Production ended at the Hall's of Broxburn plant today with 1,700
Scottish News: News in Scotland - Wednesday
Edinburgh trams will need taxpayer subsidy
Extra funds will have to be made available to the Edinburgh trams network to stem losses in the first five years of operation, it has emerged. Up to £3.2mn a year will be set aside from the city budget to cover initial start-up costs and operational losses. Details of the subsidy emerged in the tram operating agreement signed between the council and Lothian Buses, which will run the network. John Carson, former head of maintenance at Network Rail said: “This is simply another unexpected and unacceptable debt to the city, with up to £16m poured down the black hole instead of spent on frontline services”. The tram operating agreement was signed by councillors last week and details for the first time how Lothian Buses will operate Edinburgh Trams on behalf of the city.
Lib Dems and Labour ‘misleading’ Scots on Trident
SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP has called on the Liberal Democrats and Labour to clarify their position on the future of Trident following what he called a series of contradicting and misleading statements. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander recently said there was no need to replace the base with a "like-for-like" fleet of nuclear submarines, as the Treasury could not meet the costs. The SNP states this has now been contradicted by his party colleagues Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Alan Reid MP who have instead supported Trident at Faslane. Angus Robertson MP said: “Labour and the Liberal Democrats have proven themselves to be in total disarray over Trident, and are misleading Scots in the process”. “Only a Yes vote in 2014 will rid Trident from our shores and stop billions of taxpayers’ pounds being wasted on unusable and immoral weapons of mass destruction”.
Alex Salmond faces heat over project funding shortfall
The Scottish government has been accused of failing to deliver a £119 mn investment for building schools, £65mn for colleges, £27mn for new roads and £39mn for the Borders rail project this year, the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), the Scottish government quango responsible for delivering construction projects, has revealed. Opposition politicians criticised the delay in cash raised by NPD, a funding method introduced by the SNP that aims to encourage the investment of private cash in capital projects. A Scottish government spokesman defended the SNP administration’s record: “We are taking forward one of the largest revenue-funded investment programmes of its kind in Europe – none of which would be happening had this administration not devised the innovative Non Profit Distribution model to counter Westminster cuts”.
Scottish government budget to be passed
The Scottish government's budget for the year ahead is expected to be approved, despite strong criticism from opposition parties. The £28.6bn proposals will aid economic recovery despite the global economic downturn and Westminster funding cuts, said SNP ministers. Labour, the Tories and Liberal Democrats have opposed calling for a reversal to college cuts and more cash for housing, saying the plans do not encourage growth. Ministers said they were willing to listen to opposition suggestions on improving the budget, but said those must include information on where the money to pay for them would be coming from.
Libor scandal: RBS fines expected to total £400m
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is expected to be fined a total of about £400mn ($625mn) by UK and US regulators as a result of the Libor scandal, with the greater proportion of fines expected to be imposed by the US authorities. RBS is accused of colluding with other banks to rig Libor rates during the global financial crisis. Barclays and UBS have already received fines. Speaking to the BBC, Business Secretary Vince Cable said the government had made it clear to RBS that the fines should be paid from staff bonuses, saying that neither taxpayers nor bank customers should bear the cost. But he acknowledged that the government could not force RBS to act, despite its majority stake.
Production ends at Hall's of Broxburn meat plant
Production is due to come to an end today at the Hall's of Broxburn meat factory in West Lothian, with almost 1,700 jobs gone since Dutch owners, Vion, announced its closure last year. Last week Browns Food Group said it had agreed a deal to buy the Hall's brand and recipes, but many of the former workers remain angry at how the closure of the Broxburn site has been handled. Thomas Lynch, 50, a manager at the plant, who also sat on the task force which tried to save it from closure said: "It's very frustrating. I think everyone involved in the Hall's site just wanted honesty. Deep down we probably knew it was a wasted effort”.
Conservatives split as first gay marriage vote passes
Westminster voted in favour of legalising gay marriage yesterday, but Prime Minister David Cameron's authority in his own party took a blow as his Conservatives split in two over the measure he had championed. In the first of several votes required for its passage, the lower house of parliament backed the legislation by 400-175, but more than half of Cameron's 303 MPs voted against or abstained, signalling deep unease within his party and leadership. During a debate that lasted more than six hours, Conservative MPs denounced the legislation, saying it was morally wrong, not a public priority, and unnecessarily divisive. Although the vote went in Cameron's favour, many experts now believe he will have to address a deep seam of discontent running through his party.
David Cameron suffers Leveson defeat as Lords votes for new press laws
In a surprise move, peers passed an amendment to the Defamation Bill to introduce an affordable arbitration service between newspapers and people who feel wronged by the press – one of Lord Justice Leveson’s key recommendations. The amendment raises the possibility that some of Lord Justice Leveson's most controversial proposals could instead become law by the backdoor. The government described the vote as “disappointing” as Mr Cameron opposes statutory regulation of newspapers and wants instead a party consensus for another independent watchdog. Sources revealed by the Independent on Tuesday night suggested they are confident of overturning the amendment and instead finding an agreement in cross-party talks.
UK planning broad online domestic spying regime
UK officials plan to monitor Britons' online activities by placing surveillance devices on the country's telecom networks, a parliamentary report says. The program would keep tabs on which websites were visited as well as who contacted whom. On Tuesday the UK parliament's Intelligence and Security committee published the report outlining a massive, national surveillance program based in the country's large electronic infrastructure. Though the project is still in draft form, the committee generally rejected critics' claims that it would constitute an oppressive domestic spying program, saying that without such new security measures, rapidly developing technologies would soon “have a serious impact on the intelligence and security agencies”.
Federal Reserve hacked
The US Federal Reserve bank has confirmed one of its internal websites was broken into by hackers after the hacktivist group Anonymous claimed to have stolen details of more than 4,000 bank executives. The bank declined to identify which website had been hacked. But information it provided to bankers indicated that the site, which was not public, was a contact database for banks to use during a natural disaster. The claim was made via Twitter using an account registered to OpLastResort, which is linked to Anonymous, who have claimed responsibility for attacks on other government and corporate sites. OpLastResort is a campaign which was started in order to protest against government prosecution of the computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, who killed himself on 11 January.
Barack Obama hopes landmark visit to Israel can restart stalled peace process
Barack Obama will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next month, suggesting fresh impetus to the moribund peace process. Meanwhile, The Independent has learnt from Palestinian sources that weekly meetings have been taking place between the top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Molcho, suggesting that possible progress is being made on efforts to reconcile the two parties. There has been considerable personal tension between Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu previously, with both accusing the other of interfering in both countries' recent elections. Despite the personal animosity between the two men, there is now fresh incentive on both sides to kick-start the ‘peace process’.
Iran's president begins historic Egypt visit
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has discussed the Syrian conflict and other issues with Mohamed Morsi, his Egyptian counterpart, in a state visit to Cairo, state media reports. Ahmadinejad flew into the Egyptian capital to attend a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which begins today. The two later held talks, discussing "ways to strengthen relations" between their countries, the official Egyptian MENA news agency reported. However Egypt has responded cautiously to Iranian efforts to revive ties since Morsi took power in 2012, with the two nations adopting opposing positions on the Syrian conflict. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that while the visit was important, it was difficult to see a substantial improvement in ties resulting from it.