FAR-right conspiracy theorist nutjob MP Andrew Bridgen was thrown out of the Tory party for comparing the vaccine rollout to the Holocaust.

He then joined the Reclaim Party set up by fellow far-right conspiracy theorist nutjob Laurence Fox. But on Wednesday Bridgen announced that he was leaving Fox's party in order to spend more time with his tin foil hat and the little gaggle of anti-vax frothers who follow him on social media.

In a statement, Bridgen insisted that he still supported the Reclaim Party's policies but he wanted to put his constituency of North West Leicestershire "first, above any party allegiance".

This may not be unconnected with the fact that Reclaim has dismally failed to make any political impact.

The party leader, controversial actor Laurence Fox, recently posted a photo of himself on social media in blackface and polled a dismal 2.3% when he stood as a candidate in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, receiving just 714 votes.

He also finished in a humiliating sixth place on just 1.9% of the vote when he stood as a candidate in the 2021 London mayoral election.

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Fox was sacked from GB News earlier this year for making offensive and sexist comments about journalist Ava Evans during a tirade against feminism.

This would be the same Fox who claims to oppose 'gender ideology' in the name of women's rights.

Fox's outburst was provoked by comments Evans had made about proposals for a minister for men's mental health.

According to Fox, middle class heterosexual white English men like himself are the most oppressed people in the UK.

Bridgen has obviously decided that there is very little point continuing in a far-right populist party which isn't very popular at all.

Perhaps he has belatedly realised that a party doesn't count as a mass movement when the only massive thing about it is the size of the party leader's ego and desire for attention.

Cynical readings of the Scottish Budget ignore the wider context

Yesterday's Scottish Government budget, presented by Finance Secretary Shona Robison, was widely described as "difficult" due to the need to raise taxes on the highest earners in order to tackle a projected budget shortfall which could be as much as £1.5 billion.

Naturally the Labour and Conservative parties, aided and abetted by the anti-independence media, are queueing up to heap all the blame on the SNP.

Yet again we see the very peculiar phenomenon in which those parties and media outlets which are most opposed to Scottish independence pretend when it suits them that Scotland is already independent and ignore the wider financial and economic context of a Scotland subjected to a Conservative government in Westminster - a government it didn’t vote for and which jealously guards its control of most tax and benefit powers and which has inflicted Brexit and austerity on Scotland.

The Scottish Government is ultimately dependent on a block grant from Westminster, has very limited borrowing and revenue raising powers, and unlike the British Government is legally obligated to balance its books.

The National: There's only so much Shona Robison can do to combat Tory cutsThere's only so much Shona Robison can do to combat Tory cuts (Image: PA)

The wider context in which this week's Scottish budget must be set includes the swingeing cuts to services introduced in this week's budget presented by the Labour-run government in Wales.

It also includes a swathe of local authorities in England which are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

Like the Scottish Government, all of these bodies are ultimately dependent on funding from Westminster and likewise have very limited options for borrowing and revenue raising of their own.

In other words, the financial constraints faced by the Scottish Government this week are far from unique and the blame cannot be laid solely at the door of the ruling party in Holyrood, however much the Labour and Conservative parties in Scotland and their friends in the media would like to pretend otherwise.

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This is a crisis manufactured in Westminster, the blame for which is devolved to Holyrood.

It is a product of a devolution settlement which denies the Scottish Parliament meaningful tax raising and borrowing powers and leaves Scotland dependent on a block grant from Westminster, which is plainly inadequate for Scotland's needs.

This is a system which the Labour party will not change should Starmer get into power, so don't expect any improvement under a future government led by the most right-wing Labour leader in history. In fact, we can expect things to get even worse.

Scottish Government reaches end of the road on gender reform legal block

The Scottish Government has announced that it will not seek to continue its legal case against the British Government over the controversial use of a Section 35 Order by Scotland Secretary Alister Jack to veto the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill which was passed in the Scottish Parliament by a large cross-party majority of MSPs.

The decision follows last week's ruling by the Court of Session that Jack had acted lawfully in blocking the bill by means of a hitherto unused clause in the Scotland Act which effectively gives the British Government the legal power to veto any piece of Scottish Parliament legislation which it does not like.

The episode, like this week's Scottish budget, starkly illustrates the limitations of the devolution settlement and its inability to fulfil the purpose it was sold to the people of Scotland as purportedly being able to do - to negate the need for independence by providing Scotland a means of protecting itself from Westminster governments it did not vote for while remaining a part of the UK.

Penny Mordaunt experiences Christmas miracle

Former Tory leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt has revealed that WhatsApp messages sent to her by Boris Johnson during the pandemic have mysteriously vanished from her phone and that Johnson's office ignored 14 attempts by her to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter.

The Tory MP told the Covid inquiry that that she could find no messages to or from Johnson between March 2018 and March 2020.

WhatsApp messages have a "delete for everyone" facility, but this must be manually activated for each message.

The National: Penny Mordaunt appears to be taking lessons from Boris Johnson on avoiding accountabilityPenny Mordaunt appears to be taking lessons from Boris Johnson on avoiding accountability

Johnson told the inquiry that it had been impossible to retrieve about 5000 WhatsApp messages from his old phone – covering the crucial period from January to June 2020 – with the loss possibly caused by the device undergoing a factory reset.

However, this raises the question of how Johnson or one of his staff was able to delete messages from Mordaunt's phone if they were inaccessible from his phone.

It must be another of those Tory Christmas miracles.