This is the last Insider of Theresa May’s unremarkable premiership and, incidentally, of Sir Vince Cable’s arguably equally unremarkable couple of years at the helm of the Lib Dems. This time next week, we predict, Prime Minister Johnson and Jo Swinson (set to beat Ed Davey and be confirmed on Monday) will be the new names in the frames. For a while at any rate.
Yesterday, MPs backed a bid to stop a new Prime Minister suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. A majority of 41 approved an amendment that blocks suspension between 9 October and 18 December unless a Northern Ireland executive is formed. Four cabinet ministers, including Philip Hammond, abstained and 17 Tory MPs rebelled, including minister Margot James, who subsequently resigned as a Minister.
In her last speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May warned against the rise of “uncompromising absolutism”, which risks “poisoning” public debate. The Prime Minister said the “coarsening” of British politics had occurred as a result of rising technology use “without filter or accountability”. She expressed optimism regarding the decrease in extreme poverty, the increase in life expectancy and the rising interest in fighting climate change. Looking to the future, Theresa May called on her successor to “resolve the Brexit impasse” and said it was her greatest regret that she had been unable to deliver the result of the referendum in March.
Elsewhere and public borrowing could double next year if there is a no-deal Brexit, the UK’s spending watchdog says. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said borrowing would be almost £60bn if the UK leaves without a deal – up from £29.3bn if it does get a deal.
Closer to home again and the amount of income tax revenue raised by the Scottish Government in 2017/18 went up by 1.8% but was still £941m short of original forecasts. The HMRC figures are the first time revenue from Scottish taxpayers has been calculated since the new devolved powers over income tax began in 2017.
Scotland’s Finance Secretary (and potential next First Minister) Derek Mackay said he was creating a more progressive tax system. He said stronger growth for Scotland could have a positive impact on this risk-sharing “reconciliation” in future years.
The number of companies contacting Scotland’s national business advice service – Business Gateway – has fallen in the past year. A total of 9,083 start-up businesses used the service in 2018, down 0.5% on the previous year. There was also a 6.8% drop in the number of so-called growth firms using the service, down from 3,166 to 2,951. Business Gateway said the drop was the result of Brexit uncertainty and polarised position on global trade.
The new UK government hub in Edinburgh will be named after the Queen, it has been announced. The building near Waverley Station will be known as Queen Elizabeth House when it opens in March 2020. The seven storey, 190,000 square feet office space will bring together almost 3,000 civil servants and is designed to bring together 10 UK government departments and aims to “build a stronger civil service outside London”. Keys to the building were formally handed over to the UK government on 13 June and staff will start to move in next spring.
Shetland Lib Dems have selected veteran councillor Beatrice Wishart as their candidate in the forthcoming (and relatively rare) Holyrood by-election on 29 August. Cllr Wishart is Deputy Convener of Shetland Islands Council and a trustee of Women’s Aid in Shetland. The by-election has been triggered by the resignation of Tavish Scott who had held the constituency since Holyrood was reconvened in 1999 but stood down to accept a new position with the SRU.
And finally… Thanks to local MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Christina McKelvie for visiting client Construction Scotland Innovation Centre this morning. Although she has a busy day job the Minister for Older People and Equalities, her visit was ‘conditional’ on her being allowed to try out the Centre’s Virtual Reality technology set to be part of the construction industry’s transformation in future.
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