Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 November 2017

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 November 2017

Scottish Political Insider – Friday 10 November 2017

The long shadow of the Westminster sexual harassment scandal reached Holyrood this week as it claimed its first Scottish politician – Childcare and Early Years Minister Mark McDonald MSP.  He resigned from the Government at the start of the week over previous actions which he said were considered “inappropriate”.  A number of other Scottish politicians across all the parties are believed to be under investigation but no other names have been made public.

By Wednesday, the Scottish Government confirmed Maree Todd (SNP, Highlands & Islands) would replace Mark McDonald. Her new position leaves a place on the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Health and Sport Committee for the SNP to fill.

New figures this week highlighted that Scotland has a significantly lower rate of businesses per head of population than the rest of the UK. The official Businesses in Scotland 2017 report stated there were 393 enterprises for every 10,000 adults north of the border.  However, across the whole UK that figure is much higher at 499. According to the Scottish Conservatives, it means the number of businesses in existence is 27 percent higher across Britain, prompting criticism of the SNP’s track record in helping new enterprises. Shadow Economy Secretary Dean Lockhart MSP has expressed concerns that Scotland will become a less attractive place to set up a new business if the SNP increases tax as threatened.

Returning briefly to Brexit business, the Scottish Government has called on the UK government “to press the reset button,” and to take a new consensual approach to the Brexit negotiations as the country marks 500 days since the EU referendum. At the halfway mark – with 500 days remaining until the UK is set to leave the EU in March 2019 – the SNP has said the UK government must ensure the devolved nations and the main political parties are included in negotiations.

Separately, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) also reiterated calls for unity, and a “single, clear strategy,” in order to protect the UK’s economy and businesses from the dangers of damaging exit from the EU. At their annual conference this week, CBI bosses said that 60% of firms will trigger contingency plans by March next year if there is no transitional deal agreed.

The last Scottish party conference of the year takes place in Dunfermline tomorrow as the Lib Dems gather to reflect on what has, relatively speaking, been a reasonable year for them.  Despite holding steady in the May council elections, they are now sharing in four administrations including the leadership in Argyll and Bute. The party also regained three of the ten Westminster seats lost to the SNP in 2015, taking their Scottish tally to four (out of twelve in the UK as a whole).

A new £4 million self-build loan fund offering financial backing to people who want to build their own homes will be available from next year, housing minister Kevin Stewart has confirmed.  Launched following a successful pilot in the Highlands, the self-build loan fund will be open to applicants nationwide from Autumn 2018 and will support people over the next three years.

Finally, the Scottish Government has announced an important consultation on fire safety in the wake of Grenfell.  In addition to the review of guidance for residential accommodation, two experts will commence a review on building standards.  Professor John Cole will chair the review of enforcement and compliance with building regulation and Dr Paul Stollard will chair a review of fire safety in building standards.

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