- Draft Brexit negotiation guidelines from the European Council have ruled out the possibility of early trade talks before “sufficient progress” is made on other issues such as the residency status of EU citizens in the UK and a financial settlement.
- Former Tory leader Michael Howard has hinted Theresa May would be ready to go to war over the sovereignty of Gibraltar.
INDEPENDENCE / DEVOLUTION
- The First Minister has formally written to the Prime Minister requesting a Section 30 order to allow Holyrood to legislate for a second independence referendum. The full letter has been published online.
- The Spanish foreign minister has said that Spain would not block an independent Scotland’s bid to re-join the EU.
- Nicola Sturgeon is to raise the issue of independence to the United States this week when she gives a sell-out talk, “Scotland’s place in the world”, at Stanford University.
- IPPR Scotland has called for the devolution of decision-making powers over education to be at the most local possible. The new report on school governance reform makes 10 recommendations on closing the attainment gap.
- Scottish Conservatives are confident that the party could double its vote at the upcoming council elections with more than 380 candidates in the ballot and Scottish independence emerging as a battleground issue. It could see them overtaking Labour and potentially holding the balance of power in local authorities around Scotland.
- This is reinforced by polling expert Professor John Curtice who has warned “Labour are going to lose everything they currently control in Scotland, Labour will come third”.
- The president of NUS Scotland has warned that students with mental health issues are in danger of dropping out of college due to difficulties in getting referred for treatment.
- The Scottish Parliament’s finance committee has backed the general principles of the government’s new air tax bill which proposes aviation tax should be cut by 50% and then eventually abolished “when finances allow”.
- Scottish ministers have signed off a £100million+ redevelopment of Glasgow’s Queen Street station. The revamp is needed to facilitate longer trains and meet the predicted growth from 20 to 28 million passengers by 2030.
- An US technology firm, Xilinix Inc, has announced it is to invest £3.8m in a specialist research centre in Edinburgh. The move will create 12 new roles and protect 30 existing jobs.
- According to a survey for the Royal Bank of Scotland, businesses in the north east of Scotland are preparing for an upturn from the oil and gas slump of the past two years.
- The Scottish Government has published the long delayed mental health strategy. The ten-year plan includes 40 actions which the Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt, has said are driven by a simple principle – “we must prevent and treat mental health problems with the same commitment and drive as we do physical health”.
- Restrictions on e-cigarettes have come into effect in Scotland. The new rules make it illegal for under-18s to buy tobacco and nicotine vapour products. The move brings Scotland in line with England.
- A new study has revealed that Catholics in Scotland suffer from a higher risk of death and are at a greater economic disadvantage relative to Protestants than their counterparts in Northern Ireland.
ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY
- Powers over the revenue and management of The Crown Estate resources in Scotland have been transferred formally to the Scottish Government. The move establishes a new body, Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management).
- Ineos has struck a deal to acquire the Forties Pipeline System from BP for £199m. The pipeline transports about 40% of the UK daily production.
- A 160,000sq foot warehouse in Leith Docks has been turned into a film studio for the latest Avengers blockbuster. Filming for Avengers: Infinity War is to continue over six weeks in Edinburgh with a crew of over 400, and is estimated to be worth £10 million to the city’s local economy.
- Twitter has abandoned its default “egg” avatar in a bid to “prompt more self-expression” and to disassociate the platform with online trolls. The new default photo – a generic headshot silhouette – is designed to encourage users to upload their own images.
- Nicola Sturgeon will continue her US trip, visiting New York and California. Her visit will involve a series of meetings on trade and investment, and will see the First Minister sign a joint agreement with the Governor of California on tackling climate change.
- The Scottish Parliament is in recess until the 17 April.