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Political Insider – Friday 28 February 2020

Political Insider – Friday 28 February 2020

This week’s Holyrood business has inevitably been dominated by budget negotiations – a real baptism of fire for new Finance Secretary Kate Forbes MSP.

The first ‘surprise’ resignation from next year’s Holyrood elections was announced this week. SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Gail Ross has announced that she will not be standing for re-election in the Holyrood elections next year, mainly due to family commitments. Ms Ross, from Wick, was first elected to The Highland Council in 2011 in a Wick by-election. She was then elected in the Highland Council election in 2012 and was Caithness Civic Leader until her election to Holyrood in 2016. 

The Conservatives have won a debate on police funding. The Conservatives led a debate on funding for Police Scotland in the Scottish Government’s Budget for 2020-21. At Decision Time, the Government amendment passed (For 58, Against 54, Abstentions 6). It supported the return of £125m of VAT paid by Police Scotland, with the SNP supporting, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposing and the Greens abstaining. The Labour amendment was rejected (For 26, Against 85, Abstentions 7), with Labour and the Liberal Democrats supporting, the SNP and the Conservatives opposing and the Greens and Mark McDonald abstaining. The Conservative motion passed as amended (For 58, Against 54, Abstentions 6), with the SNP supporting, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposing and the Greens abstaining. The debate took place following the announcement of additional police funding as part of the Budget agreement with the Greens.

At Westminster the SNP have made a number of key changes to their significant representation – as the third largest party in the Commons. A full list is available by email request to Devin Scobie, but key ones – which do include other parties – are Mhairi Black (SNP), Andrew Bowie (Con), Deidre Brock (SNP) and Wendy Chamberlain .Lib Dem). Kilmarnock MP Alan Brown joining the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee; broadcaster John Nicolson rejoins the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

And finally … we’ve seen the rather sad end to an otherwise distinguished political career as former Liberal Democrat leader David Steel has quit the party – and the House of Lords – after an inquiry said he “turned a blind eye” to claims of child abuse. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse criticised political groups for not acting on complaints. It accused Lord Steel in particular of an “abdication of responsibility” over accusations against the late MP Cyril Smith.

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 21 February 2020

Political Insider – Friday 21 February 2020

Boris Johnson completed his first substantive reshuffle this week although Chancellor Sajid Javid arguably stole the limelight with an unexpected 11th hour resignation.  A full list of the new UK Government is here

A mini Scottish reshuffle was triggered by Derek Mackay’s sudden resignation from the Cabinet hours before he was due to deliver the annual Scottish Budget speech.  Nicola Sturgeon has made a number of other changes and the full, ‘new’, list is as follows:

New Appointments
• Cabinet Secretary for Finance – Kate Forbes (who also retains her current responsibility for the Digital Economy)
• Public Finance and Migration – Ben Macpherson
• Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Fair Work and Culture – Fiona Hyslop
• Minister for Europe and International Development (new, combined post)– Jenny Gilruth

New Responsibilities

• Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs – Michael Russell
• Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism – Fergus Ewing

The fallout from Derek Mackay’s exit from Government rather overshadowed the outcome of the Scottish Conservatives’ leadership race.  After a rather lacklustre contest, former acting leader Jackson Carlaw MSP was confirmed as the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives after winning a vote of party members. Mr Carlaw had been the party’s acting leader since Ruth Davidson quit the role in August. He has now won the job full time after defeating fellow South of Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne by 4,917 votes to 1,581. 

Mr Carlaw had been the clear favourite in the contest and was backed by most of the party’s MPs and MSPs. He said he was now “ready to hit the ground running and win” in next year’s Scottish Parliament election and has promised a full review of the party’s policies.  He has now announced his own new Shadow Cabinet (below). Interestingly, there is no role for his defeated opponent, Michelle Ballantyne MSP.

·        Leader – Jackson Carlaw

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice – Liam Kerr

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change, Land Reform & COP26 – Annie Wells

·        Chief Whip – Liz Smith

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance – Donald Cameron

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution & External Affairs – Murdo Fraser

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Strategy – Adam Tomkins

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health – Miles Briggs

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education – Jamie Greene

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture – Maurice Golden

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Business, Infrastructure & Transport – Dean Lockhart

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy & Tourism – Rachael Hamilton

·        Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Communities & Social Security – Graham Simpson

The Scottish Government has published a report about the state of the economy, which claims growth this year is likely to follow a positive but below trend pattern of around 1%, similar to the past few years. Brexit uncertainty resulted in “significantly lower growth” for the economy in 2019, the report found, and this uncertainty remains a “live issue” for businesses, particularly in relation to market access to the EU.

The report shows the labour market continued to perform strongly but with a fall in employment levels over the year. Consumer sentiment continued to weaken in 2019. It concludes that the economic outlook for 2021 and beyond is “crucially dependent” on the shape of a future EU trade deal and business adjustment. Finance Secretary Kate Forbes MSP said: “We were clear from the outset that Brexit would damage our economy and that the best option for the future wellbeing and prosperity of Scotland was to stay in the European Union…Trade agreements shape the nature of our economy and the situation we are in presents a particular challenge to exporters as we are taken out of the world’s biggest single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK market.”

And finally …

It was a hat trick of wins for Perceptive clients, BDP, Clyde Gateway and HBD at the Scottish Property awards last night.  Clyde Gateway won Regeneration Project of the Year for its Red Tree Magenta development in Rutherglen. The event was attended by their recently appointed new chair, Alison Thewliss (SNP MP for Glasgow Central). Magenta is a new 27 acre urban business park situated next to the River Clyde and M74 being developed by Perceptive client, Highbridge Properties which has successfully developed over 13 million square feet of office and industrial space across the UK, including Cobalt, the UK’s largest office park.  

BDP won the Architectural Excellence Award for a Public Use building for the £15m Maidenhill Primary School and Nursery at Newton Mearns in Glasgow. The facility was built with East Renfrewshire Council to meet the increased demand for primary and nursery places following the construction of 800 new homes in the area.

The award for Development of the Year for commercial building was scooped by The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA) built by client HBD and Robertson Group with Aberdeen City Council. TECA will be the subject of our next Perceptive Directors’ club on Thursday 5 March with HBD and Turner & Townsend. If you would like to attend, do get in touch with 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 14 February 2020

Political Insider – Friday 14 February 2020

Even though it’s the time of the year for love (Happy Valentine’s Day by the way), there wasn’t much shown by Boris Johnson yesterday in the Prime Minister’s first major cabinet reshuffle since the Conservatives’ general election victory in December. Julian Smith was the first senior minister to be sacked – he was Northern Ireland Secretary for 204 days. Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom have also lost their jobs as Housing Minister and Business Secretary respectively.

Most ministers were appointed when Mr Johnson became Prime Minister in July, including the only Scottish MP in the Cabinet, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack who retained his position (and his seat in December), as did former MSP Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary.

Britain’s MEPs have now left the European Parliament and the ‘new’ EP has approved a tough opening position for talks with the UK on its future relationship with the EU. MEPs called on the UK to follow EU policies in a host of areas as the price for an ambitious free trade deal. These range from chemicals regulation to climate change, food labelling and subsidies for companies.This should be with ‘a view to dynamic alignment’ – code for the UK adopting European rules as they are introduced.

Yesterday, Scotland’s minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, Kate Forbes MSP, was questioned by MSPs about the 2020/21 draft budget. She appeared before the Finance and Constitution Committee which is scrutinising the tax and spend plans. Ms Forbes presented last week’s budget following the resignation of Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. A former accountant, Ms Forbes has been tipped for promotion to the top finance post.  Committee investigations into the Budget will continue for some time before the SNP broker a deal, probably with the Greens, to allow their Budget Bill to pass.

The FT reported that the government has ‘opened talks’ with the ExCeL London venue as a ‘fallback option’. However, the UK government this week insisted that the COP26 climate summit will be held in Glasgow despite the fresh claims that it could move the event to London. The conference is due to be held at the Scottish Events Campus between 9 and 19 November, but there have been concerns about spiralling costs amid claims that the UK and Scottish governments have been at loggerheads over planning for the event. Staying with the climate summit, Scotland’s First Minister this week insisted that the Glasgow COP26 climate summit will not cause ‘squabbles’ between the Scottish and UK governments. In a speech to a think tank in London, Nicola Sturgeon said her government would work ‘closely and constructively’ with its UK counterparts. UK cabinet minister Michael Gove told the same event that the two governments were working together ‘very well’.

And finally … The new town of Shawfair, just south-east of Edinburgh, received a major boost this week as it was announced that Midlothian Council is partnering with Swedish state-owned energy firm, Vattenfall to install a district heating network within the town centre. The low temperature system, which is expected to be operational in 2021, will generate a carbon emission saving of 75 per cent compared to conventional gas boiler heating.

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 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 

Political Insider – Friday 20 December 2019

Political Insider – Friday 20 December 2019

This will be our last Insider of 2019 so may we start by thanking all clients, friends, readers all the very best for the Festive Season.  It’s been quite a year politically but just maybe 2020 and the start of a new decade might be the first election-free year in living memory.  What will us political gurus do with ourselves?

On Tuesday and Wednesday, MPs were sworn in in record time and on Thursday the Queen set out the new majority Conservative Government’s agenda for the year ahead, following last week’s decisive election win. Legislation to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January 2020 was among more than 30 bills being announced during the year’s second State Opening of Parliament. Other measures included guarantees on extra health service funding and longer sentences for violent criminals. PM Boris Johnson says he wants to keep the UK united and “level up” opportunity.

Brexit is back on the agenda, of course, and the new Government is to add a new clause to the Brexit bill to rule out any extension to the transition period beyond the end of next year. As things stand, the post-Brexit transition period – due to conclude in December 2020 – can currently be extended by mutual agreement for up to two years.

This week, Scotland’s First Minister called on the UK Government to negotiate a transfer of powers to Holyrood to allow another referendum on independence. Nicola Sturgeon said there was an “unarguable” mandate for a new vote after her SNP won 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats in last week’s general election.

Economic news continues to emerge and this week the Institute for Government has published reports on Brexit negotiations and a second independence referendum. In the report on Brexit, the Institute for Government recommends that the UK Government ensure it has a clear view on the structure of negotiations, bring the UK Parliament and public “on side” and makes better use of diplomatic channels. It also draws attention to the political declaration from the UK regarding a future relationship, as it is not binding and will be revisited.

On independence, the Institute suggests that a second independence referendum could be more likely as a result of the general election. It suggests that the devolution of additional powers to Holyrood, new protections to prevent Westminster from legislating in Scotland and the right for Scotland to enter post-Brexit common framework negotiations could improve the case for the Union.

Ian Blackford has been unanimously re-elected as SNP Westminster leader for the new Parliament at yesterday’s AGM – following last week’s general election, which saw the SNP win 80% of Scottish seats. The SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, who increased his own majority at the general election to over 9,443 and nearly 50% of the vote, said the SNP was now “the only strong, united and focused opposition to Boris Johnson’s extreme Tory government and devastating Brexit plans” with Labour consumed by bitter infighting and division.  The SNP remains the UK’s second largest opposition party and as such will get

And 2020?  In our traditional look forward, we will say with some degree of certainty that there will be no national elections next year.  The next scheduled General Election is now unlikely before 2024 thanks to the Fixed Term Parliament Act. We will leave the EU in six weeks although the transition year will mean little real difference in terms of travel and most trading relationships.  Britain’s 79 MEPs will lose their seats, however, as soon as we leave the EU.   We will see former First Minister Alex Salmond in court in March. We will be watching with interest if any other political careers are affected.

We will start to see a raft of resignations as MSPs’ hands are forced to declare whether they will be standing again in May 2021.  Holyrood veterans like John Finnie (Green) and Richard Lyle (SNP) have already said they are stepping down.

All five main parties will be finalising their 2021 manifestos – so the perfect time to be lobbying on key issues and, in fact, we have already started that process with several clients.

So, another busy year lies ahead, albeit much more behind the scenes for a change,

And finally … we had the pleasure of attending SPIFOX’s 2019 Carol Concert and lunch on Wednesday this week. Attended by 1,600 property professionals, it was great to see so many of our clients in attendance and catch up with you all. Over £250,000 was raised on the day, taking the money raised in total over the years to a staggering £5m+ for children’s charities in Scotland.

Everyone here at Perceptive wishes all our clients a very Merry Christmas, thank you for all your support this year and we are looking forward to doing it all again in 2020!

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 – SCOTLAND SPECIAL – Monday 16 December 2019

Political Insider – SCOTLAND SPECIAL – Monday 16 December 2019

Over the past few weeks, our political guru Devin Scobie, has been following the polls, pounding the streets and attended the Edinburgh count (for the city’s five seats) till 5.30am on Friday morning, trying to make sense of one of the most uncertain and unwanted General Elections in British history. Most of his predictions in Thursday’s election special came true – apart from the shock loss of UK Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire.

But the 2019 General Election is finally over and all the votes counted. Boris Johnson will be remaining in Downing Street for five more years with the biggest Tory majority since 1987 – almost entirely at the expense of former Labour seats in England. Many of these, in the northern heartlands and former mining communities, have never had a Tory MP in living memory.  Perceptive has advised individual clients already where MPs have changed, and we’ve already spoken to two victororious MPs and one losing MP who were key to different clients.

In Scotland, out of 59 seats, a total of 14 changed party, 13 to the SNP who won 48 in a landslide result and one to the Lib Dems.  All but one SNP MP held their seats and several former 2015-17 MPs were returned including Kirsten Oswald in East Renfrewshire (beating Tory Paul Masterton), Owen Thompson in Midlothian (beating Labour’s Danielle Rowley) and Anne McLaughlin in Glasgow North East (beating Labour’s Paul Sweeney). Former Holyrood Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill regained East Lothian for the SNP.

Seven Conservative seats reverted to the SNP who had lost them all in 2017. Tory survivors included Douglas Ross in Moray and current and former Scottish Secretaries Alister Jack and David Mundell, and ex MSP John Lamont in the Borders. Casualties included the sole female Tory MP, Kirstene Hair in Angus, Luke Graham in Ochil and North Perthshire, and junior Minister Colin Clark, who beat Alex Salmond in 2017.

The Lib Dems retained three of their four seats including Christine Jardine, with an increased majority in Edinburgh West, former MSP Jamie Stone in Caithness and gained North East Fife with former police officer Wendy Chamberlain elected as the new MP, unseating the SNP’s Stephen Gethins. The big shock, however, was the loss of Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire to a relative SNP novice, Amy Callaghan by just 149 votes.  UK Deputy Leader and current Party President Baroness Sal Brinton have assumed acting leadership with immediate effect.

In addition, all but one Labour seat (Edinburgh South, held by Ian Murray) returned to the SNP.  Shadow Scottish Secretary and Deputy Scottish Leader, Lesley Laird lost her Kirkcaldy seat to an SNP candidate that had been ostracised by the national party due to alleged anti-Semitic comments on social media.

A full listing of all UK seats including majorities and details of the new or returning MPs is available here: In addition, Perceptive is preparing short biogs of all Scotland’s new MPs and these are available on request.

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 – ELECTION DAY SPECIAL – Thursday 12 December 2019

Political Insider – ELECTION DAY SPECIAL – Thursday 12 December 2019

Facing the sixth election in eight years, our political expert Devin Scobie could have made his fortune charging five pounds for every time he’s been asked ‘what do you think is going to happen.’ On Monday we’ll issue an Insider Special with details of all Scotland’s new MPs, key seat changes and any particular surprises – although shockers like the loss of Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson in 2017 are unlikely to be topped in 2019.

So with all the caveats that come with political predictions, here’s what we think will happen in Scotland.  We start with 59 seats, all technically vacant until the votes are counted, but they are being defended by 35 SNP MPs (all of whom are standing again), 13 Conservatives (11 of whom are standing again), seven Labour (all re-standing) and four Lib Dems (who are also standing again).

The SNP will hold all but one of their 35 seats; a unionist squeeze will help convert the paper-thin majority of two in Ming Campbell’s old patch of North East Fife into a Lib Dem gain for former police officer and Diageo policy officer Wendy Chamberlain.  Interestingly only about half of the SNP MPs who served between 2015 and 2017 are standing again.

The Conservatives will lose most of their 13 seats to the SNP including the two being defended by new candidates (Ayr, Cumnock etc and Aberdeen South, abandoned at the 11th hour by the colourful ex MSP Ross Thomson). I suspect Angus, with Scotland’s only female MP (Kirstene Hair), Ochil and North Perthshire, Gordon and Banff and Buchan are also at risk.  David Mundell and rising star Andrew Bowie should survive and seats like East Renfrewshire, Moray and Dumfries and Galloway will go down to the wire.

Labour will lose most of their seven seats with Kirkcaldy (Gordon Brown’s old seat), Paul Sweeney in Glasgow North and Danielle Rowley in Midlothian are most at risk. Ian Murray will survive comfortably in Edinburgh South. There is a chance local factors could see a Labour gain from the SNP in one of the Glasgow seats. But don’t gamble your house on it.

The Lib Dems will hold their four, three of which were won back in 2017, and gain one although ex MSP Jamie Stone is facing a tough fight against the SNP up in Caithness.  UK leader Jo Swinson is safe in East Dunbartonshire.

The Greens have never done well at Westminster elections and will struggle to hold their deposit (5% of the vote) in the 20 or so seats they are standing in.  There could be a wild card result in Kirkcaldy where the SNP have disowned their candidate due to alleged anti-Semitic comments on Twitter and various pro-independence groups have backed the Green candidate.

P.S. Polls are open till 10pm – remember to vote!

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 6 December 2019

Political Insider – Friday 6 December 2019

Less than a week to go until voters go to the polls for the third UK general election in just over four years. Yesterday we heard even more promises from Boris Johnson as he aims to pass his Brexit deal and bring a Budget within 100 days if he is (re) elected as PM. The Tory leader says it would include his pledge to raise the National Insurance threshold to £9,500, along with cash for schools and the NHS.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said he did not have a “single doubt” a Conservative government could then agree a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020. But Labour said the Tories only offer “more of the same failure”. The Lib Dems called the Conservative plans “pure fantasy”, while the SNP warned there were seven days left to “lock” Mr Johnson out of Downing Street.

Introducing the SNP’s general election pledges in an independent Scotland could lead to more austerity, according to an economic research group this week. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the SNP’s manifesto set out plans to increase spending while also setting out a list of tax-cutting measures. It said the SNP had not costed these pledges, unlike the other main parties. But it said spending cuts would have to be made elsewhere, or other taxes would have to rise to pay for them.

SNP victories at the general election will bring the “threat of a fresh Scottish independence referendum”, Jo Swinson warned on Thursday night. She claimed the SNP will announce an independence referendum “within days” of the election if they win the most seats in Scotland. The Lib Dem leader called on voters to back her party to avoid indyref2. Ms Swinson was speaking at an Edinburgh rally last night.

Also, this week, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on the draft vision and principles for Housing to 2040 outlined in the 2019-20 Programme for Government. A series of engagement events will coincide with the consultation including a housing exhibition, Present Voices, Future Liveswhich has begun touring 12 locations across Scotland. Respondents are encouraged to offer proposals which could increase the affordability, accessibility and energy efficiency of existing and new housing. The consultation will close Friday 28 February.

On Tuesday this week, we held our Perceptive Directors’ Club at our client’s BDP’s impressive offices in Royal Exchange Square. We were privileged to have a talk from Ann Allen, Director of Estates and Commercial Services at the University of Glasgow. Our guests got to hear about all the exciting plans as part of the campus development and it was fantastic to hear how the University of Glasgow’s Estate is evolving under Ann’s leadership.

We were delighted to announce news of the future Edinburgh International Arena on Tuesday for our client Lothian Leisure Development (LLD). LLD, in partnership with Birmingham based NEC Group will deliver a new privately funded 8,000 capacity indoor arena for Scotland’s capital.  A site for the arena has been secured at Straiton just outside Edinburgh, with plans to transform the 30-acre site into a vibrant mixed-use leisure and entertainment destination. 

And finally … Congratulations to Perceptive client, Brewster Bros who achieved double success at The Herald Family Business Awards 2019 on Wednesday night. Brewster Bros scooped the Business Innovation Award as the recycling plant in Livingston continues to play a huge part in meeting Scotland’s ambition to be a world leader on tackling climate change. Malcolm Livingstone also joined father and son owners, Alex and Scott Brewster on the winners’ rostrum as he picked up the first ever Scottish Family Business Recognition Award for his 35 years’ loyal service to the family business.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 29 November

Political Insider Friday 29 November

Finally we reach the home straight with less than a fortnight to go before the first Xmas election since Stanley Baldwin’s time (he lost to a grumpy old Labour bloke…).  Proper views are coming thick and fast and neither the Conservatives nor Labour are offering “credible” spending plans ahead of the election, an influential research group said this week.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said it was “highly likely” the Tories would end up spending more than their manifesto pledges. Labour, it warned, would be unable to deliver its spending increases as it has promised. Neither was being “honest” with voters, director Paul Johnson said. The Liberal Democrats were “the most fiscally prudent” in terms of the public finances, he added, but given the uncertainty around Brexit, it was difficult to say whether they or any other party would be able to deliver their plans. So basically one big fudge continues.

Nicola Sturgeon launched the SNP election manifesto this week – the last of the ‘big five’ parties to do so – with a pledge to “escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”.The manifesto says that the SNP winning the most seats in Scotland would send a “clear” message that an independence referendum must be held next year.Ms Sturgeon said the country faced a “fundamental question” over who should decide its future. The full document runs to 52 pages but a handy guide from the BBC can be read at your leisure (if you wish) here:

The SNP won 35 seats in the snap general election in 2017, making it the third biggest party in the UK Parliament, and it hopes to hold the balance of power if there is a hung parliament after the forthcoming election. Ms Sturgeon says she is open to forming a “progressive alliance” with other parties after the election but has ruled out doing a deal with the Conservatives or entering into a formal coalition with Labour.  The UK Lib Dems are hoping to regain third place and the parliamentary status that comes with it.

The Labour Party is to re-shape its general election campaign strategy – particularly in Leave-voting areas – to try to turn around a stubborn Conservative opinion poll lead. According to the YouGov MRP poll for The Times, Boris Johnson is on course for a 68-seat majority, according to a detailed seat-by-seat survey that correctly forecast the election results in 2017.

Both Labour and the Tories have removed one of their general election candidates over allegations that they made anti-Semitic posts on Facebook. We won’t repeat them here but historic social media posts are increasingly becoming a risk factor to candidates across the board – just as MSP Gillian Martin who was junior education minister for 24 hours before her youthful rants were revealed by the media.

The Scottish Greens are seldom at the races in UK elections, having only even won a single seat (in Brighton).  But climate change “has to be” a central issue in December’s general election, Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP has said. The Scottish Greens have candidates standing in 22 of Scotland’s 59 seats, up from just three in 2017. Mr Harvie accepted Brexit, independence and who becomes Prime Minister were all key topics in the race, but said it “has to be a climate election too”. And he said the Greens were the only ones “joining the dots” on the issue.

The two questions we get asked by our clients here at Perceptive regarding the upcoming election is how much is all this costing us and – more importantly – how do we prepare to engage with new Westminster MPs? To find out how and to read all our thoughts on the election, please visit our article which appeared in The Scotsman this week.

And finally
 … with one in three children in Glasgow living in poverty, our client hub West Scotland has organised a Christmas #WinterWarmer Appeal, with their charity partner PEEK, (Possibilities for Each and Every Kid) based in the East End of Glasgow. They are seeking donations of new children’s winter jackets and wellington boots (with tags still on) for children aged between 2 – 16 years.  There’s still time to donate. If your company would like to contribute, please drop off your donation, including your company name, to hub West Scotland’s office at 6th Floor, Merchant Exchange, 20 Bell Street, Glasgow, G1 1LG by Tuesday 3 December.

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

Devin Scobie – What does the General Election mean for firms

Devin Scobie – What does the General Election mean for firms

In 15 days’ time we will be ­making our way to the polls for the tenth time in nine years.

That’s a lot of elections and, more importantly, a lot of public money. The two questions we get asked constantly at the moment is how much is all this costing us and – more importantly – how do we prepare to engage with new Westminster MPs?

Costs first – a UK-wide General Election costs around £140 million. Just over £98m was spent on fees for returning officers and their teams, who oversee the count at a local level, with £42.5m on delivering “statutory” election literature.

That’s the ones that say election communication and are delivered free – one per party per seat – though the political parties pay for the design and printing.

Add into that the amounts spent by each party and the numbers really begin to rocket. The two most marginal seats in the UK are both in Scotland. North East Fife had an SNP majority of just two over the Lib Dems and Perth and North Perthshire saw veteran nationalist Pete Wishart scrape back with 21 votes to spare over his Tory opponent.

Voters in seats like those and, in fact, any marginal (a seat with a majority under 3,000) or super marginal (under 1,000) can expect a blizzard of literature, letters, mini magazines that try hard not to look like election leaflets, and targeted online advertising via Facebook.


Strict limits mean parties are allowed to spend no more than about £14,000 per seat during the six weeks between dissolution and polling day. Not all parties will spend this in every seat but with 150 seats likely to change hands you can guarantee the leading two parties will be spending pretty close to that £14k limit – adding another £4 million to the election budget.

Then there is the famous deposit, a fee paid to the relevant local authority to help offset some of the admin costs. All candidates must pay it – £500 – but if they gain 5 per cent of the votes cast, the deposit is returned. A local Indian restaurant once stood a notional candidate against Tony Blair and reckoned the £500 was the best advertising money ever spent!

But how to engage with our new crop of MPs? Opinion polls suggest as many as two dozen Scottish seats will change hands. That’s a lot of new names to get to know. Our hunch is that most of the Tories’ 13 seats will revert to the SNP as will a few of the seven Labour seats.

The Lib Dems will probably regain North East Fife. What will be highly significant, however, is if the UK Lib Dem total of MPs exceeds that of the SNP. The third-placed UK ­party has much greater speaking rights in debates, more select committee clout, and a guaranteed slot at Prime Minister’s ­Questions.

Closer to home, we recommend five steps for Scottish firms used to, or planning to deal with, politicians at Westminster:

1. By lunchtime on Friday 13 December you will know who your new MP is. If you know him/her send an old-fashioned letter of ­congratulations saying you look forward to continuing to work with them in the ­coming months. Parliamentary emails will not be operational for another week or so.

2. If it is a new MP, send a similar letter but appropriately worded. Keep it politically neutral and stress a good working relationship with your business in their new constituency (include key employment facts and figures).

3. If you didn’t know the former MP and even if he/she is returned, an amended letter of congrats with a specific invite to visit “in the New Year”. Mention employee numbers and, if possible, value to the local economy.

4. If you work outside Scotland, send a ­letter of welcome to the new or returning UK ­Minister. The Cabinet will be appointed on Friday/Saturday unless it is a (very) hung ­parliament. Junior appointments will be the following week.

5. Follow up either 1, 2 or 3 and 4 – but leave to the New Year. If in doubt, give us a ring!

Devin Scobie is public affairs director with ­Perceptive Communicators and a former ­Westminster parliamentary candidate.

Political Insider – Friday 22 November 2019

Political Insider – Friday 22 November 2019

Alex Salmond appeared in court yesterday charged with carrying out a series of alleged sexual offences against 10 women while serving as Scotland’s First Minister. Mr Salmond faced a total of 14 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh. He denies all the allegations, which include one attempted rape, one intent to rape, 10 sexual assaults and two indecent assaults. The offences are alleged to have happened between June 2008 and November 2014. His QC, former Labour MSP Gordon Jackson, said Mr Salmond was pleading not guilty, and judge Lady Dorrian set the trial date for 9 March next year. The trial is expected to last four weeks.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over Brexit in the first TV election debate of the 2019 election campaign. Mr Johnson promised to “end this national misery” and said Labour offered “only division and deadlock”. Mr Corbyn said Labour would “get Brexit sorted by giving you, the people, the final say”. An average audience of 6.7m people watched the leaders lock horns over the NHS, trust and leadership, the future of Scotland – and the Royal Family.

After the debate, Nicola Sturgeon branded Prime Minister Boris Johnson a “scaredy-cat” after he said he would never face her on a televised debate. Ms Sturgeon, had been excluded from Tuesday evening’s ITV debate between Mr Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Johnson said ahead of the debate that he would only debate with “serious candidates” to become prime minister. But Ms Sturgeon said she was willing to face the PM “any time, any place”. A joint legal challenge by the SNP and Liberal Democrats to be included in the ITV debate was rejected by the High Court.

Also this week, Labour and the Conservatives set out rival plans to tackle the housing shortage. Jeremy Corbyn has promised the biggest affordable house building programme since the 1960s, including 100,000 new council houses a year by 2024. The announcement came as part of Labour’s manifesto launch on Thursday, which also included a windfall tax on oil companies as part of plans for a low carbon, green economy.

Labour’s Angela Rayner said the state was going to take “more direct control” of housing adding that “the market hasn’t delivered and many families are in sub-standard accommodation, paying huge amounts of money for it.”  Promising to protect the green belt, she said the houses would be built on brownfield sites and unused public sector land.

Holyrood business continues, and this week Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP confirmed that due to the General Election and the cancellation of the UK Budget, it will not be possible to publish the Scottish Budget for 2020-21 until the New Year. A new date is to be agreed with the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee as soon as possible. Following discussions with parties’ spokespersons, Mr Mackay has written to the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Scottish Fiscal Commission stating that the Scottish Budget will not take place before Christmas. 

And finally … Nicola Sturgeon spoke at the Race Against Dementia dinner in Glasgow, acknowledging the huge health problem which affects more people than cancer and heart disease. Set up by Sir Jackie Stewart following his wife being diagnosed with the disease, Race Against Dementia aims to borrow techniques from the world of sport to find a cure for dementia faster and smarter. 

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 15 November 2019

Political Insider – Friday 15 November 2019

Delivering Brexit will enable the UK to start closing the “opportunity gap between rich and poor”, Boris Johnson has said in his first campaign speech on Wednesday. He promised to tackle “injustices” in regional investment and productivity after taking the UK out of the EU. He said a future Tory government would double total investment in industrial research and development to £18bn.

Labour is promising to spend more on the NHS in England than the Tories if it wins the general election. The NHS budget would rise to £155bn by 2023-24 – £6bn more than the government promised the front-line budget would reach that stage when it set out its five-year plan last year. Announcing his party’s flagship election policy earlier in the week at the Royal Society of Medicine, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said after a “decade of underfunding and cuts” waiting lists had risen to “record levels”.

Jo Swinson has rejected calls for the Lib Dems to pull out of seats held by Labour candidates opposed to Brexit. The Lib Dem leader is under mounting pressure after two of her own candidates withdrew saying they did not want to split the pro-Remain vote. The Lib Dems do have an electoral pact with the Greens and Plaid Cymru.

Nicola Sturgeon has predicted Jeremy Corbyn will soon back her call for a Scottish independence vote in 2020. The SNP leader was responding to further confusion over Mr Corbyn’s position on a second Scottish independence referendum. The Labour leader said on Thursday that indyref2 would not happen in the first two years of his party winning power. The previous day, he initially told journalists that a referendum would not happen in the first five-year term.

Although it has made marginal impact, the Brexit party (like UKIP previously) have hopes of improving their position in Scotland and did gain an MEP in May.   They have, however, announced that they will not stand candidates in the 13 seats that the Scottish Conservatives are defending from the 2017 election, most of which are considered vulnerable to the SNP.

The Scottish Conservatives have officially reported Nicola Sturgeon’s government for destroying hand written instructions and using an SNP email account to direct civil servants and conduct government business. Donald Cameron MSP has today urged the National Records of Scotland to intervene and investigate the First Minister for potentially breaching the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011. 

The SNP – the third largest political party represented in the previous Westminster parliament – is to take legal action against ITV over its exclusion from the broadcaster’s general election debate. ITV plans to show a head-to-head debate between Conservative leader Boris Johnson and his Labour counterpart Jeremy Corbyn next week, but SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said it was “fundamentally unfair” to not include her party, which is the third-largest in the UK.

The Finance & Constitution Committee has published its pre-budget scrutiny 2020-21 report. The Committee found potential “structural issues” and the risk of “unintended consequences” within the Fiscal Framework. The Committee also called on Derek Mackay to set out how the Government intends to manage the risk of a £1bn shortfall in Scotland’s public finances, stating it is “disappointed” at the lack of information on the Medium-Term Financial Strategy.

And finally, client Homes for Scotland hosted their eighth annual conference this week. With over 200 attendees, speakers included Kevin Stewart, Housing Minister,  Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work and Graham Simpson, Conservative spokesperson for Housing & Planning. 

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    

How we are building inclusive schools – Lindsey Mitchell

How we are building inclusive schools – Lindsey Mitchell

Like many who grew up in the 1980s, school for me was the building where I attended each weekday, was moved along corridors by prefects and herded by teachers into classrooms where I would sit at one of the desks organised in neat rows all facing the front. Break times were spent in the one vast playground, huddled away in a corner sheltering from the good old Scottish weather, and sports day when it wasn’t cancelled, took place on the red blaze pitch. Then when school holidays arrived, the building was locked down.

It didn’t do me any harm, but I’m pleased that lessons have been learned with regards to the design of education environments. Much progress has been made over the years and I am privileged to be part of an interdisciplinary team who creates inspirational spaces where everyone can learn.

A really positive attitude shift has been in the recognition of the diverse learner population and the different ways people learn. Personalisation of education is one of the key aims of the Scottish Government’s policy ‘Getting it right for every child (Education)’, and as architects and creators of education spaces that facilitate this approach, it is important that we too get it right for every child.

A vast amount of research has been published that links well-designed education buildings to improving academic performance, learner attainment and attendance. 

Various factors such as natural light, noise levels, temperature, air quality and classroom orientation all impact on both learners and teachers. Flexible seating options can help to encourage participation and collaboration as well as independent work. Technology also has a key role to play and as a result, teaching is no longer confined to within the classroom walls.

At BDP, we too are always learning and our starting point on any new project is to consult with the client, teachers, learners, parents and the local community to listen to what their wants and needs are – we don’t simply take a building design and replicate it in different towns and cities. We place great importance in consultation and listening to determine what the needs of each client are.

One of the key messages we hear during consultation is that schools should be at the heart of their communities, and offer more than just a building for teaching and learning. They should be a real community asset that promotes social interaction and lifelong learning. And they should be accessible all year round.

One excellent example of this is a project delivered by BDP, Waid Community Campus in Fife, built as part of the Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland Schools for the Future’ programme, managed by Scottish Futures Trust. The brief for this project was to create an environment that brought the community together and to create spaces that promoted lifelong learning. 

It contains a learning resource and a café that are not only widely used by people of all ages who live in the community, but also offer work experience and volunteering opportunities for students. The flexible spaces are also used by community groups throughout the day into the evening and this also helps to break down generational barriers. Teaching staff have explained how this environment builds young people’s confidence by improving social interaction in a modern setting.

The teaching and learning spaces are agile and flexible allowing for classes to be reduced or increased, supporting teachers in the delivery of cooperative learning strategies. But this doesn’t just happen within the walls of the building, outdoor space is also an important consideration.

Learning from Scandinavian countries, teaching outdoors has a truly positive effect on children, and not just academically, but also on their physical and mental wellbeing.  An outdoor art terrace and outdoor classroom are just a couple of areas BDP created in a recent project at Maidenhill Primary School, for East Renfrewshire Council, allowing for complete integration of the outdoor experience with curriculum learning.

The external landscape also needs to meet the needs of the diverse learner population.  Having the one vast playground no longer works. What does work is creating a range of spaces offering choice.

Schools estates have moved on and at BDP we are focused on designing spaces that help schools and their communities achieve both their educational and societal aspirations through architecture. We are helping to create public buildings that deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits to the wider community, all year round. Most importantly, through every project we deliver, we are setting the foundations for every child’s learning journey, from early years right through to adulthood.

And hopefully no more ‘schools out for summer’.

  • Lindsey Mitchell is architect director at BDP’s Glasgow studio
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