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Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

The Scottish Parliament resumed business this week after a short recess and matters Brexit continue to dominate.

The see-saw between Holyrood and Westminster continued with the first Brexit focused Holyrood evidence session featuring two UK government ministers.  Scottish Secretary David Mundell said that the triggering of Article 50 should not be a “red line” for talks over Scottish engagement in the Brexit process. Mr Mundell and fellow UK minister Greg Hands both gave evidence to Holyrood’s culture, Europe and external affairs committee on the implications of Brexit for Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon quickly countered, warning that “time is running out” to find an agreed UK-wide position on Brexit, calling the coming weeks “critical”, but Mr Mundell told MSPs that talks could continue after Article 50. Crucially, he also said the Scottish Government was “entitled” to a formal response to its papers of Brexit proposals.

Waters were muddied further after two leading experts said a Yes vote to leave the UK could result in Scotland having the fastest ever entry to the European Union. Tobias Lock of Edinburgh University and Kirsty Hughes of Friends of Europe, who have both extensively researched accession agreements, have published a landmark report which charts what they say is straightforward path for a new Scottish state to join the EU by 2023. In their report, the academics cast doubt on perceived roadblocks to EU membership, including the threat of a Spanish veto.

Back in domestic politics, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay finally saw his Budget Bill pass yesterday evening, albeit narrowly and only then with the support of Holyrood’s six-strong Green MSP group.  The Scottish Government won the final vote by 68 to 57, with the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems voting against.

It was a bitter final Stage 3 debate that reminded us once again that Derek Mackay is ‘no John Swinney’ when it comes to fighting his corner against opposition attacks – and another election is looming in just 71 days….

And finally …. Scotland’s political parties are gearing up for their Spring conferences, with Labour meeting in Perth this weekend.  Jeremy Corbyn is making a rare visit north of Carlisle to address the faithful. With all five main parties meeting over the next four weeks, get set for a festival of party-political podium-thumping, as Scotland’s politicians ramp up the rhetoric ahead of May’s council elections and the seemingly unending series of rants about Brexit and Donald Trump.

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, Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

New virtual reality device will help improve quality of life for people living with dementia

New virtual reality device will help improve quality of life for people living with dementia

A new virtual reality device that will help architects and designers create dementia-friendly buildings and spaces by understanding how dementia can affect a person’s vision has been launched.

The invention is a market first for architectural design and will be known as Virtual Reality Empathy Platform (VR-EP).

It can be used in the design of new buildings such as care homes, hospitals or sheltered housing, and also has the potential to assess existing buildings and environments. Dementia-friendly design can significantly improve the quality of life for people living with the condition.

There are currently more than 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia, a figure that is expected to rise to 1.7 million by 2051. Dementia costs the UK economy £26.3 billion per year – more than cancer and heart disease combined.

This application can help healthcare providers save expensive adaptive costs by designing buildings and spaces with the person living with dementia in mind.

People living with dementia can see things very differently, with objects often appearing dimmer and less colourful than they really are, which can be frightening and confusing.

By using this device to see things through the eyes of a fictional person living with dementia, building or interior designers will be able to create homely and familiar environments that could reduce accidents, lessen anxiety and help those living with dementia live more independent lives.

The idea is the brainchild of David Burgher, director at Scottish Borders-based Aitken Turnbull Architects, who has developed the product in partnership with Glasgow CGI company Wireframe Immersive and experts at the Dementia Centre, HammondCare. The Dementia Centre is recognised as a world leader in dementia support, care and design. It provided the evidence-based research and academic rigour to this product. Wireframe Immersive has developed the virtual environment and will supply the software and hardware.

David Burgher said: “At Aitken Turnbull we have many years of experience in designing buildings for the elderly and for people living with dementia and have gained valuable insight into the condition, allowing us to empathise with those who live with it.

The introduction of this unique VR-EP technology takes this insight to the another level – giving building designers first-hand experience of how dementia affects vision so that we can design spaces that are far better suited to people living with the condition.

“As well as reducing anxiety, the improved design offers a better, safer and more independent quality of life. Dementia-friendly design doesn’t have to cost more. In fact, by using VR-EP, designers will get it right first time and therefore reduce costs.”

VR-EP comprises a laptop with high performance graphic and memory capability, Virtual Reality goggles, a games controller, camera and bespoke software programming.

Kevin Gordon, Business Development Manager at Wireframe Immersive said: “VR-EP is leading edge technology being developed by Scottish companies and a fantastic example of how virtual reality can be used to improve quality of life. The scale of dementia and its associated costs is colossal, not just in the UK but across the globe. VR-EP also has the potential to be adapted to simulate other sensory impairments and be used across a spectrum of disorders, so its potential is enormous.”

Professor Mary Marshall, Senior Consultant at the HammondCare Dementia Centre’s UK team said: “One of the biggest challenges for researchers, trainers and consultants in dementia design, is how you convey the experience of the environment for people living with dementia. This device has the potential to be immensely beneficial for researchers, commissioners, architects and interior designers, and many other professionals in this field, and the Dementia Centre, HammondCare are delighted to be part of it.”

The VR-EP device was developed with £50,000 of funding from Scottish Enterprise and is projected to generate ten times that amount of sales (£500,000) by year three of trading. Aitken Turnbull Architects and Wireframe Immersive are currently carrying out a scoping exercise with interest from Scottish Development International (SDI) to export this virtual reality device to Europe, China and the States.

David McHoul, Innovation Specialist at Scottish Enterprise said: ‘This project is another great example of Scotland’s strengths in innovation and our support will help develop this ground-breaking dementia design and empathy platform to service a patient group which is globally underserviced. Initial research shows there is a strong demand for this product on an international scale and the VR-EP device will make a profound impact in improving the environment for those living with dementia.”

Three Ways You’re Blowing Your Awards Entries

Three Ways You’re Blowing Your Awards Entries

In this short guide we review the common pitfalls of drafting awards submissions, and how you can avoid them to give yourself the best chance of being shortlisted.

It’s been a busy few weeks in the entertainment industry’s awards season, and with the Oscar winner’s due next week Monday, it’s easy to get swept away by who-will-win-what and forget the work behind the scenes in actually being nominated in the first place.

But, just like every awards process, even the Oscars require have set eligibility criteria. It doesn’t happen by magic, but rather by a detailed set of rules.

I’ve spent a lot of time writing industry award entries for clients and employers over the years – at Perceptive we’ve won 50 awards for clients and ourselves in the past three years alone. In fact, we’ve recently been shortlisted for Boutique Agency of the Year at the PR Moment Awards to be announced on March 16 (fingers crossed!).

While every industry is different, there are a few common pitfalls which will usually guarantee your entry won’t make the cut:

  1. Underestimating the work involved

I’m often amused by how easy everybody thinks writing awards submissions is . . . until they don’t win.

It’s heart-breaking when your hard work and exciting project isn’t recognised, and the first hurdle is being shortlisted.

So make certain you give yourself plenty of time to sit and write the award, run it through sign off, review it and submit. This should include background reading on the previous winning entries, and in-depth interrogation of your colleagues and the work being showcased. Needless to say, the entry must be error-free in every way.

  1. Failing to answer the question

The most common complaint we’ve heard from colleagues and clients who’ve judged awards are that would-be nominees fail to answer the question properly.

Instead, applicants often go overboard on offering something incredibly dense and impenetrable or, on the other end of the scale, cut and paste something un-tailored and low on substance.

You need to write from a place of genuine understanding and insight on what was achieved, and how it demonstrates best practice against the entry criteria. Make certain that you have addressed every single point in the award’s criteria explicitly.

  1. Arrogance, verbosity, vagueness

This relates closely to the two points above and is sadly something we hear a lot of.

Too often, awards submission writers assume their audience is just as excited or knowledgeable about their particular piece of work as they are. So they fail to explain the results clearly and concisely, which often irritates judges and comes across as arrogant even if not intended to be so.

Being too verbose, or alternatively favouring style over substance, puts up unnecessary barriers between your submission and the shortlist.

Be careful to avoid jargon and clichés, and never assume insider knowledge on the part of your judges. While they likely are incredibly experienced and knowledgeable themselves, they also have hundreds, potentially thousands of other submissions to read. There is no guarantee they will recognise or care as deeply about your brand as you do.

Hopefully the above tips will help you get your next submission into great shape. If you would like a professional consultation on how you could improve your hit rate with awards submissions, or would like to discuss how we could write and help you win your next award entry, get in touch.

Stunning three bedroom homes just released at Blairs Royal Deeside

Stunning three bedroom homes just released at Blairs Royal Deeside

Just five miles from central Aberdeen on the banks of the River Dee, Blairs Royal Deeside by Muir Homes is an exclusive community of high quality new homes in a breathtaking location.

Blairs Royal Deeside truly enjoys the best of both worlds, offering a rural feel, yet located so conveniently close to Aberdeen.  Situated within beautiful leafy surroundings, homes have great views of the Aberdeenshire countryside and the River Dee, and because you’ll be just a few miles from central Aberdeen, you’ll be well placed to take advantage of all the shops, bars, restaurants, theatres and leisure facilities the city has to offer.

Newly released at Blairs Royal Deeside is the “Ballater” house type – three-bedroomed semi-detached family homes priced at £359,950. These bright and spacious homes have generous and room sizes, with flowing open plan layouts across the ground floor. There’s a premium finish throughout, including details such as solid timber finished staircases with turned spindles and handrails. Homes all have private gardens, perfect for family games, for entertaining with a summer barbecue, or simply relaxing.

Grace Brownlow, Sales and Marketing Director for Muir Homes said: “One of the latest additions to the Muir Homes portfolio, the Ballater at Blairs Royal Deeside is sure to prove popular with families. Like all our house types at Blairs, Ballater homes come complete with Villeroy & Boch bathrooms and high end kitchens featuring Siemens appliances and induction hobs. Hard-wired smart cabling in the dining and family areas make the Ballater a true 21st century home.”

All Muir homes are built with exceptional care and attention to detail, using the latest building techniques and materials. You’ll have the peace of mind of a 10 year Premier warranty, and maintenance-free windows and external doors that mean you won’t have to worry about repair bills for many years to come.  Another benefit of buying a new Muir home is the energy efficiency, thanks to features such as gas central heating, double glazing and high levels of insulation, which all add up to lower fuel bills.

Muir Homes is a family-run, Scottish housebuilder with more than 40 years of experience in building happy communities of new homes with a focus on innovation and development. Muir Homes is committed to delivering high quality homes and exceptional customer service, building communities in carefully chosen locations across Scotland.

For further details on Blairs Royal Deeside, please visit http://www.muirhomes.co.uk/new-homes/blairs-aberdeen/ or call 01224 868570. The Marketing Suite is open Thursday 11am  to Monday 11am to 5pm.

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

MSPs get a breather next week as they have now started a short, week-long, recess.  In reality, most will be supporting their local parties with final preparations for the all-out local government elections, now just 12 weeks away.  The SNP are further behind with candidate selection, yet arguably have most to prove, given ambitious predictions of which councils they will be running from early May. Chamber business resumes on Tuesday 21 February.

The Scottish Parliament has voted by 90 to 34 to oppose the UK government starting the Brexit process. The Supreme Court ruled last month that there was no legal need for Holyrood to give its consent to the triggering of Article 50, but Nicola Sturgeon said she would let MSPs have a say, despite it being largely symbolic. Ms Sturgeon predicted the vote would be one of the most significant in the Scottish Parliament since devolution. Details: Holyrood opposes Article 50.

The prospect of a second independence referendum remains very much a possibility and unionist were alarmed by a new BMG poll in the Herald newspaper has suggested a big jump in support for independence as a result of the growing possibility of a ‘hard Brexit’ outcome.  The don’t knows adjusted figure sees support rising to 49%, with the status quo down to 51%.

The Scottish Parliament Budget Bill continues to inch its way towards a successful conclusion.  MSPs on Holyrood’s Finance Committee again questioned Finance Secretary Derek Mackay this week about the deal he struck with the six-strong Green MSP group.  Mr Mackay has seemed to struggle with the complexities of the budget negotiations, but he has managed to agree a deal with the Greens based on extra funding for councils and tweaks to tax thresholds to get the budget through all three stages. All other opposition parties opposed the draft budget in the first vote.  Following the committee stage and a week of recess, MSPs will vote on the final tax and spending proposals in the week beginning 20 February.

And finally …. party leaders came together in warm unity to pay tribute to motor neuron disease sufferer Gordon Aikman who has died, aged just 31. Gordon was well known across the political spectrum from his time as Director of Research for the Better Together campaign in the Scottish Independence Referendum, and laterally as a tenacious campaigner for better funding to help MND sufferers.

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, Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

PR for finance people – what is it all about?

PR for finance people – what is it all about?

Our wonderful commercial director Emma Fair gives her (accountant’s) perspective on PR and whether or not it is valuable to the bottom line. 

‘What exactly is PR?’ asked the finance person….

I am an accountant – not something I necessarily always want to shout about, but between you and I nothing pleases me more than a good spreadsheet! My career started as a trainee CA in the audit department at KPMG where I would audit companies, carry out stock takes and generally do all the things the more experienced accountants didn’t want to do.  I then went on to work in industry in publishing and media for ten years before landing a job at Perceptive Communicators.

The one thing that the companies I audited and those I had previously worked in had in common was that there was always an end product – something tangible you could get your hands on, count at a stock take and, as auditors like to do, ‘physically verify’.

Perceptive Communicators was very different, there was no end product as such and it took me some time to get my head around this. I thought I knew what PR was before I joined the company but the reality was that I knew about 10% of what PR was all about.

With my accountant’s head on PR was something you spent money on as everyone else was doing it and it was a necessary (and costly) evil to promote an event or a new product.  It was something that I gave lip service to in my budgeting process and the first thing that I would cut if spend was required elsewhere.

Looking back I wish I knew what I know now.  The value of PR cannot be underestimated. For a business looking to raise its profile, gain brand awareness and keep one step ahead of competitors, it is vital. The coverage my colleagues gain for our clients in the local and national press, online and on TV and radio can’t be bought. Of course advertising spend can guarantee column inches, but this lacks the credibility of a journalist putting their name to it and is hugely expensive.

The PR for our clients is not a box ticking exercise. It’s strategically planned to convey the key messages our clients want to communicate with their identified target audiences – whether that’s customers, stakeholders, government or the wider public.

Something that pleases my spreadsheet-loving self is the fact that results matter to our PR team. KPIs are set and targets created to ensure the results can be evaluated and measured, allowing us to keep our quality high and keep the finance person at the client happy (return on investment is key to us accountant types).

With my accountant’s head back on another value for money area is crisis communications and reputation management.  On many occasions my colleagues have donned their ‘Superhero PR’ capes (theoretically of course, there’s no budget for unnecessary items!) and gone to the rescue of a client to save the day and their reputation.   It’s hard to put a value on this – it could be as valuable as saving a company from ruin which is priceless, but the minimum benefit is that the crisis communications fee will be a lot less than the spend required to rebuild reputation and gain customers’ trust following  an unfortunate incident.

When people ask me now who I work for I can proudly explain to them what we achieve rather than mumbling something about communications and promptly changing the subject.

So finance people out there – don’t write PR off as an unnecessary spend instead rethink the PR line in your budget and what the value of this could actually be. You never know when you might need that PR Superhero!

If you would like to discuss, create or update your company’s PR strategy, get in touch. We are generate outstanding results for clients across PR, marketing, event management and social media. We also provide top-notch social media training for in-house teams, and we would love to help you in any aspect of your company’s communications. 

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

There was a distinct chill in the political air this week as people took to the Scottish streets in their tens of thousands to protest against the actions of a foreign leader, US President Donald Trump, over his short, sharp, shock tactics at airport security.

The chill continued at Westminster where an incensed SNP group called the vote in favour of triggering Article 50 an insult to democracy.  In one the most strongly worded press releases of recent months, the SNP described the Commons’ vote on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill as a “devastating act of sabotage against Scotland’s economy and social fabric” as Scottish MPs voted 58-1 against triggering Article 50.  Scotland’s sole Conservative MP, David Mundell, supported the government line.

SNP Europe spokesperson Stephen Gethins MP said the Westminster system had broken its promises on Scotland’s place in the EU during the Independence Referendum and failed Scotland again as the country faces being taken out of the European Union against its will.

Closer to home, Nicola Sturgeon has said the next few weeks are going to be “really critical” in building a UK-wide Brexit position. She was speaking after meeting Theresa May for talks with other leaders in Wales, a conversation she described as “unsatisfactory”. Ms Sturgeon warned time was running out for the Prime Minister to “square the circle” of different Brexit votes and “heed the voice of Scotland”.  Veteran BBC broadcaster Brian Taylor – seldom wrong with his political instinct – has said that a second independence referendum is now closer than ever.

Holyrood’s consent is likely to be needed for the Great Repeal Bill which unpicks EU laws from the UK, the Scottish Secretary has said.  David Mundell said consent was not needed for newly published legislation for triggering Article 50, but he said there could be “significant implications” if Holyrood did not give the go-ahead to the repeal bill.

In Holyrood, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay had another tough week as he battled to get a consensus on his Budget Bill.  It eventually passed last night by a slim margin thanks to a late deal with the six strong Green MSP group.  They claimed to have ‘scored’ some extra funding for public services and – crucially – achieved a key concession over the 40% tax band. Scottish Greens Co-Convener Patrick Harvie MSP said the budget compromise should lead to a new approach to public investment.  I somehow doubt that.

Details: SG Budget statement

And finally …. A new opinion poll this week has found that support for another referendum on independence prior to Brexit has fallen to just 27%. It represents another drop in enthusiasm for a second vote, from 43% last June to 32% in September. The poll also showed that a majority (51%) do not want another independence vote held within the next few years.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk or 07734 932 578.

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