The UK government has announced further austerity cuts as austerity
fails to turn around Britain's sharp economic decline
Scottish News: News in Scotland- Thursday
SNP welcomes the passing of the Post-16 Bill
The SNP has welcomed the passage of the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill but condemned Labour for voting against it. The Post 16 Bill will widen access to university for students from poorer backgrounds – the first time this has been put into law. The bill also puts a cap on tuition fees for the rest of UK students, and puts in place measures to identify young people at risk of disengaging from education. Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who is a member of the Scottish parliament’s Education Committee, said: “This is a historic day as the Bill will pave the way for pay bargaining in colleges and widen access to university for students from poorer backgrounds for generations to come … Instead of backing this bill, which has been welcomed across the sector, Labour tried to block progress and stop this groundbreaking legislation. Thank goodness they did not succeed”. Labour MSP Neil Findlay said he had previously called the bill a "dog's breakfast" but then withdrew the comment as "it was an unfair slight on the pet food industry" in light of the "shambolic" legislative process.
SNP suggest move away from Osborne’s austerity cuts
Tens of thousands of police, NHS workers, prison staff and civil servants in Scotland are to keep their annual pay rises despite plans unveiled by George Osborne to further slash the public sector wage bill, SNP ministers stated yesterday. A final decision will not be taken until September when the Scottish government unveils its next spending budget, but sources within the administration yesterday intimated that a different approach would likely be taken. SNP figures argued that the further cutbacks under a Westminster government running up to and beyond 2016 make the case for independence at next year’s referendum. Stewart Hosie MP, the party’s economy spokesman said: “This current round of cuts takes us to 2016 and [Mr] Osborne today promised they will continue for years to come, so a Yes vote next September is now even more important to ensure we no longer have a discredited, failed Westminster Chancellor of a government we didn’t vote for and don’t want squeezing hard working families in Scotland”.
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NHS Lothian ‘regretfully’ axes funding for alternative medicine treatment
Scotland's second largest health board was accused of being a “farce” yesterday after announcing that it is to stop funding for homeopathic remedies. NHS Lothian is withdrawing the funding which provides more than 1,000 appointments for patients each year. The health authority said the decision reflected the results of a public consultation, which showed most people were against spending nearly £250,000 a year on alternative medicines. However, the British Homeopathic Association accused the online survey of being hijacked by those with vested interests in conventional medicine. SNP MSP Jim Eadie was equally critical of the health board. He said: “It is a matter of deep regret that NHS Lothian have taken this decision without robust consultation or meaningful public engagement”. Despite claims of the lack of scientific evidence that homeopathy is a viable treatment; it continues to have a solid following in certain high profile circles, who swear by its effectiveness.
UK crisis: Osborne continues to slash welfare budgets
George Osborne has been accused of further driving the poor and jobless into the grasps of payday lenders after announcing that the unemployed will have to wait seven days before claiming benefits. In his government spending review, the chancellor unveiled an unexpected £365mn package of further cuts in welfare – an area that has already has its budget slashed by the coalition. Under the "work first" policy, the jobless will have to sign on every week instead of fortnightly; look for work from the start of their claim and learn English or face losing benefits. Alison Gardham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, condemned the seven day wait as a "foodbanks first policy". She said: "There should be no doubt this will leave more families and children cold and hungry and push more families towards doorstep lenders and foodbanks". It is also likely that Labour will back most of the changes, but state they will look closely at the seven day delay before supporting it. "If it is a blank cheque for Wonga, we will be more suspicious," said Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor.
Osborne gives UK intelligence services biggest budget boost
UK intelligence has received the largest budget inceases in George Osborne's latest government review of public spending. The funding increase follows public outrage at GCHQ's prominent role in the NSA spy scandal. While funding for the public sector has been slashed, MI6, MI5 and GCHQ have received a boost of up to £100mn. The increase of 3.4 percent in overall funding for intelligence organisations, which already had a budget of £1.9bn, makes them top of the UK government’s spending agenda, overtaking the health service, education and military. UK intelligence activities – including the sharing of calls, Facebook posts and internet searches with the US - was recently exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as being “worse than the US”.
EU bailout agreement described as ‘stealing’
The EU has agreed today to force investors and wealthy savers to share the costs of future bank failures, in what is seen as a move away from the huge taxpayer funded bailouts that have prompted public outrage. The plan stipulates that shareholders, bondholders and depositors with more than €100,000 (£84,998) should share the burden of saving a bank – a system piloted with the Cyprus bailout. The deal between EU leaders, who meet later today in Brussels, has been made in the hope that it demonstrates a tackling of the financial crisis that began in mid 2007 with the near collapse of Germany's IKB. Russia, however, has responded furiously to the deal - condemning it as 'stealing'. The arrangement with the EU and Cyprus means investors with more than €100,000 in the nation’s largest banks will forfeit a large chunk of their deposits. "In my view, the stealing of what has already been stolen continues," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was quoted by news agencies as telling government officials.
Huge amounts of methane found in drinking water near ‘fracking’ sites
Drinking water that comes from wells near known ‘fracking’ sites has been found to contain levels of methane six times greater than acceptable levels elsewhere, a new study has found. Researchers at Duke University in the US sampled drinking water from 141 wells across northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York and found that the concentration of methane, the main component of natural gas, is much higher from wells within one kilometre of hydraulic fracturing sites. In addition to finding methane concentrations at around six times the normal level, the team also found methane concentrations 23 times higher in drinking water at some homes near ‘fracking’ sites. ‘Fracking’ – about to be undertaken in parts of the UK - is becoming a popular process for energy companies, which involves drilling deep into the ground to extract natural gas. The spread in popularity however is antagonising many environmentalists and activists who fear that fracking is having a detrimental impact on the land and public health.
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