First Minister Alex Salmond is playing realpolitik with Westminster over
Scotland's use of sterling post-independence
Scottish News: News in Scotland - Wednesday
Salmond increases pressure on Westminster over sterling
First Minister Alex Salmond has warned that unless Westminster agrees that Scotland can retain sterling, the new Scottish government would not be bound to assume a population share of the UK's massive debt mountain. Mr Salmond said: "The financial assets of the country include sterling and sterling reserves: they obviously do. We have made the point that sterling is our currency as well as the rest of the UK's, just as the Bank of England is our central bank as much as the rest of the UK's." Given the British parliament is also partly a Scottish asset which Scotland has little control over, Mr Salmond has yet to explain what control he thinks Scotland would have over the Bank of England (BoE) which was recently itself implicated in the Libor scandal. The Scottish government argues that Scotland's per capita share of the UK's debt stands at £92bn, however ministers argue that the real "historic" share is £56bn.
Independence: business climate will be more favourable post-independence
First Minister Alex Salmond has promised that a post-independent Scotland would have one of the lowest levels of corporation tax in the western world and at least 3 percent lower than the rest of the UK. Reacting, Better Together chief, Alistair Darling claimed Westminster would be able to block a business tax cut should Scotland remain in the sterling zone. Mr Salmond claimed that the Bank of England would have no veto over taxation after independence. However the euro is a currency union and there are considerable pressures placed on individual members to harmonise tax policies at risk of expulsion and so it would appear that the truth is likely to lie somewhere in the middle of both positions. The policy of cutting corporation tax will also cause some political issues for Mr Salmond as he is portrayed as a neo-liberal economist who regularly points to the Scandinavian social democratic models in order to appeal to a more left-wing Scottish electorate.
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Independence: SNP commits to free education while Westminster implement more cuts
The SNP has reiterated its commitment to free Higher Education as it has been revealed that elite universities south of the border are privately urging UK ministers to cut funding which supports students from less wealthy backgrounds. Vice-chancellors of the Russell Group universities have called for huge cuts to the £332mn in grant funding for disadvantaged undergraduates. Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell who convenes the Education and Culture Committee said: “This news is simply the latest example of the stark contrast in approaches between Westminster and the Scottish Government”. “Westminster should follow Scotland’s example and restore the principle of education based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay”.
UK crisis: health officials threw away £74m of bird flu ‘wonder-drug’
The UK’s Department of Health threw away £74mn worth of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug, before its expiry date due to unsafe storage procedures, the National Audit Office has revealed. In total the UK has spent £600mn since 2006 on drugs to fight a flu pandemic that has not materialised. The NAO has revealed that it did not possess the logistical and storage capacities, and instead distributed about 6.5 million units to the NHS. With no demand, the drugs were disposed of as it could not be guaranteed that they had been preserved in appropriate conditions.
French far right activist commits suicide in Notre Dame
France's far right paid tribute to a writer and activist who shot himself dead in Paris's famed Notre Dame Cathedral after denouncing gay marriage and immigration. Police confirmed the man's identity as Dominique Venner, 78, an essayist and activist linked with France's far-right FN group. Venner had a long career publishing right-wing essays, military histories and books on weaponry and hunting. French sociologist Jean-Yves Camus, a specialist on the far right, said Venner's influence as a theoretician went well beyond his immediate political family. "He was published by the major editors”.
Rioting continues in Sweden
Sweden's capital has been hit with a third night of riots, as unrest that began in a small suburban borough north of Stockholm, has spread to several other pockets of the city. Much of the tension has been attributed to the alleged poor treatment of ethnic minorities - stemming from the fatal shooting by police last week of a 69 year old man who was under suspicion of having walked the streets of the area wielding a knife. Demonstrators have said that the shooting has reignited anger among the city's younger population, including outrage over racism.
Syrian parties ‘preparing’ for peace talks
Syria's opposition and government are preparing to take part in an internationally-sponsored peace conference, according to Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations-Arab League mediator – after Moaz al-Khtaib, the former president of the Syrian National Coalition, resigned last week. Khtaib cited the failure of the international community to stop the conflict as the reason of his stepping down. Meanwhile, at a meeting in Spain, opposition groups said they opposed all negotiation with Assad's government unless he aimed at giving up power. More than 80,000 people have been killed in the conflict according to the UN, and 1.5 million people have fled the country since the uprising began in March, 2011.
World expert predicts full-blown Japanese crisis
Leading global financial expert and founder of hedge fund Hayman Capital Management, Kyle Bass, has forecast a Japanese bond crisis in the next two years. He said: “They will have a bond crisis in the next couple of years...It means they lose control of rates and their currency.” To ascertain if Japanese investors would seek to prop up their government, Mr Bass commissioned a poll of investors asking: "were your country to have a bond crisis and appeal to you to buy more JGBs [Japanese government bonds], would you be likely to buy more or not? Bass says 8 percent would buy, while 83 percent responded that they would “run, not walk”.
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