News in Scotland - Thursday

john-swinney.jpg
Finance Secretary John Swinney has promised a Scottish economic
watchdog after concerns the OBR was manipulating Scottish data for
political ends

Scottish News: News in Scotland - Thursday 

SCOTLAND

Swinney plans Scottish economic watchdog
Finance Secretary John Swinney has announced plans to create a Scottish economic watchdog after concerns that the UK Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) has continually downplayed Scotland's economic position. The OBR provides economic forecasts for the Westminster government but many in Scotland believe it has been influenced to under report Scotland's economic position with particular reference to North Sea energy revenues. There was criticism from LibDem leader Willie Rennie who said the move by Swinney was about "cooking the books and looking to appoint his own chef". Mr Rennie did not say if he believes that this criticism is the case under current OBR arrangements with Westminster.

Vince Cable’s actions could be ‘misconstrued as prosecutory interference’

The Crown Office has said it was "disappointed" that UK Business Secretary Vince Cable wrote to the Advocate General over an ongoing inquiry into Royal Bank of Scotland. Mr Cable asked for Scottish legal officials to make a decision on whether to prosecute former RBS directors. However, the Crown Office said the Advocate General had no role in the investigation or prosecution of crime. The head of Scotland's public prosecution service - Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland - questioned why Mr Cable had written to Lord Wallace rather than the Crown Office, when it had been “confirmed on several occasions that in Scotland it is the Lord Advocate who is the sole prosecuting authority acting independently in the public interest”. He added: "It would be unfortunate if this were to be construed as attempted interference with independent investigation and prosecutorial decision-making by the law officers”. RBS, which is facing several class action suits from investors and shareholders, was bailed out by the taxpayer at a cost of £45.5bn in October 2008.

More Scottish news:

Unison claims council tax freeze benefits the well-off
The public services union, Unison, has claimed that the freeze in Scotland's council tax disproportionately benefits the wealthy. Unison calculates that those in the most expensive Band H houses save £441 compared to just £147 for those in the lowest bands. Unison also claims that rent and services increases have offset any savings the poor have made. However with fewer people able to get on the property ladder there has been an increase in demand for rented accommodation and so there is no guarantee that a rise in council tax charges would not be accompanied by the same rent increases thus creating a double whammy for the poorest residents which would take more demand out of local economies as people spend less putting pressure on local jobs.

Unison claims council tax freeze benefits the well-off

The public services union, Unison, has claimed that the freeze in Scotland's council tax disproportionately benefits the wealthy. Unison calculates that those in the most expensive Band H houses save £441 compared to just £147 for those in the lowest bands. Unison also claims that rent and services increases have offset any savings the poor have made. However with fewer people able to get on the property ladder there has been an increase in demand for rented accommodation and so there is no guarantee that a rise in council tax charges would not be accompanied by the same rent increases thus creating a double whammy for the poorest residents which would take more demand out of local economies as people spend less putting pressure on local jobs.

Scots comic attacked on social media after independence jokes

Scots comic Susan Calman, who suffered online abuse after joking about the independence referendum, has received backing from SNP ministers. Sports Minister Shona Robison tweeted a message of support after the comedian called for an end to "name calling, swearing and death threats" in the debate. Ms Calman was targeted after poking fun at Alex Salmond, George Osborne and Danny Alexander in BBC Radio 4's News Quiz. Scotland's culture secretary Fiona Hyslop told The Scotsman that politicians should not be immune to stick or satire, and insisted comedians and other artists should be free to enter the independence debate without fear of being abused. Writing on her blog, Ms Calman said: “Scottish people are meant to have a tremendous sense of humour. We do. Except when it comes to the referendum it seems”.

UK crisis: interest only mortgages could result in repossession or payments ‘until death’

Almost half of all people with "interest-only" mortgages– about 1.3 million homeowners – may not have enough money to pay off their home loan when it matures - facing an average shortfall of more than £71,000, according to research by the main City regulator. Such stark figures fuel fears that many of those left with a huge bill could end up either facing repossession, or substantial mortgage payments continuing into old age. The FCA has described the situation as a “ticking timebomb”, with banks often extending the mortgage term at the same time as switching the loan over to a repayment basis – which ratings agency Moody's has claimed could leave people with repayments "until their death". Despite the warning however, the FCA said interest only loans remained "right for certain people".

UK crisis: new financial scandal as ICAP accused of Libor-style rates rigging in ISDAfix market

ICAP plc, the world’s largest broker of interest rate swaps – based in London - is facing an ongoing investigation by the UK authorities as part of its probe into Libor rigging. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps - a $379tn market. ICAP is already being probed by Canada's Competition Bureau for allegedly facilitating the manipulation of yen Libor by panel banks including RBS, HSBC, Barclays, Bank of America and JPMorgan; many of whom sit on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. As LibDem leader Willie Rennie today likened the idea of an independent Scottish economic watchdog, as Scotland wanting to “cook the books”, the question Mr Rennie may want to address is after financial scandals now involving both Libor, ISDAfix, 'mis-selling', anti-trust activity and money laundering – has the City of London has been cooking the books for years.

North Korea detains US citizen

North Korea has sentenced a US citizen to 15 years of hard labour for "hostile acts" against the government, the official Korean Central News Agency said today. Pae Jun-Ho, known in the US as Kenneth Bae, was arrested in November as he entered the northeastern port city of Rason. However Seoul-based activist Do Hee-Yoon has told the AFP news agency that he suspected Pae was arrested because he had taken photographs of emaciated children in North Korea as part of efforts to appeal for more outside aid. The US has subsequently urged North Korea to free the detainee on "humanitarian grounds”, admitting to concerns that he could be used as a "political bargaining" chip. Tensions have been running high between the US and North Korea since Pyongyang carried out a third nuclear test in February.

More Americans now believe in armed revolution

An armed rebellion against the US federal government might be necessary in the next few years, believe three in 10 registered US voters. Much of the reaction to the poll has been centred around voters being vulnerable to propaganda spread by the US gun lobby. However, the poll comes only days after another poll showed a clear majority of US citizens feel more their federal government represents a greater threat than terrorism does. The polls were taken after the Boston bombings.

Facebook profits from growth in mobile advertising

Facebook profits grew by 38 percent in the first three months of 2013. According to the social networking platform the revenues increase (14 percent) is due to an upsurge in mobile advertising as well as a spurt in overall user base to 1.1bn monthly users, representing an increase of 23 percent since 2012.

ExxonMobil pipeline has second oil spill in US

A 70-year-old ExxonMobil's Pegasus pipeline, which released thousands of barrels of tar sands oil in Arkansas at the end of March, has now caused another incident in Ripley County, Missouri – despite being out of operation. Originally built in the late 1940s, the Pegasus is now the subject of severe scrutiny, as many environmentalists argue that the increased corrosive impact of transporting tarsands oil presents a greater concern than other forms of oil. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) report on the spill at the end of March states that of the approximately 5,000 barrels of crude oil involved in the pipeline breach, less than half had been cleaned up by ExxonMobil.

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published this page in News 2013-05-02 13:19:38 +0100