Fewer weeks than this prove the adage, attributed to the late Harold Wilson, that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. We always try to be fair with our summaries but even Perceptive’s finely tuned wordsmiths could be close to running out of superlatives after the antics at Westminster which has seen two former Chancellors and Churchill’s grandson expelled from the Conservative Party – ‘permanently’ – and even the PM’s own brother resigning in despair.
On Wednesday, MPs backed a bill aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Opposition MPs and Tory rebels ensured the bill passed by 327 votes to 299. It was never really in doubt after Tuesday night’s victory for the Brexit rebels, but half of their work is now done. Their bill – which would force the prime minister to go to the EU and ask for an extension to the UK’s membership if there’s no progress by 19 October. Incidentally, all 13 Scottish Tory MPs voted with the PM.
Boris Johnson also had to get the backing of two-thirds of MPs this week to call an election and he failed. In large part, that’s because opposition parties don’t trust him. Jeremy Corbyn says he is personally spoiling for an election; Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson told the PM “bring it on”. But they, along with the SNP and others, want to see no deal categorically ruled out before they’ll commit. They want to make sure, for example, that Mr Johnson couldn’t just hold an election on 15 October, win it and then march the country out on 31 October.
Weary voters out there, don’t breathe a sigh of relief though – an election, eventually, is all but inevitable. It is just a question of when.
Closer to home and the Scottish Tories will be in no rush to start the contest to replace Ruth Davidson. Early media speculation tips newly appointed Deputy Liam Kerr or bright West Scotland spark Maurice Golden as possible runner. Former Deputy Murdo Fraser – the Ken Clarke of Scottish Tory contests – may try again, especially if Jackson Carlaw, once again interim leader as the current deputy, decides not to go for the top job permanently.
Meanwhile First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to stamp her size 5s to demand Holyrood be given the power to hold a second independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon confirmed to MSPs that she would “seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge”.
As she unveiled her government’s plans for the year, she said the parliament had a clear, democratic mandate. Boris Johnson has indicated his opposition to a second vote on Scotland leaving the UK. Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament it “now seems inevitable that there will be an early UK general election”. She added: “Let me be crystal clear – the SNP will put Scotland’s opposition to Brexit and our right to choose independence at the very heart of that contest.”
Directly elected mayors or provosts for Scotland’s seven cities would boost growth and improve local decision-making, the Scottish Conservatives have said. Making a keynote speech this week, Shadow Finance Secretary and potential leadership contender Murdo Fraser MSP said the Scottish Government should follow England’s lead in creating the elected positions. He told the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation that “at the very least” Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Inverness and Stirling should be given the opportunity to appoint mayoral representatives. The changes south of the border have been a success, he added, and Scotland failing to follow suit was a “substantial weakness”.
Two new MSPs were sworn in on Tuesday as the Scottish Parliament resumed business after the summer recess. They were Lib Dem Beatrice Wishart, who held the Shetland seat vacated by former leader Tavish Scott, and Lothian list Labour MSP Sarah Boyack. Ms Boyack was previously an MSP from 1999 until losing her seat in 2016. She returns to Holyrood after a spell working as Head of Policy for the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.
After a hat-trick of political visits for Perceptive clients last week, this week included client, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) meeting Tory MSP Maurice Golden to discuss the future of industrial biotechnology. This morning long standing client Kier Regional Building Scotland welcomesFirst Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to the Citizens Theatre – officially marking the start of their work on the major redevelopment of this landmark building.
And finally…Good luck to all those taking part in the Buccleuch Property Challenge today. Over 70 teams will compete in a six hour adventure race at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway, raising money for Seamab, a charity supporting vulnerable children in Perth and Kinross.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org