Please see below (or click here for pdf) for the February 2016 Scotland Monitor – an essential guide to one month of Scottish current affairs in 10 minutes reading time, and packed with additional key articles, data and reports. We are currently providing this publication on a complimentary basis during a pilot period. For more policy news see the “latest news” section on our website. If you have any queries about this document or the CSPP, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Fiscal Framework Deal
After numerous rounds of talks the UK and Scottish Governments reached a fiscal settlement to underpin the devolution of new welfare and tax powers to Scotland. Negotiations had stalled on several points, including the mechanism for calculating the level of funding Scotland should receive from the UK after the transfer of the powers. The agreed settlement retains the Barnett Formula for calculating Scotland’s block grant from the UK, and will be reviewed after five years.
- The agreement between the Scottish government and the United Kingdom government on the Scottish government’s fiscal framework
- Scotland’s future funding deal published
- Fiscal framework deal: who gave ground?
- Who said what? Round-up of reaction to the fiscal framework deal
Scottish Budget and Local Government Funding
The SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament passed the Scottish Government’s 2016 – 2017 budget despite parliamentary opposition. The vote was preceded by a protest outside the parliament by public sector trade unions, who said that cuts to local government funding would adversely impact schools and services. Deputy First Minister John Swinney highlighted extra funding to close the attainment gap in schools and support for the integration of health and social care. The council tax freeze will also be maintained, after local councils accepted the Scottish Government’s funding deal on the policy.
- MSPs agree 2016-17 Scottish budget after Holyrood debate
- Unison members protest against allocation for local government funding
- Councils accept Scottish government funding deal but warn of future cuts
Scottish Parliamentary Elections
The SNP and Labour, the two largest parties in the current parliament, have been making pitches to voters on tax policy ahead of the dissolution of Holyrood on 23rd March. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised to reform local government funding, hinting at progressive reform of the council tax and the devolution of a portion of income tax to local councils. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale meanwhile has pledged a 1p income tax increase to help offset cuts to public spending. The election takes place on 5 May.
- First Minister announces reforms to local government funding
- Scottish Labour calls for Scottish income tax rise
- Resolution Foundation analysis of Scottish Labour’s income tax policy
- Grayling Guide to Scottish politics in 2016
- What Scotland Thinks: summary of Holyrood opinion polls
With Prime Minister David Cameron’s renegotiation deal complete, the European Referendum date has been announced for 23rd June 2016. Campaigning across the UK is now underway to persuade voters to leave or remain in the EU. The balance of opinion in Scotland has come under greater scrutiny, with pro-remain figures north and south of the border claiming that a “leave” vote in England could trigger the breakup of the UK if Scotland votes “remain”. With immigration a key topic in the referendum, divisions on the issue have also been highlighted recently by MSPs, who are requesting the reinstatement the post-study work visa in Scotland.
- Sturgeon: EU exit could trigger demand for Scottish independence referendum
- MSPs call on UK government to reinstate post-study work visa
- What the UK Thinks: EU poll of polls
- Is Scotland really keen on the EU?
- YouGov: Eurosceptic Map of Britain
Health Recruitment Challenges
Statistics suggest that nearly a quarter of GP surgeries in some areas of Scotland are struggling to fill vacancies, leading to concerns over future health service recruitment. The Scottish Government has announced an additional £27m to train more doctors, nurses and midwives over the next five years.
- Scotland faces 'real challenges' in recruiting GPs over next decade
- First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveils £27million funding package to help GP recruitment
Economic Growth and Inequality
A variety of surveys and indicators suggest growth and business confidence is marginally positive at the beginning of the year. ONS figures also show that Scottish employment levels in Q4 2015 reached a record high. However, the Scotland Institute has found that Scots are experiencing greater household debt since the 2008 recession, while inequality of asset wealth has also grown.
- Scottish economy 'just in growth'
- FSB Scotland: Q4 2015 Voice of Business Index
- Huge rise in Scottish household debt as result of recession
- ONS figures show Scottish employment at record high
Official Reports and Briefings