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Political Insider – Friday 23 August 2019

Political Insider – Friday 23 August 2019

The UK Government has announced it has signed into law the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, which enabled the UK to join the European Union. The Act is also the basis for EU law becoming UK law. The Act will be officially repealed on Thursday 31 October.  Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, said: “This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back – we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances – delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016.”  

Meanwhile, over 100 MPs have called for the UK Government to recall Parliament due to the “national emergency” of Brexit. Parliament can only be recalled at the request of the Government. In the letter, MPs warn that the UK is on the brink of a “grave economic emergency” and calls for Parliament to be recalled so that there can be “proper scrutiny” of the Government’s Brexit plan.

Nearer home and the Electoral Commission would want to assess the wording of the question for a new Scottish independence vote even if it was the same one used in 2014. A Scottish Government official has suggested this would be unnecessary as the question is already “tested”, but the election watchdog said it would want to review the question in the light of possible new evidence. The Scottish Government said the 2014 vote provided a clear precedent for a simple, straightforward question. The SNP wants a fresh independence poll before the next Holyrood elections in 2021 and has suggested the “right time” would be in the second half of 2020.

There was some good economic news this week as Scotland’s notional deficit is falling faster than the UK’s, with onshore revenues increasing by 5.1% to reach £61.3 billion in 2018-19 as a result of continued economic growth. According to the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures published on Wednesday, Scotland benefitted from a £3 billion increase in onshore revenues in the last year – the fastest growth since 2010-11 as the overall notional deficit fell by £1.1 billion to 7.0% of GDP, down from 8%, in 2018-19. The reduction in the notional deficit is the result of revenues growing at a faster rate than expenditure.

Reintroducing the notion of a Lib Dem ‘shadow cabinet’, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson MP has announced her new team. Key appointments in Scotland are:

Sir Ed Davey MPChancellor of the Exchequer and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Chuka Umunna MPForeign and Commonwealth Affairs, International Development and International Trade
Christine Jardine MP (Edinburgh West)Home Department, Justice, Women and Equalities and Deputy Chief Whip
Jamie Stone MP (Caithness)Defence and Scotland
Wera Hobhouse MPClimate Change and Environment and Transport
Alistair Carmichael MP (Orkney and Shetland)Chief Whip and Northern Ireland
Catherine Bearder MEPEurope
Willie Rennie MSPScotland

Finally, just a week to go until the deadline for Perceptive’s Shout Louder campaign. This offers charities a chance to secure nine days of the team’s communications expertise over the next year as Perceptive will donate a day of each employee’s time to the chosen charity.    If you know of any charities who could benefit from this, do 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 Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 16 August 2019

Political Insider – Friday 16 August 2019

As the week started with torrential rain, it nicely matched the tone of the Brexit debate as the days ebb away towards Boris Johnson’s Hallowe’en deadline.  Speculation is also growing that the new PM will call a snap election in November on the back of ‘delivering’ Brexit (one MP predicted 7 November to our public affairs guru Devin Scobie this week).  And bear in mind that the Fixed Term Parliament Act (introduced by the Cameron coalition precisely to stop this level of date patronage) can be overruled if two-thirds of MPs support a dissolution.  So expect a noisy autumn.

The Institute for Government has published a report on the role of Parliament and voting for Brexit. The report addresses the possible outcomes once MPs return to Westminster following the summer recess. It is suggested that it is growing “very unlikely” that the UK will be able to leave the European Union with a renegotiated deal. Regarding an extension, the report suggests that backbenchers will have “limited opportunities” to legislate against a no-deal Brexit and a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister may not prevent a no-deal scenario.

Closer to home and, as the world’s largest arts festival gets under way again in Edinburgh, more than one opinion poll is suggesting that Scotland would support independence if Nicola Sturgeon gets her wish for a second referendum. Bear in mind the Scottish Parliament has already passed the necessary legislation, leaving only the small matter of Westminster approval required ….

The Scottish Government is calling for the UK Government not to withdraw from a series of EU working groups and committees. Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop has written to Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, seeking assurances that no decisions have been made regarding the membership of these groups. She expressed concern that Scotland would lose the ability to impact “crucial topics” including budgets, fisheries negotiations and foreign affairs.

Holyrood remains in recess for another three weeks but MSPs are descending on Shetland as the SNP talk up their prospects in a rare Holyrood by-election, following Tavish Scott’s resignation. Perceptive sources expect the Lib Dems to hang on – but the telephone number sized majority Tavish Scott built up over 20 years will be well down.

And finally… The co-leaders of the Scottish Greens – Patrick Harvie MSP and Lorna Slater – are to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of a show highlighting the ‘dangers of the climate emergency.’  The show ‘1.5 Degrees Live!’ involves over a hundred volunteers made up of performers, writers, members of the public, politicians and activists, reading from the UN’s IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Political Insider – Friday 9 August 2019

Political Insider – Friday 9 August 2019

Nicola Sturgeon said there was “growing urgency” for Scotland to become independent “sooner rather than later”. The first minister believed the country faced being “dragged down a political path we don’t want to go” because of Brexit and with Boris Johnson as PM.

However, opposition parties said another vote would be “divisive” and was “not the way forward”. Ms Sturgeon wants to hold a referendum in the second half of 2020, but has said her preferred timetable could be accelerated in light of developments around Brexit, particularly if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The poll by Lord Ashcroft put independence in the lead on Monday of this week, with 46% saying they would vote for it and 43% saying they would oppose it. Excluding those who said they did not know how they would vote, it would give the Yes side a lead of 52% to 48%.

The discussion which has dominated Scottish Politics this week continued to be the talking point on Wednesday, when the Scottish Labour leader hit back at suggestions from shadow chancellor John McDonnell that Labour would not oppose an independence referendum.

Mr McDonnell had said a Labour government would not block any request from Holyrood to hold a vote. His comments – which have been heavily criticised by several senior Scottish Labour figures – contradict the party’s general election manifesto pledge to rule out a referendum, as well as previous public statements by Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard.

A group of politicians has started a legal action aimed at preventing Boris Johnson shutting down parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. The group of parliamentarians include Liberal Democrat leader and Scottish MP Jo Swinson, Edinburgh SNP MP Joanna Cherry and independent MP Heidi Allen. They have lodged legal papers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Their petition is being considered by a judge who will decide whether to allow the case to proceed. The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 31 October, with the prime minister saying Brexit will happen on that day regardless of whether or not a deal has been agreed with the EU.

Despite recess, newly re-elected Scottish Greens Co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP visited Perceptive client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) this week and had a very constructive meeting with outgoing CEO Roger Kilburn, together with his interim successor (more in a later Insider). This is the first time IBioIC has engaged pro-actively with a Green politician and all sides concluded it was a success.

And finally… Henry Boot Developments has completed work on The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA) which replaces the current Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre (AECC). TECA is now the largest new entertainment complex in Europe and the largest ever project for the firm. Perceptive has supported Henry Boot Developments from helping to secure planning permission in 2014 and through the development of this world-class complex, which includes the P&J Live arena and two on-site hotels. The landmark events campus is an integral part of Aberdeen City Council’s transformational programme of investment and the venue will be hosting an open day for the public tomorrow ahead of the Offshore Europe conference and exhibition getting underway on 3 September.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Let us help you Shout Louder!

Let us help you Shout Louder!

Calling all Scottish Charities!

Today we are launching our Shout Louder campaign to give Scottish charities the chance to raise awareness of their work by providing free consultancy support.

We have been active in helping charities for over 10 years with pro-bono communications support and we are now seeking applications from interested charities who would benefit from our communications support.

Previous charities who we have worked with include Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, Business Beats Cancer and most recently The Simon Community and Action for Children. 

Lorraine McGrath, Chief Executive of The Simon Community said: “Since 2017 we’ve been delighted to have the support of the Perceptive team in shaping and communicating what we do. As a team they’ve brought a level of talent and ability far beyond what we could bring but more than that they are a team who obviously share our values and desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives. From the outset the team has enabled us to increase our reach and impact resulting in not just more donations and partnerships but the right kind. They have been hands on in supporting us meet the challenges of people who have very complex needs and often low expectation.”

Action for Children’s Corporate and Major Donor Fundraising Manager, Grant McFarlane, said: “Perceptive Communicators support for Action for Children has been hugely worthwhile and appreciated and we’ve been extremely grateful to be the agency’s most recent nominated charity partner alongside the Simon Community.

“Over the months working with the team we’ve appreciated several great opportunities and networking event thanks to Perceptive. We’ve benefited greatly from Perceptive’s social media expertise, to help Action for Children Scotland improve how we communicate with our supporters and the broader community through the various channels available.” 

Julie Moulsdale, Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators, said: “We have been privileged to provide pro-bono communications support to organisations like The Simon Community and Action for Children who are making a difference to people’s lives in Scotland every day. We are delighted that our support has made a positive impact for these charities. By harnessing our expert communications skills, we hope to maximise the impact to help the chosen charity to achieve their future goals.”

To date, we have provided social media training and strategy support, PR campaign and copywriting support to our nominated charities which were selected by the team here at Perceptive.

The range of communications support on offer includes media training, campaign planning, PR support, social media training, copywriting and communications audit. We will donate a day of each of our employees’ time annually to the chosen charity, so a total of nine days over a year.

To apply for the Shout Louder campagin, charities should provide the following in 500 words in total or less:

  • Name and brief overview of the organisation
  • Contact name and contact number and email address
  • Current communications activities and resources (including any agency support)
  • Clear objectives for the pro-bono communications support from Perceptive – what do you want to achieve as a result of this support
  • What services/support would like from Perceptive (up to nine days communications support)  eg media training, PR strategy, media relations, copywriting, social media training, social media strategy and content, communications audit etc
  • Timing of the support required
  • How the impact of this support will be measured
  • Details of any specific campaigns or projects that will be active during the coming year and the timing of these

Applications should be emailed to kate.mcmahon@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk and the deadline to apply is Friday 30th August

Political Insider – Friday 2 August 2019

Political Insider – Friday 2 August 2019

Week two of the Johnson era and the Prime Minister has declared it is “up to the EU, this is their call” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Mr Johnson said: “We’re not aiming for a no-deal Brexit, we don’t think that’s where we’ll end up.”

This comes as the UK Government has just announced an extra £2.1bn of funding to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, with plans including more border force officers and upgrades to transport infrastructure at ports.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed that Boris Johnson has set the UK on an “almost inevitable path to a no-deal Brexit”. Ms Sturgeon’s comment came after distinctly cool talks with the new PM at her official Bute House residence in Edinburgh. She said it was clear to her that the UK government was on a “dangerous” path to a “catastrophic” exit from the EU.

Elsewhere, Boris Johnson should stop “ignoring” Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson or risk putting an end to the “delicate” union of the United Kingdom, William Hague, the former UK Conservative leaderand Foreign Secretary has warned. Lord Hague urged the Prime Minister to give Ms Davidson “a strong place in his counsels and confidence”, despite splits between the pair over a no-deal Brexit and the Cabinet sacking of ally David Mundell as Scottish Secretary.

Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle saw around 75% of Theresa May’s ministers sacked or moved. A definitive listing of ‘new’ Ministers can be found here (note the Scotland Office has an extra/third Minister):https://www.gov.uk/government/ministers

The former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel, now Baroness, Goldie has been appointed as Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, moving across from the Whips Office. She joins another former MSP, Ben Wallace, a former soldier who was promoted into the Cabinet as Defence Secretary.  

A second junior Minister (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and also a Scottish Whip) has been appointed to the Scotland Office, supporting new Scottish Secretary Alister Jack.  He is Colin Clark MP for Gordon and a former businessman before gaining his Gordon seat from a certain Alex Salmond in June 2017.

In other news, the UK government should use Brexit as an opportunity to “rewrite” unfair agricultural funding rules, according to a key group of MPs on Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee. They said leaving the EU presented a chance to address failings in the current formula. A report said the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) had led to Scottish farms and crofts receiving low funding. The UK government insisted Scotland would get a better deal after Brexit. The report urged ministers to move away from an “outdated method” of allocating money.

As mentioned last week, Iain Gray, the former Scottish Labour leader and local MSP for East Lothian had a entertaining visit to The Lighthouse in North Berwick on Wednesday ahead of its sponsorship of the Fringe by the Sea festival starting on Friday 2nd August. The Lighthouse is a client of Perceptive’s and has gone from strength to strength since opening in March 2018.

And finally… In a tersely worded press release, the SNP has called for Michael Gove to make it an early priority to take his threat to devolution off the table. Mr Gove – a Scot and the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – has led calls for Westminster to wrestle control of spending in devolved areas from Holyrood – eroding the powers of the Scotland Act and breaching current Treasury rules. He has been tasked with “overseeing constitutional affairs and maintaining the integrity of the Union”. 

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 07734932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

20 years on and has Holyrood ‘worked’?

20 years on and has Holyrood ‘worked’?

6 May 1999 was a mild day, but my then 16 week old son was having none of it and he seemed to find something to howl about every five minutes.  The fact that history was being made at Holyrood was lost on him. Even the gift of a yellow sticker (quickly shredded) from a kindly Lib Dem polling agent wasn’t enough to quieten him.

But thus poor Duncan became a metaphor for a new institution that this week turned 20.  Rather like the 150 or so children born on  that day in July 1999, Holyrood still has the odd teenage moments but the rules have changed as they got older.

At the time and even now, people are quick to compare Westminster with Holyrood.  A thousand years of history, not all of which went to plan, versus 20. 

But here we are, 20 years since those immortal words “There Shall be a Scottish Parliament” became a reality. I’ve worked in public affairs since the late 90s when Westminster MPs were rare animals whom we seldom saw.  Devolution promised much and some would argue has yet to deliver it all. It is certainly a more open and accessible organisation for those seeking to do business with it.

People are often still quick to criticise Holyrood, but is has achieved much in 20 years.  We have genuine economic growth and the highest level of employment in the UK – facts even the Tories grudgingly acknowledge.  Free personal care for our elderly and zero tuition fees are looked upon enviously by English MPs.

We’ve had six First Ministers – including Jim Wallace who covered twice for Donald Dewar whilst he was incapacitated.  Some 330 people have sat as MSPs. 16 or 17 have been there since the very start (Tavish Scott is the youngest veteran, although he is soon to leave for pastures new).  And some lasted barely a few weeks; Labour’s Lesley Brennan was a North East list MSP for just ten weeks in early 2016.

Ian Welsh (Lab) and Stefan Tymkewycz (SNP) both resigned within months of being elected as they just didn’t like the job.  And surprising number serve only one term, a consequence of the list system whose structure is unique to Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly.

Much has happened in those twenty years and gradually more and more powers have been devolved northwards from an increasingly discredited Westminster, suspended in its own inertia over Brexit.  We already had transport, planning, health, education and rural affairs. Soon additional powers over farming and fishing concessions come to Holyrood rather than Westminster if the Scottish Government get their way.  Many tend to forget that 85%+ of policy is already devolved and for that reason alone, Holyrood matters.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing of course.  Very few Members’ Bills have actually made it through to law and the committee system – intended to be a sort of ‘second chamber’ quickly became and has remained much more politicised than ever intended with the Government of the day’s view generally prevailing.

Holyrood is, however, still a very young institution.  20 years is a blink in time and the opportunities to engage are significant. Few MSPs will decline a meeting with a local business or organisation linked to their constituency, committee or spokesperson duties.  The opportunity to reach Ministers who make real decisions is dramatically better than those of us who remember ‘lobbying’ in the pre Holyrood days.

So perhaps the last words should go to Her Majesty who opened Holyrood this equivalent week in 1999 and returned last weekend to celebrate the first 20 years, concluding that for most of the last 20 years this striking chamber has provided a place to talk. But of course it must also be a place to listen – a place to hear views that inevitably may differ quite considerably, one from another – and a place to honour those views.

Roll on July 2039!

Political Insider – Friday 26 July 2019

Political Insider – Friday 26 July 2019

What a difference a week makes… On Wednesday, Theresa May delivered her farewell speech outside Downing Street before tendering her resignation to the Queen. She wished new Conservative leader Boris Johnson well and within hours he was sworn as the 55th UK Prime Minister.

Johnson then gave his first speech as Prime Minister to the gathered media outside No 10. As well as renewing his commitment to leaving the European Union on the 31st October, he made several domestic policy pledges. Mr Johnson said the Brexit “doomsters and gloomsters “were wrong and the UK would leave on 31 October”. He then went on to say that the UK would meet that deadline “no ifs, no buts”, adding: “The buck stops with me.”

The incoming Prime Minister has already given key cabinet roles to leading Brexiteers. Dominic Raab and Priti Patel who return to government as Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary respectively. Sajid Javid has been named as the new Chancellor as more than half of Theresa May’s old cabinet quit or were sacked.

It was announced yesterday that Alister Jack has also been appointed by Boris Johnson to be Scottish Secretary. The MP for Dumfries and Galloway takes over from David Mundell, who was sacked by Mr Johnson on Wednesday evening. Mr Jack said he was “honoured” to accept the job “at a time when we face very significant challenges as a country” and said, “We need to leave the EU in a way which works for Scotland and the whole of the UK.”  Although low profile, he has sat in the influential Treasury Committee.

Scotland’s First Minister has said an independence referendum is more important than ever as she urged Boris Johnson to “change course” on Brexit. In a letter to the new Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Mr Johnson on his appointment. But she warned that leaving the EU on 31 October without an exit deal being agreed would cause “lasting harm”. And she said it was essential that Scotland was able to choose an “alternative option”.

As predicted last week, Jo Swinson was comfortably elected the first woman leader of the UK Liberal Democrats earlier on in the week. Celebrating her landslide victory, she told the party faithful that she was “delighted, honoured and absolutely over the moon” about the result.

And finally… Iain Gray, the local MSP for East Lothian, will be visiting flexible working space, The Lighthouse in North Berwick next Wednesday ahead of its sponsorship of the Fringe by the Sea festival starting on Friday 2nd August. The Lighthouse is a client of Perceptive’s and has gone from strength to strength since opening in March 2018. Mr Gray, a former Minister and former Scottish Labour leader, will be given a tour of the business centre, which is a first in the region, offering flexible office and pay-as-you-go desk space to small and medium-sized businesses in the area.

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 932 578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Political Insider – Friday 19 July 2019

Political Insider – Friday 19 July 2019

This is the last Insider of Theresa May’s unremarkable premiership and, incidentally, of Sir Vince Cable’s arguably equally unremarkable couple of years at the helm of the Lib Dems.  This time next week, we predict, Prime Minister Johnson and Jo Swinson (set to beat Ed Davey and be confirmed on Monday) will be the new names in the frames.  For a while at any rate.

Yesterday, MPs backed a bid to stop a new Prime Minister suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. A majority of 41 approved an amendment that blocks suspension between 9 October and 18 December unless a Northern Ireland executive is formed. Four cabinet ministers, including Philip Hammond, abstained and 17 Tory MPs rebelled, including minister Margot James, who subsequently resigned as a Minister.

In her last speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May warned against the rise of “uncompromising absolutism”, which risks “poisoning” public debate. The Prime Minister said the “coarsening” of British politics had occurred as a result of rising technology use “without filter or accountability”. She expressed optimism regarding the decrease in extreme poverty, the increase in life expectancy and the rising interest in fighting climate change. Looking to the future, Theresa May called on her successor to “resolve the Brexit impasse” and said it was her greatest regret that she had been unable to deliver the result of the referendum in March.

Elsewhere and public borrowing could double next year if there is a no-deal Brexit, the UK’s spending watchdog says. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said borrowing would be almost £60bn if the UK leaves without a deal – up from £29.3bn if it does get a deal.

Closer to home again and the amount of income tax revenue raised by the Scottish Government in 2017/18 went up by 1.8% but was still £941m short of original forecasts. The HMRC figures are the first time revenue from Scottish taxpayers has been calculated since the new devolved powers over income tax began in 2017.

Scotland’s Finance Secretary (and potential next First Minister) Derek Mackay said he was creating a more progressive tax system. He said stronger growth for Scotland could have a positive impact on this risk-sharing “reconciliation” in future years.

The number of companies contacting Scotland’s national business advice service – Business Gateway – has fallen in the past year. A total of 9,083 start-up businesses used the service in 2018, down 0.5% on the previous year. There was also a 6.8% drop in the number of so-called growth firms using the service, down from 3,166 to 2,951. Business Gateway said the drop was the result of Brexit uncertainty and polarised position on global trade.

The new UK government hub in Edinburgh will be named after the Queen, it has been announced. The building near Waverley Station will be known as Queen Elizabeth House when it opens in March 2020. The seven storey, 190,000 square feet office space will bring together almost 3,000 civil servants and is designed to bring together 10 UK government departments and aims to “build a stronger civil service outside London”. Keys to the building were formally handed over to the UK government on 13 June and staff will start to move in next spring.

Shetland Lib Dems have selected veteran councillor Beatrice Wishart as their candidate in the forthcoming (and relatively rare) Holyrood by-election on 29 August. Cllr Wishart is Deputy Convener of Shetland Islands Council and a trustee of Women’s Aid in Shetland. The by-election has been triggered by the resignation of Tavish Scott who had held the constituency since Holyrood was reconvened in 1999 but stood down to accept a new position with the SRU.

And finally… Thanks to local MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Christina McKelvie for visiting client Construction Scotland Innovation Centre this morning.  Although she has a busy day job the Minister for Older People and Equalities, her visit was ‘conditional’ on her being allowed to try out the Centre’s Virtual Reality technology set to be part of the construction industry’s transformation in future.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Political Insider – Friday 28 June 2019

Political Insider – Friday 28 June 2019

Tory leadership rivals Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are at loggerheads over how the UK should leave the EU. Both contenders claim they can renegotiate a Brexit deal that the EU says is closed. Mr Johnson said the UK must leave on 31 October “deal or no deal” but Mr Hunt called this a “fake deadline” that could trigger a general election if Parliament rejects a no-deal Brexit.

The winner of the contest will take over from Theresa May on 24 July, who has refused to promise unconditional support for her successor’s Brexit plan. Asked this week if she would back whichever Brexit outcome the next prime minister achieves, including a no-deal Brexit, she said that amounted to agreeing to “whatever happens in future”.

Both candidates in the Conservative leadership battle have set out their opposition to a second independence referendum at a digital hustings held this week. Boris Johnson has claimed Brexit “done right” could “cement and intensify” the union between the UK nations. Jeremy Hunt said his party had been complacent about the union and vowed never to allow the break up the UK.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has switched her support to Jeremy Hunt in the race to become PM. The foreign secretary is the third candidate to have been endorsed by Ms Davidson, who has previously supported Sajid Javid and Michael Gove. Ms Davidson tweeted that Mr Hunt has “always put the Union first” and would therefore get her vote.

At Holyrood this week, the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, has told MSPs he is “cautiously optimistic” the BiFab fabrication yard in Fife will secure vital contracts.  With BiFab’s yards in Methil and Burntisland currently mothballed, unions are campaigning to secure work on a £2bn offshore wind farm off Fife. It is feared the contract could go to Indonesia. Giving evidence to Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, Derek Mackay said the Scottish government was now exploring legal routes that would compel companies to invest in Scotland.

And finally … Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott, one of the longest serving at Holyrood and a regular tour guide/fantastic dinner host for the annual visit to Holyrood as part of our Perceptive Directors’ is to quit Holyrood. The former Scottish Lib Dem leader, who was elected in the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999, will step down as the MSP for Shetland in July to take up a new job with Scottish Rugby. Everyone here at Perceptive wishes him the very best of luck!If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 5 July 2019

Political Insider – Friday 5 July 2019

The Queen was at Holyrood last weekend to address MSPs as part of celebrations to mark 20 years of the Scottish Parliament. Her Majesty said that in the last two decades it has been a pleasure to watch the Scottish Parliament “grow and prosper”.

Writing in The Scotsman this week, Perceptive’s political expert, Devin Scobie explained that since 1999, the country has had six First Ministers – including Jim Wallace, who covered twice for Donald Dewar whilst he was incapacitated. Some 330 people have sat as MSPs, and 16 or 17 have been there since the very start. A few lasted barely a few weeks; Labour’s Lesley Brennan was a North-east list MSP for just ten weeks in early 2016.

People are often still quick to criticise Holyrood but is has achieved much in 20 years. Scotland has had genuine economic growth over the years and the highest level of employment in the UK. Free personal care for our elderly and zero tuition fees are looked upon enviously by English MPs.

Perhaps the last words on Holyrood should go to Her Majesty herself, who concluded on Saturday that for most of this period this striking chamber has provided “a place to talk”. But of-course it must also be a place to listen – a place to hear views that inevitably may differ quite considerably, one from another – and a place to honour those views. Roll on July 2039!

Theresa May was in Scotland yesterday on her final visit as PM. She announced a review of UK government departments to make sure they work in the best interests of devolution, but Nicola Sturgeon predictably said that the review was “too little, too late” and would do nothing to prevent Scottish independence. In her speech, Mrs May told the two candidates vying to replace her as Prime Minister (in Scotland tonight for a members’ only hustings) that they must make strengthening the Union one of their top priorities. Mrs May also urged her successor to “think creatively” about how to ensure the UK stays together.

The final inquiry report of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work committee into the Construction Industry and the Scottish Economy was published this week. Several Perceptive clients including Construction Scotland and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) submitted written evidence and three were invited to give oral evidence which formed a substantive part of the final report. The report concluded “A thriving construction sector is vital to our built environment and economy … The Scottish Government must continue to work together with industry to ensure that improvement is made in these key areas. Only with leadership, collaboration and cultural change, will the construction sector be able to realise its full potential contribution to Scotland’s economy.”

A link to the full report is available here: https://sp-bpr-en-prod-cdnep.azureedge.net/published/EEFW/2019/7/2/Under-Construction–Building-the-future-of-the-sector-in-Scotland/EJFWS052019R08.pdf

And finally … we were delighted to provide Parliamentary training this week with industry body, Homes for Scotland which recently unveiled its new branding, putting its aim of delivering more homes for Scotland front and centre. There is much backlash in public opinion about the development of new homes but the fact remains that Scotland remains in the grip of a desperate housing shortage.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 12 July 2019

Political Insider – Friday 12 July 2019

The Conservative leadership bandwagon made its only Scottish stop this week when the final two contenders, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, faced party members at a hustings event in Perth. Both men have pledged to protect the UK union after warnings from senior Tory politicians that it could be at risk.

The hustings in Perth was the latest in a series of (closed) events around the UK which see the two candidates make a speech to local members before taking questions from a host and the audience.  Comments to journalists suggested that Jeremy Hunt came across as being more ‘in control’ – but that seems unlikely to stop a Boris sprint to the finish line.

Party members are now receiving their ballots, with the winner to be announced on 23 July. A YouGov survey of Conservative members in June suggested that a majority would prefer Brexit to go ahead even if it caused Scottish independence, while another opinion poll suggested that a majority of Scots could back independence if Mr Johnson became Prime Minister. By co-incidence, the campaign to succeed Sir Vince Cable as leader of the UK Lib Dems also concludes that week. Scottish MP Jo Swinson is the clear favourite in a two horse race with former Cabinet minister Sir Ed Davey.  

The Scottish Affairs Committee has published the UK Government response to its report on the relationship between the UK and Scottish governments. The UK Government accepted the Committee’s recommendations on reviewing the role of the Scotland Office and said it will consider introducing third party involvement in dispute resolution proceedings.

The response was published ahead of an evidence session with David Mundell on Thursday (11 July). Chair Pete Wishart, said: “The Government response makes some welcome indications of support for updating intergovernmental structures, including a fairer dispute resolution process for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”  

Holyrood is in recess until 3 September but the Finance & Constitution Committee has launched a call for evidence on the estimated financial implications of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill. The aim of the Bill is to establish the office of Scottish Biometrics Commissioner and provide guidelines for the acquisition, retention and destruction of biometric data. The deadline to respond is Friday 30 August. 

All the parties have been using recess to focus on a relatively rare event, a Holyrood by-election, following Shetland Lib Dem MSP (and good friend to Perceptive) Tavish Scott’s resignation. Johan Adamson, a former community councillor and journalist at the Shetland Times, has been selected as the Labour candidate. Meanwhile, two other candidates have declared their candidacy. Ryan Thomson, a Shetland councillor, has announced he will run independently, with transport policy as his focus. Ian Scott has created his own party, ‘Fight Austerity, Save Our NHS, Save Our Welfare State’ and also intends to run for the seat. The SNP and Liberal Democrats will announce their candidates imminently. It has been one of the Lib Dems safest seats since 1999 and the party is expected to hold it.

And finally… Yesterday marked 30 days to go until P&J Live – the multi-million-pound new events venue in Aberdeen – opens to the public for the first time. A free, ticketed event called Preview @ P&J Live is being held on Saturday 10 August 2019 to showcase the new complex which is being delivered by one of our clients, Henry Boot Developments and Aberdeen City Council. Keep a close eye on our social media channels for new images and short videos which are being released over the next four weeks showing different parts of P&J Live and the two new on-site hotels.If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

POLITICAL INSIDER – FRIDAY 21 JUNE 2019

POLITICAL INSIDER – FRIDAY 21 JUNE 2019

After nine days and three rounds, it’s almost decision time.

Conservative MPs have chosen the two men who will contest the final stage of the party’s leadership race next week: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

Boris Johnson said he was “honoured” to get the backing of 160 MPs in the final ballot of the party’s MPs yesterday evening – more than half of the total. Jeremy Hunt got 77 votes – two more votes than the next candidate Michael Gove.

Mr Johnson is almost certain to be the number one choice across the 160,000 or so Conservative members who will elect the next Tory leader – and Prime Minister – in a postal ballot, starting next week.

Unsurprisingly, Boris Johnson as Prime Minister isn’t being well received across some parts of the political world – the politician who has come back from the political brink faced some choice words from SNP’s Ian Blackford during Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday. The SNP’s leader at Westminster branded Boris Johnson a “racist” who is unfit to lead the country. He refused to withdraw his allegation of racism despite being urged to do so by Speaker John Bercow.

Closer to home and at Holyrood this week, MSPs backed plans to give councils the power to levy a tax on workplace car parking spaces. The measure could see councils charge businesses an annual fee for every parking space they provide for workers. Opposition parties said the move was a “regressive tax on workers”, but the rural economy committee ultimately backed it by a vote of six to five. The powers have been added into the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which will still have to be signed off in a vote of all MSPs.

The latest statistics from the UK House Price Index (HPI) show that the average price of a property in Scotland in April 2019 was £150,825 – an increase of 1.6 per cent on April in the previous year. Comparing with the previous month, house prices in Scotland rose by 0.7 per cent between March 2019 and April 2019.    

And finally … One of the most UK’s most experienced and skilled communicators, Dominic Fry addressed our Perceptive Directors’ Club in Glasgow last night.  With experience as Communications Director at the Channel Tunnel, ScottishPower and Sainsbury’s, Dominic has recently left Marks & Spencer after a decade as Director of Corporate Communications, Investor & Government Relations.   

Dominic shared some compelling, honest and humorous examples on managing a corporate reputation that is so engrained in the British psyche.  From managing supermodels at London Fashion week to advising on the reputational implications of executive remuneration, Dominic emphasised the importance of understanding and listening to your audience so understanding the mood of public opinion, the responsibility to hold a mirror to the organisation and exec team, especially when anticipating reputational implications and when it goes wrong, not being afraid to take responsibility and this could be done with self-deprecating humour. And Percy Pig who now has over 200,000 followers on Facebook!If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 14 June 2019

Political Insider – Friday 14 June 2019

At Westminster the Tory leadership pantomime continues.  Current front-runner Boris Johnson warns ‘be ready for disruption’ after claiming he will play ‘no-deal hard-ball’ in Brexit negotiations if he becomes the next UK Prime Minister. The right-wing Brexiteer has promised is a series of media interviews yesterday and over the weekend that under his premiership the UK will leave the EU on October 31st with or without a deal.  Ian Blackford MP said that he has continued to dismiss evidence that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the 2016 EU referendum and MSPs backed remain in a Holyrood debate on EU membership.

leaked Cabinet paper has revealed levels of unpreparedness for a no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile, opposition attempts to take control of the Commons agenda failed to gain the support of MPs. Eight Labour MPs voted with the Government and a further 13 abstained to ensure the proposal was defeated by 309 votes to 298. Analysts are suggesting that Conservative MPs might be more likely to support the motion if lodged again closer to October, once the new Prime Minister’s intended approach is clearer.

Boris Johnson is reported to be refusing to explicitly rule out the suspension of Parliament to force through a no-deal (and, incidentally, refusing ALL broadcast media interview requests). Ex Solicitor General Dominic Grieve and some other Conservative MPs have indicated they’d consider triggering an election via a no-confidence vote if it proved the only way to stop a hard Brexit on October 31. The SNP has criticised Scottish Conservative MPs for voting against the motion and “pushing Scotland further towards the cliff-edge.

Scottish Labour’s Executive Committee has formalised its support for seeking a confirmatory vote on any forthcoming Brexit deal. In a new statement, leader Richard Leonard MSP confirmed that the Scottish party “will campaign for any Brexit deal to be automatically put to the people in a confirmatory vote and will campaign for that vote to have a clear option to Remain”. Responding for the SNP, Keith Brown said that it was “grossly hypocritical” for Labour to back a second EU referendum but not a second Scottish independence referendum.

Natalie McGarry, former SNP MP for Glasgow East (2015-17) has been jailed for 18 months. She was dropped by the party after she was charged with a number of fraud offences and has now been found guilty of embezzling more than £25,600 from pro-independence organisations in Scotland and been jailed for 18 months.

Congratulations to client, Cruden Group which won best Large Housing Development for its development at Meadowside in East Lothian at the Scottish Home Awards last night.

And finally … we are looking forward to hearing from Annie Lennox today as the Perceptive team attend TEDx Glasgow. As well as her successful musical career, Annie has been an ardent campaigner on many issues, including speaking out against Brexit. Watch this space!If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 7 June 2019

Political Insider – Friday 7 June 2019

Although it’s just over a week since the Euro elections no one wanted or expected, the Scottish Government is applying pressure on the UK Government to launch a public inquiry into its handling of the European elections, which saw thousands of EU nationals denied their right to vote. Opposition MPs will press UK ministers to come to Parliament and answer calls for a full investigation into the failures and mistakes that led to EU citizens being denied the vote.

An SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson said the UK government’s refusal to make ‘UC1’ forms available at polling stations, its failure to prepare for the elections until the last minute, its failure to publicise the requirements properly, and a series of administrative errors, had all contributed to voter disenfranchisement on a massive scale.  No formal UK Government response has been given.

So far, less than half the 300+ Conservative MPs have declared support for the dozen plus candidates who have so far declared their interest in the party leadership. Scottish Secretary David Mundell MP has said he may not declare for any candidate as it is such a strong field (sic). Seen of the 13 Scottish Tory MPs have declared and, of those we know about: Paul Masterton is supporting Matt Hancock; John Lamont > Jeremy Hunt; Stephen Kerr, Luke Graham, David Duguid and Bill Grant > Michael Gove; and Colin Clark remains one of just three supporting James Cleverley.  As things stand, Gove has more backers (24) than Boris (21) – and of Boris’s 21, none represent Scottish seats.

Former First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones AM, has given his backing to Scotland’s right to hold an independence referendum. The senior Labour Party politician took to Twitter to criticise Sajid Javid’s claim that he “won’t allow” an independence referendum if he becomes Tory leader, tweeting “Has he any idea how arrogant this sounds? The people of the UK had every right to have a referendum on EU membership. The people of Scotland and for that matter, Wales have every right to hold a referendum [on] independence if they support a party calling for it.”
 
Carwyn Jones, still a Labour Welsh Assembly Member, added: “In 2015 David Cameron got elected with a promise to hold an EU ref which he did. If a party gets elected to government in Scotland or Wales with a similar promise the same principles must apply. He has every right to campaign against independence but not stop a vote.”

Finally, Perceptive client Roger Kilburn, Chief Executive of Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) and Chair of IBioIC’s Governing Board, Professor Dame Anne Glover welcomed Innovation Minister, Ivan McKee this week to discuss the impact and huge potential of industrial biotechnology.  IBioIC aims to create 1500 new jobs, £140m of inward investment and £400m of sales across Scotland by 2020, using biological substances, systems and processes to produce materials, chemicals and energy for Scotland and beyond.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 07734932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 31 May 2019

Political Insider – Friday 31 May 2019

The elections nobody wanted ended up dominating this week’s news and being a complete disaster for the Tories and little better for Labour.  MEPs tend not to be well known figures (unless their surname rhymes with barrage, as in balloon, as in full of hot air….)  But Scotland’s six new Members of the European Parliament have changed considerably and will be as follows. Four of the six being newly elected.  In alphabetical order:

·       Christian ALLARD (SNP, first timer, was an MSP until 2016 and is a French national).

·       Aileen MACLEOD (SNP, also a first timer, former MSP and Minister)

·       Baroness Nosheena MOBARIK (Con, was previously an MEP; one of just 4 CON MEPs to survive)

·       Sheila RITCHIE (Scottish Lib Dem, experienced but new to Europe, solicitor and current Scottish Party Convener; regained the seat lost to UKIP in 2014)

·       Alyn SMITH (SNP, was an MEP previously)

·       Louis STEDMAN-BRYCE (Brexit Party, newly elected, a home care director and Scotland’s first black MEP)

Although Nigel Farage’s six week old Brexit Party swept to victory across the UK, topping the poll in all regions except Scotland, Scottish voters delivered another poll triumph for the SNP who gained a third MEP.

Overall, the SNP won the biggest share of the vote, winning all council areas except the Lib Dem heartlands of Orkney and Shetland. Labour dipped below 10% and lost both their Scottish MEPs including respected veteran David Martin, an MEP since 1984. UKIP lost all their UK seats – including the one snatched from the Lib Dems in 2014. The former UKIP MEP David Coburn had already defected to the Brexit Party but did not stand again.

Elsewhere it wasn’t exactly another quiet week in the political world… a week ago today, Theresa May made a teary resignation speech as her tenure as Prime Minister will come to end on 7 June. So, who will be the next leader of the Tory Party and thus PM? The favourite with bookmakers is a certain Mr Boris Johnson, however he could be summoned to court ‘within days’ over claims he lied during the Brexit referendum, the Tory leadership front runner was ordered to attend a hearing to face accusations he lied with his repeated claim that the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU.  Team Perceptive are putting their ha’penny on Michael Gove.


Closer to home, the Scottish government wants to put the question of independence to a new public vote in the second half of 2020. However, the Referendums (Scotland) Bill does not set a date or question, with ministers seeking agreement with the UK government. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “now more than ever it is essential that we keep Scotland’s options open”.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP gave a statement to MSPs on Wednesday afternoon about the bill and plans for a “citizens’ assembly” to discuss Brexit and independence. The Scottish Conservatives said the “latest stunt” was “all about Nicola Sturgeon pandering to her party, not speaking for the country”.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

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