Scottish Parliamentary business returned to some sense of normality this week with the announcement of the all-important committee convenerships for the coming term. Although the SNP will retain 8 of the 15, the party has lost its automatic majority across every committee meaning their vital scrutiny role will come back into play as it did in the 2007-2011 session when the SNP last had a minority.
Elsewhere, the Lib Dems complete their spokesperson reshuffle, following those of the four larger parties reported last week.
And, as the EU referendum campaign enters its final four weeks, the ‘out’ camp announced its first non-Tory Scottish parliamentarian. Veteran left-winger Elaine Smith MSP (Central Scotland) said leaving the EU ‘would be in Scotland’s longer term economic interests.’
Housing and Construction related News
Third sector calls for new Warm Homes Act
Representatives of the ‘third sector’ have united this week to call for a new Warm Homes Act, arguing that delivering clean, affordable heat must be a priority for the new Scottish Government. The group, led by WWF Scotland, is lobbying the SNP administration to invest more in District Heating systems. These are commonplace in other European countries, and Scottish Ministers, they argue, “would do well to target capital investment at such schemes.”
The calls were supported by the Scottish Greens and Scottish Lib Dems. Green MSP Mark Ruskell told Holyrood: “Scotland needs to catch up quickly if we’re to meet our ambitions for a low-carbon society, tackle fuel poverty and create high quality jobs. Legislating for renewable heat networks goes hand in hand with the need to invest in energy efficient housing so that we reduce demand for heat and electricity in the first place.”
North Berwick regains its status as Scotland’s most expensive seaside town
House prices in the East Lothian town of North Berwick increased by 11 per cent from £294,076 in 2014, according to the annual Bank of Scotland Seaside Town Review, out this week. The rise puts it back on top after selling prices in St Andrews edged slightly ahead in 2014 but grew less last year to an average of £302,536.
The north east accounted for the next three most expensive, with Newtonhill, Stonehaven and Cove Bay, followed by Dunbar in East Lothian, Inverkip in Inverclyde, West Kilbride in North Ayrshire and Nairn.
General political news
Scottish Parliament announce 5th session committee plans
The Scottish Parliament’s committee structure for the coming term has been announced, with the SNP chairing the majority of the 15 likely to be approved. The party will have eight convenorships, the Conservatives four and Labour three, but the SNP will not have a majority of seats on any committee, and therefore will have to seek consensus. The SNP will have the convenership of the finance, education, equal opportunities, local government and social security committees, along with the standards, procedures and public appointments committee, the environment, climate change and land reform committee and the Europe and external relations committee.
The Scottish Conservatives will head up the economy, jobs and fair work committee, along with the justice committee, the rural economy and connectivity committee and the delegated powers and law reform committee. Labour meanwhile will put forward convenors for the health and sport, public audit and public petitions committees – with MSPs Neil Findlay, Jenny Marra and Johann Lamont respectively nominated.
Scottish Lib Dems announce new spokespersons team
Following the other parties’ announcements, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP has announced his new leadership team, with women outnumbering men. The move came after the party’s candidate selection process contributed to an all-male group of Lib Dem MSPs elected to Holyrood earlier this month. Mr Rennie appointed several female councillors and party members to key roles to increase gender balance.
Willie Rennie and his four fellow male MSPs have been given major policy portfolios in areas including finance, health and education. In addition, three female councillors and several unelected Liberal Democrat members will speak on a range of issues including social security and the environment. Holyrood candidate Katy Gordon, who failed to get elected, will oversee the party’s 2017 council election campaign.
First bespoke ‘tax cut’ under scrutiny
A plan to cut the first direct ‘UK wide’ tax north of the border, by halving airport passenger duty (APD), is coming under renewed scrutiny as a public consultation on the measure comes to a close.Climate campaigners have called on the Scottish government to rethink the cut, saying it is “inconsistent with Scotland’s climate commitments”, but airlines and Scottish airports have said it would boost tourism, investment and business activity in Scotland. In Holyrood, all the non SNP parties oppose the cut so the new non majority arithmetic could make it a challenge for Nicola Sturgeon in the coming weeks.
Labour MSP joins EU exit campaign
Central Scotland Labour MSP Elaine Smith has become the first non-Conservative MSP to declare for the EU leave campaign. Ms Smith lost her Coatbridge and Chryston seat to the SNP earlier this month but returned as a regional list MSP. She is one of 19 MSPs with continuous service from 1999.
EU Referendum – weekly update
- This week’s EU polls show a most lead for LEAVING the EU, averaging about 47/48% to 42/43% across the UK when Don’t Knows are averaged out
- David Cameron and London Mayor Sadiq Khan put aside party differences to share a platform at an EU Remain rally. They were launching a Britain Stronger In Europe battle bus and pledge card.
- A pledge to bring in a “fairer” points-based immigration system if the UK left the European Union has triggered a warning other countries would adopt the same approach towards British workers. Dutch PM Mark Rutte said it would trigger “an inevitable, unavoidable race to the bottom”.
Liam McArthur (LD, Orkney): To ask the Scottish Government whether the infrastructure investment plan that was referred to in the 2016 SNP manifesto will focus on the reported 72% of pre-1919 homes that are in disrepair.
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