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Political Insider – Friday 11 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 11 October 2019

EU leaders have pulled apart the UK’s Brexit proposals, accusing Boris Johnson of putting forward untested ideas to solve the Irish border crisis. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU needed workable solutions “today not tomorrow”. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs that while he would “not exclude” a deal in the coming days, progress had been limited.

Some light may yet be about to shine, however.  With less than three weeks to go, Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar agree they can “see a pathway to a possible deal” after talks yesterday, Downing Street said. The two leaders had “constructive” talks on the UK’s Brexit proposals and believe a deal “is in everybody’s interest”, a statement said. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will meet the EU’s Michel Barnier later today to continue discussions.

Making a further intervention in the Brexit debate, Tony Blair has said the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is a boost for those supporting Scottish independence. The former Prime Minister said the chances of the UK leaving the EU without a deal have increased on the basis of latest briefings from No 10.  But Mr Blair said a deal with the EU was still possible. In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Blair also acknowledged that he now finds it a “struggle” to support Labour.

As Holyrood wraps up for a two week recess, plans to give local councils the power to charge a levy on workplace parking have been passed into law. The proposal is part of a series of changes to transport in Scotland put to a final vote at Holyrood yesterday evening. An attempt by Scottish Labour to remove the parking levy aspect was defeated during a debate on Wednesday. The Scottish Government’s transport bill will also shake up bus services, introduce low emission zones in cities and ban parking on pavements.

Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has pencilled in 12 December to deliver his Scottish Budget. Mr Mackay has informed Holyrood’s Finance Committee of his preferred date for setting out the Scottish Government’s financial statement for the year ahead. However, it will depend on Westminster holding a Budget in the next two months which in turn is tied in with the Brexit negotiations and the possibility of a General Election. Mr Mackay said last month that without the tax announcements and economic forecasts of a UK Budget the Scottish Government will not have clarity on funding for 2020-21.

Scotland’s role as a global leader in ethical finance is being highlighted at a world summit in Edinburgh this week. Senior representatives from more than 200 companies and organisations are attending Ethical Finance 2019. Speakers include Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The summit aims to “help define and shape the transition to a sustainable financial system where finance delivers positive change”.

The Lord Provost of Glasgow has apologised and vowed to repay some of her expenses, after facing criticism for charging £8,000 worth of clothing to the public purse. On Tuesday it emerged Eva Bolander had claimed for items including 23 pairs of shoes. In an email to council members, she defended the claims, “made in good faith”, with each “within the rules”. However, she added that “on reflection”, she should not have chosen to reclaim some items.

And finally… Well done to Perceptive client Fionna Kell, a Director at Homes for Scotland, for a strong performance at a Scottish Parliament oral evidence session. Ms Kell was a witness in front of the Local Government and Communities committee as part of their wider investigation into local government funding. 

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

Tackling fuel poverty by building sustainable homes

Tackling fuel poverty by building sustainable homes

Hands up if you’ve heard about the urgent need for new homes?  Chances are most of the business community have seen a headline or three about the UK government’s ambition to see 300,000 new homes built by the mid 2020s.

And it’s a laudable ambition. While this is a stretch target, and the industry is some way behind the curve, there is no doubt that we need these new homes.

But it shouldn’t just be about hitting a target for the number of new homes built.  Quality and future viability needs to be further up the agenda. I believe it is equally important for the industry to focus on building sustainable, energy-efficient homes that are built to last.

This message is definitely getting through to self-builders who, understandably, have a vested interest in building a sustainable property with low energy costs, as presumably they plan on staying put for years.  

At Scotframe we ensure that self-builders understand the benefits of building sustainably.  This starts with the very fabric of their property – the external walls, floors and roofs.

A timber frame structure is complemented by closed panel building systems – manufactured offsite – to deliver high thermal performance and an exceptional air-tight home that exceeds the most stringent environmental and sustainability credentials.

It costs a little more at the outset but the costs are recouped via lower energy bills in future.

But how do you persuade, say, housing associations to do the same, when government and industry focus is all about the number of new homes built?

It was not always like this.  In the early noughties, 40% of housing association properties were built to a timber frame construction and often to a higher specification than those in the private sector.  However, the recession of 2008 resulted in a focus on building for the lowest cost possible.

Today, there is greater understanding of the importance of building energy-efficient homes.   But if I were a chief executive of a housing association, I would be thinking – how can I leverage sustainability improvements to significantly reduce fuel poverty and reduced on maintenance costs?

There is a big win here for those willing to think beyond unit numbers – Scotframe’s building systems significantly improves a building’s sustainability credentials, thus achieving a remarkable energy reduction over a building’s lifetime. 

Eildon Housing, based in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders is a great example of a registered social landlord thinking differently.

Eildon wants to build homes more quickly and – and this is the important bit –  make them cheaper to heat while they do so.  They plan to trial different construction methods across four new sites beginning in the New Year.  Construction costs, time to build, living quality and financial viability will all be under scrutiny.

Potential new tenants will be involved in the study and the results used to determine Eildon’s future building programme while blazing a trail for how Scottish homes are built and lived in in the future.

This farsightedness is to be applauded.  Scotframe have been working alongside UK social housing providers throughout our 30-year history, extolling the benefits of energy-efficient timber frame packages.   

But we have more work to do to dispel the misperceptions that this way of building costs more.  In reality, any additional costs are rapidly offset by reduced labour resources during a – shorter – build time.  Even more importantly for social landlords, the future maintenance costs during the entire lifespan of the property are significant reduced.  And that’s before you factor in the reduction in heating costs for tenants.

Building energy efficient homes is getting easier all the time, thanks to technology innovation and precision offsite construction expertise but it needs social landlords to see the wider, long term benefits – for them and for the tenants for whom fuel poverty is a growing social concern.

Political Insider – Friday 4 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 4 October 2019


With less than four weeks to the Halloween Brexit deadline, Boris Johnson says there should be “no doubt” the only alternative to the Brexit proposals he will put to Brussels later is no-deal. Wrapping up his party’s UK conference this week in Manchester, the PM said his plan would be a “compromise by the UK”, but he hoped the EU would “understand that and compromise in their turn”.  The European Commission said they will examine the proposals objectively. Taoiseach Leo Varadker told the Irish Parliament: “What we are hearing is not encouraging and would not be the basis for agreement.”

Also on the final day of the Tory party conference, Boris Johnson claimed that the SNP want to “bundle” Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street to secure a new independence referendum in 2020. The Prime Minister told the conference that the SNP may try to put the Labour leader in power to deliver fresh votes on independence and Brexit. Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “open-minded” about replacing Mr Johnson with a caretaker Prime Minister. Mr Johnson said more referendums would cause “total national discord”.

The Lib Dems continue to maintain their hostility to any, even temporary, tenure at Downing Street for Jeremy Corbyn – and call for an immediate halt to Brexit in any form.

Yesterday in Westminster, the Prime Minister said he has made a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” in order to get a fresh Brexit deal with the EU. He told MPs his plan – which would see Northern Ireland stay in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union – “represents a compromise”. Jeremy Corbyn criticised the “unrealistic and damaging proposals”.

Another week, another prorogation as the UK government confirms it plans to prorogue Parliament on Tuesday and hold a Queen’s Speech on 14 October. Boris Johnson’s last attempt to suspend Parliament in this way was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. But the government needs to bring the current parliamentary session to an end, before it can hold a Queen’s Speech setting out its agenda for the next session.

The Scottish Government is considering proposals that would end planning permission requirements for developments that “radically help address climate change”. Developments such as electric vehicle charging stations or centres for generating local renewable energy could be automatically approved. The proposals also include measures to empower communities and local organisations to get involved in planning, as well as proposals to deliver more affordable homes in rural areas. Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Planning has a key role to play in addressing climate change and radically reducing our emissions. Removing red tape from some of the highest priority projects can be a big step towards our goal of a net-zero carbon future. These proposals mark a new way forward for planning in Scotland. Our health, wellbeing and prosperity can be affected by where we live so it is important we get it right”. 

A former SNP MP who quit the party following an investigation into alleged mortgage fraud has been nominated as a candidate for the East Lothian seat. Michelle Thomson was reported to prosecutors regarding the alleged fraud after being elected as an MP in 2015. But in August 2017 the Crown Office confirmed there was insufficient evidence to launch criminal proceedings. Ms Thomson always denied any wrongdoing and re-joined the SNP last October.

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

Sir Jackie Stewart unites sport and science in drive to beat dementia

Sir Jackie Stewart unites sport and science in drive to beat dementia

September marked World ­Alzheimer’s Month – Alzheimer’s is the cause of 60 to 70 per cent of cases of dementia, an issue very close to my heart, having lost my wonderful and clever mum to this cruel disease.

Working in healthcare, technology and construction, I am encouraged by the increasing number of organisations ­tirelessly trying to make the lives of those with dementia and their families more bearable. From specialist care homes and dementia research to software which allows architects to design more effectively by seeing the world as though they had dementia, we have been fortunate to play a small part by raising awareness of these dementia-friendly products and services.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in watching someone I love disintegrate in front of me as a result of this disease. We hear lots about possible cures for cancer and heart disease with high-profile campaigns to fund research. Dementia research, a ­little, but not so much. At the same time as standing up to cancer, dementia seems almost accepted or expected as we age.

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, 50 million people globally are living with dementia. By 2050 this number will explode to 152 million. In the UK alone, almost one million are living with dementia and 25 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by those with dementia over 65. At nearly £12 billion, the health and social care cost of dementia in the UK is bigger than cancers and heart disease combined, putting a massive strain on public spending and our economy. It is the UK’s number one killer. So, why do we hear so little about this cruel disease and what’s being done to find a cure?

Around 65 per cent of those with dementia are female. It is the leading cause of death for women. Women like my ­precious mum. Hundreds of thousands of families are living this nightmare every day and it is not just those with dementia who are affected. It also has a greater impact on women generally as the majority of carers are women. One-fifth of female carers have gone from full-time to part-time work as a result.

An epidemic disproportionately affecting women with little hope of any ­solution on the horizon. #MeToo on steroids. So, I was hugely encouraged to hear about Race Against Dementia, a charity founded by Sir Jackie Stewart to fund pioneering research into the prevention and cure of dementia, borrowing techniques from the fast-paced world of Formula One.

Sir Jackie’s wife, Lady Helen, was ­diagnosed with dementia in 2014. Once a razor-sharp mind who timed her ­husband’s laps with millisecond accuracy, her short-term memory is fading and dementia is taking hold, devastating the Stewart family as it did my own and millions of others globally. Crowned Formula One world champion three times and winning 27 Grand Prix, Sir Jackie says he is now facing one of the biggest ­challenges of his life.

Race Against Dementia’s mission is “working faster and smarter to cure dementia”. With support from Formula One royalty, the charity hopes to transfer the sport’s lightning fast data gathering, analysis and innovation to dementia research. In this high-performance environment it is all about results. There is a relentless drive to succeed by using innovative and collaborative technology against the clock. The aim is to transfer this to find a cure and help prevent dementia.

This is a great example of sport, technology and science coming together to battle this ­killer, which blights far too many lives. At ­Perceptive, we have been privileged to ­provide communications support to organisations helping those with dementia and their ­families. Can you imagine the impact of reducing or even eradicating dementia? Too late for my precious mum but hopefully not for the 152 million and their families affected by dementia in the next 30 years.

Political Insider – Friday 27 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 27 September 2019

In one of the most dramatic weeks yet in the long-running Brexit saga, MPs and peers have returned to Parliament shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that its suspension was unlawful. The PM has said he “profoundly disagreed” with Tuesday’s landmark ruling that his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was illegal but he would respect it. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove said he would not criticise the court, but he “disagreed with their position”.

The SNP, whose high-profile QC MP Joanna Cherry led the Supreme Court challenge, has urged opposition parties to back a no confidence motion that could remove “zombie Prime Minister” Boris Johnson from office. But opposition parties are split over what to do if he refuses to quit. The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said a confidence vote could remove the PM and allow a general election to be held. Mr Blackford said a “caretaker” Prime Minister would need to be found if the motion of no confidence was successful – and did not rule out the possibility of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn filling the role until a general election was held.

Closer to home and Scotland’s main economic development agency says there has been a huge surge in requests from businesses asking for help to get ready for Brexit. Scottish Enterprise said visits to a website offering firms help with the cost of Brexit had risen by nearly 400%. The agency said requests for advice about currency changes and access to suppliers were also common. Linda Murray, head of strategy services, urged companies to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”.

This week also saw a new report from the Fraser of Allander Institute. Nine in ten businesses in Scotland expect Brexit to have an important, or very important, impact on them. Its Scottish Business Monitor indicates that 30% of all businesses are scaling back all new investment in the run-up to the UK leaving the EU. It found 71% of firms expected costs to increase over the next six months. But most said their long-term economic confidence remained high.

The David Hume Institute has published another new report on Scotland’s future workforce, labour supply and immigration. Wealth of the Nation: Who Will Do the Jobs? points out that EU migration to Scotland has masked underlying demographic trends of an ageing population and low birth rates. The report warns of a major impact for Scotland’s health and social care sector and urges caution on the pace by which technological transformations will fill the gap. The Institute suggests that male employment rates – particularly for older men – have the potential to be increased.

At Holyrood, the Scottish Government’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions have been strengthened, as MSPs voted to put down a “net-zero” target in law. The Climate Change Bill – which aims to have all emissions offset by 2045 – was passed by 113 votes to 0 at Holyrood. Ministers agreed to a Labour amendment to up the interim target, with members agreeing to target a 75% reduction by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the government was “putting in place the most stringent framework of statutory targets of any country in the world”.

Scottish government statistics showed that the supply of total new housing has increased by 15% over the last year, the sixth consecutive annual increased total housing supply and the highest annual figure since 2008/09.  Homes for Scotland Chief Executive, Nicola Barclay called for Help to Buy to be extended until 2023 in line with England, housing policy to be aligned at national and local levels and grant funding levels for Registered Social Landlords to be shared beyond 2021.

Neil Bibby, West of Scotland MSP visited Lamont City Farm in Erskine following a much needed refurbishment by hub West Scotland and its supply chain partners.  Part of the Helping Hands initiative, hub West Scotland and its partners carried out over £38,000 of work for the city farm which was selected in conjunction with Renfrewshire Council. The farm is run exclusively by volunteers and welcomes 10,000 visitors a year. 

And finally, congratulations to client, Briar Homes which in its first year was shortlisted at last night’s Herald Property Awards.  Perceptive is delighted to hand its Property Team of the Year crown won at last year’s Herald Property awards to client, Clyde Gateway which were also joint winners of Commercial Development of the Year for its Red Tree Magenta  development at Shawfield in Rutherglen.

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 6 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 6 September 2019

Fewer weeks than this prove the adage, attributed to the late Harold Wilson, that ‘a week is a long time in politics’.  We always try to be fair with our summaries but even Perceptive’s finely tuned wordsmiths could be close to running out of superlatives after the antics at Westminster which has seen two former Chancellors and Churchill’s grandson expelled from the Conservative Party – ‘permanently’ – and even the PM’s own brother resigning in despair.

On Wednesday, MPs backed a bill aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Opposition MPs and Tory rebels ensured the bill passed by 327 votes to 299. It was never really in doubt after Tuesday night’s victory for the Brexit rebels, but half of their work is now done. Their bill – which would force the prime minister to go to the EU and ask for an extension to the UK’s membership if there’s no progress by 19 October.  Incidentally, all 13 Scottish Tory MPs voted with the PM.

Boris Johnson also had to get the backing of two-thirds of MPs this week to call an election and he failed. In large part, that’s because opposition parties don’t trust him. Jeremy Corbyn says he is personally spoiling for an election; Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson told the PM “bring it on”. But they, along with the SNP and others, want to see no deal categorically ruled out before they’ll commit. They want to make sure, for example, that Mr Johnson couldn’t just hold an election on 15 October, win it and then march the country out on 31 October.

Weary voters out there, don’t breathe a sigh of relief though – an election, eventually, is all but inevitable. It is just a question of when.

Closer to home and the Scottish Tories will be in no rush to start the contest to replace Ruth Davidson.  Early media speculation tips newly appointed Deputy Liam Kerr or bright West Scotland spark Maurice Golden as possible runner.  Former Deputy Murdo Fraser – the Ken Clarke of Scottish Tory contests – may try again, especially if Jackson Carlaw, once again interim leader as the current deputy, decides not to go for the top job permanently.

Meanwhile First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to stamp her size 5s to demand Holyrood be given the power to hold a second independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon confirmed to MSPs that she would “seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge”.

As she unveiled her government’s plans for the year, she said the parliament had a clear, democratic mandate. Boris Johnson has indicated his opposition to a second vote on Scotland leaving the UK. Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament it “now seems inevitable that there will be an early UK general election”. She added: “Let me be crystal clear – the SNP will put Scotland’s opposition to Brexit and our right to choose independence at the very heart of that contest.”

Directly elected mayors or provosts for Scotland’s seven cities would boost growth and improve local decision-making, the Scottish Conservatives have said. Making a keynote speech this week, Shadow Finance Secretary and potential leadership contender Murdo Fraser MSP said the Scottish Government should follow England’s lead in creating the elected positions. He told the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation that “at the very least” Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Inverness and Stirling should be given the opportunity to appoint mayoral representatives. The changes south of the border have been a success, he added, and Scotland failing to follow suit was a “substantial weakness”.

Two new MSPs were sworn in on Tuesday as the Scottish Parliament resumed business after the summer recess. They were Lib Dem Beatrice Wishart, who held the Shetland seat vacated by former leader Tavish Scott, and Lothian list Labour MSP Sarah Boyack. Ms Boyack was previously an MSP from 1999 until losing her seat in 2016. She returns to Holyrood after a spell working as Head of Policy for the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. 

After a hat-trick of political visits for Perceptive clients last week, this week included client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) meeting Tory MSP Maurice Golden to discuss the future of industrial biotechnology.  This morning long standing client Kier Regional Building Scotland welcomesFirst Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to the Citizens Theatre – officially marking the start of their work on the major redevelopment of this landmark building.

And finally…Good luck to all those taking part in the Buccleuch Property Challenge today. Over 70 teams will compete in a six hour adventure race at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway, raising money for Seamab, a charity supporting vulnerable children in Perth and Kinross.

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 Special – Article 50 extension or General Election?

Political Insider Special – Article 50 extension or General Election?

Today is expected to be a decisive moment in the UK Parliament in which opposition MPs hope to take control of the Order Paper, to facilitate a Bill that would require Boris Johnson to seek an extension of Article 50 to prevent a no-deal Brexit. But if MPs are successful and the Government is defeated, the Prime Minister has promised to in turn dissolve Parliament and hold a General Election.

What to expect today

Opposition MPs are expected to select a mediator to submit a request to the Speaker for an emergency debate on no-deal, in accordance with Standing Order 24. Usually, these debates take place the following day, last approximately two and a half hours and end with a neutral motion that is voted on along the lines of “That the House has considered […].”

The Speaker is almost certain to both grant the debate and, given recent precedent, to allow it to be heard and voted on this evening.

Emergency debates do not usually bind the Government’s hand. However, it has been the Speaker’s practice to allow MPs to add further wording which would allow time to debate and vote on a Bill that could, if passed, force the Government to act. The Bill in this instance is The European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill 2019. This would compel the Prime Minister to seek an extension of Article 50 to 11.00 pm 31 January 2020 if Parliament has not agreed a deal by 19 October 2019 and crucially, to accept whatever extension is offered along with any additional conditions.

If the Government is defeated tonight, time will be made tomorrow to debate and vote on the Bill. However, the Prime Minister also announced that if the Government is defeated tonight, he will move a motion to hold a General Election to be held on 14 October that would dissolve Parliament this Thursday (this would have to be voted by a two-third majority of MPs in accordance with the Fixed Term Parliament Act).

Approximate timetable

6.30 pm: The application for an emergency debate under Standing Order 24 is expected to be submitted. After a three minute introductory speech from the applicant, the Speaker will make his judgement as whether to grant the debate.

7.00 pm: If granted, the emergency debate will begin following the scheduled introduction of Chris Philp’s Private Member’s Bill.

10/10.30 pm: The Debate will close with a vote. If MPs vote in favour of the motion and the Government is defeated, time will be made tomorrow to debate the Bill. The Prime Minister may or may not make a statement this evening, but he is expected the following day to move a motion to hold a General Election.

Political Insider Friday 30 August

Political Insider Friday 30 August

This week, the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend Parliament has prompted an angry backlash from MPs and opponents of a no-deal Brexit. It sparked protests across the country, a legal challenge and a petition with more than a million signatures. The government said the five-week suspension in September and October will still allow time to debate Brexit.

The Scottish Parliament’s long summer recess draws to a close this weekend with Chamber business resuming on Tuesday. It goes out with a bang as we saw another senior Conservative casualty of the Brexit debate, Ruth Davidson MSP, resign as leader of the Scottish Conservatives yesterday morning. Deputy Leader Jackson Carlaw MSP, who stood in as Interim Leader previously, will take over as acting leader until a new MSP is elected as Ms Davidson’s permanent successor, prior to the May 2021 elections.

Ms Davidson’s resignation will add an edge to what isalready certain to be a lively debate on a no-deal Brexit, following a proposal from the Scottish Government. The vote would only be symbolic, but the Government wants the Scottish Parliament to restate its opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

The motion is expected to say: “That the Scottish Parliament agrees that the UK should in no circumstances leave the EU on a no deal basis”. The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Labour are expected to support the debate. Patrick Harvie said the vote would put “pressure” on the Scottish Conservatives to decide whether to join a “rational majority” and “block Boris Johnson’s disastrous agenda”. Willie Rennie has called for a cross-party consensus to “urge the Prime Minister to change course”following his unexpected Prorogation of the House of Commons next week.

Next Tuesday will also see a new MSP for Shetland take her seat as Beatrice Wishers managed to hold the country’s most northerly seat for the Lib Dems despite a strong challenge from the SNP. She becomes the first female Lib Dem MSP since 2016.

Still on Brexit and a recent study has shown that Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, could lose nearly £2.5 billion in the event of a No-Deal.  A No-Deal could also cost Glasgow 30,000 jobs, according to recently published media research obtained by The Times. Economists have concluded that Glasgow would be around £2.35 billion worse off over four years under ‘no deal,’ compared to current growth projections. The city would also lose approximately 24,000 jobs over two years, and miss out on a potential 14,000 new jobs being created. Additionally, the number of businesses in the city is projected to rise by only 900 in two years, a reduction of 300 on previous projections.

Congratulations to Perceptive clients, Clyde Gateway, Cruden Group,  AS Homes and Briar Homes for being shortlisted as finalists at The Herald Property Awards which will take place in Glasgow on 26 September.  

And finally… It’s been a busy week for a number of our clients who have hosted a number of political visits this week. On Monday, Kier Regional Building, updated the Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on the progress of their work, building a new eye centre at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank. Cruden Building hosted a visit with Stuart McMillan MSP on Wednesday at the James Watt Dock development in Greenock where they are building 137 homes on behalf of River Clyde Homes. Finally, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visits Hinshelwood Drive in Ibrox today, to mark the completion of a £16.2m project where Cruden Building developed 152 affordable flats on behalf of GHA, part of the Wheatley Group.

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 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    

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