Prime Minster David Cameron was accused of talking "puerile tripe" about
independence by the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson
Scottish News: Top stories - Thursday
SNP abolish Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme
SNP ministers yesterday announced the abolition of Scottish council tenants’ “right to buy” scheme in a landmark decision drawing a line under one of Margaret Thatcher's most divisive policies. People currently living in council housing will have until the autumn of 2017 to apply to buy their home at a reduced rate – an offer which nearly half-a-million families in Scotland have opted to take up since it was introduced in 1980 by the Conservative government. However the Scottish government has targeted the policy for several years, warning that there cannot be a further reduction of the social housing stock, when more than 400,000 people are on the waiting list. The decision was slammed by the Scottish Tories last night, who claimed the policy had freed people who were otherwise “trapped” in “monolithic council house schemes”. However the policy has long been criticised for attracting speculating investors, increasing the sale of viable housing for below market value, and concentrating council housing in undesirable areas with little employment opportunity.
PM David Cameron accused of ‘puerile tripe’ to assist Better Together campaign
Prime Minister David Cameron has come out stating with confidence, that the Nationalists are “losing the battle” and lets “bring on the referendum”. The claim came during prime minister’s questions after SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson called on him to drop the “puerile tripe” which is fuelling the Better Together campaign. Mr Robertson was addressing flaws in the government’s latest paper produced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) which included claims about roaming charges, and £1,000 fees for Scottish hauliers to use roads in the rest of the UK should Scotland become independent. Mr Cameron quickly jumped in to defend the government analysis papers, saying the criticisms were because the SNP is losing the battle of facts. However, the focus was turned back onto Mr Cameron who was forced to defend his Chancellor George Osborne after Labour’s former Treasury Minister Geoffrey Robinson highlighted that his interventions continue to cost the taxpayer billions of pounds.
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New plan to rejuvenate Scotland’s town centres
The National Review of Town Centres, a report commissioned by the Scottish government, has said that public bodies should put "town centres first" in their decision making by implementing a mix of leisure, public facilities and homes. The report draws attention to the way in which the Westminster tax system encourages out-of-town development. It states: "The iniquity of the VAT system, whereby a new build in a field on the edge of town is publicly subsidised by being excused VAT, while the repair of an existing building is burdened with the full 20 percent, is a formal UK wide encouragement that squanders our resources, by hugely disadvantaging the old buildings and existing town centres at the heart of our communities”. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon commented: "We recognise the national review group's passion for finding a future for our town centres and welcome their succinct and insightful review which outlines practical ideas for reenergising these areas”.
MONETARY INDEPENDENCE v UNION LATEST
(International news on monetary union to inform the Scottish referendum debate)
Crises in Portugal and Greece show fragility of eurozone
There are concerns across Europe that the possible collapse of the Portuguese government today and the crisis caused by Troika-imposed austerity in Greece will reignite the eurozone crisis. As crisis meetings continue today in Portugal in order to defuse political meltdown which would see an immediate election, pressure has been applied on Portugal by the European Commission (EC) which promotes austerity, to act with "responsibility" or risk losing its "financial credibility". Greece which was also in receipt of a bailout also recently saw its government collapse after pressure from the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission and IMF) to close its state-run broadcaster ERT. Manuel Barroso, president of the unelected European Commission has said he would do "whatever it takes" to save the euro. Unlike the UK, Portugal and Greece cannot set their own interest rates raising questions that post-independence Scotland would be in the same position should SNP sterling policy be adopted.
UK crisis: UK government continues the Whitehall ‘gravy train’
Senior government officials are continuing to receive huge taxpayer-funded deals worth up to nearly £500,000 to leave their jobs despite ministers pledging to crack down on the Whitehall "gravy train", the Daily Telegraph has revealed. Moira Wallace, the former permanent secretary at the Energy Department was handed exit pay worth £472,000, despite walking into another job as provost of Oriel College, Oxford University, starting in September. The payment, which was authorised by the Treasury, is thought to be the biggest ever severance package and was made despite ministers announcing that such payments were to be capped at drastically lower levels. Disclosure of the payments comes just days after the BBC was criticised by the government accountancy watchdog for giving inflated severance deals to departing senior officials. Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of Taxpayers’ Alliance, said taxpayers would be “disgusted to hear that a permanent secretary who presided over dramatic rises in their energy bills is being rewarded with an enormous discretionary pay off even though she’s left voluntarily”.
Murdoch caught on tape describing Metropolitan Police as ‘incompetent’
Rupert Murdoch has been secretly recorded by Sun reporters describing the Metropolitan Police investigation into News International as “incompetent”, whilst downplaying the significance of the alleged payment of bribes by his journalists to public officials. The remarks, captured on a recording obtained by Channel 4 News and investigative website Exaro, will likely be used as evidence of the disparity between Mr Murdoch’s public outrage over the existence of phone hacking within his UK newspapers, and the less apologetic stance behind closed doors. News International (now NewsUK) has strongly denied that Mr Murdoch knew payments had been made from his own titles to police until News Corp’s own internal investigation uncovered evidence which was subsequently handed over by the company’s Management and Standards Committee (MSC). The exposure comes hot on the heels of whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations that GCHQ has been engaging in secret operations tapping the telephone calls and emails of unsuspecting UK citizens on a mass scale for years.
Ecuador’s London Embassy bugged
A hidden microphone used to bug an office in Ecuador’s London embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living for over a year, has been revealed by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino during a press conference on Wednesday. Patino told reporters the recording device was found beneath a desk in the office belonging to Ana Alban, the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the UK, according to Reuters. Careful not to directly accuse the UK authorities, Patino said the microphone was discovered on June 16 before he visited the embassy to meet with Mr Assange. The British foreign office has refused to comment on the matter. The foreign minister added that Ecuador was still considering NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s request for political asylum as US law enforcement continues to pursue him for revealing perhaps the most extensive secret civilian surveillance scheme in history.
Egypt: Morsi toppled from power in ‘full military coup’
After just a year in office Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has been ousted from power in what many are calling a 'full military coup'. The chief of the armed forces, General Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, has announced that the constitution has been suspended, and that the head of the constitutional court, Adli Mansour, will act as interim president from today. Both presidential and parliamentary elections will follow shortly afterwards and a transitional cabinet is to be named. Sisi strove to paint the coup as the fulfilment of the popular will, following days of vast protests against Morsi's rule. "We will build an Egyptian society that is strong and stable, that will not exclude any one of its sons," he said. However, while many on the street see Morsi's removal as the continuation of Egypt's 2011 revolution, the ex-president's Islamist allies view it a betrayal of democracy. In a carefully worded statement, Obama said he was "deeply concerned" by the military's move to topple Morsi's government and suspend Egypt's constitution.
Breast milk becoming a new luxury for China’s rich
Human breast milk has become a new luxury for China's rich, with some firms offering wet nurse services, a report has said, provoking outrage and disgust among web users today. Wet nurses serving adults are paid around 16,000 yuan (£1,714) a month - more than four times the Chinese average - and those who were "healthy and good looking" could earn even more, the report said. However in an online poll, almost 90 percent of participants voted against the service, saying it "violated ethical values". However what some commentators are saying is more concerning, is that among the general population in China, just 28 percent according to a 2012 UNICEF report breastfeed. This is largely due to the restrictive time limits on maternity leave and highly aggressive marketing of baby formula to mothers who aren't educated in the many benefits of breast-milk to new-borns.
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