Fàilte gu Alba
Written by Scott Reid, Associate Partner
Edited by Harriet Moll, Creative Director
In its garish kind of way, I always thought the airport arrivals lounge is a pretty good indication of what the country you’ve just landed in considers important. Or at least what it’s trying to sell you.
Put the Beach Boys on mute, and look beyond the Love, Actually Richard Curtis scenes of dewy eyed loved ones reuniting - what else do you see on the walls? In Stockholm; wall-to-wall Volvo. Munich; Audi. Or in London, the latest big bank promising a nifty ‘think global, act local’ approach to your money.
In Glasgow or Edinburgh, odds are that if it isn’t whisky, those adverts depict VisitScotland-branded capercaillie up close and personal, or a young family cavorting in a Highland glen. But far from having lack of national products to show off, that tells me that tourism itself is our product. It’s what we consider important and why any good Scot will give you umpteen reasons for why Scotland is the best country in the world – is the best place to visit in the world – despite probably telling you this whilst on holiday somewhere else from the place itself.
Tourism’s importance was hammered home yesterday as the Scottish Government announced that the sector could resume business from July 15; dependent on the next phase of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions being lifted. And speaking in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, tourism secretary Fergus Ewing also announced the creation of a Scottish Recovery Tourism Taskforce that will explore possible VAT exemption for tourist businesses in addition to £2.3 billion in relief measures already announced.
It remains to be seen whether the two metre physical distancing rule will be reduced before the proposed opening date. This will be critical for many venues across the country. However, it is perhaps significant that the first minister said the government “will continue to look” at the issue. And just this morning, the Daily Telegraph reports that the rule will be relaxed in England for the return of schools in September.
In Scotland, yesterday’s news will matter more than elsewhere. Tourist spend accounts for around five per cent of Scotland’s GDP with employment in the sector around seven per cent of the total – both higher than the OECD average. Earlier this week, sweeping job cuts at Crieff Hydro signal the worst may yet be to come for tourism.
And for those of us who live here, the success of Scotland’s tourism industry is about more than numbers. It’s about who we are and what we share in the world. It’s the “love affair” we’ve offered to pals in Europe. It’s any former first minister’s questionable sartorial decisions during Tartan Week to entice over the Americans. And its every better informed young person schooling me on Mary Queen of Scots, Culloden or Cromwell.
Facemask or no, those reasons are good enough for me to celebrate my next outing on home shores come July 15.
Professor Neil Ferguson has claimed that imposing lockdown in the UK a week earlier could have cut the death toll “by at least a half”. Giving evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Select committee, the former SAGE adviser to the UK Government estimated that the number of those affected by Covid-19 was doubling every three two four days before lockdown restrictions were introduced.
The US and Russia have agreed to begin talks on replacing the only nuclear arms control treaty between them, eight months before it is due to expire. The White House confirmed discussions on the New START treaty would begin in Vienna this month after the US rejected Russia’s call to extend the existing treaty unconditionally.
And in the latest Brexit discussions, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said yesterday that he is willing to review the EU’s “level playing field demands” including state-aid rules in order to unblock a current impasse. The UK government has so far resisted scheduling any further talks, suggesting the bloc should reflect on its position at the next EU council meeting on June 19. (£)
Business and economy
The UK economy will suffer the worst economic contraction among developed countries due to Covid-19, the OECD has said. Its latest economic outlook suggested global activity would fall by six per cent under a “single-hit scenario” during 2020, with a contraction of 11.5% likely in Britain, 9.1% across the Euro area, 7.3% in the US and 2.6% in China. Spain would fare worst following a second peak of the virus, contracting by 14.4%.
Meanwhile, the US Federal Reserve has suggested interest rates would remain close to zero until at least the end of 2022 in order to tackle spiralling unemployment. Following the latest policy statement of the Federal Open Market Committee yesterday during which rates were unchanged, Fed chair Jay Powell said “We’re not even thinking about thinking about raising rates.” The central bank also predicted US economic growth to contract by 6.5% in 2020 before rebounding by five per cent in 2021.
And finally, the Confederation of British Industry has selected a former adviser to the Treasury, Nick Danker, as its next Director. Danker will succeed Dame Carolyn Fairbairn at the end of this year.
Columns of note
Janan Ganesh writes in the Financial Times that anti-racism protests in the US are forcing Joe Biden to assume a more radical campaign platform than he would have otherwise sought. Where once the Democratic presidential nominee may have sought to lead a “return to normalcy”, he is now the figurehead of a resistance to Trump’s “law and order” presidency, evidenced by his show of support for sweeping police reform in Minnesota this week. (£)
The former UK ambassador the US, Sir Peter Westmacott, writes in Tortoise with his wish list for Boris Johnson’s actions on the global stage. Among his requests are a united Western front against Chinese threats to free trade and Hong Kong’s independence; a refusal to expand the G7 to include Putin; and an extension to Brexit transition.
And in theNew Statesman, Anoosh Chakelian writes a blistering piece on the UK’s belated reckoning with noughties comedy shows that gloried in making fun of social and ethnic minorities.
Source: The Times
What happened yesterday?
The Fed’s latest policy announcement led most global stocks south yesterday, with London’s FTSE 100 finishing down 0.1% at 6,329.13 points and sterling stronger on both the dollar at $1.28 (+0.28%) and the euro at €1.12 (+0.22%). In company news:
Travel stocks suffered another day of falls after much-discussed UK travel corridors failed to materialise. Airlines including British Airways parent IAG (-7.36%) and easyjet (-4.19%) were both down alongside InterContinental Hotels (-2.94%) and travel operators Carnival (-8.96%) and TUI (-7.17%).
The Restaurant Group confirmed that it will cut up to 3,000 jobs and close 125 Frankie & Benny’s restaurants via a company voluntary agreement.
And The Premier League is set to for combined revenue losses of around £1 billion this season, despite being scheduled to restart on 17 June. Almost £500 million is considered to be permanently lost with a further £500 million deferred until matches are rescheduled in the 2020/21 financial year.
What's happening today?
Jlen Env JLEN
UK economic announcements
(00.01) RICS Housing Market Survey
Intl. economic announcements
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
Ages International Holding
Fair Oaks Inc17
Morrison (WM) MRW
NB Global Floating Rate Income Fund
Did you know?
According to his official biography, the former leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, allegedly learnt to walk aged three weeks.
House of Commons
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (including Topical Questions)
Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords]: Remaining Stages
Reopening of zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries - Andrew Rosindell
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government if he will make a statement on the need to maintain public confidence in the probity of the planning process and his quasi-judicial role in these matters - Steve Reed
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
Reforms to probation services in England and Wales - Robert Buckland
House of Lords
Research by the British Board of Film Classification on the exposure of children and teens to harmful or upsetting content while in lockdown - Lord Clement-Jones
Banks to reimbursement to customers who have been subject to Authorised Push Payment fraud - Baroness Ludford
Protecting personal privacy in the trial on the Isle of Wight of the NHSX COVID-19 contract tracing application - Lord Hain
Levels of projected unemployment for the next 12 months - Lord Randall of Uxbridge
The case for post-COVID-19 recovery strategies that will contribute to a fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable economy - Baroness Hayman
What plans the government have to review their advice on the wearing of masks in public to address COVID-19 - Lord Campbell-Savours
Support for sub-postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal - Lord Callanan
Wider opening of education and early years settings - Baroness Berridge
Rural Economy and Tourism
Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity
Justice and the Law Officers