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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

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:

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    

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    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 December 2018

This will be our last Insider for 2018 and we hope you have enjoyed our weekly observations on the Scottish political scene over the last 12 months.  Thank you to everyone who has given us feedback and encouragement!  Our first Insider of the New Year will be sent on Friday 4 January 2019 so from all the team at Perceptive, may we wish you and yours all the very best for a peaceful Festive Season and a prosperous New Year.

The year finished with a further tussle over Brexit (just 98 days to go) and strong words from the Scottish Government.  They said that they are working on plans to help Scotland cope, as much as possible, if the ‘tragedy’ of a no deal Brexit takes place. In a keynote speech to Holyrood, Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP urged the UK Government to immediately rule out ‘no deal’ and made clear that, while the Scottish Government would do everything it could, there would still be severe damage to the Scottish economy and society.

He also confirmed to MSPs that the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR) has been mobilised, convened by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, to consider the level of immediate response required. Planning is ongoing to deal with:

  • Severe disruption of goods at UK borders due to new customs arrangements in a ‘no deal’ scenario
  • Food security and the ability of Scottish food and drink producers to export their goods to the EU
  • The supply of medicines, medical devices and workforce for health and social care

The Scottish Parliament closed its doors at lunchtime yesterday with Chamber business resuming on Tuesday 8 January. Business was quieter this last week as the various parties held their annual drinks events. The Parliament canteen has to deal with a backlog of uneaten snacks – formerly known as Gingerbread Men but in these enlightened times, now just ‘Christmas biscuits’ and as such, strangely less popular!

Still on a festive note, and a photograph by veteran photographer Harry Benson CBE has been chosen as the First Minister’s 2018 Christmas card. The image of the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow will be auctioned next year with the proceeds going to four charities – Who Cares? Scotland, Maggie’s Centres, The Salvation Army Scotland and The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice. You can see it here

Elsewhere and Alex Salmond has won a legal bid forcing the Scottish government to hand over documents related to the sexual misconduct case against him. Lawyers for the former First Minister successfully argued that redacted emails and notes connected with the case should be independently reviewed. He is pursuing a judicial review into the process used to investigate complaints against him. A QC will now consider if the full documents should be released.

The Ghost of New Years still to come? Predicting the political future is never easy and we were amused to read a line from the last Insider of 2017 which could just as easily apply to 2019: 2017 has been a terse year for Scottish politics and, as Brexit rumbles on, 2018 looks likely to hold more of the same until some sense of direction is established.

What we do know is that barring a very late change of heart, 2019 will see the UK leave the European Union on 29 March. We predict a new UK Conservative leader and quite possibly another snap General Election.  And look out for a new UK Lib Dem leader (probably Jo Swinson) and a version of UKIP-lite from Nigel Farage.

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

Hat trick of new business wins for Perceptive Communicators

Hat trick of new business wins for Perceptive Communicators

Glasgow-based specialist communications consultancy Perceptive Communicators has boosted its credentials in the health and life sciences sector with three new business wins.

Glasgow City of Science and Innovation, Precision Sequencing and Menicon have appointed Perceptive Communicators to deliver a range of focused communications campaigns within the health and life sciences industry.

Glasgow City of Science and Innovation appointed Perceptive to help raise the profile of its flagship festival VentureFest – a festival of discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship, and VentureJam which is the youth strand of the VentureFest programme. Precision Sequencing, a collaboration between Stratified Medicine Scotland – Innovation Centre, Glasgow Polyomics, the Centre for Virus Research (CVR) and Glasgow Precision Oncology Laboratory, secured the services of Perceptive to help raise awareness of the newly formed consortium which provides a range of services for genetic sequencing. Japanese contact lens manufacturer Menicon engaged with Perceptive to provide them with a robust communications strategy, research and social media training for the UK arm of their business.

Dr Susie Mitchell, Programme Director, Glasgow City of Science and Innovation said: “Having previously worked with Perceptive and seeing the results they achieve, I’m delighted to be working with their specialist team again to strengthen the profile of our flagship partnership projects to target audiences and amongst our key stakeholders.”

Dr Allison Jackson, Manager of Glasgow Polyomics and spokesperson for Precision Sequencing said: “We’re excited to be working with Perceptive Communicators. Their work on promoting Stratified Medicine Scotland – Innovation Centre has been excellent, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their expertise will help raise the profile of Precision Sequencing going forward”.

Julie McLauchlan, founder and Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators, said: “These latest wins are testament to our experience and expertise in the health and life sciences sector and we’re looking forward to working with each of these providers on a range of meaningful campaigns. These recent appointments also highlight how we are growing as a business as we continue to consistently punch above our weight.”

Scottish Political Insider Special – Wednesday 12 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider Special – Wednesday 12 December 2018

This Insider Special started out as a Scottish Budget special but events overnight have yet again reminded us that any forward planning in these febrile pre (Br)exit days is pretty pointless.   Prime Minister Theresa May is facing the toughest day of her short Downing Street tenure as she faces a No Confidence vote triggered by her own MPs.  We suspect she will survive (as Mrs Thatcher did initially) but only just – and then go in the spring.

Closer to home and the day’s main domestic focus should be the Scottish Budget statement, to be made by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP later this afternoon.  Live updates will be reported via the BBC: BBC Budget link

Derek Mackay has a reputation for being one of the shrewder – and sharper – brains in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet team.  He has made clear that today’s statement will not be defined by Brexit, which is maybe just as well as no-one has a clue what is happening today, never mind in a year’s time.

The Scottish Government is much less ‘leaky’ than Westminster and they do not indulge in the slow drip-feed of perceived good news to the same extent that Philip Hammond and his team do.  Nevertheless, one or two carefully placed interviews this week have made it clear that investing in public services and growing the economy will be prioritised in spending plans to help protect Scotland’s prosperity as far as is possible in the face of continued uncertainty over Brexit.

In one interview Derek Mackay said: “I will set out the Scottish Government’s spending plans for the year ahead. The Budget will protect vital public services and prioritise spending on health, education and economic investment. The 2019-20 Scottish Budget will support the vision in our Programme for Government by ensuring we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow.”

Parliamentary arithmetic means that the SNP minority administration must strike a deal with at least one other party.  Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have all ruled this out already – so it is widely expected that, once again, Derek Mackay give in to demands from the Scottish Greens for a raft of unpopular tax rises as the price of a Budget deal. And although specifics are hard to predict, it is likely we will see a further freeze to higher levels of income tax thresholds. This follows last year’s decoupling from point where the 40% income tax rate applies.

We will include a link to a full summary of today’s Budget statement in our usual Friday Insider but, as ever, if anyone has any specific queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 December 2018

The Scottish Parliament voted by 92 to 29 this week to formally reject the UK government’s draft Brexit deal. SNP, Labour, Green and Lib Dem members at Holyrood backed a motion rejecting the proposals, as well as the prospect of leaving without any deal. However, the parties have not come to a consensus on an alternative plan. The vote was held as MPs at Westminster continued to debate whether to accept the withdrawal plan agreed between UK and EU negotiators.

In a week that saw multiple Commons defeats for the UK Government, we heard that the UK should be able to unilaterally cancel its withdrawal from the EU, according to an advocate general of the European Court of Justice. A group of Scottish politicians including QC Joanna Cherry MP has asked the court whether the UK can call off Brexit without the consent of other member states. The Court of Justice (ECJ) will deliver its final ruling at a later date.

The advice from advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona comes as the House of Commons begins five days of debates on Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, with a vote due to be held next Tuesday. In a written statement, the ECJ said Mr Campos Sanchez-Bordona’s opinion was that if a country decided to leave the EU, it should also have the power to change its mind during the two-year exit process specified in Article 50 of the EU treaty.

New fire safety measures for high rise buildings in Scotland are to be introduced next year in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. A review was ordered in the wake of the London blaze, which killed 72 people. The changes will include measures to improve evacuation from high rises and making sprinkler systems mandatory in all new-build flats. Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said this would add to “stringent safety regulations” already in place. The changes will be brought forward via legislation in 2019, with ministers planning amendments to a members’ bill from Labour’s David Stewart.

Still on housing matters and the Scottish Government has published the results from the latest housing conditions survey. It includes statistics on fuel poverty, energy efficiency, the condition of housing and other descriptors of occupied housing stock. The results show overall fuel poverty remains at similar levels to 2016 findings, but changes are evident in subgroups including local authority housing, households using gas as the primary heating fuel and households primarily using oil.

Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephens visited Perceptive client, Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, seeing first-hand the ground breaking work on precision medicine which tailors medicine to patients’ individual genetic profiles.

Charity Action for Children this week claimed one million children under the age of 10 in Scotland and England are facing “Dickensian” levels of poverty as they prepare for Christmas.   The charity will be running unofficial food banks over the Christmas period for families it says lack fresh food, suitable clothes and, in some cases, money to pay for heating. Action for Children is calling for the chancellor to end the freeze on children’s benefits so that rising prices do not push more families into poverty.

And finally, rather than sending Christmas cards, this year we will be making a donation to one of the seven charities which Perceptive has assisted with pro-bono communications support. The charity will be chosen by Perceptive clients and employees. You can cast your vote by completing this survey  which takes less than a minute. We will share the winning charity next week.

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

Construction businesses need to challenge perceptions

Construction businesses need to challenge perceptions

Like many youngsters, at school I didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted to do next. It became a straight toss-up between studying English or architecture.

When I was accepted into the Mackintosh School of Architecture, I was so delighted with going to Glasgow School of Art that I took that path. Around halfway through my degree, I realised this wasn’t the career for me – unfortunately my fascination with buildings did not translate into a talent for designing them! However, I completed my studies and went on to work as an architectural assistant while reconsidering my options.

After completing a postgraduate course in broadcast journalism, I soon found that competition for jobs was ferocious. I was very lucky that a communications job came up a few months later at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, and because of my background, they took a chance on me. This was the first step into a career where I have been fortunate enough to combine a love of writing with a passion for buildings.

In the 15 years since, my jobs have included assistant editor of an architecture magazine and a marketing role at a large architectural firm. Three years ago I joined a communications consultancy, Perceptive Communicators, which specialises in just a few sectors. I now handle all aspects of communication for numerous construction clients, so having a background in the industry has been an obvious advantage.

The moral is that there are so many varied roles in the construction industry – and they don’t all involve getting your hands dirty. As well as joiners and bricklayers, the sector needs marketing experts, HR professionals, accountants, lawyers, 3D visualisers – there’s a career to suit everyone. The industry needs to get that message out to young people – especially girls.

There is a skills shortage in construction, and also a huge gender imbalance. Perhaps if we could address the latter, we could help remedy the former. The difficulty lies in how. Even areas of the sector such as architecture, which are managing to attract women in the first place, are losing them along the way. We need to figure out why so many talented people are taking their skills and training into other industries.

When I hear some experiences of women in construction, I know I’ve been lucky. I have very fond and positive memories of my time in an architectural practice. However, this was before I had my children. There does seem to be a long-hours culture in architecture, which does not lend itself well to parenthood, and might go some way to explaining why so many women drop out of the profession.

That brings me on to what is a society-wide problem – men need to take on their fair share of childcare duties. They should accept family friendly measures in the workplace, and should be encouraged to do so by their employers. Until there is as much chance of a dad leaving the office to pick up the kids as there is a mum, then the gender imbalance in senior positions will unfortunately continue – and not just in construction.

Some of our clients are making great strides in encouraging a better gender balance, such as offering shared parental leave, flexible hours and skills academies. One client, Construction Scotland – the industry leadership organisation – is running a programme called Inspiring Construction, which aims to inform not just young people but their parents, teachers and career advisers about the huge and diverse range of roles on offer.

My own thoughts on how construction businesses can encourage more talent to join them? Challenge perceptions. Showcase every career you have to offer – not just the traditional trades. Embrace family friendly working. Discourage the long-hours, survival-of-the-fittest culture. And tell Dads on your team it’s ok to do that school run.



Scottish Political Insider – Friday 30 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 30 November 2018

The proposed Brexit deal by the UK Government will make Scotland poorer, according to newly published analysis from the Scottish Government. The proposal, still to be voted on in the House of Commons, could cost the equivalent of £1,600 for each person in Scotland by 2030, compared to continued EU membership. The assessment shows that the deal (and link to full statement/report: SG Brexit report )
• Takes Scotland out of the EU and removes Scotland from the European Single Market of 500 million people
• Leaves future trading arrangements uncertain for both goods and services
• Puts Scotland at a potential competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland
• Ends free movement of people, which is vital for workers in sectors such as health and social care. Scotland’s working age population would decline by 3% without EU migration
• Appears to directly contradict the UK Government’s previous position on fisheries: that there should be no link between access to UK waters and access to EU markets
• Ends guaranteed high standards and protections that come with EU membership, including the environment, food safety, animal welfare, health and safety, equality and working conditions
• Provides no certainty about future participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+

In another new report this week, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has warned that leaving the EU and ending freedom of movement could cost Scotland £2 billion in tax revenues.  Research shows that each EU citizen coming to live and work in Scotland contributes, on average, £10,400 per year in tax. Ms Hyslop argues that the UK Government’s proposed Brexit deal is expected to halve the number of people from EU27 countries migrating to Scotland, meaning £2 billion less by 2040 to spend on vital public services such as the NHS and schools. Details: Scotland in Europe

CBI Scotland has hosted a major event in partnership with the Scottish Government to help Scotland reclaim its  place as a first class exporter.  CBI Scotland has also welcomed the next phase of a Scottish Government initiative to boost Scotland’s exporting base through enhanced business support. At an event in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, alongside Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Ivan McKee, outlined the Scottish Government’s plans for a more outward looking Scotland and provided further details of a peer-to-peer mentoring to support the next wave of Scottish exporters. 

And at Westminster, the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee met to take evidence as part of their inquiry into the relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments, within which topics covered included: the mechanics of devolution, the design of devolution agreements and the impact of Brexit upon these, the utility of the Sewel convention and its future in a post-Brexit Britain.  The full transcript has now been published: Select Committee Nov 2018

And finally, this week client Clyde Gateway welcomed Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick to launch a campaign to encourage increased take up of cancer screening. This marketing, PR and social media campaign features local people sharing hard hitting messages about this vital health screening.  

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 932578or

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 23 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 23 November 2018

A change from UK Brexit news (covered extensively in the mainstream news) was a rare domestic policy announcement this week as the Scottish Government finally released details of its long overdue Alcohol Framework. It includes proposals to consult on alcohol marketing such as public spaces and online. Under the framework, the UK Government will be pressed to impose a 9 pm watershed for alcohol advertising on TV, and restrictions on advertising in cinemas are also proposed. Alcohol producers will be urged to put health information on labels. Link: alcohol framework

But as Nicola Sturgeon and other Scottish ministers discussed Brexit with Theresa May and her colleagues, the Supreme Court has rejected a last-ditch attempt by the UK Government to prevent European judges hearing a legal challenge to the Brexit process. The European Court of Justice is to examine on 27 November whether the UK can unilaterally halt Brexit. The UK Government had asked the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against an earlier ruling that the case should be referred to the European court, but the Supreme Court has now rejected that bid.

Going beyond the EU and Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP will visit India in the coming week (travelling out today) to further strengthen ties between the two countries. The visit will focus on Technology and Life Sciences, promote trade and investment and strengthen education and cultural links. Mr Swinney will be joined by a delegation of senior leaders from Scotland’s higher education sector.

In another key sector for Scotland, the Scottish Conservatives are calling for a dedicated Institute of E-Commerce to help Scotland’s businesses tackle the digital gap emerging between Scotland and competitor countries. The Institute would provide dedicated and specialist training, support and advice to businesses looking to move their business models online. This, they argue, would enable Scottish companies to embed digital technologies into their businesses and better capitalise on global trade opportunities. Currently only 7-9% of Scotland’s businesses have integrated digital technologies into their businesses operations.

Another new Survation poll this week suggests the following party voting intention for Westminster: Scottish National Party (SNP): 39%; Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: 26%; Scottish Labour Party: 24%; Scottish Liberal Democrats: 8%; Others: 3%

And finally… last night Health Secretary Jeane Freeman OBE was named The Herald’s Scottish Politician of the Year.  An MSP for only two years and former chair of Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Ms Freeman was recognised for her achievements of ushering in a devolved social security system and bringing a renewed sense of focus to the Government’s biggest and most challenging department.  MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in Ayrshire, Ms Freeman is the only person other than party leader to win the award since 2012 when Nicola Sturgeon was also recognised for her work as health secretary.

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

Scottish Political Insider Friday – 16 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider Friday – 16 November 2018

This week’s Insider comes to you from down-town Lahore. Our political guru Devin is making one of his regular trips east in his capacity as a volunteer trustee of a charity supporting primary schools across the Punjab region.

At the time of writing Theresa May was still hanging onto her role as Prime Minister, but Environment Secretary Michael Gove, one of the highest-profile Leave campaigners during the 2016 referendum, is considering his position, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reports.

It is understood Mr Gove turned down the post of Brexit secretary following the resignation of Dominic Raab.  It’s also reported some ministers are considering trying to make the PM change the draft EU deal. Some Conservative back benchers are attempting to trigger a vote of no confidence in her, watch this space.

Closer to home and a new Survation opinion poll on Westminster voting intentions published yesterday suggests that support for the SNP remains strong, with that for Labour and the Conservatives declining.  The new figures are as follows: SNP 40% (+3); Con 27% (-2); Lab 23% (-4); LibDem 7% (NC); UKIP 1% (+1); Green 1% (+1).

This week we heard that the health service will soon account for half of all Scottish Government spending, according to a new analysis of choices facing Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. The growing squeeze on many other services is set out in a new report by economists at the Fraser of Allander Institute. The report, from the Strathclyde University economics unit, applies the consequences of last month’s Westminster budget for the block grant for Holyrood. It leads to their call for “an urgent debate on future priorities”. One of the politically challenging suggestions they put forward is for the introduction of student tuition fees. They also welcome growing political pressure for sweeping reforms of council tax.

A few cracks have started to appear in the normally watertight SNP parliamentary teams as the potential impact of a second Brexit vote are being debated. This week, veteran MSP Kenny Gibson has become the latest Nationalist politician to warn it has implications for Scottish independence. Mr Gibson, the MSP for Cunninghame North, has joined Pete Wishart MP, Angus McNeill MP and the former cabinet secretary Alex Neil MSP in voicing concerns that a second Brexit vote would enable Unionists to argue for another vote on the terms of Scottish independence in the event of a Yes vote. Ms Sturgeon has said the SNP will support a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal.

Nicola Sturgeon did, however, receive support from an unlikely former foe this week. As well as opposing Theresa May’s 5-hour Cabinet deal on Wednesday, Gordon Brown has come out and backed the Scottish Government over post-Brexit devolution, warning that UK ministers have put the Union at risk by holding on to powers returning from Brussels. The former Prime Minister said devolved nations should be able to have their own relationship with the EU distinct from the rest of the UK in areas under their control.

Anyone interested in the full 585 page draft Brexit deal can find it via this link: draft deal

As the week progressed, the UK Government stated there has been ‘significant progress’ agreeing frameworks with devolved administrations, the Scottish Government says that the ‘unnecessary’ UK law curbing the powers of the Scottish Parliament is undermining devolution and should now be repealed.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP has said: “we have always said that co-operation between governments is clearly the right and best way both to ready our statute books and to agree common UK frameworks, where these are in Scotland’s interests – not imposing policies and laws on Scotland against our democratic will.”

And finally, Homes for Scotland (HFS), the voice of the home building industry in Scotland, has today launched a new five-year strategy with a focus on improving quality and customer satisfaction.  The document was launched to an audience of 200 senior industry representatives and housing stakeholders at the HFS annual conference in Edinburgh.

Also announced at the conference was the extension of the ‘Five Star Builder’ initiative to Scotland, which will allow buyers of new homes to compare builders in terms of customer satisfaction. The scheme was previously limited to those building right across the UK, excluding those operating only north of the border.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 9 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 9 November 2018

A major industrial story broke this week with the news that Michelin are leaving Dundee after nearly fifty years.  Michelin is to close its tyre factory in the city, with the loss of about 850 jobs, confirming that it would leave the city by 2020. The company said the factory was “unsuitable” given current market conditions and it would not be financially viable to invest further. Economy Secretary Derek Mackay MSP has visited the site and the union Unite has said the closure would be a “hammer-blow” to the city.

Still on business news and thousands of firms have been wound up over the past year in Scotland, new figures have revealed.   The official statistics showed there are now 345,915 private sector businesses north of the border. That compares to 354,745 the year before, a drop of 8830. The rate of private businesses per head of population is also worse in Scotland than the rest of the UK. Total business turnover is at its lowest level since 2015, while only a handful of local authority areas have seen an increase in business activity. The 2.5 per cent drop since 2017 is proof of the SNP’s “anti-business attitude”, the Scottish Conservatives have said in a quick response.

In other news, this week’s major study of note has found that Scotland is the most pro-migration country in the UK. The poll, conducted by Survation for Channel 4, found that Scots believed migration had a positive impact by a factor of three to two – with 44% agreeing and only 30% disagreeing.

We couldn’t forget Brexit and MSPs have voted to express their “unequivocal support” for a referendum on the final terms of Brexit. Holyrood voted by 65 to 30 in favour of such a move during a debate about the impact of leaving the EU. SNP, Green and Lib Dem MSPs were joined by two Scottish Labour members (including former leader Kezia Dugdale) in the vote, while the bulk of the Labour group abstained.

Earlier this week Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP helped launch client, Construction Scotland’s new Strategy document.  Mr Swinney confirmed the Scottish Government supports Construction Scotland’s refreshed strategy and fully endorses the ambition of construction being a more productive, innovative, profitable and sustainable industry. This strategy focuses on the big issues and game-changers that are affecting the construction sector.  Each of the six priority areas will be addressed by an action plan for the industry, coordinated and facilitated by Construction Scotland, with key milestones and timescales for delivery.

This week we also welcomed MSP Gordon MacDonald to client, Wavegarden Scotland which is building Scotland’s first artificial surfing park. This will transform the disused Craigpark Quarry near Ratho, Edinburgh into a surf park with revolutionary new wave technology in time for surfing becoming an Olympic sport in 2020.

And finally… As the US mid-term elections got under way this week, the only senior politician to back Scottish independence in 2014 has stepped down. John “Jimmy” Duncan – a Republican – represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives. The staunch supporter of Donald Trump is co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Scotland Caucus.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 2 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 2 November 2018

The UK Budget dominated the political news this week and perhaps predictably, a row broke out quickly over the impact of the UK government’s Budget on Scotland. Hammond’s latest set of tax and spending plans included a freeze on oil industry taxes, and an extra £950m for the Scottish Government over three years.

However, his Scottish counterpart Derek Mackay said the UK government had made a choice not to end austerity and had “short-changed Scotland”. Philip Hammond used his Budget – the last before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 – to claim that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end”. Other measures announced which will have a significant impact in Scotland include: £150m for the Tay City Deal and negotiations for a Moray growth deal, headline tax rates on the oil and gas industry maintained, and £10m-UK-wide for fisheries technology. Scottish Government statement: SG Budget reaction

As we reach the end of the week, Scottish ministers are being challenged by Green MSP Patrick Harvie to continue with income tax reforms while delivering a Scottish Budget that’s distinct from what they term ’the Chancellor’s list of tax cut giveaways for the wealthy.’ Questioning the Cabinet Secretary for Finance at Holyrood, the MSP for Glasgow also said that Greens will continue to pressure the government for new financial powers to be devolved to councils.

Back to Brexit and Holyrood’s constitution committee has called on Scottish and UK ministers to resolve the “impasse” over devolution and consent “as a matter of urgency”. A new report from the group said MSPs should not give their consent to the UK Trade Bill while the dispute continues. The Scottish Government is angry that the EU Withdrawal Act passed despite MSPs refusing to give it their backing, and they have resolved not to put any more Brexit bills forward for votes at Holyrood until the row is resolved.

Over in Tayside and Infrastructure Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, is challenging the UK Government to match his funding commitment for the Tay Cities Region Deal. The Scottish Government is planning to invest £200 million to deliver inclusive economic growth across the region, through skills, tourism and innovation. Over the next 10-15 years, the funding will secure significant numbers of both high value and entry-level jobs by supporting projects across the themes of skills, tourism, transport and innovation.

Finally, the Enterprise, Energy and Fair Committee launched an attack on Scottish Enterprise for spending just £500,000 of a £10 million fund for growth businesses.  The Committee also recommended an Audit Scotland performance audit of Scottish Enterprise’s claim it generates between £6 and £9 GVA for every pound that it spends.

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 

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 26 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 26 October 2018

The Scottish Parliament resumed business this Tuesday and Brexit was immediately on top of the agenda.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is becoming the “most likely outcome” of the UK’s negotiations with EU leaders. Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood committee conveners that she was “increasingly concerned” that no deal will be struck, and she said the situation is “the biggest failure of government policy and handling” seen in her lifetime. Talks over the UK’s exit from the EU have run into a deadlock over the issue of the border in Northern Ireland.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tried to regain some momentum as he met with Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday. He joined UK Lib Dem Leader Sir Vince Cable MP, the Westminster Leader of Plaid Cymru and a Green Party MEP to meet Michel Barnier in Brussels. Mr Blackford said: “While the UK government clearly still has no plan to break the Brexit impasse, and Labour fail to act as an effective opposition, it has been left to the ‘unofficial opposition’ to speak up for a deal that would protect jobs and livelihoods. I am grateful to Mr Barnier for meeting with us. Any Brexit deal that falls short of staying in the single market and the customs union will not get through Parliament.”

Scotland’s Chief Economist, Gary Gillespie, has published his annual ‘State of the Economy’ report this week. It suggests that Scotland’s economy has continued to strengthen in the first half of 2018 with annual GDP growth the strongest since 2014 and above the UK as a whole. The link to the 16-page document is here:

Linked to the above report, an £18 million fund to help businesses benefit from developments in manufacturing is among the key actions announced in a new plan to help boost economic growth. As part of a response to the business-led Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, the Economic Action Plan sets out a number of new and existing actions that will work together to build a strong, vibrant and diverse economy that promotes well-being and attracts investment. Details: economic action plan

Back at Holyrood, and a debate on welfare issues turned bitter and personal, resulting in the SNP calling for South of Scotland Conservative MSP Michelle Ballantyne to resign as welfare spokesperson after her comments on the two child cap. The SNP called this “her own personal hypocrisy, exposed her as unfit” to be the spokesperson for Social Security in Scotland. Ms Ballantyne has been widely condemned by all the parties for arguing the two-child cap is fair as “people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like”.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, is to visit Scotland to speak at a special dinner in Edinburgh. The girls’ education activist will speak at the Social Bite event to thank those taking part in this year’s Sleep in the Park event in December.

And finally…. Following Julie’s win at the Scottish Business Woman of the Year Awards, Gil Paterson MSP submitted this motion to Parliament:

Motion S5M-14232: Gil Paterson, Clydebank and Milngavie, Scottish National Party

That the Parliament congratulates Bearsden resident, Julie McLauchlan, on winning the prestigious Scottish Business Woman of the Year Award for her company Perceptive Communicators, which launched in 2006.

Supported by: Sandra White, Bill Kidd, Richard Lyle

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

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