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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 31 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 31 August 2018

As the long summer recess draws to a close, MSPs are getting ready to return to work for the traditionally busy autumn session next Tuesday. The Scottish Government’s proposed programme for the coming year (2018/19) will be announced by the First Minister as soon as Holyrood resumes. This will be followed by responses from the opposition parties and then two days of debate.

The week drew to a close with a further twist in the Alex Salmond story with news that the former SNP leader Alex Salmond has resigned from the party amid allegations of sexual misconduct. In a statement issued late on Wednesday night, he said he wanted to avoid internal division within the SNP, which has faced calls to suspend him. He has denied any wrongdoing, and said he intended to apply to re-join once he had an opportunity to clear his name.  Latest on this story: BBC latest Salmond

Brexit is never far away, of course, and warnings about the impact of a Brexit no-deal increased this week and risks to household energy costs were in the spotlight. A report in the Financial Times warns that suppliers are likely to factor Brexit uncertainty into their pricing forecasts, with consumers left to pay the difference. Firms may have to mitigate against the risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, with the UK crashing out of the EU and ending its participation in Europe’s internal energy market. An increasingly connected pan-European energy market has allowed companies to better balance supply and demand across the continent, helping to keep down bills.

This news compounds existing warnings over rising food prices, stagnating wages and severe damage to Scotland’s economy – with the SNP reiterating calls for the UK to remain within the Single Market and Customs Union to protect households against the damage of Brexit.

A rare Scottish Government back track emerged this week when they confirmed putting its plans to merge British Transport Police and Police Scotland on hold. Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP said a review would be carried out “to explore further options” on how to deliver the devolution of railway policing. The Scottish Government had already delayed the introduction of the merger, which was due to take place in April, amidst opposition protests. The decision follows fresh warnings from Police Scotland about safety and the practicalities of a merger.

Party Conference Dates:

As the Autumn sessions at Holyrood and Westminster get under way next week, the familiar party conference cycle will start again.  First up is the Lib Dems in Brighton, which our political guru Devin Scobie is attending.  The full line up is as follows.  If you would like more information or agendas, please get in touch:

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

Twin accolade for Perceptive Communicators

Twin accolade for Perceptive Communicators

We’re delighted to announce that our very own MD, Julie McLauchlan, has been shortlisted at The Scottish Women’s Awards 2018 for Business Woman of the Year (under 50 employees) and Creative Industries Leader of the Year, firmly flying the flag for ‘girl power’.

The Scottish Women’s Awards aim to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Scottish women and embody their continuing strength, grit and determination, honouring those who are thriving in their industries.

Having worked client side with blue-chip brands such as IBM, RBS Group and PwC, Julie spotted a gap in the market for high quality communications advice from a team of experts who have all been clients themselves and so, in 2006 the Perceptive journey began. Setting up a business amidst a recession was no easy feat, but Julie has worked hard to grow Perceptive Communicators in to one of Scotland’s top PR & Marketing agencies.

As well as this double shortlisting, in 2018 we have been awarded Scotland’s Most Creative PR Agency by CV Magazine’s UK Best in Business Awards and shortlisted in the Scottish CIPR Awards.

The winners of The Scottish Women’s Awards 2018 will be announced at a black-tie event on Wednesday 12th September at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow.

 

 

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 24 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 24 August 2018

Confirmation came this week that Scotland’s NHS has drawn up “detailed plans” to ensure enough medicine and equipment in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The news came from Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood who was speaking to NHS managers in England. She warned of a lack of planning over the impact of leaving the EU without a deal, saying medical supplies that might be “problematic to access” after Brexit had been identified. Many drugs and health equipment in the UK are manufactured in mainland Europe.

Scotland’s retailers want the government to scrap plans allowing councils to levy a new business rates tax on out of town and online businesses.  The Scottish Retail Consortium says the new tax would be an “unnecessary distraction”, adding a fresh element of unpredictability and complexity into the rates system. Retailers are worried that it will burden them with further costs at a time when they need to invest resources in responding to changing shopping habits.

The SRC says that many retailers already stump up for the headline business rate, the large business rate levy, and a Business Improvement District charge. Retailers are seeking clarity over how much the new tax would cost firms, how long it would apply for, and how the revenues raised would be used.

Elsewhere, and it has been reported in the media this week that Humza Yousaf is ready to abandon plans to merge British Transport Police into Police Scotland. Both Daniel Johnson and Colin Smyth (Lab MSPs) have written to the Cabinet Secretary calling on him to conduct a feasibility study on the merger, while Liam McArthur (Lib Dem MSP) felt that the Scottish Government was “making the same mistakes” following the “botched Police Scotland merger”.

Closer to home, Perceptive’s client Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre in Glasgow, was delighted to welcome Humza Yousaf for a visit and tour of its lab and research facilities on Wednesday.

And as the summer draws to a close, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that she is set to make an official visit to Catalonia. According to The Herald, she accepted the invitation from Catalan president Quim Torra to visit Barcelona in a sign of closer ties between the two pro-independence governments. The two leaders met at Bute House in Edinburgh last month.

FOCUS ON… the Department of Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity: The third of our summer Focus series looks at a new-look department with just two ministers but widened responsibilities.  Headed up by Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson (former Justice Secretary) the department covers transport and public transport, infrastructure investment policy, cities and City Deals and town centres. Michael Matheson is supported by one junior minister, Paul Wheelhouse, as Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands.

 

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 17 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 17 August 2018

A relatively quiet week politically, although Tuesday’s car crash attack at Westminster reminded us that the threat of terrorism is never far away.  Westminster was in recess at the time, resuming for two weeks on 4 September. Holyrood also resumes business on 4 September.

Gordon Brown took an Edinburgh Festival opportunity to say that Jeremy Corbyn should address concerns about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, saying the issue was a “running sore” that had to be dealt with. During an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (which Devin Scobie attended and met with the former PM afterwards), Mr Brown was asked if he thought Mr Corbyn was a fit and proper person to be prime minister. He told the audience that there was a “problem within the Labour Party with anti-Semitism” and insisted that “Jeremy Corbyn has got to change”.

Still on business news, and the leading business body, SCDI, has confirmed that their Chief Executive, Mark Bevan, has resigned with immediate effect.  He joined the organisation last summer and his last day was last Friday, 10 August. Mark Bevan joined SCDI with a mandate to enhance SCDI’s relevance and importance to civic Scotland.  The organisation has said that, in the last 12 months, he has developed the SCDI team; made fundamental changes to our systems and processes; engaged members and stakeholders in SCDI’s core purpose; whilst supporting the Board to review and define our strategic direction.

FOCUS ON… the Department of Education and Skills: Headed by Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary JOHN SWINNEY, an SNP veteran since the first parliament in 1999 and former leader.  This department has three further Ministers, following the June reshuffle although the one covering Further Education (Gillian Martin) lasted just 24 hours following a controversial blog issue and her successor cannot be appointed until Parliament is back. The other two are much safer hands: MAREE TODD, a former pharmacist now responsible for Childcare and Early Years, and JAMIE HEPBURN, who was re-appointed to an expanded role covering Business, Fair Work and Skills.

 

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 10 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 August 2018

All parts of the UK government system are now in recess until next month (4 September) yet matters Brexit continue to rattle along at a snail’s pace.  Bear in mind Article 50 commits the UK to exiting the EU at the end of March 2019.

The Fraser of Allander Institute has surveyed 350 Scottish businesses about the impact Brexit is having on their businesses. Around half of the businesses said that the decision had no impact on their business activity to date, with only 6% saying it had been positive and 44% saying the impact had been negative. With regards to impact on current investment activity, 33% of firms said that it has had a negative impact (only 4% said it had been positive). A third indicated that Brexit has had a negative impact on staff recruitment (with only 3% saying it has been positive). Respondents said it was extremely difficult for businesses to plan, with only one in eight of those firms surveyed saying the information provided on Brexit had been at least adequate to help with planning. Only one in 20 said they had approached the government for information. The Institute said the uncertainty about Brexit is holding back Scotland’s economic recovery.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson continues to gather headlines a month after leaving the UK Government. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has backed calls for Mr Johnson to apologise over his “gratuitously offensive” comments on the burka. Ms Davidson said that while she agrees with the sentiment of the newspaper article in which Mr Johnson made the comments – that face-covering veils should not be banned – his remarks were offensive. Mr Johnson has refused to apologise.

The SNP continue to be a thorn in the Scottish Tories’ side over the so called ‘Dark Money’ payments made during last year’s general election.  This has escalated further this week as the SNP called for the issue to be investigated by a Commons Committee. Brendan O’Hara MP, a member of the Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, has written to the Committee Chair to recommend that Richard Cook, former Vice Chair of the Scottish Conservatives, provides evidence to the Committee’s inquiry into Disinformation and ‘Fake News’.

BBC Spotlight Northern Ireland reported the practices of Richard Cook, who is now chair of the Constitutional Research Council which helped fund the Leave campaign. It revealed that Cook was behind the DUP’s £435,000 donation during the EU referendum. The SNP has said the revelations added further weight to the need for the Electoral Commission to fully investigate the Scottish Unionist Association Trust, and its possible ties to the Leave campaign and the Scottish Conservatives.

Audit Scotland has reported that the The Queensferry Crossing project was managed effectively and delivered value for money. The £1.34bn bridge across the Firth of Forth was opened a year ago, coming in under budget but completed eight months later than first estimated. Audit Scotland praised Transport Scotland’s budgeting, governance and tendering for the project, but it said it was too early to assess the bridge’s wider benefits.

 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 3 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 3 August 2018

All parts of the UK government system are now in recess until next month (4 September) yet matters Brexit continue to rattle along at a snail’s pace.  Bear in mind Article 50 commits the UK to exiting the EU at the end of March 2019.

Despite recess, we heard this week that the UK Government “must rethink devolution” as a result of Brexit, according to an influential group of MPs. The process of leaving the EU has sparked a series of clashes between UK government ministers and their counterparts in Scotland and Wales. Westminster’s constitutional affairs committee said ministers should engage more and set out policies more clearly. And as we have reported regularly, the Scottish Government has also called for a “new arrangement” for devolution in light of the recent Brexit rows.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell MP has been visiting New Zealand in an official capacity this week.  Among his visits was the City of Dunedin, twinned with Edinburgh (and one of the capital’s first formal twinning links).

And some sad news this week with the news that Sir Alex Fergusson, former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, has died aged 69. The former Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries stood down from Holyrood after 17 years of service in 2016, and was subsequently knighted. He served as Holyrood’s third Presiding Officer from 2007 to 2011 and arguably one of the nicest men ever to be elected to Holyrood.

 FOCUS ON – the Department of Finance, Economy and Fair Work

 – over the summer recess, we will look at a few of the Scottish Government departments following Nicola Sturgeon’s recent reshuffle.  The new-look business department is headed up by Derek Mackay as Cabinet Secretary. He has ultimate responsibility for most matters to do with Scotland’s economy including fiscal policy, taxation and the Scottish Futures Trust (which oversees much of Scotland’s public infrastructure and construction).

Derek Mackay is now supported by three junior ministers, all with new job titles which show how broad the department’s scope is: Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy (Kate Forbes MSP); Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation (Ivan McKee MSP); and Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills (Jamie Hepburn MSP, who held a narrower version of this post prior to the reshuffle).

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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