A week which saw Theresa May confirming that she had chaired the first meeting of the UK cabinet committee tasked with overseeing work on Brexit, also saw Nicola Sturgeon calling on the UK Government to highlight the importance they place on Scotland’s role in the UK. Elsewhere, debate arose surrounding the EU customs union, while the European and External Relations Committee met to discuss the impact of Brexit on Scotland. All these stories and more are included within this week’s Scottish Political Insider.
Housing and Construction News
The Scottish Government announced that more than 200,000 low income households have received grants thanks to the Scottish Welfare Fund. During its first three years of operation, around £97.9 million has been allocated. Elsewhere a new survey by CIH Scotland found that 70 per cent of its members were concerned about meeting the Scottish Government’s target to build 10,000 affordable homes. Meanwhile, the construction union UCATT endorsed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. Later in the week, the latest UK Construction Market Survey by surveyors’ body RICS illustrated that reductions in housebuilding, in part due to Brexit concerns, contributed to a slowdown in the Scottish construction sector.
An article published by the BBC found that a number of groups reliant on European funding for technology related projects have been told the money is “on pause” following the EU referendum vote. More can be read: here
GlaxoSmithKline announced it will invest £275m in an expansion of its UK manufacturing offering this week, describing the UK as “an attractive location for investment”.
Figures from a survey by LDF found more than half of UK SMEs found banks not to be “business friendly”.
The week began with Nicola Sturgeon making a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research in Edinburgh, where she called on the UK Government to highlight the importance they place on Scotland’s role in the United Kingdom as preparations are made to leave the EU. Her comments were followed by those of Theresa May later in the week who claimed that preparations were now underway for Britain’s “orderly departure” of the EU and that maintaining economic relationships with the EU bloc was a top priority. The SNP had earlier warned that pulling out of the EU customs union would harm Scottish business trade.
On Thursday, a Scottish Parliament committee examined the impact of the decision to leave the EU, with a number of business leaders sharing their thoughts. Hugh Chater from Virgin Money said if Scotland could arrange its own deal, it could offer “fresh opportunities” for Edinburgh’s financial sector, while Colin Borland of the Federation of Small Business Scotland raised concerns over the lack of free movement which may occur.
Meanwhile, Labour’s leadership saga took another twist after a judge rejected a legal challenge to allow Jeremy Corbyn to automatically stand for re-election as leader. It was raised by ex-parliamentary candidate Michael Foster who was challenging Mr Corbyn to get the signatures of MPs in order to stay on the leadership ballot.
Elsewhere, pro-independence campers lost their case to stay outside Holyrood, the Fraser of Allander Institute revised its Scottish GDP growth forecasts in a report which also argued Scotland faces a prolonged period of economic uncertainty and volatility post-Brexit, and the Supreme Court ruled against the Scottish Government’s Named Person Scheme.
Scottish Parliament is in recess until early September although some questions and motions will be published on a weekly basis.
Written questions and answers:
Jackie Baillie (Scottish Labour, Dumbarton): To ask the Scottish Government how many new affordable homes it plans to deliver over the next five years.
Kevin Stewart (SNP, Aberdeen Central): Over the next five years, the Scottish Government will deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes. While the majority of these will be new build homes, the Affordable Housing Supply Programme includes initiatives such as the Town Centre Empty Homes Fund which encourages owners of empty homes to bring these properties back into use as affordable housing. The Open Market Shared Equity Scheme allowing people on low to moderate incomes to buy existing homes for sale on the open market also contributes towards the Affordable Housing Supply Programme. The exact number of homes delivered in each year of the next five years is dependent upon progress made by councils and housing associations in each local authority area over the five year period. For the current year, we expect to deliver around 8,000 affordable homes. All councils are required to submit their strategic housing investment plans in November 2016, and this will give a clearer indication of delivery in future years.
Jackie Baillie (Scottish Labour, Dumbarton): To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the capacity of (a) housing associations, (b) local authorities and (c) the building industry to assist in the delivery of the target to build 50,000 new affordable homes in each of the next five years. (S5W-01395)
Kevin Stewart (SNP, Aberdeen Central): The Scottish Government works closely with all housing stakeholders to ensure that we make the best use of all our resources and expertise to deliver more affordable homes. The Joint Housing Policy and Delivery Group brings together stakeholders from across housing and the group’s delivery plan captures a crucial set of delivery actions which we collectively agree are vital at this time. We have listened to what housing partners need to increase the pace and momentum of housing delivery. These discussions have helped us to develop our More Homes Scotland approach. Through this approach, the following additional measures will further support the increase in the supply of homes with focus on four key areas: More investment for more housing – we will invest over £3 billion in affordable housing to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years – a 76% increase on our current five-year investment; A flexible grant and loan Housing Infrastructure fund with up to £50 million available in 2016-17; A wide-ranging review of the planning system to improve the effectiveness of planning processes; and identify with stakeholders any critical skills and expertise gaps that could prevent delivery of our ambition. We are determined to increase and accelerate housing supply across all tenures and support the industry and local authorities to deliver their housing priorities with quality homes in mixed communities that fit local needs.
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