has since withdrawn all of its scheduled Arizona ads. Other outside GOP spending groups cobbled together money to keep him on the air in recent weeks, but he will likely need a substantial funding source for October to have a shot at remaining competitive, according to a Republican with knowledge of the race.

    Another person with knowledge of a recent Arizona Republican internal poll found Masters’ favorability rating to be lower than Roy Moore’s in 2017 as the Alabama Senate nominee imploded amid reports of past sexual misconduct, including romantic pursuit of minors.

    Three Republicans involved in national races said the party’s chances of unseating Kelly are comparable to those of GOP victories in blue Colorado or Washington. The party’s candidates in those states raised significant money in an effort to unseat Democratic incumbents with tepid approval ratings — and they’re still underdogs.

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Politics FMQs LIVE: 'Playing into Putin's hands!' Sturgeon issued grim warning about indyref2 plot