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Feud at top of Scottish politics mars independence push – News 1130

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LONDON — Together, politicians Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon took the quest for Scottish independence from long shot to strong possibility.

But now Scotland’s former leader and his successor as first minister are locked in a feud that is tearing apart their Scottish National Party, even as its goal of an independent Scotland outside the United Kingdom is closer than ever.

The two former allies have traded accusations for months over who knew what and when about allegations against Salmond, who was tried and acquitted last year on sexual assault charges.

Salmond was scheduled to tell his version of the story Wednesday to a Scottish Parliament inquiry into how the Edinburgh-based government handled the allegations. He claims the sexual misconduct accusations in 2019 were part of a witch-hunt, and he won a civil lawsuit when Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that the way the Scottish government had handled the matter was unlawful.

But Salmond’s lawyers threatened Tuesday to cancel his inquiry appearance after his written witness statement was removed from the Scottish Parliament website. It was taken down after the national prosecutors’ office expressed concern about potential contempt of court, and later partially republished with some sections redacted.

Salmond accuses people within the Scottish National Party and the Scottish government of a “malicious and concerted effort” to sideline him politically. He has also accused Sturgeon of lying about when she learned of the sex assault allegations and of breaking the code of conduct for government ministers. If that was found to be true, she would have to resign.

Sturgeon, who is due to testify in the inquiry next week, accused her predecessor of making “wild claims” that there was a conspiracy against him.

“It is time for insinuation and assertion to be replaced with actual evidence,” she said. “There is no evidence, because there was no conspiracy.”

The case has exposed a bitter rift between two former allies who have dominated Scottish politics for a generation.

Salmond, who led the SNP for two decades and was Scotland’s first minister between 2007 and 2014, built the separatist party into a major political force and took the country to the brink of independence by holding a 2014 referendum.

He stepped down as first minister after the “remain” side won, and Sturgeon, his friend and deputy, replaced him.

In 2019, Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after allegations by nine women who had worked with him as first minister or for the party. Salmond called the charges “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose,” and was acquitted after a trial in March 2020.

The SNP has become increasingly split between Salmond’s supporters, who want a new independence referendum come what may, and supporters of the more cautious Sturgeon. Sturgeon and her allies are also critical of Salmond’s efforts to stay in the public eye, especially his talk show on the Kremlin-funded English-language television station RT.

Sturgeon’s popularity, meanwhile, has been boosted by her response to the coronavirus pandemic. Her calm, measured style in regular media briefings contrasts with the erratic messaging and frequent policy shifts of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is unpopular in Scotland.

The crisis is amplified by the hothouse atmosphere of politics in Scotland, a small nation of 5.5 million. Among the Scottish National Party figures accused by Salmond of colluding against him is chief executive Peter Murrell — Sturgeon’s husband.

The feud threatens to derail a party that is riding high in the polls and increasingly confident it can secure its long-held goal of leading Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

Scotland’s 2014 referendum was billed at the time as a once-in-a-generation decision. But the SNP says Brexit has fundamentally changed the situation by dragging Scotland out of the European Union even though a majority of Scottish voters in the U.K.’s 2016 EU membership referendum opted to remain in the EU. The U.K. as a whole voted narrowly to leave the bloc.

An election for the Scottish Parliament is due in May, and the SNP has a strong lead in opinion polls. Sturgeon says that if she wins a majority, she will push for a new independence referendum and challenge Johnson in the courts, if the British government refuses to agree.

John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the twisting Salmond-Sturgeon saga did not yet appear to have had a major impact on public opinion ahead of an election overshadowed by the impact of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

“People won’t have read these detailed documents,” he said. “They know that Alex thinks that somebody was conspiring against him, and Nicola denies it.

“The backdrop to this election is the most important public policy decision that the U.K. has taken at least since 1973, and the worst pandemic in a century,” Curtice said. “So there’s plenty of competition for people’s attention.”

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

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Week In Politics: New Notes Further Show Trump's Attempt To Stop Transfer Of Power – NPR

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More troubles for former president Donald Trump, with the release of handwritten notes detailing the pressure he put on former Justice Department officials following the 2020 election.



SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Some dramatic reports this week about Donald Trump trying to subvert the results of the 2020 election and slight signs that some of his own Republicans may be willing to distance themselves from him. Joined now by NPR’s Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Let’s begin with those handwritten notes taken by a former Justice Department official – this is right after the 2020 election – detailing the pressure President Trump then was applying to the DOJ, notes about phone calls that include this sentence, quote, “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me.”

ELVING: This is serious business, Scott. These are notes from a phone call top justice officials had with the then-president on December 27, well after votes had been certified by the governors of all 50 states and nearly two weeks after the Electoral College had voted decisively. Yet, here was Trump still trying to get someone in the Justice Department to help him overturn the election. The officials told him in no uncertain terms that they had looked hard and found no corruption. So Trump replied, just say it was corrupt; leave the rest to me. He wanted something he and his allies in Congress could use to disrupt the constitutional transfer of power.

This is the same time period when we know Trump was trying to bully appointed and elected Republican officials in the states in a similar fashion. So there is a case to be made that all of this violates not only his oath to uphold the Constitution, but other state and federal laws as well.

SIMON: Department of Justice also said yesterday the Treasury Department must furnish – that was the phrase – six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has been trying to see those returns since 2019. Is this going to happen now?

ELVING: Yes, so it would seem. But don’t expect to see Trump’s 1040 form in the Sunday paper tomorrow. It’s still going to be a while before it’s all made public, if indeed it ever is. Trump can go to court and at least delay the process. Yet, there is more reason now than ever to believe that these records will be furnished, at least to the House Ways and Means Committee. And eventually, at some point reasonably soon, relevant parts should be part of the public record.

SIMON: Donald Trump seems to conspicuously enjoy exercising influence over the Republican Party. There are people who visit him at Mar-a-Lago and try and receive his political blessing. This week, were there some signs that his influence isn’t ironclad?

ELVING: There have been some disturbances in the force, the force that is Trumpism and that holds so many Republicans in its grip. Earlier this week, a Republican candidate for Congress whom Trump had strongly supported lost in a special election runoff in Texas. The winner was a more moderate Republican whom Trump did not endorse. So there are always lots of factors in any special election, but Trump had been assumed to be the controlling factor here, so it did get people’s attention.

Then at midweek, on Wednesday we saw 17 Republicans in the Senate defy Trump’s instructions and vote to proceed with a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Now, Trump wanted an infrastructure bill when he was in office, but a bill now before the Senate he calls socialism and a big, beautiful gift to Biden. So Trump had roundly denounced any Republican who might vote for it, yet 17 did.

SIMON: Ron, you said the magic word, (imitating buzzer) infrastructure. Is there more indications that massive bipartisan infrastructure bill is moving forward now in the Senate? Will it get to the House? How much momentum does it have?

ELVING: It suddenly has quite a bit, Scott, mainly because it helps senators in both parties do something good for their home states and something good for their own reelection prospects. Now, we should remember that this bill has been greatly reduced since its introduction, cut roughly in half in its overall scope. It’s a bitter pill for many progressives to accept the reductions in their priorities, especially as they pertain to climate change. But right now, this looks like the place where the center could hold and the deal-makers in both parties can win.

SIMON: NPR’s Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau, Kenney clash on appointment of Alberta senator – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

Add senate appointments to the current points of conflict between the federal and Alberta governments.

On Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office was defending the announcement, this week, that a senator from Alberta is being appointed despite elections this fall to give voters in the province a say on prospects.

“We introduced and are committed to an independent Senate appointment process which is designed to move towards a less partisan and more independent Senate,” the PMO said in a statement, responding to the criticism from Alberta.

The PMO added that, since 2016, the selection process for senators has been open to all Canadians with candidate submissions reviewed by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, which provides recommendations to the Prime Minister.

Canada’s new Governor-General Mary Simon, this week, appointed five new senators on advice from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Three are from Quebec, one from Saskatchewan, and one from Alberta. Details of the appointments are here.

Mr. Trudeau’s team was reacting Friday to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney accusing the Prime Minister of showing “contempt for democracy in Alberta” by engineering the appointment of Karen Sorensen, who has been the mayor of Banff, as the province’s new senator.

“Sadly, the Prime Minister’s decision to snub his nose at Alberta’s democratic tradition is part of a pattern of flippantly disregarding our province’s demands for a fair deal in the Canadian federation and the desire of Albertans for democratic accountability,” Mr. Kenney said in a statement.

Mr. Kenney noted that, earlier this month, he told Mr. Trudeau at a meeting in Calgary to hold off filling two Senate vacancies, and await the outcome of a vote as part of municipal elections on Oct 18. The Legislative Assembly of Alberta has also passed a motion urging the Prime Minister to not appoint the senators until after the elections.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole took note of the Senate dispute. “Once again the Prime Minister shows his lack of respect for the West. Albertans deserve better,” Mr. O’Toole said in a tweet.

Mr. Kenney noted that Alberta has had four Senate elections in the past, and five nominees went on to be appointed.

Columnist’s Comment Kelly Cryderman of the Globe and Mail’s Alberta Bureau: “Senate elections might be a head-scratcher in many other parts of the country but they have been part of Alberta’s political landscape since 1989. Designed to send a signal to Ottawa about provincial autonomy, western alienation, and the need for Senate reform, they have no official status and are seen as illegitimate by critics. Mr. Kenney is continuing in a line of conservative premiers who have asked (all they can do is ask) Ottawa to respect the outcome of the Senate elections. However, with Alberta voters preoccupied by the pandemic, economic concerns – or just the summer – the Premier’s beating of the drum on this issue has failed to garner any major public interest to now.”

TODAY’S HEADLINES

PROBLEMS IN AFGHAN AID EFFORT – Afghans trying to come to Canada through the government’s new resettlement program have been frustrated by a difficult application process, which is creating serious challenges for those urgently trying to escape the Taliban.

PROF. DEFENDS CHINA HUMAN-RIGHTS RECORD – A professor at one of Canada’s major universities has written a column for a state-run newspaper in China in which she defends Beijing’s record on ethnic minorities such as the Uyghurs and argues Canadians are being thoughtless and self-righteous in accusing the Chinese government of genocide in Xinjiang.

NEW CONSULTATIONS ON CURBING ONLINE HATE – The federal government has launched a new consultation that it says will lead to combatting online hate shared on social media sites – a move that has prompted advocates to say real change isn’t coming fast enough.

EX-SAUDI SPY RAISES COURT CONCERNS – A former Saudi spy chief living in exile in Toronto is asking a Canadian court to throw out an embezzlement lawsuit against him, arguing not only are the allegations unfounded but that the evidence on which they rely was gleaned from human-rights abuses and, likely, torture.

PANDEMIC-AID PROGRAM EXTENDED – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is extending pandemic aid programs by an extra month beyond the previously planned end date. The decision means that wage and rent subsidies for businesses, and income support for workers out of a job or who need to take time off to care for family or stay home sick, will last until Oct. 23. Story here.

PAYETTE ORDER-OF-CANADA APPOINTMENT UNDER REVIEW – The Advisory Council for the Order of Canada, is thinking of terminating former governor-general Julie Payette’s appointment to the Order of Canada, CBC reports. Story here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings in Ottawa.

LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet – No schedule provided by Mr. Blanchet’s office.

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole makes an announcement in Fredericton.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul – No schedule provided by Ms. Paul’s office.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh holds a media availability in Penticton, B.C., and visits the Regional District Emergency Operations Centre.

OPINION

The Editorial Board of The Globe and Mail on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just put the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on the tab of Canadians: It also should be noted that a $5.2-billion handout to a province with a population of 520,000 is massive on a per capita basis. In Ontario, its equivalent would be $148-billion; in Alberta, $44-billion. None of this makes any sense, except as an election handout designed to secure Newfoundland’s seven seats in the House of Commons, six currently held by Liberals. Other than that, it’s madness. It would be one thing for Ottawa to step in and help a struggling, sparsely populated province that has a crushing debt burden of $47.3-billion and real financial problems. It’s another altogether to subsidize its citizens’ electricity bills out of the blue. Is that really the help Newfoundland needs?”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on playing politics with the Governor-General’s constitutional role: ”When Jagmeet Singh sent a letter to Mary Simon urging her to refuse any request from Justin Trudeau to call an election, the NDP Leader knew perfectly well she would have no choice but to grant the Prime Minister’s request. But such grandstanding is nothing new. It seems to be an unspoken role of the Governor-General to serve as a foil for opportunistic politicians who know that many Canadians don’t really understand what the Queen’s representative can or cannot do.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why It’s time to get tough with vaccine resisters: “I am tired of this gentle persuasion business. People who refuse to get vaccinated are endangering lives. They are stalling a complete return to normal. Why is it that governments have no qualms about mandating mask wearing, but won’t mandate people get the jab? We continue to pander to a group who, in many cases, are simply too lazy to sign up to get a shot. Or, they continue to embrace crackpot conspiracy theories and misinformation being spread on social media. We patiently hope that they will wake up and see the light one day, meantime their recalcitrance affects the rest of us.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the feds talking about abortion suggests an election must be imminent: “Just as white smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel signals to the world that the announcement of a new Pope is forthcoming, so too does the word “abortion,” uttered from Liberal lips, tell Canadians that an election will soon be called. Unfortunately for the incumbent Liberal government, the current leader of the Official Opposition doesn’t turtle into his suit when asked about uncomfortable social issues like his predecessor did, nor does he – like the predecessor before that – tout a résumé that includes defunding abortions abroad. Indeed, until Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole provides more ammunition for the Liberals to warn about Canada’s potential descent into Gilead, the party will have to resort to old favourites to remind women of their feminist bona fides ahead of an election.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the many mistakes that have been made around the development of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project: “ Mr. Trudeau did not say which “mistakes” he was referring to. Perhaps that was because there are too many of them to enumerate during a short pre-electoral pit stop in Newfoundland, where the Liberals hold all but one of the province’s seven seats. Or perhaps because it would have raised questions about whether his government is only putting a Band-Aid solution on a systemic problem.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Swim star's maskless display at the Olympics isn't about vaccine politics — it's about bad manners – The Globe and Mail

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Michael Andrew, of United States, concentrates prior to the men’s 200-metre individual medley final at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

The Associated Press

Among the small, manageable irritations of an Olympics during a pandemic, the most onerous is the mask.

As an Ontarian, you’ve worn one for more than a year now. But you likely haven’t worn a mask like this – for 10, 12, 14 hours in a row. Even outdoors with no one else around and the real-feel temperature cresting 40 C, our hosts expect the mask stays on.

The upside? For the first time since Grade 9, I have acne. Clearly, middle age was just a stage. Now I am going backward in time, like Dr. Who.

The downside? Near the end of the day, I feel like John Hurt in Alien. All I can think about is getting this thing off my face.

But not our country, so not our rules. Aside from a few unconscientious objectors in the press box and the occasional screaming coach caught on TV, everyone has been pretty good about that.

Then there’s Michael Andrew.

Andrew is a U.S. swimming star who’s got it all covered here except the “star” part of the equation. He began this Games as the poster boy for vaccine hesitancy.

Based on Team USA’s own figures, about 100 American competitors in Tokyo (roughly one in six) are unvaccinated. Only Andrew seemed anxious to talk about it.

“Going to the Games not only unvaccinated, but as an American, I’m representing my country in multiple ways and the freedoms we have to make a decision like that,” Andrew said in one of many, many interviews.

COVID-19 precautions at Olympics merely a ‘theatre of safety’ during Sunday’s swimming events

No one seems bothered that COVID-19 has arrived at the Tokyo Olympics

Yes, he’s a real Franklin D. Roosevelt. American and unvaccinated. However, not a survivor of polio, presumably because a few someones in the Andrew family got vaccinated. Oh, the humanity.

Andrew has what passes for a tolerable amount of intellectualism in American popular culture – speaks in full sentences, nice smile, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He’d make a great guest on a very special COVID edition of The Dr. Oz Show.

Andrew refuses to wear a mask as he speaks to the press.

USA TODAY SPORTS/Reuters

People overlooked Andrew’s political posturing because a) he didn’t make it obviously political and b) he wasn’t breaking any rules.

Japan made no demands about Olympic visitors being vaccinated, probably for fear that the Japanese electorate might notice that everyone in the developed world is vaxxed but them.

Having been given some rope, Andrew started tugging at it on Friday.

After they’re done, the swimmers zig-zag through a media maze stretched over two rooms, stopping for reporters who want to talk. Some come through masked and stay that way. A few start off masked and remove them when they are speaking. Some don’t wear a mask and just blow through.

On Friday, Andrew showed up without a mask anywhere in sight, then made himself comfortable while he held court. That is not usual.

Andrew had just placed fifth in the 200-metre individual medley. Some thought he might break the world record here. Earlier this week, he blew a medal chance at the 200-m breaststroke, his signature swim. So much like the Land of Unimpeded Freedoms he hails from, things are not trending upward in AndrewWorld.

Maybe this explains his what-are-you-gonna-do-tell-my-mom? attitude toward the rules when they were pointed out to him.

“For me, it’s pretty hard to breathe in after kind of sacrificing my body in the water,” he told reporters. “So I feel like my health is a little more tied to being able to breathe than protecting what’s coming out of my mouth.”

The key words here are “feel like.” If “feel like” is an acceptable basis for non-compliance with the rules, then we’re going to have to take murder off the books. Because I feel like doing that every once in a while.

Japan and Tokyo both hit historic highs for daily COVID-19 infections on Friday, almost precisely smack in the middle of the Games’ 16-day run. It’s not a great look. Andrew’s contribution to the Olympics’ Japanese community outreach is whining about his sacrifices.

Andrew isn’t an ugly American. That trope is a relic of a better time for the red, white and blue. Things aren’t going well enough in the U.S. for its citizens to overconfidently float around the globe any more.

The new cliché is the resentful American. As U.S. influence wanes, the resentful American is increasingly ill at ease in the wider world. He doesn’t like leaving home.

When forced to do so, he no longer thinks of it as an opportunity to spread the gospel of democracy and the Constitution. Instead, he brings America along with him.

Regardless of where he happens to be, it’s still the sort of place you can straight-facedly equate non-vaccination with actual essential freedoms, and sincerely believe people will nod along as if you are a regular Thomas Aquinas.

No country has a monopoly on common sense. But God bless them, certain Americans do have a tendency to corner the market on its opposite.

This isn’t about Andrew’s vaccine politics (though he confuses principle with self-interest, a particularly American misreading of moral philosophy common at both ends of their right-left spectrum).

This is about bad manners. It’s about coming to someone else’s country and lecturing them about how you feel like doing things.

One of the many sadnesses about the past two years is how our meta-family has grown distant from one another. The era of unhindered travel – of waking up on a Friday and, savings account permitting, deciding to fly to Stockholm or Hong Kong or Sydney on a Sunday – may be over. We may be entering a new period of inward-looking parochialism.

This Olympics was a reminder that it is still possible to go to new places, see new people and experience new things. It’s not as easy, fun or “free” as it once was. But if a few, small courtesies are maintained, it will be possible. Unless you are a jerk about it.

The Olympics doesn’t need to have a broader conversation about the pandemic as it applies to individual freedoms. This Olympics is turning into nothing but broader conversations about all sorts of things.

What it needs is fewer jerks.

Sign up for The Globe’s Olympic newsletter and follow all of the news, features and opinion in the leadup to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

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