The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2021-22

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2021-22

 

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2021-22 (PfG) not only sets out its legislative and policy plans for the next 12 months, but also sets the tone for the next five years.

By examining the events surrounding the publication of the PfG, as well as the document itself, we can learn a lot about the politics of this Parliament and identify potential influencing opportunities.

In its analysis, L1 has focussed the following policy areas:

  • Planning
  • Energy
  • Housing
  • Environment
  • Waste Management
  • Retail

If you would like further insight on any of these areas, or in an area not addressed in this document, please contact Suzi Martin.

 

Fill out the below to read our analysis.

What to expect in the Programme for Government 2021-22

What to expect in the Programme for Government 2021-22

 

Next week the Scottish Government will publish its first Programme for Government of the 2021-2026 parliamentary term. Not only will it set out the Government’s legislative and policy plans for the next 12 months, but it will also set the tone for the next five years. So, what can businesses expect from the Programme for Government 2021-22?

First and foremost, we can expect a continued focus on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The First Minister was at pains during the election campaign to convince voters that she would prioritise pandemic recovery over a Scottish independence referendum, so this will undoubtedly be front and centre.

For business and industry there is unlikely to be anything groundbreaking on this front, as rates relief for many sectors has already been extended. The SNP manifesto did commit to a new Retail Strategy to bring confidence back to the sector, which has been hit hard by both the pandemic and Brexit. However, a number of Bills and strategies were already delayed before the election, so this could affect the number of new strategies we see in this Programme for Government.

Close behind pandemic recovery is Net Zero. With COP26 just around the corner and a new co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens, we can expect a laser sharp focus from the Scottish Government on what it needs to do to achieve Net Zero by 2045. The Scottish Government delayed a number of key policies that will support the drive to Net Zero, giving the Opposition cause for criticism. As such, the Programme for Government will seek to refocus efforts on this issue.

One such example is the Circular Economy Bill, which was delayed because of the pandemic. This Bill has seen a resurgence in interest from MSPs since the election, driven by the Opposition which is highly critical of the Government’s approach to the waste hierarchy. To take the heat out the Opposition’s arguments, it is likely that this year’s Programme for Government will commit to bringing forward the Bill sooner rather than later.

Other net zero related policy issues which we can expect to feature are low carbon heating and renewable energy. The Scottish Government will want to finalise its draft Heat in Buildings Strategy this year so it can begin the enormous task of decarbonising domestic heating, a process which must involve housing developers. Scotland’s Fourth National Planning Framework is also due to be published, which will give the Government scope to stretch its renewable energy targets.

Finally, the ‘Just Transition’ to a greener economy is unavoidable, not least because of the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens and the ongoing dispute over Cambo oil field. Understandably, stakeholders in the oil and gas sector are nervous about the Scottish Government’s Net Zero target and what it means for jobs. But with the Scottish Greens now holding influence, we can expect more robust action on this issue than may otherwise have been the case.

If you are interested in receiving more information and analysis on what to expect in the Programme for Government, please contact us here.

Another year, another consultation on short-term lets licensing

Another year, another consultation on short-term lets licensing

 

Developing sound policy means talking to a lot of different people with differing viewsBut even to a policy geek like myself, three consultations on the same issue in the space of three years seems excessive. Yet the Scottish Government has indeed launched a third consultation on the issue of short-term lets licensing, just over two years after its first consultation in April 2019 

Without a doubt the rapid increase in short-term lets has put pressure on certain communities in Scotland. These pressures can range from increased property prices and rental coststo the loss of a sense of community. 

But these perceived negatives have to be weighed against the positives. Before the outbreak of Covid-19, Scotland’s tourism industry was generating around £11 billion of economic activity per year. Yes, short-term lets represent only one aspect of the sector, but it is a rapidly growing area. 

Research commissioned by Airbnb indicates that activity on its platform alone contributed around £677 million to the Scottish economy in 2019. Between 2016 and 2019 there was a three-fold increase in the number of Airbnb listings in Scotland. Yet, despite their growing number, there is very little regulation of such properties.

The problem the Scottish Government has with introducing regulation is that there is no agreed definition of short-term letting. This ambiguity led to bed and breakfast accommodation, serviced aparthotels and others being swept up into a ‘one size fits all’ approach when former Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP laid the 2020 Licensing Order in December last year. 

Unsurprisingly, the legislation was withdrawn less than two months later, as opposition parties and businesses protested the broadbrush nature of the proposed licensing system, as well as its timing. Businesses and individuals have endured significant financial losses because of the pandemic. There are concerns in the sector that an onerous licensing process for those who provide short-term lets will seriously hamper its ability to recover. 

However, the withdrawal of the legislation and subsequent working group has not resulted in the more nuanced approach many had hoped for. In fact, very little has changed: some serviced accommodation providers are still included in the proposals, and the deadlines for providers have not changed, despite the ongoing uncertainty around travel restrictions. It seems this third consultation is the tourism sector’s last opportunity to have its voice heard. 

 

If your business will be affected by the introduction of a national licensing scheme for short-term lets, L1 is wellplaced to support you in responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation, which is open until 13th August 2021. Please contact us here.

The results are in, and the debate turns to independence….

The results are in, and the debate turns to independence….

After a long weekend of vote counting, the numbers are in and, it’s largely as you were expecting:

Number of seats:

64 (+1)

Number of seats:

31 (=)

Number of seats:

22 (-2)

Number of seats:

8 (+2)

Number of seats:

4 (-1)

A key question has been answered, with the SNP falling just short of the 65 needed for a majority in what was one of the biggest voter turnouts in Holyrood history. Interestingly, only three of the 73 constituencies changed hands, compared to 18 in 2016. But, just showing how close they were, 16 seats were ‘marginal’ i.e. won with a single-digit majority.

Whilst the SNP did not get the majority they so much wanted, pro-Independence parties did win out overall, with the Greens’ eight seats giving a 73-56 parliamentary majority for a referendum on an independent Scotland. The messaging from the SNP and the First Minister over the last 48hrs has already turned to when, not if, a referendum will take place. Current polling though still shows an almost 50/50 split in national support for independence.

Unsurprisingly, the media attention on the political programmes over the weekend turned to the referendum debate, with the UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove MP saying that the focus should remain on Covid. However, when pressed about a future refereed referendum, he said that the UK Government would not take this matter to court if the Scottish Parliament passed legislation for another referendum on independence – let’s watch this space!

As expected, there will now be clear moves afoot by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to look at new waves of investment in Scotland, in the hopes of either delaying the prospect of a second referendum, or laying a stronger foundation for a positive No campaign.

Moving away from the independence debate, in terms of the makeup of the new Government, the SNP’s reliance on the Greens may enable the party to negotiate some Cabinet seats, which could ultimately lead to changes in the Scottish Government’s attitude towards key policy areas including renewable energy. Such changes would depend on the specifics of the arrangement that emerges between the two parties. What will the Cabinet and the new programme of Government look like? We will be following this closely and keeping you updated with any relevant information.

An interesting knock-on impact of the elections is the number of councillors who have been elected to Holyrood. In normal circumstances, various by-elections would be held in those respective local authorities. But with local elections taking place next year, and a swing in those seats potentially impacting who runs those local authorities, we would not be surprised if those councillors held dual roles until next year.

If you have any questions or want detailed analysis on a particular area, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Scotland. The morning after the night before, but without the hangover.

Scotland. The morning after the night before, but without the hangover.

This morning felt significantly different from previous elections, for one, I had a good night’s sleep. There was no all-night TV viewing, no Professor John Curtice and his near cult status analysis, and no excitement of reporters cutting away to town halls to announce results, and most importantly, no exit polls!!This was up there with the disappointment of not being able to watch the Dons at Pittodrie this season or attending any of the six nations games at Murrayfield. But this last year has proven that nothing remains constant or does it.

There is always a sense that the next elections are more important than the last, and I can certainly sense that with yesterday’s election. The key question being will the SNP gain a majority thus providing a platform for the First Minister to seek to dictate the future direction of Scotland? Or will they need to look to their allies, such as their Green friends to support their Manifesto? If the latter, what may they have to concede to get their support?

Whilst Constituency vote counting won’t start until this morning (48 of the 73 constituencies expected to be announced today), with full results of the 129 seats possibly not known till late into Saturday or early Sunday, the early results from today could prove crucial. Will the SNP maintain there hold and defend some of their marginal seats? Or indeed will the opposite start to take shape and thus put their majority at jeopardy? And will tactical voting pay off and benefit the Tories, Labour and the Greens in the Regional votes?

What is clear is that my Friday and Saturday TV viewing is sorted, and I have charged my phone to ensure I get the insightful political analysis via my various WhatsApp groups. Whilst the latter may not be as insightful as Professor John Curtice, the high turn-out shows that there is a clear passion within the people of Scotland, irrespective of political party, to play their own part in the direction of our country. What that will be? Well the next 48hrs will dictate.

Lockdown…has a benefit been the reinvigoration for Local News?

Lockdown…has a benefit been the reinvigoration for Local News?

From heart-warming community stories to construction and property updates, demand for local news has never been higher and the sector is having a much needed moment in the spotlight after a decade of decline.

Much like every other industry, the UK media landscape has had a turbulent year. Having been in steady decline for a number of years, print readership only further plummeted as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, as more people turned to sourcing their news online and from less traditional outlets like social media.

The closure of offices and increase in Londoners leaving the capital for countryside and coast means that freesheets, like Metro and Evening Standard, saw the most significant losses. The former reported a readership loss of 70% from March to April 2020 whilst the latter’s readership fell by almost half, from 800,000 to 423,000.

However, more time spent at home means more interest in our local surroundings and readers have been turning to regional news sources to be kept informed and entertained throughout the pandemic. Research conducted by Comscore during the first lockdown found that more than 2.2m people used local news websites in June 2020 in comparison to January that same year.

The UK’s largest commercial publisher, Reach, gained 3.2m unique users between January – June 2020 across its 60 regional websites, an increase of 9%. JPI Media, which owns The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post among others, also significantly grew its online readership by 15% during the same period.

With the vaccine programme in full swing and the Prime Minister announcing his roadmap to normality, there’s now light at the end of the lockdown-tunnel, but the regional news landscape shows no sign of slowing down. Reach recently announced its plans to recruit 25 new journalists across the UK in a bid to further boost its regional coverage. The roles will be based in big cities Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham but also smaller towns including Warrington, Taunton and Cheltenham, where demand for local news is high.

Nub News, a hyperlocal news network which launched in 2018, also recently announced expansion plans. It currently operates in 62 UK towns but is aiming to increase this to more than 100 over the course of 2021, a move its Founder and Chief Executive, Karl Hancock, says will “enrich and strengthen its role as a record of daily life in our towns, getting to the heart of community issues, frustrations, hopes and joys.”

The media landscape is ever evolving but one thing for certain is its resilience, and whatever new challenges present themselves, you can be sure that it will adapt and overcome.

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please do not hesitate to get in contact with Julia Thomas.