News in Scotland - Monday

john-swinney.jpg
UK's AAA downgrade a warning to the SNP over policy of remaining
within a 'sterling zone' post-independence

Scottish News: News in Scotland - Monday

SCOTLAND

Scottish independence: calls to consider independent currency gain credence after UK downgrade
Scottish finance secretary John Swinney has said the loss of the UK's AAA rating proves the UK's economic strategy has "completely failed". Arguing that an independent Scotland would have a better approach to managing its economy, he said: "What an independent Scotland would do, by any margin, would be to take a much more assertive position on delivering growth, on encouraging the expansion of the economy to generate the greater revenues and repair the public finances and that's the type of virtuous cycle that credit rating agencies like to see from governments". The downgrading comes after leading economist Prof John Kay, a former member of the Scottish government's council of economic advisers said last week: "The currency issue is crucial - Scotland would be right to seek agreement on monetary union with the remaining United Kingdom, but it would be difficult to negotiate an agreement that would be consistent with the fiscal freedom sought through independence...Scotland should be ready to adopt an independent currency."

Young referendum vote needs promotion
The Electoral Commission has raised concern over voting participation by 16- and 17-year-olds in the 2014 referendum leading to speculation as to how the vote could be promoted. The independence vote will be the first time under-18s will go to the ballot, however a recent pilot scheme found a lack of interest when this age group had the vote for health board elections. Members of the Electoral Commission, who are in charge of promoting the vote, have said they must be given a legal duty to encourage young people to take part.

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Vatican to investigate Cardinal O’Brien claims
The Vatican have announced that they will investigate the claims of “inappropriate behaviour” by Cardinal Keith O’Brien towards four priests in the 1980s. O’Brien, who is the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has strongly denied the allegations that were publicised in the Observer on Sunday. According to the Observer, the men came forward to prevent O’Brien being involved in the upcoming conclave. The Catholic Church has announced that O’Brien is taking legal advice.  

North Sea: Investment at 30-year high
Investments in Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas sector are at their highest in 30 years and are set to rise, according to a report by Oil and Gas UK. The oil and gas trading body has announced that companies invested £11.4bn in the North Sea last year and this figure is set to rise to £13bn by the end of 2013. Oil and Gas UK’s Chief Executive Malcolm Webb said: “After two disappointing years brought about by tax uncertainty and consequent low investment, the UK continental shelf is now benefitting from record investment in new developments and in existing assets and infrastructure, the strongest for more than three decades.” The Scottish government claims there are still 24 billion barrels of retrievable oil left in the North Sea with a wholesale value of £1.5tn.

Medical negligence costs NHS Scotland over £200 million
Negligence claim payouts have cost the NHS £213mn since 2006, with the figure to rise following a near-20 percent surge in claims being filed. Payouts include damages to patients who have been harmed or families of those who have lost relatives due to medical errors by staff, as well as the costs of covering successful claimants’ legal expenses and healthboards’ defence bills. Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "Not all claims made against the boards are successful. While the number of cases settled from year to year varies due to claims taking more than one year to conclude, the cost of clinical negligence to the NHS reduced from £60.7m in 2010/11 to less than £30m in 2011/12. It is absolutely essential that, when clinical negligence claims do arise, NHS boards learn from these cases and put steps in place to ensure that there is no repeat in future."


INTERNATIONAL

UK crisis: pound hits 16 month low after ratings downgrade
Britain's loss of its AAA credit rating intensified the pressure on sterling today despite another rally for London's top flight shares index. The currency weakened during overnight trading in Asia, leaving it at a 31-month low against the US dollar and at a 16-month low against the resurgent euro. Explaining its move on Friday, Moody's pointed to "subdued" growth prospects in the UK and a "high and rising debt burden". The downgrade is a humiliation for George Osborne who chose to make the credit rating the ultimate benchmark of economic stability. A low pound resulting from low interest rates means the spending power of the citizens is diluted leading to a drop in living standards and an increase in poverty.

Clegg denies Rennard cover up
Nick Clegg has denied a cover-up over the alleged behaviour of ex-Lib Dem chief executive, Lord Rennard, as the party president Tim Farron admitted they "screwed it up as a party". Mr Clegg said he had only been aware of "indirect and non-specific concerns" about the peer's conduct towards women, amid preparations to defend the seat of Eastleigh in a by-election. The Lib Dems are now conducting two inquiries - one into the specific complaints against Lord Rennard, and the other -which will be independently chaired - into how the allegations were handled in the past. Lord Rennard denies the allegations.

Protest votes in Italy fly in face of austerity
Italians voted for a second and final day in a general election on Monday with a surge in protest votes increasing the risk of an outcome that those in the Eurozone fear could potentially scupper attempts to end the three-year debt crisis. Opinion polls give the centre-left coalition led by former Industry Minister Pier Luigi Bersani a narrow lead but the net has been cast wide open by the prospect of protest votes against austerity and corporate and political scandals. “An angry and confused public opinion does not see the benefits of fiscal austerity and does not trust established political parties” said chief economist Riccardo Barbieri. "

Syrian govt to engage in talks with the opposition
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem is to hold talks in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov as Russia puts pressure on both the opposition and the Syrian regime to open direct talks to end their two-year conflict. “We are ready for dialogue with anyone who wants dialogue, including those who are fighting with arms in their hands, because we are confident that reforms cannot be carried out through bloodshed, but through dialogue,” Muallem said ahead of the talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Syrian FM pointed out to Lavrov that there are currently rebel fighters from some 30 foreign countries engaging in fighting in Syria.

Cuba: Castro to step-down in five years
Raul Castro has announced that he will retire at the end of his second term as president in 2018, aged 86. His most visible successor is Miguel Diaz-Canel, a member of the political bureau who has risen through the party ranks to become Castro’s first vice president. In the opening session of the new parliament, Castro said: “I should clarify that, in my case, independent of the date on which the Constitution is perfected, this shall be my last term.”   

South Korea inaugurates female president
Park Guen-Hye has been inaugurated as South Korea’s first female president. In her campaign, Park promised to work towards a “trust-based” relationship with nuclearised Pyongyang. "North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people," Park said in her inauguration speech. "I urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace and shared development." Observers have commented that the South Korean public’s expectations of Park are high despite the difficulties she will face in office.

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published this page in News 2013-02-25 13:25:20 +0000