This week, Nicola Sturgeon gave a resignation speech that took the media, the commentariat and even SNP insiders by surprise. In a shock speech delivered on Wednesday morning, the Scottish First Minister told a group of reporters and national media that she would not be continuing, and triggered the process to select a new leader.
Sturgeon’s resignation immediately polarised political commentators. Allies close to her praised a lifetime of political service, her commitment to Scotland and the cause for independence, as well as knowing when the time to leave was. Many in Westminster noted her stellar electoral record over her eight years as First Minister. Others however noted Sturgeon to be a deeply divisive character in UK politics, leaving a less than stellar legacy on Scotland’s economy, crime and healthcare - topped by a failed campaign of secession from the UK.
Much speculation has been made as to what triggered such an abrupt exit however. While many pointed to Sturgeon’s doubling-down on her Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which sought to make it legally easier for citizens to change their own gender. The attention that this Bill attracted crystallised when the SNP got themselves into hot water over a trans-woman being placed in an all-female prison. Others pointed to more macro-factors that have led to the incremental decline in Sturgeon’s popularity, such as higher taxes and more stringent regulation making Scotland a hostile environment for business. CalComms will stay across the race for who will replace Sturgeon in the top Scottish job over the coming weeks - with Health Minister Hamza Yousef and SNP heavyweight Angus MacDonald currently with their fingers in the water.
Beyond Sturgeon’s resignation however, it has been all quiet on the Westminster front, as MPs headed back to their constituencies for recess. CalComms has used this recess to get our steps in, visiting clients across the country and engaging with local communities on planning projects.
On Tuesday, the Corporate Affairs team travelled to Birmingham to visit a life science and health research client that provides laboratory and research space for UK and international life sciences concepts. The client aims to lead the West Midlands’ Levelling-Up efforts by positioning the region as a viable alternative outside of the Oxford / Cambridge / London ‘Golden Triangle’.
On Thursday, members of the CalComms Local Government team were in Cheadle, speaking to local communities about the benefits of clean energy storage being constructed in the area, bringing jobs and boosting the UK’ clean energy deposits. On Friday, the team are in West Suffolk, talking to locals about affordable, sustainable homes being built in the area which will be a sizeable boost to the local economy.
The Local Government team also celebrated a huge win this week - with a planning application being approved to build battery storage facilities in the Wychavon area in Worcestershire. The project is expected to bring huge economic benefits to the district, with the longer team ambition of bringing down energy bills in the UK.
Next week, it is back to it - with some deja vu of the UK Prime Minister attempting to rally DUP MPs to support changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a long-term agreement between the EU and the UK to replace what was supposed to be a temporary Northern Ireland Protocol. The PM is likely to enter fierce negotiations with the DUP, as well as have the job of facing scrutiny from the European Research Group too. Fresh from a surprise trip to Kyiv, Keir Starmer will face the PM in their first post-recess PMQs, where high on the agenda will be more strikes announced in March and April, as well as the UK’s wider economic performance.