Crisis? What Crisis?

Thatcher in 1990, Callaghan in 1979.  Two British Prime Ministers who thought that being seen to ‘get on with the job’ was the best way to handle political difficulties at home.  Perhaps it is fitting therefore that Boris Johnson is also out of the country, presumably in part for the same reason.

When the unanimous judgement of the UK Supreme Court was handed down this morning.  The court’s ruling, that there was no reason, let alone a justifiable one, to prorogue Parliament and that the UK Government acted illegally, was as damning in its judgement as it was surprising in its clarity.

As with much of what has happened with Brexit, it is impossible to guess what might happen next.  Immediate calls for his resignation from all sides are predictable, but it is likely that whilst in the New York, the Prime Minister might follow the advice of “America’s Boris” and stick it out, at least in the short term.

What the Opposition chooses to do next will be critical in that determination.  With the media narrative clearly building up to the decision today though it was with a chronic lack of perspective, but entirely unsurprising, that Labour Conference chose to continue petty squabbles and fudge positions.  A clear clarion call this morning of its position would have further increased the pressure but has not yet materialised.   Strong, visual action today could still salvage the situation, but whether the party is capable of that or cedes that group to the SNP, Lib Dems and others remains to be seen.

The guesswork will continue over the coming hours, days and weeks but I suspect the news from the Big Apple will echo both Callaghan and Thatcher, “Crisis? What Crisis?” and “No, No, No.”

Climate change provides centrepiece of Programme for Government

Ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, delivering on the economy and building a fairer country were the central themes of this year’s Programme for Government, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Parliament today (3rd September).

The programme, entitled Protecting Scotland’s Future, includes 14 new bills as well as a raft of non-legislative announcements

Following the First Minister’s acknowledgement of a global climate emergency earlier this year at the SNP Conference, the Programme for Government set out the Scottish Government’s next steps to tackle climate change, including a landmark investment of more than £500 million to improve bus infrastructure across the country to encourage more people to use public transport.

The First Minister also announced plans to decarbonise Scotland’s railways by 2035 through the continued electrification of the network, as well as battery-powered trains and exploring the potential of hydrogen-powered trains. It also proposes making the Highlands and Islands the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040.

She also confirmed the first wave of schools to be built or refurbished through a new £1 billion school investment programme will be announced later this month and an extra £15 million will be provided to help improve additional support for learning.

An additional £20 million of funding will help tackle the public health emergency of drug deaths in Scotland. The Child Payment, which will benefit low income families with young children by £500 each year, will now be introduced by Christmas 2020 – ahead of the original schedule.

Other measures include:

  • a ‘Green New Deal’, harnessing the power of the Scottish National Investment Bank and creating a £3 billion package of investments to attract green finance to Scotland
  • an additional £17m to support the demand for ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs)
  • develop regulations so that new homes from 2024 must use renewable or low carbon heat
  • targeting a minimum of £30 million of support for renewable heat projects
  • making the first Job Start Payments in spring 2020
  • putting in place a Women’s Health Plan to tackle women’s heath inequalities
  • continuing to support mental health, with a 24/7 crisis support service for children and young people and their families, a community wellbeing service enabling self-referral for children and young people and a £5 million investment in a community perinatal mental health service across Scotland
  • taking forward planning to mitigate the worst consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit

The First Minister also confirmed the Referendums Bill will go forward this year and that the Scottish Government will ask, during the passage of the Bill, for the transfer of power to hold an independence referendum within this term of Parliament.

Bills for introduction in 2019-20:

  • Animal Health and Welfare (Amendment) Bill – will increase the maximum penalties for the most serious animal welfare offences to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
  • Budget Bill – Annual legislation which provides parliamentary approval for the Scottish government’s spending plans and allocation of resources.
  • Circular Economy Bill – includes encouraging re-use of products and resource waste. It will allow charges to be applied to single-use coffee cups.
  • Civil Partnership Bill – will make civil partnerships available to mixed-sex couples in Scotland.
  • Continuity Bill – provides ability to maintain alignment with EU law in devolved areas after Brexit.
  • Defamation and Malicious Publications Bill – will simplify and modernise the law of defamation.
  • Uefa European Championship Bill – ahead of Glasgow’s participation as a host city in the Uefa European Football Championships in 2020, the bill will prohibit ticket touting and make provisions to protect commercial interests.
  • Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill – will aim to improve services for victims of sexual offences, including ensuring their cases are handled more effectively by the justice and healthcare systems.
  • Good Food Nation Bill – introduces a statutory framework as part of efforts to promote healthier and more sustainable local produce.
  • Hate Crime Bill – consolidates and updates existing hate crime legislation.
  • Heat Networks Bill – brings regulation of the heat network sector to support, facilitate and create controls in development of district and communal heating infrastructure in Scotland.
  • Redress (Survivors of In Care Abuse) Bill – establishes a financial redress scheme for survivors of historical child abuse whilst in care in Scotland.
  • Rural Support Bill – introduces regulation-making powers for Scottish ministers to amend or replace the EU Common Agricultural Policy elements of retained EU law.
  • Transient Visitor Levy Bill – creates a discretionary power for local authorities to apply a tax or levy on overnight visitor stays.

Alex Orr is Managing Director of Orbit Communications