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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 December 2018

This will be our last Insider for 2018 and we hope you have enjoyed our weekly observations on the Scottish political scene over the last 12 months.  Thank you to everyone who has given us feedback and encouragement!  Our first Insider of the New Year will be sent on Friday 4 January 2019 so from all the team at Perceptive, may we wish you and yours all the very best for a peaceful Festive Season and a prosperous New Year.

The year finished with a further tussle over Brexit (just 98 days to go) and strong words from the Scottish Government.  They said that they are working on plans to help Scotland cope, as much as possible, if the ‘tragedy’ of a no deal Brexit takes place. In a keynote speech to Holyrood, Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP urged the UK Government to immediately rule out ‘no deal’ and made clear that, while the Scottish Government would do everything it could, there would still be severe damage to the Scottish economy and society.

He also confirmed to MSPs that the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR) has been mobilised, convened by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, to consider the level of immediate response required. Planning is ongoing to deal with:

  • Severe disruption of goods at UK borders due to new customs arrangements in a ‘no deal’ scenario
  • Food security and the ability of Scottish food and drink producers to export their goods to the EU
  • The supply of medicines, medical devices and workforce for health and social care

The Scottish Parliament closed its doors at lunchtime yesterday with Chamber business resuming on Tuesday 8 January. Business was quieter this last week as the various parties held their annual drinks events. The Parliament canteen has to deal with a backlog of uneaten snacks – formerly known as Gingerbread Men but in these enlightened times, now just ‘Christmas biscuits’ and as such, strangely less popular!

Still on a festive note, and a photograph by veteran photographer Harry Benson CBE has been chosen as the First Minister’s 2018 Christmas card. The image of the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow will be auctioned next year with the proceeds going to four charities – Who Cares? Scotland, Maggie’s Centres, The Salvation Army Scotland and The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice. You can see it here

Elsewhere and Alex Salmond has won a legal bid forcing the Scottish government to hand over documents related to the sexual misconduct case against him. Lawyers for the former First Minister successfully argued that redacted emails and notes connected with the case should be independently reviewed. He is pursuing a judicial review into the process used to investigate complaints against him. A QC will now consider if the full documents should be released.

The Ghost of New Years still to come? Predicting the political future is never easy and we were amused to read a line from the last Insider of 2017 which could just as easily apply to 2019: 2017 has been a terse year for Scottish politics and, as Brexit rumbles on, 2018 looks likely to hold more of the same until some sense of direction is established.

What we do know is that barring a very late change of heart, 2019 will see the UK leave the European Union on 29 March. We predict a new UK Conservative leader and quite possibly another snap General Election.  And look out for a new UK Lib Dem leader (probably Jo Swinson) and a version of UKIP-lite from Nigel Farage.

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

Hat trick of new business wins for Perceptive Communicators

Hat trick of new business wins for Perceptive Communicators

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

Glasgow City of Science and Innovation, Precision Sequencing and Menicon have appointed Perceptive Communicators to deliver a range of focused communications campaigns within the health and life sciences industry.

Glasgow City of Science and Innovation appointed Perceptive to help raise the profile of its flagship festival VentureFest – a festival of discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship, and VentureJam which is the youth strand of the VentureFest programme. Precision Sequencing, a collaboration between Stratified Medicine Scotland – Innovation Centre, Glasgow Polyomics, the Centre for Virus Research (CVR) and Glasgow Precision Oncology Laboratory, secured the services of Perceptive to help raise awareness of the newly formed consortium which provides a range of services for genetic sequencing. Japanese contact lens manufacturer Menicon engaged with Perceptive to provide them with a robust communications strategy, research and social media training for the UK arm of their business.

Dr Susie Mitchell, Programme Director, Glasgow City of Science and Innovation said: “Having previously worked with Perceptive and seeing the results they achieve, I’m delighted to be working with their specialist team again to strengthen the profile of our flagship partnership projects to target audiences and amongst our key stakeholders.”

Dr Allison Jackson, Manager of Glasgow Polyomics and spokesperson for Precision Sequencing said: “We’re excited to be working with Perceptive Communicators. Their work on promoting Stratified Medicine Scotland – Innovation Centre has been excellent, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their expertise will help raise the profile of Precision Sequencing going forward”.

Julie McLauchlan, founder and Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators, said: “These latest wins are testament to our experience and expertise in the health and life sciences sector and we’re looking forward to working with each of these providers on a range of meaningful campaigns. These recent appointments also highlight how we are growing as a business as we continue to consistently punch above our weight.”

Scottish Political Insider Special – Wednesday 12 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider Special – Wednesday 12 December 2018

This Insider Special started out as a Scottish Budget special but events overnight have yet again reminded us that any forward planning in these febrile pre (Br)exit days is pretty pointless.   Prime Minister Theresa May is facing the toughest day of her short Downing Street tenure as she faces a No Confidence vote triggered by her own MPs.  We suspect she will survive (as Mrs Thatcher did initially) but only just – and then go in the spring.

Closer to home and the day’s main domestic focus should be the Scottish Budget statement, to be made by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP later this afternoon.  Live updates will be reported via the BBC: BBC Budget link

Derek Mackay has a reputation for being one of the shrewder – and sharper – brains in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet team.  He has made clear that today’s statement will not be defined by Brexit, which is maybe just as well as no-one has a clue what is happening today, never mind in a year’s time.

The Scottish Government is much less ‘leaky’ than Westminster and they do not indulge in the slow drip-feed of perceived good news to the same extent that Philip Hammond and his team do.  Nevertheless, one or two carefully placed interviews this week have made it clear that investing in public services and growing the economy will be prioritised in spending plans to help protect Scotland’s prosperity as far as is possible in the face of continued uncertainty over Brexit.

In one interview Derek Mackay said: “I will set out the Scottish Government’s spending plans for the year ahead. The Budget will protect vital public services and prioritise spending on health, education and economic investment. The 2019-20 Scottish Budget will support the vision in our Programme for Government by ensuring we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow.”

Parliamentary arithmetic means that the SNP minority administration must strike a deal with at least one other party.  Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have all ruled this out already – so it is widely expected that, once again, Derek Mackay give in to demands from the Scottish Greens for a raft of unpopular tax rises as the price of a Budget deal. And although specifics are hard to predict, it is likely we will see a further freeze to higher levels of income tax thresholds. This follows last year’s decoupling from point where the 40% income tax rate applies.

We will include a link to a full summary of today’s Budget statement in our usual Friday Insider but, as ever, if anyone has any specific queries, please don’t hesitate to 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 with Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932578 or

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 December 2018

The Scottish Parliament voted by 92 to 29 this week to formally reject the UK government’s draft Brexit deal. SNP, Labour, Green and Lib Dem members at Holyrood backed a motion rejecting the proposals, as well as the prospect of leaving without any deal. However, the parties have not come to a consensus on an alternative plan. The vote was held as MPs at Westminster continued to debate whether to accept the withdrawal plan agreed between UK and EU negotiators.

In a week that saw multiple Commons defeats for the UK Government, we heard that the UK should be able to unilaterally cancel its withdrawal from the EU, according to an advocate general of the European Court of Justice. A group of Scottish politicians including QC Joanna Cherry MP has asked the court whether the UK can call off Brexit without the consent of other member states. The Court of Justice (ECJ) will deliver its final ruling at a later date.

The advice from advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona comes as the House of Commons begins five days of debates on Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, with a vote due to be held next Tuesday. In a written statement, the ECJ said Mr Campos Sanchez-Bordona’s opinion was that if a country decided to leave the EU, it should also have the power to change its mind during the two-year exit process specified in Article 50 of the EU treaty.

New fire safety measures for high rise buildings in Scotland are to be introduced next year in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. A review was ordered in the wake of the London blaze, which killed 72 people. The changes will include measures to improve evacuation from high rises and making sprinkler systems mandatory in all new-build flats. Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said this would add to “stringent safety regulations” already in place. The changes will be brought forward via legislation in 2019, with ministers planning amendments to a members’ bill from Labour’s David Stewart.

Still on housing matters and the Scottish Government has published the results from the latest housing conditions survey. It includes statistics on fuel poverty, energy efficiency, the condition of housing and other descriptors of occupied housing stock. The results show overall fuel poverty remains at similar levels to 2016 findings, but changes are evident in subgroups including local authority housing, households using gas as the primary heating fuel and households primarily using oil.

Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephens visited Perceptive client, Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, seeing first-hand the ground breaking work on precision medicine which tailors medicine to patients’ individual genetic profiles.

Charity Action for Children this week claimed one million children under the age of 10 in Scotland and England are facing “Dickensian” levels of poverty as they prepare for Christmas.   The charity will be running unofficial food banks over the Christmas period for families it says lack fresh food, suitable clothes and, in some cases, money to pay for heating. Action for Children is calling for the chancellor to end the freeze on children’s benefits so that rising prices do not push more families into poverty.

And finally, rather than sending Christmas cards, this year we will be making a donation to one of the seven charities which Perceptive has assisted with pro-bono communications support. The charity will be chosen by Perceptive clients and employees. You can cast your vote by completing this survey  which takes less than a minute. We will share the winning charity next week.

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

Construction businesses need to challenge perceptions

Construction businesses need to challenge perceptions

Like many youngsters, at school I didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted to do next. It became a straight toss-up between studying English or architecture.

When I was accepted into the Mackintosh School of Architecture, I was so delighted with going to Glasgow School of Art that I took that path. Around halfway through my degree, I realised this wasn’t the career for me – unfortunately my fascination with buildings did not translate into a talent for designing them! However, I completed my studies and went on to work as an architectural assistant while reconsidering my options.

After completing a postgraduate course in broadcast journalism, I soon found that competition for jobs was ferocious. I was very lucky that a communications job came up a few months later at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, and because of my background, they took a chance on me. This was the first step into a career where I have been fortunate enough to combine a love of writing with a passion for buildings.

In the 15 years since, my jobs have included assistant editor of an architecture magazine and a marketing role at a large architectural firm. Three years ago I joined a communications consultancy, Perceptive Communicators, which specialises in just a few sectors. I now handle all aspects of communication for numerous construction clients, so having a background in the industry has been an obvious advantage.

The moral is that there are so many varied roles in the construction industry – and they don’t all involve getting your hands dirty. As well as joiners and bricklayers, the sector needs marketing experts, HR professionals, accountants, lawyers, 3D visualisers – there’s a career to suit everyone. The industry needs to get that message out to young people – especially girls.

There is a skills shortage in construction, and also a huge gender imbalance. Perhaps if we could address the latter, we could help remedy the former. The difficulty lies in how. Even areas of the sector such as architecture, which are managing to attract women in the first place, are losing them along the way. We need to figure out why so many talented people are taking their skills and training into other industries.

When I hear some experiences of women in construction, I know I’ve been lucky. I have very fond and positive memories of my time in an architectural practice. However, this was before I had my children. There does seem to be a long-hours culture in architecture, which does not lend itself well to parenthood, and might go some way to explaining why so many women drop out of the profession.

That brings me on to what is a society-wide problem – men need to take on their fair share of childcare duties. They should accept family friendly measures in the workplace, and should be encouraged to do so by their employers. Until there is as much chance of a dad leaving the office to pick up the kids as there is a mum, then the gender imbalance in senior positions will unfortunately continue – and not just in construction.

Some of our clients are making great strides in encouraging a better gender balance, such as offering shared parental leave, flexible hours and skills academies. One client, Construction Scotland – the industry leadership organisation – is running a programme called Inspiring Construction, which aims to inform not just young people but their parents, teachers and career advisers about the huge and diverse range of roles on offer.

My own thoughts on how construction businesses can encourage more talent to join them? Challenge perceptions. Showcase every career you have to offer – not just the traditional trades. Embrace family friendly working. Discourage the long-hours, survival-of-the-fittest culture. And tell Dads on your team it’s ok to do that school run.



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