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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 27 July 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 27 July 2018

The anti-Semitism row against Labour has continued this week with the MP and MSP for the constituencies with Scotland’s largest Jewish population writing to Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard calling on him to end his silence on the ongoing issues within the Labour party. Paul Masterton MP and Jackson Carlaw MSP raised their concerns about the anti-Semitic developments emanating from the Labour party that are causing alarm within the Jewish community. The letter asks Richard Leonard to speak out against this decision, and calls him to immediately state his ‘unambiguous support for the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism’.

Donald Trump’s brief visit to Scotland ended but he left behind news that the Trump Organisation will submit a planning application for 500 homes at its golf resort in Aberdeenshire. It said £150m will be invested in the development at the Menie estate. The original vision for the golf resort included two courses, a large hotel, and hundreds of houses and holiday cottages. To date, one golf course, a clubhouse and a small hotel at the original estate house have been created. The plans will be considered by Aberdeenshire Council.

New figures this week have suggested that Scottish construction firms have experienced strong growth despite “significant headwinds”, according to the Federation of Master Builders. The FMB found small firms’ (SMEs) performance rose by 17 percentage points in the second quarter of 2018. The trades association praised the resilience of the sector.

Gordon Nelson, the director of FMB Scotland, said: “The second quarter of this year carried a lot of bad news for the Scottish construction industry with the loss of hundreds of jobs after some well-known firms collapsed. However, beneath these headlines, the outlook for most small construction firms has remained relatively bright.”

And finally … And as Westminster drew its session to a close for the summer, a Scottish MP (who is on maternity leave) has accused the government of a breach of trust over a key House of Commons vote on Brexit. Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson was “paired” with Tory chairman Brandon Lewis so she could be at home with her new baby son during a Trade Bill vote. This should mean neither MP votes so their absences cancel each other out, but Mr Lewis did vote with the government – the row continues….


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

As Michelle Obama says, girls must learn to fail

As Michelle Obama says, girls must learn to fail

Last week I had the honour of attending the Hunter Foundation’s dinner in Edinburgh with entertainment from Beverley Knight, but the main event was Michelle Obama in her first overseas public appearance since leaving the White House.

I expected the evening to be thought provoking, insightful and inspiring – so far, so predictable. But what I hadn’t predicted was how her comments would be perceived as controversial by some attendees.

Dame Katherine Grainger, GB’s most decorated female Olympian and chair of UK Sport, facilitated the discussion and the main themes of the night became clear: gender equality and empowering women. As a business owner and, like Michelle, the mother of two daughters, I would wholeheartedly support this. Having been involved with organisations like Changing the Chemistry and Scotland Women in Technology, both of which work tirelessly to encourage equality and diversity, I would have expected this theme to be unchallenged. Yet this focus on “girl power” surprisingly divided opinions. Several comments suggested that the discussion had gone too far, concentrating too much on female opportunities rather than opportunities for all. Interestingly, none of these observations were from women.

Those most critical worked in sectors with a good gender balance. Such views were a surprise, especially as I work mainly in male-dominated industries like construction and technology, which are hugely supportive of gender equality. I’ve never considered this before, but perhaps the dearth of women brings a sharper focus on, and more support for, equality. Michelle spoke at length about encouraging women and girls to build their confidence and take risks, and importantly not be afraid to fail until you succeed. Men’s innate self-confidence was discussed, that “men just assume they know”, with more than a hint that this is still the case even if they don’t. Self-confidence is very important, particularly in relation to willingness to take risks, but in my experience this trait is much less frequently displayed by women across the board, including by those who are equally talented and skilled.

From an early age girls who speak up are labelled “bossy” and subtly but relentlessly persuaded that success doesn’t make you popular. What is the incentive to put your head above the parapet if the price is losing popularity along the way? The impact of this lasts a lifetime, yet those disagreeing with Michelle’s sentiments about confidence and on risk-taking seemed to have little awareness or appreciation of that.

We host a regular networking event featuring topical guest business speakers. This year, in our own small attempt to help address gender imbalance and showcase strong female role models, we decided to exclusively feature female speakers. However, even the most successful and talented women have been reluctant to speak. “Why would anyone want to hear from me?” has been a common response. In six years of hosting these events I have yet to hear the same question from a man. We owe it to our daughters, and indeed our sons, to change this.

Of course, a woman who did put herself forward only to be beaten by a less qualified man was Hillary Clinton – leaving the US still waiting for its first female president. Despite Dame Katherine’s encouragement, the former First Lady made it clear that a return to the Oval Office was absolutely not on her agenda.

It was indeed an insightful and inspiring discussion, but thought-provoking in an entirely different way than I had anticipated. I support encouragement for all, but if we really want to make the most of 100 per cent of Scotland’s talent, we need to wake up to how girls and boys are treated so differently from a very young age, and the impact of this on key attributes like confidence and appetite for risk. As Beverley Knight warned us that evening, shoulda woulda coulda are the last words of a fool.

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 20 July 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 20 July 2018

With Scottish Parliament recess now well underway, political news this week has been dominated by a prominent US political figure visiting Scotland and we don’t mean Donald Trump’s well documented visit to his Turnberry resort. The former First Lady, Michelle Obama, arrived in Edinburgh on Tuesday evening for her first official international appearance since leaving the White House.

Along with 900 guests Perceptive attended The Hunter Foundation’s charity dinner at Edinburgh’s EICC, eager to listen to Michelle Obama, as she gave some insight in to life in the White House and the importance of girl power, saying that it is a dangerous world for girls and by turning a blind eye to leaders who treat women with disrespect, we are all complicit.

It could be said that girl power was a theme for the evening as Olympic gold medallist and Scottish rowing legend, Dame Katherine Grainger moderated the 90-minute conversation, asking Michelle Obama a range of questions which included, will the former First Lady run for office, to which she replied: “Will I do it? No.”

On the west coast of Scotland, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, has had a busy week which included a visit to Ayrshire College to promote a £10m investment from Scottish Government to the Flexible Workforce Development Fund. The fund, which is going in to its second year, supports the upskilling and reskilling needs of Scotland’s workforce and is available to eligible levy paying employers.

On Wednesday, Mr Hepburn visited Dumfries & Galloway College to learn more about Perceptive client, Loreburn Housing Association’s pioneering Youth Foyer project in Stranraer. The innovative development aims to provide safe and secure housing, support and training for young people in Dumfries and Galloway by 2020. The project will aim to significantly improve the lives of people aged 16-25 who are at risk of homelessness and will provide a stable, secure environment, with support from trained staff.

Over the summer, we will look in turn at what might be coming up at various committees, starting with the Committee for Mr Hepburn’s domain (Economy, Jobs & Fair Work).   The Economy Committee is one of the busiest in Parliament and its upcoming work already looks substantial. In a follow-up to the inquiries into Scotland’s economic performance and bank closures (which are still to be debated in the Chamber), the attention turns to the support provided by Business Gateway. Expect attempts to discuss the alternatives which businesses might choose those instead. The Damages (Investment Returns and Periodical Payments) (Scotland) Bill will be considered, as well as the potential implications of a publicly-owned energy company as a driver or hinderance to green and cheaper energy. Underpinning all this will be its consideration of the Draft Budget, which, like winter, is now beginning earlier and earlier.

Finally, our political, PR and social media efforts with client Wavegarden Scotland, creating Scotland’s first artificial surfing lake have been recognised as one of the best construction, property and infrastructure  campaigns in the country by Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 13 July 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 13 July 2018

Harold Wilson famously said that a week was a long time in politics, and we can seldom remember a start to the Holyrood recess where UK politics continued at such roller-coaster pace that most news items were out of date as soon as they were written.

So Boris is gone, taking with him David Davis and various junior ministers and committee chairs.  Theresa May continues to battle on with every other party (and half her own) practically dancing on her political grave as she tries valiantly to avoid a second, snap election or a leadership crisis.   This latter option is looking increasingly likely with Sajiv Javid and Jeremy Hunt being talked about as likely runners.   All this and Donald Trump coming to Scotland this weekend.  So much for the quiet summer…

Holyrood has started its summer recess, of course.  Normal business resumes on 4 September which means no debates, with written questions and motions published just once a week.  We thought this would be a good opportunity to review the current list and range of responsibilities of Special Advisers many of whom, some would say, run government policy.

The SPAD list has been updated following last week’s Ministerial reshuffle.  There are no new additions (yet) and former MP Callum McCaig has had planning added to his remit. Kate Higgins’s title no longer includes ‘early years, further and higher education’.

Liz LloydChief of Staff to the First Minister

First Minister’s Strategic Programme in Government including inter-governmental relations

Co-ordination of the Special Adviser team

Stuart NicolsonHead of Communications

Senior Political Spokesperson for the First Minister

Strategic communications

Colin McAllisterHead of Policy Programme for Government

Programme for Government

First Minister’s Questions

Senior Special Adviser to the Deputy First Minister


John MacInnesSpecial Adviser

Political Research

Support for First Minister’s Questions and parliamentary debates

Support to Communications and Policy Special Advisers

Davie HutchisonSpecial Adviser

Health & Sport and Broadcasting

First Minister’s Questions

John McFarlaneSpecial Adviser

Justice and Transport

Parliamentary Business and Parliamentary liaison

Jeanette CampbellSpecial Adviser

Communities, Social Security, and Equalities (apart from Local Government & Planning)

Kate HigginsSpecial Adviser

Rural Economy & Connectivity

Katy BowmanSpecial Adviser

Culture, Tourism & External Affairs

Policy support to the Chief of Staff

Support for the First Minister and the First Minister’s Private Office

Outreach and stakeholder engagement

Ross IngebrigtsenDeputy Political Spokesperson for the First Minister

Strategic communications planning

David MillerSpecial Adviser

Energy, Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform

Ewan CrawfordSenior Special Adviser

Europe and Constitutional issues

Government Strategy

Stewart MaxwellSpecial Adviser

Business, the Economy, Skills & Fair Work

Business and Economy outreach

Callum McCaigSpecial Adviser

Finance and Local Government & Planning

And finally … We are looking forward to the charity dinner with Michelle Obama next week. Several senior politicians and celebrities are expected to attend, but two special guests are 14 year old girls, Melissa Croft, 14, of Mearns Castle High School in East Renfrewshire and Cerys Gough, 14, of Langholm Academy in Dumfries and Galloway. Both won a competition to share their recommendations if they ruled Scotland.  Cerys’ video focused on bullying and prejudice, while Melissa’s film was about child poverty 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 withJulie McLauchlan on 07734 932578 or

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 6 July 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 6 July 2018

The Scottish Parliament has now started its long summer recess and Chamber business resumes on 4 September.  Westminster continues for a few more weeks and the SNP’s Commons Group of 25 MPs has seen a reshuffle, with a shake-up of the front-bench team and MPs taking on new responsibilities. Policy groups, of which all MPs are a member, have also seen changes. This follows the reshuffle of the SNP Scottish Government’s cabinet last week, and the reappointment of Ian Blackford MP and Kirsty Blackman MP as the group’s leadership team at their AGM last week.

Ian Blackford has appointed Stuart McDonald MP to the front bench team to cover Immigration. Deidre Brock MP will take on the role as spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – with Pete Wishart as her deputy- and Gavin Newlands MP will be the SNP’s spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office – covering these key policy areas as the UK attempts to negotiate on Brexit.  Other recent appointments include Hannah Bardell MP as the group’s spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Stewart Hosie MP has taken up the role of spokesperson for International Trade and Brendan O’Hara MP is now spokesperson for Social Inclusion.

The Scottish Government is planning a crackdown on junk food in a bid to turn around the country’s “stubbornly unhealthy” diet. Two thirds of adults in Scotland are overweight and 29% are obese, and this has not changed over the last 10 years. Ministers have set out a new diet and health strategy, with a particular focus on cutting childhood obesity, and they are to consult on detailed plans to restrict the promotion and marketing of foods high in salt, sugar and fat. This would target confectionery, biscuits, crisps, cakes, pastries, sugary soft drinks and potentially ice creams, and include restrictions on multi-buy offers, meal deals, unlimited refill deals and where products can be displayed in shops.

IPPR has published a report on the costs associated with a hard Brexit. The price of food and non-alcoholic drinks could rise by 5.3% and the cost of transport by 7.7%. Researchers noted that areas outside of London and South East England tended to be more likely to export goods to the EU, potentially leaving them more exposed to Brexit. The group also concluded that the impact of a soft Brexit would be split broadly equally between men and women, but that women would lose out more from a hard Brexit due to the indirect impact on the service sector.

IPPR has suggested the EU referendum result was partially attributable to “deep and sustained inequalities in the UK” and has called on the UK Government to tackle this issue rather than allowing Brexit to further entrench the problem. The SNP pointed out that cost increases in transport and other areas could disproportionately affect people in Scotland.

And finally … Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster MP has called on Scots to back proposals for a bridge to Northern Ireland. Ms Foster said there was “growing support” for the idea as she addressed an Orange parade in Fife, where she was the main speaker at the Cowdenbeath event, organised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland. The DUP proposed a feasibility study into building a bridge to Scotland in 2015.


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

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