News in Scotland - Thursday

Syria: 20 UN peacekeepers held hostage by Western-backed insurgents

Scottish NewsNews in Scotland - Thursday


Tony Blair likens the SNP to UKIP in a speech as advisor with JP Morgan
Tony Blair has likened the SNP's drive for independence to UKIP's campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Speaking in Edinburgh, he insisted Scotland's place in the UK goes with the grain of history and warned against "retreating into something smaller". Commenting, nationalist MSP Christina McKelvie said: “The 10th anniversary of Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq on false pretences is a compelling illustration of the need for Scotland's Parliament to have the full powers of independence”. Mr Blair's office said: "Mr Blair is not being paid specifically for this occasion, he is doing this as part of his international advisory role with JP Morgan for which he is paid." The US investment bank is reported to pay Mr Blair a retainer of £1mn a year. JP Morgan won the initial contract to run the Trade Bank of Iraq after the invasion.

Scots richer by £824
Scots were better off by £824 per person than the rest of the UK in the financial year of 2011/2012, claims SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney. The figures came from the Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland report which is being used by officials to see how an independent Scotland’s finances would work. The report showed revenues from oil and gas taxes of £10.6bn but also included a £7.6bn deficit where spending overtook income. 

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More poor students go to university
Students from deprived backgrounds are gaining more places at university in Scotland, according to recent figures from the National Union of Students (NUS). The figures show that there has been a 24 percent increase in the number of students moving from college to university and that the drop-out rates for these students is also lower. Going from college to university, rather than straight from school, could help widen access for the poorest students, claims the NUS.

Teaching union urges strike action vote
Scotland’s largest teaching union has urged its members to vote in favour of strike action over changes to pensions. The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), who represent 80 percent of Scotland’s teachers, has told members that it needs to send a “strong message” to Holyrood. A Scottish government spokesperson said: "The Scottish government has done everything possible to explore options for pension reform with teachers' unions and employers over the past 10 months. It is clear, however, that the significant constraints placed on us by HM Treasury have limited our opportunities to do this without adversely affecting the overall value of pensions across all Scottish Teachers Superannuation Scheme members.”

Leaked paper reveals SNP’s benefits fears
A leaked cabinet briefing paper has shown SNP ministers’ concerns over the cost of pensions and unemployment benefits in an independent Scotland. The paper by Finance Secretary John Swinney acknowledged that an independent Scotland would be heavily dependent on oil revenues and that paying off the nation’s share of the UK’s national debt would be features significantly in the future budget. A Scottish government spokesperson said that the paper is about a year old and it has been overtaken by events. She added: "As this paper makes clear, Scotland has nothing to fear and everything to gain in grasping the opportunities of independence. It also shows the depth of detailed work the Scottish Government is undertaking on financial planning."                                               


UK austerity to continue despite critical loss of AAA rating
Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that his government will stick to its austerity policies in order to bring the UK government's escalating debt load under control. The PM said that the UK would plunge "back into the abyss" if the government changed course. Political opponents point to poor economic performance, ever increasing deficits, devalued currency and the crisis provoked by Britain's loss of its AAA status as evidence that austerity is not working. However there is no evidence that 'stimulus' will work either meaning debt cancellation is being taken increasingly seriously as a plan B. In spite of the recent downgrading of the UK, Mr Cameron insists his policies are beginning to work.

Higher cancer risk for processed meat eaters
Those who eat large amounts of processed meat such as bacon or sausages run an increased risk of developing cancer, research says. The study which included people from 10 European countries found that there was an 72 percent increased risk of developing heart disease and an 11 percent increased risk for cancer. The study, published in the BMC medical journal, emphasised that a small amount of red meat is good for health as it contains nutrients and minerals, but any more than 10g of processed meat a day could increase the risk of developing health problems.

20 UN peacekeepers taken hostage by UK backed Syrian forces
Anti-government Syrian forces have seized twenty UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on the border between Syria and Israel. The United Nations Security Council has demanded for the convoy’s immediate release – but the group "Martyrs of Yarmouk", allegedly involved, have said that the peacekeepers would not be set free until Syrian government forces withdraw from the village of Jamlah - a mile east of the ceasefire link with the Israeli-occupied Golan, Reuters reports. Such events raise questions surrounding the West's involvement and motives with announcement on Wednesday that the UK will continue to increase its backing to the anti-government forces in Syria. The $19.5 mn dollar package will include armoured vehicles, body armour and communication equipment.

Damning report reveals the real costs of the US invasion of Iraq
In spending $60bn to rebuild war-torn Iraq, the US has wasted more than $9bn in taxpayer funds, with Iraq still largely unstable, a report has found. One decade after the US invaded Iraq, the reconstruction effort has been largely deemed a failure. In his final report to Congress, titled “Learning from Iraq”, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen has concluded that the costs of the war far surpassed the results. Ten years after the American invasion, the country remains impoverished and plagued by bombings. Few people have access to electricity and clean water, and many projects that the US spent millions on have been abandoned.
Revealed: the Pentagon and links to heinous acts of torture in Iraq
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up some of the worst secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in a Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by commandos. The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation arises from the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that details hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq.



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published this page in News 2013-03-07 10:37:10 +0000