The Scottish Parliament has now started its long summer recess and Chamber business resumes on 4 September. Westminster continues for a few more weeks and the SNP’s Commons Group of 25 MPs has seen a reshuffle, with a shake-up of the front-bench team and MPs taking on new responsibilities. Policy groups, of which all MPs are a member, have also seen changes. This follows the reshuffle of the SNP Scottish Government’s cabinet last week, and the reappointment of Ian Blackford MP and Kirsty Blackman MP as the group’s leadership team at their AGM last week.
Ian Blackford has appointed Stuart McDonald MP to the front bench team to cover Immigration. Deidre Brock MP will take on the role as spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – with Pete Wishart as her deputy- and Gavin Newlands MP will be the SNP’s spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office – covering these key policy areas as the UK attempts to negotiate on Brexit. Other recent appointments include Hannah Bardell MP as the group’s spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Stewart Hosie MP has taken up the role of spokesperson for International Trade and Brendan O’Hara MP is now spokesperson for Social Inclusion.
The Scottish Government is planning a crackdown on junk food in a bid to turn around the country’s “stubbornly unhealthy” diet. Two thirds of adults in Scotland are overweight and 29% are obese, and this has not changed over the last 10 years. Ministers have set out a new diet and health strategy, with a particular focus on cutting childhood obesity, and they are to consult on detailed plans to restrict the promotion and marketing of foods high in salt, sugar and fat. This would target confectionery, biscuits, crisps, cakes, pastries, sugary soft drinks and potentially ice creams, and include restrictions on multi-buy offers, meal deals, unlimited refill deals and where products can be displayed in shops.
IPPR has published a report on the costs associated with a hard Brexit. The price of food and non-alcoholic drinks could rise by 5.3% and the cost of transport by 7.7%. Researchers noted that areas outside of London and South East England tended to be more likely to export goods to the EU, potentially leaving them more exposed to Brexit. The group also concluded that the impact of a soft Brexit would be split broadly equally between men and women, but that women would lose out more from a hard Brexit due to the indirect impact on the service sector.
IPPR has suggested the EU referendum result was partially attributable to “deep and sustained inequalities in the UK” and has called on the UK Government to tackle this issue rather than allowing Brexit to further entrench the problem. The SNP pointed out that cost increases in transport and other areas could disproportionately affect people in Scotland.
And finally … Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster MP has called on Scots to back proposals for a bridge to Northern Ireland. Ms Foster said there was “growing support” for the idea as she addressed an Orange parade in Fife, where she was the main speaker at the Cowdenbeath event, organised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland. The DUP proposed a feasibility study into building a bridge to Scotland in 2015.
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