13. Weekly Newsletter

New First Minister of Scotland

Humza Yousaf MSP on Tuesday (27th March) was elected as the new leader of the Scottish National party (SNP) and will shortly take the role of First Minister of Scotland. The 37 year-old health secretary won a final round ballot of SNP members (52.1% versus 47.9%) and was seen as a strong defender of the former First Minister of Scotland’s (Sturgeon) progressive policies on social issues.

Sturgeon, who resigned on the 15th of February for a variety of reasons, will continue in the role of a member of the Scottish Parliament. Downing Street stated that PM Sunak was looking forward to working with the new leader on the “issues that matter to people” such as reducing inflation and dealing with the cost of living crisis. Scottish independence is not being considered by Westminster and polling shows a similar unionist majority to the 2014 referendum.

Newspapers & UK Strikes

The UK’s front page news cycle over the last seven days has covered a wide range of topics with no singular domestic issue dominating the headlines. The ongoing investigation into whether former PM Johnson misled Parliament during the pandemic continues to capture the attention of newspapers. Elsewhere, HM King Charles’s State Visit to France has been postponed due to continued mass strikes and social unrest as a result of the French president pushing to increase the nation’s retirement age to 64. Some of the newspaper front pages over the last week were:

  • The Independent: SNP turmoil delays dream of independent Scotland
  • The Scotsman: Yousaf faces uphill battle to unite a divided party
  • The Guardian: NHS chiefs sound alarm on spiralling staff shortages
  • The Independent: No tax cuts in 2023 as interest rate climbs to 14-year high
  • The Times: Johnson fights for his future
  • Financial Times: Falling life expectancy triggers delay to raising of state pension age to 68
  • The Times: ‘Toxic’ Met (police) faces being broken up

On Monday (27th March) the National Education Union announced plans to reject a new pay offer (4.5% increase and £1,000 one-off cash payment) for teachers which would trigger further public sector strikes in the coming months. The PCS union also had 130,000 civil servants vote to strike in April following the offer of a 2-3% pay increase (compared to demands of 10%, better pensions, job security and no cuts to redundancy terms).

Interest Rate to 4.25%

On Thursday (23rd March), the Bank of England (BoE) announced an 11th consecutive increase in its base rate from 4% to 4.25%. This represents the highest interest rates in the UK for 14 years and comes as the BoE announced that they were no longer expecting the UK to enter a technical recession in 2023. Additionally, the BoE judged UK banks to be “well placed to continue supporting the economy in a wide range of economic scenarios” given the “resilient” capital ratios of the sector.

The increase follows the announcement that the inflation rate rose to 10.4%, unexpectedly, in February. This represents an almost 40 year peak for the UK and sits five times above the official BoE target of an annual inflation rate of 2%. Higher inflation levels were attributed to increased drink, food, clothing and footwear prices as retail sales continue to outperform expectations- now surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

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