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Political Insider Friday 31 January 2020

Political Insider Friday 31 January 2020

It feels like we should be starting with And Finally… in this week’s Insider, as finally, at 11pm tonight, the UK will formally leave the EU. 

On Wednesday, Members of the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the terms of the UK’s departure. MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an emotional debate in Brussels. After the vote, MEPs marked the UK’s exit by singing Auld Lang Syne. Several British MEPs said they hoped the UK would return one day although Eurosceptics, including the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage, used their final speeches to tear into the EU – with Farage declaring (to cheers from many) that he “would never be back.”

Wednesday’s session in Brussels saw those on either side of the Brexit debate, including the UK’s 73 MEPs(one of whom was a new SNP MEP succeeding new MP Alyn Smith for all of four days), celebrate or lament the end of British EU membership. Some MEPs marked the occasion with songs – others wore “always united” scarves. The Parliament’s Brexit spokesperson, Guy Verhofstadt, said it was “sad to see a country leaving that has twice given its blood to liberate Europe”. He added that British MEPs had brought “wit, charm, and intelligence” as well as “stubbornness”, and would be missed.

Brexit has, of course, raised the spectre of independence again and MSPs have backed calls for a new referendum on Scottish independence in a vote at Holyrood this week. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a new poll later this year and wants UK ministers to agree to this, but Boris Johnson has rejected her call for a transfer of powers, saying the 2014 vote was a “once in a generation” event. MSPs voted by 64 (all SNP/Green MSPs) to 54 to agree that circumstances have changed since then, and that “a referendum should be held”. Ms Sturgeon is due to make a speech today setting out the “next steps” in the “campaign to secure Scotland’s future as an independent nation”.

The European flag is to continue flying outside the Scottish Parliament beyond Brexit after MSPs voted to keep it up.Holyrood’s management group had planned to lower the flag at 23:00 on Friday, the moment the UK leaves the EU.However, MSPs voted by 63 to 54 to overturn this decision after the Scottish government forced a debate. Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh warned ministers not to politicise the issue, saying the flags flown at Holyrood “reflect our relationships in law”. The Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems argued that the “non-political” decision of the Parliamentary Corporate Body should be respected, but SNP and Green MSPs united to “direct” the group to keep the flag up.

The value of exports from Scotland grew to £85bn in 2018 – an increase of 2.9%, according to new estimates. The growth was helped by growing demand for Scottish food and drink produce where exports were up 7.1%.The Scottish government highlighted that trade with the EU was growing faster than trade with other markets.But the UK government said Scotland’s “most important trading partner” was the rest of UK, accounting for more than three times the trade with the EU.

And finally … Next week Perceptive client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) is hosting its sixth annual conference, #IBioIC20.  Innovation Minister, Ivan McKee will discuss government policy in relation to biotechnology with IBioIC chair, Professor Dame Anne Glover.  Speakers at the event include Lesley Riddoch, Vivienne Parry and respected industry leader, Michael Carus. As well as chairing the session with Michael, Perceptive is hosting a free social media workshop at the event sharing top tips on social media strategy, content and key trends. Interested? Come along on Wednesday 5th Feb 9:30 – 10:30am at the TIC building, George St, Glasgow. You or your colleagues can sign up for the workshop  here  

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

Political Insider – Friday 24 January 2020

Political Insider – Friday 24 January 2020

Boris Johnson has said the UK has “crossed the Brexit finish line” after the UK Parliament passed legislation implemented the withdrawal deal this week. The EU Bill, which paves the way for the country to leave the bloc on 31 January, is now awaiting the formality of Royal Assent. The PM said the UK could now “move forwards as one” and put “years of rancour and division behind it”.

The EU’s top officials are expected to sign the agreement in the coming days, while MEPs will vote on it next week. The European Parliament will meet on 29 January to debate the agreement, which sets out the terms of the UK’s “divorce” settlement with the EU, the rights of EU nationals resident in the UK and British expats on the continent and arrangements for Northern Ireland.  However, the Welsh Assembly this week joined the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly in rejecting the Brexit Bill. It means all of the UK’s devolved law-making bodies have voted against the withdrawal agreement legislation. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford AM said the law unilaterally rewrites the way devolution works in Wales. His counterpart in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said the three votes were “unprecedented and momentous”. 

People’s quality of life should be as important as economic growth, according to Scotland’s First MinisterIn a speech yesterday afternoon Nicola Sturgeon said that Scotland is “redefining” what it means to be a successful nation.She told a conference that Scotland is creating an economy where “collective wellbeing” is as fundamental as GDP.GDP, a measure of goods and services, has been criticised for undervaluing quality of life. Ms Sturgeon’s speech comes after Scotland fell five places in an index of social and economic wellbeing in developed countries.

MSPs have passed legislation to set up a Scottish National Investment Bank. The bank, which should be operational by the end of 2020, is designed to make long-term investments in Scottish firms, over a period of 10 to 15 years. The Scottish Government has committed to putting £2bn of funding into the bank over the next decade. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said the bank “has the potential to transform Scotland’s society” and build a “high-tech, inclusive economy”. The legislation passed by MSPs grants the necessary powers to set up the bank as a public company. Its primary goal is to help Scotland transition to net-zero carbon emissions, while supporting small and medium-size enterprises.

The trial of Alex Salmond, who is accused of carrying out a series of sexual offences against ten women while serving as Scotland’s First Minister, will begin on 9 March. The date was confirmed when Mr Salmond appeared at a procedural hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday. Mr Salmond denies all 14 charges against him, which include one attempted rape and one intent to rape. He is also accused of ten sexual assaults and two indecent assaults.

Two delayed CalMac ferries are “significantly less than half built”, it has been revealed. The vessels being built at Ferguson shipyard are £100m over budget and likely to be three years overdue. A Holyrood inquiry into the delay was told warnings the Inverclyde yard was not set up to build two ferries side-by-side were ignored. Work got under way before designs were finalised and workforce morale was badly hit by the delay, MSPs heard.

And finally … Cruden Group welcomed Scottish Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP to their Edmonstone development in Edinburgh on Tuesday. The Minister met senior representatives from the Cruden Group and Hillcrest Housing Association and had the opportunity to speak to some of the development’s newest residents.  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

Political Insider Friday 17 January 2020

Political Insider Friday 17 January 2020

The UK government has formally rejected a call from Scotland’s first minister for a second independence referendum. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a referendum would “continue the political stagnation Scotland has seen for the past decade”. He also said that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously pledged that the 2014 referendum would be a “once in a generation” vote.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted that the Tories were attempting to “deny democracy”. She said Mr Johnson’s formal refusal of her request for a referendum to be held later this year was “predictable but also unsustainable and self-defeating” and insisted that “Scotland will have the right to choose”.

The first minister also said the Scottish government would set out its response and next steps before the end of the month, and that the devolved Scottish Parliament would again be asked to “back Scotland’s right to choose our own future”.

There is no clear way to measure the success of Scotland’s £5.2bn city deals, spending watchdogs have warned. City region deals are designed to encourage economic growth and create jobs. They have seen the UK and Scottish governments collaborate with local councils on infrastructure schemes such as new rail links. However a report by Audit Scotland warns the plans lack provisions to measure performance. It found many deals may have already missed opportunities to meet national targets due to a lack of measures to track progress.

The cost of a UN climate change conference in Glasgow could be “several hundred million pounds”, police say. Up to 90,000 people – delegates, observers, heads of state and media – are expected to attend COP26, over 12 days in November. A Scottish Police Authority report says it will be the largest mobilisation of police officers in the UK. Scottish ministers say they expect the UK government to cover the “core costs” including emergency services funding.

Leading figures from Unilever, Ella’s Kitchen and Positive Luxury have been unveiled as key speakers at a forthcoming conference which champions values-led businesses. The executives will address the Impact Summit at SWG3 in Glasgow on May 20, when climate change, tech for good and sustainable fashion will be brought under the microscope. The event is delivered by Edinburgh-based FutureX, which has secured the support of The Hunter Foundation, the philanthropic organisation set up by Sir Tom Hunter, for a third consecutive year.

We were delighted to attend Built Environment Network’s first Scottish event of 2020 yesterday with many major construction and development projects in the city on the agenda. Glasgow City Council leader, Susan Aitken was very upbeat about the future prospects for the city, particularly on investment in office development and as a world leading conference destination. 

And finally … Perceptive clients are welcoming two MSPs today. Gillian Martin (SNP, Aberdeen East) will be visiting Inverurie based Scotframe and Graham Simpson (Conservative, Central Scotland) is visiting Construction Scotland’s Innovation Centre in Hamilton.

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 

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