Benny Higgins plan to help firms needing financial help

Image caption Benny Higgins wants a new agency to be set up as part of the rescue phase for all sizes of firms in financial distress

You may be about to take on a wide-ranging share portfolio, whether you want to or not. The Scottish government will be the public's asset manager.

That's because we are heading into a new role for ministers, as investors in Scotland's companies, and not just the big, strategically-important ones. To preserve the economy from an even more catastrophic collapse, Holyrood can be expected to take on equity stakes in a wide range of small companies.

So says Benny Higgins, the ex-banker leading the eight-member team commissioned by the Scottish government to advise it on the route to economic recovery.

The former chief executive of Tesco Bank talked to me about the direction of travel for the group, which will see him present outline conclusions to the Scottish cabinet next week, and full publication by the end of the month.

It won't just be high-level themes, he said. There will be specific "interventions" - one of his favourite words. The creation of a new government agency to take control of the new and wide-ranging share portfolio is one taster of what to expect.

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Just when you thought it safe to go back in the water

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Much of Britain seems to have gone to the beach. In hot weather, why not take a cooling dip in the sea, and leave lockdown constraints on the beach with your towel? But apart from the crowds and infection risk, beware of the political and economic undercurrents.

Brexit is about to surface once more - a giant creature that's been lurking in the shallows while attention has been turned elsewhere. With each round of inconclusive talks, it is those waters, and specifically the fish and shellfish in them, that become more central to the outcome.

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After coronavirus, what's Left?

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Much will surely change when Covid-19 is eventually seen off, some of it necessitated, much of it by choice. So the shape of the future economy is up for grabs.

There's a battle to be fought on the right, where Conservatives used to be fiscally conservative. Before the pandemic, Boris Johnson was already breaking with the George Osborne strictures on getting the deficit down and reducing debt. It was that former chancellor's choices that defined the British public sector through the past decade.

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Work in crisis: Furlough benefits not for everyone

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The money is arriving in the bank accounts of the self-employed - up to £7,500 to compensate for lost earnings up to this weekend.

For 2.3 million people receiving the grants, those who saw their earnings plummet with the start of lockdown have had to burn through savings.

Read full article Work in crisis: Furlough benefits not for everyone

Stranger Danger

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What's stopping you getting on a bus or train? The rules, telling you that you should 'Stay At Home'? Or self-interest, because it's a risky world out there, and Covid-19 could be lurking anywhere?

To listen to governments north and south, the two are being conflated. It's in your interests, and those of the whole community and society, they're saying, that you stick to the rules that we're giving you. And for many, that suits them just fine.

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Coronavirus: Are you being served, safely?

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The nation's shopping basket has changed, and the shopping experience is about to change a lot more.

We've got data published today showing that online grocery sales doubled in the month from mid-April to mid-May, when compared with the same period last year.

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Coronavirus: 'Building back better'

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I was chatting to a young neighbour, at an appropriate distance. She's a bar worker, and furloughed.

She'd been cycling, and we talked about quieter roads. I commented that It would be good if some aspects of lockdown are retained.

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Coronavirus: Not just any retail recession...

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Never miss the opportunity of a big crisis, goes the advice. Marks & Spencer starts with a big advantage - it's already very used to being in crisis.

With its annual results, its boss has seized on the opportunity to push further and faster than he was already doing.

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Coronavirus: How the health crisis has become an economic one

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The claimant count was big news in the 1980s, when it hit three million and was pinned by her critics on Margaret Thatcher's government as a defining badge of shame.

We've paid less attention to it since the 1990s, when the labour force survey, as an international standard, began to capture a wider definition of unemployment. It's not dependent on the changing criteria for securing unemployment benefit, such as household savings or time spent out of work.

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Coronavirus in Scotland: Kate and Rishi’s giant splurge gun

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Image caption The Chancellor will need to heavily revise his budget later this year

It's two months since a budget was passed by the Scottish Parliament, its timetable delayed by Brexit and the Westminster election. On the same day, Rishi Sunak delivered his first Budget at Westminster, four weeks into his new job as Chancellor.

It was also on 11 March that the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic had spread out of China.

Read full article Coronavirus in Scotland: Kate and Rishi’s giant splurge gun