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Political Insider – Friday 13 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 13 September 2019

With the political atmosphere at Westminster and Holyrood reaching boiling point, we close the week with the unedifying sight of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom denying that he lied to the Queen. The context was the advice he gave her over the five-week suspension of Parliament, and he was speaking on Thursday after Scotland’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that the shutdown was unlawful.

Asked whether he had lied to the monarch about his reasons for the suspension, he replied: “Absolutely not. The High Court in England plainly agrees with us, but the Supreme Court will have to decide.” The power to suspend – or prorogue – Parliament lies with the Queen, who conventionally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. Labour has said it is “more important than ever” that Parliament is recalled after the government published its no-deal Brexit assessment late on Wednesday evening.

The next instalment will be a ‘definitive’ legal ruling by the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday.  This court has ultimate authority over the two courts which have already issued contradictory rulings. Normally courts do not intervene in the decisions of the government, using the principle of a “margin of appreciation,” which gives ministers more leeway under the law than that of ordinary people or organisations. The fact that a third senior court is about to intervene is a highly significant constitutional step.

This week in Scotland, former Labour Prime Minster Gordon Brown launched Our Scottish Future which will seek to make a “progressive” case for the union.  Explaining the purpose of the new think-tank, he said, “Our Scottish Future will be a coming-together of new ideas in what we hope will be a think tank dedicated to that progressive future.  Our Scottish Future will, of course, expose what is wrong, such as the dangerous experiment of a Scottish pound. But it will do much more than that: it will show how Scotland can stand tall in the world without standing apart from our nearest neighbours and it will demonstrate why Scotland is at its best leading in the UK, not leaving it.”

Scottish Labour is, however, struggling to find candidates to fight a snap election with vacancies for more than half of the country’s seats, according to press reports yesterday. There are no prospective parliamentary candidates for 33 seats in Scotland and party leaders are pressing local activists to put their names forward. Vacant seats include East Renfrewshire, which was once held by Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader, as well as both Aberdeen constituencies and two in Dundee.

A Conservative MP has become the first Scottish incumbent to announce that he will stand down at the next general election. Bill Grant won the Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock seat in 2017 after overturning a large SNP majority. But he said he would not be seeking re-election whenever the next general election is called.

Ministers this week announced the Scottish schools which will be rebuilt or refurbished in the first phase of a £1bn investment programme. A total of 26 schools in 11 council areas will be replaced under the strategy.

And finally… Rumours are beginning to circulate that UK Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart is being lined up to replace former Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson at Holyrood. The Penrith and Borders MP – one of 21 Tory MPs to have the Conservative whip removed for voting against a no-deal Brexit – is being encouraged to stand for the Scottish Parliament by several MSPs.

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

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    

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 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 24 May 2019

Political Insider – Friday 24 May 2019

Brexit is back on the agenda this week in politics as the Prime Minister has been facing calls to resign amid a backlash against her current Brexit plan from Conservative MPs. Her Commons leader Andrea Leadsome resigned on Wednesday night, becoming (unbelievably) the 36th minister to resign under Mrs May’s premiership.

Several cabinet ministers have strongly suggested that she just cannot stay, with one saying it is “the end of the line”. Theresa May has pledged to set a timetable for a new leader to take over after MPs vote on the plan in the week beginning 3 June. However, some Tory MPs are again seeking to change party rules, so they can vote to oust her sooner.  Some in the Perceptive office think she will be gone as soon as next week.  Watch this space…

The polls opened yesterday for the five-yearly European Elections, in what one senior politician termed ‘the strangest election ever’.

The UK results will not be known until early on Monday as all EU countries vote around but not exactly at the same time, so no country’s early results can be revealed. France doesn’t vote until Sunday, for example.   The feeling in the UK is that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will win most seats with Labour and the Conservatives (especially) being punished by the electorate. The Lib Dems are expecting to win 9/10 seats (up from just the one they retained in 2014).

Closer to home and six Scotland-wide MEPs will be elected, with only three incumbents standing for re-election. The Lib Dems are optimistic about getting feisty Aberdeen lawyer Sheila Ritchie elected. The Conservatives are nervous about losing their one Scottish seat to the Brexit Party. Ex MSP and French citizen Christian Allard is likely to be elected for the SNP.  And the Greens, as always, are hopeful of getting former Co-convener Maggie Chapman elected but will probably fall short again.

In Holyrood and the Scottish Government has published the New Housing and Future Construction Skills Short Life Working Group’s report. The group made 40 recommendations to the Scottish Government to address housing construction skills gaps, including investment in apprenticeships, upskilling current workers and encouraging more people to work in the sector.

report on stakeholder views on challenges for housing up to 2040 has also been published. It calls for improvements to existing housing stock, more recognition of the challenges facing rural areas and greater community involvement in planning decisions.

Speaking at last week’s Homes for Scotland Awards event, Aileen Campbell MSP affirmed the Scottish Government was “working collaboratively” with skills bodies and local authorities to improve the workforce. She added that this would lead to a “dynamic” skills base which would be equipped for future challenges.

Female council workers affected by the equal pay dispute at Glasgow City Council are to receive equal pay offer letters in the coming days. The long-running dispute centred on women who were paid up to £3 an hour less than male colleagues, despite being in the same pay grade. The women affected will receive an average of £35,000 each under a settlement scheme announced in January. The council said “individual offers” would be made to “thousands” of women.

And finally… A radical feminist invited to speak to MSPs at Holyrood has defended her controversial views on transgender rights. Meghan Murphy was invited to the Scottish Parliament by SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, both women have voiced concerns that new gender identity laws in Scotland could infringe women’s rights. Her trip to Scotland comes as the Scottish government plans reforms to the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to “self-declare” their legally recognised gender.

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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