Coca Cola and Holyrood magazine welcome to 2020 reception
While it may be back to business for all those who returned to the Scottish Parliament after the Christmas break, at a UK level, 2020 marks the beginning of an entirely different political environment to the one we only just left behind.
Following the December general-election victory of Boris Johnson’s Conservative party in England and Wales, but with SNP domination in Scotland, the next few years are sure to be full of dramatic constitutional showdowns.
But meanwhile, the Holyrood agenda continues, as does business in Scotland’s drinks industry.
Against this new political backdrop, ministers, MSPs, business people and trade associations from the beverages sector gathered in the Scottish Parliament’s members’ restaurant for the Holyrood magazine and Coca-Cola European Partners’ ‘Welcome to 2020’ drinks reception.
Parliamentarians and professionals from the food and drink industry used the opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and the one ahead. There was much discussion about the policies that affect the sector and to highlight the collaborative work Coca-Cola is doing in youth employability and environmental sustainability.
Holyrood editor and managing director, Mandy Rhodes, used her opening address to recap the breathless previous few weeks in UK politics since the general election.
“Not only has Boris and his big mandate given those of us involved in Scottish politics much to write about for the coming year, but by holding his election in December, he has also helped to preserve my liver by pushing this shindig into Dry January, so I expect the bar bill for tonight to be unusually low,” she joked.
“Which presumably will cheer the money man out there,” she added, turning towards the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, “who has now got the onerous task of trying to set a Scottish budget without any numbers.
“Which, to be honest, Murdo Fraser would probably say, is not an impediment to Derek’s approach to tax and spend,” she added.
The joke took on an extra dimension after Rhodes’ interview with Mackay, in which the Finance Secretary proposed publishing alternative economic forecasts to the annual GERs analysis, caught the Conservatives’ attention – leading to Murdo Fraser branding the idea as nothing but “propaganda figures” during First Minister’s Questions.
From Brexit to various leadership contests, constitutional wranglings and the prospect of the 2021 Scottish elections, there is indeed a lot on the horizon to keep politicians and journalists occupied.
Nicholas Brown, Head of Sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners, turned his focus toward the more local, giving a brief overview of Coca-Cola’s work in Scotland.
Brown highlighted the newly improved and expanded production plant in East Kilbride, which last summer was relaunched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. With two new production lines bringing £23m investment and 18 new jobs, the plant can also boast of being a ‘zero-to-landfill’ site as well as the host of a new water treatment facility.
The plant also provides opportunities for young people, through Coca-Cola’s Modern Apprenticeship and foundation apprenticeship courses.
Additionally, joining representatives from the East Kilbride plant were third sector workers who work with the company to provide support to youth work initiatives, such as Youth Scotland’s ‘Reach Up’ programme for mentoring young people from deprived backgrounds.
Focusing on the upcoming publication of the deposit return scheme consultation, Brown shared the industry perspective with the politicians and trade association representatives who were in attendance, including Food and Drink Federation Scotland and the British Soft Drinks Association.
On the subject, he said: “I don’t think we can understate what a massive difference that is going to make to the way drinks are made, labelled, sold and distributed – not just in Scotland but across the whole of the UK.
“It’s really important that we all work together to build a scheme that is going to work and be fit for purpose for the next 10,15, 20 years.”
Speaking after the event, Brown said: “We’re really pleased with how the evening went. It was great to get the opportunity to talk to policymakers about the things that are really important to our industry and our company.
“We know it was a busy evening at Holyrood – but clearly, it was an event that MSPs wanted to come along to because of the importance of our company and our industry in Scotland.
“Looking ahead, there are several areas where we, Food and Drink Federation Scotland, British Soft Drinks Association and Youth Scotland will carry on the conversations and further demonstrate our positive impact from working together.”