This week saw the Scottish Government agreeing with recommendations set out by the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing. Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil vowed to undertake some of the measures and also used it as an example to outline what the government was doing. We also saw the announcement by Finance Secretary John Swinney that he was prepared to bring forward several amendments to the Land and Building Transaction Tax. In a wider political context, the ramping up of EU Referendum coverage has led to the introduction of a new section which will outline key stories of the week. Elsewhere, the big political story of the week was the confirmation that fiscal arrangements – which have been discussed since March 2015 – had been agreed between the Scottish and UK governments.
Housing and construction news
The Scottish Government responds to Housing and Wellbeing Commission report
This week saw the Scottish Government agreeing with guidelines set out by the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing. Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil pointed to steps being taken by the Government to boost housing supply and protect social and private tenants included at least 50,000 affordable homes, backed up with investment of over £3 billion, over the next five years representing a 67% increase on the current 30,000 target.
Land and Buildings Transactions Tax amendments may be brought forward
A Holyrood debate this week saw John Swinney claiming he was prepared to bring forward several amendments to the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, including a relief when six properties or more are bought together.
EU Referendum – Weekly Update
- David Cameron has named the referendum date – 23 June 2016
- So far, 5 members of the UK Cabinet – and Boris Johnson – have declared for OUT (most, but not all, of the rest favour staying IN)
- Scottish opinion polls consistently show 60%+ support for staying IN
- UK-wide opinion polls much closer to a 50/50 YES/NO split
- Nicola Sturgeon warns that a NO vote could trigger a new indyref. More on this below
General political news
Fiscal negotiations come to an end following months of dialogue
The start of the week saw Scotland’s John Swinney telling MSPs that there was one “persistent” issue preventing a deal on the fiscal framework. Appearing before Holyrood’s devolution committee on Tuesday, he said: The reason for this fact is that there remains a fundamental difference on the principle of no detriment. I believe that no detriment means that our budget should not be cut as a consequence of the devolution of these powers. The UK government takes a different view.” Other problematic issues outlined included capital and resource borrowing and financial transfer administration. However, later that evening, an emergency statement was given by the First Minister Nicola Surgeon who confirmed agreement of the fiscal framework. Ms Sturgeon was eager to tell those in the debating chamber that Scotland’s budget would not be “single penny” worse off under the deal, which runs for an initial transition period until 2022.
Scottish budget passed
The Scottish government’s budget for the next year was passed my MSPs following a debate on Wednesday afternoon. The Finance secretary also announced a new 3% levy of the purchase price of second homes and buy-to-let properties. Other measures will include an increase of £90m in the budget for affordable housing for next year and work to begin on construction of the Dalry by-pass in Ayrshire and improvements to the Haudagin roundabout in Aberdeen. A reminder of the forthcoming review of Business Rates was clearly signalled by the Finance Secretary (during Wednesday’s Budget debate). Timescale to be agreed after the May elections.
Oil and gas investment ‘collapsing’
Investment in new offshore oil and gas projects is collapsing despite cost-cutting efforts, according to a report issued this week. Oil and Gas UK findings showed that £1bn was expected to be spent on new projects this year, compared to a typical £8bn per year in the last five years. The news comes just weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron announced an extra £20m package to help the oil and gas industry.
Britain leaving the EU could lead to second Scottish referendum, warns Scotland’s First Minister
If the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union against the wishes of the majority of Scots, a second Scottish independence referendum will “almost certainly” be demanded. This was the warning from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week.
Scottish seats at Westminster to be cut under new boundary review
A review is under way that will cut the number of Scottish seats in the House of Commons from 59 to 53. The move, which was outlined in 2011, will see the total number of MPs across the UK reduced from 650 to 600. The Boundary Commission for Scotland has until 1 October 2018 to recommend the new constituency boundaries.
Christian Allard: Trust Housing Association—That the Parliament congratulates Trust Housing Association on achieving ninth place in the National Centre for Diversity top 100 index, which was announced at the National Diversity Oscars event on 22 January 2016; notes that Trust Housing Association, a national housing, support and care provider with properties in Forfar, Arbroath and throughout Scotland, is the only Scottish organisation in the top 10 places of the index and was the first housing association in Scotland to achieve Leaders in Diversity accreditation; understands that the accreditation recognises Trust Housing Association’s all-encompassing approach to managing equality, diversity and inclusion; welcomes its work, which involves all levels and departments in the organisation through its dynamic equality, diversity and inclusion working group generating and coordinating ideas and activities as well as monitoring and evaluating its impact, and wishes the association all the best as it continues its inclusive work throughout Scotland.
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