Labour's Patricia Ferguson argues that £13.3mn is too much to spend
on Scotland's independence referendum
Scottish News: News in Scotland - Wednesday
Independence referendum costs rise
The Scottish taxpayer will pay our £13.3mn for next year's historic independence referendum which is higher than previous estimates. However the costs will not be out of keeping with typical Westminster election costs although critics point out that Scots will have total influence over the referendum result whereas little influence over Westminster election results. Part of the referendum costs will be a free mail shot for both 'yes' and 'no' campaigns to every voter in Scotland costing £4.7mn. Scottish Labour's constitutional spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson MSP said: "So we now know that the cost of the SNP's constitutional obsession is around £13m. Deputy SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon said: "A large majority of respondents to the Your Scotland, Your Referendum consultation were in favour of holding a referendum, mostly on the grounds that it is the democratic right of the people of Scotland to have their say on their country's constitutional future."
Queen to be given a £5mn pay rise from the UK taxpayer, Westminster decides
The Queen has received a £5mn pay rise from the UK taxpayer to carry out her official duties. The Sovereign Grant has been set at £36.1mn for the 2013-14 financial year – an increase from the £31mn allocated during the previous 12 months. Critics have panned the move amid the cuts set by Westminster leaving many families – especially in Scotland which is disproportionately impacted by the ‘bedroom tax’ - struggling to make ends meet in an attempt to reduce the UK’s debt mountain. Such a financial boost also closely follows the controversial tax break for earners over £100, 000. With a Guardian poll stating that 89 percent of voters disagree with the pay rise – Better Together will have the task of substantiating their campaign that Scottish people benefit as part of the Union.
More Scottish 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
- Scottish government criticised over ‘coherence’ of education reforms
- Scottish independence: economy will be a success after independence, says expert group
Whisky sales - one of the few UK success stories
Sales of Scotch whisky overseas increased to a record £4.27bn in 2012. However the increase is marginal this year compared to growth in previous years as sales to southern European nations dip owing to the euro crisis. The industry has been a positive contributor in terms of Britain's balance of trade and so a strength for the pound sterling which has been losing value at an alarming rate in recent years as the UK economy continues to contract.
Standard Life boss gets bumper pay out
Standard Life chief executive David Nish received more than £5mn in pay, bonuses and benefits in 2012, a year in which the pensions and investment giant cut hundreds of jobs. Bonuses for the Edinburgh based financial services house's top trio, Mr Nish, finance director Jackie Hunt and investment chief Keith Skeoch amounted to almost £10mn, its annual report revealed, as their combined pay rose by 76.8 percent to £11.9mn. Mr Nish's total package was worth more than 83 times the average £60,000 salary for Standard Life's 8458 workers, of whom only 6000 work in the UK. Job numbers are likely to continue to fall – with the firm announcing 38 job cuts in January and 139 in November.
Compensation claims filed against RBS
Thousands of investors have launched a joint compensation claim for more than £3.5bn against Royal Bank of Scotland. The group claims the bank deliberately misled shareholders into believing it was in good financial health just before it collapsed in 2008. More than 12,000 private shareholders and 100 institutional investors have raised a class action against the bank – and former top RBS executives, including ex-chief executive Fred Goodwin. Instead of being dissolved – RBS received a UK taxpayer bailout from Westminster in 2008 after bad lending and Libor rigging was revealed to be systemic.
Israel fires into Syria
An Israel tank has fired into Syrian territory with retaliation given as the reason. A mortar from the Syrian side of the border reportedly hit the Israeli-occupied Golan heights region. However, it us unclear if the mortar was launched by the domestic Al Qaeda-supported rebels who are Western-backed in order to provoke retaliation from Israel or a stray mortar.
Israel strikes Gaza in the first major attack since truce
Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has said Tel Aviv will not tolerate any fire from Gaza on its territory, after two rockets went off in an Israeli border town. The statement comes after the first major exchange of fire since November. Hours earlier, Tel Aviv fired rockets into Gaza, following a round of Palestinian attacks – with the initial fire from Gaza reportedly in protest over a Palestinian prisoner’s death in an Israeli jail. However Tuesday’s escalation in violence was not the first since the November truce, which was mediated by Egypt after eight days of violence killed 170 Palestinians and six Israelis. In December, Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinians who they described as rioters, despite Hamas’ claim that the four men were simple farmers near the border.
US takes precautions to prevent nuclear attack on South Korea by North
The US has described the prospect of North Korea restarting a mothballed atomic reactor as "extremely alarming" – however the WSJ has reported another significant development: It reports that the US has positioned a ship capable of shooting down ballistic missiles near the Korean peninsula amid South Korea demands that the military should "make a strong and swift response in initial combat without any political considerations”. The Pentagon has previously denied news reports that two US destroyers were off the South Korean coast - saying only that they were positioned somewhere in the western Pacific. However a US state department spokeswoman said: "As national security adviser Tom Donilon said less than a month ago, the US will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state”.
Putin decree targets elite's foreign assets
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has stated that the country's top-level bureaucrats and state employees have a three month deadline to close their foreign bank accounts and divest themselves of offshore assets - or face the sack. The decree is the president's latest move to "de-offshore" Russia's economy in an attempt to make its members less vulnerable to foreign influence. "This is the nationalisation of the elite," said Konstantin Kostin, the former Kremlin deputy head of domestic policy. "For a long time, many in the elite saw Russia as a hunting ground - they would keep their money and live somewhere else," he added. Around 60 percent of London properties worth over £2.5mn are owned by foreign investors – many of whom are Russian oligarchs.
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