8. Weekly Newsletter

First Minister of Scotland Resigns

The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, resigned last week (15th February) which will trigger the party’s first leadership contest in almost 20 years. The SNP control 45 (of 59) Scottish seats in the House of Commons and are in control of the Scottish Parliament with 64 (of 129) seats. The SNP are a Scottish nationalist and social democratic political party who led the campaign for Scottish independence in 2014. However, Sturgeon has faced numerous political setbacks in 2023 following a supreme court defeat for independence and a controversial row over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The Economist labelled Sturgeon’s resignation as further evidence of Britain’s “great moderation” away from more contentious politicians. However, Sturgeon achieved favourable ratings throughout most of her 7 year reign as leader of the SNP amongst the Scottish public. The race to become the new leader of the SNP (and Scottish First Minister) has also now begun with Kate Forbes, Scotland’s finance and economy secretary, the current favourite according to bookmakers.

Newspapers & Politics

The UK’s front page news cycle over the last seven days has covered a wide range of topics with analysis of a missing person in Lancashire who vanished over three weeks leading the majority of headlines. Elsewhere, PM Sunak is working to further improve relations with the EU by looking into arrangements on the Norther Ireland protocol. Finally, the cost of living continues to feature throughout news coverage and the annual results of Centrica (who own British Gas) reported a tripling of profits to £3.3bn. Some of the newspaper front pages over the last week were:

  • Financial Times: Poland calls for NATO to guarantee Ukraine’s security after end of war
  • The Observer: Johnson threatens Sunak’s bid to end deadlock over Brexit
  • The Independent: Sunak’s call to arms- Now is the time to double down on weapons for Ukraine
  • The Guardian: PM faces Tory rebellion on Northern Ireland protocol
  • Financial Times Weekend: European gas price hits 18-month low
  • The Guardian: Sturgeon exit delays vote on independence ‘by five years’
  • The Times: Sunak holds Belfast talks to sell his Brexit deal
  • The Daily Telegraph: Sturgeon brought down by trans row
  • The Guardian: Sturgeon quits citing brutality in politics
  • The Times: Back me or leave party, Starmer tells Labour’s left
  • The Daily Telegraph: Police use of Chinese drones ‘risks UK security’
  • Financial Times: Overseas bets on Vodafone mount as Liberty Global takes £1.2bn stake

The resignation of Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, has led to the opposition (and unionist) Labour Party to suggest that they may retake support back from the SNP at the next election. One Labour candidate for the next election estimated that the resignation could represent an extra 14 to 16 seats as susceptible to retaking due to the potential lost vote share for the SNP due to Sturgeon’s popularity. In the days following Sturgeon’s resignation, the Scottish Labour Party hosted their planned annual conference. The party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, stated that he would shift power from London and that the path to a Labour victory “must run through Scotland”.

FTSE100 at Record High

The UK’s FTSE100 last week (16th February) closed at above 8,000 points for the first time in history with CNBC describing the success as “Boring is the new sexy”. This was attributed to the FTSE100 being disproportionately exposed to energy, commodities, finance, consumer staples and healthcare companies. So far, in 2023, the blue chip index is up 7.5% as the UK (along with Europe) experiences a faster than expected cooling of inflation. Additionally, the capital in January saw a record £572.2m invested into commercial property which is the best performing January since 2016.

This week, annual results from many of the UK’s largest companies are due to be announced:

Tuesday (21st February):

  • HSBC Holdings Plc
  • Standard Chartered Plc

Wednesday (22nd February):

  • Lloyds Banking Group Plc
  • Rio Tinto Plc

Thursday (23rd February):

  • BAE Systems Plc
  • Anglo American Plc
  • Howden Joinery  Group Plc
  • Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc
  • Serco Group Plc
  • WPP Plc
  • Morgan Sindall Group Plc

Friday (24th February):

  • Jupiter Fund Management
  • International Airlines

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