Blog : Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider Special – Wednesday 12 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider Special – Wednesday 12 December 2018

This Insider Special started out as a Scottish Budget special but events overnight have yet again reminded us that any forward planning in these febrile pre (Br)exit days is pretty pointless.   Prime Minister Theresa May is facing the toughest day of her short Downing Street tenure as she faces a No Confidence vote triggered by her own MPs.  We suspect she will survive (as Mrs Thatcher did initially) but only just – and then go in the spring.

Closer to home and the day’s main domestic focus should be the Scottish Budget statement, to be made by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP later this afternoon.  Live updates will be reported via the BBC: BBC Budget link

Derek Mackay has a reputation for being one of the shrewder – and sharper – brains in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet team.  He has made clear that today’s statement will not be defined by Brexit, which is maybe just as well as no-one has a clue what is happening today, never mind in a year’s time.

The Scottish Government is much less ‘leaky’ than Westminster and they do not indulge in the slow drip-feed of perceived good news to the same extent that Philip Hammond and his team do.  Nevertheless, one or two carefully placed interviews this week have made it clear that investing in public services and growing the economy will be prioritised in spending plans to help protect Scotland’s prosperity as far as is possible in the face of continued uncertainty over Brexit.

In one interview Derek Mackay said: “I will set out the Scottish Government’s spending plans for the year ahead. The Budget will protect vital public services and prioritise spending on health, education and economic investment. The 2019-20 Scottish Budget will support the vision in our Programme for Government by ensuring we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow.”

Parliamentary arithmetic means that the SNP minority administration must strike a deal with at least one other party.  Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have all ruled this out already – so it is widely expected that, once again, Derek Mackay give in to demands from the Scottish Greens for a raft of unpopular tax rises as the price of a Budget deal. And although specifics are hard to predict, it is likely we will see a further freeze to higher levels of income tax thresholds. This follows last year’s decoupling from point where the 40% income tax rate applies.

We will include a link to a full summary of today’s Budget statement in our usual Friday Insider but, as ever, if anyone has any specific queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 December 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 December 2018

The Scottish Parliament voted by 92 to 29 this week to formally reject the UK government’s draft Brexit deal. SNP, Labour, Green and Lib Dem members at Holyrood backed a motion rejecting the proposals, as well as the prospect of leaving without any deal. However, the parties have not come to a consensus on an alternative plan. The vote was held as MPs at Westminster continued to debate whether to accept the withdrawal plan agreed between UK and EU negotiators.

In a week that saw multiple Commons defeats for the UK Government, we heard that the UK should be able to unilaterally cancel its withdrawal from the EU, according to an advocate general of the European Court of Justice. A group of Scottish politicians including QC Joanna Cherry MP has asked the court whether the UK can call off Brexit without the consent of other member states. The Court of Justice (ECJ) will deliver its final ruling at a later date.

The advice from advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona comes as the House of Commons begins five days of debates on Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, with a vote due to be held next Tuesday. In a written statement, the ECJ said Mr Campos Sanchez-Bordona’s opinion was that if a country decided to leave the EU, it should also have the power to change its mind during the two-year exit process specified in Article 50 of the EU treaty.

New fire safety measures for high rise buildings in Scotland are to be introduced next year in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. A review was ordered in the wake of the London blaze, which killed 72 people. The changes will include measures to improve evacuation from high rises and making sprinkler systems mandatory in all new-build flats. Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said this would add to “stringent safety regulations” already in place. The changes will be brought forward via legislation in 2019, with ministers planning amendments to a members’ bill from Labour’s David Stewart.

Still on housing matters and the Scottish Government has published the results from the latest housing conditions survey. It includes statistics on fuel poverty, energy efficiency, the condition of housing and other descriptors of occupied housing stock. The results show overall fuel poverty remains at similar levels to 2016 findings, but changes are evident in subgroups including local authority housing, households using gas as the primary heating fuel and households primarily using oil.

Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephens visited Perceptive client, Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, seeing first-hand the ground breaking work on precision medicine which tailors medicine to patients’ individual genetic profiles.

Charity Action for Children this week claimed one million children under the age of 10 in Scotland and England are facing “Dickensian” levels of poverty as they prepare for Christmas.   The charity will be running unofficial food banks over the Christmas period for families it says lack fresh food, suitable clothes and, in some cases, money to pay for heating. Action for Children is calling for the chancellor to end the freeze on children’s benefits so that rising prices do not push more families into poverty.

And finally, rather than sending Christmas cards, this year we will be making a donation to one of the seven charities which Perceptive has assisted with pro-bono communications support. The charity will be chosen by Perceptive clients and employees. You can cast your vote by completing this survey  which takes less than a minute. We will share the winning charity next week.

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 30 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 30 November 2018

The proposed Brexit deal by the UK Government will make Scotland poorer, according to newly published analysis from the Scottish Government. The proposal, still to be voted on in the House of Commons, could cost the equivalent of £1,600 for each person in Scotland by 2030, compared to continued EU membership. The assessment shows that the deal (and link to full statement/report: SG Brexit report )
• Takes Scotland out of the EU and removes Scotland from the European Single Market of 500 million people
• Leaves future trading arrangements uncertain for both goods and services
• Puts Scotland at a potential competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland
• Ends free movement of people, which is vital for workers in sectors such as health and social care. Scotland’s working age population would decline by 3% without EU migration
• Appears to directly contradict the UK Government’s previous position on fisheries: that there should be no link between access to UK waters and access to EU markets
• Ends guaranteed high standards and protections that come with EU membership, including the environment, food safety, animal welfare, health and safety, equality and working conditions
• Provides no certainty about future participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+

In another new report this week, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has warned that leaving the EU and ending freedom of movement could cost Scotland £2 billion in tax revenues.  Research shows that each EU citizen coming to live and work in Scotland contributes, on average, £10,400 per year in tax. Ms Hyslop argues that the UK Government’s proposed Brexit deal is expected to halve the number of people from EU27 countries migrating to Scotland, meaning £2 billion less by 2040 to spend on vital public services such as the NHS and schools. Details: Scotland in Europe

CBI Scotland has hosted a major event in partnership with the Scottish Government to help Scotland reclaim its  place as a first class exporter.  CBI Scotland has also welcomed the next phase of a Scottish Government initiative to boost Scotland’s exporting base through enhanced business support. At an event in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, alongside Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Ivan McKee, outlined the Scottish Government’s plans for a more outward looking Scotland and provided further details of a peer-to-peer mentoring to support the next wave of Scottish exporters. 

And at Westminster, the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee met to take evidence as part of their inquiry into the relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments, within which topics covered included: the mechanics of devolution, the design of devolution agreements and the impact of Brexit upon these, the utility of the Sewel convention and its future in a post-Brexit Britain.  The full transcript has now been published: Select Committee Nov 2018

And finally, this week client Clyde Gateway welcomed Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick to launch a campaign to encourage increased take up of cancer screening. This marketing, PR and social media campaign features local people sharing hard hitting messages about this vital health screening.  

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 932578or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 23 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 23 November 2018

A change from UK Brexit news (covered extensively in the mainstream news) was a rare domestic policy announcement this week as the Scottish Government finally released details of its long overdue Alcohol Framework. It includes proposals to consult on alcohol marketing such as public spaces and online. Under the framework, the UK Government will be pressed to impose a 9 pm watershed for alcohol advertising on TV, and restrictions on advertising in cinemas are also proposed. Alcohol producers will be urged to put health information on labels. Link: alcohol framework

But as Nicola Sturgeon and other Scottish ministers discussed Brexit with Theresa May and her colleagues, the Supreme Court has rejected a last-ditch attempt by the UK Government to prevent European judges hearing a legal challenge to the Brexit process. The European Court of Justice is to examine on 27 November whether the UK can unilaterally halt Brexit. The UK Government had asked the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against an earlier ruling that the case should be referred to the European court, but the Supreme Court has now rejected that bid.

Going beyond the EU and Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP will visit India in the coming week (travelling out today) to further strengthen ties between the two countries. The visit will focus on Technology and Life Sciences, promote trade and investment and strengthen education and cultural links. Mr Swinney will be joined by a delegation of senior leaders from Scotland’s higher education sector.

In another key sector for Scotland, the Scottish Conservatives are calling for a dedicated Institute of E-Commerce to help Scotland’s businesses tackle the digital gap emerging between Scotland and competitor countries. The Institute would provide dedicated and specialist training, support and advice to businesses looking to move their business models online. This, they argue, would enable Scottish companies to embed digital technologies into their businesses and better capitalise on global trade opportunities. Currently only 7-9% of Scotland’s businesses have integrated digital technologies into their businesses operations.

Another new Survation poll this week suggests the following party voting intention for Westminster: Scottish National Party (SNP): 39%; Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: 26%; Scottish Labour Party: 24%; Scottish Liberal Democrats: 8%; Others: 3%

And finally… last night Health Secretary Jeane Freeman OBE was named The Herald’s Scottish Politician of the Year.  An MSP for only two years and former chair of Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Ms Freeman was recognised for her achievements of ushering in a devolved social security system and bringing a renewed sense of focus to the Government’s biggest and most challenging department.  MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in Ayrshire, Ms Freeman is the only person other than party leader to win the award since 2012 when Nicola Sturgeon was also recognised for her work as health secretary.

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 – 16 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider Friday – 16 November 2018

This week’s Insider comes to you from down-town Lahore. Our political guru Devin is making one of his regular trips east in his capacity as a volunteer trustee of a charity supporting primary schools across the Punjab region.

At the time of writing Theresa May was still hanging onto her role as Prime Minister, but Environment Secretary Michael Gove, one of the highest-profile Leave campaigners during the 2016 referendum, is considering his position, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reports.

It is understood Mr Gove turned down the post of Brexit secretary following the resignation of Dominic Raab.  It’s also reported some ministers are considering trying to make the PM change the draft EU deal. Some Conservative back benchers are attempting to trigger a vote of no confidence in her, watch this space.

Closer to home and a new Survation opinion poll on Westminster voting intentions published yesterday suggests that support for the SNP remains strong, with that for Labour and the Conservatives declining.  The new figures are as follows: SNP 40% (+3); Con 27% (-2); Lab 23% (-4); LibDem 7% (NC); UKIP 1% (+1); Green 1% (+1).

This week we heard that the health service will soon account for half of all Scottish Government spending, according to a new analysis of choices facing Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. The growing squeeze on many other services is set out in a new report by economists at the Fraser of Allander Institute. The report, from the Strathclyde University economics unit, applies the consequences of last month’s Westminster budget for the block grant for Holyrood. It leads to their call for “an urgent debate on future priorities”. One of the politically challenging suggestions they put forward is for the introduction of student tuition fees. They also welcome growing political pressure for sweeping reforms of council tax.

A few cracks have started to appear in the normally watertight SNP parliamentary teams as the potential impact of a second Brexit vote are being debated. This week, veteran MSP Kenny Gibson has become the latest Nationalist politician to warn it has implications for Scottish independence. Mr Gibson, the MSP for Cunninghame North, has joined Pete Wishart MP, Angus McNeill MP and the former cabinet secretary Alex Neil MSP in voicing concerns that a second Brexit vote would enable Unionists to argue for another vote on the terms of Scottish independence in the event of a Yes vote. Ms Sturgeon has said the SNP will support a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal.

Nicola Sturgeon did, however, receive support from an unlikely former foe this week. As well as opposing Theresa May’s 5-hour Cabinet deal on Wednesday, Gordon Brown has come out and backed the Scottish Government over post-Brexit devolution, warning that UK ministers have put the Union at risk by holding on to powers returning from Brussels. The former Prime Minister said devolved nations should be able to have their own relationship with the EU distinct from the rest of the UK in areas under their control.

Anyone interested in the full 585 page draft Brexit deal can find it via this link: draft deal

As the week progressed, the UK Government stated there has been ‘significant progress’ agreeing frameworks with devolved administrations, the Scottish Government says that the ‘unnecessary’ UK law curbing the powers of the Scottish Parliament is undermining devolution and should now be repealed.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP has said: “we have always said that co-operation between governments is clearly the right and best way both to ready our statute books and to agree common UK frameworks, where these are in Scotland’s interests – not imposing policies and laws on Scotland against our democratic will.”

And finally, Homes for Scotland (HFS), the voice of the home building industry in Scotland, has today launched a new five-year strategy with a focus on improving quality and customer satisfaction.  The document was launched to an audience of 200 senior industry representatives and housing stakeholders at the HFS annual conference in Edinburgh.

Also announced at the conference was the extension of the ‘Five Star Builder’ initiative to Scotland, which will allow buyers of new homes to compare builders in terms of customer satisfaction. The scheme was previously limited to those building right across the UK, excluding those operating only north of the border.

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 9 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 9 November 2018

A major industrial story broke this week with the news that Michelin are leaving Dundee after nearly fifty years.  Michelin is to close its tyre factory in the city, with the loss of about 850 jobs, confirming that it would leave the city by 2020. The company said the factory was “unsuitable” given current market conditions and it would not be financially viable to invest further. Economy Secretary Derek Mackay MSP has visited the site and the union Unite has said the closure would be a “hammer-blow” to the city.

Still on business news and thousands of firms have been wound up over the past year in Scotland, new figures have revealed.   The official statistics showed there are now 345,915 private sector businesses north of the border. That compares to 354,745 the year before, a drop of 8830. The rate of private businesses per head of population is also worse in Scotland than the rest of the UK. Total business turnover is at its lowest level since 2015, while only a handful of local authority areas have seen an increase in business activity. The 2.5 per cent drop since 2017 is proof of the SNP’s “anti-business attitude”, the Scottish Conservatives have said in a quick response.

In other news, this week’s major study of note has found that Scotland is the most pro-migration country in the UK. The poll, conducted by Survation for Channel 4, found that Scots believed migration had a positive impact by a factor of three to two – with 44% agreeing and only 30% disagreeing.

We couldn’t forget Brexit and MSPs have voted to express their “unequivocal support” for a referendum on the final terms of Brexit. Holyrood voted by 65 to 30 in favour of such a move during a debate about the impact of leaving the EU. SNP, Green and Lib Dem MSPs were joined by two Scottish Labour members (including former leader Kezia Dugdale) in the vote, while the bulk of the Labour group abstained.

Earlier this week Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP helped launch client, Construction Scotland’s new Strategy document.  Mr Swinney confirmed the Scottish Government supports Construction Scotland’s refreshed strategy and fully endorses the ambition of construction being a more productive, innovative, profitable and sustainable industry. This strategy focuses on the big issues and game-changers that are affecting the construction sector.  Each of the six priority areas will be addressed by an action plan for the industry, coordinated and facilitated by Construction Scotland, with key milestones and timescales for delivery.

This week we also welcomed MSP Gordon MacDonald to client, Wavegarden Scotland which is building Scotland’s first artificial surfing park. This will transform the disused Craigpark Quarry near Ratho, Edinburgh into a surf park with revolutionary new wave technology in time for surfing becoming an Olympic sport in 2020.

And finally… As the US mid-term elections got under way this week, the only senior politician to back Scottish independence in 2014 has stepped down. John “Jimmy” Duncan – a Republican – represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives. The staunch supporter of Donald Trump is co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Scotland Caucus.

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 2 November 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 2 November 2018

The UK Budget dominated the political news this week and perhaps predictably, a row broke out quickly over the impact of the UK government’s Budget on Scotland. Hammond’s latest set of tax and spending plans included a freeze on oil industry taxes, and an extra £950m for the Scottish Government over three years.

However, his Scottish counterpart Derek Mackay said the UK government had made a choice not to end austerity and had “short-changed Scotland”. Philip Hammond used his Budget – the last before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 – to claim that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end”. Other measures announced which will have a significant impact in Scotland include: £150m for the Tay City Deal and negotiations for a Moray growth deal, headline tax rates on the oil and gas industry maintained, and £10m-UK-wide for fisheries technology. Scottish Government statement: SG Budget reaction

As we reach the end of the week, Scottish ministers are being challenged by Green MSP Patrick Harvie to continue with income tax reforms while delivering a Scottish Budget that’s distinct from what they term ’the Chancellor’s list of tax cut giveaways for the wealthy.’ Questioning the Cabinet Secretary for Finance at Holyrood, the MSP for Glasgow also said that Greens will continue to pressure the government for new financial powers to be devolved to councils.

Back to Brexit and Holyrood’s constitution committee has called on Scottish and UK ministers to resolve the “impasse” over devolution and consent “as a matter of urgency”. A new report from the group said MSPs should not give their consent to the UK Trade Bill while the dispute continues. The Scottish Government is angry that the EU Withdrawal Act passed despite MSPs refusing to give it their backing, and they have resolved not to put any more Brexit bills forward for votes at Holyrood until the row is resolved.

Over in Tayside and Infrastructure Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, is challenging the UK Government to match his funding commitment for the Tay Cities Region Deal. The Scottish Government is planning to invest £200 million to deliver inclusive economic growth across the region, through skills, tourism and innovation. Over the next 10-15 years, the funding will secure significant numbers of both high value and entry-level jobs by supporting projects across the themes of skills, tourism, transport and innovation.

Finally, the Enterprise, Energy and Fair Committee launched an attack on Scottish Enterprise for spending just £500,000 of a £10 million fund for growth businesses.  The Committee also recommended an Audit Scotland performance audit of Scottish Enterprise’s claim it generates between £6 and £9 GVA for every pound that it spends.

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 26 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 26 October 2018

The Scottish Parliament resumed business this Tuesday and Brexit was immediately on top of the agenda.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is becoming the “most likely outcome” of the UK’s negotiations with EU leaders. Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood committee conveners that she was “increasingly concerned” that no deal will be struck, and she said the situation is “the biggest failure of government policy and handling” seen in her lifetime. Talks over the UK’s exit from the EU have run into a deadlock over the issue of the border in Northern Ireland.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tried to regain some momentum as he met with Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday. He joined UK Lib Dem Leader Sir Vince Cable MP, the Westminster Leader of Plaid Cymru and a Green Party MEP to meet Michel Barnier in Brussels. Mr Blackford said: “While the UK government clearly still has no plan to break the Brexit impasse, and Labour fail to act as an effective opposition, it has been left to the ‘unofficial opposition’ to speak up for a deal that would protect jobs and livelihoods. I am grateful to Mr Barnier for meeting with us. Any Brexit deal that falls short of staying in the single market and the customs union will not get through Parliament.”

Scotland’s Chief Economist, Gary Gillespie, has published his annual ‘State of the Economy’ report this week. It suggests that Scotland’s economy has continued to strengthen in the first half of 2018 with annual GDP growth the strongest since 2014 and above the UK as a whole. The link to the 16-page document is here: https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0054/00542252.pdf

Linked to the above report, an £18 million fund to help businesses benefit from developments in manufacturing is among the key actions announced in a new plan to help boost economic growth. As part of a response to the business-led Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, the Economic Action Plan sets out a number of new and existing actions that will work together to build a strong, vibrant and diverse economy that promotes well-being and attracts investment. Details: economic action plan

Back at Holyrood, and a debate on welfare issues turned bitter and personal, resulting in the SNP calling for South of Scotland Conservative MSP Michelle Ballantyne to resign as welfare spokesperson after her comments on the two child cap. The SNP called this “her own personal hypocrisy, exposed her as unfit” to be the spokesperson for Social Security in Scotland. Ms Ballantyne has been widely condemned by all the parties for arguing the two-child cap is fair as “people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like”.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, is to visit Scotland to speak at a special dinner in Edinburgh. The girls’ education activist will speak at the Social Bite event to thank those taking part in this year’s Sleep in the Park event in December.

And finally…. Following Julie’s win at the Scottish Business Woman of the Year Awards, Gil Paterson MSP submitted this motion to Parliament:

Motion S5M-14232: Gil Paterson, Clydebank and Milngavie, Scottish National Party

That the Parliament congratulates Bearsden resident, Julie McLauchlan, on winning the prestigious Scottish Business Woman of the Year Award for her company Perceptive Communicators, which launched in 2006.

Supported by: Sandra White, Bill Kidd, Richard Lyle

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 19 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 19 October 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 12 October 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Lesley Ferguson on 07762769659 or lesley.ferguson@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk    

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 5 October 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 5 October 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 28 September

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 28 September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 September 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 21 September 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 September 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 7 September 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Link to details: Prog for Govt 2018-19

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 31 August 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 31 August 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Party Conference Dates:

As the Autumn sessions at Holyrood and Westminster get under way next week, the familiar party conference cycle will start again.  First up is the Lib Dems in Brighton, which our political guru Devin Scobie is attending.  The full line up is as follows.  If you would like more information or agendas, please get in touch:

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

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