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Political Insider – Friday 27 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 27 September 2019

In one of the most dramatic weeks yet in the long-running Brexit saga, MPs and peers have returned to Parliament shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that its suspension was unlawful. The PM has said he “profoundly disagreed” with Tuesday’s landmark ruling that his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was illegal but he would respect it. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove said he would not criticise the court, but he “disagreed with their position”.

The SNP, whose high-profile QC MP Joanna Cherry led the Supreme Court challenge, has urged opposition parties to back a no confidence motion that could remove “zombie Prime Minister” Boris Johnson from office. But opposition parties are split over what to do if he refuses to quit. The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said a confidence vote could remove the PM and allow a general election to be held. Mr Blackford said a “caretaker” Prime Minister would need to be found if the motion of no confidence was successful – and did not rule out the possibility of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn filling the role until a general election was held.

Closer to home and Scotland’s main economic development agency says there has been a huge surge in requests from businesses asking for help to get ready for Brexit. Scottish Enterprise said visits to a website offering firms help with the cost of Brexit had risen by nearly 400%. The agency said requests for advice about currency changes and access to suppliers were also common. Linda Murray, head of strategy services, urged companies to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”.

This week also saw a new report from the Fraser of Allander Institute. Nine in ten businesses in Scotland expect Brexit to have an important, or very important, impact on them. Its Scottish Business Monitor indicates that 30% of all businesses are scaling back all new investment in the run-up to the UK leaving the EU. It found 71% of firms expected costs to increase over the next six months. But most said their long-term economic confidence remained high.

The David Hume Institute has published another new report on Scotland’s future workforce, labour supply and immigration. Wealth of the Nation: Who Will Do the Jobs? points out that EU migration to Scotland has masked underlying demographic trends of an ageing population and low birth rates. The report warns of a major impact for Scotland’s health and social care sector and urges caution on the pace by which technological transformations will fill the gap. The Institute suggests that male employment rates – particularly for older men – have the potential to be increased.

At Holyrood, the Scottish Government’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions have been strengthened, as MSPs voted to put down a “net-zero” target in law. The Climate Change Bill – which aims to have all emissions offset by 2045 – was passed by 113 votes to 0 at Holyrood. Ministers agreed to a Labour amendment to up the interim target, with members agreeing to target a 75% reduction by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the government was “putting in place the most stringent framework of statutory targets of any country in the world”.

Scottish government statistics showed that the supply of total new housing has increased by 15% over the last year, the sixth consecutive annual increased total housing supply and the highest annual figure since 2008/09.  Homes for Scotland Chief Executive, Nicola Barclay called for Help to Buy to be extended until 2023 in line with England, housing policy to be aligned at national and local levels and grant funding levels for Registered Social Landlords to be shared beyond 2021.

Neil Bibby, West of Scotland MSP visited Lamont City Farm in Erskine following a much needed refurbishment by hub West Scotland and its supply chain partners.  Part of the Helping Hands initiative, hub West Scotland and its partners carried out over £38,000 of work for the city farm which was selected in conjunction with Renfrewshire Council. The farm is run exclusively by volunteers and welcomes 10,000 visitors a year. 

And finally, congratulations to client, Briar Homes which in its first year was shortlisted at last night’s Herald Property Awards.  Perceptive is delighted to hand its Property Team of the Year crown won at last year’s Herald Property awards to client, Clyde Gateway which were also joint winners of Commercial Development of the Year for its Red Tree Magenta  development at Shawfield in Rutherglen.

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 Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Political Insider – Friday 20 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 20 September 2019

It’s been another eventful week for Boris Johnson as he was booed and jeered leaving a working lunch with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. He then opted out of plans to speak alongside Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, after being targeted by a larger crowd.

The Prime Minister was then confronted by a gentleman at Whipps Cross University Hospital in north-east London, who said his seven-day-old daughter had been “gravely ill”, telling Mr Johnson there were not enough staff and the NHS is suffering under his watch. The PM later wrote on Twitter that the encounter was not “an embarrassment” but “part of my job”.

Former PM David Cameron is also making headlines this week. On Wednesday he revealed that he asked whether the Queen could “raise an eyebrow” about the prospect of Scotland voting for independence. As part of his memoirs being released this week, it was announced that he sought help from royal officials days before the 2014 vote amid “mounting panic” he may lose. What was discussed was not “anything that would be in any way improper… but just a raising of the eyebrow even… a quarter of an inch”, he said. The Queen later urged people to “think very carefully about the future”.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has pledged to stop indyref2 “dead in its tracks” even if pro-independence parties win a majority in Scotland. The Lib Dem leader also said his party would stop Brexit and ruled out future coalitions with Labour or the Tories. His comments follow those of UK party leader Jo Swinson who said the Lib Dems would be the “stop Brexit party”. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to have another vote on leaving the UK in 2020.

Scotland’s economy shrank between April and June, according to the latest official figures. Data released by the Scottish government shows output contracted by 0.3% over the period. Construction saw a sharp reduction in activity – and Scotland’s service sector barely grew. GDP in Scotland was up by 0.7% over the year, while the UK economy grew by 1.2% over the same period. In June it emerged total output from the Scottish economy grew at its fastest pace for two years in the first three months of 2019.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has published a report on the challenges facing younger generations in the face of environmental breakdown and increased economic turbulence. The report is part of a series of discussion papers on the impact of the environmental breakdown. It concludes the leadership shown by young people taking action on these issues should be better recognised through formal representation of the interests in decision-making systems and calls for the voting age to be lowered to 16. The report recommends the UK Government create a Future Generations Act to formally create protections for future generations. The Act would ensure businesses were prepared for their long-term trajectories and ensure new civil rights were protected by law.

On Wednesday, the housing industry was brought together to celebrate Scottish Housing Day, focusing on the positive impact that good quality housing makes to the lives of people and communities across Scotland. With several Perceptive clients working within the industry, we were delighted to create media moments throughout the week to help them showcase all the great work they do for Scottish Housing.

It was confirmed on Thursday the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is to be held for the first time in Aberdeen at P&J Live at The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), which was developed by Perceptive client, Henry Boot Developments and constructed by Robertson on behalf of Aberdeen City Council. Lewis Macdonald Labour MSP for North East Scotland tabled a motion at Holyrood congratulating TECA on being named as the host for this prestigious event which has only been held in Scotland once before. 

And finally… We were delighted to attend Action for Children’s Never Mind the Business event, the charity’s biggest fundraising event of the year. It’s a very different networking event (jeans and t-shirt attire) and revolves around a music themed quiz which pits teams against each other throughout the evening. Last night raised an impressive £166,185. 

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 Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Political Insider – Friday 13 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 13 September 2019

With the political atmosphere at Westminster and Holyrood reaching boiling point, we close the week with the unedifying sight of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom denying that he lied to the Queen. The context was the advice he gave her over the five-week suspension of Parliament, and he was speaking on Thursday after Scotland’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that the shutdown was unlawful.

Asked whether he had lied to the monarch about his reasons for the suspension, he replied: “Absolutely not. The High Court in England plainly agrees with us, but the Supreme Court will have to decide.” The power to suspend – or prorogue – Parliament lies with the Queen, who conventionally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. Labour has said it is “more important than ever” that Parliament is recalled after the government published its no-deal Brexit assessment late on Wednesday evening.

The next instalment will be a ‘definitive’ legal ruling by the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday.  This court has ultimate authority over the two courts which have already issued contradictory rulings. Normally courts do not intervene in the decisions of the government, using the principle of a “margin of appreciation,” which gives ministers more leeway under the law than that of ordinary people or organisations. The fact that a third senior court is about to intervene is a highly significant constitutional step.

This week in Scotland, former Labour Prime Minster Gordon Brown launched Our Scottish Future which will seek to make a “progressive” case for the union.  Explaining the purpose of the new think-tank, he said, “Our Scottish Future will be a coming-together of new ideas in what we hope will be a think tank dedicated to that progressive future.  Our Scottish Future will, of course, expose what is wrong, such as the dangerous experiment of a Scottish pound. But it will do much more than that: it will show how Scotland can stand tall in the world without standing apart from our nearest neighbours and it will demonstrate why Scotland is at its best leading in the UK, not leaving it.”

Scottish Labour is, however, struggling to find candidates to fight a snap election with vacancies for more than half of the country’s seats, according to press reports yesterday. There are no prospective parliamentary candidates for 33 seats in Scotland and party leaders are pressing local activists to put their names forward. Vacant seats include East Renfrewshire, which was once held by Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader, as well as both Aberdeen constituencies and two in Dundee.

A Conservative MP has become the first Scottish incumbent to announce that he will stand down at the next general election. Bill Grant won the Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock seat in 2017 after overturning a large SNP majority. But he said he would not be seeking re-election whenever the next general election is called.

Ministers this week announced the Scottish schools which will be rebuilt or refurbished in the first phase of a £1bn investment programme. A total of 26 schools in 11 council areas will be replaced under the strategy.

And finally… Rumours are beginning to circulate that UK Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart is being lined up to replace former Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson at Holyrood. The Penrith and Borders MP – one of 21 Tory MPs to have the Conservative whip removed for voting against a no-deal Brexit – is being encouraged to stand for the Scottish Parliament by several MSPs.

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 Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 6 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 6 September 2019

Fewer weeks than this prove the adage, attributed to the late Harold Wilson, that ‘a week is a long time in politics’.  We always try to be fair with our summaries but even Perceptive’s finely tuned wordsmiths could be close to running out of superlatives after the antics at Westminster which has seen two former Chancellors and Churchill’s grandson expelled from the Conservative Party – ‘permanently’ – and even the PM’s own brother resigning in despair.

On Wednesday, MPs backed a bill aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Opposition MPs and Tory rebels ensured the bill passed by 327 votes to 299. It was never really in doubt after Tuesday night’s victory for the Brexit rebels, but half of their work is now done. Their bill – which would force the prime minister to go to the EU and ask for an extension to the UK’s membership if there’s no progress by 19 October.  Incidentally, all 13 Scottish Tory MPs voted with the PM.

Boris Johnson also had to get the backing of two-thirds of MPs this week to call an election and he failed. In large part, that’s because opposition parties don’t trust him. Jeremy Corbyn says he is personally spoiling for an election; Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson told the PM “bring it on”. But they, along with the SNP and others, want to see no deal categorically ruled out before they’ll commit. They want to make sure, for example, that Mr Johnson couldn’t just hold an election on 15 October, win it and then march the country out on 31 October.

Weary voters out there, don’t breathe a sigh of relief though – an election, eventually, is all but inevitable. It is just a question of when.

Closer to home and the Scottish Tories will be in no rush to start the contest to replace Ruth Davidson.  Early media speculation tips newly appointed Deputy Liam Kerr or bright West Scotland spark Maurice Golden as possible runner.  Former Deputy Murdo Fraser – the Ken Clarke of Scottish Tory contests – may try again, especially if Jackson Carlaw, once again interim leader as the current deputy, decides not to go for the top job permanently.

Meanwhile First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to stamp her size 5s to demand Holyrood be given the power to hold a second independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon confirmed to MSPs that she would “seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge”.

As she unveiled her government’s plans for the year, she said the parliament had a clear, democratic mandate. Boris Johnson has indicated his opposition to a second vote on Scotland leaving the UK. Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament it “now seems inevitable that there will be an early UK general election”. She added: “Let me be crystal clear – the SNP will put Scotland’s opposition to Brexit and our right to choose independence at the very heart of that contest.”

Directly elected mayors or provosts for Scotland’s seven cities would boost growth and improve local decision-making, the Scottish Conservatives have said. Making a keynote speech this week, Shadow Finance Secretary and potential leadership contender Murdo Fraser MSP said the Scottish Government should follow England’s lead in creating the elected positions. He told the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation that “at the very least” Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Inverness and Stirling should be given the opportunity to appoint mayoral representatives. The changes south of the border have been a success, he added, and Scotland failing to follow suit was a “substantial weakness”.

Two new MSPs were sworn in on Tuesday as the Scottish Parliament resumed business after the summer recess. They were Lib Dem Beatrice Wishart, who held the Shetland seat vacated by former leader Tavish Scott, and Lothian list Labour MSP Sarah Boyack. Ms Boyack was previously an MSP from 1999 until losing her seat in 2016. She returns to Holyrood after a spell working as Head of Policy for the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. 

After a hat-trick of political visits for Perceptive clients last week, this week included client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) meeting Tory MSP Maurice Golden to discuss the future of industrial biotechnology.  This morning long standing client Kier Regional Building Scotland welcomesFirst Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to the Citizens Theatre – officially marking the start of their work on the major redevelopment of this landmark building.

And finally…Good luck to all those taking part in the Buccleuch Property Challenge today. Over 70 teams will compete in a six hour adventure race at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway, raising money for Seamab, a charity supporting vulnerable children in Perth and Kinross.

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 Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider Special – Article 50 extension or General Election?

Political Insider Special – Article 50 extension or General Election?

Today is expected to be a decisive moment in the UK Parliament in which opposition MPs hope to take control of the Order Paper, to facilitate a Bill that would require Boris Johnson to seek an extension of Article 50 to prevent a no-deal Brexit. But if MPs are successful and the Government is defeated, the Prime Minister has promised to in turn dissolve Parliament and hold a General Election.

What to expect today

Opposition MPs are expected to select a mediator to submit a request to the Speaker for an emergency debate on no-deal, in accordance with Standing Order 24. Usually, these debates take place the following day, last approximately two and a half hours and end with a neutral motion that is voted on along the lines of “That the House has considered […].”

The Speaker is almost certain to both grant the debate and, given recent precedent, to allow it to be heard and voted on this evening.

Emergency debates do not usually bind the Government’s hand. However, it has been the Speaker’s practice to allow MPs to add further wording which would allow time to debate and vote on a Bill that could, if passed, force the Government to act. The Bill in this instance is The European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill 2019. This would compel the Prime Minister to seek an extension of Article 50 to 11.00 pm 31 January 2020 if Parliament has not agreed a deal by 19 October 2019 and crucially, to accept whatever extension is offered along with any additional conditions.

If the Government is defeated tonight, time will be made tomorrow to debate and vote on the Bill. However, the Prime Minister also announced that if the Government is defeated tonight, he will move a motion to hold a General Election to be held on 14 October that would dissolve Parliament this Thursday (this would have to be voted by a two-third majority of MPs in accordance with the Fixed Term Parliament Act).

Approximate timetable

6.30 pm: The application for an emergency debate under Standing Order 24 is expected to be submitted. After a three minute introductory speech from the applicant, the Speaker will make his judgement as whether to grant the debate.

7.00 pm: If granted, the emergency debate will begin following the scheduled introduction of Chris Philp’s Private Member’s Bill.

10/10.30 pm: The Debate will close with a vote. If MPs vote in favour of the motion and the Government is defeated, time will be made tomorrow to debate the Bill. The Prime Minister may or may not make a statement this evening, but he is expected the following day to move a motion to hold a General Election.

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