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Scottish Political Insider – BREXIT SPECIAL

Scottish Political Insider – BREXIT SPECIAL

The Scottish Parliament has now closed for a two-week Easter recess but Scotland’s politicians are unlikely to be resting for long.  Quite apart from indyref2, the sequel, and matters Brexit, now formally triggered, the council elections are just 35 days away.  We will be doing an Insider Special in two weeks’ time to preview Scotland’s third all-out election in as many years but this week’s focus is Brexit.

Theresa May sending her Article 50 letter on Wednesday was a key step on the uncertain Brexit journey and we thought this summary might be useful in terms of what happens next.  A second Scottish independence referendum may be sandwiched into the latter stages if Nicola Sturgeon gets her way:

  • 29 March, 2017– UK triggers Article 50
  • 29 April – EU summit of the 27 leaders (without the UK) to agree to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with the UK
  • May– European Commission to publish negotiating guidelines based on the mandate the EU leaders give it. The EU might say something about possible parallel negotiation on a future EU-UK trade deal
  • May/June 2017– Negotiations begin
  • 23 April and 7 May– French presidential elections
  • 24 September– German parliamentary elections
  • Autumn 2017– The UK government is expected to introduce legislation to leave the EU and put all existing EU laws into British law – the Great Repeal Bill
  • October 2018 – Aim to complete negotiations
  • Between October 2018 and March 2019– The Houses of Parliament, European Council and European Parliament vote on any deal
  • March 2019– UK formally withdraws from the European Union (The Article 50 negotiations could be extended, but this is subject to the approval of the other 27 EU member states)

The Great Repeal Bill White Paper was published yesterday (Thursday 30 March) and it sets out the UK Government’s proposals for ensuring a functioning statute book once the UK has left the European Union. It provides the detail on:

  • The repeal of the European Communities Act 1972
  • How EU law will be converted into UK law
  • How corrections will be made to the statute book, to ensure the law continues to function once we have left the EU.

Earlier this week, the Scottish Parliament voted this week formally to seek a Section 30 order from the UK Government.  The final vote was 69 in favour (every SNP and Green MSP) and 59 against (everyone else, bar the Presiding Officer). A Section 30 order would allow the Scottish Government to hold a second legally binding independence referendum – but it will require the UK Government’s consent and the Prime Minister has already indicated that will not be forthcoming this side of the UK leaving the EU.  Buckle up.

Ministers like to use recess for travel and Nicola Sturgeon is no exception.  Her office has confirmed that she will visit California and New York next week to promote the skills and expertise of Scotland to the North American business community. The visit will focus on promoting trade and investment between the two countries, boosting tourism, sharing best practice across the public and private sector and promoting Scottish innovation and entrepreneurship. The programme of activity, delivered by Scottish Development International (SDI) and the Scottish Government, will take place from 2 to 7 April 2017 in both California and New York City.

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

New community wind farm will be first in the UK to fund new homes for social rental

New community wind farm will be first in the UK to fund new homes for social rental

New wind farm in the Scottish Borders will create enough revenue for Berwickshire Housing Association to build 500 new homes over next 25 years
The UK’s first wind farm to be developed by a housing association as a means of funding new homes for social rental was launched and named today by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy.

The Hoprigshiels community windfarm – which today was named “Fishermen Three” – is located near Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders and is a joint venture between Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA) and Community Energy Scotland.

By supplying energy to the National Grid, the wind farm will create revenue for BHA of around £20 million over the next 25 years – enough to allow them to build 500 new homes over that period

Community Energy Scotland’s £10 million share of the revenue will enable it to support communities across the country to develop and benefit from renewable energy projects and play a crucial part in building a greener energy system.

The 3-turbine scheme will have an installed capacity of 7.5MW and will export just under 25 million kilowatt-hours each year – enough energy to power around 5,900 households. As wind power is one of the most established and cost-effective forms of renewable energy generation, Hoprigshiels will also save 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year, helping play a small but significant part in the global fight against climate change.

The wind farm project has been supported by two main funders, Triodos Bank and the Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF). REIF is delivered by the Scottish Investment Bank – the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise – on behalf of the Scottish Government and its Enterprise Agencies.

Helen Forsyth, Chief Executive of Berwickshire Housing Association said: “The idea for the wind farm came when BHA realised that we had to be innovative in order to solve the dilemma of how to keep building new homes for social rental, which are so badly needed in this area, at a time when funding for new housing through traditional channels was in decline. The wind farm will provide BHA with a reliable, predictable, low maintenance source of income that will allow us to build a steady stream of new affordable homes at a time when services are all too often being cut.”

She added: “This is not our only application of renewable energy; it is part of a whole approach and attitude at BHA that includes fitting 700 homes with PV solar panels and investing in new heating systems that reduce fuel bills for our tenants.”

Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said:

“The newly re-named Fishermen Three wind farm at Hoprigshiels is an exciting project that very ably illustrates our vision of local people benefiting from renewable energy projects installed in their area.  As someone who lived in the local fishing community of Cove for five years, I love the new link to area’s fishing heritage, and I have also been well aware of Berwickshire Housing Association’s ambitions to develop the windfarm for many years, so I congratulate Helen Forsyth and the BHA team, and Community Energy Scotland, for achieving the successful delivery of this important project.

“The wind farm should generate around £30 million of revenues over the next 25 years,‎ strengthening BHA’s finances and enabling them to build 500 much-needed, additional new homes‎ across Berwickshire to meet strong housing demand in the area.  It is because of the investment opportunities that projects such as this can create that Scottish Government continues to invest in‎ community renewable energy projects across the country through REIF, with support from Community Energy Scotland.

“As this project shows, locally-owned renewables in areas such as the Borders have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change at a local level through investment in essential community infrastructure. I am delighted that there are more than 500 MW of community and locally owned projects that have already been developed in Scotland, and today sees a further 7.5 MW added to that figure, but we want to do much more and that is why our draft Energy Strategy contains a target of raising this total to 1GW by 2020 and, by 2030, to double that yet again to 2GW.”

Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive of Community Energy Scotland said: “In recent years we have helped hundreds of community groups to take forward green energy projects but like many charities we struggle to cover our own costs. We are delighted to have been able to work in partnership with BHA to develop our own joint project. The UK energy system is changing and we want to make sure that communities are at the forefront of the opportunities that this will create for new, low carbon energy developments. This project will help us to do this, whilst providing an initial community benefit payment of £37,500 per year which will go to the communities closest to the wind farm site, to be spent on whatever they identify as their priorities.”

Norrie Cruickshank, Relationship Manager at Triodos Bank said: “At Triodos we are always looking to assist with social housing and community renewable energy projects, so we were delighted to provide loan finance for this unique and exciting project. It allows for the progress of much needed affordable housing within the area and gives local communities the opportunity to develop various renewable energy schemes.”

 

 

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

The shadow of terrorism appeared once more this week with a brutal attack at Westminster.  As it unfolded, the Palace of Westminster was swiftly ‘locked down’ and business suspended.  Business was also halted at the Scottish Parliament – mid way through the independence debate – and at the National Assembly of Wales where, coincidentally, Devin Scobie was visiting.

Holyrood resumed on Thursday but the referendum debate has been postponed until next Tuesday.  The mandate for a second independence referendum is certain to be passed thanks to the six Green MSPs supporting the minority SNP government. The unstoppable force of the SNP’s determination to press on with indyref2 is now about to meet the immovable object that is the UK government, literally the day before Article 50 is invoked to formally start the UK’s two year exit from the EU.  Who said politics was dull?

A new YouGov poll for The Times appeared this week, prior to Wednesday’s events, and although it shows the SNP maintaining a comfortable lead in both polls, the Conservatives have continued to pull away from Labour as the clear second party in Scotland on both the constituency and regional list samples.   On the second vote, the SNP lead is ‘just’ 13%.  If these figures are replicated on 4 May, Labour are set for heavy council losses including Glasgow and potentially the bastion of North Lanarkshire as well. Details:

YouGov/TimesYouGov/Times
Weighted sample11341028
Nov 16Mar 16Change
SNP48%51%+3%
Labour15%14%-1%
Tory25%24%-1%
LibDem6%6%
Other5%6%+1%
Lead23%27%+4%
 Scottish Regional vote (excluding don’t knows and others)
SNP39%40%+1%
Labour14%14%
Tory24%25%+1%
LibDem6%5%-1%
Green11%12%+1%
UKIP4%2%-2%
Others1%2%+1%

Returning to the economy, Scotland’s government deficit is on track to remain at more than twice the maximum level required for EU membership, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute. The gap between government taxation and spending is expected to be at 6% to 7% of the economy’s total output by 2020. That is a fall from 9.5% in the most recently published figures for 2015-16, however, EU members – including those outside the eurozone – are expected to keep their deficits below 3% of GDP.

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

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

This week has felt as though nothing has happened beyond the further deliberations over the Brexit negotiations and, in particular, Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise call for a Section 30 order to allow Holyrood to call a second independence referendum.

The First Minister announced that next week she would seek the authority of the Scottish Parliament to request a Section 30 order from Westminster for a new referendum bill. If consent is received, the referendum would mostly likely take place between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.

The UK Government’s “refusal” to discuss a differentiated approach for Scotland in Brexit negotiations was criticised by the First Minister, who argued it was attempting to “muscle in” on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon stated that she was not ruling out further discussions if the UK Government decided to agree to the Scottish Government’s proposals, but that this was not “remotely likely”. The First Minister stated that, in light of Brexit, change was “inevitable” and that it should be up to the Scottish people to decide “the kind of change” it wants.

Theresa May did not indicate whether the UK Government would grant permission for another referendum if the bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament, but called on the Scottish Government to stop “playing politics with the future of our country.” She also made clear that no Section 30 would be considered until Brexit was concluded.

Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson condemned the SNP indyref2 vote decision as “utterly irresponsible”. Labour’s Kezia Dugdale warned the independence “would mean turbo-charged austerity for Scotland, putting the future of our schools and hospitals at risk” and confirmed Labour would vote against the motion.

Meanwhile, confirming that his party would vote in favour of bill, Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “The people of Scotland deserve a choice between Hard Brexit Britain and putting our own future in our own hands.”

Insisting there was not widespread support for a second independence referendum, Willie Rennie suggested: “The First Minister refused to state that Scotland would be a full EU member under her plan. The SNP have airbrushed membership of the EU from their independence plans.” Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his party’s opposition to another referendum but added that “if the Scottish Parliament votes for one, Labour will not block that democratic decision at Westminster.”
Politics Home offers some shrewd analysis of this week’s events: Sturgeon v May.

Closer to home, business leaders have begun to react to the prospect of another referendum. Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor at the Federation of Small Businesses, said a recent survey of smaller firms showed “very little appetite” for another referendum. However, Wood Group chief executive Robin Watson said another vote would have “no bearing” on their proposed takeover of rival engineer Amec Foster Wheeler.


And finally ….
The party conference season continues with the UK Lib Dems gathering in York, and the SNP faithful returning to Glasgow this weekend.

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

Mearns Academy set for new school garden, thanks to soil donation from Muir Homes

Mearns Academy set for new school garden, thanks to soil donation from Muir Homes

Pupils at Mearns Academy in Laurencekirk are set to benefit from a brand new school garden, thanks to truckloads of soil donated by Muir Homes.

The school put out an appeal on Facebook last month, asking for donations of topsoil that would allow them to create 15 new raised planting beds.  Building this new garden would allow the school to enhance its Land Based Studies programme, where pupils learn skills that will prepare them for a career in horticulture or agriculture.

The social media plea was spotted by staff at Muir Homes, whose Laurencekirk development, The Grange, is currently being built just off the town’s Blackiemuir Road. Muir Homes then arranged to transport 30 tonnes of spare topsoil from The Grange to the school in one of their trucks.

The first delivery of soil took place on Monday, to the delight of the school’s head teacher, Dave Martindale. He said: “I’m really grateful to Muir Homes for responding to our appeal and donating this topsoil, which will allow us to create our new raised planters. This will really benefit our students by allowing us to offer enhanced Land Based Studies at the school. Land Based Studies involves the study of agriculture but also encompasses things like the efficient and responsible use of land, so it’s an ideal subject for students considering a career in farming, horticulture or animal care.”

Andy Yule, Construction Director at Muir Homes said: “At Muir Homes we think it’s really important to give something back to the community. We’ve been building homes here in Laurencekirk for the past two years and expect to be here for some time to come, so we’re delighted that the topsoil from The Grange could be put to such good use at Mearns Academy. We have a sizeable surplus of topsoil on the site, so it was no problem at all to gift some to the school. We wish them all the best with their new garden and hope to be able to help them with other projects in future.”

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

As the House of Lords voted down, albeit temporarily, Theresa May’s Brexit plans, Nicola Sturgeon has accused the UK government of using Brexit to undermine devolution. In a keynote lecture to the David Hume Institute, in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Parliament faced a “graver threat” after “20 years of progress”. She also warned that without compromise, a second independence referendum may become a “necessary” way of protecting Scotland’s interests.  Ms Sturgeon argued that Scotland voting to remain in the EU while the UK as a whole voted to leave had re-opened the “democratic deficit” which fuelled demand for a Scottish Parliament in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has, however, given an “absolute guarantee” that the Scottish Parliament will get more powers as a result of Brexit. David Mundell made his pledge during Scottish Questions in the Commons. The response came after the SNP’s Angus Robertson pressed both Mr Mundell and Prime Minister Theresa May about powers over agriculture and fisheries.

SNP and Green MSPs have said that the UK Government is showing “contempt” for Scotland’s views on Brexit after it emerged that Brexit Secretary David DavisMP declined an invite to give evidence at the Scottish Parliament’s Europe Committee – which was then followed by a similar response from his junior minister.

Europe Minister David Jones MP had been invited to give evidence in David Davis’ place – and set a date for his evidence session of 16 March. However, Mr Jones is now avoiding Holyrood himself – despite reportedly being set to visit Scotland that day.

Theresa May attends her first Scottish Conservative conference as Prime Minister in Glasgow later today and will launch Women2Win Scotland with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. She will find the Scottish party in upbeat mood as the official opposition at Holyrood and on course for gains in the May council elections.  Devin Scobie, our political expert from Perceptive Communicators will be attending and will give an update on key issues raised.

A new Innovation and Investment Hub in London will provide companies with a place to meet clients and customers, target new markets and secure investment, Economy Secretary Keith Brown MSP has confirmed.  Based at 58 Victoria Embankment, Scotland House will also provide a base for the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Development International and VisitScotland in London.

And finally …. two Scottish cities are in the running to be the UK’s 2021 City of Culture. In total, eleven towns and cities have now put their names forward to become UK City of Culture in 2021, including Perth and Paisley.  Dundee formerly held the honour, a key factor in it winning the new V and A museum as part of its waterfront re-development.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch on 07734 932578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

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