SNP boosted by record £1m donation

Alex Salmond's party receives £1m donation from EuroMillions winners.

Alex Salmond's run of good luck shows no sign of ending. This morning the Scottish National Party (SNP) announced that Chris and Colin Weir, who won the £161m EuroMillions jackpot in July, have donated £1m to the party. It's the largest donation in the SNP's 77-year history and will be ring-fenced to fund the party's referendum campaign. The party's coffers had already been swelled by a £918,000 bequest from Edwin Morgan, Scotland's former Makar (poet laureate).

Mrs Weir said:

We have been supporters of the SNP for a long time but this is about more than party politics.

Every society, every country should have the right and the opportunity to determine its own path. That's something I've believed in strongly for a long time.

We want to give the people of Scotland a fair chance in the referendum campaign that's why we are supporting the SNP now and into the independence referendum.

The only people with the right to decide Scotland's future are the people of Scotland themselves and we want to support the SNP and the referendum campaign in helping Scotland make that decision fairly.

The couple called on the SNP to "go full steam ahead for independence". It's a reminder of one of the biggest advantages the SNP have over their opponents. The referendum will be the most important political event of their lives and they will throw everything they have at the campaign. In the meantime, the question remains: who will lead the No campaign?

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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