Written by Andrew Wilson, founding partner
17 April 2021
In my corner of the world, spring is in full swing. Edinburgh has been resplendent in sunshine all week and that is a tonic. Last week we had snow. This is how it rolls on the 56th parallel. We are on the same circle of latitude as parts of Alaska, Russia, Belorussia, Saskatchewan Sweden and the Baltics.
I have two cherry trees outside my house that are so imperfectly positioned that they won’t flower until May. I can set my vernal clock by it. For the seasons, as in life, winter is always followed by spring. After months of upheaval, that certainty is one of the few things we can rely on – at least for now.
With that in mind, this week’s digest focuses on a number of different transitions and beginnings that are not rhythmic but portents of change. Change is inevitable, human beings aren’t comfortable with it, but now we must embrace it and look forward not back.
1. In defence of second chances
This piece in the Spectator by Kenneth Murray is wondrous on the value of giving people a chance to make good whatever dark episode benights their life. It is written from sharp personal experience and is a must read, informing not just how we must guide our own conduct but crucially the discourse in public life and policy.
Read in The Spectator.
2. Investing in nature is reality
City AM is a diamond in the UK media and so important to telling the story of London’s financial world in particular. Even better that it is run by a brilliant Scot who lives in North Berwick with a name to die for: Lawson Muncaster (his nickname in good times being ‘awesome lunchmaster’). This piece by Dr Manuel Piñuela, CEO and Co-Founder of Cultivo, a fintech that enables investment in nature, caught my eye this week. Cracking the sustainability agenda will require investors to see direct benefit to their funds as well as the planet. He also argues it is everyone’s problem to solve not just governments.
Read in City AM.
3. Edinburgh Festivals comeback
Great news for culture vultures this week that Edinburgh International Festival will be back. Reporting in the New York Times, Alex Marshall cheers that three outdoor pavilions will host the finest concerts on earth this summer. Covid restrictions remain but are easing, and in this way can be worked around. The festivals matter, created to re-connect the world after the savagery of war. This time their role is to reconnect the world for different reasons, a different beginning but a welcome one.
Read in New York Times.
4. Andy Haldane will be a tough act to follow
The Chief Economist of the Bank of England announced this week he was leaving the UK’s Central Bank after 32 years of service to run the Royal Society for Arts. I like him a lot. He is a lateral and different thinker who analyses the past to help identify the trends that will shape our future. His new job will offer a greater breadth of freedom to express himself. Another new beginning. Larry Elliot in the Guardian and FT Alphaville’s Claire Jones review the story.
Read in the Guardian and in the FT.
5.We all shape the future of the voluntary sector
One of the big themes Andy Haldane has spoken about is the central importance of the charity, third or social sector in the renewal and reform era we now face. In this week’s Third Force News, the CEO of Enable Group, Theresa Shearer, picked up the theme. She is working with Haldane’s Pro Bono Economics and the Law Family Commission to examine the potential power of civil society. It deserves equal status with the public and private sector in our thinking and deliberations. Bravo.
Read in TFN.
6. The Queen’s commitment to public service continues
The response of the media following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh has been remarkable. Irrespective of the politics of monarchy or republicanism, a life of near 100 years was celebrated and will conclude with his funeral at Windsor later today. Public sympathy for the Queen is deep and her reputation for resilience and devotion to service was revealed with her return to work in mourning as reported in the Evening Standard this week.
Read in Evening Standard.
7. Resist, reform or re-run?
In an era when the governance quality of the UK is – to put this politely for a Saturday morning – strained, a lecture at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford this week highlighted the quality of its recent senior civil service but also what is missing from it. Professor Ciaran Martin was critical to the UK handling of the 2014 Scottish referendum but has retired (early) to academia. This lecture is all about the choices facing the UK government following the expression of choice by the Scottish electorate in less than three weeks. It is an outstanding must read.
Read the lecture here and listen in YouTube.
8. This is about human rights
A shameless plug for a campaign I have been working with – making the case for a new commissioner to protect and uphold the rights of autistic people and people with a learning disability and their families. What a great new beginning this could be. A consensus seems to be emerging in party manifestos in Scotland. This is good news. Our Voice Our Rights is a campaign to make Scotland the best country in the world for autistic people and people with a learning disability. Do support.
Read in Our Voice Our Rights.
9. Welcome to the New Progressive era
A longer read by Anand Giridharadas in the Atlantic takes a look at the agenda of the new President Biden. It argues that he is a classic politician in that he brings less of his own agenda and more of an ability to unite the room and build consensus. To many countries in the world today that will sound like a new idea that would be welcome at home.
Read in The Atlantic.
And finally… Springtime in the Global Economy
David Skilling is an economist writing and advising on the global economy and small advanced economies in particular. He has a track record of delivery in government too, especially in his native New Zealand. I always read his view and this one is rosy. What it also points out is a great observation that is all the more apposite because of our previous read on President Biden. The two senate seats from Georgia have made all the difference in securing the Biden stimulus package and with it a fillip for the global economy. If 27,473 people had voted differently in the run-off, the Republicans would have held sway in the senate and the outlook for the entire global economy could have been completely different. In essence, a group the size of the leafy Glasgow suburb of Bearsden has determined the course of American government and the world economy. Ponder that when making choices. Small numbers of us really can change everything.
Read at David Skilling.