9 October


Good morning,

It’s not how most of us would choose to spend a Sunday morning, but Nicola Sturgeon faced a typically robust Andrew Marr on the BBC yesterday as she opened the SNP’s annual party conference in Glasgow.
Ahead of the gathering, the First Minister will be wrestling with the question of how to hold together a party whose raison d’être of independence was strongly rebuffed in June’s General Election. Indeed, the issue is entirely absent from the formal conference agenda, which may seem curious given her remarks yesterday that the need for independence has “arguably never been greater”.
Speaking to Marr, Sturgeon was instead keen to focus on her party’s governing ambitions, covering its recent ban of fracking, education and economic reform. The first minister also set out plans to pay residency fees for EU citizens working in the Scottish public sector, to send a clear message that “we want them to stay here because we welcome them”.
This will play well with party activists and, as with many of the SNP’s most headline-grabbing policies – including free university tuition and abolition of the bedroom tax in Scotland – may owe its popularity to the Scottish government being seen to un-do the mistakes of an intransigent Tory government south of the border. As deputy leader John Swinney told delegates, “There is chaos on the left, and chaos on the right. And through it all, the SNP government stands firm”.
So, perhaps there is some canny thinking behind the First Minister’s silence on the now-dreaded ‘i’ word. In the face of faltering Tory unity at Westminster and a stalemate in Brexit talks, something tells me the SNP believes that avoiding the issue and not rocking the boat is the right strategy for these times.


Theresa May is expected to use a statement in the House of Commons today to signal that the UK government will make no more concessions on Brexit until the EU compromises on opening trade and transition talks. The prime minister will warn of the risk of talks breaking down, but say that ultimately “the ball is in their court” given there has been little movement since her landmark Florence speech in September.
The so-called ‘silent majority’ in favour of Catalonia remaining part of Spain turned out in a mass rally in Barcelona yesterday, with hundreds of thousands in its ranks. The show of support pre-empts a threat by the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, to issue a unilateral declaration of independence on Tuesday, which it is feared could provoke the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy to suspend Catalonia’s regional autonomy. 
A trade association counting 170,000 small shops has advised its members to continue taking the old £1 coin in defiance of the Royal Mint’s official deadlineto stop accepting them as legal tender yesterday. The boycott threatens chaos as discount store Poundland joined the move, describing it as a “no-brainer”.


US aircraft maker, Boeing, has confirmed it helped finance a £165m bailout of Monarch Airlines last year, meaning the airline’s losses could be far less severe than first thought after it entered administration last week. Through a sale-and-leaseback agreement, Boeing’s aid meant Monarch paid far below market value for a total of 45 new planes ordered last year.
The chairman of RBS, Sir Howard Davies, has said he believes the government has until March 2018 before Britain’s major banks will have to start implementing their Brexit contingency plans, unless explicit details of a transition deal are spelt out. Davies furthered that the damage to the City will be “quite considerable over time”, regardless of the form of a Brexit deal, leading to a re-balancing of financial activity within Europe.
Germany’s outgoing finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has said central bank policies and spiralling levels of global debt and liquidity risk are creating ‘new bubbles’ and laying the foundations for another global financial crisis. In an interview with the Financial Times, Schäuble echoed comments from the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, on “high debt, rapid credit expansion, and excessive risk-taking in financial markets”. 


The week ahead

European stock and currency markets could be set to continue their jittery paths this week as Brexit talks resume in Brussels and tensions remain high ahead of an expected declaration of independence by Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday. With the EU thought to dash British hopes for fast-tracked trade talks, market fears may be quelled by today’s meeting of the IMF and the World Bank, as the latter celebrates its 70th anniversary as a lender to emerging world economies.
On Wednesday, all eyes will be on car-hailing app Uber as the deadline for its appeal against Transport for London’s decision not to renew its operations is due. Actions here could set a precedent for the future of the firm across the UK.
On Sunday, the latest installment of Europe’s recent flurry of election nail-biters continues in Austria, where the centre-right People’s Party is expected to prevail but could be re-joined in government by the rightwing nationalist Freedom Party. A People’s Party win could mean tougher controls on refugees and a shake-up of the country’s ‘grand coalition’ political system, which has governed for 44 of the past 72 years.

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Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle comments on a recent reversal of roles for nationalist governments in Scotland and Catalonia. As the SNP met for its conference yesterday, Pringle suggests the ‘i’ word is firmly on the back-burner in favour of a reboot in domestic policy. Meanwhile, in Catalonia, a nationalist movement previously concerned with economic growth and power-broking in Spain has now abruptly moved its recent push for independence beyond the fray of constitutional law.
In the Financial Times, Wolfgang Munchau writes that ‘Catalexit’  – an immediate Catalan exit from both the EU and its currency union incurred by a unilateral declaration of independence – would mean economic suicide for the region and an immediate return of the Eurozone crisis. He suggests that Catalonia’s membership of the monetary union in particular makes regional independence in the Eurozone impossible and urges the Spanish government against further coercion.


In 2006, North Korea allegedly tested its first nuclear device.



House of Commons
Oral questions
Work and Pensions (incl. Topical Questions)
General debate
Gypsies and Travellers and local communities
Use and control of air rifles – Karin Smyth
House of Lords
Oral questions
Reviewing the Government  policy of making no funding available to meet the additional policing costs of fracking – Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
Prospects for reaching a Brexit agreement by March 2019 – Lord Dykes
Reforming the Work Capability Assessment – Baroness Thomas of Winchester
Impact of the relative value of the euro to the pound sterling on individuals and business – Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestoc Rates) Bill – 2ndreading – Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Reports from the Constitution Committee on Inter-governmental relations in the UK and The Union and devolution and the Report from the EU Committee Brexit: devolution – Lord Land of Monkton, Lord Jay of Ewelme

Scottish Parliament
In recess until October 23.

House of Commons
Oral questions
Health (incl. Topical Qs.)
European Union (Approvals) Bill – Committee stage (Committee of the whole house) / Report stage / 3rd reading – Greg Clark
General debate
Baby loss awareness week
Devolution: Yorkshire – John Grogan
House of Lords
Oral questions
Review of the UK’s disaster relief operations in the Caribbean, in light of Hurricane Irma – Lord Naseby
International students and migration figures – Lord Holmes of Richmond
Register of serial stalkers, incl. perpetrators of domestic violence – Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Data Protection Bill (HL) – 2nd reading – Lord Ashton of Hyde