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Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

Given the holiday season we are sharing this today rather than later in the week, enjoy!

Scottish Political Insider –  Thursday 22 December 2016

This will be the last Insider of 2016 so we would like to thank you for reading this far – and all the kind comments received.  Keep them coming!  Our first Insider of 2017 will be sent on Friday 6 January but we maintain a 24/7 monitoring service should any major news break.

Holyrood has now risen for the Festive recess, resuming on Tuesday 10 January.  Politicians were in an almost jolly mood with the usual season of goodwill pleasantries being exchanged at the last First Minister’s Questions today. Debate on Derek Mackay’s Budget statement (last Thursday) has continued although Brexit continues to cast a long shadow over everything.

The key news of this week has been the launch of the Scottish Government’s own Brexit strategy – and the ensuing debate across the parties.

The First Minister said the paper represents a ‘significant compromise’ on the part of the Scottish Government which believes full membership of the EU is the best option for Scotland and the UK. The document – called Scotland’s Place in Europe – aims to build as much consensus within Scotland as possible and to unify the country around a clear plan to protect our interests.

Opposition parties, of course, disagree with all of them saying that Nicola Sturgeon’s agenda remains independence at any cost.

Scotland’s Place in Europe is worth reading if  you do any business at all in the EU.  It sets out the Scottish Government’s position that the whole of the UK should remain in the Single Market, and how Scotland could stay in the Single Market even if the rest of the UK chooses to leave. The full statement and link to the document is available here: Scotland’s Place in Europe

In other news this week …

For those of you who are planning to increase your political engagement next year, party conferences are a good starting point.  Anyone can attend as a ‘commercial observer’ (fees are usually £250-£400) and Devin Scobie is a veteran of far too many over the years.  His first was the 1986 SDP (remember them?) conference in Portsmouth that involved four student pals driving overnight in an old Renault 5. Confirmed Scottish party events next spring are:

  • Scottish Conservatives – Friday 3 and Saturday 4 March at the SECC in Glasgow
  • Scottish Lib Dems – Friday 10 and Saturday 11 March in Perth
  • SNP – Friday 17 and Saturday 17 March – this is also the same weekend as the UK Lib Dem conference in York.

If you are interested in attending, or would like an insight into any issues discussed at the conferences, just let us know.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with our political guru, Devin Scobie on 07900 397 872 or devin.scobie@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

Although traditionally the season of goodwill, the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay shared little with opposition colleagues yesterday as he delivered his first Budget statement. Mr Mackay has pledged a funding increase of £240m for local services as he set out his draft budget, but opposition parties said the amount of cash going direct to councils will be cut in real terms. Two of Scotland’s biggest councils have warned they expect to make savings or cuts of up to £90m between them. Labour-run Glasgow City Council said it may need to make £60m of savings while Fife, also controlled by Labour, forecast £30m.

Derek Mackay also confirmed he will not change income tax rates or bands – but will not replicate the UK Treasury’s tax cut for higher earners. This means the 40% income tax rate will start at £43,430 in Scotland, but it will start at £45,000 elsewhere in the UK.  Creating a differential between income tax bandings north and south of the border “will set a dangerous precedent”, according to Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) Chief Executive Liz Cameron who has warned that higher taxation could harm growth.. The 40% threshold would only rise by inflation, to £43,430 in Scotland, but will start at £45,000 elsewhere in the UK.

There will be a full debate on the Budget statement next week.

In other news this week … matters Brexit have been calm this week, despite Alex Salmond meeting European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Wednesday and doubtless confusing the wily bureaucrat about who really speaks for the Scottish Government.

At home, a senior SNP MSP saying a second Scottish independence referendum should not be held before Brexit negotiations are completed. Former Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil told The Times that he did not want to see a “premature referendum”, and he believes waiting to see the details of the deal the UK government agrees with the EU could “maximise” the prospect of independence.

A new Conservative MSP was appointed in this week – and will be sworn in on 21 December.  Dundee chartered accountant Bill Bowman succeeded the veteran North East Tory Alex Johnstone, who died last week. As a regional list MSP, the terms of Scotland Act mean that Mr Johnstone is succeeded by the next available Conservative candidate from May’s Conservative list.

And finally … Edinburgh has been ranked first in the 2016/17 Global Cities of the Future listings from FDI Strategy – beating cities such as Chicago, Hong Kong and Barcelona for promoting foreign direct investment. Glasgow ranked 7th on the same listing, above London, Toronto and Amsterdam, whilst Aberdeen ranked 22nd in the overall rankings.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with our political guru, Devin Scobie on 07900 397 872 or devin.scobie@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Colin Inglis invests in Eagle Plant Hire to become sole owner

Colin Inglis invests in Eagle Plant Hire to become sole owner

Plant and equipment hire company Eagle Plant Hire is now under the sole ownership of Managing Director Colin Inglis, after he invested in the future of the thriving Glasgow-based business by buying his brother’s 50% share.

Eagle provides plant hire equipment to large and small construction companies across Scotland, such as house builders, civil engineers and utilities. The business has grown rapidly in recent years, with turnover passing £2 million for the first time in 2016. This growth has lead to the purchase earlier this year of 40,000 sq ft of additional yard space opposite the company’s premises on Gateside Street in Dennistoun, to accommodate a growing fleet of equipment.

The Eagle team has also grown from 16 employees at the start of this year to 20, with the recruitment of a further three employees expected in the coming months.

Colin Inglis, owner of Eagle Plant Hire said: “Making the investment of buying the business outright is a demonstration of how confident I am in Eagle’s future. I am very optimistic that 2017 will see a continuation of the solid and steady growth we have seen since my brother Alan and I bought the business together, back in 2005.  This year, our turnover has gone through £2 million for the first time, compared to a turnover of just £250,000 in 2005. We are expecting turnover to grow by a further 30% in 2017.

“We are seeing sustained growth and demand for our equipment across all sectors. In 2016 we took delivery of our 50th excavator, and we intend to increase this by around 50% again in 2017 to support our groundworks, utility and civil engineering clients.

“We have also had a great response to our recent move into new areas, such as providing temporary traffic lights, traffic control signage and barriers. Existing customers are using us for this service and we are also attracting new customers. We also plan to keep reinvesting in the latest technology, like our recent renewal of our power tools fleet. Having grown steadily through a recession, I see a very bright future ahead for Eagle Plant Hire.”

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

In another week of political change, which saw Austria narrowly avoid electing Europe’s first far right head of state and the Italians vote heavily not to ‘update’ their politician-heavy constitution, Scottish domestic politics took something of a back seat as all parties prepare for a bit of a breather over Christmas.

Pre-Christmas politics paused on Wednesday when news broke that Alex Johnstone, the widely respected Scottish Conservative MSP, had died at the age of 55. Mr Johnstone – who represented the North East of Scotland in an unbroken record of service going back to the formation of the Parliament in 1999 – passed away after a short illness. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson led tributes to Mr Johnstone, the last Tory from the 1999 intake, saying he “embodied politics at its best”.

Brexit occupied several days of somewhat dry legal debate in the Supreme Court. Lord Keen – the UK’s government’s Advocate General – said triggering Article 50 would not alter the “essential structure” of devolution. The Scottish Government, however, believes that Holyrood should be consulted before talks between the UK and EU begin, but Lord Keen said that was “fatally undermined” by powers over foreign affairs being reserved to Westminster. The UK’s highest court will deliver their verdict on the historic Brexit legal challenge next month.

The SNP appointed joint campaign co-ordinators for next May’s all-out council elections. Housing and Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart MSP and Glasgow City Council opposition leader Alison Hunter will hope to continue the party’s steady growth across Scotland’s 32 local authorities.  Glasgow is once again the SNP’s prime target and with Labour’s majority already eroded to zero thanks to some by-election losses and defections, Cllr Hunter is a strong bet to oust Frank McAveety as leader.

We will look at the May council elections in more detail next year, but a nod to Independent candidate David Cheape who won a seat on Angus Council after a very rare non-Thursday election earlier this week.  It was triggered by the death of SNP Provost Helen Oswald, who died in October. The by-election was held on a Monday in order to have taken place ahead of the six-month cut off where vacancies are not filled before the next all-out elections.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf – already having a bad month over the ongoing ScotRail difficulties – has been caught driving a friend’s car without the proper insurance. He was stopped by police as he drove between Inverness and Ullapool by officers carrying out routine checks. These showed that Mr Yousaf was only insured to drive his own vehicle. The Transport Minister said a misunderstanding following his split from his wife had caused the “honest mistake” and that he would admit the offence.

And finally … Mairi Hedderwick’s original artwork for last year’s First Minister’s Christmas Card, based on her hugely successful Katie Morag books, went under the hammer at a special auction this week. It raised £1000 for good causes.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with our political guru, Devin Scobie on 07900 397 872 or devin.scobie@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

That really was the year that was…

That really was the year that was…

By Devin Scobie, Public Affairs Director

Thirty years ago next summer I was a proud History graduate from Edinburgh University and I recall debating what was the most memorable year from times past.  1066?  1314?  1789?  Well, as this year draws to a close, and, incidentally, family history is repeating itself as my younger son has started out on a History degree, I reckon 2016 will be a contender for students of the future.

I’ve been a political anorak for all of those 30 years and more.  I’ve seen election surprises come and go – John Major’s shock ‘survival’ in 1992, Gordon Brown’s non-election of 2009, a majority SNP government at Holyrood in 2011 and more by-elections of the century than there have been years in the century.  From Hillhead in 1982 to Richmond last week, every one has been the death knell for the losing side.  At least until the next general election where invariably the ‘host’ party retakes the seat.

But so to 2016.  This time last year I was writing about the coming Holyrood elections being the political high spot, with half an eye on Hillary Clinton scoring a comfortable Democrat victory over a moderate Republican like Rubio or Carson. The Brexit referendum would have come and gone with a 55-60% ‘in’ vote – and have been forgotten about as swiftly as the 2011 AV referendum (anyone remember that one?).

Instead David Cameron has been well and truly (Br)exited, Theresa May’s kitten heels whisked her into Number 10, and The Donald well and truly Trumped Hillary – and the great US of A – to win the keys of the White House.

So, given all the surprises of 2016, dare we predict what 2017 has in store?  Well, Donald Trump will be the 45th US President come 20th January and although he will continue to fine new and creative ways to wind up the vast majority of the planet with marginally more moderate views, I have a hunch he will have just enough sane voices around him to temper some of his more extreme ideas.  But he will be the leader of the free world, and I’m afraid Theresa and all the other sceptical world leaders will just need to get in to say, ‘yes Mr President’

We should see Angela Merkel safely re-elected in Germany, and Francois Hollande will have more time for his memoirs after losing in April. Marine Le Pen will run M. Fillon close but I suspect the wily ex French premier will be the one celebrating.

Closer to home, we have all-out council elections in Scotland.  Expect the Scottish Conservatives to make significant progress and modest gains for the Lib Dems and SNP – all at the expense of Labour, who continue their downward spiral.  The SNP should finally gain control of the City of Glasgow and could make a clean sweep as the largest party in all four of our largest cities.

But politics is never dull, and I’m sure there will be just as may surprises as there are safe bets.  So, on behalf of all the Perceptive team, let me wish you and yours, a very Merry Christmas – and a peaceful 2017!

Luxury accommodation at Lews Castle on Isle of Lewis now open for bookings

Luxury accommodation at Lews Castle on Isle of Lewis now open for bookings

Natural Retreats’ Lews Castle on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides is now taking bookings for spectacular Scottish island getaways in a grand and historic setting.

The luxurious accommodation – which ranges from bedroom-only to 3-bedroom self-catering apartments – can now be booked for stays from Easter 2017 onwards, with prices starting from £110 per night for a double bedroom. The apartments benefit from spacious living, kitchen and dining areas which are fully equipped and inclusive of high quality facilities.

Natural Retreats offers all guests a personal concierge service – one of the reasons the company was recently named by Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of the best villa rental agencies in the world.

The iconic Lews Castle was built in the mid-1800s by Sir James Matheson and overlooks Stornoway Harbour on the Isle of Lewis, which has previously been voted the number one European island to visit on Trip Advisor.

The castle’s grand and beautifully restored ground floor rooms, which can be hired as a luxury wedding or conferencing venue, opened their doors this summer along with the Storehouse Café and Outfitters Store, which are open seven days a week. Museum nan Eilean, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s popular new visitor attraction which is home to some of the world-famous Lewis Chessmen, is also located within Lews Castle.
Matt Spence, founder of Natural Retreats said:

“Lews Castle will offer travellers a luxurious break in a breathtaking, inspiring location. The apartments and bedrooms will be a perfect blend of the classic and contemporary, staying true to the building’s Victorian origins but adding the modern touches that travellers expect, such as free WiFi, flat screen televisions, luxury toiletries and high quality linen and towels.

“As always, we’ll be paying attention to detail and will be adding some local touches and a wide variety of locally sourced furnishings that reflect the opulence of the castle.“To really help make your getaway extra-special, our team can also organise activities on your behalf, such as segway trails, mountain biking, walking tours, sailing, private castle tours, whisky tasting and many other adventures. You can also visit the Castle’s new museum, which has six of the world famous 12th century ivory Lewis Chessmen on permanent display.”

With direct flights to Stornoway from Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports that take around an hour or less, and flights from Manchester also available, Lews Castle is more accessible than you might think.

For further information on Lews Castle, visit https://www.naturalretreats.com/uk/destinations/lews-castle

Or like our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/LewsCastlebyNaturalRetreats

Or call our Events team on 01625 416424

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

Nicola Sturgeon turned her attention west this week as she addressed the upper house of the Irish Parliament – the first serving head of government to do so – in an attempt to strengthen post-Brexit economic and political links with the country. While the First Minister crossed the Irish Sea, her colleague, the beleaguered Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, outlined new rail investment amid continued opposition calls for his resignation.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond made a rare visit north on Thursday to discuss the “challenges and opportunities” of leaving the EU with Nicola Sturgeon.

As part of a two day visit to Ireland, Nicola Sturgeon used a business breakfast with Irish business organisations to lobby for single market membership. Later in the day, she spoke to the Irish Parliament about what she referred to as “unprecedented times”. She added, “For Scotland too, we know that how we, and indeed the UK as a whole, responds to June’s vote will define us for generations to come.” The speech and visit was an important one as the SNP believe both countries have a vested interest with the UK remaining within the single market.

Humza Yousaf announced that rail passengers across the central belt are set to benefit from more reliability and more seats thanks to £19m investment in the fleet. The Minister also confirmed that ScotRail’s performance improvement plan is now published.

And during Thursday’s flying visit to Edinburgh, Philip Hammond appears to have ruled out a special Brexit deal for Scotland, saying it was “not realistic”.  The Scottish Government continues to examine ways of keeping Scotland in the European single market even if the UK as a whole leaves.  Mr Hammond said it was “clear that we can’t have a different deal or different outcomes for different parts of the UK” and that it would be a “disadvantage” for Scotland to be outside whatever new relationship the UK negotiates with the EU.

Mr Hammond’s visit follows the formal devolution of new income tax powers to the Scottish Parliament as the Conservatives stressed that Scotland needs to remain in the UK to keep the pound.

Following a Herald poll which suggested that almost two–thirds of Scots want sterling as their currency, the Conservatives claimed that Scotland has to stay in the UK to keep the pound. Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont MSP said: “Now the SNP has to realise that the only way to guarantee that is by keeping Scotland part of the UK.”

Mhairi Black, MP for Paisley & Renfrewhsire South yesterday launched a blistering attack on the UK Government’s swift implementation of the increase to the age at which some women qualify for the state pension, leaving these women little or no time to make alternative financial plans for retirement while at the same time funding the £369 million refurbishment of Buckingham Place.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with our political guru, Devin Scobie on 07900 397 872 or devin.scobie@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

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