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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 28 September

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 28 September

Party conference season continued this week and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP “fully intends” to be Scotland’s next First Minister, he has told the party’s UK gathering in Liverpool. He said a Labour government at Holyrood would introduce new policies to “break down wealth and power”.

Speaking at his first national Labour conference as leader, he said a Scottish Labour government would introduce a Land Reform Act and called for business support to be targeted at Scottish-owned businesses. Analysis by the party showed the bulk of Regional Selective Assistance grants went mainly to foreign-owned companies. Richard Leonard also attacked the SNP for “dividing people on the basis on nationality” and the Conservatives for their “fervent devotion to inequality”. The SNP has responded by claiming that half of the households hit by Labour’s proposed windfall tax on the wealthiest 10% would be pensioners.

Next week it’s the Tory conference and that promises to be anything but calm as the ghost of the battered Brexit battlebus rattles towards the last six months before we formally leave the EU without a plan in sight.  Second referendum anyone?

Brexit has impacted the timing of Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s next Budget and he Scottish Conservatives are calling on the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay to bring his own budget forward to mid-November to allow more time for parliamentary scrutiny. Phillip Hammond announced that the UK budget will be on Monday 29 October. This means if the same three-week period between Scottish and UK budgets was used as in previous years, then the SNP should bring their budget to Holyrood on the 20 of November. This would allow more time for the budget to be debated and scrutinised, unlike last year when Holyrood went into recess shortly after the SNP’s spending plans were revealed.

Closer to home and new figures suggest that the Scottish Government is on track to meet its ambitious affordable housing target, new statistics show. The figures show an increase of 745 homes (4%) across all sectors, from 18,683 in 2016-17 to 19,428 in 2017-18. This is the fifth consecutive increase and the highest annual figure since 2008-09. They also show that affordable housing approvals total 11,926 homes, up 12% (1,252 homes) on the previous year.

Still at Holyrood and Scottish Conservative MSP, Miles Briggs, has been cleared after a party investigation into a complaint of sexual harassment. A female worker from another party claimed Miles Briggs made persistent unwanted advances on her at a social event at Holyrood in February. However, Mr Briggs said he had been cleared after a meeting of the Scottish Conservatives’ disciplinary committee. The MSP said the allegations were “completely false” and had made his life a “living hell” during the probe. The complaint was first raised with party leader Ruth Davidson, before entering the party’s formal complaints process in July.

Finally, we were delighted to be recognised for our integrated public affairs, PR and social media work last night, winning Property Team of the Year at The Herald Property Awards.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 September 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 September 2018

MSPs were in a terse mood this week over the issue of compulsory testing for primary one school pupils.  It culminated in a rare defeat for the Scottish Government in a vote calling on ministers to “halt” national assessments for five-year-old pupils. The assessments were introduced across Scotland last year, but some teachers and parents have criticised them. Ministers insist they are not high-stakes tests, but help schools assess where pupils need help at an early age. Opposition parties say they are not in line with play-based early learning and could create league tables of schools.

Members voted by 63 to 61 to pass a Conservative motion calling for a “halt” to the tests, with all of the opposition parties uniting against the SNP. The largely symbolic motion does not bind the government to any action, but Education Secretary John Swinney said he would “reflect” on the defeat.

There was some good economic news this week as we learnt that the Scottish economy grew at a slightly faster rate than the UK as a whole during the spring months, according to newly published official figures. An initial estimate by Scotland’s chief statistician showed onshore GDP grew by 0.5% in real terms between April and June. The UK economy grew by just 0.4% over the same period. Over the first half of 2018, Scotland’s economy grew by 0.8% – compared with the UK figure of 0.6%.  Between April and June, output in the Scottish construction sector grew by 1.8%, production by 0.6% and the services sector by 0.4%, while agriculture fell by 1.2%.

More Scots are favouring apprenticeships over higher education, a new survey has suggested. The Bank of Scotland found that the proportion of people who thought on-the-job training or an apprenticeship offered the best career prospects rose from 29% to 32% last year. Meanwhile, 33% said they believed university remained the best option for their prospects, despite the costs; this was down from two in five (38%) in the previous year.

Westminster is in recess again, whilst the UK party conferences meet, but the UK Government has issued an updated list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries.  Traditionally this most junior rank on the government hierarchy can lead to ministerial office. Interestingly, a quarter of the new Scottish Tory MPs elected last June (all gains from the SNP) are now on the first rung and are thereby names to watch. They are:

  • Luke Graham MP, serving the Ministerial team at the Cabinet Office
  • Andrew Bowie MP, serving the Ministerial team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Paul Masterton MP, serving the Ministerial team at the Home Office
  • Alister Jack MP, supporting the Leader of the House of Lords

Still on Westminster and the police have said this week that they have dropped their inquiry into Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson’s general election expenses after being “unable to establish criminality”. The East Dunbartonshire MP was reported to Police Scotland last year. The allegations centred on leaflets that the Lib Dems said were not delivered, so should not count towards election spending limits. The party said Ms Swinson had been the victim of “SNP smears”.

And finally, Perceptive client Brewster Brothers welcomed local MSP and former Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance to their Open Day yesterday.  The company operates a brand new state of the art aggregates recycling plant near Livingston – see photos at our Twitter account @perceptivecomms. It has the capacity to recycle 400,000 tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste per year, much of which would otherwise be lost to landfill.

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

Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators scoops top award

Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators scoops top award

Specialist communications consultancy Perceptive Communicators is celebrating following an evening of success at last night’s Scottish Women’s Awards 2018 where Managing Director, Julie McLauchlan scooped the award for Business Woman of the Year (under 50 employees).

Established in 2006, Perceptive is a multi-award winning full service communications consultancy specialising in construction, technology and healthcare, with clients including Kier Construction, Mactaggart & Mickel, Bayes Centre, Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, and Clyde Gateway. The award win comes after an announcement of sustained business growth for the Glasgow based agency.

Julie was delighted to receive the award, saying: “I was really honoured to be shortlisted amongst Scotland’s top 10 business women and is a great tribute to my fantastic great team.  When we launched 12 years ago we broke the mould by employing exclusively experienced staff who had all been clients themselves to deliver better results. We focused on just a few sectors to have deeper insight and encouraged flexible working to create a more engaged team.  I was told several times this approach would never work, so winning this award proves not being afraid to rock the boat and listening to your instincts ­­­­can lead to success!­”

The Scottish Women’s Awards exist to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of women entrepreneurs, business women, professionals, civil servants, women in uniform, charity workers and many more that make Scotland a greater place to live in.  The black-tie event was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow.

Perceptive boosts health business with hat trick of new wins

Perceptive boosts health business with hat trick of new wins

Glasgow-based specialist communications consultancy Perceptive Communicators has boosted its health sector credentials with three new business wins.

Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC), Screening Inequalities and Silverline Care have appointed Perceptive Communicators to deliver health-focused communications campaigns.

SMS-IC has appointed Perceptive to help it raise the profile of its work on precision medicine in Scotland while Screening Inequalities (an alliance of various health organisations led by Clyde Gateway) have engaged the communications agency to deliver a targeted campaign aiming to increase participation in bowel, breast and cervical cancer screening.  Perceptive won the Silverline Care retainer after a competitive pitch against several other agencies.

Diane Harbison, Chief Executive of Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, said: “Perceptive really impressed us with its in-depth response to and understanding of our brief. We’re excited about this partnership which will ultimately help strengthen Scotland’s reputation for precision medicine by highlighting the world-leading data-sets, expertise and infrastructure we already have in place.”

Niki Spence, Senior Manager at Clyde Gateway which is leading the Screening Inequalities alliance, said: “Perceptive presented options and ideas we’d not even considered before, and won the contract with its comprehensive and integrated approach. We are confident we’ve selected the ideal partner to help us highlight and rectify the important issue which health screening inequalities presents for numerous communities in Scotland.”

Julie McLauchlan, founder and Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators, said: “These latest wins reinforce our expertise and contacts in the health sector and we’re looking forward to working with such outstanding providers on a range of very interesting and meaningful campaigns.”

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 September 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 September 2018

MSPs returned to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday after the summer recess and were immediately presented with the Scottish Government’s proposed Programme for Government for the coming year.  Bearing in mind the SNP has no overall majority, they will need to do a deal with another party, most likely the Greens, to get it passed.

But there won’t be any getting away from the blue and white starred elephant in the Chamber. You can’t move six inches in politics without tripping over Brexit.  One commentator said this week: ”There’s every chance that within the month, the wheels will have fallen off the political clown car and we’ll be staring down the barrel of a snap general election or another referendum.”

However, Scotland’s politicians have plenty to be getting on with. New ministers are settling into their jobs after June’s major reshuffle which saw the exiting of four Cabinet Secretaries, and legislative proposals are piling up.

The main event this week the Programme for Government. In it, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged an extra £250m for mental health services as she announced her plans for the coming year at Holyrood. Ms Sturgeon set out details of 12 new bills in her Programme for Government as MSPs returned from summer recess. Mental health support for young people and increased capital investment were among the key measures announced.

Ms Sturgeon said the plans unveiled on Tuesday would see her government “focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow”. At the heart of the programme set out was support for mental health services, with Ms Sturgeon noting that more must be done to “support positive mental health” amid rising demand for services.

Link to details: Prog for Govt 2018-19

One key measure announced was the next step for the proposed National Investment Bank. Finance and Economy Secretary Derek Mackay MSP has launched a consultation to help shape the objectives, purpose, priorities and governance of the Bank, as well as the its relationship with Ministers and stakeholders. The Scottish National Investment Bank will focus on providing long-term patient capital for key economic investments, guided by a mission-orientated approach set by Government. Details: National Investment Bank

The summer reshuffle has also triggered major changes to MSP membership of Holyrood’s various committees. Some of the key changes:

  • The conveners of Education & Skills (James Dornan), Local Government & Communities (Bob Doris) and Social Security (Clare Adamson) have all been moved to new committees.
  • The Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform; Equalities & Human Rights; and Standards, Procedures & Public Appointments committees will also need new conveners after their previous conveners were made government ministers.
  • Two committees have changed their names: the Culture, Tourism, Europe & External Relations Committee has become the Culture, Tourism, Europe & External Affairs Committee, while the Economy, Jobs & Fair Work Committee has become the Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee.
  • There have also been changes to the number of members on the following committees: Justice; Economy, Energy & Fair Work; Health & Sport; and Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform. Each of those will now have nine members

Westminster also resumed business this week – and Brexit immediately dominated. The only non-Government Scottish MP (Stewart Hosie) on the Treasury Select Committee has warned the Chancellor not to “rashly” bring forward his budget statement for party political reasons. This is following reports that the UK government is preparing to rush ahead with plans to avoid a clash with ongoing Brexit negotiations.

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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