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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 29 June 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 29 June 2018

The Scottish Parliament closed its doors last night for the two-month summer recess.  Chamber business resumes on 4 September.  The big news this week was Nicola Sturgeon’s long anticipated ministerial reshuffle, her first since the May 2016 elections.  SNP Deputy Leader Keith Brown left the government to take over an enhanced campaigning role for the party and under fire Health Secretary Shona Robison resigned (to be replaced by Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman). Full Cabinet details including new responsibilities: https://news.gov.scot/news/new-cabinet-appointed

In other news Education Secretary John Swinney was heavily criticised for using the backdrop of the reshuffle to address the Chamber with an update, effectively amounting to a postponement, of the Scottish Government’s proposed Education Bill. Mr Swinney said that key reforms can be introduced more quickly without changing the law, but it faced opposition from teaching unions and some opposition parties. Some of the proposals will now be introduced through an agreement with councils instead.

Still at Holyrood, and there was the traditional rush of non-contentious business in the last few days, with the key one being news that a bill will be introduced in early 2019 to implement the recommendations of the Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates. In advance of this, a consultation has been launched on ways to enact the recommendations from the review. It will close for evidence on Monday 17 September. Green MSP Andy Wightman said the Government should investigate ways of raising additional revenue, while Labour criticised the “shambolic” implementation of the rates revaluation.

The First Minister has appointed one of Scotland’s best-known businessmen, Benny Higgins, as the strategic adviser for the establishment of the Scottish National Investment Bank. Mr Higgins, former CEO of Tesco Bank, developed an implementation plan for the bank and the Scottish Government has accepted all 21 of his report’s recommendations. His new role will build on this work. As strategic adviser, Mr Higgins will play the leading role in the development of the bank, providing advice to and working with the First Minister and other ministers, and building support for the bank among civic and business organisations.

And as the NHS prepares to celebrate its 70th birthday, a majority of Scots would be prepared to pay more tax to help the NHS, according to a new poll published this week. 46 per cent believe standards in the NHS in Scotland have become worse while about a quarter (26 per cent) think they have improved. The Sunday Times Scotland survey found that 52 per cent of Scots would be willing to pay more in tax to better fund the health service, with less than a third (29 per cent) opposed to a tax hike and 18 per cent are unsure.

And finally, one of the new Ministers named in Nicola Sturgeon’s new Cabinet lost her role as Junior Education Minister before it even began as a result of “offensive and inappropriate comments” in a blog from 2007.  Opposition parties questioned the appointment and it was later confirmed the Aberdeenshire East MSP was out of the running for the role.

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

 

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 22 June 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 22 June 2018

The requirement for the Scottish Parliament to consent to UK Government legislation affecting devolved areas should be embedded into law, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell MSP has said. In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Russell called for parliamentary discussion on the best way forward. This follows the UK Government’s decision to push ahead with the EU Withdrawal Bill despite the Scottish Parliament refusing to consent to legislation that could see its powers frozen for up to seven years without agreement. Mr Russell also confirmed the Scottish Government will continue to identify and draft the legislation needed to prepare for Brexit, while making the case for Scotland to remain within the Single Market and Customs Union.

Please note there will be a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday 3 July on the motion: That this House has considered the implications for Scotland of leaving the EU. It will be led by Ayrshire (SNP) MP Patricia Gibson and doubtless will have extensive contributions across all four main parties.

A cross-party Holyrood committee has published a critical review of Scotland’s economic performance under the SNP administration and call for an urgent review of economic strategy. The Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee has unanimously agreed a report which recognises that economic growth in Scotland under the SNP is significantly below growth rates in the UK economy as a whole and is falling far behind historical growth rates in Scotland. The report “Scotland’s Economic Performance” also concludes that ”levels of GDP growth are marginal, productivity low and wages are stagnant’’.

The Holyrood Committee highlights that ‘’the future will be equally challenging given the independent Scottish Fiscal Commission’s revised forecast of lower tax revenues, of as much as £1.7 billion, and already low GDP growth has been revised downwards to less than 1%.’’ It recommends that in order to reverse the decline in Scotland’s economy  “the Scottish Government must use all of the levers at its disposal to bring a sharper focus on growing the economy” starting by reviewing and updating the Economic Strategy “as a matter of urgency.’’

In related news, Scotland’s Chief Statistician published Scottish Annual Business Statistics 2016. GVA in the services sector was £49.8bn, compared to £12.7bn in manufacturing and £7.1bn in construction. Between 2015 and 2016, manufacturing GVA increased by £610m (5%) but there were reductions in a range of other sectors due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry.

And finally …we were delighted to welcome MSP Johann Lamont, who plans to stand as MP for Glasgow South, to Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre. SMS-IC brings together industry innovators, clinicians and world-class researchers together to work on precision medicine.  Precision medicine ensures drugs arespecifically targeted to a person’s genetic makeup rather than a “one size fits all” approach.  This helps get the right treatment to the right person at the right time, improving outcomes for patients and slashing the costs of ineffective treatments, saving lives and scarce NHS resources.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch withJulie McLauchlan on 07734 932578 

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 15 June 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 15 June 2018

The global news of the week, of course, was the Trump/North Korea summit in Singapore.  Now that the circus has moved on from Singapore, experts will take months to work out if this is a real breakthrough moment for world peace – or just more Trump theatrics.  That’ll be a good lunch topic if Nicola Sturgeon gets to meet him in Scotland next month.

Matters Brexit continue with a sharper edge as the May 2019 deadline draws closer. There was drama at Westminster as SNP MPs walked out en masse from Prime Minister’s Questions after their Commons leader was thrown out of the chamber in a row with the Speaker. Ian Blackford refused to sit down when ordered to by John Bercow having asked for the Commons to sit in private – this was in protest at a lack of debate on what he said was a “power grab” in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Mr Bercow said MPs could vote on the request for a private sitting at the end of PMQs – but when Mr Blackford refused to sit back down he was suspended for the rest of the day’s sitting.

Back at Holyrood, there has been a sense of urgency to get business through before the two-month summer recess.  Monday saw the somewhat flat launch of the long-expected Transport Bill (predicted last week). The ‘highlight’ was a proposal that local authorities could more easily takeover bus routes abandoned by commercial operators.  The Greens were quick to attack the Bill, not least for the lack of a single reference to rail issues.

There was some good economic news as a new report from business consultancy EY said that foreign investment projects in Scotland have risen by 7% in the past year. It found that Scotland retained its position as the second most attractive part of the UK for foreign direct investment (FDI), after London.

The research found evidence that the UK as a whole was losing ground to France with foreign investors and covers 2017, which is the third consecutive year in which Scottish FDI has set a new high. The EY Business identified 116 projects, up from 108 in 2016. There was also a marked increase in research and development projects. The increase of 70% confirms Scotland as the best-performing part of the UK in this area, with Scotland’s share representing 24% of the UK total.

As part of London Tech Week on Wednesday evening at Downing St, Theresa May announced £1.6m investment in a new Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain Accelerator for start-ups in Edinburgh, building on the city’s reputation as data capital. The joint venture with University of Edinburgh and Wayra, part of Telefonica will create up to 400 jobs.

And finally .. we look forward to welcoming Johann Lamont on Monday to Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre(SMS-IC), at the University of Glasgow’s Clinical Innovation Zone at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow.  SMS-IC brings together industry innovators, clinicians and world-class researchers together to work on precision medicine.  Precision medicine ensures drugs are specifically targeted to a person’s genetic makeup rather than a “one size fits all” approach.  This helps get the right treatment to the right person at the right time, improving outcomes for patients and slashing the costs of ineffective treatments, saving lives and scarce NHS resources.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 8 June 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 8 June 2018

It is hard to avoid the sense of impending car crash that Brexit continues to bring.  Every week seems to bring a new twist. This week closes with the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell writing to UK Minister David Lidington to express his disappointment around the UK Government’s “reluctance to meet” representatives from across the Scottish Parliament following the decision not to consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The bill returns to the House of Commons on Tuesday (12 June) but Holyrood’s anger at being bypassed (privately expressed by several Tory MSPs as well) is palpable.

Closer to home Scottish ministers have been urged to introduce parking levies on firms in a bid to cut congestion and air pollution in cities bring echoes of a failed previous bid in the early days of the parliament.

The government is due to set out its Transport Bill in the coming weeks and campaign group Transform Scotland has published a paper of suggestions including non-residential parking levies and a ban on pavement parking. The legislation, expected to include a series of measures aimed at improving public transport, is expected to be tabled before Holyrood goes into recess for the summer at the end of June.

The party conference season rolls on to Aberdeen as delegates gather this weekend for the SNP conference, with the party marking eleven years in government and promising to deliver on its “most ambitious policy programme to date”. The two-day event opens this morning (Friday) with the announcement of the new Depute Leader and closes on Saturday afternoon with a keynote address from Nicola Sturgeon.  2,000-plus delegates will also hear from deputy first minister John Swinney, Westminster leader Ian Blackford, social security minister Jeanne Freeman and Brexit minister Michael Russell.  Full agenda and fringe programme link: 2018 SNP programme

Nicola Sturgeon and her Cabinet will meet in Cumnock on Monday (18 June) to celebrate the Year of Young People. This is the latest ‘out and about’ meeting the Cabinet has held and follows the last one at Clyde Gateway. Cabinet Secretaries will take part in a full day of events in and around the town, joined by members of East Ayrshire Council’s Children and Young People Cabinet and local school pupils, culminating in a public discussion at Cumnock Town Hall led by the First Minister.

And finally … In our occasional series on ‘where are they now’ about former Scottish MPs, we are pleased to announce that Douglas Alexander, former Cabinet Minister and Labour MP for Paisley until unseated by politics student Mhairi Black in 2015, has been appointed to the role of Chair of the Board of Trustees of UNICEF UK. 

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


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Using a sledge hammer to crack the data nut?

Using a sledge hammer to crack the data nut?

General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR. Doom and gloom. Is it “The end of the world as we know it”, “I predict a riot” or in fact “Let’s stay together”?

Having just attended the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Scotland’s very insightful GDPR seminar, I’m feeling a lot more positive about this thorny issue which is likely to be currently preying on the minds of almost everyone in business.

In view of the 25 May deadline looming large later this week and the barrage of misinformation and confusion around GDPR, I thought I would share the key points that I took from this event. The panel very helpfully featured a lawyer who focused on common sense application of the legal changes.

As I am not a lawyer myself, my own observations of this event are not legal advice, but will hopefully be useful nonetheless to those of us currently ploughing through the minefield of GDPR. Everyone reading this is likely to have been on the receiving end of a deluge of opt-in emails over the past few weeks, requesting permission to keep in contact.

The panel helpfully highlighted that email consent is nothing new and indeed rules on this are different for consumers and businesses. A key point for me was that if you have someone’s business contact details because you provide them with goods or services, unlike private individuals, this does not require opt in consent. However, it is still good practice to share your privacy policy and offer your business contacts the option of opting out too.

If you have already asked people to opt in in the past, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you will still need to be able to demonstrate you have this consent going forward. If you are in touch with individuals as consumers, the panel made it clear that different rules apply and the individuals’ consent is in fact required for your organisation to keep in touch with them. It is also important for the organisation to be clear on what sort of consent the individual has given, so replying to a competition with an email address doesn’t give blanket permission to bombard that individual.

As a communications professional I was listening intently for answers to the tricky question of dealing with journalist and media contacts. This issue divided the panel, but it is fair to say that using a paid-for media database doesn’t mean you can avoid being considered a data controller; you and your organisation are probably still likely to be downloading data and using it for your business purposes.

The same applies to customer relationship management platforms, so the onus for data control still lies with yours truly. The key here is to be able to demonstrate legitimate business use, rather than unsolicited marketing. Again, it would also be helpful to share your privacy policy and make it clear that your contacts can opt out. The panel were very clear that politicians are considered as private individuals, so if you are communicating with them, it would be considered good practice to ensure you and your organisation have their consent to keep in touch. Photography consent, particularly at large scale events, was raised by several delegates.

The panel’s advice was to make it clear to event attendees – possibly through signage at the event – that photographs would be taken and images may be used at a later date. A belts-and-braces approach could be to include this information in any pre-event communications with delegates, which could allow people to opt out in advance. As a business owner, I must admit that GDPR does seem a bit like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. However, the panel emphasised that being able to demonstrate clear records, evidence of a willingness to comply, and having up-to-date systems will stand you in good stead. So maybe not so complicated after all, though time will tell.

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 1 June 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 1 June 2018

Tax crash figures dominated this week’s economic news as opposition parties revealed that Scotland’s public services are set to suffer to the tune of £1.7 billion over the next five years, according to new official figures confirmed yesterday. The gaping hole was revealed as it was confirmed the SNP is on course to collect significantly less in tax revenues that it had anticipated. The Scottish Fiscal Commission forecast also showed there is an immediate £220 million gap to plug in this year’s budget in comparison to the projections set out in February.  Details: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/05/1497

In addition, GPD figures have also been revised down. Scotland’s economic growth is now not expected to exceed one per cent until 2024 at the earliest. The ‘plummeting performance’ of Scotland’s economy could mean even more tax rises, increased borrowing and further cuts to public services to fill the gap. The new figures include revised projections on income tax, business rates, LBTT, landfill tax and the new Air Passenger Duty.

Major changes to Scotland’s planning laws have passed their first hurdle despite opposition criticism and the Lib Dems voting against. SNP attempts to reform planning in Scotland were dismissed as a “power grab” by the Scottish Conservatives. A number of concerns have been raised with the key challenge being a suggestion of too much centralisation, with “all roads leading to Edinburgh”. MSPs also raised concern about a section of the legislation concerning the performance and training of councillors in relation to planning. Those plans would see a national planning performance co-ordinator check up on local officials in order to report back to the Scottish Government.

And finally … In his first public statement, Scottish Engineering’s new chief has called for “rapid” progress in Brexit talks for the sake of export firms. The industry body’s chief executive Paul Sheerin said the “fundamental detail” needed to give firms clarity “seems no closer”. His comments came in its latest quarterly review, which suggested exports improved for the second quarter in a row. Mr Sheering said: “It’s a rare thing to attend any meeting where the ‘B’ word doesn’t appear before five minutes in, and yet for all the discussion, the fundamental detail needed to give the clarity that export businesses need from Brexit seems no closer.”

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch withJulie 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).

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