David Cameron under pressure over the UK's membership of the EU
News in Scotland - Wednesday (32)
Oil leak near Shetland closes down 27 oil fields
A leak on the Cormorant Alpha platform, North-east of Shetland, has caused a pipeline system that services up to 27 oil fields to shut down. The oil fields produce around 6 percent of the UK’s oil and gas output. Non-essential crew were removed on Monday when the leak was discovered, and the operator, Taqa Bratani, has stated that the leak has been contained.
Horsemeat found in leading UK supermarkets
Traces of horsemeat and pigmeat have been found in some beef products from some of the UK’s leading supermarkets. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) carried out scientific tests that found the meat traces in products from Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores. While there are no health risks to be found from the meat, Tim Smith, group technical director at Tesco, stated that they had immediately withdrawn all products from sale.
More Scottish news:
- Scottish independence: campaign too important to be left to politicians
- Salmond warns Osborne: Westminster austerity won’t cut it for Scotland
- Scotland should “pay for itself”, says senior Tory
- North Sea oil helps Scotland through UK crisis
Salmond hopes for written constitution for an independent Scotland
Alex Salmond is to set out a series of pledges in London later today that he wishes to see in a written constitution for an independent Scotland. He hopes the constitution will include the right to education and the right for all people in Scotland to have a home, as well as rules on military engagement and a ban on nuclear weapons. Salmond stated that these were SNP ideas, and that a constitution would be formed with the greatest possible involvement of popular opinion.
Jack McConnell attacks Edinburgh Agreement
Former First Minister Lord McConnell is today to brand the Edinburgh Agreement a "bad deal" for Scotland. The Labour peer's attack comes after MPs agreed to transfer the power they say the Scottish parliament needs to hold the 2014 independence poll - a Section 30 Order. Lord McConnell is to accuse the coalition government of agreeing to "soft" conditions on the conduct of the independence referendum, and will say he is "angry" at the agreement. He told The Herald: "I do not think Parliament should reject a deal done by the PM with the FM. But I am angry the deal was bad for Scotland. A delay until 2014 will cost jobs”.
Scottish independence day may be delayed if Scotland votes ‘yes’
The former head of the diplomatic service, Lord Jay of Ewelme has warned that “difficult and tricky negotiations” with the European Union and Nato could see the date of Scottish independence delayed even if it is voted for in the referendum next year; adding that Scotland’s share of the diplomatic service budget of £80mn was “extremely small” for the set up costs of an embassy network. Lord Jay dismissed SNP claims that entry to the EU would be “automatic” but said Scotland would eventually be allowed in. An SNP spokesman said: “If Scotland votes Yes in 2014, we will become an independent member of the European and international community in 2016 – a hugely positive prospect.”
Scottish government urged to consider European opinion on alcohol pricing laws
A judge overseeing the hearing debating Scotland’s 2012 ASP legislation, which would place a minimum price on alcohol, has been urged by the Scotch Whisky Association to take the advice of the European commission (EC), which has stated that such legislation would breach European trade law. Although the Scottish government is not bound to follow the advice, Aidan O’Neill, QC, has stated that it would be foolish not to take into account a broad European perspective. The SWA has also stated that there is no concrete evidence that alcohol pricing affected drinking rates, a point that the Scottish government has denied.
RBS in fresh talks over disposal of Indian retail arm
Royal Bank of Scotland RBS) is in talks over the sale of its retail and commercial banking operations in India, after a previous deal to sell the business to HSBC collapsed last year. The lender, which was bailed out by the taxpayer in 2008, has held preliminary discussions with IndusInd and domestic rival Yes Bank but it is understood IndusInd has ruled out making an offer for the business, which has 31 branches and serves 400,000 customers. RBS’s Indian retail business has assets worth £190mn and the group agreed a sale to HSBC in 2010 as part of its plans to cut non-core assets however the deal lapsed in November.
Brussels on edge ahead of Cameron's EU speech
In Brussels, diplomats are unsure as to the content and direction of the UK prime minister’s speech on the UK’s EU membership; they do not expect Cameron to turn his back on Europe, but paving the way for an escape route seems likely, whilst laying criticism at the feet of Brussels. Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European council (EC), has said Cameron cannot "cherry pick" the parts of EU policy he wants to sign up to, and Irish, French and other officials have warned Cameron that the EU is not an "a la carte menu". But it is far from clear precisely what the prime minister wants and how he sees Britain's ties to the continent changing in the years ahead. Primarily, clarifying the UK’s European policy to his voters and those within his own party will be vital.
Germany to repatriate gold from US and France
Germany’s central bank is set to reclaim some of its vast gold reserves held in the US and France, a German daily reported. The move follows an audit criticising the Bundesbank for mismanagement, stating the funds had never been “verified physically.” Bundesbank voiced plans to withdraw its entire 450 tonne store of gold bullion from the Bank of France in Paris, and a portion of the 1,500 tonnes currently held by the New York Federal Reserve, Handelsblatt reported. Germany boasts the world’s second largest bullion reserves at 270,000 gold bars ($177.5 bn), second only to the US.
French troops to confront Mali insurgents “within hours”
France’s military chief of staff, Admiral Edouard Guillard, has stated this morning that French troops will be in direct contact with Islamist militants “within hours”, with underground operations already having begun overnight. Guillard also stated France would do its best to ensure civilians are not harmed, after it came to light that the insurgents were using human shields. President Francois Hollande has stated that their intervention in Mali will only stop once political stability and an election process has been restored, and when Islamist groups are wiped out.
University explosion causes Russia to suspend consulate operations
Two explosions at a Syrian University, that have killed at least 87 people, have caused Russia to suspend its consulate operations. A statement released said anyone with consular issues could resolve them at the Russian embassy in Damascus. Russia has blocked UN resolutions that have attempted to push the Syrian president for power, stating that his exit must not be a precondition for a peace deal. It is still unclear what caused the blasts; anti-regime activists have accused loyalist forces of launching air strikes, while state news said a “terrorist group” had fired the missiles.
Seventeen people killed in two suicide attacks in Iraq
One suicide bomber left 15 people dead and a 100 injured in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, while another attack in Tuz Khurmatu, a town south of Kirkuk, killed two people and injured 26 others. The first attack seemed to target the offices of the regional president Massoud Barzani, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The attack comes three months before elections, amidst anti-government demonstrations that accuse the Shia-led government of targeting minority communities, notably Sunnis. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
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