The UK government has increased defence spending whilst forcing
austerity cuts on the UK population
News in Scotland - Thursday (43)
Poll question agreed but voters demand answers
Scotland’s independence referendum watchdog has called for clarity about the steps that would follow a Yes or No vote after discovering confusion among voters. The Electoral Commission urged the Scottish and UK governments to work together to spell out what would happen in the immediate aftermath of the vote in autumn 2014. John McCormick, the Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said people wanted "information in advance about what will happen". The commission hopes to provide details in leaflets if the two governments can agree a joint position. Prime Minister David Cameron also promised to work with the Scottish government at Prime Minister's Questions. But he added: "We will not pre-negotiate Scotland's exit from the United Kingdom”.
Westminster benefit cap to push 15,000 more Scots kids into poverty
New figures show 15,000 more children will be pushed into poverty in Scotland as a result of Westminster’s Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill. This does not encompass the UK government’s changes to Working Tax Credits and Child Benefit. The SNP MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, who is the Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee, said: “We can see clearly the devastating impact of Westminster’s welfare changes, with 15,000 children being pushed into poverty as a result of the one per cent uprating of working-age benefits”. “This does not even take into account the UK government’s other welfare changes that are having a destructive effect on people’s lives”.
More Scottish news:
- Scottish independence: campaign too important to be left to politicians
- Salmond warns Osborne: Westminster austerity won’t cut it for Scotland
- Scotland should “pay for itself”, says senior Tory
- North Sea oil helps Scotland through UK crisis
Trading standards viability 'under threat' from cuts
The long term viability of trading standards operations is under threat, according to the Accounts Commission. It said services, which are run by Scotland's 32 local authorities, had seen deeper job cuts than other departments. Trading standards offer the public help and advice on areas including food safety, fraud and consumer rights. Chairman of the Accounts Commission John Baillie said: "We're currently living in a period of economic hardship - the very time consumers most need protection and help. The report highlighted spending on trading standards services was just £21mn a year, or less than 0.2 percent of councils' budgets.
Fall in Scots bankruptcy rate
The number of Scots going bust has fallen by 5 percent in the final three months of last year. There were more than 3,800 personal insolvencies during the period. However, according to insolvency experts, the level of both personal and corporate bankruptcies still remains high compared with previous years. Bryan Jackson, corporate recovery partner with PKF, explained: "What these figures show is that, despite an overall fall in the number of personal insolvencies, there are still many thousands of Scots with jobs and homes who are going bust”. "Even after five years of the recession we are still seeing enormous numbers of individuals whose finances are out of control”.
David Cameron 'to keep defence equipment spending pledge'
David Cameron will stick to an increase in defence equipment spending in real terms after 2015, ministers say. The prime minister made the pledge in 2010, at a time when the coalition thought the structural deficit would be cut in this Parliament. Government sources said he would not drop the pledge - despite plans for further austerity cuts beyond 2015. The restatement of the PM's commitment to future rises in defence spending above the rate of inflation came as Mr Hammond prepared to publicise the Ministry of Defence's £160bn equipment plan for the next 10 years. The list includes nearly £36bn for a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines, almost £19bn for combat aircraft, and around £17bn for Royal Navy warships.
UK crisis: three-quarters of English local authorities to put up council tax for poorest families
Three-quarters of local authorities in England plan to put up council tax for the poorest households, often by hundreds of pounds, new research reveals. From April local authorities in England will take control of a previously national scheme of subsidies for the hardest up families, usually with no working adults or those working on the minimum wage. In the worst cases, bills will rise by £600 a year, says the Resolution Foundation. Amid growing criticism that ministers do not understand how far they are driving families into financial difficulty, Downing Street on Wednesday suggested nobody should need to use food banks, which are expected to face helping 230,000 people this year.
UK crisis: mis-sold products may cost UK banks billions
British banks face another round of compensation claims that could total billions of pounds after a study found they had widely mis-sold interest rate hedging products to small businesses. The interest rate swaps are the latest in a series of costly banking scandals that include insurance on loans and mortgages that was also mis-sold, rigged global benchmark rates and breaches of anti-money laundering rules. The FSA said on Thursday it found that in the 173 interest-rate swap test cases it examined, more than 90 percent did not comply with at least one or more regulatory requirements. Martin Berkeley, a senior consultant at Vedanta Hedging said: "the difference between this and PPI is that people lost their homes and businesses. These products were toxic”.
Police paid millions for details of car crashes
Police forces have received millions of pounds for passing on the details of road accident victims to claims management companies, insurers and lawyers, it has emerged. It may have led to thousands of people being pursued by companies looking to profit out of personal injury claims, vehicle repairs and providing a replacement car. Police forces have denied making a profit, insisting the money they received was merely covering their administrative costs in providing details to insurers after a crash. Jack Straw, the former Home Secretary who led a parliamentary campaign to curb accident claims companies, has described the passing on of information as “scandalous”. “It is completely unacceptable that the police and public services are selling data in this way,” he said.
US slips back into recession
The US economy took its biggest plunge in more than three years last quarter, contracting at an annual rate of 0.1 percent - indicating a new level of vulnerability for the economy. The plummet marks the first time the economy contracted since the Great Recession ended and is causing concern that the US could be headed further downhill. The economy shrank from October through December, which economists attribute to a large cut in spending, fewer exports and lagging growth in company stockpiles. But uncertainty still exists as lawmakers have once again delayed a potential US default without coming up with a long-term budget plan.
Facebook's quarterly profit drops sharply
Facebook has increased its revenue from mobile devices with more users now accessing the social network via smartphones and tablets than from personal computers, but its quarterly profits fell sharply compared to last year. The company on Wednesday reported a $64mn profit in the fourth quarter of last year, a steep drop compared with $302mn 12 months earlier, while revenue grew 40 percent to $1.585bn. The company's shares - which fell by half following their debut in May, but have since been on a steady climb - fell 3.46 percent to $30.16 in electronic trades.
Russia concern at Israeli 'air strike' on Syria
Russia has expressed concern at an Israeli attack on Syria, saying the strike is an unacceptable violation of the UN Charter. Syria's army said Israeli jets had targeted a military research centre north-west of Damascus on Wednesday. It denied reports that lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit. Russia has steadfastly refused to denounce Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the 22 month conflict that has killed more than 60,000 people. Any Israeli attack on Syria could cause a major diplomatic incident, analysts say, as Iran has said it will treat any Israeli attack on its ally Syria as an attack on itself. Israel and the US have declined to comment on the reported incident.
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