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.
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