Even though it’s the time of the year for love (Happy Valentine’s Day by the way), there wasn’t much shown by Boris Johnson yesterday in the Prime Minister’s first major cabinet reshuffle since the Conservatives’ general election victory in December. Julian Smith was the first senior minister to be sacked – he was Northern Ireland Secretary for 204 days. Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom have also lost their jobs as Housing Minister and Business Secretary respectively.
Most ministers were appointed when Mr Johnson became Prime Minister in July, including the only Scottish MP in the Cabinet, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack who retained his position (and his seat in December), as did former MSP Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary.
Britain’s MEPs have now left the European Parliament and the ‘new’ EP has approved a tough opening position for talks with the UK on its future relationship with the EU. MEPs called on the UK to follow EU policies in a host of areas as the price for an ambitious free trade deal. These range from chemicals regulation to climate change, food labelling and subsidies for companies.This should be with ‘a view to dynamic alignment’ – code for the UK adopting European rules as they are introduced.
Yesterday, Scotland’s minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, Kate Forbes MSP, was questioned by MSPs about the 2020/21 draft budget. She appeared before the Finance and Constitution Committee which is scrutinising the tax and spend plans. Ms Forbes presented last week’s budget following the resignation of Finance Secretary Derek Mackay. A former accountant, Ms Forbes has been tipped for promotion to the top finance post. Committee investigations into the Budget will continue for some time before the SNP broker a deal, probably with the Greens, to allow their Budget Bill to pass.
The FT reported that the government has ‘opened talks’ with the ExCeL London venue as a ‘fallback option’. However, the UK government this week insisted that the COP26 climate summit will be held in Glasgow despite the fresh claims that it could move the event to London. The conference is due to be held at the Scottish Events Campus between 9 and 19 November, but there have been concerns about spiralling costs amid claims that the UK and Scottish governments have been at loggerheads over planning for the event. Staying with the climate summit, Scotland’s First Minister this week insisted that the Glasgow COP26 climate summit will not cause ‘squabbles’ between the Scottish and UK governments. In a speech to a think tank in London, Nicola Sturgeon said her government would work ‘closely and constructively’ with its UK counterparts. UK cabinet minister Michael Gove told the same event that the two governments were working together ‘very well’.
And finally … The new town of Shawfair, just south-east of Edinburgh, received a major boost this week as it was announced that Midlothian Council is partnering with Swedish state-owned energy firm, Vattenfall to install a district heating network within the town centre. The low temperature system, which is expected to be operational in 2021, will generate a carbon emission saving of 75 per cent compared to conventional gas boiler heating.
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