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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

Preparation is key for a successful media interview

Preparation is key for a successful media interview

Should I get some media training? Would my business benefit from it? Is it worth the time? If you or your business are asking these questions, then you’re off to a good start when it comes to dealing with the media.  But there’s a lot more to it than that. 

A bad interview will never leave you or your organisation. Just ask Jeff Fairburn.

What should have been a straight forward broadcast interview for the then Chief Executive of Persimmon Homes turned into a viral sensation for all the wrong reasons. His nightmare interview with BBC Look North took a turn for the worse when he was asked whether he had any regrets about taking his £75m bonus payout.

It was a tough, but entirely predictable question – a response should have been prepared.  A clip of the aborted interview was shared on Twitter and racked up over 1m views.   Cringeworthy right enough but, more crucially, has had a significant knock on impact on Persimmon’s reputation.

All avoidable, with the right training and preparation.

The most important point to remember is this: a media interview is not a normal conversation, even if you like and respect the interviewer.  It’s a skill you need to learn just like any other business skill.   

The journalist wants information to tell an interesting story and you want to provide key messages about your business activities that presents your company in a positive light – or fair light if you are dealing with a breaking issue.  The right balance will be somewhere in the middle – you get a fair hearing and the journalist gets a decent piece too.

Your focus is on getting your points across regardless of the question being asked.  That’s not to say you don’t answer the question – you should – but answer it quickly and move onto your key points.

So, who needs media training? Anyone who’s engaging with the media whether face to face, by email, or by phone. Depending on the size and structure of your company, you may have a single spokesperson, or several individuals who can represent the company on different projects or talking points – all should have some media training before they do so. And even experienced ‘hands’ need a refresher now and then. Social media has changed how we engage, and the lines are more blurred than they used to be.

A carefully crafted media training session conducted by an experienced facilitator will provide the necessary tools to navigate through the potential hiccups a media interview can present across print, broadcast or social channels.

The biggest fear we hear from clients is, “What happens if the interview isn’t going the way I want it to?”.  Knowing how to take back control is essential, and there are techniques that can be learned to address this.

Most media training sessions include a camera or a smart phone to record your practice interviews – even if you don’t anticipate doing any broadcast interviews in the near future.   Playing back this footage and observing your tone of voice and interview style is crucial to help shape the session- and you’ll get more out of it.

By your second or third run-through you should expect to face tougher questions – the ones you hope will not come up in real life.

The reality is, that any media interview is going to contain at least one tricky question that you don’t want to answer or didn’t anticipate being asked. Good journalists are trained to probe, especially if they see any sign of discomfort.

A good trainer will help you navigate these situations with more confidence so you can get back to shaping the story you want to tell.

And don’t be tempted to use in-house colleagues instead. The company culture kicks in and you will find yourself using shorthand and jargon, both of which can be confusing to external audiences.

It only takes one bad interview for media training to become your biggest priority—so you would be wise to invest in bringing in experts.

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 May 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 May 2019

In Holyrood this week, Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced more detailed plans on their proposed Deposit Return Scheme. The Deposit Return Scheme will include aluminium and steel cans as well as drinks containers made of glass and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic with a 20p deposit as part of plans to combat climate change. 

The scheme is based on what Ms Cunningham termed successful international equivalents and will be widely accessible, with all shops which sell drinks offering deposit refunds to customers. The Deposit Return Scheme Implementation Advisory Group is providing industry input and guidance on the scheme’s interaction with consumers, producers, retailers and the hospitality industry, which will be key to its success. More details can be found here:https://news.gov.scot/news/deposit-return-scheme

At Westminster, further pressure is being piled onto the PM and her position, Theresa May met Sir Graham Brady this week, amid calls for her to set a firm resignation date. No 10 insisted the meeting was routine, but pressure is mounting on the PM, with local Tory associations confirming they will hold a vote of confidence in her leadership on 15 June.

The Scottish government is likely to postpone plans for its budget to be assigned a share of VAT revenues, the finance secretary has indicated. Half of the VAT receipts raised in Scotland had been due to be assigned to the Scottish government’s budget from next year.

However, it has been difficult to calculate what the figure should be. Derek Mackay said there was a danger this could short-change his budget by millions of pounds.

Scrapping the current benefits system and replacing it with a basic income could eradicate destitution, according to a new report. The report supporting the idea of a universal basic income has been compiled by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The RSA charity wants to see every adult in Scotland given a basic annual income of £2,400, rising to £4,800. Children would be paid £1,500.

The Scottish government supports proposed trials of the system by councils in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire.

And finally… Wavegarden Scotland, a client of Perceptive, held a public consultation at Ratho Library on Wednesday of this week. The purpose of the consultation was to update residents on the accommodation design proposals at what will be Scotland’s first artificial surf pack, located at the old Craigpark Quarry in Ratho. Over 150 residents engaged with the Wavegarden Scotland team. Feedback was very encouraging towards Scotland’s first purpose-built surfing lake and newest leisure destination.

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    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 3 May 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 3 May 2019

Nicola Sturgeon has hit back at Theresa May after the Prime Minister said that the SNP had to “get on with the day job” during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. Addressing the House of Commons, the PM said: “Under the SNP and government in Scotland, what we are seeing is public services getting worse because the SNP are focussing on holding another independence referendum.”

The First Minister accused Theresa May of a “complete lack of self-awareness” and said it was the Tory leader who was struggling to get on with her administration’s duties.

The Scottish Government announced this week that they will legislate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045 after receiving fresh advice from an expert panel.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) urged that Scotland set the target five years ahead of the UK as a whole. The panel says Scotland has more potential sites for carbon capture and a greater landmass for tree planting. It came after a report to the UN last year urged the world to go “further and faster” in tackling climate change. And on Sunday last week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a “climate emergency” in her speech to the SNP party conference.

The Scottish Greens will launch their manifesto for the upcoming European elections next week (Tues 7th May) in Glasgow. The launch will take place at West Brewery, Glasgow Green, which was set up by German national Petra Wetzel, and brews under German purity laws. Media will be invited to ask questions of lead candidate Maggie Chapman and party co-convenor, Glasgow MSP Patrick Harvie.

Scottish Greens Parliamentary Co-Leader Alison Johnstone MSP has  called on the Scottish Government to take urgent action in the face of the climate emergency. Last year climate scientists warned that we have just a decade to deliver the change needed to avoid a climate catastrophe, and today new guidance was issued to the Scottish Government by the Committee on Climate Change, its statutory advisor.  Ms Johnstone asked the First Minister what action the Scottish Government plan to take in the next year given the urgent nature of the emergency.

And finally SNP MP Pete Wishart has announced his candidacy to replace John Bercow as the Speaker of the House of Commons. There is speculation Mr Bercow will announce his retirement this summer, although he has not yet confirmed this. Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh and Labour’s Chris Bryant have both voiced an interest in the job. Mr Wishart wrote on Twitter that he would release a manifesto on Wednesday to become “the first post-war Speaker from beyond the two main parties”

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    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 26 April 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 26 April 2019

Scottish politics returns to the top of the agenda after the Easter recess that nearly wasn’t as the First Minister made an emergency statement to Holyrood on what she terms Scotland’s constitutional future. In the end, news that she wants a second referendum on Scottish independence by 2021 if the country is taken out of the EU was no great surprise, but there is a determination in the SNP that hasn’t been seen since the giddy days of 2014.

Downing Street has re-iterated that it said previously that it will not grant a new Section 30 order, which made the 2014 referendum legal, however Ms Sturgeon said this position was “unsustainable” and challenged her party to increase support and demand for independence.

Before the Easter break, Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee launched an inquiry into Scotland’s empty homes and how these can be brought back into use. They will examine the scale of the issue, the effectiveness of current legislation and what more can be done to prevent properties remaining empty for extended periods of time. The remit of the inquiry is as follows:

·       The extent of, and reasons for, empty homes in Scotland;

·       How effective existing legislation and policy is at addressing the problem of empty homes;

·       What more can be done to prevent homes remaining empty and to encourage owners to bring them back into use.

2019 marks 20 years since devolution and, in a speech hosted by Reform Scotland, former Labour First Minister Lord (Jack) McConnell reflected on the anniversary including his time as First Minister. Applying three tests to whether devolution had been successful, he assessed that the quality of legislation and the ability of both Parliament and Government to “speak for Scotland” had been overwhelmingly positive. On the third test, Parliament’s record in holding the Executive to account, he was less positive, suggesting several improvements including elected committee conveners, a time-limit on list MSPs and further changes at a UK level. 

On Wednesday, entrepreneurial icons flocked to Scotland as the second edition of CAN DO Fest, Scotland’s festival of impactful entrepreneurship, kicked off with EIE 2019 – one of the UK’s leading events for tech entrepreneurs and investors. Almost 4,500 entrepreneurial leaders, change makers and innovators are expected to attend the new-look festival to help them spark ideas, collaborate and grow. 

And finally… Perceptive client Scotframe, part of the global Saint-Gobain group, hosted Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart MSP on Wednesday as he formally opened their new Dundee office and showroom. The visit was organised by Perceptive and, staying longer than expected, the Minister had an extended discussion with senior management. As he left, he said he found their approach to timber frame construction ‘most enlightening.’

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     

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 April 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 April 2019

Trick or treat? It has the potential to be both and you couldn’t quite make it up! A dream for the headline writers of this world, the new 31 October Halloween deadline (also our political guru Devin’s birthday but we’re saying nothing….) was announced this week and the prime minister’s acceptance that leaving the EU without a formal arrangement in place could be a disaster won out.

European Union leaders granted the UK a six-month extension to Brexit, after late-night talks in Brussels on Wednesday. European Council President Donald Tusk said his “message to British friends” was “please do not waste this time”. This message was replicated by Nicola Sturgeon who also said the UK must not waste time now a flexible extension to Brexit has been agreed until 31 October. In a tweet, Ms Sturgeon said it was “a relief” that the UK would not be “crashing out” of the EU on Friday. She added that allowing people to decide if they still wanted to leave was now imperative, and that Scotland’s interests must be protected.

The First Minister said it is essential now that this time is used constructively and not wasted, and she has called for ongoing talks over EU exit to include the devolved administrations, and for any deal agreed by the UK Parliament to be put to a second referendum. She has copied the letter to the First Minister of Wales. Details: https://news.gov.scot/news/letter-to-the-prime-minister-1

Holyrood, on Easter recess this week, will not be recalled now that the extension has been agreed.

Also, at Holyrood this week it was announced that the Scottish Parliament is calling for public feedback on business rates reforms which could see independent schools lose their charitable status. The proposals, many of which are based on the recommendations of the Barclay Review, include reducing the current five-year valuation cycle to three years and measures aimed at improving the administration of the system. Ministers also want to tackle known tax avoidance, including tactics involving unoccupied or under-used properties.

And finally…As well as supporting the homeless charity, Social Bite in Scotland, this week Homes for Scotland has led a team with charity, Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for vulnerable people in Homa Bay, Kenya. 

The dedicated team of volunteers spans the housebuilding sector, including employees of Cruden, Buccleuch Property, Mactaggart & Mickel and Homes for Scotland.  Homes for Scotland Chief Executive Nicola Barclay, who is on the build this week says: “Regardless of where in the world you live, the right to a home is one of life’s most basic needs, and I look forward to making a real difference to someone’s life.”

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.mousdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 29 March 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 29 March 2019

Well today should have been a landmark date in recent political history as we left the EU after 46 years of often fractious membership.  But of course even that didn’t go to plan, although we are a tad closer to getting a new Prime Minister.

The Brexit process remains in deadlock as MPs struggle to find a consensus on the next steps. The Commons failed to find a majority for a way forward after voting for eight different options on Wednesday. They couldn’t even agree on what system to use to vote as an archaic paper system was proposed by Mr Speaker, much to the confusion of just about every MP apart from Jacob Rees-Mogg. And while some senior Brexiteers have moved towards supporting Theresa May’s deal, the DUP MPs she relies on for her wafer thin majority have refused to alter their stance.

The PM won some support by saying she would resign ahead of the next round of EU negotiations if her deal passes. This means she still may bring her plan back to the Commons this week for another vote – the so-called “meaningful vote three” – despite it already being defeated twice by large margins.

The Prime Minister’s pledge to stand down if her Brexit deal is approved risks making “an already bad project even worse”, Scotland’s First Minister has claimed.  PM Boris is looking scarily likely….

Nicola Sturgeon said it could see Scotland “shackled to a disastrous Brexit driven by a Tory party lurching even further to the right”. She predicted that this would “further reinforce” the case for independence.

But true to form, Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray criticised the SNP for abstaining during a vote on whether there should be a customs union with the EU. The proposal would have passed if SNP MPs had voted for it. Mr Murray said: “Nationalist MPs sat on their hands rather than deliver a parliamentary majority for a minimum of a permanent customs union to be written into law to protect the British economy and jobs – making a mockery of Nicola Sturgeon’s pledge to support a ‘common sense solution’.”

Whilst the action was unfolding at Westminster on Wednesday evening, attendees at the first Perceptive Directors’ Club of the year were treated to what has become an annual tour of Holyrood from MSP Tavish Scott, the former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and a Cabinet Minister prior to 2007. Our clients got an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Parliament building and afterwards sat down for dinner and a fascinating Q&A with Tavish, no subject was off the table, including Brexit!  This article reflects many of the Brexit points raised in our discussion.  As public affairs is an increasing part of Perceptive’s client workload, we hope to repeat the tour and any Insider readers interested should simply reply to this email.

We were pleased to welcome Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, to client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC).  Chief Executive Roger Kilburn hosted the visit, sharing an overview of IBioIC which aims to stimulate growth across health, industrial, marine and agriculture biotechnology to £900m by 2025.


Next week the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee meets with client, Construction Scotland as part of the final phase of evidence gathering for the Construction Inquiry.  Ken Gillespie, Chair, Ann Allen MBE and Member and Ron Fraser, Executive Director of Construction Scotland Industry Leadership Group will provide evidence on behalf of Construction Scotland.  

One of the SNP’s most unpopular budget proposals, a new workplace parking tax, has been attacked again as the Scottish Police Federation are saying it could expose police officers to a greater risk of terrorism. The Federation said if officers stopped driving to work it could endanger them as they made their way to and from shifts on foot or public transport. Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP, who was given the warning at the SPF conference in Turnberry on Thursday, said he would look at a police exemption from the levy.

And finally… in what why may be his last speech to the European Parliament, SNP MEP Alyn Smith was holding back tears of emotion as he said: “cheers colleagues, I’m not asking you to solve our domestic discussions. But I am asking you to leave a light on so we can find our way home (to the EU).”

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