Blog : Scottish Political Insider

Political Insider – Friday 14 June 2019

Political Insider – Friday 14 June 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Insider – Friday 7 June 2019

Political Insider – Friday 7 June 2019

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

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

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

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

Finally, Perceptive client Roger Kilburn, Chief Executive of Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) and Chair of IBioIC’s Governing Board, Professor Dame Anne Glover welcomed Innovation Minister, Ivan McKee this week to discuss the impact and huge potential of industrial biotechnology.  IBioIC aims to create 1500 new jobs, £140m of inward investment and £400m of sales across Scotland by 2020, using biological substances, systems and processes to produce materials, chemicals and energy for Scotland and beyond.If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 31 May 2019

Political Insider – Friday 31 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

·       Alyn SMITH (SNP, was an MEP previously)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 17 May 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 17 May 2019

As another busy week draws to a close, a rare chink in the SNP armour appeared as Joanna Cherry, a senior SNP MP has hit out at party “infighting” after claims of “back-stabbing” and “politically motivated smears”. 

The current row stems from complaints from several former members of staff. One former caseworker complained of bullying by the Edinburgh South West MP and her office manager. Another former employee said that “almost all her staff” had written letters of complaint to Commons authorities over their treatment.

Ms Cherry, of course, rejects these accusations, describing them as “lies” and “spurious”, saying that “I am not and never have been a bully”.

Ruth Davidson has returned from maternity leave and has urged Scots to “move on” from constitutional debates as she launched the Scottish Conservative campaign for the European elections. The Tories had hoped to avoid going to the polls on 23 May but have conceded they will take place with the Brexit deadlock at Westminster still unbroken. The party has not produced a manifesto but held a campaign launch event at a distillery near Stirling.   Current polls suggest they may struggle to retain their one Scottish seat.

Theresa May has promised to set a timetable for the election of her successor after the next Brexit vote in the first week of June. The agreement follows a meeting between the Prime Minister and senior Tory MPs who are demanding a date for her departure from Downing Street. In other Westminster news, Boris Johnson is the only MP who has said he will run for leader once Mrs May resigns. Dominic Raab and Michael Gove are emerging as favourites.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are going head-to-head to try to become the UK’s first “net zero” city. Both cities have now unveiled ambitious plans to cut greenhouse emissions to a neutral level. Glasgow wants to reach the target “well before” 2045, while Edinburgh has set its target to 2030. Both bids exceed the Scotland-wide 2045 ambition announced by the Scottish government earlier this month.

Perceptive client Wavegarden Scotland hosted neighbouring MP Hannah Bardell (SNP) and MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton (LD) on a site tour and progress update.   Both are keen surfers and have been promised early ‘test’ opportunities when the site is up and running.

And finally… good luck to all the finalists in the Homes for Scotland Awards today.  Client Mactaggart & Mickel has been shortlisted for Medium Private Development of the Year and for Company Innovation and Best Practice as a result of its pioneering Employer of Choice initiative.  Perceptive is also finalist in the Best Supporting Organisation category.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 May 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 May 2019

In Holyrood this week, Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced more detailed plans on their proposed Deposit Return Scheme. The Deposit Return Scheme will include aluminium and steel cans as well as drinks containers made of glass and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic with a 20p deposit as part of plans to combat climate change. 

The scheme is based on what Ms Cunningham termed successful international equivalents and will be widely accessible, with all shops which sell drinks offering deposit refunds to customers. The Deposit Return Scheme Implementation Advisory Group is providing industry input and guidance on the scheme’s interaction with consumers, producers, retailers and the hospitality industry, which will be key to its success. More details can be found here:https://news.gov.scot/news/deposit-return-scheme

At Westminster, further pressure is being piled onto the PM and her position, Theresa May met Sir Graham Brady this week, amid calls for her to set a firm resignation date. No 10 insisted the meeting was routine, but pressure is mounting on the PM, with local Tory associations confirming they will hold a vote of confidence in her leadership on 15 June.

The Scottish government is likely to postpone plans for its budget to be assigned a share of VAT revenues, the finance secretary has indicated. Half of the VAT receipts raised in Scotland had been due to be assigned to the Scottish government’s budget from next year.

However, it has been difficult to calculate what the figure should be. Derek Mackay said there was a danger this could short-change his budget by millions of pounds.

Scrapping the current benefits system and replacing it with a basic income could eradicate destitution, according to a new report. The report supporting the idea of a universal basic income has been compiled by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The RSA charity wants to see every adult in Scotland given a basic annual income of £2,400, rising to £4,800. Children would be paid £1,500.

The Scottish government supports proposed trials of the system by councils in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire.

And finally… Wavegarden Scotland, a client of Perceptive, held a public consultation at Ratho Library on Wednesday of this week. The purpose of the consultation was to update residents on the accommodation design proposals at what will be Scotland’s first artificial surf pack, located at the old Craigpark Quarry in Ratho. Over 150 residents engaged with the Wavegarden Scotland team. Feedback was very encouraging towards Scotland’s first purpose-built surfing lake and newest leisure destination.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 26 April 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 26 April 2019

Scottish politics returns to the top of the agenda after the Easter recess that nearly wasn’t as the First Minister made an emergency statement to Holyrood on what she terms Scotland’s constitutional future. In the end, news that she wants a second referendum on Scottish independence by 2021 if the country is taken out of the EU was no great surprise, but there is a determination in the SNP that hasn’t been seen since the giddy days of 2014.

Downing Street has re-iterated that it said previously that it will not grant a new Section 30 order, which made the 2014 referendum legal, however Ms Sturgeon said this position was “unsustainable” and challenged her party to increase support and demand for independence.

Before the Easter break, Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee launched an inquiry into Scotland’s empty homes and how these can be brought back into use. They will examine the scale of the issue, the effectiveness of current legislation and what more can be done to prevent properties remaining empty for extended periods of time. The remit of the inquiry is as follows:

·       The extent of, and reasons for, empty homes in Scotland;

·       How effective existing legislation and policy is at addressing the problem of empty homes;

·       What more can be done to prevent homes remaining empty and to encourage owners to bring them back into use.

2019 marks 20 years since devolution and, in a speech hosted by Reform Scotland, former Labour First Minister Lord (Jack) McConnell reflected on the anniversary including his time as First Minister. Applying three tests to whether devolution had been successful, he assessed that the quality of legislation and the ability of both Parliament and Government to “speak for Scotland” had been overwhelmingly positive. On the third test, Parliament’s record in holding the Executive to account, he was less positive, suggesting several improvements including elected committee conveners, a time-limit on list MSPs and further changes at a UK level. 

On Wednesday, entrepreneurial icons flocked to Scotland as the second edition of CAN DO Fest, Scotland’s festival of impactful entrepreneurship, kicked off with EIE 2019 – one of the UK’s leading events for tech entrepreneurs and investors. Almost 4,500 entrepreneurial leaders, change makers and innovators are expected to attend the new-look festival to help them spark ideas, collaborate and grow. 

And finally… Perceptive client Scotframe, part of the global Saint-Gobain group, hosted Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart MSP on Wednesday as he formally opened their new Dundee office and showroom. The visit was organised by Perceptive and, staying longer than expected, the Minister had an extended discussion with senior management. As he left, he said he found their approach to timber frame construction ‘most enlightening.’

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 April 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 April 2019

Trick or treat? It has the potential to be both and you couldn’t quite make it up! A dream for the headline writers of this world, the new 31 October Halloween deadline (also our political guru Devin’s birthday but we’re saying nothing….) was announced this week and the prime minister’s acceptance that leaving the EU without a formal arrangement in place could be a disaster won out.

European Union leaders granted the UK a six-month extension to Brexit, after late-night talks in Brussels on Wednesday. European Council President Donald Tusk said his “message to British friends” was “please do not waste this time”. This message was replicated by Nicola Sturgeon who also said the UK must not waste time now a flexible extension to Brexit has been agreed until 31 October. In a tweet, Ms Sturgeon said it was “a relief” that the UK would not be “crashing out” of the EU on Friday. She added that allowing people to decide if they still wanted to leave was now imperative, and that Scotland’s interests must be protected.

The First Minister said it is essential now that this time is used constructively and not wasted, and she has called for ongoing talks over EU exit to include the devolved administrations, and for any deal agreed by the UK Parliament to be put to a second referendum. She has copied the letter to the First Minister of Wales. Details: https://news.gov.scot/news/letter-to-the-prime-minister-1

Holyrood, on Easter recess this week, will not be recalled now that the extension has been agreed.

Also, at Holyrood this week it was announced that the Scottish Parliament is calling for public feedback on business rates reforms which could see independent schools lose their charitable status. The proposals, many of which are based on the recommendations of the Barclay Review, include reducing the current five-year valuation cycle to three years and measures aimed at improving the administration of the system. Ministers also want to tackle known tax avoidance, including tactics involving unoccupied or under-used properties.

And finally…As well as supporting the homeless charity, Social Bite in Scotland, this week Homes for Scotland has led a team with charity, Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for vulnerable people in Homa Bay, Kenya. 

The dedicated team of volunteers spans the housebuilding sector, including employees of Cruden, Buccleuch Property, Mactaggart & Mickel and Homes for Scotland.  Homes for Scotland Chief Executive Nicola Barclay, who is on the build this week says: “Regardless of where in the world you live, the right to a home is one of life’s most basic needs, and I look forward to making a real difference to someone’s life.”

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 5 April 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 5 April 2019

Talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to break the Brexit deadlock have been called “constructive”. Take that with a very large print of salt!

The two leaders met on Wednesday afternoon and agreed a “programme of work” to try to find a way forward to put to MPs for a vote.It is understood that each party has appointed a negotiating teamA spokesman for No 10 said both sides were “showing flexibility”.On Thursday MPs voted by a majority of one to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid a no-deal scenario.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned against accepting a “bad compromise” after holding Brexit talks with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Ms Sturgeon was in London this week along with other political leaders in a bid to break the logjam over the UK’s exit from the EU.

At Holyrood, the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee met with client, Construction Scotland as part of the final phase of evidence gathering for their Construction inquiry. Construction Scotland Chair Ken Gillespie, Executive Director Ron Fraser and Industry Leadership Group Member, Ann Allen MBE gave evidence in a lengthy solo session in which MSPs participated enthusiastically.

On Wednesday in Holyrood, MSPs unanimously backed the general principles of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. The Scottish Government confirmed it will make amendments to the bill after fresh independent advice on targets has been published. A coalition of charities has called on Scottish ministers to strengthen the bill by setting a net-zero emissions target in the legislation. New advice from the Committee on Climate Change is due on 2 May.

In the business world, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) has appointed Sara Thiam, a member of the Scottish Government’s newly-formed Infrastructure Commission, as its new chief executive.  Ms Thiam, who is currently the Scotland director of the Institution of Civil Engineers, is expected to focus the think tank around skills, technology and tackling climate change.  Ms Thiam said: “In common with other countries around the world Scotland faces unprecedented environmental, demographic, mobility, educational and technological challenges.”

Next week is meant to be the start of the two week Easter recess but at the time of writing, it looks likely thatHolyrood will meet if the UK is forced out of the European Union with no deal in place, MSPs have been told. Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP said a no-deal Brexit would be a “moment of crisis” and MSPs would need to be made aware of the arrangements that would be put in place. 

And finally, the judging and interviews for the prestigious Homes for Scotland awards took place this week.  Perceptive is shortlisted in the Best Supporting Organisation category. Perceptive client, Mactaggart & Mickel is also shorlisted for Private Developer of the Year (Medium) for its development at Greenan Views, Ayr and in the Company Innovation and Best Practice category for its game changing Employer of Choice programme.  

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

on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 29 March 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 29 March 2019

Well today should have been a landmark date in recent political history as we left the EU after 46 years of often fractious membership.  But of course even that didn’t go to plan, although we are a tad closer to getting a new Prime Minister.

The Brexit process remains in deadlock as MPs struggle to find a consensus on the next steps. The Commons failed to find a majority for a way forward after voting for eight different options on Wednesday. They couldn’t even agree on what system to use to vote as an archaic paper system was proposed by Mr Speaker, much to the confusion of just about every MP apart from Jacob Rees-Mogg. And while some senior Brexiteers have moved towards supporting Theresa May’s deal, the DUP MPs she relies on for her wafer thin majority have refused to alter their stance.

The PM won some support by saying she would resign ahead of the next round of EU negotiations if her deal passes. This means she still may bring her plan back to the Commons this week for another vote – the so-called “meaningful vote three” – despite it already being defeated twice by large margins.

The Prime Minister’s pledge to stand down if her Brexit deal is approved risks making “an already bad project even worse”, Scotland’s First Minister has claimed.  PM Boris is looking scarily likely….

Nicola Sturgeon said it could see Scotland “shackled to a disastrous Brexit driven by a Tory party lurching even further to the right”. She predicted that this would “further reinforce” the case for independence.

But true to form, Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray criticised the SNP for abstaining during a vote on whether there should be a customs union with the EU. The proposal would have passed if SNP MPs had voted for it. Mr Murray said: “Nationalist MPs sat on their hands rather than deliver a parliamentary majority for a minimum of a permanent customs union to be written into law to protect the British economy and jobs – making a mockery of Nicola Sturgeon’s pledge to support a ‘common sense solution’.”

Whilst the action was unfolding at Westminster on Wednesday evening, attendees at the first Perceptive Directors’ Club of the year were treated to what has become an annual tour of Holyrood from MSP Tavish Scott, the former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and a Cabinet Minister prior to 2007. Our clients got an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Parliament building and afterwards sat down for dinner and a fascinating Q&A with Tavish, no subject was off the table, including Brexit!  This article reflects many of the Brexit points raised in our discussion.  As public affairs is an increasing part of Perceptive’s client workload, we hope to repeat the tour and any Insider readers interested should simply reply to this email.

We were pleased to welcome Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, to client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC).  Chief Executive Roger Kilburn hosted the visit, sharing an overview of IBioIC which aims to stimulate growth across health, industrial, marine and agriculture biotechnology to £900m by 2025.


Next week the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee meets with client, Construction Scotland as part of the final phase of evidence gathering for the Construction Inquiry.  Ken Gillespie, Chair, Ann Allen MBE and Member and Ron Fraser, Executive Director of Construction Scotland Industry Leadership Group will provide evidence on behalf of Construction Scotland.  

One of the SNP’s most unpopular budget proposals, a new workplace parking tax, has been attacked again as the Scottish Police Federation are saying it could expose police officers to a greater risk of terrorism. The Federation said if officers stopped driving to work it could endanger them as they made their way to and from shifts on foot or public transport. Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP, who was given the warning at the SPF conference in Turnberry on Thursday, said he would look at a police exemption from the levy.

And finally… in what why may be his last speech to the European Parliament, SNP MEP Alyn Smith was holding back tears of emotion as he said: “cheers colleagues, I’m not asking you to solve our domestic discussions. But I am asking you to leave a light on so we can find our way home (to the EU).”

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 22 March 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 22 March 2019

The UK is likely to be offered to delay Brexit until 12 May, subject to MPs approving the withdrawal deal negotiated with the EU next week.  If not the EU will back a shorter delay until 12 April, giving the UK time to get the deal through or “indicate a way forward”.

In the meantime an online petition calling for Theresa May to revoke Article 50 has attracted over 2 million signatures. Revoke Article 50 has been trending on Twitter as people were urged to sign it. According to the Petitions Committee, the site struggled to cope with the demand, crashing at some points.  Once up and running again signatures were arriving at a rate of up to 2000 per minute.   

In Scottish politics, the government has pledged to roll back changes MSPs made to its reforms of the planning system. Ministers introduced legislation at Holyrood with the aim of streamlining planning and “empowering communities” but the process has not been as seamless as the Scottish Government had anticipated.

MSPs on the local government committee have made more than 230 amendments to the bill adding in extra powers and responsibilities for planning boards. The government has warned these could “create millions of pounds of new costs” and undermine the legislation.Local Government and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said he was now working on fresh changes to “rescue” the bill and “remove unnecessary burdens” before MSPs vote on it for the final time,

There was a little good news for the Scottish economy as new figures showed that it grew by 0.3% in the final three months of 2018, according to official figures. The increase in the country’s GDP compared to a figure of 0.2% for the UK. The news comes as Scotland’s unemployment rate hit a record low. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP said it was the eighth consecutive quarter of growth and that the country’s economy “continues to go from strength to strength”.

Mental health is back on the agenda with an independent review of Scotland’s mental health legislation is to be carried out, mental health care in Scotland is currently underpinned by laws which date back to 2003, and MSPs have faced calls for an update.Linked to this and as mentioned last week, a petition had been lodged at Holyrood urging ministers to “conduct a wide review” of legislation, in light of developments both in care and treatment and international human rights law. Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey MSP told MSPs that “the time is right” to review the law, to make sure that rules “fully reflect our ambitions and the needs of those our laws are intended to support”.

In a rather worrying development, a leading MSP has told how she fears for her safety after online threats and abuse. Glasgow Conservative Annie Wells said she has contacted Police Scotland over the social media posts. She told media representatives that in the three years since she was elected she had muted more than 1100 abusive Twitter accounts due to the violent and foul nature of the posts. Ms Wells said the majority ofthe abuse on Twitter was aimed at her simply for a being a woman. Sadly her experience is by no means unique.

And finally… One of Perceptive’s newest clients, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) in Glasgow, welcomes senior Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar this morning.  A former dentist and MP, Mr Sarwar has considerable interest in IBioIC’s role, as a specialist in the Industrial Biotechnology (IB) sector, is to stimulate the growth of the IB sector in Scotland to £900 million by 2025. IBioIC is one of eight Innovation Centres funded by the Scottish Funding Council and supported by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

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 Mousdale on 07734 932578 or julie.mousdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 15 March 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 15 March 2019

Just like buses… you wait for one and three come along at once, Theresa May will make a third attempt, with a third vote put to MPs, to get her EU withdrawal deal through Parliament in the next week. She told MPs that if her deal fails again to get their backing, a lengthy delay to Brexit may be needed.

No date has yet been set for the third so-called “meaningful vote” but the Commons voted by a whisker – just two votes – last night to allow her to maintain control of Brexit.  For now.

European Council President Donald Tusk has said he will appeal to EU leaders “to be open to a long extension” of the Brexit deadline, his intervention came this week as MPs voted on Thursday to try and seek to postpone the 29 March deadline to 30 June. EU leaders will meet in Brussels on 21 March where they will have the final say on the matter.

Nicola Sturgeon commented this week that the Brexit deadline should be put back long enough for a new referendum. The First Minister said the failure of the Commons to agree on a deal meant the issue should now be put back to the public in a fresh referendum.

Back to Holyrood, and MSPs have called for research to be carried out on the impact of social media on young people’s mental health. Holyrood’s public audit committee has been studying a “significant increase” in the number of children and teens experiencing mental health problems. Members wanted to find out if social media use could be a factor in rising demand for services but were told that this was “not yet understood”.

The Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee’s major inquiry into the Construction industry is continuing and this week we were pleased to support client CSIC (Construction Scotland Innovation Centre).  Chief Executive Stephen Good was questioned for an hour by MSPs on how innovation is transforming this vital industry which contributes £21bn every year to Scotland’s economy. Client Construction Scotland will also give evidence on 2 April.

A must visit for anyone interested in the construction industry is Scotland Build 2019 which starts next week (20 – 21 March at the SEC Glasgow). Now in its fourth year, the conference is Scotland’s leading and largest construction show dedicated entirely to opportunities in building, construction, architecture and design across Scotland. Three members of Perceptive’s team will be leading workshops on political influence, LinkedIn and crisis communications at the Skills Hub on the Wednesday – tickets are free and there’s still time to register to come along: https://oliverkinross.circdata-solutions.co.uk/RFG/publish/SBUILD19/

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 8 March 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 8 March 2019

Another week goes by and we are still none the wiser on the UK’s Brexit position. EU officials have urged the UK to submit fresh proposals within the next 48 hours to try and break the Brexit impasse. EU officials said they would work non-stop over the weekend if “acceptable” ideas were received today to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop.

The UK has said “reasonable” proposals to satisfy MPs’ concerns about being tied to EU rules had already been made… So, who knows, by Monday we might be closer to getting an outcome… or, and much more likely, we could be even further away from understanding how the UK will leave the European Union.

On Tuesday this week, Scottish and Welsh politicians joined forces in a bid to encourage the Prime Minister to change her position on Brexit. An identical motion was debated simultaneously by the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd, the Welsh Assembly, culminating with co-ordinated votes. Sponsors said that it underlined opposition to Theresa May’s deal, demand a delay to Brexit and call for “no deal” to be ruled out. The UK government maintain that the PM’s deal was a good one for Scotland and Wales. 

Away from Brexit and the person in charge of promoting the UK’s financial industry around the world has said there is great potential for Scottish firms to expand abroad. Peter Estlin, Lord Mayor of the City of London, said he wanted Scots firms looking to expand and to join him on foreign trips to places like China to promote and push their business.

And closer to home, Project Heather – Scotland’s new stock market company – was formally launched in Edinburgh.  Perceptive attended and we maintain closeworking links with the venture’s research partners, former MPs Roger Mullin and Michelle Thomson. Bourse Scot, the company behind it, has revealed a partnership with European stock market operator Euronext. It is led by experienced broker and entrepreneur Tomás Carruthers and is in discussion with Scottish Enterprise to secure Regional Selective Assistance, with a view to creating around 60 jobs.

There was some bad news for Scottish Business this week as the best hope for bringing major contracts to Scotland for the building of multi-billion-pound offshore wind farms failed to win a vital order, according to unions. BiFab is believed to have lost out on an order for offshore platforms to yards in Belgium, Spain and the UAE. Unite and the GMB say the failure to place any of the order in Scotland is a “scandal”.

The first ever affordable housing development in the village of Killearn by Rural Stirling Housing Association was formally opened by Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford this week.  Built by long standing Perceptive client Mactaggart & Mickel, the properties benefit from a modern, efficient and sustainable air source heat pump heating system. In addition, the exacavated rock has been reused to build a dry stone dyke around the site boundary. 

Jamie McLean, head of contracts and timber systems at Mactaggart & Mickel said: “This is the first new development in Killearn delivering much-needed quality affordable housing and is our first partnership with Rural Stirling Housing Association.”

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 15 February 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 15 February 2019

Despite Holyrood being on recess for a week, it has been another fascinating seven days in Scottish and UK politics as we move ever closer to the 29March. In one of the more bizarre Brexit sub plots, ITV News reported this week that one of its correspondents overheard the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, saying in a Brussels bar that the EU was likely to allow an extension to the Brexit process.

On the back of this, the Prime Minister played down reports that she could force MPs to choose between backing her deal or accepting a delay to EU withdrawal. Providing a soundbite that perhaps sums up Brexit perfectly, Mrs May told the Commons that people should not rely on “what someone said to someone else, as overheard by someone else, in a bar”.

The Scottish Government has stepped up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit as it again called on Theresa May to rule out the possibility. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she still believes no deal can be avoided. However, she said her government had a duty to plan for the possibility as best it could. Speaking after a meeting of the Scottish cabinet in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon told BBC Scotland that Mrs May was attempting to “run down the clock” to try and “blackmail” MPs into backing her deal “at the very, very last minute”. The Scottish Government statement can be read here: Brexit

The Scottish Government’s Chief Economic Adviser has published a report on the state of the economy. The update focuses on the risks of a no deal Brexit, as well as Scotland’s strengths in terms of international trade. The report suggests that a no deal Brexit would lead to a “major dislocation” in the Scottish economy and “significant structural change” in the longer term.

It was announced this week that a Holyrood committee is to examine hospital safety following the deaths of two patients from an infection linked to pigeon droppings. The health committee inquiry comes in the wake of the deaths at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. The patients died after contracting a fungal infection linked to the droppings.

The new TV channel, BBC Scotland, has revealed the first full line-up of the on-air team behind its flagship news programme. “The Nine” has a 15-strong core team of journalists, including four dedicated to Holyrood and Westminster, who will bring the national and international news to Scotland in the nightly hour-long broadcast. Broadcasting starts in April. Heading the team are presenters Rebecca Curran and Martin Geissler and Chief News Correspondent James Cook joins the Nine from his post as BBC News North America Correspondent.

Another sensitive policy area for the coming spring session at Holyrood will be the SNP’s so called parking tax whereby businesses will pay a levy for ‘free’ workplace parking places. Environmental campaigners have written to Scotland’s five political party leaders expressing support for the levy. The letter sets out the key reasons the plans are backed by environmental and transport groups and aims to dispel myths around the Levy. The Conservatives have continued to oppose the measure. They claimed that teaching unions would demand car park tax refunds for their members. 

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 8 February 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 8 February 2019

Nicola Sturgeon had her say on Brexit this week, saying that contingency plans for Britain’s departure from the EU with no deal were “genuinely astonishing”. The First Minister was addressing an audience at Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security in the US as part of a trade mission. Ms Sturgeon said the UK government was trying to renegotiate the EU Withdrawal agreement “with the clock ticking” despite the EU saying it would not accept such a renegotiation.

Unsurprisingly she called for a second referendum on EU membership and stated her case for a further vote on Scottish independence.

Theresa May was back on the Brussels express on Thursday to press (sic) unimpressed EU leaders for legally binding changes to the Brexit deal. The PM insisted the UK will not be “trapped” in the backstop – saying the plan must change if it is to win the support of MPs who urged her to seek “alternative arrangements” when rejecting the deal last month.

Quite worryingly, as Scotland’s Brexit Secretary Michael Russell confirmed on Wednesday, there are only 19 sitting days of the Scottish Parliament left before the UK is due to leave the EU on March 29. The Brexit Secretary pointed out that leaving the EU will hit agriculture, health and social care sectors in Scotland, and that the Scottish Government will not replicate the UK’s myriad of notices by saying “we will do all we can to make sure the public get clear information”.

All this information is available at www.mygov.scot/eu-exit (should make interesting reading!)

During a debate at Holyrood on Wednesday, Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey MSP announced that the Scottish Government has set a target of reducing the country’s suicide rate by 20% by 2022. Suicide prevention charity Samaritans had claimed the Scottish Government was not taking the issue seriously enough. Ms Haughey insisted Scotland has “made real progress in reducing deaths by suicide”, but said there was “far more to do” to tackle the issue.

Also at Holyrood this week, MSPs agreed the remit for an inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond. Several inquiries were set up after the government admitted its investigation of internal complaints had been flawed. A special nine-member committee will consider the actions of officials as well as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

And finally…. Client Shawfair LLP was delighted to arrange a site tour of what will become a new town of 4000 houses just a few minutes south of Edinburgh for local MSP Colin Beattie.  Mr Beattie arrived in jeans and climbing boots. This turned out to be a wiser call than his minder, Perceptive’s political guru Devin Scobie, whose rather smarter business attire wasn’t quite up to a hike in a bracing wind to ‘take in the scale of the site’!

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 & Scottish Budget special – Friday 1 February 2019

Scottish Political Insider & Scottish Budget special – Friday 1 February 2019

As we enter a new month, the Brexit narrative continues to stall. In Westminster on Tuesday, a majority voted in favour of a non-binding amendment that rejected a no-deal Brexit. They also voted in favour of an amendment that called for the backstop to be replaced with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border” in Ireland, but otherwise supported Theresa May’s deal.

However, this good news for the PM was swiftly followed by bad news from Brussels as senior EU politicians said they will not reopen the legal text of the withdrawal agreement that they negotiated with the UK. The saga continues with the outcome still unpredictable.

Scotland’s Brexit Minister Michael Russell also stated this week that 36 “critical” legislative measures will be pushed through the Scottish Parliament ahead of 29 March in a bid to protect the economy from a no-deal Brexit. The Scottish Parliament may need to schedule late sittings to deal with the extra work and Committee and Chamber business may also take place concurrently. 

The Scottish Budget was debated in Holyrood on Thursday. An overview of this is shared below.

Glasgow Airport bosses have called for urgent action to improve transport links with the city centre. Managing director Mark Johnston, is due to meet Scotland’s transport secretary and local council leaders to discuss this.  Mr Johnston told the BBC Scotland: “We’re the only airport in Europe that has road as its only means of access. The recent studies have shown that the congestion is only increasing on the M8. We have the funding available through the City Deal, so I think there’s a genuine acceptance that something needs to happen.”

It might be that you’ve not heard of industrial biotechnology (IB) before but the chances are it has benefitted your life. Whether it is turning food waste into green energy or improving the way we manufacture food, drink, vaccines and antibiotics, IB offers advantages for us all.

In client news, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) held its annual conference in Glasgow this week and on Thursday welcomed Trade and Innovation Minister Ivan McKee MSP to deliver a plenary session. The Minister highlighted the role of IBioIC to help stimulate the growth and success of IB technology in Scotland to £900 million by 2025. He also encouraged everyone working in the sector to ‘maintain a dialogue’ with all Scottish government departments.

And finally… The Scottish Parliament’s Business Bureau has unanimously agreed to establish a committee to consider the Scottish Government’s procedures and handling of the Alex Salmond case. It will be a nine-member committee with – controversially – an SNP Convener and a Scottish Conservative Deputy Convener. 

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 Budget January 2019

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP has announced a deal to ensure support for the Budget at all parliamentary stages has been reached with the Greens. The deal was reached after the Cabinet Secretary agreed to a series of reforms to local government spending and finance, including an agreement to consult and implement legislation to allow local authorities to introduce a transient visitor levy; devolving Non-Domestic Rates empty property relief to local authorities in time for the next revaluation; and plans to bring forward a three year funding settlement for local government from the 2020-21 Budget onwards. 

It was also announced that the Government will convene cross-party talks on a replacement for council tax with a view to publishing legislation by the end of the current parliament. A letter confirming the Green’s support has also been published.

New measures for local authorities

In his speech to the Parliament, the Cabinet Secretary gave a commitment to increasing the power and funding of local authorities. He said the new measures would be “the most significant empowerment of local authorities since devolution”.

·       Council Funding: The Cabinet Secretary announced £90m of increased funding for local government. This would be delivered through flexibilities in the Budget and additional funding from “unexpected” Barnett consequentials due to UK NHS spending. However, he said this would not reduce NHS funding and the health budget would be £4m higher. Councils would also be given more flexibility on setting council tax rates, which could rise by up to 4.79%. Additionally, he said the costs of the teacher pay offer would be transferred to ease local government finances.

·       Local Tax Reform: Derek Mackay said “the present council tax system must end”. He committed to cross-party talks on abolishing the council tax. However, he indicated this would be for the next Parliament to implement

·       Tourist Tax: Members were told there would be a consultation and legislation which would allow local authorities to implement a tourist tax.

·       Workplace Parking & Empty Properties: The Cabinet Secretary said councils would be given powers to apply a workplace car parking levy, following Green amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill. The NHS estate would be exempt from these measures.

·       Empty Properties: The Scottish Government will commit to devolving the Non-Domestic Rates Empty Property Relief to local authorities in time for the next revaluation.

·       Financial Flexibility: The Cabinet Secretary said the Scottish Government would work with COSLA to move towards three-year budgeting.

·       Environmental Measures: Derek Mackay said there would be a move towards a 10p minimum levy for single use carrier bags. He also said there would be a consultation on tackling the use of disposable drinks cups. Members were told that Scottish Ministers would consider whether revenue from these sources should be transferred to local authorities.

·       Other Announcements: The Cabinet Secretary also reiterated the Scottish Government’s previous commitments on the Budget, including in relation to income tax rates, education funding, social security, business rates, affordable housing, childcare, the Scottish National Investment Bank, support for town centres, police and fire service funding, and mental health support.

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