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.

Building Safety Unit research reveals scale of the cladding challenge

Building Safety Unit research reveals scale of the cladding challenge

New research conducted by YouGov and commissioned by BECG, has found that 75 percent of people in the UK believe the government could either have done more (17 percent) or has not done enough (58 percent) to ensure the removal of flammable cladding from residential buildings since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017.  

Almost two thirds (6percent) of people, including 56 percent of Conservative voters, back further Government support for funding to carry out works on any residential building, privately or publicly owned, to bring them in line with current fire safety regulations. This includes the removal of unsafe cladding on buildings under 18 meters, with 63 percent of people believing that the height-based allocation of funding thus far has been unfair.  

The report also reveals that 62 percent of Londoners think that the cladding scandal has affected public confidence in new build housing, compared to just 40 percent of people in the North of England and 37 percent in the Midlands and Wales. 

The news comes as MPs debated the Fire Safety Bill in Parliament last night (24 February), reviewing the amendments proposed by the House of Lords. The Amendment to protect leaseholders and tenants from paying remediation costs was also rejected, by 340-225 in favour of a government motion not to back the amendment. Home Office Minister, Kit Malthouse pointed out the recent government announcement of an additional £3.5 billion reflects the commitment of the Government to provide leaseholders with “peace of mind and financial certainty”. Mr Malthouse suggested that the Fire Safety Bill “is not the correct place for remediation costs to be addressed”, but rather the Building Safety Bill which is set to be introduced in the spring.

Jennifer Riddell Carpenter, Director of the Building Safety Unit at BECG, commented:  

These results demonstrate the scale of the challenge for Government as it addresses the systemic failings in the building control system over multiple decades. The Governments latest package of support, announced on 10th February, extended the funding to remove cladding from buildings over 18 metres to £5blnbut did not cover buildings beneath this height. 

This polling, conducted after the extension of funding was announced, demonstrates that the public remain concerned about the fairness of a scheme that does not cover lower rise buildings whilst supporting further Government funding being made available.

For more information go to becg.com/building-safety-unit. 

BECG awarded data security certification ISO 27001

BECG awarded data security certification ISO 27001

​Our clients can be confident that their data is secure with our latest certification, the ISO 27001 awarded by the UK’s leading ISO certification body, QMS International.

ISO 27001 is the internationally recognised standard for Information Security which is published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The accreditation shows our commitment to ensuring adequate security controls are in place to protect data from being accessed, corrupted, lost or stolen. And demonstrates compliance with internationally recognised standards of information security.

This latest ISO certification complements our existing ISO certifications for ISO9001 (Quality Management Systems) and ISO14001 (Environmental Management Systems), as well as Cyber Essentials.

Data security is a top priority at BECG and we have invested in the very best systems, software and training in order to protect our clients’ data and the data we process as a business. We conduct regular audits and risk assessments and ensure that information is only accessible to authorised persons which protects the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data.

– David Smith, IT Manager

 

Our certification number is: 357142021 and our certificate can be viewed here.

If you would like to discuss how we are protecting your data, then please email us to find out more.