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Political Insider – Friday 27 September 2019

Political Insider – Friday 27 September 2019

In one of the most dramatic weeks yet in the long-running Brexit saga, MPs and peers have returned to Parliament shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that its suspension was unlawful. The PM has said he “profoundly disagreed” with Tuesday’s landmark ruling that his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was illegal but he would respect it. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove said he would not criticise the court, but he “disagreed with their position”.

The SNP, whose high-profile QC MP Joanna Cherry led the Supreme Court challenge, has urged opposition parties to back a no confidence motion that could remove “zombie Prime Minister” Boris Johnson from office. But opposition parties are split over what to do if he refuses to quit. The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said a confidence vote could remove the PM and allow a general election to be held. Mr Blackford said a “caretaker” Prime Minister would need to be found if the motion of no confidence was successful – and did not rule out the possibility of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn filling the role until a general election was held.

Closer to home and Scotland’s main economic development agency says there has been a huge surge in requests from businesses asking for help to get ready for Brexit. Scottish Enterprise said visits to a website offering firms help with the cost of Brexit had risen by nearly 400%. The agency said requests for advice about currency changes and access to suppliers were also common. Linda Murray, head of strategy services, urged companies to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”.

This week also saw a new report from the Fraser of Allander Institute. Nine in ten businesses in Scotland expect Brexit to have an important, or very important, impact on them. Its Scottish Business Monitor indicates that 30% of all businesses are scaling back all new investment in the run-up to the UK leaving the EU. It found 71% of firms expected costs to increase over the next six months. But most said their long-term economic confidence remained high.

The David Hume Institute has published another new report on Scotland’s future workforce, labour supply and immigration. Wealth of the Nation: Who Will Do the Jobs? points out that EU migration to Scotland has masked underlying demographic trends of an ageing population and low birth rates. The report warns of a major impact for Scotland’s health and social care sector and urges caution on the pace by which technological transformations will fill the gap. The Institute suggests that male employment rates – particularly for older men – have the potential to be increased.

At Holyrood, the Scottish Government’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions have been strengthened, as MSPs voted to put down a “net-zero” target in law. The Climate Change Bill – which aims to have all emissions offset by 2045 – was passed by 113 votes to 0 at Holyrood. Ministers agreed to a Labour amendment to up the interim target, with members agreeing to target a 75% reduction by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the government was “putting in place the most stringent framework of statutory targets of any country in the world”.

Scottish government statistics showed that the supply of total new housing has increased by 15% over the last year, the sixth consecutive annual increased total housing supply and the highest annual figure since 2008/09.  Homes for Scotland Chief Executive, Nicola Barclay called for Help to Buy to be extended until 2023 in line with England, housing policy to be aligned at national and local levels and grant funding levels for Registered Social Landlords to be shared beyond 2021.

Neil Bibby, West of Scotland MSP visited Lamont City Farm in Erskine following a much needed refurbishment by hub West Scotland and its supply chain partners.  Part of the Helping Hands initiative, hub West Scotland and its partners carried out over £38,000 of work for the city farm which was selected in conjunction with Renfrewshire Council. The farm is run exclusively by volunteers and welcomes 10,000 visitors a year. 

And finally, congratulations to client, Briar Homes which in its first year was shortlisted at last night’s Herald Property Awards.  Perceptive is delighted to hand its Property Team of the Year crown won at last year’s Herald Property awards to client, Clyde Gateway which were also joint winners of Commercial Development of the Year for its Red Tree Magenta  development at Shawfield in Rutherglen.

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 8 February 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 8 February 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Budget January 2019

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

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

New measures for local authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 11 January 2019

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 11 January 2019

The Scottish Parliament resumed business this week (Tuesday 8 January) and on the same day former First Minister Alex Salmond was again making the headlines. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the Scottish Government admitted acting unlawfully while investigating the harassment claims being made against him, the Government conceded that it breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had “prior involvement” in the case. The full extent of Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘prior knowledge’ is yet to come out in the wash …

The first Chamber debate of 2019 focussed on ultra-low emission vehicles. The Scottish Government as expected highlighted what it sees as successes in the sector and its efforts to increase the size of the charge point network. Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said 6% of new cars sold in Scotland in 2018 were ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). But Labour’s Colin Smyth said the take-up of such cars was “below where it has to be if we are to meet our ambition on this issue”. Also, Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur claimed Scotland “falls well short” of what had been achieved in other countries.

Life Sciences was also a big talking point at Holyrood this week. Trade, Investment and Innovation Minister Ivan McKee, one of the new Ministers appointed last summer who has surprised many by his enthusiastic start, says several hundred life science companies employ almost 40,000 people in Scotland and the minister adds that the sector has the capacity to benefit millions of people and save lives.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie agreed that the life sciences sector has been a major success story for Scotland but he is deeply worried about Brexit. He said the sector needs access to the best staff across Europe and the world, and requires the transfer of materials. He highlighted 70% of research assistants at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research are from the EU, with its staff representing 30 different nationalities.

Visitors to the capital will soon need to pay more for the privilege after a City of Edinburgh Council consultation on the introduction of a Transient Visitor Levy showed significant support for the proposals from both residents and businesses. The summary document sets out the responses of more than 2,560 individuals who took part in a survey or attended a discussion forum. Overall, 90% of residents are supportive of a tourist tax, while 51% of Edinburgh accommodation providers, who would have to enforce the proposal, also support it.

As mentioned in last week’s SPI, the team at Perceptive will be keeping a close eye on Holyrood’s Economy, Energy, and Fair Work Committee as it starts to hold a major inquiry on the construction sector in Scotland. 

The Convener of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Gordon Lindhurst MSP had this to say on the inquiry: “The sector has its challenges and we want to hear views and suggestions on how these can be overcome. We also want to find out how we can encourage young people to work in the industry, and we’ll be holding consultation work with businesses and colleges over the coming months.”

And finally… the twitter handle @holyroodmouse was created this week after a bold mouse was seen climbing the skirting boards whilst the education committee was in full flow, the fury creature went unnoticed until It was flagged up by the Lib Dems who posted a video on Twitter for all to enjoy:https://twitter.com/scotlibdems/status/1082950838593699840

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 4 MAY 2018

SCOTTISH POLITICAL INSIDER – FRIDAY 4 MAY 2018

A week of political turmoil at Westminster as Theresa May said goodbye to her fourth Cabinet Minister within a year through no choice of her own.  Amber Rudd admitted misleading the Commons over immigration quotas and stepped down, thus allowing the ambitious millionaire businessman, Sajid Javed, to be promoted to Home Secretary.

Further north and the Scottish Tories had a modest celebration this week as Ruth Davidson overtook the late David McLetchie to become the party’s longest serving leader since the post was created.

Tension was in the air at Holyrood as MSPs debated Brexit again. And Scottish ministers this week rejected the latest bid to settle the dispute with Westminster over post-Brexit powers.  This comes despite the Welsh and UK governments striking a deal. The UK Government is to publish changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill in an effort to end the long-running row with the devolved administrations.

The Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell MSP reiterated the need for changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill to protect devolution, following a meeting with the UK Government in London on Wednesday. Mr Russell confirmed there are still options which would secure an agreement, with two solutions suggested to the UK Government at the Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiations.

Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol in Scotland came into force this week (on 1 May) and has been broadly welcomed by the country’s political parties.  Some, including the Lib Dems and most Conservatives, changed their initial opposition to support during the protracted debates which saw the Bill passed in 2012.

Proving this week that the SNP are tough on crime, a man has been jailed for 90 days after stealing toilet roll from a senior SNP MSP. Patrick McHardy stole toilet rolls, soap, hand gel and a diffuser bottle from the Renfrew constituency office of Derek Mackay MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution.

And finally …this week Tavish Scott, one of Holyrood’s longest serving MSPs hosted a behind the scenes tour of Holyrood and a private dinner for Perceptive guests.  Tavish was in usual entertaining and candid form with some interesting insights and predictions about  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 McLauchlan on 07734 932578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Loreburn Housing Association named best charity employer for second year running

Loreburn Housing Association named best charity employer for second year running

Dumfries and Galloway social landlord, Loreburn Housing Association, has been named Best Charity Employer at a major national recruitment awards for the second year in a row.

The s1jobs Recruitment Awards, which have been running for the past seven years, were presented by comedian and presenter Russell Kane at an event in Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza on 19th April. The awards reward businesses and organisations who deliver a great candidate experience as well as an innovative approach to recruitment.

Loreburn Housing Association, which manages around 2,500 homes across Dumfries and Galloway and is building new homes every year, beat off stiff competition from fellow charity finalists Enable Scotland, The Butterfly Trust and The Simon Community Scotland to take home the prize.

According to the judges, Loreburn’s victory was down to “placing employees at the heart of their business.”

Since her appointment three years ago, chief executive Lorraine Usher has brought in a major transformational change programme to Loreburn, which has seen it go from an organisation coming out of a period of regulation to one that has gained triple Investors in People Gold status and a cluster of award nominations. Lorraine Usher was also named as a finalist in the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Housing Heroes Awards 2017 in the Inspirational Leader category.

Some of the benefits Loreburn offers its employees include flexible working hours, career breaks and the opportunity to work from home when required. Its comprehensive staff health and wellbeing strategy includes private healthcare, fitness trackers for all employees, a lunchtime walking group, an after-work running club and occupational health support.

Chief executive Lorraine Usher said: “We are all delighted with this tremendous achievement. I know Loreburn is a great workplace, but to have that recognised nationally for the second time is a real bonus. I’d like to thank my entire team for helping us win this award, and the management committee for their continued support towards achieving our ambition to become the best performing housing association in Scotland.

“As part of our drive to deliver an amazing customer experience, we invest in staff development programmes with a special focus on management and future leaders. The results of that, along with the positive can-do culture within the organisation, make it a fantastic place to work.

“The wellbeing of our staff will always be a core objective for Loreburn. In 2017, our staff survey showed an 89% satisfaction rating with us as an employer. While this was a great result, we are hoping to use the feedback we received from our staff about how we can be an even better employer to aim for an even higher satisfaction rating in 2018.”

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 23 March 2018

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 23 March 2018

The main political event this week was the news that the Scottish Government’s alternative to the EU Withdrawal Bill has been passed by MSPs. Ministers put forward their “continuity bill” as part of an ongoing row over UK frameworks of post-Brexit powers. It has undergone more than 20 hours of debate and scrutiny across three weeks, and the finalised bill was backed by a margin of 95 votes to 32. Most unusually, all 129 of Holyrood’s MSPs were present for the final debate and votes (there was one abstention and, by convention, no vote by the Presiding Officer). Brexit Minister Mike Russell said he still hoped to strike a deal with the UK government rather than use the bill.

There is now a period of four weeks in which a Supreme Court legal challenge could be lodged by law officers. The UK government said the competence of the bill – previously questioned by Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh – would be “considered”.

In a further show of Labour/SNP co-operation, the Scottish and Welsh and First Ministers united to urge peers to block what they have called a Brexit “power grab” by the UK government. Mrs May’s cabinet wants to keep control of 24 EU policy areas temporarily to preserve trade within the UK. Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones have written to the House of Lords calling for changes to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, claiming powers held back include areas of “vital importance” to them.

Continuing the co-operation theme and a cross-party group of Scottish politicians has won permission for a judicial review of whether the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50. The MEPs and MSPs want to get a ruling from the European Court of Justice on whether Brexit could be called off. Lord Doherty had originally rejected their application for a review, saying it had little prospect of success. However, after an appeal, a panel of judges said there was “a point of substance” to be addressed in the case. Lord Carloway, Scotland’s top judge, overturned Lord Doherty’s decision and has allowed permission for a judicial review to proceed. The legal action was launched by a group of politicians from the SNP, Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Lib Dems following a crowdfunding campaign.

There was a ripple in the normally iron-clad unity of the Tory Holyrood group this week as Ruth Davidson faced calls to sack shadow tourism minister Rachael Hamilton. The Borders MSP was fined over £50,000 for breaking the law on workplace pensions at the hotel she owns.  Mrs Hamilton had originally faced a £400 penalty, but this surged to £52,500 when the charge was not paid. Officials imposed the fine while she was fighting a by-election to defend a safe Tory seat that saw her elected to Holyrood.

And finally … not a great week for former SNP MP Natalie McGarry who has appeared in court on six charges, including three of embezzlement. Ms McGarry, who represented Glasgow East but did not seek re-election in 2017, was elected in the 2015 landslide. She was charged with three counts of embezzlement, two charges under the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013, and one charge under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

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


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