News in Scotland - Friday

michael-russell.jpg
Education Minister, Michael Russell, has said he never considered
resigning after giving inaccurate information supplied to him by officials

Scottish news: News in Scotland - Friday

SCOTLAND

MSPs dismiss Donald Trump green tourism claims
A parliamentary committee has confirmed that there is no ‘robust’ evidence to suggest that renewable energy developments are hurting the country’s tourism industry. The findings come amidst objections by notorious businessman Donald Trump who is sceptical of various forms of renewable energy; and who has made it clear that he believes wind farms to be ‘financial suicide’. Holyrood's economy committee also said the Scottish government's ambitious green energy targets could be met, however MSPs warned they were being put at risk because of a lack of finance.

Scottish independence: Referendum powers order backed by committee
Unanimous backing has been given to the Scottish parliament by MSPs which the UK government argues it needs to enable it to hold the independence referendum. A report by the Referendum Bill committee said that the legal power, the section 30 order, should now be approved by Holyrood. The Bill be debated in the Commons and Lords before going to the Privy Council for approval, which will likely happen in February. The transfer of powers includes details relating to the holding of the referendum. Once the order is passed next year, the Scottish government will have sole, undisputed, responsibility over the matter, leaving MPs and peers with no subsequent role in the process. Referendum Bill committee convener, Bruce Crawford said that the evidence heard by the committee demonstrated a "consensus of political and expert opinion" that the order would put the legality of the referendum bill "beyond effective legal challenge".

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Prisoners denied referendum vote
Prisoners will not be given the vote in the upcoming independence referendum the Scottish government has said. UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling set out alternative plans to give prisoners serving up to six months, or up to four years, a vote in elections. He also said MPs could defy a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling and keep the blanket ban on prisoners voting in Britain but warned of a "political cost" if they did. The independence poll however would not be affected as the previous ECHR ruling, which said a total ban was contrary to human rights, does not cover referendums. A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government does not agree that convicted prisoners should be able to vote”.

Review of correction rules
In light of recent events surrounding alterations to Official Reports, a Holyrood watchdog has said that they would look favourably upon tightening procedure to increase transparency. The current arrangement for corrections to the Holyrood equivalent of Hansard is regarded as fine up until the correction is made; but at that point, the fact of the alteration is left on a relatively obscure part of the parliament's website. Now there is a drive for any such changes to be publicised on the front of Holyrood's daily Business Bulletin, a move that would have the support of Dave Thompson, the convener of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. He said of revisiting the rules: "It's not in our work plan at the moment, but if members want us to have another look at this I am certain that we would treat that favourably.”

Education Secretary Mike Russell 'did not consider stepping down'
Scotland’s education secretary has told the BBC that he did not consider stepping down during the recent row over inaccurate college budget figures. Mike Russell instead said he was focused on delivering for Scotland's young people. He has faced calls from Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems to step down. Speaking on Newsnight Scotland the minister said he had no plans to quit his post, nor had First Minister Alex Salmond suggested such a course of action. He said: "I think the issue is, did I make a mistake? Yes I did. Did I apologise for that mistake? Yes I did".

Aberdeen 'corruption case' oil firm Abbot Group to pay £5.6m
An Aberdeen based oil company has agreed to hand over £5.6mn after suspicions were raised that it could have been acquired through corrupt means. Abbot Group reported itself to the Crown Office after doubts were raised about the legality of an overseas deal. Ruaraidh Macniven, head of the Civil Recovery Unit, said: "Abbot is the first company to have met the strict criteria of the self-reporting initiative since it was introduced in 2011”. He stated that the money will now be invested in the Scottish government's CashBack for Communities Programme helping sporting, cultural and community projects for young people.

UK and WORLD

EU budget: David Cameron says not enough progress made
EU budget talks have been criticised by David Cameron for their lack of progress today. Talks on the 2014-2020 budget resume at noon after Thursday night's discussion. Most EU members want a budget increase, but the UK and some others oppose this. The European Commission, which drafts EU laws, has called for an increase of 4.8 percent on the 2007-2013 budget, but the UK is the most vocal of EU member states seeking cuts in the budget to match austerity programmes at home. "No, I'm not happy at all," Prime Minister David Cameron said about Mr Van Rompuy's offer to cap spending at €973bn. Mr Cameron met the German chancellor on Friday morning, saying Mrs Merkel was "sympathetic" to the argument for further savings. However it is thought she has a different view of the level of savings that are possible.

EU in further "assault on sovereignty"
A vote calling for national militaries to increase their strength has been passed by the European parliament. Conservative MEP, David Campbell Bannerman, believes the move is usurping the sovereignty of its members. He said: “This is about actually furthering the course of one united state in Europe, because they want a single army, a single defence industry, because this is part of their foreign policy.”

Israeli soldiers open fire in buffer zone
One adult has been killed and 10 teenagers wounded as Israeli soldiers, stationed at the border line between Khan Younis and Israel opened fire on them, medical sources say. Witnesses told Al Jazeera that the teenagers entered the disputed area of the ‘buffer zone’, which is 300m along the Gaza-Israel border, south east of the Gaza Strip. Sources said they may have had confused information about the buffer zone as there has been lots of information about the easing of travel restrictions as part of the ceasefire agreement. Al Jazeera reporters state that there had been a problem in this area for the past two days. The Israeli army is able to shoot at people in the buffer zone without entering the area. The fatality marks the first casualty since Gaza and Israel agreed on a truce ending their week-long conflict.

Argentina: Hedge fund "vultures" victory a form of "legal colonialism"
A US court decision to find against Argentina and award hedge fund creditors, Elliott Associates and Aurelius Capital, $1.3bn has been described as "a kind of legal colonialism." Argentina's economy minister said: “All we need now is for [Judge Thomas] Griesa to send us the Fifth Fleet,”. The victory is thought to likely be the trigger for a sovereign default which analysts consider could have ramifications for international finance as other nations, including in the eurozone, look on and reconsider default as a better option to bailouts and austerity.

China halts increase of strategic oil reserve
It is reported that China has halted the increase in its strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) reducing demand from the global oil market. In the earlier part of the year oil prices were strengthened after Beijing ordered millions of barrels of crude to be put into its expanding emergency reserve.

Humanitarian crisis looming in Congo as thousand flee fighting
Aid agencies have warned that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as more people are fleeing to safety. About half a million people have been displaced by a violent rebellion since April. With state control collapsing in large areas of the east, there are severe food shortages and a heightened risk of cholera and other diseases. The rebel militia M23 – widely believed to be backed by Rwanda – holds the major city of Goma but was taken by surprise on Thursday, when government soldiers launched a counter-offensive, opening fire from surrounding hills. M23 military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Vianney Kazarama said: "It is war, of course there is fighting." Oxfam said the recent conflict has left an estimated 120,000 people in urgent need of aid. Many are sleeping in the open or sheltering in schools and other buildings and are now without vital humanitarian assistance.

Google takes action to support open Internet
An upcoming UN organized conference on global communications aims to reach a treaty to safeguard ‘the free flow of information around the world’. Google has responded saying the treaty threatens the ‘free and open Internet’. Representatives from UN member states will gather in Dubai in December, with the explicit aim of working out a new universal information and communication treaty that would regulate the Internet. The conference, organised by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) has re-ignited fierce debate over who should control the Web.

Egypt's Morsy gives himself new powers, and orders retrials in protester deaths
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy has issued an order preventing courts from overturning his decisions, allowing him to run the country effectively without dispute until a new constitution is drafted, his spokesman announced on state TV on Thursday. Morsy also ordered retrials and reinvestigations into the deaths of protesters during last year's uprising against Hosni Mubarak. It is speculated that this could lead to the re-prosecution of Mubarak, currently serving a life prison term, and several acquitted officials who served under him. The order for retrials could please Egyptians who've expressed disappointment that security officers and others have escaped legal consequences over last year's crackdown by the Mubarak government.

Russia: Missiles near Syria risk 'serious conflict’
Russia has warned that any deployment of Patriot missiles by Turkey on its border with Syria may create a temptation to use the weapons and spark a "very serious armed conflict" involving NATO. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, reiterating concerns aired by the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, that: "no one has any intention to see NATO get sucked into the Syrian crisis, but the more arms that are being accumulated, the greater the risk that they will be used," Lavrov spoke after Turkey turned to NATO to request the deployment of surface-to-air Patriot missiles to protect its troubled border with Syria.

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published this page in News 2012-11-23 13:20:10 +0000