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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 25 January 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 25 January 2019

This week the Court of Session overturned a decision by Scottish Ministers to refuse planning permission for development of 600 homes which would be delivered with a £20 million dairy, a new primary school and public park at Aithrey Kerse in Bridge of Allan. Graham’s The Family Dairy in partnership with client, Mactaggart & Mickel Homes lodged the appeal last year further to refusal by Stirling councillors, a decision which was upheld by the Scottish Government. A key element of the appeal was that Scottish Ministers had failed to give proper consideration to the fact that the Local Development Plan process which has resulted in a Plan which continues the housing shortfall in Stirling.

Brexit continues to dominate UK politics and in Scotland, the talk of Brexit is now being followed quickly by discussions around a second independence referendum. Still the policy closest to her political heart, SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is looking to make this happen as quickly as she can. This week she pledged to set out her plans for a second independence referendum “in the coming weeks” even if the Brexit deadline is extended.

The SNP leader had previously said she would have to wait for the “fog” around Brexit clears before she sets out a timetable. However, on Wednesday, she told MSPs that she would speak soon on the matter, even if talks over Brexit are extended beyond the 29 March exit date.

Predictably, the Tories said “now is not the time” for another independence referendum.

Another Committee debate which caught the eye this week was around supporting entrepreneurship in Scotland. Public Finance and Digital Economy Minister – and SNP rising star – Kate Forbes MSP says the Scottish Government has “ambitions to become a world leader in entrepreneurship and that in Scotland, prioritisation has been to tackle the gender gap and to encourage young people in the sector, and this has led to demonstrable benefits.” The minister praised the work of Entrepreneurial Scotland as being at the heart of what the government wants to achieve.

The minister finished by saying there are headwinds approaching the Scottish economy which will pose difficulties, citing the CBI Scotland analysis which warned a no-deal Brexit could cost Scotland £14bn a year. The analysis can be read in more detail here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-46959076  But not everyone agreed, Veteran Highlands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant says there is little to agree with in the Scottish government motion and that “statements of intent alone do not build the environment to thrive.”

In some (rare) good news for the country, unemployment in Scotland has fallen below the 100,000 mark for the first time. Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of people seeking work fell to 99,000 between September and November last year. This makes the jobless rate 3.6%, a record low, with more than three quarters of working age Scots now in a job. The UK unemployment rate is 4.0%, its lowest point since 1975.

But less good news for Alex Salmond, who has been charged with attempted rape and sexual assault. He appeared before an Edinburgh sheriff to face 14 charges, including two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one breach of the peace. The former First Minister made no plea during the hearing and was released on bail, but outside court, Mr Salmond said he was “innocent of any criminality” and added: “I have great faith in the court system in Scotland.”

And finally…  SNP Education committee, Clare Adamson, praised the young people who gave evidence this week after the committee considered a petition calling for all instrument tuition to be made free to schoolchildren. The convener says there will be debate in the chamber soon and asked the committee whether the petition should be closed. Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott suggests it would be polite to keep the petition open whilst the subject is clearly still live and the committee agreed.

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 julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 18 January 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 18 January 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 18 January 2019

Brexit has been dominating the political agenda this week – and how could it not? In Scotland, it’s not surprising to know how our 59 MPs voted as the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal was emphatically rejected by 432 votes to 202. Only 10 Scottish MPs voted for the deal, and all of these for votes were from Scottish Conservative MPs. Every other Scottish MP voted against.

On Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon travelled to London for Brexit talks as Theresa May survived a confidence vote. Scotland’s First Minister wants a new referendum on Brexit so the UK can stay in the EU. But unsurprisingly she also said it was “increasingly clear” that “Scotland’s interests will only be protected with independence”.

In other Scottish political news this week, the Finance and Constitution Committee recommended that the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Amendment Order 2018 be approved. This will impact homebuyers who are purchasing a second home such as buy to let or holiday homes. From the 25 January 2019, these purchases will be subject to additional dwelling supplement tax at the increased rate of 4%, rather than the rate of 3% now.

On Wednesday, the Finance and Constitution Committee took evidence from Finance Secretary Derek Mackay on his budget. Mr Mackay insisted that the Scottish Government has reinstated the “short changing” of £55m to the health budget. There will be a package of funding transferred to local government to help implement Frank’s Law and the cabinet secretary also noted during the Committee that the local government’s request for more cash for social care will be met.

Businesses will be able to access more than £100 million to help them expand and unlock investment through the next phase of the Scottish Growth Scheme, after an announcement by the Scottish Government was made earlier in the week.  SMEs across Scotland will have the chance to apply for financial support, which includes microfinance loans of up to £25,000, debt or loan finance of up to £100,000, and equity investment in deals of up to £2 million. As part of this phase of the initiative, Scottish Enterprise has also introduced a loans scheme in the range from £250,000 to £2 million, or up to £5 million in exceptional circumstances, for growth-focused SMEs with a viable business plan and a clear ability to repay the debt.

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 julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Internal communications shouldn’t be the ‘poor relation’ to marketing and PR

Internal communications shouldn’t be the ‘poor relation’ to marketing and PR

There’s a very good reason why young children ask the question ‘why?’ all the time. Wanting to know the purpose behind the things you’re being asked to do is a basic human instinct. At work, we want to know what our goals are and our company’s plans for getting us there.

At this time of year, motivating your employees is particularly important. A recent study by Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance showed that workers feel least motivated during the winter months. A quarter of respondents singled out January as the month when they’re least enthusiastic about getting the job done.

Good internal communications can act as a vital employee motivator by answering the ‘why’ questions – and that’s just one of the many reasons it is so important. The days of lifelong loyalty to one employer are gone, with employees becoming increasingly choosy. They don’t want to be dictated to – they expect their views to be listened to and acted upon.

There are many benefits for the employer, like improved morale, higher productivity and greater staff retention, if staff feel engaged. Good internal communications also help ensure that employees share positive experiences of their workplace with others.

After many years of being considered the poor relation to the likes of media relations and marketing, it seems that most companies now recognise how critical it is to communicate well with their employees. A recent Censuswide survey found that 80 per cent of C-level executives believe internal communications has become more important over the past year. Almost all respondents (99 per cent) said employee engagement was important to their business.

Interestingly, the same research found that significantly more respondents prepare for an internal team meeting (87 percent) than for a live media interview (54 per cent), showing that they believe the toughest audience can be their own team.

Of course, it is easy to talk a good internal communications game, but more difficult to put a strategy into practice, especially in large, geographically-dispersed organisations. Simply sending a weekly newsletter or email to the entire workforce about major company announcements no longer cuts the mustard. Because people want to feel listened to and cared for, successful internal communication should instead be an ongoing, two-way conversation, whether that be in person or virtually. It’s not just younger employees, who have grown up with social media, that expect fast feedback. Workers of all ages now want a higher degree of transparency from their employers.

For larger companies or organisations, internal communications require a coherent strategy and dedicated resource. The irony is that frontline employees – the ones interacting with your customers, who should be the ambassadors for your business – are often the ones who have the least access to information about the company. They’re the ones who are most likely to be disgruntled if they feel they’re not being communicated with, and to pass that negativity on.

At the other end of the scale, SMEs shouldn’t assume that because their team is small, and perhaps even all sitting in the same room, that a chat across the office is all that they need. They still need to ensure their employees are given the chance to be formally heard.

So how do employees want to be communicated with? Recent figures from the European Association for Internal Communication suggest that there’s still a big role for the company intranet – 74% of respondents view it as very important. Almost as many (73%) value a face to face chat, with digital media given the thumbs up by 60% of respondents, and traditional print endorsed by 43%.

Internal communications are particularly important when your organisation hits a crisis. As a rule, your employees should never find out news about their company from an external source. In an age when almost everyone has a social media account, this is more difficult than it used to be, so speed is of the essence. Organisations need to consider reliable methods of reaching all employees quickly.

So, when thinking about your overall communications and marketing strategy, don’t treat internal communications as an afterthought. If you feed their inner small child by regularly listening to them and letting them know ‘why’, your employees have the potential to be your most passionate brand ambassadors.

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 11 January 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 11 January 2019

The Scottish Parliament resumed business this week (Tuesday 8 January) and on the same day former First Minister Alex Salmond was again making the headlines. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the Scottish Government admitted acting unlawfully while investigating the harassment claims being made against him, the Government conceded that it breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had “prior involvement” in the case. The full extent of Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘prior knowledge’ is yet to come out in the wash …

The first Chamber debate of 2019 focussed on ultra-low emission vehicles. The Scottish Government as expected highlighted what it sees as successes in the sector and its efforts to increase the size of the charge point network. Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said 6% of new cars sold in Scotland in 2018 were ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). But Labour’s Colin Smyth said the take-up of such cars was “below where it has to be if we are to meet our ambition on this issue”. Also, Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur claimed Scotland “falls well short” of what had been achieved in other countries.

Life Sciences was also a big talking point at Holyrood this week. Trade, Investment and Innovation Minister Ivan McKee, one of the new Ministers appointed last summer who has surprised many by his enthusiastic start, says several hundred life science companies employ almost 40,000 people in Scotland and the minister adds that the sector has the capacity to benefit millions of people and save lives.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie agreed that the life sciences sector has been a major success story for Scotland but he is deeply worried about Brexit. He said the sector needs access to the best staff across Europe and the world, and requires the transfer of materials. He highlighted 70% of research assistants at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research are from the EU, with its staff representing 30 different nationalities.

Visitors to the capital will soon need to pay more for the privilege after a City of Edinburgh Council consultation on the introduction of a Transient Visitor Levy showed significant support for the proposals from both residents and businesses. The summary document sets out the responses of more than 2,560 individuals who took part in a survey or attended a discussion forum. Overall, 90% of residents are supportive of a tourist tax, while 51% of Edinburgh accommodation providers, who would have to enforce the proposal, also support it.

As mentioned in last week’s SPI, the team at Perceptive will be keeping a close eye on Holyrood’s Economy, Energy, and Fair Work Committee as it starts to hold a major inquiry on the construction sector in Scotland. 

The Convener of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Gordon Lindhurst MSP had this to say on the inquiry: “The sector has its challenges and we want to hear views and suggestions on how these can be overcome. We also want to find out how we can encourage young people to work in the industry, and we’ll be holding consultation work with businesses and colleges over the coming months.”

And finally… the twitter handle @holyroodmouse was created this week after a bold mouse was seen climbing the skirting boards whilst the education committee was in full flow, the fury creature went unnoticed until It was flagged up by the Lib Dems who posted a video on Twitter for all to enjoy:https://twitter.com/scotlibdems/status/1082950838593699840

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 julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 4 January 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 4 January 2019

Happy New Year!  Scottish Parliament business resumes again on Tuesday (8 January) but the Parliament itself will be the focus of attention at various times in the coming year as it marks its 20th anniversary.

There was a bit of a Christmas truce amongst politicians over the holiday period although the ghost of Brexit yet to come wasn’t far away. In time-honoured fashion, Scotland’s party leaders issued new year messages, as Brexit looks set to dominate politics at least for the early part 2019. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon sought to assure European Union migrants that they would always be welcome in Scotland whilst Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservatives interim leader, said there was “cause of optimism” as the UK begins its departure from the EU.

Scottish Labour’s Richard Leonard called for renewed “ambition and hope” in politics, and Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green’s co-convenor, said his party was ready to offer a “positive vision of a sustainable future and a fairer, more equal society.” And the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, said he wanted to push for unity in 2019, rather than “bitter division”.

Politics will pick up the pace significantly after this weekend and the team at Perceptive will be keeping a close eye on Holyrood’s Economy, Energy, and Fair Work Committee as it gears up to hold a major inquiry on the construction sector in Scotland. The remit of the inquiry is: To understand the characteristics and challenges of Scotland’s construction sector to ensure the sector realises its full potential in contributing to a productive and inclusive Scottish economy. Specific areas of focus will include: economic impact; access to finance; skills; procurement; infrastructure investment; and innovation.

The committee recognises that construction is a wide-ranging sector, where industry outputs vary from minor improvements to major capital projects across the realms of infrastructure, commercial, and residential. With many construction clients, is also an important sector to Perceptive; we would agree construction is an important driver of the wider economy, due to the impact that construction investment has on other sectors via housing provision, developing transport infrastructure, delivering infrastructure for health services, educational, and community activities across Scotland.

And finally … Just before Christmas, we said goodbye to a true giant of late 20th century British politics as Paddy Ashdown died suddenly after a short battle with cancer.  The former Lib Dem leader inspired a generation of young campaigners and had remained an active commentator on matters Brexit until shortly before his death.

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 julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

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