Domestic policies returned to the floor of the Scottish Parliament this week as MSPs backed the principle of raising income tax to fund investment in public services, despite an SNP abstention in the final vote. Scottish Labour put forward a motion for debate aimed at forcing the parties to “pick a side” on the issue, but the SNP, which has said it has an “open mind” on tax rises, abstained so as not to “prejudge” the debate on tax ahead of the budget. The Greens and Lib Dems backed Labour, meaning the non-binding motion passed. The Tories, who are firmly opposed to income tax rises, voted against.
The temperature has been rising in the Scottish Labour leadership race between centrist millionaire Anas Sarwar MSP and pro-Corbyn left-winger Richard Leonard MSP. Responding to press queries, Anas Sarwar has denied being “one of the few” as he defended his family’s firm over its failure to pay the real living wage to all staff. The Glasgow MSP said United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd did not pay everyone the real living wage of £8.45 an hour because it was “voluntary”, but he said a Labour government would make the wage mandatory for all firms.
Brexit is never far away and, the Scottish and Welsh governments have published proposals for changing the legislation that will take the UK out of the EU. Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones claim the EU Withdrawal Bill is a “power grab” of devolved responsibilities, but in a letter to the Prime Minister, the two first ministers said their amendments would allow the bill to “work with, not against, devolution”.
In a speech in Paraguay this week, Scottish Secretary David Mundell has set out how leaving the EU will transform the UK’s trade with the rest of the world. In a speech during a trade visit at the Diplomatic Academy, attended by senior members of the Paraguayan government, Mr Mundell focused on strengthening ties between Scotland and Paraguay, and the future of international trade as we leave the EU. He also spoke, on the third anniversary of the 2014 independence vote, about Scottish politics and working with the Scottish Government on Brexit.
Meanwhile, the short conference recess has focused the mind on MPs’ speeches somewhat. Commons authorities have said that Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid is one of just three newly elected MPs, from this June’s snap General Election, still to make their maiden speech. The Conservative MP beat the SNP’s Dr Eilidh Whiteford and is the only Scottish MP among the trio.
The conference bandwagon moves on from the Lib Dems in Bournemouth to the Labour party in Brighton which started yesterday. The Tories gather in Manchester at the end of next week.
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 McLauchlan on 07734 932578
If you enjoyed this issue of Scottish Political Insider, sign-up to receive it directly to your inbox every Friday (link opens in a new tab).