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Scottish Political Insider – Friday 19 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 19 October 2018

The Scottish Parliament has been in recess again this week but Chamber business resumes on Tuesday with a debate on the NHS in Scotland.  The autumn session is traditionally one of the busiest with budget deliberations and the Scottish Budget statement itself in early December.

Brexit twists and turns remain as lively as ever this week and Scottish Secretary David Mundell has denied that he ever threatened to resign over Brexit. It had been reported that both he and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson told the Prime Minister that they could not support any different arrangements for Northern Ireland, saying this would “undermine the integrity” of the UK.

Mr Mundell’s week didn’t get any less tricky by the time it came to monthly Scottish Questions in the Commons. It was a lively session which culminated in SNP MPs calling for him to resign for what they claim is “failing to lift a finger” to prevent an all-out power grab on the Scottish Parliament. They argue that David Mundell refused to give any assurance to MPs that the UK government would not use Section 12 orders to impose UK-wide frameworks on Scotland in devolved areas against the consent of the Scottish Parliament. In a series of questions from SNP MPs, Mr Mundell disclosed that the UK government has so far only agreed common frameworks with the Scottish Government in just FOUR of the twenty-four devolved areas where it has threatened to take control from Holyrood.

There was some good economic news on Tuesday when we heard that the number of people out of work and looking for a job in Scotland had fallen by 14,000, official figures show. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures for June to August put Scotland’s jobless total at 106,000 – down from 120,000 in March to May. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9% from 4.3% during the same period. The number of Scots aged 16 to 64 in employment was 2,551,000 (74.9%) – down from 2,570,000 on the previous quarter.

Still on the economy and opportunities to invest in nine projects worth more than £2 billion to Scotland’s economy have been announced by Economy Secretary Derek Mackay. The refreshed Invest in Scotland prospectus is seeking to secure international investment in a mixture of public and private sector projects across Scotland.  Projects highlighted include the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District in Renfrewshire, Edinburgh Bioquarter, Dundee Waterfront and Glasgow’s Buchanan Wharf – the location of the new Barclay’s campus which will create up to 2500 jobs.  Details: Investment

On the local political scene, there was an interesting story over in the capital as a citywide consultation on plans to introduce a “tourist tax” began. The City of Edinburgh Council has suggested that the levy could raise £11m a year, to be spent on growing tourism and managing its impact. It proposes charging either 2% or £2 per room, per night, on all forms of accommodation – and now it wants to hear the views of the tourism sector, businesses, investors, visitors and residents in the capital. The tax – or “transient visitor levy” (TVL) – would be charged all year round and, if approved, is likely to be repeated elsewhere in Scotland.

And finally… A footnote from Welsh politics.  Councillor Jane Dodds, who has been leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats for less than a year, will become the longest serving leader of a Welsh party when Carwyn Jones stands down as First Minister in early December.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Lesley Ferguson on 07762 769 659 or lesley.ferguson@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Hat trick of appointments for Perceptive Communicators

Hat trick of appointments for Perceptive Communicators

Specialist communications consultancy, Perceptive Communicators, has made three appointments to its highly successful team and at the same time announces two significant award wins.

The Glasgow based company – which operates across the UK – has invested in its growth with the appointment of two PR practitioners and an accountant, in key roles to drive continued business growth and support a number of new client wins in its specialist sectors of construction, technology and life sciences.

Perceptive Communicators recently picked up ‘Property Team of the Year’ at the Herald Property Awards and Managing Director Julie was awarded ‘Business Women of the Year’ (under 50 employees) at the Scottish Women’s Awards last month, highlighting the strength of the business.

Joining the team as PR & Social Media Manager is Matthew Williams with 11 years’ communications and marketing experience in various sectors, including three years with the Organising Committee for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and Aelred Nicholas, a communications expert with over 13 years’ experience across the public and private sector. Kate McMahon is an accountant with 25 years’ experience within chartered accountancy practices, and will complement the team as she takes up the role of Finance & Administration Manager.

Julie McLachlan, Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators said: “Perceptive is continuing to grow and this success is testament to our team of experts and our specialist knowledge in our key sectors of construction, life sciences and technology.”

“The addition of three new people to our already strong team will help support business growth. Matt, Aelred and Kate have a wealth of experience and having them on board to boost and strengthen our team even further will only lead to continued success for both ourselves and our clients.”

“Our recent award wins of ‘‘Property Team of the Year’ and ‘Business Women of the Year’ are the icing on the cake, as we continue to punch above our weight and go from strength to strength.”

Matthew Williams said: “I’m thrilled to be a part of the award-winning Perceptive team and my first six-months with the agency has allowed me to witness first-hand the great work we do with all of our clients, it really feels like we are an extension of our clients team in everything we do. The vast experience across the team is a real strong point, and I’m learning so much already from my colleagues, it’s been a fantastic start and the recent ‘Property Team of the Year’ award goes to show that our work doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Aelred Nicholas said: “I’m delighted to be part of such a great team and feel inspired by what the business has achieved. I’m enjoying working with a range of different clients and contributing to their business growth. Having such a supportive team of colleagues is an added bonus.

Kate McMahon said: “It’s a privilege to be part of such a dynamic team. Their commitment, passion and experience is very inspiring. I’m excited about taking on new challenges and helping in building the business further”

Due to increased business growth the company is currently recruiting for another PR & Social Media Manager to join the team. To find out more please contact info@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 October 2018

The Scottish Parliament has been in recess this week, although the building itself has been a hive of activity since Wednesday as the annual Festival of Politics got under way.  Our own political guru Devin Scobie was there at the opening evening event and was one of three people chosen by Presiding Officer Ken Mackintosh to question Tory grandee (Lord) Michael Heseltine.

The SNP concluded their main annual conference earlier in the week and Nicola Sturgeon has called for “pragmatism and patience” from independence supporters in her SNP conference speech. In her keynote address to the faithful, the First Minister said she was “more confident than ever” that Scotland would become independent. She added that members must “wait for the fog of Brexit to clear” and work to win over people who voted No in 2014. She used her speech to hit out at “unfolding calamity” and “despair” at Westminster, contrasting this by painting an independent Scotland as “a beacon of progressive values”.

Down in Cardiff and newly elected leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price AM, announced that the former SNP Deputy Leader Angus Robertson has been appointed to undertake a ‘root and branch’ review of the party’s organisation and operations.  Mr Robertson was formerly one of Scotland’s highest profile politicians during his time as MP for Moray. He lost his seat to the Conservatives in last June’s snap election.

Even in recess, Brexit is never far away.  We learned this week that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will consider next month whether Brexit can be halted if MPs vote to do so. The case, which has been brought by a group of anti-Brexit politicians and campaigners, was referred to judges in Luxembourg by the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The ECJ confirmed that it had been granted “fast-track” status due to the “urgency of the issue”.

Still on Brexit and it seems that people in Scotland are overwhelmingly behind a proposal to extend negotiations with the EU if necessary to avoid a No Deal Brexit, a new poll has found. The Survation poll found that 60% of Scottish voters supported an extension, while only 27% opposed. The polls suggests that voters of all parties are backing the position. The poll also found that only 27% of the public believe the UK government have given “an appropriate amount of consideration” to the views of people in Scotland, with 62% believing they have not.

On economic matters, and Scotland’s private sector has reported its weakest rate of expansion for five months, according to Royal Bank of Scotland’s latest PMI. It suggested there was “solid” growth among service providers in September, but manufacturers reported a slight drop in production levels during the month. Respondents to the survey of purchasing managers attributed the easing of growth to a weaker rise in new business. The latest sector data also suggested that growth at the UK level was stronger than that in Scotland for the first time since June.

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 Lesley Ferguson on 07762769659 or lesley.ferguson@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 5 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 5 October 2018

The UK party conference season concluded this week as the Brexit-weary conservatives rolled out of Birmingham. Scottish leader Ruth Davidson MSP is due to go off shortly on maternity leave but made a typically barn-storming speech to the faithful. She has called for a “period of silence” among her Conservative colleagues to allow the Prime Minister to get a Brexit deal “over the line”, saying the two years following the EU referendum had provided enough time for debate. Her comments follow Boris Johnson’s description of the Chequers plan as “deranged and entirely preposterous”.

Theresa May used her keynote speech at the party conference to focus on her hopes for a brighter future for the UK after Brexit. Take out lines from the Prime Minister’s speech included that she “passionately believes that our best days lie ahead of us” and “that our future is full of promise.” In a speech entitled “Our Future Is In Our Hands”, Mrs May told delegates that countries across the world stand ready to trade with the UK.

And staying on the small matter of Brexit, another key date landmark was passed this week, rather like the train speeding up towards an unfinished bridge in the closing sequences of Back to the Future III.  We are now inside six months until we legally leave the EU (29 March 2019) and the Scottish Government is arguing that the only ‘credible plan’ to minimise the damage of Brexit is their proposal to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union. Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell has reminded businesses this week that it is also almost two years since the Scottish Government published evidence-based proposals to mitigate the shock of Brexit on Scotland and the UK as a whole.

Before we get to March next year, a few weary political and media hacks will be watching the Court of Session around 15 January. That is when Alex Salmond’s legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints against him will formally be heard.  Civil servants investigated two allegations of sexual harassment against the former First Minister, which he strenuously denies. Watch this space for a lively four day hearing …

We are also hearing rumours that Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard is considering an imminent shadow cabinet reshuffle. Several MSPs are unhappy at the party’s decision to cease funding of former leader Kezia Dugdale’s legal defence against a case brought by Nationalist blogger Wings over Scotland

Following on from Perceptive MD’s Julie McLauchlan’s Scottish Business Woman of the Year award last month, Gil Paterson, MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie wishes to submit a motion of congratulations to the Parliament at Holyrood recognising Julie’s work and her award win. This follows on from the Perceptive team being recognised for our integrated public affairs, PR and social media work last week, winning Property Team of the Year at The Herald Property Awards

And finally… What skills do you look for in a prime minister? Is it being a good communicator? Having business acumen? A connection with real people? Or is it how they boogie on down to disco classics? On Wednesday, Theresa May seemed to focus on the latter, making her entrance for her big conference speech to Abba’s Dancing Queen. We’ll let you decide if it was a good move or not…

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 Lesley Ferguson on 07762 769 659 or lesley.ferguson@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 28 September

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 28 September

Party conference season continued this week and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP “fully intends” to be Scotland’s next First Minister, he has told the party’s UK gathering in Liverpool. He said a Labour government at Holyrood would introduce new policies to “break down wealth and power”.

Speaking at his first national Labour conference as leader, he said a Scottish Labour government would introduce a Land Reform Act and called for business support to be targeted at Scottish-owned businesses. Analysis by the party showed the bulk of Regional Selective Assistance grants went mainly to foreign-owned companies. Richard Leonard also attacked the SNP for “dividing people on the basis on nationality” and the Conservatives for their “fervent devotion to inequality”. The SNP has responded by claiming that half of the households hit by Labour’s proposed windfall tax on the wealthiest 10% would be pensioners.

Next week it’s the Tory conference and that promises to be anything but calm as the ghost of the battered Brexit battlebus rattles towards the last six months before we formally leave the EU without a plan in sight.  Second referendum anyone?

Brexit has impacted the timing of Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s next Budget and he Scottish Conservatives are calling on the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay to bring his own budget forward to mid-November to allow more time for parliamentary scrutiny. Phillip Hammond announced that the UK budget will be on Monday 29 October. This means if the same three-week period between Scottish and UK budgets was used as in previous years, then the SNP should bring their budget to Holyrood on the 20 of November. This would allow more time for the budget to be debated and scrutinised, unlike last year when Holyrood went into recess shortly after the SNP’s spending plans were revealed.

Closer to home and new figures suggest that the Scottish Government is on track to meet its ambitious affordable housing target, new statistics show. The figures show an increase of 745 homes (4%) across all sectors, from 18,683 in 2016-17 to 19,428 in 2017-18. This is the fifth consecutive increase and the highest annual figure since 2008-09. They also show that affordable housing approvals total 11,926 homes, up 12% (1,252 homes) on the previous year.

Still at Holyrood and Scottish Conservative MSP, Miles Briggs, has been cleared after a party investigation into a complaint of sexual harassment. A female worker from another party claimed Miles Briggs made persistent unwanted advances on her at a social event at Holyrood in February. However, Mr Briggs said he had been cleared after a meeting of the Scottish Conservatives’ disciplinary committee. The MSP said the allegations were “completely false” and had made his life a “living hell” during the probe. The complaint was first raised with party leader Ruth Davidson, before entering the party’s formal complaints process in July.

Finally, we were delighted to be recognised for our integrated public affairs, PR and social media work last night, winning Property Team of the Year at The Herald Property Awards.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 September 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 September 2018

MSPs were in a terse mood this week over the issue of compulsory testing for primary one school pupils.  It culminated in a rare defeat for the Scottish Government in a vote calling on ministers to “halt” national assessments for five-year-old pupils. The assessments were introduced across Scotland last year, but some teachers and parents have criticised them. Ministers insist they are not high-stakes tests, but help schools assess where pupils need help at an early age. Opposition parties say they are not in line with play-based early learning and could create league tables of schools.

Members voted by 63 to 61 to pass a Conservative motion calling for a “halt” to the tests, with all of the opposition parties uniting against the SNP. The largely symbolic motion does not bind the government to any action, but Education Secretary John Swinney said he would “reflect” on the defeat.

There was some good economic news this week as we learnt that the Scottish economy grew at a slightly faster rate than the UK as a whole during the spring months, according to newly published official figures. An initial estimate by Scotland’s chief statistician showed onshore GDP grew by 0.5% in real terms between April and June. The UK economy grew by just 0.4% over the same period. Over the first half of 2018, Scotland’s economy grew by 0.8% – compared with the UK figure of 0.6%.  Between April and June, output in the Scottish construction sector grew by 1.8%, production by 0.6% and the services sector by 0.4%, while agriculture fell by 1.2%.

More Scots are favouring apprenticeships over higher education, a new survey has suggested. The Bank of Scotland found that the proportion of people who thought on-the-job training or an apprenticeship offered the best career prospects rose from 29% to 32% last year. Meanwhile, 33% said they believed university remained the best option for their prospects, despite the costs; this was down from two in five (38%) in the previous year.

Westminster is in recess again, whilst the UK party conferences meet, but the UK Government has issued an updated list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries.  Traditionally this most junior rank on the government hierarchy can lead to ministerial office. Interestingly, a quarter of the new Scottish Tory MPs elected last June (all gains from the SNP) are now on the first rung and are thereby names to watch. They are:

  • Luke Graham MP, serving the Ministerial team at the Cabinet Office
  • Andrew Bowie MP, serving the Ministerial team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Paul Masterton MP, serving the Ministerial team at the Home Office
  • Alister Jack MP, supporting the Leader of the House of Lords

Still on Westminster and the police have said this week that they have dropped their inquiry into Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson’s general election expenses after being “unable to establish criminality”. The East Dunbartonshire MP was reported to Police Scotland last year. The allegations centred on leaflets that the Lib Dems said were not delivered, so should not count towards election spending limits. The party said Ms Swinson had been the victim of “SNP smears”.

And finally, Perceptive client Brewster Brothers welcomed local MSP and former Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance to their Open Day yesterday.  The company operates a brand new state of the art aggregates recycling plant near Livingston – see photos at our Twitter account @perceptivecomms. It has the capacity to recycle 400,000 tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste per year, much of which would otherwise be lost to landfill.

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

Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators scoops top award

Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators scoops top award

Specialist communications consultancy Perceptive Communicators is celebrating following an evening of success at last night’s Scottish Women’s Awards 2018 where Managing Director, Julie McLauchlan scooped the award for Business Woman of the Year (under 50 employees).

Established in 2006, Perceptive is a multi-award winning full service communications consultancy specialising in construction, technology and healthcare, with clients including Kier Construction, Mactaggart & Mickel, Bayes Centre, Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, and Clyde Gateway. The award win comes after an announcement of sustained business growth for the Glasgow based agency.

Julie was delighted to receive the award, saying: “I was really honoured to be shortlisted amongst Scotland’s top 10 business women and is a great tribute to my fantastic great team.  When we launched 12 years ago we broke the mould by employing exclusively experienced staff who had all been clients themselves to deliver better results. We focused on just a few sectors to have deeper insight and encouraged flexible working to create a more engaged team.  I was told several times this approach would never work, so winning this award proves not being afraid to rock the boat and listening to your instincts ­­­­can lead to success!­”

The Scottish Women’s Awards exist to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of women entrepreneurs, business women, professionals, civil servants, women in uniform, charity workers and many more that make Scotland a greater place to live in.  The black-tie event was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow.

Perceptive boosts health business with hat trick of new wins

Perceptive boosts health business with hat trick of new wins

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

Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC), Screening Inequalities and Silverline Care have appointed Perceptive Communicators to deliver health-focused communications campaigns.

SMS-IC has appointed Perceptive to help it raise the profile of its work on precision medicine in Scotland while Screening Inequalities (an alliance of various health organisations led by Clyde Gateway) have engaged the communications agency to deliver a targeted campaign aiming to increase participation in bowel, breast and cervical cancer screening.  Perceptive won the Silverline Care retainer after a competitive pitch against several other agencies.

Diane Harbison, Chief Executive of Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, said: “Perceptive really impressed us with its in-depth response to and understanding of our brief. We’re excited about this partnership which will ultimately help strengthen Scotland’s reputation for precision medicine by highlighting the world-leading data-sets, expertise and infrastructure we already have in place.”

Niki Spence, Senior Manager at Clyde Gateway which is leading the Screening Inequalities alliance, said: “Perceptive presented options and ideas we’d not even considered before, and won the contract with its comprehensive and integrated approach. We are confident we’ve selected the ideal partner to help us highlight and rectify the important issue which health screening inequalities presents for numerous communities in Scotland.”

Julie McLauchlan, founder and Managing Director of Perceptive Communicators, said: “These latest wins reinforce our expertise and contacts in the health sector and we’re looking forward to working with such outstanding providers on a range of very interesting and meaningful campaigns.”

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 September 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 September 2018

MSPs returned to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday after the summer recess and were immediately presented with the Scottish Government’s proposed Programme for Government for the coming year.  Bearing in mind the SNP has no overall majority, they will need to do a deal with another party, most likely the Greens, to get it passed.

But there won’t be any getting away from the blue and white starred elephant in the Chamber. You can’t move six inches in politics without tripping over Brexit.  One commentator said this week: ”There’s every chance that within the month, the wheels will have fallen off the political clown car and we’ll be staring down the barrel of a snap general election or another referendum.”

However, Scotland’s politicians have plenty to be getting on with. New ministers are settling into their jobs after June’s major reshuffle which saw the exiting of four Cabinet Secretaries, and legislative proposals are piling up.

The main event this week the Programme for Government. In it, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged an extra £250m for mental health services as she announced her plans for the coming year at Holyrood. Ms Sturgeon set out details of 12 new bills in her Programme for Government as MSPs returned from summer recess. Mental health support for young people and increased capital investment were among the key measures announced.

Ms Sturgeon said the plans unveiled on Tuesday would see her government “focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow”. At the heart of the programme set out was support for mental health services, with Ms Sturgeon noting that more must be done to “support positive mental health” amid rising demand for services.

Link to details: Prog for Govt 2018-19

One key measure announced was the next step for the proposed National Investment Bank. Finance and Economy Secretary Derek Mackay MSP has launched a consultation to help shape the objectives, purpose, priorities and governance of the Bank, as well as the its relationship with Ministers and stakeholders. The Scottish National Investment Bank will focus on providing long-term patient capital for key economic investments, guided by a mission-orientated approach set by Government. Details: National Investment Bank

The summer reshuffle has also triggered major changes to MSP membership of Holyrood’s various committees. Some of the key changes:

  • The conveners of Education & Skills (James Dornan), Local Government & Communities (Bob Doris) and Social Security (Clare Adamson) have all been moved to new committees.
  • The Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform; Equalities & Human Rights; and Standards, Procedures & Public Appointments committees will also need new conveners after their previous conveners were made government ministers.
  • Two committees have changed their names: the Culture, Tourism, Europe & External Relations Committee has become the Culture, Tourism, Europe & External Affairs Committee, while the Economy, Jobs & Fair Work Committee has become the Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee.
  • There have also been changes to the number of members on the following committees: Justice; Economy, Energy & Fair Work; Health & Sport; and Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform. Each of those will now have nine members

Westminster also resumed business this week – and Brexit immediately dominated. The only non-Government Scottish MP (Stewart Hosie) on the Treasury Select Committee has warned the Chancellor not to “rashly” bring forward his budget statement for party political reasons. This is following reports that the UK government is preparing to rush ahead with plans to avoid a clash with ongoing Brexit negotiations.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 31 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 31 August 2018

As the long summer recess draws to a close, MSPs are getting ready to return to work for the traditionally busy autumn session next Tuesday. The Scottish Government’s proposed programme for the coming year (2018/19) will be announced by the First Minister as soon as Holyrood resumes. This will be followed by responses from the opposition parties and then two days of debate.

The week drew to a close with a further twist in the Alex Salmond story with news that the former SNP leader Alex Salmond has resigned from the party amid allegations of sexual misconduct. In a statement issued late on Wednesday night, he said he wanted to avoid internal division within the SNP, which has faced calls to suspend him. He has denied any wrongdoing, and said he intended to apply to re-join once he had an opportunity to clear his name.  Latest on this story: BBC latest Salmond

Brexit is never far away, of course, and warnings about the impact of a Brexit no-deal increased this week and risks to household energy costs were in the spotlight. A report in the Financial Times warns that suppliers are likely to factor Brexit uncertainty into their pricing forecasts, with consumers left to pay the difference. Firms may have to mitigate against the risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, with the UK crashing out of the EU and ending its participation in Europe’s internal energy market. An increasingly connected pan-European energy market has allowed companies to better balance supply and demand across the continent, helping to keep down bills.

This news compounds existing warnings over rising food prices, stagnating wages and severe damage to Scotland’s economy – with the SNP reiterating calls for the UK to remain within the Single Market and Customs Union to protect households against the damage of Brexit.

A rare Scottish Government back track emerged this week when they confirmed putting its plans to merge British Transport Police and Police Scotland on hold. Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP said a review would be carried out “to explore further options” on how to deliver the devolution of railway policing. The Scottish Government had already delayed the introduction of the merger, which was due to take place in April, amidst opposition protests. The decision follows fresh warnings from Police Scotland about safety and the practicalities of a merger.

Party Conference Dates:

As the Autumn sessions at Holyrood and Westminster get under way next week, the familiar party conference cycle will start again.  First up is the Lib Dems in Brighton, which our political guru Devin Scobie is attending.  The full line up is as follows.  If you would like more information or agendas, please 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 withJulie McLauchlan on 07734 932578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Twin accolade for Perceptive Communicators

Twin accolade for Perceptive Communicators

We’re delighted to announce that our very own MD, Julie McLauchlan, has been shortlisted at The Scottish Women’s Awards 2018 for Business Woman of the Year (under 50 employees) and Creative Industries Leader of the Year, firmly flying the flag for ‘girl power’.

The Scottish Women’s Awards aim to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Scottish women and embody their continuing strength, grit and determination, honouring those who are thriving in their industries.

Having worked client side with blue-chip brands such as IBM, RBS Group and PwC, Julie spotted a gap in the market for high quality communications advice from a team of experts who have all been clients themselves and so, in 2006 the Perceptive journey began. Setting up a business amidst a recession was no easy feat, but Julie has worked hard to grow Perceptive Communicators in to one of Scotland’s top PR & Marketing agencies.

As well as this double shortlisting, in 2018 we have been awarded Scotland’s Most Creative PR Agency by CV Magazine’s UK Best in Business Awards and shortlisted in the Scottish CIPR Awards.

The winners of The Scottish Women’s Awards 2018 will be announced at a black-tie event on Wednesday 12th September at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow.

 

 

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 24 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 24 August 2018

Confirmation came this week that Scotland’s NHS has drawn up “detailed plans” to ensure enough medicine and equipment in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The news came from Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood who was speaking to NHS managers in England. She warned of a lack of planning over the impact of leaving the EU without a deal, saying medical supplies that might be “problematic to access” after Brexit had been identified. Many drugs and health equipment in the UK are manufactured in mainland Europe.

Scotland’s retailers want the government to scrap plans allowing councils to levy a new business rates tax on out of town and online businesses.  The Scottish Retail Consortium says the new tax would be an “unnecessary distraction”, adding a fresh element of unpredictability and complexity into the rates system. Retailers are worried that it will burden them with further costs at a time when they need to invest resources in responding to changing shopping habits.

The SRC says that many retailers already stump up for the headline business rate, the large business rate levy, and a Business Improvement District charge. Retailers are seeking clarity over how much the new tax would cost firms, how long it would apply for, and how the revenues raised would be used.

Elsewhere, and it has been reported in the media this week that Humza Yousaf is ready to abandon plans to merge British Transport Police into Police Scotland. Both Daniel Johnson and Colin Smyth (Lab MSPs) have written to the Cabinet Secretary calling on him to conduct a feasibility study on the merger, while Liam McArthur (Lib Dem MSP) felt that the Scottish Government was “making the same mistakes” following the “botched Police Scotland merger”.

Closer to home, Perceptive’s client Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre in Glasgow, was delighted to welcome Humza Yousaf for a visit and tour of its lab and research facilities on Wednesday.

And as the summer draws to a close, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that she is set to make an official visit to Catalonia. According to The Herald, she accepted the invitation from Catalan president Quim Torra to visit Barcelona in a sign of closer ties between the two pro-independence governments. The two leaders met at Bute House in Edinburgh last month.

FOCUS ON… the Department of Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity: The third of our summer Focus series looks at a new-look department with just two ministers but widened responsibilities.  Headed up by Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson (former Justice Secretary) the department covers transport and public transport, infrastructure investment policy, cities and City Deals and town centres. Michael Matheson is supported by one junior minister, Paul Wheelhouse, as Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands.

 

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 17 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 17 August 2018

A relatively quiet week politically, although Tuesday’s car crash attack at Westminster reminded us that the threat of terrorism is never far away.  Westminster was in recess at the time, resuming for two weeks on 4 September. Holyrood also resumes business on 4 September.

Gordon Brown took an Edinburgh Festival opportunity to say that Jeremy Corbyn should address concerns about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, saying the issue was a “running sore” that had to be dealt with. During an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (which Devin Scobie attended and met with the former PM afterwards), Mr Brown was asked if he thought Mr Corbyn was a fit and proper person to be prime minister. He told the audience that there was a “problem within the Labour Party with anti-Semitism” and insisted that “Jeremy Corbyn has got to change”.

Still on business news, and the leading business body, SCDI, has confirmed that their Chief Executive, Mark Bevan, has resigned with immediate effect.  He joined the organisation last summer and his last day was last Friday, 10 August. Mark Bevan joined SCDI with a mandate to enhance SCDI’s relevance and importance to civic Scotland.  The organisation has said that, in the last 12 months, he has developed the SCDI team; made fundamental changes to our systems and processes; engaged members and stakeholders in SCDI’s core purpose; whilst supporting the Board to review and define our strategic direction.

FOCUS ON… the Department of Education and Skills: Headed by Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary JOHN SWINNEY, an SNP veteran since the first parliament in 1999 and former leader.  This department has three further Ministers, following the June reshuffle although the one covering Further Education (Gillian Martin) lasted just 24 hours following a controversial blog issue and her successor cannot be appointed until Parliament is back. The other two are much safer hands: MAREE TODD, a former pharmacist now responsible for Childcare and Early Years, and JAMIE HEPBURN, who was re-appointed to an expanded role covering Business, Fair Work and Skills.

 

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 August 2018

All parts of the UK government system are now in recess until next month (4 September) yet matters Brexit continue to rattle along at a snail’s pace.  Bear in mind Article 50 commits the UK to exiting the EU at the end of March 2019.

The Fraser of Allander Institute has surveyed 350 Scottish businesses about the impact Brexit is having on their businesses. Around half of the businesses said that the decision had no impact on their business activity to date, with only 6% saying it had been positive and 44% saying the impact had been negative. With regards to impact on current investment activity, 33% of firms said that it has had a negative impact (only 4% said it had been positive). A third indicated that Brexit has had a negative impact on staff recruitment (with only 3% saying it has been positive). Respondents said it was extremely difficult for businesses to plan, with only one in eight of those firms surveyed saying the information provided on Brexit had been at least adequate to help with planning. Only one in 20 said they had approached the government for information. The Institute said the uncertainty about Brexit is holding back Scotland’s economic recovery.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson continues to gather headlines a month after leaving the UK Government. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has backed calls for Mr Johnson to apologise over his “gratuitously offensive” comments on the burka. Ms Davidson said that while she agrees with the sentiment of the newspaper article in which Mr Johnson made the comments – that face-covering veils should not be banned – his remarks were offensive. Mr Johnson has refused to apologise.

The SNP continue to be a thorn in the Scottish Tories’ side over the so called ‘Dark Money’ payments made during last year’s general election.  This has escalated further this week as the SNP called for the issue to be investigated by a Commons Committee. Brendan O’Hara MP, a member of the Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, has written to the Committee Chair to recommend that Richard Cook, former Vice Chair of the Scottish Conservatives, provides evidence to the Committee’s inquiry into Disinformation and ‘Fake News’.

BBC Spotlight Northern Ireland reported the practices of Richard Cook, who is now chair of the Constitutional Research Council which helped fund the Leave campaign. It revealed that Cook was behind the DUP’s £435,000 donation during the EU referendum. The SNP has said the revelations added further weight to the need for the Electoral Commission to fully investigate the Scottish Unionist Association Trust, and its possible ties to the Leave campaign and the Scottish Conservatives.

Audit Scotland has reported that the The Queensferry Crossing project was managed effectively and delivered value for money. The £1.34bn bridge across the Firth of Forth was opened a year ago, coming in under budget but completed eight months later than first estimated. Audit Scotland praised Transport Scotland’s budgeting, governance and tendering for the project, but it said it was too early to assess the bridge’s wider benefits.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 27 July 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 27 July 2018

The anti-Semitism row against Labour has continued this week with the MP and MSP for the constituencies with Scotland’s largest Jewish population writing to Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard calling on him to end his silence on the ongoing issues within the Labour party. Paul Masterton MP and Jackson Carlaw MSP raised their concerns about the anti-Semitic developments emanating from the Labour party that are causing alarm within the Jewish community. The letter asks Richard Leonard to speak out against this decision, and calls him to immediately state his ‘unambiguous support for the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism’.

Donald Trump’s brief visit to Scotland ended but he left behind news that the Trump Organisation will submit a planning application for 500 homes at its golf resort in Aberdeenshire. It said £150m will be invested in the development at the Menie estate. The original vision for the golf resort included two courses, a large hotel, and hundreds of houses and holiday cottages. To date, one golf course, a clubhouse and a small hotel at the original estate house have been created. The plans will be considered by Aberdeenshire Council.

New figures this week have suggested that Scottish construction firms have experienced strong growth despite “significant headwinds”, according to the Federation of Master Builders. The FMB found small firms’ (SMEs) performance rose by 17 percentage points in the second quarter of 2018. The trades association praised the resilience of the sector.

Gordon Nelson, the director of FMB Scotland, said: “The second quarter of this year carried a lot of bad news for the Scottish construction industry with the loss of hundreds of jobs after some well-known firms collapsed. However, beneath these headlines, the outlook for most small construction firms has remained relatively bright.”

And finally … And as Westminster drew its session to a close for the summer, a Scottish MP (who is on maternity leave) has accused the government of a breach of trust over a key House of Commons vote on Brexit. Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson was “paired” with Tory chairman Brandon Lewis so she could be at home with her new baby son during a Trade Bill vote. This should mean neither MP votes so their absences cancel each other out, but Mr Lewis did vote with the government – the row continues….

 

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

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