Charlotte Street Partners



These streets were made for walking

Written by Scott Reid, associate partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
1 September 2020

Good morning,

Yesterday, I practically skipped my way along Edinburgh’s George Street en route to a visit to the office. Having also recently done some hard time in quarantine following a badly-timed trip to the Spanish Costas (…don’t ask), I was glad for the human interaction of a passer-by, a mental break from my home office, and just a hint of normality.
To my surprise, the streets were empty. No awkward smile to the person you don’t-quite-recognise as a fellow commuter, no clip clop of brogues and heels, and certainly no normality.
It brought home government’s dilemma, spread across the weekend papers, to get our cities and offices moving again, balanced against the need to keep infection rates down. According to official UK figures published in The Timesyesterday, trains carried only 28% of their normal passenger loads last week, whilst – when asked by Morgan Stanley at the end of July on their return to work – only 34% of UK workers said they had gone back. Considering that big beasts including Google, Facebook and Royal Bank of Scotland have asked staff to ‘WFH’ until at least 2021, the prospect for the swift return of bustling cities is rather muted.
Cue, then, a reversal of a few of those utopian dreams we held at the start of lockdown amid a quiet panic in the halls of the Treasury. Sack those hopes of less dense urban centres, greater mixed use of domestic and commercial real estate, and democratised neighbourhoods – we want you to buy Pret coffees and put up with the stress of commutes, goddammit!
The debate in the UK strikes me as overly polarised. As Alice Crossley writes in Reaction, a one-size-fits-all approach, or office vs home-based working, is never going to work – ’Generation Z’ cannot come to stand for ‘generation Zoom’. Giving citizens choice (and, so it figures, workers) should be the ambition of any organisation or government in a liberal democracy.
Besides, Covid-19 hasn’t changed the fundamentals: according to the UN, 68% of the world’s population are projected to live in cities by 2050 (55% today) and the factors that attract new blood to their streets – culture, social scenes, and hopes of career advancement – have yet to be presented with an alternative locale that can facilitate them to the same degree of effectiveness.
It might be a bland conclusion but, from this point in the pandemic, the public seem to be crying out for a future of working that is mixed and a discourse acknowledging that – being comfortable with multiple options is what choice is all about, after all. This means activity that ensures economic activity, giving renewed meaning and value to office-based meetings, but not at the cost of freedoms that make workers happier, healthier and, ultimately, more productive.


Simon Case, a former private secretary to Prince William, is set to be named as the UK’s permanent secretary later today. Case, 41, had been temporarily appointed to the cabinet office position in May following the departure of Sir Mark Sedwill and, according to the Financial Times which first reported the news, is thought to be a choice from among prime minister Boris Johnson’s “inner circle”, rather than as a long-time veteran of the civil service. The FT gives a profile of Case here.
Joe Biden has used his first public speech as the Democratic nominee for November’s presidential election to claim that Donald Trump has made America a more dangerous place by fomenting racial injustice. In his speech, Biden strongly condemned riots taking place in Wisconsin and Oregon, and said he planned to visit midwestern swing states alongside Florida and Arizona in the coming days.
A global poll by the World Economic Forum has found that about three-quarters of respondents would be willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19. According to the poll, which was carried out by Ipsos across 27 countries, vaccination intent is highest in China (97%), followed by Brazil (88%) and Australia (88%) and is lowest in Russia (54%), Poland and Hungary (both 56%) and France (59%). The figure was 85% in the UK. 

Business and economy

Glaxosmithkline (GSK) has begun a partnership trial of a Covid-19 vaccineand, if successful, aims to make the treatment available during the first half of 2021. The study, called Comet-Ice, is conducted with Vir Biotechnology and already has 1,300 patients. A similar trial is underway by Astrazeneca with preliminary results for both due before the end of the year.
Spain has reported over 10% GDP growth during the third quarter following the initial economic hit of the pandemic. The figure was revealed by economy minister Nadia Calvino whilst speaking at a financial event in Santander, and is lower than the 15.2% figure predicted by fiscal watchdog AIReF. Spain is set to receive €140 billion from an EU recovery fund, about half of which will be made in non-repayable grants.
Amazon has received regulatory approval to begin trialling drone deliveries in the US. Amazon Prime Air, a company offshoot that seeks to deliver packages within 30 minutes or less, was yesterday approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in low populated US regions for goods weighing five pounds or less.  

Columns of note

In The Times, Kezia Dugdale argues that a perceived “crisis” in trust may particularly be felt by women, the young and the most vulnerable in society. Commenting on a trilogy of new reports into trust, the director of the John Smith Centre pointed out that more than anyone else in society, a wealthy middle-aged man in a professional role is likely to believe that democracy is working well and in his interests.
In The Atlantic, George Parker writes that Joe Biden’s initial silence on the Oregon and Wisconsin riots might be the issue that sees him lose the presidential election in November. Parker writes that in focus groups, “riots” are the only issue that is cutting through with voters who swung for Donald Trump in 2016, which Democrats seem reluctant to denounce lest, he suggests, they are seen to be tarnishing peaceful, civil protest against police brutality.

Cartoon source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

A combination of improving industrial outlooks in the UK and signals that US interest rates would remain lower for longer than expected sent the pound surging during Monday’s trading. By close of play, sterling was up 1.03% on the dollar at $1.33 and by 0.46% against the euro €1.12. Hit by the jump, the FTSE 100 finished down 0.61% at 5,963.57 points.
Earlier in the day, the Lloyds Bank Business Barometer showed an improvement in overall business confidence for a third consecutive month in August, improving by eight percentage points to -14%.
And in company news:

  • Baked goods retailer Greggs fell (-1.6%) after announcing that its Leeds distribution centre had been temporarily closed for a “deep clean” following positive test for Covid-19 among its staff

What’s happening today?

Solo Oil

Dalata Hotel
Globaltrans S
Highland Gold
Arena Events Group
Custodian Reit
Monks Inv
Trian Investors

Annual report
Solo Oil

UK economic announcements
(09:30) Mortgage Approvals
(09:30) PMI Manufacturing
(09:30) Consumer Credit
(09:30) M4 Money Supply
(14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US)

Int. economic announcements
(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER)
(08:55) Unemployment Rate (GER)
(09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU)
(10:00) Unemployment Rate
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)
(15:00) ISM Manufacturing (US)
(20:30) Auto Sales (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Last week, it was reported that around one third of Wikipedia articles written in Scots were contributed by one American teenager who does not speak the language. The entries mostly consist of misspelled English words – eg. “a veelage is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smawer than a toun.”
Source: The Guardian / @quiteinteresting

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) – Christine Jardine
Fisheries Bill [Lords]: Second Reading
Future of the former Radlett Airfield site
– Daisy Cooper

House of Lords 

No business scheduled

Scottish Parliament 

Topical Questions
First Minister Statement
Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2020-21
Ministerial Statement
Care Homes
Logan Review (Technology Sector)
Committee Announcement
Social Security Committee – Inquiry into the role Scottish social security in COVID-19 recovery

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