Join the PubAffairs Network

Established in January 2002, PubAffairs is the premier network and leading resource for the public affairs, government relations, policy and communications industry.

The PubAffairs network numbers over 4,000 members and is free to join. PubAffairs operates a general e-Newsletter, as well as a number of other specific group e-Newsletters which are also available to join by completing our registration form.

The PubAffairs e-Newsletters are used to keep members informed about upcoming PubAffairs events and networking opportunities, job vacancies, public affairs news, training courses, stakeholder events, publications, discount offers and other pieces of useful information related to the public affairs and communications industry.

Join the Network

This week marked the 20th anniversary of the 1997 devolution referendum, the result of which ultimately led to the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament less than two years later.

I’m a little young to go into detail about the highs and lows of that referendum campaign, but it was clearly a seminal moment in Scottish politics - but surprisingly the marking of the anniversary this week passed with little fanfare.  

The more cynical amongst us might suggest that the memory of sworn political enemies working together was a little too much for our modern politicians to embrace. However, I suspect the real reason may be more mundane and that the champagne is being kept on ice until the 20th anniversary of the reconvening of Parliament itself in 2019.

Whilst there were no parties in the streets, our politicians did seek to mark the anniversary in true political style.

Instead of a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday and the promise of cake for all, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon marked the anniversary by delivering a stark warning that the UK Government’s Brexit proposals were the biggest threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament since its establishment. Clearly she wasn’t in the mood to party. Conservative leader Ruth Davidson wasn’t much better as she also couldn’t resist the opportunity for a pop at her political opponents outlining the years of educational decline in Scotland.

Hardly the celebrations that one might have expected but perhaps our politicians were doing their best to prove Donald Dewar wrong when he said the result of the 1997 devolution “…does, I hope end much argument and dispute.” Not much chance of that.

Following the brief period of reflection and the candles on the cake fully extinguished, the Parliament was in full swing this week to deliver on the Programme for Government that had been outlined the previous week. On Wednesday Brexit Minister Mike Russell got to his feet to say that he would not ask MSPs to give consent to Westminster’s EU Withdrawal at this stage and instead would seek to amend the bill. Previous talks between the Scottish Government and UK Government on Brexit have not been particularly productive and there is no reason to think the next round of talks will be any different.

Hot on the heels of Russell’s remarks was a statement by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay who outlined the Government’s intention to implement the vast majority of recommendations made by the Barclay Review on business rates. Proposals to exempt new build properties from paying rates until occupied have been welcomed by those in Scotland’s real estate sector and there was also welcome news for certain businesses in Aberdeen who will have rate rises capped as they continue to deal with the fallout of a low oil price.

With a fairly quiet summer recess, the First Minister and her MSPs will want to push ahead with their legislative programme but they still seem unable to shake off Police Scotland – the unwanted birthday party guest - who seem to lurch from one crisis to the next.

But in this anniversary week we must not forget that our Parliament is still young – how many of us had fulfilled our potential by the age of 20? I suspect very few. So the coming years will be the toughest test for those at Holyrood to deliver on the aspirations so forcefully set out by the Scottish people twenty years ago.