Charlotte Street Partners



That thinking feeling

Written by Charlie Clegg, associate 
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
15 February 2021

Good morning,

They say everyone has a novel in them. If so, everyone also has a policy in them. Some, like me, have more than that: make lord-lieutenancies great again; create a south Edinburgh powerhouse by linking Sciennes Hill Place to Grange Road. I’ve long since accepted nobody wants to hear these, let alone act on them. Others have slightly more salient ideas. That’s where think tanks come in; or, at least, they should do.

This weekend saw the launch of the Scotland Can campaign by Gordon Brown’s Our Scottish Future think tank. As one might expect from Brown, this isn’t neutral on the constitutional issue. It aims to make a case for change within the UK. Many will see this project’s political aims and immediately disengage; decision-makers, however, should not. Scotland’s think tanks deserve a hearing. 

Scotland does not want for think tanks. A cursory search shows established names like the David Hume Institute and Reform Scotland stand amid a busy array of other bodies. Whilst the policy wonk éminence grise can be a discomforting sight, politicians often lack the time, space, and resources to think thoroughly about an issue. That’s where think tanks can prove their worth. That’s also where they are needed in Scotland.

Devolution promised – and largely delivered – a richer policy landscape. Yet think tanks have remained too often too distant from government policymaking. This has not been helped by the Scottish government’s continued, and growing, focus on independence while it holds off any major changes until that great beyond. The nettle of local government reform remains un-grasped. The replacement of council tax, once the SNP’s flagship policy, has long since sailed.

Such deferring cannot continue. We now face a time after Covid. Policymakers must respond in ways that, even if they are less dramatic, are no less drastic than those that defined the early stages of the pandemic. This year’s Scottish election can be a catalyst for ideas or it can be a distraction. Policies to guide us out of the pandemic must be made with creativity and a diversity of voices. Scotland’s think tanks can spark that discussion. 


The UK Government has faced down growing backbench clamour to ease restrictions. The calls came after the government hit its first major target: offering at least a first vaccination to the top four most vulnerable groups in England by today. Reports have also suggested restrictions could begin to be eased in England from 8 March. From today, travellers to England from any of 33 “red list” countries will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

In Myanmar, the detention of civilian leader Aung San Su Kyi has been extended by two days. This comes as the military has responded to growing protests by increasing its presence in the country’s streets. The regime has also restored the internet, which it had cut off between Sunday and this morning.

A major study has shown the Pfizer vaccine is 94% effective after the second dose. The jab is also consistently effective across age groups. Previous research has focussed on the vaccine’s effectiveness after only one jab. This new study, by Israel’s Clalit Institute, is the first to measure the effectiveness of two injections. (£) 

Business and economy

According to the mortgage lender Halifax, detached house demand and prices rocketed during the pandemic as homeworking boosts the demand for larger homes. Demand for detached houses grew three times faster than the demand for flats. In December, the average price for a detached property across the UK was £486,595: 10% more than in December 2019.

Rolls Royce has hired Panos Kakoullis from Deloitte as finance director. The heavily-indebted engine-maker moved for Kakoullis after he was passed over for the top job at the auditing giant. (£)

Today, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rallied passed 30,000 points for the first time since 1990. The jump is driven by increasing global demand and the growing strength of the Japanese economy. The benchmark index jumped 1.2% after early trading data showed Japan’s economy had grown by 3% in the fourth quarter of 2020. (£) 

Columns of note

The Financial Times’ FT View asserts the political independence of judges. The column responds to the Policy Exchange think tank, which has proposed UK government ministers should have a greater role in selecting judges. The column argues the think tank’s notions of “democratic legitimacy” are here misplaced. It claims the increasing role of judicial review has assuaged the risk of an “elective dictatorship” in Britain. (£)

In The Times, Edward Lucas claims British complacency aids the influence of authoritarian powers such as Russia and China. He states Britain’s voluntary easing of military and economic defences has seen the country become increasingly attractive to foreign agents. Lucas argues the US and Australia’s tougher laws in this area could be a model for Britain. (£) 

Cartoon source: The Telegraph


The week ahead

The World Health Organisation is expected to issue an emergency use listing for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The listing is a signal to countries with weaker regulatory systems that the vaccine has been approved by the WHO.

On Thursday, Citadel’s Ken Griffin, Melvin Capital’s Gabe Plotkin, Reddit’s Steve Huffman and Robinhood’s Vlad Tenev will appear before a US congressional hearing to explain the recent inflation of GameStop’s share price.

US markets are closed today for Presidents’ Day, while Chinese markets will be closed until Thursday for lunar new year. 

What’s happening today?

City Lon Inv
Grit Real Est.

Uniphar Plc

Cc Japan
Foresight Solar
Rev Bars

Annual report
Crest Nicholson

Int. economic announcements
(10:00) GDP (Preliminary)
(10:00) Balance of Trade (EU) 

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan are the world’s only doubly landlocked countries, meaning they only border other landlocked countries.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House is in recess until 22 February

House of Lords 

The House is in recess until 22 February

Scottish Parliament 

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee
Oral evidence: Climate Change Plan
Oral evidence: Scottish Government Budget 2021-22

Justice Sub-Committee on Policing
Oral evidence: Independent Review of Complaints Handling, Investigations and Misconduct Issues in relation to Policing

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