September is, in many ways and for many people, the real new year. It marks not only the return to school for much of the UK, but also a time of change in our routines, buying patterns, and overall goal setting. With the summer holidays and parliamentary recess now officially behind us, there’s value in looking ahead to the events that are likely to make the headlines in this month of renewal.
First off, in Scotland, the first minister is expected to set out her programme for government 2021-2022 at Holyrood on Tuesday. Plans for a second independence referendum are projected to be a key focus of Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement, along with measures to assist “a green, fair economic recovery with a just transition to net zero”. This includes proposals to increase NHS spending to £2.5bn and legislation to establish a National Care Service.
Ahead of the announcement, business leaders have urged the first minister to put economic growth “front and centre”, as recovery gains remain “extremely fragile”. Included in their asks are scrapping the SNP’s controversial workplace parking tax, reforming non-domestic rates, and finding more ways to reduce costs.
In Brussels, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will deliver her state of the union on 15 September, when she will present the European Union’s priorities for the year ahead, with a focus on the economic recovery from the pandemic. Von der Leyen’s address is also set to double down on the commission’s flagship initiatives: the European Green Deal and Digital Strategy.
Interestingly, the state of affairs in Afghanistan has revived the old idea of a European, permanent military force in recent days. Although some member states and critics have opposed the concept on the basis that it would stand as an example of nation-building, the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, thinks the time is ripe after the “deficiencies” in the bloc’s autonomy from the US were exposed last month. Expect any mention of increased military cooperation among member states in von der Leyen’s address to be picked up.
Europeans, and most of the world, will then turn their attention to Germany towards the end of the month. Sunday, 26 September marks the end of an era: Angela Merkel’s. The Bundestag election, which has evolved into a three-way battle to succeed ‘Mutti’ between the CDU/CSU, the SPD, and the Greens, will eventually beget a new leader after 16 years of Merkelite dominance.
Finally, across the pond, the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US will take place next Saturday, when President Joe Biden plans to visit all three sites to mark the event that prompted the country’s longest war.
Ahead of the memorial date, Biden has ordered the Department of Justice to review documents from the FBI’s probe into the attacks for declassification and release, which many families believe will show the federal agency either lied about or destroyed evidence linking Saudi Arabian officials to the attacks.
This handful of highlights heralds a period of fundamental change as we reset and begin the new term. As it turns out, however, much of our looking ahead will involve looking back, too.