The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the world. The ways it has done so are yet to be fully understood. Many of our post Cold War assumptions have been upended: Germany has abandoned its longstanding policy of maintaining a limited armed forces to commit €100 billion to defence spending; Switzerland has departed from its historical neutrality to apply sanctions to Russia; Finland is now openly discussing NATO membership and things we had assumed would never happen continue to do so on a daily basis. Set against the human tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine, these events can seem small or insignificant in comparison. Nonetheless, they are likely to have enduring consequences for everyone in Europe. Particularly when it comes to how Europe, including the UK, powers itself.
Last week, the Government published its long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper. The White Paper goes some way to answering the vexed question of ‘What is levelling up?’, by setting out twelve missions the Government hopes to accomplish by 2030. In addition, the Paper sets out a framework for extending devolution in England which could increase the transparency of the process. However, new funding commitments are thin on the ground, and critics suggest the Government has not provided enough money for Levelling Up to succeed.
Yesterday, the final Police and Crime Commissioner ballot results from the 6 May 2021 elections were announced. This brought to a conclusion the process started last week to elect 145 English local councils, 13 English mayors and 39 police and crime commissioners in England and Wales. As well as the Welsh Parliament (60 seats), London Assembly (25 seats) and, crucially, the Scottish Parliament (129 seats) and the Hartlepool Westminster by-election. These results will have significant implications for all the major political parties in the UK. This will undoubtedly impact the lobbying strategies of companies seeking to influence the direction of policy in our country.
The momentum behind COP26 has created an apparently benign climate for low carbon investment in the UK, however that could all change at next week’s Scottish Parliament election. The 2021 Scottish Parliament elections will be the latest in a series of public ballots, since 2014’s Scottish Referendum, where the future of the United Kingdom is at stake. Due to Brexit and COVID19 it has perhaps been understated how important the Scottish election will be. However, depending upon its result, we could see British politics dominated by the issue of Scottish independence in the same way it was dominated by Brexit in recent years. Businesses whose investments depend on policy decisions yet to come must be mindful of this. As the question of Scottish Independence may leave politicians and officials will little time to consider anything else.
With COP26 now less than 250 days away, the Government is ramping up its preparations ahead of what is earmarked to be the most significant climate event since the Paris Agreement, as well as the largest summit the UK has ever hosted. This presents those operating in the low carbon sector with a number of opportunities, as the Government will be on the lookout for businesses with projects that it can use to demonstrate UK leadership in tackling climate change.