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Political Insider – Friday 15 November 2019

Political Insider – Friday 15 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Insider – Friday 8 November 2019

Political Insider – Friday 8 November 2019

After last week’s vote to hold a general election on Thursday 12 December – the first ‘Christmas’ election in a century – the party bandwagons are now at full speed. 

Labour has promised “investment on a scale never seen before” to overhaul infrastructure in all areas of the UK. Yesterday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell says he wants to transfer power and money out of the south-east of England – and will fund his plans through borrowing.

The Tories have also vowed to borrow to fund more spending, rewriting their current financial rules. Chancellor Sajid Javid denied copying Labour’s plans, saying he would practise “sensible stewardship”.

Earlier in the week, Boris Johnson launched the Conservative Party’s election campaign, saying his Brexit deal “delivers everything I campaigned for”. Surrounded by supporters holding signs with messages including “Get Brexit Done”, he told activists he had “no choice” but to hold an election. Parliament is “paralysed” and “blocked”, he said at the launch in Birmingham. He said once Brexit was done, a Tory government could get on with “better education” and “better infrastructure”.

In an interesting development, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party have formed an electoral pact, agreeing not to stand against each other in dozens of seats. The deal between the three anti-Brexit parties will cover 60 constituencies across England and Wales. But in a tersely worded statement, the (Scottish) party said that the announcement from the Green Party of England and Wales does not apply in Scotland. They stress that the Scottish Greens are a separate political party and will be standing in SNP, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat seats at this general election – and ask the media to ‘please refer to the GPEW by their full name.’

Closer to home, Scottish Labour has launched its election campaign by pledging to fund the building of 120,000 council and social houses over the next 10 years. Scottish leader Richard Leonard MSP opened his party’s campaign with a new policy designed to end homelessness “once and for all”.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has written an open letter to Scots who voted Remain urging them to back her party. The first minister said the election was “a chance to escape from Brexit”, but the Conservatives accused her of trying to “weaponise” Remain votes in her bid to secure a second independence referendum.

MSPs have debated legislation that lays the groundwork for a new Scottish independence referendum at Holyrood. The Scottish Government wants to hold a new ballot in 2020 and has tabled the Referendums Bill to pave the way. There have been calls for parts of the bill to be amended, in particular over whether the Electoral Commission would test the question for “indyref2”.However, the legislation is expected to progress with the backing of the SNP and the Greens in any case.  Another in/out referendum, however, does seem to be on the cards next year.

And finally … Finance Secretary Derek Mackay is the keynote speaker at client, Homes for Scotland’s annual conference on Wednesday next week in Edinburgh.   In advance of the event Homes for Scotland’s Chief Executive, Nicola Barclay was featured in The Scotsman highlighting the need to deliver more homes and the economic and social benefits of housing.  

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

Political Insider – Friday 1 November 2019

Political Insider – Friday 1 November 2019

In a story that has changed almost by the hour, this week’s political news was dominated by speculation, now confirmed, that MPs would vote (438 to 20) to hold a general election on Thursday 12 December.  This will be the UK’s third General Election in four years, a situation not seen since the dark days of the power cuts of 1974 and that year’s double election.

The dissolution of Parliament would be on Wednesday 6 November, assuming the Bill completes its passage through the House of Lords.  This date is based on 25 working days back from the election date, “with an exemption to cover the bank holiday in Scotland for St Andrew’s Day”. The Leader of the Commons (Jacob Rees-Mogg) declined to make any comment on the election of a Speaker – due to take place on Monday 4 November – and whether that would go ahead.

We don’t yet have specific guidance on purdah periods, which often impact on doing business with MSPs even although they are not facing election.  But they are generally six weeks ahead, so we may move directly into pre-election restrictions once the formalities are completed.  For your immediate reference, we’re providing a link to the 2017 document detailing the guidance to Scottish Government civil servants.  The Scottish Parliament did not sit on the last GE day – 8 June 2017 – and had a restricted agenda on Wednesday 7 June consisting solely of FMQs, General and Portfolio Questions.  Link:  

We can safely assume that new arrangements will be brought forward for the Scottish Budget (planned for Thursday 12 December).  The Chartered Institute of Taxation commented on the challenges of setting a Scottish budget when it became known that the UK Budget wasn’t going ahead in November.  Derek Mackay’s article in Monday’s Herald sets out the political challenge.

Meanwhile, Mr Mackay has written to businesses to urge them to prepare for the consequences of Brexit, and inform them of the support available from the Scottish Government. Writing ahead of a visit to the Scottish Enterprise (SE) Prepare for Brexit control hub in Clydebank by Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee, Mr Mackay directed business owners towards the wide range of support being provided by the Scottish Government and its agencies. He restated the Scottish Government’s determination to create the right conditions for businesses to prosper, as set out in the Economic Action Plan launched last year.

The Prepare for Brexit control hub, which went live this week, comprises 160 SE staff who can be deployed to provide specific Brexit enquiry support to businesses and partners to help manage increased numbers of enquiries. Details: Brexit hub

The Scottish Greens have agreed not to stand candidates against 12 of the Scottish Conservatives’ 13 held Westminster seats, all but one gained from the SNP in 2017 and effectively giving the SNP a clear run to win them back.   The one exception is Stirling where SNP MEP Alyn Smith is hoping to overturn Tory Stephen Kerr’s wafer-thin majority of just 148 votes.  

And finally … Thanks to Scottish Conservative shadow Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change, Maurice Golden MSP, for hosting a high profile industry event, Fabric First, on behalf of client Scotframe in Edinburgh this week.  By chance, and careful planning by Perceptive of course, Scotframe is also welcoming another Scottish Government Minister (and local MSP) Joe Fitzpatrick to their Dundee training hub and showroom later this afternoon.

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

Political Insider Friday 25 October 2019

Political Insider Friday 25 October 2019

This will be the last Insider before next Thursday’s Brexit deadline, although the jury remains open as to whether that cliff edge will be reached. EU leaders are set to decide today (Friday) whether to grant the UK a three-month Brexit extension. Most EU nations back it but France “is digging its heels in”, according to the BBC. This could mean an emergency summit in Brussels on Monday to allow leaders to reach agreement face-to-face.

Boris Johnson insists the UK will leave the EU next week with or without a deal and he will seek a snap election if the EU grants an extension to January. The Prime Minister was forced to send a letter to the EU (albeit, somewhat churlishly, unsigned) requesting an extension, under legislation passed by MPs last month. But he said he had told EU leaders his policy was still to leave on 31 October.

The Fraser of Allander Institute has published its latest economic commentary, which highlights the impact Brexit has already had on the economy. The report suggests Brexit uncertainty has cost the Scottish economy £3bn due to poor growth and firms delaying investment until after Brexit was concluded. The report also emphasises that the challenges facing Scottish businesses will not end if a Brexit deal or extension is agreed. 

On previous growth, the report continues to caution businesses that any growth seen previously was likely as a result of stockpiling from firms in the lead up to the Brexit deadline. The report also highlighted the strong performance of Scotland’s exports, growing by 4% in 2018, despite rising unemployment and costs. The forecast predicts a challenging long-term outlook due to the new Brexit deal calling for a “harder” Brexit and cautions firms that a no-deal scenario remains a possibility.

Ruth Davidson is facing calls to resign as an MSP after taking a paid job with a lobbying firm. The former Scottish Conservatives leader has been appointed as a senior adviser to PR firm Tulchan Communications. She will be paid £50,000 for 24 days’ work a year on top of her MSP salary of £63,579 but, despite the criticism, the party said the role was “within all parliamentary and industry rules”.

Another Edinburgh politician is in trouble as the Unite union is pushing to de-select Scottish Labour’s Ian Murray as a candidate in the next general election. The MP for Edinburgh South was Labour’s only Scottish MP between 2015 and 2017 and has been a consistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn. Party rules trigger a contest to replace an MP if a third of local members or affiliated unions back it, but Mr Murray said installing a “hard left Marxist candidate” in his place would see Labour lose the seat. He said he would now have to decide whether or not to stand as an independent candidate in the constituency.

A court date has been set in the case against former First Minister Alex Salmond. A preliminary hearing will go ahead at the High Court in Edinburgh on 21 November, before a full trial, which is expected to take place early next year. Mr Salmond was charged with a total of 14 offences on 24 January this year. They include two charges of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault and two of indecent assault.

And finally … Thanks to senior SNP MSP Richard Lyle for taking the time to tour Perceptive client Construction Scotland Innovation Centre on Monday.  Richard has recently joined the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee which recently completed a comprehensive review of Scotland’s construction industry. 

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    

Political Insider – Friday 18 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 18 October 2019

A Brexit deal was agreed on Thursday between the UK and EU negotiating teams before a meeting of European leaders in Brussels. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control.” The two sides have been working on the legal text of a deal, but it will still need the approval of both the UK and European parliaments. The DUP has cast doubt on its success, saying they still cannot support it.   The House of Commons sits tomorrow in a rare Saturday session.  Various deals and counter deals are still being discussed but that will be the point of no return if the UK is to avoid a no deal Brexit. 

Prior to the Saturday sitting, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the deal sounded “even worse” than what was negotiated by the PM’s predecessor, Theresa May, and “should be rejected” by MPs. But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it was a “fair and balanced agreement”.

Elsewhere, anti-Brexit campaigners are to launch a legal bid to stop the UK government from putting its proposed withdrawal agreement before Parliament. They believe it contravenes legislation preventing Northern Ireland forming part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain. Campaigner Jo Maugham QC announced plans to petition Scotland’s highest civil court yesterday and expects the legal challenge to be heard later today.

Closer to home and Holyrood continues its two week October recess.  That hasn’t stopped Nicola Sturgeon returning to the theme of a second referendum on Scottish independence, saying it “must happen next year”, as she wrapped up the SNP conference. Ms Sturgeon confirmed that she will ask the UK government for formal consent by the end of this year. She said Westminster had “no right” to block the request, and its opposition to indyref2 is “not sustainable”. But she stressed any referendum had to be legal if the result was to be recognised internationally. She said this was because her aim was not merely to deliver a referendum – but to deliver independence.

Scots have pulled back on buying non-essential items, according to the latest survey of retailers. The Scottish Retail Consortium said food sales continue to rise, and at a faster rate than the UK as a whole. But non-food purchases saw a steep drop last month, down by more than 5% when compared with September 2018. Political and economic uncertainty ahead of the planned Brexit date of 31 October is being blamed for caution among shoppers.

The Scottish Greens have become the first of the five main parties to announce the candidates that will contest the regional lists at the 2021 Holyrood election. Every Green MSP elected since 1999 has been elected as a regional Member and the party believes it can win more list seats at the election, growing from the existing six MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. 

All the party’s MSPs have been reselected as number 1 (2 for Andy Wightman in Lothian, behind MSP colleague Alison Johnstone) apart from John Finnie, who has announced his retirement. Hoping to replace him will be regenerative designer Ariane Burgess, who tops the regional list for the Highlands and 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 with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or    

Political Insider – Friday 11 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 11 October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Insider – Friday 4 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 4 October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Insider – Friday 20 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 20 September 2019

It’s been another eventful week for Boris Johnson as he was booed and jeered leaving a working lunch with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. He then opted out of plans to speak alongside Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, after being targeted by a larger crowd.

The Prime Minister was then confronted by a gentleman at Whipps Cross University Hospital in north-east London, who said his seven-day-old daughter had been “gravely ill”, telling Mr Johnson there were not enough staff and the NHS is suffering under his watch. The PM later wrote on Twitter that the encounter was not “an embarrassment” but “part of my job”.

Former PM David Cameron is also making headlines this week. On Wednesday he revealed that he asked whether the Queen could “raise an eyebrow” about the prospect of Scotland voting for independence. As part of his memoirs being released this week, it was announced that he sought help from royal officials days before the 2014 vote amid “mounting panic” he may lose. What was discussed was not “anything that would be in any way improper… but just a raising of the eyebrow even… a quarter of an inch”, he said. The Queen later urged people to “think very carefully about the future”.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has pledged to stop indyref2 “dead in its tracks” even if pro-independence parties win a majority in Scotland. The Lib Dem leader also said his party would stop Brexit and ruled out future coalitions with Labour or the Tories. His comments follow those of UK party leader Jo Swinson who said the Lib Dems would be the “stop Brexit party”. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to have another vote on leaving the UK in 2020.

Scotland’s economy shrank between April and June, according to the latest official figures. Data released by the Scottish government shows output contracted by 0.3% over the period. Construction saw a sharp reduction in activity – and Scotland’s service sector barely grew. GDP in Scotland was up by 0.7% over the year, while the UK economy grew by 1.2% over the same period. In June it emerged total output from the Scottish economy grew at its fastest pace for two years in the first three months of 2019.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has published a report on the challenges facing younger generations in the face of environmental breakdown and increased economic turbulence. The report is part of a series of discussion papers on the impact of the environmental breakdown. It concludes the leadership shown by young people taking action on these issues should be better recognised through formal representation of the interests in decision-making systems and calls for the voting age to be lowered to 16. The report recommends the UK Government create a Future Generations Act to formally create protections for future generations. The Act would ensure businesses were prepared for their long-term trajectories and ensure new civil rights were protected by law.

On Wednesday, the housing industry was brought together to celebrate Scottish Housing Day, focusing on the positive impact that good quality housing makes to the lives of people and communities across Scotland. With several Perceptive clients working within the industry, we were delighted to create media moments throughout the week to help them showcase all the great work they do for Scottish Housing.

It was confirmed on Thursday the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is to be held for the first time in Aberdeen at P&J Live at The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), which was developed by Perceptive client, Henry Boot Developments and constructed by Robertson on behalf of Aberdeen City Council. Lewis Macdonald Labour MSP for North East Scotland tabled a motion at Holyrood congratulating TECA on being named as the host for this prestigious event which has only been held in Scotland once before. 

And finally… We were delighted to attend Action for Children’s Never Mind the Business event, the charity’s biggest fundraising event of the year. It’s a very different networking event (jeans and t-shirt attire) and revolves around a music themed quiz which pits teams against each other throughout the evening. Last night raised an impressive £166,185. 

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

Political Insider – Friday 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

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

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    

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

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    

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    

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