Scotland’s position within the UK has once again made headline news this week. Noises coming out of both Edinburgh and Downing Street suggest that a second Scottish independence referendum is more a question of when, not if. Autumn 2018 is now being touted as the ‘common sense time’, only four years after the last one. Clearly the phrase ‘once-in-a-generation’ has a different definition north of the border! Whilst the UK political landscape has changed significantly since 2014, so too has Scotland’s economic strength. The Scottish economy is currently pretty stagnant, growing at just a third of the speed of the whole UK. Oil revenues have collapsed, with Scotland’s share of North Sea oil revenue amounting to only £60 million in 2016, 99% below the £8 billion predicted three years ago. And, above all, the Scottish Government’s own figures show that Scotland would begin an independent life with a deficit amounting to almost 10% of its’ GDP. In Aberdeen on Friday, Nicola Sturgeon will address her party’s Annual Conference, and given these apparent eye-watering numbers, it looks like she has a bit of explaining to do. After all, these figures would make Scotland the worst economy not just in Europe, but in the developed world, and by some margin. Although not as big a margin as the forty points at Twickenham yesterday afternoon!!
MIPIM week. The one week of the year which sees a significant chunk of the UK property industry decamp to Cannes for a four day ‘conference’. For those going, it's the perfect opportunity to present the investment case for everything that made its way into the suitcase. For those stuck at home, it's just seen as a lucky few having an all-mighty ‘$£%6-up’ in the south of France! Quite what the atmosphere will be like this year remains to be seen. After all, it’s the first MIPIM since Brexit. So what can the ‘lucky few’ expect? Well, the UK's Department of International Trade will be in attendance for the first time ever, no doubt having rehearsed soundbites such as “Britain is open for business” and “it’s business as usual”. The Paris stand will inevitably have their say too, especially given that their invitation suggested investors and occupiers should come and explore “opportunities for relocating activities”. The main discussion point will inevitably be the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU. Given that Germany became the most active national market in Europe last year, any British delegate in attendance will almost certainly have to ‘up their game’.
The ‘Greatest Show on Turf’, the Cheltenham Festival, returns this week. This meeting, the highlight of the racing calendar, regularly attracts over 230,000 race goers to Gloucestershire, many of whom will have made the trip over from the Emerald Isle. Aside from the twenty eight races and the £4.1 million in prize money up for grabs, the Festival is well known for its high standard of ‘hospitality’. For example, three tonnes of smoked salmon, 25,000 beef burgers and hot dogs and 20,000 portions of chips will be eaten over the four days. But if a liquid lunch is more your thing, then you’ll be pleased to know that on average, 220,000 pints of Guinness, 30,000 bottles of wine and 18,000 bottles of champagne are drunk every year. Given that the analysts, Mintel, announced on Friday morning that a third of Britons have cut or limited their alcohol intake over the last year, this year's festival may be rather more restrained. Then again, it is St Patrick’s Day on Friday.