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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 24 November 2017

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 24 November 2017

Who’d have thought that a reality TV programme would have dominated this week’s political news…

There was consternation on the Labour benches as former leader – and still serving MSP – Kezia Dugdale joined the jungle team in Australia in ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity” (etc) reality programme.  Criticism came mainly from her own side with new leader Richard Leonard (whose election was correctly predicted in last week’s Insider) quick to attack what he saw as a ridiculous move.

The rumour mill keeps spinning that Ms Dugdale will soon resign from Holyrood, but by Wednesday night ‘Team Kez’ confounded party critics with a video statement saying: “The minute that I leave Australia I’ll be coming back to the Scottish Parliament to do my job as Labour MSP for Edinburgh and the Lothians, and I’m committed to doing that for the long-term and I hope to stand at the next election again as well.”

Following the last legal hurdle, the Scottish Government was finally able to announce details of its flagship policy of Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol this week. This means that Scotland will introduce minimum pricing on 1 May next year. The move will see a rise in the cost of the strongest ‘value’ alcohol by setting a minimum price per unit. Health Secretary Shona Robison told MSPs that she expected the price to be set at 50p-per-unit, but this will be subject to an eight-week consultation. She said the measure was needed to tackle the “devastation” caused by cheap, high-strength alcohol. Details: MUP details

There was quite a bit of economic news this week, what with the UK Budget (BBC summary here: 2017 Budget summary) and a new report from PwC which said Scotland is facing a slight fall in growth next year but is expected to avoid recession. Their latest UK Economic Outlook projects that growth will slip back in Scotland from 1.3% this year to 1.2% in 2018. UK growth is forecast to slow from about 1.5% to 1.4%. According to PwC, all parts of the UK are likely to see “some moderation in growth” in 2017-18.

The Scottish Government was not impressed with the Chancellor’s pledge of extra funding for Holyrood, dismissing it as a “con”. Philip Hammond said it would “mean £2bn more for the Scottish Government”, but Scotland’s Finance Secretary said Holyrood had been “short-changed”, and that funds for day to day spending would actually fall.

Closer to Holyrood, five pilot Local Export Partnerships (LEPs) are being launched by the Scottish Government and Chambers of Commerce to increase the number of firms exporting their products and services. The partnerships will offer support and expertise to companies, particularly SMEs, with little or no previous exporting experience and help them enter international markets.

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


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Mactaggart & Mickel Homes to pay LBTT for first-time buyers on homes priced up to £300,000 in wake of Government budget announcement on abolishing stamp duty

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes to pay LBTT for first-time buyers on homes priced up to £300,000 in wake of Government budget announcement on abolishing stamp duty

·         Scottish family housebuilder will pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), the Scottish equivalent of stamp duty, for first-time buyers on homes priced up to £300,000

·         Stamp duty on homes up to £300,000 in England and Wales was abolished for first-time buyers in yesterday’s budget

·         A first-time buyer in Scotland can currently expect to pay £4,600 of LBTT on a £300,000 property

Fourth-generation Scottish family housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel Homes have announced today that they are responding to yesterday’s Government’s announcement on stamp duty by following suit to help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder.

From today, Friday 24 November, Mactaggart and Mickel Homes will pay the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBBT), the Scottish equivalent of stamp duty, for first-time buyers purchasing homes priced at up to £300,000 until the end of April 2018.(1)

Director Joanne Casey said:

“Although the Scottish budget won’t be revealed until mid-December, we have taken the decision to act immediately and pay the LBBT for first-time buyers on homes priced up to £300,000.  This will help more first-time buyers get a foot on the property ladder, by saving them up to £4,600 when buying a Mactaggart & Mickel home.”

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes are an award-winning family business with over 92 years of design and construction expertise with developments in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Glasgow, Ayrshire and the Clyde coast.

(1) This is not available in conjunction with Help to Buy as HTB rules do not permit cash incentives.


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 – Friday 17 November 2017

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 17 November 2017

Perceptive’s political guru Devin Scobie was in Westminster again this week and said the atmosphere was ‘febrile’, with Brexit, Tory rows and a sprinkling of sexual harassment in the air.  One senior MP described the state of British politics as ‘like playing Russian roulette but with more bullets in the gun!

Nicola Sturgeon had her first face to face meeting with Theresa May since the June election this week and described the talks with the catch-all phrase “constructive and cordial”. But she said that she and the PM had “not yet” reached an agreement over the UK government’s Brexit bill. Mrs May indicated in September that she wanted to speak to Ms Sturgeon in a bid to break the deadlock between the two governments over Brexit.

The two met for about 45 minutes inside 10 Downing Street as MPs started to examine the EU Withdrawal Bill, a key piece of Brexit legislation which is at the heart of a dispute between the Scottish and UK governments. The Scottish and Welsh governments are refusing to put the bill forward for legislative consent in their respective parliament unless changes are made.

Back at Holyrood, and Scottish Labour’s interim leader Alex Rowley has stepped aside from the role amid claims about his conduct, the party has said. He has subsequently been suspended from the Labour Party, pending an investigation.  In a statement, Mr Rowley rejected the allegations and said he would work to clear his name. It follows claims in The Scottish Sun that the Mid Scotland and Fife MSP sent abusive text messages to a former partner. Mr Rowley has referred himself to the party’s investigation unit.

Veteran Labour MSP Jackie Baillie has now become the interim, interim leader, pending the election of a new leader tomorrow. Fellow MSP Richard Leonard or Anas Sarwar will be crowned around noon tomorrow, 18 November. Our hunch is that the pro-Corbyn Leonard might just do it.

The latest report on Scotland’s economic performance has shown a strong first half of 2017. The State of the Economy paper has been published by Scotland’s Chief Economist, Dr Gary Gillespie, setting out the key trends in the economy in the first half of 2017 and the outlook for the coming year. The report highlights include: economic performance has strengthened in 2017 with growth picking-up over the first half of the year; and the labour market has continued to perform strongly, with the employment rate close to its record high and an unemployment rate close to its record low.

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


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Kier Construction Scotland wins £34.5m build project for Golden Jubilee National Hospital

Kier Construction Scotland wins £34.5m build project for Golden Jubilee National Hospital

Kier Construction Scotland has been awarded the role of Principal Supply Chain Partner to develop a new elective care facility at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, as part of Frameworks Scotland 2.

The building work, at this early stage valued at £34.5m over two phases, involves building a dedicated cataract surgery unit as well as an additional orthopaedic and elective surgical care facility.

This comes following a Scottish Government announcement for expansion of the Golden Jubilee and five new elective treatment centres to be built across the country to carry out procedures like hip, knees and cataracts, in order to reduce patient waiting times and enhance patient experience. 

The Golden Jubilee is a national resource for NHS Scotland; home of regional and national heart and lung services, a centre of excellence in orthopaedics, a major diagnostic centre and one of the largest cataract providers in the UK.

Kier Construction Scotland is expected to start on site early next year and their programme of work will be complete by 2021. The announcement follows a number of recent healthcare contract wins for Kier Construction Scotland, including work with NHS Grampian at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, NHS Highland at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley and Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

Brian McQuade, managing director for Kier Construction Scotland, said: “This is another major win for Kier Construction Scotland and illustrates our strength in delivering healthcare projects throughout Scotland.  These new facilities will provide improved healthcare services within the Golden Jubilee National Hospital and well as giving the local economy a boost as we will be creating local jobs and learning opportunities for local suppliers.”

 June Rogers, Director of Operations at the Golden Jubilee Hospital said: “It’s great to see the plans for these new facilities take a step forward and reach this exciting stage with our partners. Our expansion will provide a number of community benefits such as additional jobs, learning opportunities and environmental projects.

“Once we get approval to proceed, our new facilities will make a huge difference to thousands more patients in the future. It will allow us to deliver more effective healthcare services by continuing to deliver a world-class standard of safe and effective care that the patients of Scotland deserve.”

Kier Construction, part of Kier Group, is one of five principal supply chain partners on the Framework Scotland 2, a national procurement programme for healthcare new build and refurbishment projects.   Kier is also one of five principal supply chain partners on the NHS’ £600m Health Facilities Scotland framework for Capital Development in Scotland.


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 – Friday 10 November 2017

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 November 2017

The long shadow of the Westminster sexual harassment scandal reached Holyrood this week as it claimed its first Scottish politician – Childcare and Early Years Minister Mark McDonald MSP.  He resigned from the Government at the start of the week over previous actions which he said were considered “inappropriate”.  A number of other Scottish politicians across all the parties are believed to be under investigation but no other names have been made public.

By Wednesday, the Scottish Government confirmed Maree Todd (SNP, Highlands & Islands) would replace Mark McDonald. Her new position leaves a place on the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Health and Sport Committee for the SNP to fill.

New figures this week highlighted that Scotland has a significantly lower rate of businesses per head of population than the rest of the UK. The official Businesses in Scotland 2017 report stated there were 393 enterprises for every 10,000 adults north of the border.  However, across the whole UK that figure is much higher at 499. According to the Scottish Conservatives, it means the number of businesses in existence is 27 percent higher across Britain, prompting criticism of the SNP’s track record in helping new enterprises. Shadow Economy Secretary Dean Lockhart MSP has expressed concerns that Scotland will become a less attractive place to set up a new business if the SNP increases tax as threatened.

Returning briefly to Brexit business, the Scottish Government has called on the UK government “to press the reset button,” and to take a new consensual approach to the Brexit negotiations as the country marks 500 days since the EU referendum. At the halfway mark – with 500 days remaining until the UK is set to leave the EU in March 2019 – the SNP has said the UK government must ensure the devolved nations and the main political parties are included in negotiations.

Separately, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) also reiterated calls for unity, and a “single, clear strategy,” in order to protect the UK’s economy and businesses from the dangers of damaging exit from the EU. At their annual conference this week, CBI bosses said that 60% of firms will trigger contingency plans by March next year if there is no transitional deal agreed.

The last Scottish party conference of the year takes place in Dunfermline tomorrow as the Lib Dems gather to reflect on what has, relatively speaking, been a reasonable year for them.  Despite holding steady in the May council elections, they are now sharing in four administrations including the leadership in Argyll and Bute. The party also regained three of the ten Westminster seats lost to the SNP in 2015, taking their Scottish tally to four (out of twelve in the UK as a whole).

A new £4 million self-build loan fund offering financial backing to people who want to build their own homes will be available from next year, housing minister Kevin Stewart has confirmed.  Launched following a successful pilot in the Highlands, the self-build loan fund will be open to applicants nationwide from Autumn 2018 and will support people over the next three years.

Finally, the Scottish Government has announced an important consultation on fire safety in the wake of Grenfell.  In addition to the review of guidance for residential accommodation, two experts will commence a review on building standards.  Professor John Cole will chair the review of enforcement and compliance with building regulation and Dr Paul Stollard will chair a review of fire safety in building standards.

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

 


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Glasgow-based Rearo launches new range targeting the bathroom makeover market

Glasgow-based Rearo launches new range targeting the bathroom makeover market

A family-owned Scottish manufacturer has launched a new range of shower wall panels to target the growing demand for a design-led, ‘straight over tiles’ solution to upgrade bathrooms.

Glasgow-based Rearo believes the new range will accelerate demand for luxury shower panels which do away with the need to replace tiles.

The company is targeting sales of more than £5m in the first year, thanks to its UK-wide distribution and sales network, complemented by branch showrooms for walk-in trade and personal customers.

The new ‘Selkie’ waterproof panel system can be installed in a day, and can be fitted straight over existing tiles, reducing labour costs by around 50%.

The company consulted with designers in Germany and Scotland to create an exclusive range of 30 decors in the latest palettes.

Managing director of Rearo, Graham Mercer, said “Our new Selkie range is a luxurious alternative to tiling, and is a one-stop, no-mess solution with a ten-year guarantee.

“We make the wall panels right here in Glasgow and hold the entire range in stock, meaning customers can receive their order within 48 hours.”

First tenants move in to new homes in Duns, as BHA continues to deliver much-needed new affordable housing in Berwickshire

First tenants move in to new homes in Duns, as BHA continues to deliver much-needed new affordable housing in Berwickshire

The first tenants have been handed the keys to their brand new homes at Station Drive in Duns, which have been built by Hart Builders for Berwickshire Housing Association.

The 16 properties, which were designed by architects Smith Scott Mullan, are a mix of 12 three-bedroom family homes and four one-bedroom flats.

The new homes are modern, spacious and energy efficient, having been built with very high standards of insulation, which will significantly reduce heating bills for tenants and help to tackle the issue of fuel poverty.

This new development is the first phase of BHA’s plans to build almost 100 new homes by the end of 2020. Hart Builders is currently on site constructing 30 new homes at Acredale in Eyemouth, which are due for completion in autumn 2018. These will consist of four one-bedroom homes, 13 two-bedroom homes and 13 three-bedroom homes, two of which will be wheelchair adapted.

Having just received planning approval, work will also begin in early 2018 on 25 one to four-bedroom new homes at Chirnside. A further 28 one to three-bedroom homes in Duns will go on site in autumn 2018.

Helen Forsyth, Chief Executive of Berwickshire Housing Association said: “For many years demand for housing has been high in Berwickshire, with significantly more people looking for an affordable home to rent than we have had available – and that is a situation we, along with the Scottish Government, are determined to address. As expected, the demand for these properties in Duns has been strong, and all were pre-allocated before they were complete. The homes look fantastic and have been built to a very high standard. We hope our new tenants will be very happy in their new homes.

“As well as the new homes we plan to build over the next few years, income from our community wind farm will also give us a real opportunity to grow our housing stock over the longer term, and finally start to meet the huge demand for high quality affordable housing in our area.”

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 3 November 2017

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 3 November 2017

Domestic politics seemed to be relatively calm at the start of this week, but by Wednesday night the distant rumblings around the Westminster sexual harassment scandal erupted dramatically as the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, resigned.  Other resignations will surely follow as the pernicious culture that has existed for decades at Westminster finally looks like ending.

Back at Holyrood and the Scottish Government has said that it is preparing to set out options for future income tax rates ahead of budget negotiations. Nicola Sturgeon is to publish a discussion paper on rates, having pledged to keep an “open mind” with a paper which will detail the potential impact of tax plans advanced by the SNP and by opposition parties, and sets out tests by which these can be judged. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will then open talks with other parties in a bid to build a majority for his budget.

Ahead of the publication, Ms Sturgeon said the paper would provide “facts and impartial analysis”. It will lay out a series of tests for how the platforms advanced by the various parties should be assessed, including the amount of money they would raise, whether they would protect low earners and help tackle inequality, and the potential impact on business and the economy.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat have criticised the Scottish Government for ‘moving the goalposts’ of the Scottish Growth Scheme as it was revealed there is no prospect of it delivering loans or guarantees to businesses. At portfolio questions, Liam McArthur MSP pressed Finance Secretary Derek Mackay for an update of the progress being made by the scheme, with the Cabinet Secretary admitting that the only investment delivered or offered currently was in the form of equity – a pre-existing practice. Previously ministers said they expected the scheme “to be largely in the form of guarantees to new and early-stage high growth potential companies, but if appropriate, loans may be offered”.

And further afield, the Scottish government has said that it “respects and understands” the position of the Catalan government, which has declared independence from Spain.  In a statement this week, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP did not explicitly recognise Catalonia as an independent state, but she said the people of Catalonia “must have the ability to determine their own future”. She also called for a “process of dialogue” to resolve the crisis.

And finally … the restless spirit that is Alex Salmond, out of frontline politics since losing his seat in June, has confirmed his part in a plot to unseat the management of Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman. The former First Minister has admitted to being part of coup attempt by a Norwegian publisher and shareholder in Johnston Press. Mr Salmond has described The Scotsman as “irrelevant” and wants to see its headquarters relocate north from its base in London.

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


If you enjoyed this issue of Scottish Political Insider, sign-up to receive it directly to your inbox every Friday (link opens in a new tab).

Mining heritage celebrated in new artwork for Shawfair development

Mining heritage celebrated in new artwork for Shawfair development

A new public artwork by Ratho-based blacksmith P Johnson & Company has been unveiled today (Friday 3 November) at the village square in Millerhill at Shawfair, just outside Edinburgh.

The Millerhill Carbon Tower, a 3.2m-high sculpture depicting the coal-mining heritage of the area, was officially unveiled by Provost Adam Montgomery.

The piece was commissioned by family homebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel Homes to commemorate the genesis of a new community in Millerhill at Shawfair, the largest urban expansion programme ever undertaken in the Edinburgh and Midlothian area.

The brief was for a piece of public art which narrates the history and transition of the mining industry in the local area through to recent times, conveying a ‘sense of place’ for the new community.

P Johnson & Company won the commission following a competition overseen by Midlothian Council.  Bruce Mickel, former chair of Mactaggart & Mickel Group, selected the winning entry.

The artists’ response is a pinnacle form which tells the story of coal mining in the area, from carboniferous plants, through hand-delivered buckets of coal and using pit ponies, to using machinery underground.

The sculpture is crowned by depictions of coal-mining families to convey the sense of community of early mining villages in the surrounding area, and is watched over by two canaries perched on top of the structure. The canaries – used to detect poisonous gases underground to give workers a chance of survival in early coal mining – symbolise hope and vision for the new community to develop as a vibrant and positive place to live and work.

Shawfair will contain 4000 high quality new homes. Three schools will be built for the new community as well as shopping, leisure, and health facilities. Shawfair also features its own railway station connecting to Edinburgh within fifteen minutes, and is surrounded by community woodlands and eight miles of cycle paths.

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes are developing the first phase of homes for the project, a 170-home development called Millerhill at Shawfair. The grounds feature an attractive village square, plenty of open green spaces and a mix of apartments and family homes which offer country living within a relaxed and safe environment.

Ed Monaghan, managing director of Mactaggart & Mickel Homes, said: “Midlothian is a wonderful place to live, with a rich heritage of family and community.

“Shawfair has been designed with the same sense of community at its heart and this beautiful artwork will be a fitting testament in the centre of Millerhill’s new village square.  It will serve as a timeless reminder of not only its proud past but also its exciting future as new families and future generations make their homes here.

“The homes at Millerhill are truly special – designed with young professionals and families in mind.  Many of the properties qualify for Help to Buy.”

Midlothian Provost Adam Montgomery said: “I welcome this important new public artwork and what it represents for the area. Congratulations to the artists who have really captured the spirit of the brief and brought the heritage and promise of the new community to life.

“Shawfair is idyllic in its position close to Edinburgh, just a few minutes from the beach and surrounded by lovely countryside. Midlothian will benefit from the influx of new families and businesses into the area.”

Pete Hill from P Johnson & Company said: “It was an honour to work on such a pivotal piece of artwork. We hope we’ve conveyed the inspiring history and story of the area, as well as left enough to the imagination for future generations to put their own stamp on the new village. It is going to be a truly wonderful new community.”

Nick Waugh, director of Shawfair said: “This installation marks the first step in our ambitious project of establishing a brand new place to live and work. People and community are very much at the heart of our vision for Shawfair, and this sculpture is a fitting tribute to that intention. We are sure it will appreciated by many generations to come.”

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes have invested c.£50,000 in the project, which includes the work of art, viewing benches and landscaping, as part of their contribution to support the creation of a new Shawfair community.

Two showhomes for Millerhill are now open: an attractive two-bedroom ground apartment with an airy, open-plan living/dining/kitchen area priced from £146,795, and a spacious three-bedroom mid-terraced home set over two floors priced from £184,995.

Both properties qualify for the Government-backed Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme which allows buyers to purchase a home with only a five per cent deposit.

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