This time last week, they didn’t exist, now you can’t escape the newest (non) party in UK Politics.
The new The Independent Group (“The” is part of their name, lest we confuse with any others) currently made up of three pro-remain Conservative MPs and eight Labour MPs who have all resigned from their respected parties over the handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism within Labour – saying it represented “the centre ground of British politics”. So far, no Scottish MPs have joined them but we hear whispers about one or two MSPs who are unhappy with Comrade Corbyn…
Closer to home and SNP MSPs with Green support have voted to pass the final stage of the Scottish Government’s budget for the coming financial year – securing additional funds for the NHS while offering what the SNP term ‘economic stability in the face of Tory Brexit chaos.’ The budget has committed £729 million extra for health and care services, with spending on NHS frontline boards rising by £430 million.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP also announced an £8 billion investment in Scotland’s education system and, as part of the Scottish Government’s plan to almost double the paid-for provision of childcare to 1,140 hours from August 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds, the budget also commits £500 million to support the expansion of early learning services and facilities across Scotland.
Still at Holyrood and SNP MSP Linda Fabiani has been chosen to chair the Holyrood committee inquiry into the government’s handling of complaints against Alex Salmond. Several inquiries were set up after the government admitted its investigation of internal complaints had been flawed. A special committee of nine MSPs set up to examine the government probe met for the first time on Wednesday. However, they will not begin their full inquiry until the criminal case brought against Mr Salmond has been concluded.
The Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee continues its inquiry into the construction industry but, meantime, has published its report on business support for SMEs and the Business Gateway programme. Members argued the programme suffered from a “lack of accountability” on delivering objectives and “limited transparency” on budgeting. The Committee felt Business Gateway should be set externally monitored targets. Members also said Business Gateway sites needed to improve their engagement with stakeholders. Convener, Tory MSP and advocate Gordon Lindhurst, said: “There is a lack of alignment, transparency and accountability in Business Gateway, and we found it unacceptable that local authorities do not consistently record and publish targets or financial information.”
On Monday, our client, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, welcomed several MSP members of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee to their state of the art innovation factory in Hamilton. Midlothian MSP Colin Beattie tried a virtual reality headset and wondered if a VR Holyrood was coming anytime soon!
And on Wednesday, our client, Henry Boot Developments (HBD), hosted a media tour at the multi-million-pound TECA in Aberdeen. The venue is being delivered by Aberdeen City Council, HBD and Robertson and will open this summer, providing a new world-class facility close to Aberdeen International Airport and the new city bypass. We were fortunate enough to join the tour and have a sneak peek inside the 12,500-capacity main arena, which will host conferences, exhibitions and music concerts, and is expected to attract major artists and events to the city, resulting in a hugely positive economic impact.
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