My Column

Bad News on Brexit seems neverending...

  • Date: Monday 25th February 2019
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"Are we stockpiling for Brexit?’

‘UK farmers promised no deal tariff protection’

‘Scots packaging firm makes Brexit plan’

These are just a handful of headlines, dedicated to the B-word, over the last few days.

You’d have to be living in some sort of Brexit bunker not to come across it at least once in the course of your day, and it feels like everything is affected.

You’ll likely be aware that senior political figures are publicly warning that ‘no deal’ is a very real prospect.

The much talked about backstop is central to Teresa May’s plans, and hardliners say it would leave the UK tied to a customs union indefinitely. Parliament has already said it wants Mrs May to develop ‘alternative arrangements’.

But what that actually means in reality is anyone’s guess.

With the threat of the UK crashing out with a no deal looming large, and the true consequences relatively unknown to Joe Public, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that Brexit is hogging the headlines.

There has even been a new political group, The Independent Group, springing up from the fallout of the situation we find ourselves in.

It does make me wonder what the business world would be talking about if Brexit wasn’t all there was.

What about the Scottish budget? That’s definitely a big deal and surely offers us a bit of Brexit relief.

It’s been heralded for giving a boost to key services like education, infrastructure, and the health service. But the money is coming from high-earners paying more income tax in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

And it will go through after an SNP deal with the Greens, so for the environmentally conscious in business this is fairly big news.

However, this was of course put forward with the caveat that it could all change if no deal happens.

Then there was news that The European Commission (EC) was involved in raids at salmon farm sites in Shetland, Stirling and Fife over alleged price fixing.

Again, big news for one of Scotland’s key sectors.

It wasn’t long though before it was reported that the investigation came about because of fishy goings-on in Norway. BUT Norway isn’t an EU member so offices in member states were targeted. No connection there then.

The high street also announced some good news, with figures showing a strong recovery in UK consumer spending for the start of the year.

Sales jumped one per cent in January compared with the previous month, against more modest predictions of 0.2 per cent.

But, but…Brexit! Came the cry as analysts quickly interrupted the voices of optimism.

To cut a long story short, figures only went up because of the sales, and worries over Brexit will soon put pennies back in pockets.

Right, that’s it – no more Brexit chat. Enough is enough. I’m off to book myself a holiday to get some form of escape.

But then the government rather passively-aggressively threatened to sink holiday plans for a week in the sun, with a text message warning to check passports are valid for travel to Europe after 29 March.

Best get that checked too then.



Scotland is undoubtedly getting better at minimising its impact on the environment, whether that’s through better tapping into its natural resources, or shoppers simply using fewer carrier bags.

But let’s not get carried away – there’s still a long way to go, particularly if the Scottish Government is to hit such national targets as 60 per cent household waste recycled by 2020.

At the same time, the issue of plastics in our oceans, and the meaningful action required to address it, has never been more pertinent.

Last week may well have seen a big step taken in the right direction with the public backing of a deposit return scheme for Scotland.

If we need to incentivise better recycling habits as a nation, then it’s through such schemes that we’ll help to realise it.

What is a deposit return scheme you might ask? Quite simply, it’s a system that means when you buy a plastic bottle a small deposit is paid on top of that drink, which is fully refundable once the empty bottle is returned. Cans and glass bottles may be included too.

The idea is that materials returned through these schemes can be recycled in the most effective way, being turned into new containers rather than ending up in landfill, or in our streets and oceans.

With the Scottish public throwing its support behind such a scheme, an implementation advisory group has already been primed to swiftly commence looking at how to implement the legislation required to support its introduction.

It’s all great news as we seek an efficient solution – and equally it’s a significant opportunity for those who could help to make it a reality.

I noted with interest that global reverse vending specialist TOMRA Collection Solutions welcomed the results of the consultation, while pointing to similar success stories overseas.

Better still, its managing director Truls Haug is firm in his belief that Scotland can achieve capture rates of 90 per cent and above within just two years.

Does Scotland have the bottle to swiftly make it happen? For the sake of our environment, let’s hope so.



Who would have thought a humble pastry could pack such a punch?

Since its introduction in January, the new vegan sausage roll has been lining the stomachs of consumers and, it seems, the pockets of Greggs bakers. 

It was announced last week that strong trading following the product’s launch earlier this year is likely to have a “material impact” on the firm’s first half results for 2019.

The savoury treat was the result of an online petition by animal rights group Peta and its introduction had a somewhat Marmite effect on consumers.

However, now that the results can be seen in black and white, it looks like the naysayers will be eating humble pie - and maybe the odd vegan sausage roll too.



Last week, plans for a so-called ‘latte levy’ in Scotland were revealed – in short, an extra charge on single use cups.

But the real travesty isn’t that the nation’s coffee drinkers could soon be paying more for their morning fix of skinny caramel lattes and flat whites. No, it’s that estimates suggest almost 500 million single-use cups are given out in Scotland every year.

That’s undoubtedly an alarming figure and further highlights the sustainable point I made elsewhere in this column – habits must change.

If the charge comes into force - which could still be a couple of years out - we could be the first nation in the UK make the move. Get your reusable cups at the ready!





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