Former SNP leader has lent his voice to growing pro-independence
resistance to the SNP's sterling zone policy
Scottish News: News in Scotland - Tuesday
Independence: pressure mounts on Salmond to back independent currency
An independent Scotland should adopt its own currency in order to take full control over its economy, leading ‘yes’ campaigners have said - warning that Alex Salmond’s policy to keep the pound is too “conservative”. Former SNP deputy leader Jim Fairlie and former leader of the party Gordon Wilson warned yesterday that if an independent Scotland kept sterling, it would not have the economic levers necessary to pursue its own course. A third pro-independence figure, Scottish Socialist leader Colin Fox also said that if Scotland kept the pound with all the restrictions it entailed, then many voters would end up asking what was the point of change. Their warnings come after a week in which the debate over the currency options for an independent Scotland have come under growing scrutiny. Mr Salmond had positioned the SNP in favour of a “sterling zone” - but many questions have been raised regarding the recent downgrading of the UK economy, and whether an independent Scotland would want to tie itself to a currency that is being dangerously debased by Westminster and the Bank of England.
Pro-UK Better Together face further criticism over Vitol donation
Former LibDem leader Paddy Ashdown has stepped into the debate over the controversial £500,000 donation to the pro-UK Better Together campaign, saying that “anybody who did business in the Balkans who didn’t realise there were networks of corruption that extended into any and all governments was naive”. The world’s biggest oil trader, Vitol - whose CEO is Tory party donor Ian Taylor - paid $1m (£660,000) to Serbian warlord Arkan to facilitate a deal, insisting no law had been broken. It then signed a supply deal with the Bosnian Serb government in 2003 just months before Milan Bogicevic, the minister involved, was stripped of office by Lord Ashdown for harbouring war criminals. Arkan, who was assassinated in 2000, was responsible for directing ethnic cleansing and murder during the Balkan conflict. Vitol also pled guilty to grand larceny in a deal with the Manhattan District Attorney after paying what is said were surcharges to Iraqi officials in Saddam Hussein’s regime under the UN oil-for-food programme - described by prosecutors as kickbacks. Vitol are yet to comment on Mr Ashdown's comments; and Better Together still refuse to return the donation coined by Labour MP John Mann as 'dirty money'.
More Scottish news:
- Is the SNP planning state-funded news?
- Better Together credibility battered after warnings of fresh UK downgrades
- Scottish independence: UK downgrade means promised 'recovery' is like Waiting for Godot
- Scots go hungry to maintain London’s global status
No campaign ‘height of hypocrisy’
The SNP have responded to the latest arguments from the ‘no’ campaign by stating that there are in fact three different policies on currency within the ‘no’ campaign – described by them as an ‘incredible situation’ in the ‘yes’ campaign. Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said: "The No campaign are starting to believe their own negative propaganda. It is also the height of hypocrisy, bearing in mind that LibDem policy still aspires to join the euro, Labour have never ruled it out, whereas the Tories have - in other words there are three different policies on currency within the No campaign...Up until just a few weeks ago the anti-independence parties were insisting that an independent Scotland would have no option but to use the euro, and that scare story has been comprehensively rebutted. And of course only a week ago Alistair Darling was telling us that nothing George Osborne says has got much credibility– yet he is acting as the Tory Chancellor's chief spokesperson in Scotland.”
Wales calls on Westminster for more tax powers to help defeat Scottish independence
First Minister Carwyn Jones has called on the chancellor to give Wales tax raising powers to help defeat the pro-independence campaigners in Scotland. Mr Jones has written to Mr Osborne warning him that a failure to implement tax and borrowing powers for Wales could make a ‘yes’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum more likely as the ‘no’ campaign in Scotland could point to Wales as evidence that devolution is flexible. BBC Wales understands that Mr Jones is urging the chancellor to use the Silk Commission recommendations to show devolved funding can be successfully reformed from within the UK. Mr Jones is a strong opponent of Scottish independence and believes that Wales can play a significant role in making the case for Scotland to stay within the UK. However, the Welsh government is increasingly frustrated that UK government ministers have still not formally responded.
Revealed: scale of UK government secret tax deals with corporations
The scale of the UK government's secret tax deals – agreements drawn up between tax officials and corporations – have been revealed by The Guardian newspaper for the first time showing that just four settlements were worth a huge £4.5bn between them. The leak of a document sent by Dave Hartnett, the former head of tax at HMRC, to David Gauke, the exchequer secretary at the treasury, discloses the figure, which has not been released by HMRC on the grounds of preserving "taxpayer confidentiality". The revelation comes as separate documents disclosed in The Guardian show that tax officials used powers designed to help them catch criminals, to try to prove that the whistleblower who uncovered one of the first ‘secret deals’, involving Goldman Sachs, had spoken to The Guardian. The exposure will be of interest to solicitors for UK Uncut, who are taking HMRC to the high court, claiming that the deal which let off Goldman Sachs from paying up to £20mn in interest charges was unlawful.
EU ban pesticides blamed for killing bee population
A "victory for bees" was hailed today after the EU voted for a ban on the nerve-agent pesticides blamed for the dramatic decline in global bee populations. Despite a huge 'political lobbying' effort by the chemicals industry and opposition by the UK government, 15 of the 27 member states voted for a two-year restriction on neonicotinoid insecticides. This has given the European Commission the ability to push through an EU-wide ban on using three neonicotinoids on crops attractive to bees. More than 30 separate scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids - which attack insects' nerve systems - and falling bee numbers which are essential to the world's ecosystem. Although the UK government argued that the science was incomplete, they will not however, be able to opt out of the ban.
UK government keen to sell off Lloyds shares as it reports jump in profits
Bailed out Lloyds Banking Group has reported a hike in first-quarter profit, and upped its cost savings target, helping its shares close on a near two-year high. Lloyds, 39 percent owned by the UK taxpayer, said its underlying profit trebled to £1.48bn, benefiting from improved margins, lower costs, and falling losses on bad loans. The UK government now considers this share price sufficient to enable the bank to break even after it injected £20.5bn of state money to keep it afloat during the 2008 financial crisis. Industry and political sources have therefore said the UK government is keen to start selling off shares in the bank ahead of the 2015 general election. Lloyds' capital strength has come under scrutiny however after the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee said last month that UK banks needed about £25bn of extra capital, and analysts said that meant Lloyds would need to raise cash.
BP report bumper profits 3 years after US Deepwater Horizon disaster
British energy giant BP has said that net profits almost tripled in the first quarter of 2013, boosted by the sale of its stake in Russian joint venture TNK-BP, and strategic deal with the main Russian oil producer Rosneft. Earnings after taxation surged to $16.86bn in the three months to the end of March, compared with $5.77bn in the same period of 2012, BP said in a results statement. This upbeat first-quarter performance comes three years after a deadly explosion on a BP-leased drilling rig unleashed the worst environmental disaster in US history – claiming both lives and livelihoods, and destroying delicate ecosystems. BP said on Tuesday that the cost of the US Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster remains at $42.2bn.
US citizens more afraid of their government than terrorism
New polling numbers suggest that US citizens are, on average, more afraid of their own government than the threat of another terrorist attack. A handful of polls conducted in the days after the Boston bombings show that US citizens are responding differently than in the aftermath of 9/11. Not only are Americans now more opposed to giving up personal freedoms for the sake of security than they were after the Sept 11th 2001 attacks - but other statistics show that distrust against the federal government continues to climb. A number of cities across the country have asked for more tactics that could be used to allegedly prevent acts of terror, but Washington has yet to impose the sort of restrictions on constitutional liberties that came in the aftermath of 9/11 — namely the controversial Patriot Act and the establishment of the US Department of Homeland Security.
Revealed: Afghan officials on CIA payroll
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has admitted to receiving clandestine financial support from the CIA, along with other Afghan officials, but dismissed the sum as a “small amount.” A New York Times report has revealed that corruption in the Afghan government has been encouraged and funded by the CIA since the start of the decade long war. Some senior National Security Council officials have also been implicated as being on the CIA’s payroll, with the payments increased over time “to overthrow the Taliban,” a US official told the NYT, adding: “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States”. Political analyst and former Afghan MP, Daoud Soultanzoy has said that a major problem with such covert transactions is that no one can trace where the money goes - consequently, it will likely be misspent. Neither the CIA nor the US State Department has commented on the report.
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