17 March

Ania Lewandowska

17 March

“Now is not the time”, Theresa May repeated yesterday, over and over again, signaling that the request for a second Scottish referendum on independence to take place between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019 will be rejected. The Prime Minister called on the Scottish Government and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to focus on working together to secure a good Brexit deal for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Needless to say, May’s words were a red rag to a bull for Nicola Sturgeon and we didn’t have to wait long for a strongly worded response. She saidblocking a referendum would be a “democratic outrage”. She added: “You know history may look back on today and see it as the day the fate of the union was sealed.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson appeared at a press conference in Edinburgh with Scottish Secretary David Mundell MP, who told the media “we will not be entering into discussions or negotiations about a Section 30 agreement and any request at this time will be declined”.

More strong statements are expected this weekend as SNP supporters gather in Aberdeen for the party’s two-day conference. Angus Robertson, who leads the party at Westminster, is expected to say the Conservatives are “scared” of giving Scots the chance to vote on independence.

Next Tuesday, Scotland’s first minister will stage a two day debate on the referendum question in the Scottish Parliament. A vote on a motion to ask parliament in Westminster and Holyrood to agree a Section 30 order is scheduled for Wednesday.

In other news, apparently there are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were. Irish or not, if you are looking for a reason to celebrate today, you can join millions of people across the world who will raise a pint of Guinness in honour of the patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!

 

NEWS

In a rare public statement, GCHQ has dismissed a claim that British spies were employed to bug Trump Tower as “utterly ridiculous”. The agency’s response comes after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited claims first made on US TV channel Fox News earlier this week. Yesterday, a US senate committee concluded that there were “no indications” Trump Tower was under surveillance by the US government before or after the election.

“Brexit ambassadors”, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge embark on the first of two European visits today. They will travel to Paris at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It will be Prince William’s first official visit to the French capital since his mother Princess Diana’s death, in 1997. The itinerary includes a reception for young French leaders and a formal dinner at the British Embassy. In July, Prince William and Kate will tour Poland and Germany. (£)

The Marine Conservation Society has relegated haddock from the North Sea and West Scotland from its recommended “green” list of fish to eat, after stocks fell below the acceptable levels in 2016. Action had to be taken to increase the number of breeding age fish, which is one of the UK’s “big five” marine species eaten, alongside cod, tuna, salmon and prawns. However, Scottish fishermen’s representatives reacted angrily to the downgrade, accusing the MCS of “dressing advocacy up as science”.

 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7bn takeover bid for Sky is to be investigated by the media regulator as Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has referred the proposed takeover of Sky by 21st Century Fox, the US entertainment giant, to Ofcom. The regulator now has 40 working days to decide whether the bid for Sky, the owner of Sky News, should go ahead and determine whether the takeover would give the media mogul too much control of news output in the UK and whether the Murdoch family are “fit and proper” owners following the phone-hacking scandal.

Canada Goose shares surged in their debut after the high-end coat maker went public with a richer valuation than its global peers, despite animal rights activists attempting to spoil the party. Canada Goose Holdings Inc’s shares surged as much as 40 per cent in their market debut on Thursday after the coat manufacturer raised $256 million in an initial public offering. Founded in a small Toronto warehouse 60 years ago, Canada Goose was acquired by private equity firm Bain Capital in 2013. (£)

Toyota has announced that its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire will be upgradedto accommodate production of vehicles on its new global platform, thanks to an investment of £240 million. The move is part of a global programme to ensure all of its plants can produce vehicles on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform (£)

 

MARKETS

The London market hit new record highs yesterday as investors reacted to Wednesday’s interest rate rise by the US Federal Reserve.

The benchmark FTSE 100 rose 47.31 points to a high of 7,415.57.

Mining companies dominated the FTSE risers, with Anglo American topping the leaders’ board with an eight per cent increase. Its shares were boosted after Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal said he would buy a stake worth up to £2bn in the diamond and platinum miner.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals was the biggest loser, falling almost five per cent to £21.89, after JPMorgan cut its outlook on the company to “neutral”.

Sterling hit a two-week dollar high of $1.2373 yesterday, up 0.6%, after the latest interest rate decision from the Bank of England.

Finals 
Baillie Gifford Shin Nippon plc (BGS) 
React Group Plc (REAT)

AGMs 
Chemring Group plc (CHG) 
Premier African Minerals Limited (PREM) 
Toro Ltd (TORO)

Trading Announcements
Berkeley Group Holdings plc (BKG) 
Goodwin plc (GDWN) 
Investec Plc (INVP) 
Sthree Plc (STHR)

UK Economic Announcements
(12:00) BoE Interest Rate Decision

Int. Economic Announcements
(13:15)Capacity Utilisation (US) 
(13:15) Industrial Production (US) 
(14:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)

 

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Writing in the Times, Theresa May has accused the SNP of forcing a “fundamentally unfair” independence referendum that would damage Brexit negotiations. May is trying to strike optimistic tone saying, “Britain’s best days lie ahead”. Prime Minister leaves no doubt she is determined to save the UK first and foremost.

David Pratt, a foreign correspondent for over 20 years, specialising in conflict humanitarian and security issues writes in the Herald about his latest visit to the frontlines around the Iraqi Mosul. His piece focuses on the means of war and “the grisly damage landmines and similar devices can do and how easy it is to fall victim to them”. As someone who visited warzones many times Pratt recalls close encounter with a booby-trap grenade in the 80s and admits that no one knows how many deadly devices IS has left behind. He concludes: “These are weapons that don’t recognise ceasefires and lie in wait for their victims long after the end of conflicts.”

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Picasso was exceptionally prolific throughout his long lifetime. The total number of artworks he produced has been estimated at 50,000, comprising 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.

 

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY

House of Commons
No business scheduled.

House of Lords
No business scheduled.

Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled.

MONDAY

House of Commons
Oral questions 
Education, including Topical Questions

House of Lords
Oral questions 
* Age UK’s report on the state of social care in England “The Health and Care of Older People in England 2017” — Baroness Wheeler 
* Impact of any hospital closures resulting from the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans on Accident and Emergency — Baroness Pitkeathley 
* Government’s programme for negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU — Lord Spicer 
* Assessment of recent developments in Syria — Baroness Cox

Legislation 
Digital Economy Bill — Report stage (day 2) — Lord Ashton of Hyde

Orders and regulations
Non-Domestic Rating (Rates Retention) and (Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 — Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled.