News in Scotland - Thursday

john-swinney.jpg
Finance Minister John Swinney has sought contact with the Bank of
England over monetary union post-independence

Scottish news: News in Scotland - Thursday

SCOTLAND

Bank denies talks held with SNP over currency
The Bank of England has denied undertaking talks with the Scottish government over its plans for an independent Scotland to form a currency union with the UK. Mr Swinney disclosed contacts within the Bank as he gave evidence to the house of lords’ economic affairs committee on Tuesday. His remarks were interpreted as the start of negotiations between the government and the state-controlled central bank. However, a bank spokeswoman said: "The Bank of England did no more than answer technical questions from representatives of the Scottish Government. We have not entered a dialogue about the possibility of changing monetary arrangements for Scotland in future." The SNP government wants an independent Scotland to enter a currency union with the rest of the UK to keep the pound.

Report finds Scottish health inequalities still “substantial”
A report from spending watchdog Audit Scotland has found that severe health inequalities remain in Scotland. It found that though public health has improved in recent years, people from poorer backgrounds are still more likely to die young than those from more affluent areas. Those living in deprived areas are also more likely to suffer from drug addiction, alcoholism, obesity, and higher rates of heart disease. The Scottish government has said it is focussing on the underlying causes of health inequalities.

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Scottish government must speak with all 27 EU states
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has told the SNP to hold talks with all 27 EU countries on the prospect of an independent Scotland becoming a member state. The call comes after EC President José Manuel Barroso confirmed that Scotland would have to renegotiate its position in Europe in the event of independence. Mr Rennie claimed that, unless the government holds talks with EU member states ahead of the independence referendum in 2014, it is “expecting people to vote in the dark.”

Churches call for more “protection” over gay marriage
Church leaders in Scotland have expressed concern over potential gay marriage legislation, claiming it doesn't do enough to protect the rights of religious bodies. The Scottish government published its draft bill on the issue yesterday, and have insisted that the religious community will not be forced to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies in churches. However some religious leaders have called for “more safeguards” in the legislation, and have expressed concern at the speed the legislation is being introduced.

BBC heads to face public questioning over job cuts
The executives in charge of BBC Scotland have agreed to face questions from MSPs over on-going job cuts at the corporation. BBC heads had previously declined an invitation to speak to Holyrood's culture committee over the proposals, which could see 120 jobs lost by 2017. BBC Scotland is also facing strike action over the cuts, which have come as a result of budget cuts across the corporation.

Scots student numbers rising as England’s fall
More Scots than ever are winning places at university despite a challenging time for higher education, a study has found. UCAS figures showed a 0.3 percent rise in the number of Scots taking up university offers, with 30,900 successful applicants taking up options. However the number of applications from other parts of the U.K, as well as the number of English students finding places on courses have both fallen by 6.6 percent. Scottish students continue to have free undergraduate tuition, while those from the rest of the UK can face tuition fees of up to £9000 a year.

Parents to lobby MSPs over childcare costs
Today parents groups will lobby MSPs over the cost of childcare in Scotland, urging them to help mothers return to work by making care more affordable. According to charity Save the Children Scotland, Scottish parents face some of the highest childcare costs in Europe. They are calling on councils to provide up to 15 hours a week of free care for toddlers, warning that affordable childcare was becoming a “luxury” for poorer families.

UK and WORLD

UK fracking: Shale gas decision by government
The UK government has given the go ahead for a firm to resume the highly controversial technique of fracking to exploit gas in Lancashire. Fracking involves creating little explosions underground, then injecting water and chemicals to release gas trapped in cavities in shale rocks. In the US, exploitation of shale gas has sent energy prices tumbling, and the UK’s prime minister has expressed hopes that Britain can enjoy a similar boom. But government advisers warn today that shale gas may be unlikely to bring down energy prices much in Britain while the rest of Europe does not currently back the method. Environmentalists are also cautious following incidents in the US in which fracking has been associated with pollution of water through the chemicals involved in the process, as well as leakage of the powerful greenhouse gas methane.

Gas ‘will add more to energy bills than renewables’
Household energy bills will be about £600 higher per year in the coming decades if the UK continues to rely heavily on gas, the government's climate advisers warned on Thursday.
But the Committee on Climate Change found instead that bills would only be £100 higher than today's average dual fuel bill of about £1,300, if the country concentrated instead on renewable power generation, such as wind. The committee's findings rebuff the government's argument that gas will provide a cheap source of electricity and heating, with the findings based on the government's own research. The report comes as ministers gave the go ahead today for the resumption of the controversial "fracking" gas extraction method.

Norovirus closes hundreds of wards
Three quarters of a million people have been struck down by the ‘winter vomiting bug’ and dozens of hospital wards closed with the highest numbers of norovirus this season on record. In the last two weeks, 43 hospital wards across England and Wales have been closed with the total number shut since the outbreak began now standing at 335. Figures released yesterday by the Health Protection Agency indicate 68,000 people have been hit by the bug in the last week. Almost twice as many people have been affected so far this autumn and winter, compared to the same stage in 2011. However, John Harris from the HPA, warned that this could just be a short term drop, as the “bulk” of cases usually came after Christmas.

EU agreement over eurozone bank regulation
The European Central Bank (ECB) will become the single regulator for the eurozone's largest banks after an agreement between the EU's 27 members agreed the move as a step towards a "banking union" which would, finance ministers hope lead to a more stable financial system across the bloc. The system is expected to come into effect by the end of 2013 but critics warn against giving the ECB too much power and that the new model may diminish efficiency.

Hubble telescope views deeper into space than ever before
Astronomers at the Hubble space telescope have announced that they have identified several new galaxies that formed near the start of the universe, looking back to just a few hundred million years after the big bang. The find could give us a clearer indication than ever of the early years of the cosmos, after calculations indicated that one of the objects viewed was older than any other viewed before.

NHS savings may not be sustainable, says report
Austerity cuts which have seen the NHS find nearly £6 billion in savings over the last year may not be sustainable going forward, the National Audit Office has warned. The government has tasked NHS chiefs with making £20bn worth of savings by 2017. But the spending watchdog has called on the government to take “an active interest” in assuring that the quality of patient care is not being harmed by the cuts, and also claims there is “limited assurance” that last year's reported savings were actually met.

Heavy rain to cause more travel chaos
Much of the South of the UK will be struck by heavy downpours over the next few days according to forecasters, with the Met Office warning that there is a risk of flooding. Cold and icy conditions have already caused travel disruptions across the country, with temperatures in Scotland reaching as low as -12C. But now travellers are faced with milder temperatures bringing heavy rain over the weekend, where temperatures in the South of England could go as high as 11C.

HMV warned it could breach banking agreement
High street entertainment retailer HMV is suffering from falling sales over the festive period, and has warned it could face a “probable covenant breach at the end of January 2013". The retailing giant announced a loss of £37.3mn over two quarters to 27 October, compared to £48.1mn in the same period last year. Bosses have said they are introducing a number of initiatives to boost sales over Christmas, which they hope will give them a platform for growth in 2013.

Syrians accused of Scud missile attacks
US forces have claimed that Syrian government forces have used Scud missiles against opposition fighters. The weapons are designed to inflict severe burns on targets, and are filled with highly flammable materials. Human Rights Watch has claimed the missiles have been dropped in highly populated areas, while a White House spokesman called the reports, if true, “a desperate act” from al-Assad's regime. The latest reports follows a concerted media campaign which raises fears that President Assad may use WMDs - similar warnings before the invasion of Iraq were later found to be baseless.

North Korean rocket launch condemned by UN
The United Nations Security Council has criticised North Korea after its surprise missile test, calling the launch a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security.” The test also breaks a UN resolution which banned the secretive state from conducting launches with ballistic missile weapons. There are fears that the test could indicate North Korea is closer to developing technology that could eventually see the missiles carry nuclear warheads.

Chinese aircraft flies over disputed territory
The conflict between China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku is in danger of escalating after China flew an aircraft over the archipelago. Japanese fighter jets were scrambled after the Chinese aircraft was detected, in what was the first violation of Japanese airspace by a China since 1958. Diplomatic ties between the two countries are currently strained over the dispute, which has seen Beijing challenge Japan's control of the waters surrounding Senkaku.

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published this page in News 2012-12-13 11:59:11 +0000