Blog : Scottish Political Insider

Political Insider – Friday 19 July 2019

Political Insider – Friday 19 July 2019

This is the last Insider of Theresa May’s unremarkable premiership and, incidentally, of Sir Vince Cable’s arguably equally unremarkable couple of years at the helm of the Lib Dems.  This time next week, we predict, Prime Minister Johnson and Jo Swinson (set to beat Ed Davey and be confirmed on Monday) will be the new names in the frames.  For a while at any rate.

Yesterday, MPs backed a bid to stop a new Prime Minister suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. A majority of 41 approved an amendment that blocks suspension between 9 October and 18 December unless a Northern Ireland executive is formed. Four cabinet ministers, including Philip Hammond, abstained and 17 Tory MPs rebelled, including minister Margot James, who subsequently resigned as a Minister.

In her last speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May warned against the rise of “uncompromising absolutism”, which risks “poisoning” public debate. The Prime Minister said the “coarsening” of British politics had occurred as a result of rising technology use “without filter or accountability”. She expressed optimism regarding the decrease in extreme poverty, the increase in life expectancy and the rising interest in fighting climate change. Looking to the future, Theresa May called on her successor to “resolve the Brexit impasse” and said it was her greatest regret that she had been unable to deliver the result of the referendum in March.

Elsewhere and public borrowing could double next year if there is a no-deal Brexit, the UK’s spending watchdog says. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said borrowing would be almost £60bn if the UK leaves without a deal – up from £29.3bn if it does get a deal.

Closer to home again and the amount of income tax revenue raised by the Scottish Government in 2017/18 went up by 1.8% but was still £941m short of original forecasts. The HMRC figures are the first time revenue from Scottish taxpayers has been calculated since the new devolved powers over income tax began in 2017.

Scotland’s Finance Secretary (and potential next First Minister) Derek Mackay said he was creating a more progressive tax system. He said stronger growth for Scotland could have a positive impact on this risk-sharing “reconciliation” in future years.

The number of companies contacting Scotland’s national business advice service – Business Gateway – has fallen in the past year. A total of 9,083 start-up businesses used the service in 2018, down 0.5% on the previous year. There was also a 6.8% drop in the number of so-called growth firms using the service, down from 3,166 to 2,951. Business Gateway said the drop was the result of Brexit uncertainty and polarised position on global trade.

The new UK government hub in Edinburgh will be named after the Queen, it has been announced. The building near Waverley Station will be known as Queen Elizabeth House when it opens in March 2020. The seven storey, 190,000 square feet office space will bring together almost 3,000 civil servants and is designed to bring together 10 UK government departments and aims to “build a stronger civil service outside London”. Keys to the building were formally handed over to the UK government on 13 June and staff will start to move in next spring.

Shetland Lib Dems have selected veteran councillor Beatrice Wishart as their candidate in the forthcoming (and relatively rare) Holyrood by-election on 29 August. Cllr Wishart is Deputy Convener of Shetland Islands Council and a trustee of Women’s Aid in Shetland. The by-election has been triggered by the resignation of Tavish Scott who had held the constituency since Holyrood was reconvened in 1999 but stood down to accept a new position with the SRU.

And finally… Thanks to local MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Christina McKelvie for visiting client Construction Scotland Innovation Centre this morning.  Although she has a busy day job the Minister for Older People and Equalities, her visit was ‘conditional’ on her being allowed to try out the Centre’s Virtual Reality technology set to be part of the construction industry’s transformation in future.

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

Political Insider – Friday 28 June 2019

Political Insider – Friday 28 June 2019

Tory leadership rivals Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are at loggerheads over how the UK should leave the EU. Both contenders claim they can renegotiate a Brexit deal that the EU says is closed. Mr Johnson said the UK must leave on 31 October “deal or no deal” but Mr Hunt called this a “fake deadline” that could trigger a general election if Parliament rejects a no-deal Brexit.

The winner of the contest will take over from Theresa May on 24 July, who has refused to promise unconditional support for her successor’s Brexit plan. Asked this week if she would back whichever Brexit outcome the next prime minister achieves, including a no-deal Brexit, she said that amounted to agreeing to “whatever happens in future”.

Both candidates in the Conservative leadership battle have set out their opposition to a second independence referendum at a digital hustings held this week. Boris Johnson has claimed Brexit “done right” could “cement and intensify” the union between the UK nations. Jeremy Hunt said his party had been complacent about the union and vowed never to allow the break up the UK.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has switched her support to Jeremy Hunt in the race to become PM. The foreign secretary is the third candidate to have been endorsed by Ms Davidson, who has previously supported Sajid Javid and Michael Gove. Ms Davidson tweeted that Mr Hunt has “always put the Union first” and would therefore get her vote.

At Holyrood this week, the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, has told MSPs he is “cautiously optimistic” the BiFab fabrication yard in Fife will secure vital contracts.  With BiFab’s yards in Methil and Burntisland currently mothballed, unions are campaigning to secure work on a £2bn offshore wind farm off Fife. It is feared the contract could go to Indonesia. Giving evidence to Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, Derek Mackay said the Scottish government was now exploring legal routes that would compel companies to invest in Scotland.

And finally … Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott, one of the longest serving at Holyrood and a regular tour guide/fantastic dinner host for the annual visit to Holyrood as part of our Perceptive Directors’ is to quit Holyrood. The former Scottish Lib Dem leader, who was elected in the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999, will step down as the MSP for Shetland in July to take up a new job with Scottish Rugby. Everyone here at Perceptive wishes him the very best of luck!If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 5 July 2019

Political Insider – Friday 5 July 2019

The Queen was at Holyrood last weekend to address MSPs as part of celebrations to mark 20 years of the Scottish Parliament. Her Majesty said that in the last two decades it has been a pleasure to watch the Scottish Parliament “grow and prosper”.

Writing in The Scotsman this week, Perceptive’s political expert, Devin Scobie explained that since 1999, the country has had six First Ministers – including Jim Wallace, who covered twice for Donald Dewar whilst he was incapacitated. Some 330 people have sat as MSPs, and 16 or 17 have been there since the very start. A few lasted barely a few weeks; Labour’s Lesley Brennan was a North-east list MSP for just ten weeks in early 2016.

People are often still quick to criticise Holyrood but is has achieved much in 20 years. Scotland has had genuine economic growth over the years and the highest level of employment in the UK. Free personal care for our elderly and zero tuition fees are looked upon enviously by English MPs.

Perhaps the last words on Holyrood should go to Her Majesty herself, who concluded on Saturday that for most of this period this striking chamber has provided “a place to talk”. But of-course it must also be a place to listen – a place to hear views that inevitably may differ quite considerably, one from another – and a place to honour those views. Roll on July 2039!

Theresa May was in Scotland yesterday on her final visit as PM. She announced a review of UK government departments to make sure they work in the best interests of devolution, but Nicola Sturgeon predictably said that the review was “too little, too late” and would do nothing to prevent Scottish independence. In her speech, Mrs May told the two candidates vying to replace her as Prime Minister (in Scotland tonight for a members’ only hustings) that they must make strengthening the Union one of their top priorities. Mrs May also urged her successor to “think creatively” about how to ensure the UK stays together.

The final inquiry report of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work committee into the Construction Industry and the Scottish Economy was published this week. Several Perceptive clients including Construction Scotland and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) submitted written evidence and three were invited to give oral evidence which formed a substantive part of the final report. The report concluded “A thriving construction sector is vital to our built environment and economy … The Scottish Government must continue to work together with industry to ensure that improvement is made in these key areas. Only with leadership, collaboration and cultural change, will the construction sector be able to realise its full potential contribution to Scotland’s economy.”

A link to the full report is available here: https://sp-bpr-en-prod-cdnep.azureedge.net/published/EEFW/2019/7/2/Under-Construction–Building-the-future-of-the-sector-in-Scotland/EJFWS052019R08.pdf

And finally … we were delighted to provide Parliamentary training this week with industry body, Homes for Scotland which recently unveiled its new branding, putting its aim of delivering more homes for Scotland front and centre. There is much backlash in public opinion about the development of new homes but the fact remains that Scotland remains in the grip of a desperate housing shortage.

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

Political Insider – Friday 12 July 2019

Political Insider – Friday 12 July 2019

The Conservative leadership bandwagon made its only Scottish stop this week when the final two contenders, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, faced party members at a hustings event in Perth. Both men have pledged to protect the UK union after warnings from senior Tory politicians that it could be at risk.

The hustings in Perth was the latest in a series of (closed) events around the UK which see the two candidates make a speech to local members before taking questions from a host and the audience.  Comments to journalists suggested that Jeremy Hunt came across as being more ‘in control’ – but that seems unlikely to stop a Boris sprint to the finish line.

Party members are now receiving their ballots, with the winner to be announced on 23 July. A YouGov survey of Conservative members in June suggested that a majority would prefer Brexit to go ahead even if it caused Scottish independence, while another opinion poll suggested that a majority of Scots could back independence if Mr Johnson became Prime Minister. By co-incidence, the campaign to succeed Sir Vince Cable as leader of the UK Lib Dems also concludes that week. Scottish MP Jo Swinson is the clear favourite in a two horse race with former Cabinet minister Sir Ed Davey.  

The Scottish Affairs Committee has published the UK Government response to its report on the relationship between the UK and Scottish governments. The UK Government accepted the Committee’s recommendations on reviewing the role of the Scotland Office and said it will consider introducing third party involvement in dispute resolution proceedings.

The response was published ahead of an evidence session with David Mundell on Thursday (11 July). Chair Pete Wishart, said: “The Government response makes some welcome indications of support for updating intergovernmental structures, including a fairer dispute resolution process for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”  

Holyrood is in recess until 3 September but the Finance & Constitution Committee has launched a call for evidence on the estimated financial implications of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill. The aim of the Bill is to establish the office of Scottish Biometrics Commissioner and provide guidelines for the acquisition, retention and destruction of biometric data. The deadline to respond is Friday 30 August. 

All the parties have been using recess to focus on a relatively rare event, a Holyrood by-election, following Shetland Lib Dem MSP (and good friend to Perceptive) Tavish Scott’s resignation. Johan Adamson, a former community councillor and journalist at the Shetland Times, has been selected as the Labour candidate. Meanwhile, two other candidates have declared their candidacy. Ryan Thomson, a Shetland councillor, has announced he will run independently, with transport policy as his focus. Ian Scott has created his own party, ‘Fight Austerity, Save Our NHS, Save Our Welfare State’ and also intends to run for the seat. The SNP and Liberal Democrats will announce their candidates imminently. It has been one of the Lib Dems safest seats since 1999 and the party is expected to hold it.

And finally… Yesterday marked 30 days to go until P&J Live – the multi-million-pound new events venue in Aberdeen – opens to the public for the first time. A free, ticketed event called Preview @ P&J Live is being held on Saturday 10 August 2019 to showcase the new complex which is being delivered by one of our clients, Henry Boot Developments and Aberdeen City Council. Keep a close eye on our social media channels for new images and short videos which are being released over the next four weeks showing different parts of P&J Live and the two new on-site hotels.If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

POLITICAL INSIDER – FRIDAY 21 JUNE 2019

POLITICAL INSIDER – FRIDAY 21 JUNE 2019

After nine days and three rounds, it’s almost decision time.

Conservative MPs have chosen the two men who will contest the final stage of the party’s leadership race next week: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

Boris Johnson said he was “honoured” to get the backing of 160 MPs in the final ballot of the party’s MPs yesterday evening – more than half of the total. Jeremy Hunt got 77 votes – two more votes than the next candidate Michael Gove.

Mr Johnson is almost certain to be the number one choice across the 160,000 or so Conservative members who will elect the next Tory leader – and Prime Minister – in a postal ballot, starting next week.

Unsurprisingly, Boris Johnson as Prime Minister isn’t being well received across some parts of the political world – the politician who has come back from the political brink faced some choice words from SNP’s Ian Blackford during Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday. The SNP’s leader at Westminster branded Boris Johnson a “racist” who is unfit to lead the country. He refused to withdraw his allegation of racism despite being urged to do so by Speaker John Bercow.

Closer to home and at Holyrood this week, MSPs backed plans to give councils the power to levy a tax on workplace car parking spaces. The measure could see councils charge businesses an annual fee for every parking space they provide for workers. Opposition parties said the move was a “regressive tax on workers”, but the rural economy committee ultimately backed it by a vote of six to five. The powers have been added into the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which will still have to be signed off in a vote of all MSPs.

The latest statistics from the UK House Price Index (HPI) show that the average price of a property in Scotland in April 2019 was £150,825 – an increase of 1.6 per cent on April in the previous year. Comparing with the previous month, house prices in Scotland rose by 0.7 per cent between March 2019 and April 2019.    

And finally … One of the most UK’s most experienced and skilled communicators, Dominic Fry addressed our Perceptive Directors’ Club in Glasgow last night.  With experience as Communications Director at the Channel Tunnel, ScottishPower and Sainsbury’s, Dominic has recently left Marks & Spencer after a decade as Director of Corporate Communications, Investor & Government Relations.   

Dominic shared some compelling, honest and humorous examples on managing a corporate reputation that is so engrained in the British psyche.  From managing supermodels at London Fashion week to advising on the reputational implications of executive remuneration, Dominic emphasised the importance of understanding and listening to your audience so understanding the mood of public opinion, the responsibility to hold a mirror to the organisation and exec team, especially when anticipating reputational implications and when it goes wrong, not being afraid to take responsibility and this could be done with self-deprecating humour. And Percy Pig who now has over 200,000 followers on Facebook!If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or julie.moulsdale@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Political Insider – Friday 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    

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