SNP extends lead on Westminster voting intentions

Keith Brown

Keith Brown: ‘We’ll never take our support for granted’ (pic: Terry Murden)


Support for the SNP has grown, while both the Scottish Conservatives and Labour have seen a downturn in voter intentions,  according to polling figures released by Survation.

On Westminster voting intentions, the SNP commands a 13-point lead over the Tories and 17-points clear of Labour.

With a 40% share of the vote, the SNP’s figures are up 3% on the General Election in 2017 and up 4% on Survation polling in October. Tory support has dropped 2 points over the same period, with Labour down 4%.

SNP depute Leader Keith Brown said: “The SNP is the only party standing up for Scotland, putting our interests first and providing real opposition to a jobs-wrecking Brexit.

“People trust the SNP to fight their corner – that’s why our support continues to grow while a Tory party consumed by chaos is on the slide.

“People trust the SNP to invest in our NHS and public services – that’s why we’re 17-points ahead of Labour who lack any sort of credibility.

“Our positive ambition for a fairer, more prosperous country could not be further at odds with the despair and chaos from the Westminster parties.

“We’ll never take our support for granted, and will continue working hard to deliver the very best for our country.

“Meanwhile, the more Tory and Labour politicians continue to ignore Scotland’s interests and stop us from making the key decisions over our own future, the more support for the SNP and independence will continue to grow.”

Survation’s figures on Westminster voting intentions (change vs 2017 GE results)

SNP 40% (+3)
Con 27% (-2)
Lab 23% (-4)
LibDem 7% (NC)
UKIP 1% (+1)
Green 1% (+1)
Other 1% (+1)
Sample Size: 1,734
Fieldwork: 20 October to 2 November

SNP extends lead on Westminster voting intentions was originally published on Daily Business


Budge says Hearts reaping benefits of investment

Anne Budge said the year had been challenging for Hearts

Hearts owner Ann Budge said it had been a ‘demanding’ year for the club, on and off the pitch (pic: SNS Group)


Hearts owner Ann Budge said the club was reaping the rewards of its investments as it reported a profit of £1.8 million for the year.

In what she described as a ‘demanding year’, turnover rose £800,000 to £12.1m, staff costs increased by £1.12m to in excess of £7m, and gate receipts were up 24% at more than £1m.

The figures to the year ended 30 June, show the club continues to rely on the generosity of unnamed benefactors.

Donations of £2m were made towards the cost of building the new main stand at Tynecastle, which takes the donations total for the project to £4.5m.

With big earners like Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith on the books, Mrs Budge said the club accepted a further £1m contribution as an “exceptional donation towards player costs. This allowed us to enhance our playing budget for the year and consequently our staff costs increased considerably. In addition, our operating charges increased from £5.4m to £6.1m.”

In her statement, Mrs Budge said the financial year 2017/18 “saw the club continue on its journey to establish ourselves as a major force in Scottish Football.

“It was a demanding year both on and off the pitch but we faced and overcame the challenges by sticking to our values and to our long-term plan.

“As a business we are in good shape; growing revenues and managing costs.”

Between the cost of a new hybrid pitch and the delayed construction of the new main stand – which saw the first team play a handful of home games at Murrayfield – the Gorgie outfit has spent around £18m on the projects to date, with work on the stand still to be completed.

Mrs Budge added: “While we are beginning to reap rewards from investments made to date, this ‘investment phase’ of our journey continues. The remaining phases of redevelopment are planned and the work will continue during season 2018/19, with the formal completion and ‘official opening’ being planned for season 2019/20.

“The company’s balance sheet at 30 June 2018 remains strong with net assets of £14.7m.

“At year end, approximately £17.7m of stadium redevelopment costs had been capitalised.

“Our cash outflow during the year was £5.3m. This arose largely as a result of payments made in connection with the Tynecastle Redevelopment Project, offset by exceptional donations received from our benefactors; the drawdown of the additional loan facilities secured during the year and the sale of players, in particular Jamie Walker to Wigan and Esmael Goncalves to Pakhtakor.” The total money brought in from the two transfers was £444,000.

In relation to the building of the new stand, the annual report also revealed that Hearts ‘purchased construction services’ from JB Contracts (Scotland) Limited, which is owned by Mrs Budge’s brother, amounting to £3.3m, and as at June 30, still owed the company £981,000.

Explaining the involvement with the construction company, the report stated: “Whilst there is a family connection between Dr A Budge and the director and controlling shareholder of this company, there are no shared business interests.

“The construction services were procured by our independent 3rd party construction manager, who was responsible for the evaluation, selection and appointment of suitable trade contractors, via a structured tender process. The Board are satisfied that the services were purchased on an arm’s length basis.”

Budge says Hearts reaping benefits of investment was originally published on Daily Business

Unique funding model to build affordable homes

Ken RossFifty affordable rented homes are being built in Dunbar using a unique financing model that does not require Government subsidy. 

East Lothian Council worked with Robertson Capital Projects (RCP) and Ross Developments and Renewables to create an innovative delivery and funding mechanism that would allow the homes to be delivered using the council’s long term affordable rental income to underpin a private sector funding solution.

The homes are being provided for rent at mid-market rates without subsidy, funded using private sector investment, while a further 10 will be for social rent, funded using the council’s capital budget with Scottish Government grant support.

A special purpose vehicle was set up to acquire the land enter into a design with build contract with Robertson Partnership Homes to construct the homes. RCP is providing construction phase finance, with the SPV undertaking a range of project management services to ensure successful delivery of the new homes. 

Coop Pension Fund, via its fund managers, PGIM, and partners 3H York are investing in the scheme. The Co-op will acquire and hold the 50 mid-market affordable homes as a long-term investment following practical completion and lease the new affordable homes to East Lothian Council.

All 50 properties will revert to council ownership at the end of the lease period at no cost to the council.

The first houses will be handed over in March 2019 for social rent. These new homes will be available to qualifying tenants initially from the council’s waiting list at initial rents for a two-bedroom terrace home at £508 per month.


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The remaining properties for mid-market rent will be handed over in tranches through 2019 and 2020 as development progresses.

The council has used funding support from Scottish Government to deliver much-needed new socially rented homes with the innovative private sector funding model enabling the 50 mid-market rental homes in this case.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “This development demonstrates what can happen when the public sector and private sector work closely together.” 

Since 2007, more than 1,500 affordable homes have been delivered in East Lothian, of which more than 700 are council homes. 

Photo (supplied): Ken Ross, CEO of Ross Developments and Renewables; Cllr Jim Goodfellow, Council spokesperson for Housing and Community Wellbeing, East Lothian Council; and Neil McCormick, MD of Robertson Capital Projects

Unique funding model to build affordable homes was originally published on Daily Business

Mike Ashley is closing four more House of Fraser stores in east London, Nottingham, Norwich and Metrocentre in Gateshead

Mr Ashley, who acquired 58 stores from the administrators in August for £90m, said negotiations with Intu Properties, the landlord, to reduce rents at the four stores had failed and talks were now under way with staff affected.

Mr Ashley said at the time he bought the company that he would keep as stores open as possible. As of last month he had confirmed the future of 22.

Mike Ashley is closing four more House of Fraser stores in east London, Nottingham, Norwich and Metrocentre in Gateshead was originally published on Daily Business

Six changes as Scots prepare to face South Africa

Gregor Townsend has made six xhanges for South Africa Test

Gregor Townsend is looking for his Scotland team to build on the win over Fiji when South Africa visit Murrayfield (pic: SNS Group)


Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made six personnel changes to his side for the autumn international against South Africa on Saturday.

Glasgow Warriors centre Huw Jones returns to the back division and London Irish prop Gordon Reid is set for his first involvement in the autumn campaign as the starting loosehead, with the remaining four those rotated or rested after last weekend’s home win over Fiji.

Vice-captain Stuart McInally (hooker) and lock Jonny Gray return from the bench to start once more, while second-row Ben Toolis and back-row Hamish Watson come back into the match-day squad to start.

The final change to the pack is a positional switch for last Saturday’s man-of-the-match winning debutant Sam Skinner, who starts in the blind-side flank position where he finished the Fiji Test having started at lock.

“South Africa have made a lot of improvements over the last three or four months, beating the All Blacks in New Zealand and putting in an 80-minute performance to defeat France in Paris, which underlines their quality,” said Townsend, who is without Matt Fagerson (dead leg).

“Their traditional strength has always been their physicality and this remains a key point of difference for them. We expect them to be confrontational and powerful in their ball carrying, their defence and also at set-piece time. It will be a great challenge for our forward pack in particular.

“South Africa have always had a smart kicking game with an excellent chase but what we’ve seen over the past few months is an ambition to move the ball from counter attack and a push to get their forwards passing the ball more.

“Our defence will have to be strong to nullify this ambitious attacking game plan.”

The Scots last faced the Springboks in the pool rounds of the 2015 world cup, losing 36-14 at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

Kick-off at BT Murrayfield is 5.20pm.

Scotland team: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont – captain); Gordon Reid (London Irish), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs),Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell (Edinburgh), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Josh Strauss (Sales Sharks), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons).

Six changes as Scots prepare to face South Africa was originally published on Daily Business

Campbell Dallas expands amid record business deals

Graham CunningCampbell Dallas has expanded its corporate finance team after recording a record number of deals and a marked rise in fee income during the last 12 months.

Bolstering the team are Andrew Rennie, who has joined as a manager from global advisory firm AlixPartners, Jessica Orr, who arrives as an executive and George Wait, who is the first corporate finance graduate trainee.

The firm has completed 15 international and domestic deals across a variety of sectors, advising on disposals, acquisitions, fund-raising and financial due diligence, with fee income rising by a record 40%.

“We have never been busier,” said Graham Cunning (pictured), head of corporate finance in Scotland for Campbell Dallas. “The deals market in Scotland has been buoyant and we have seen an encouraging increase in client referrals and new business wins.

“Our expanded team will not only allow us to do more deals but will also give us capacity to initiate more transactions, a skill that has been in short supply in central Scotland in recent years.”

Deals advised on by Campbell Dallas corporate finance include the sale of GP Green Recycling to Enva, the sale of insurance broker Clark Thomson to Marsh Group, Incremental’s acquisition of Gap Consulting, Cefetra’s acquisition of Premium Crops and Daabon’s acquisition of Glasgow-based Soapworks.

Campbell Dallas expands amid record business deals was originally published on Daily Business

Longannet secures 1,000-jobs Talgo train factory

Paul Lewis, managing director, Scottish Development International; Carlos de Palacio, President of Talgo; Jon Veitch, UK directorPaul Lewis, chief executive of Scottish Development International, with Carlos de Palacio, president of Talgo, and the company’s UK Director Jon Veitch during a visit to Edinburgh last month (pic: Terry Murden)


Longannet has secured a Spanish company’s £40 million investment in a 1,000 jobs factory to build the next generation of high speed trains.

The decision, announced this morning by Talgo in London, will provide a huge boost to the Fife and Scottish economy, particularly in the aftermath of the almost certain loss of the Michelin tyre factory in Dundee. It is also a big vote in Britain ahead of the country’s exit from the EU.

However, the plan hinges on winning the contract for high speed trains in the UK. If it secures that deal the former power station site at Longannet will be transformed into a 70,000 sq ft factory over 18 months from early 2020. The company will also develop its second preferred site at Chesterfield in Derbyshire as an innovation centre.

Longannet’s success is a huge feather in Scottish Enterprise’s cap after it pulled together a team of industrialists, academics, politicians, civil servants and development experts who were described by Talgo’s president as “a credit to Scotland”.

The two sites were shortlisted following a tour of potential locations around the UK by a delegation of company representatives. Hunterston in Ayrshire was among the candidates that were ruled out.

Should Longannet get the final go-ahead it will require a huge recruitment exercise for skilled workers on a scale not seen for some years.


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Although there will be a central factory location, some key components are expected to be made elsewhere in the UK, and integrated into the final build at the facility in Longannet. This will ensure that the benefits of Talgo’s investment can be felt more widely across the UK.

Instead of assembling kits of parts from overseas, the company wants an “All Britain” strategy that means sourcing components from within the UK which will be a huge boost to the supply chain.

Talso said the site at Longannet has “great connectivity” and has the potential to supply people that can be skilled-up to meet the needs of building trains that can run at up to 235mph.

The choice of factory location results from an 18 months search involving detailed discussions with land owners, development agencies, local authorities, research establishments, schools, colleges and Universities.

Talgo intends not only to build for the UK market, but also to serve emerging overseas markets, boosting UK exports.


Talgo is building new high speed trains for rail networks around the world

It is mainly focused on designing, manufacturing and servicing fast, lightweight trains, including the Haramain high speed railway line between La Mecca and Medina in the Middle-East, and is the provider of the new AVRIL train to Spanish operator RENFE.

Carlos de Palacio, president and grandson of the founder, said: “This has been a tremendously challenging mission for Talgo, and I have personally seen excellence in all corners of the UK. It has been a difficult decision to make, as the quality has been so high in so many places.

“The establishment of a manufacturing facility at Longannet is a significant part of Talgo’s future strategy.

‘”I want to congratulate Paul Lewis and Scottish Enterprise, for bringing together a wide-ranging team of industrialists, academics, politicians, civil servants and development experts. Their efforts are a credit to Scotland.

‘However, our plans do not end in Scotland. Linked to our ‘all Britain’ strategy, we intend to create opportunity and harness skills across the UK.

“Talgo’s approach keeps more money in the UK economy, and creates more skilled long-term jobs.”

UK director, Jon Veitch, said: “This is not only an exciting day for Talgo, it is an exciting day for the UK, too.


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“When Talgo started this process, we were looking for just one site. However, we soon realised that all parts of the UK had something to offer.’

“We have learned about the many rail-related initiatives across the UK, intended to boost capability for research, development, and testing. There is an engineering renaissance under way, and I want Talgo to be a leading partner.

“Talgo wants to see a steady supply of engineers and other skilled people enter the workforce, and be the innovators of the future.

“As part of Talgo’s commitment to the UK-wide supply chain, our preferred second facility – in Chesterfield – will act as a catalyst.

‘”We are developing this aspect of our strategy, and continue to consult with potential partners. We will make a further announcement, once discussions have concluded.”

Talgo is also working with the Scottish Government to develop the branch line to the former power station, which could include the return of passenger trains. Discussions have also taken place about electrifying the line.

Michael Matheson

Michael Matheson, Scottish Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, welcomed the deal but noted that it was conditional on securing the contract for HS2.

He said: “This investment is a significant achievement for Scotland and yet another endorsement of our country’s attractiveness to international investors.

“Should Talgo be successful in its bid to win the contract for HS2 rolling stock, this new factory at Longannet would bring a great number of new jobs to Fife, which would be a welcome boost for the local area.

“However, the full economic impact of such an investment, and the supply chain opportunities it would bring, would be felt right across Scotland.

“We are committed to working with Talgo and our public and private sector partners to ensure maximum benefit from the opportunity this proposed investment represents.”

Longannet secures 1,000-jobs Talgo train factory was originally published on Daily Business

Rose edges towards succeeding McEwan as RBS CEO

Alison Rose

Alison Rose: blooming at RBS


RBS has edged closer to appointing its first female chief executive after Alison Rose was installed as Ross McEwan’s deputy at its NatWest Holdings business.

Ms Rose will add her new role to her existing job as CEO of commercial and private banking and also becomes a director of NatWest Holdings, the bank’s ring fenced holding company.

She has been with RBS for 20 years and joined the board of RBS private bank Coutts in October 2015. She was tipped as a potential group CEO last year. 

CEO Ross McEwan said today: “Alison has been doing a fantastic job leading our commercial and private banking division and cementing our position as the UK’s biggest and best bank for business.

“Alison’s commitment and focus on our customers will also be a strong addition to board discussions and decision-making and this appointment is a reflection of that.”

Ms Rose will deputise for McEwan both internally and externally, as appropriate, including at NWH ExCo. She will also lead on key strategic projects. 

She takes up the role on 3 December.

Rose edges towards succeeding McEwan as RBS CEO was originally published on Daily Business

SSE profits plunge as renewable energy division created

SSE will bring together its renewables assets in one division


Scottish energy giant SSE has reported a 41% plunge in half-year profits as it announced another reshuffle of its assets under a new management structure.

The Perth-based FTSE 100 company said it intends to consolidate the development, operation and ownership of its renewable energy assets in the UK and Ireland under a single entity to be known as SSE Renewables.

The news came days after it announced delays to its retail tie-up with Npower. In today’s interim statement it says “there is now some uncertainty as to whether this transaction can be completed, as originally contemplated.

“Nevertheless, the board believes that the best future for SSE Energy Services, including its customers and employees, will continue to lie outside the SSE group.”

Adjusted half year profit before tax fell to £246.4m (2017: £416.7m) and a bottom line reported loss before tax of £265.3m excluding SSE Energy Services which is being sold in the merger with Npower.

SSE said it will still raise its interim dividend for 2018/19 by 3.2% to 29.3p and intends to recommend a full-year dividend of 97.5p per share for 2018/19 and to deliver the five-year dividend plan set out in May 2018.

Mr Gillingwater said: “Although our half-year results are slightly ahead of the position we set out in September, they fall well short of what we hoped to achieve at the start of the year.  This is disappointing and regrettable, but important changes are now being made to the way SSE manages its exposure to energy commodities.

“The commercial terms of the proposed combination of SSE Energy Services and npower are the subject of ongoing discussions, and creating a new independent energy supplier remains our objective.  The board believes that the best future for SSE Energy Services, including its customers and employees, lies outside the SSE group.

“Looking ahead, we are taking forward the strategy we set out in May to position SSE as a leading energy company in a low carbon world, with a focus on regulated networks and renewables, complemented by flexible thermal generation and business energy sales.  Material progress is being achieved in these businesses, which make up most of the value in SSE.


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“The 29.3 pence interim dividend that we have announced today is the first step in delivering our five-year dividend plan and paves the way for the 97.5 pence full-year dividend that we expect to recommend in May.

“This is a company with a clear strategy for its core businesses and highly valuable assets in a sector that’s yielding investment opportunities that go with the grain of political, economic and environmental focus on decarbonisation, and it is this that will support the delivery of our dividend plan in the years to come.

The firm will bring together its assets in onshore and offshore wind, hydro electricity and pumped storage.

It says it is a step towards SSE’s place in a low carbon world and will allow it to pursue more opportunities in different markets. The company said it has begun assessing “potential opportunities”.

The group’s operational assets amount to 4GW, with actual capacity subject to the potential sale of stakes of up to 50% in the Stronelairg and Dunmaglass onshore wind farms.

SSE Renewables will have its own and dedicated and experienced management team.  Jim Smith currently SSE’s managing director, generation, has been appointed managing director Designate for SSE Renewables.

Reporting to wholesale director Martin Pibworth, he will lead the work being done to prepare for the formation of the new entity, which is expected to be largely complete by the end of the current financial year.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, group chief executive, said: “The creation of SSE Renewable is the latest step in our strategic goal to give greater focus to renewable energy, give investors greater visibility of assets and earnings in the future and give each of the businesses in SSE the best platform for success.

“Success will mean maximising SSE’s contribution to the ongoing decarbonisation of the electricity system and creating value for shareholders and society in a sustainable way, with a clear focus on maximising future growth opportunities.

“SSE has a unique portfolio of renewable energy assets and a valuable pipeline of future opportunities.  The creation of SSE Renewables will build on SSE’s established skills in asset management and large capital project development and put the business in a strong position to evolve and succeed in a rapidly-changing electricity sector.”


David Barclay, head of office at Brewin Dolphin Aberdeen said: “It’s been a tough year for SSE. An abnormally warm and calm summer resulted in lower than expected output from its wind farms and hydro-electric stations, while gas prices went in the other direction. It was no surprise then that, in this morning’s announcement, the company said profits have dipped about 40%.   

“The company’s shares are down around 18% in the past six months and nearly a quarter on two years ago.

“Although not in serious trouble yet, this latest update suggests it’s not going to get easier any time soon for SSE, with growth still static and uncertainty ever-present.”  

SSE profits plunge as renewable energy division created was originally published on Daily Business