News in Scotland Wednesday

News in Scotland Wednesday
News in Scotland Wednesday
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billy-connolly.jpg
Scottish comedian Billy Connelly has called for more information
on Scottish independence

Scottish News: News in Scotland – Wednesday

SCOTLAND

Top EC official may snub Sturgeon
The uncertainty of an independent Scotland’s future within the EU continues as speculation emerges regarding talks between the European Commission’s president and Scotland’s Deputy First Minister. Jose Manuel Barroso is yet to respond to Nicola Sturgeon’s requests for talks, while he weighs up the request, commission sources have said. In a letter on Monday, Ms Sturgeon called for urgent talks with President Barroso after declaring he was wrong to suggest a newly independent Scotland would have to apply for EU membership and negotiate conditions with other member states.

Westminster claims Scotland ‘would see energy bills increase significantly’ post-independence
UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey has claimed it is logical to assume that energy bills will rise “significantly” for Scottish families after independence, if the bill for the country’s renewable sector falls upon consumers north of the Border. But his claims were rejected at the conference by SNP energy minister Fergus Ewing who accused the UK government ministers of rushing to Scotland like an “absentee landlord” fearing that Scotland, with its rich oil and renewables reserves, was set to leave the UK. The Scotsman conference on energy came after E.on became the last of the “big six” energy suppliers to put up its bills from early 2013, with a move to increase prices by more than £100 a year.

More Scottish news:

Anti-English sentiment blamed as whites suffer rise in racism
People of Asian origin were the most targeted victims of racist abuse in Scotland this year. Figures released by the Scottish government on Tuesday illustrate that racist incidents recorded by police had risen 10 percent to their highest ever levels in 2011-12. The data revealed 22 percent of victims were classified as White British, while 95 percent of the perpetrators of the crimes were white. Minister for Community Safety Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am very disappointed to see an increase in the number of racist incidents recorded by police. It is all the more disheartening given the downward trend observed in recent years”. The Scottish Government and police state that they are hopeful however that the rise in racism figures is partly down to more victims having the confidence to report abuse.

Scottish unemployment rate lower than UK’s
The SNP has welcomed statistics out today showing Scotland’s unemployment rate is lower than the UK’s, and said that the autumn statement’s £394mn extra capital investment can help build on this progress. According to the figures, unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 19,000, a decrease of 0.6 percent to 7.6 percent, while the UK’s rate fell 0.2 percent to 7.8 percent. SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said: “Targeted investment in infrastructure is essential to get our economy moving again; with the powers of an independent Scotland these decisions would be made by people 100 percent elected in Scotland, ensuring that jobs and growth are not stymied by obstruction at Westminster”.

SNP launches Gay marriage consultation
The Scottish government will launch a consultation on its plans to introduce a bill on legalising gay marriage. This move comes following UK government plans to legalise gay marriage in England and Wales. As SNP ministers have insisted, the religious community would not be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches. The earliest gay marriage ceremonies to enter into civil partnership could take place in Scotland by the start of 2015.

Scottish Independence: Billy Connolly says Scots are capable of making their minds up
Billy Connolly has said he will stay out of political discussions about the upcoming Scottish referendum. The comedian voiced displeasure at backlash he has received in the past when discussing Scottish independence. However, Mr Connolly did reveal that he thinks show business people should not lecture the public on voting preferences anyway, stating: “I’ve always found that a kind of precocious state, and I’ve done it before you know, and when I look back at some of the things I’ve said I feel kind of stupid.” Connolly has publicly disapproved of Scottish independence before, but has admitted that 2012 has been a very interesting year for Scotland, calling for more information on an independent Scotland.

First Aberdeen bus driver strike for Saturday suspended
A planned strike action over a long-running pay and conditions dispute has been suspended
by First Aberdeen. First Aberdeen workers, including drivers and cleaner staff, voted in favour
of a strike earlier this month after having rejected the latest wage offer. In the meantime, however,
First Aberdeen bus staff will not continue with planned industrial action as management
and union leaders held “productive” talks today.

House of Lords: Swinney’s EU claims the ‘last refuge of a scoundrel’
A member of the House of Lords has branded Scotland’s Finance Minister John Swinney’s claims about an independent Scotland in Europe ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ The allegation made by Lord Lipsey was in reference to Mr Swinney’s claims that president Barroso’s declaration that an independent Scotland would have to re-apply to join the EU was “not based in treaty.” Mr Swinney’s, an elected politician, pointed to a recent broadcast interview with Professor Tom Mullin, professor of law for the University of Glasgow, who said no specific provision in the treaty exists that expressly deals with the situation if a member state breaking up and both parts wanting to stay in.”

Scots retailers report weak growth in November sales

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has reported that sales failed to take off last month despite growing consumer confidence. The retail survey shows total sales fell by 1.2 percent on the same period last year. Retailers blamed the fall on poor weather and shoppers waiting for promotions and discounts before buying. Despite the “underwhelming” sales figures, SRC director Fiona Moriarty hopes that “with Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, many may sense that having a full shopping weekend two days before Christmas gives them more time to round off their buying”.

UK and WORLD

UK’s global reputation as finance centre in ruins as Libor arrests follow record fine for HSBC
British banking giant HSBC has been hit with a record £1.2bn fine by US regulators for money laundering and sanctions busting, furthering the already tattered reputation of Britain’s banking industry. The US department of justice (DoJ) detailed how HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, allowed drug traffickers to launder billions of dollars in the US and billions more to be moved across borders to countries facing sanctions, such as Burma, Cuba and Libya. The embarrassment heaped on HSBC came just hours after close rival Standard Chartered, based in London, was forced to pay out £415m to US regulators for breaching sanctions with Iran. The fines are the latest setback for an industry which is reeling from systemic corruption revelations surrounding Libor, mis-selling and other fraudulent practices.

Ukip moves to derail PM over gay marriage
Ukip have vowed to exploit divisions within the Conservative Party over David Cameron’s pledge for gay marriage. Amid signs that Conservative associations are losing members over what is being dubbed the prime minister’s “clause IV moment”, the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, warned that gay marriage could “rip apart” the Conservative Party. He plans to put the issue at the heart of Ukip’s campaign for the 2014 European parliamentary elections. The government set out its plans on Tuesday to introduce gay marriage by 2014. It also tried to appease more than 100 Tory MPs planning to vote against the legislation by outlining a new “quadruple lock” that will make it illegal for gay marriage ceremonies to be conducted by the churches of England and Wales.

Egypt crisis: Morsi supporters and opponents rally
Thousands of demonstrators in Cairo have joined rallies as emotions run high ahead of a planned referendum. President Mohammed Morsi, who called the vote on Saturday to ratify a new constitution, has called on the army to maintain security. This comes amidst Egypt’s request for a delay to a £3.6bn loan after President Morsi suspended a programme to increase taxes, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil told a news conference. The International Monetary Fund says it “stands ready to continue supporting Egypt during the on-going transition and to consult with the authorities on the resumption of discussions regarding the loan”. The Egyptian economy has been hard hit by nearly two years of political upheaval since the protests which toppled ex-President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Israel to hold Palestinian funding until March
The Israeli foreign minister has revealed Palestinian funds will be held until at least March. The withholding of funds is allegedly in order to pay off Palestinian debts to utility companies. Under current peace deals, Israel collects approximately $100mn every month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. Avignon Lieberman said: “The Palestinians can forget about getting even one cent in the coming four months, and in four months time we will decide how to proceed.” The move comes in response to Israel’s perception that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas violated previous peace accords by side-stepping stalled negotiations and securing a Palestinian status upgrade in the UN last month. The European Union has been among the first to criticise Israel for withholding the funds.

Syria: Western allied powers recognise opposition coalition
130 international representatives have formed a “Friends of Syria” group recognising the Syrian opposition coalition as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” The world powers meeting in Marrakech also reportedly called on President Bashar al-Assasd to “stand aside”, according to a draft declaration Reuters obtained on Wednesday. Russia and China are not part of the delegation. In an echo of the accusations that Iraq had WMD’s as a pretext for invasion the group warned that any use of chemical or biological weaponry by Assad would result in “serious response from the international community.” In Iraq no WMDs were discovered after the invasion.

Chavez undergoes cancer surgery in Cuba
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s fourth round of cancer surgery was complicated but successful with the leader now recovering in his Cuban hospital room, the country’s vice president has said. Chavez had said previously that in the event “something happens” to him, Nicolas Maduro would step in and assume control of the government for the rest of the 2013-2019 term, as required by the constitution. Speaking to Al Jazeera from London, Colin Harding, head of the Latin Form, a political consultancy focusing on Latin America, said Chavez is hoping Maduro will be able to continue his “Bolivarian revolution”.

Uruguay gay marriage bill approved in lower house
Uruguay has moved closer to legalising gay marriage after the lower house of Congress approved a law declaring all marriages equal. The measure, which was passed by a wide margin, now goes to the Senate where it is expected to be approved. It would make Uruguay the second Latin American country after Argentina to allow gay marriages. Same sex marriages are legal in Mexico City, while civil unions are recognised in several countries in the region. After a long debate, Uruguayan deputies voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday night in favour of the Marriage Equality Law.

North Korea: Concerns rise following rocket launch
Reuters has reported the successful launch of a North Korean rocket on Wednesday. North Korean officials have claimed the rocket is a weather satellite put into orbit. However, the United States, South Korea and Japan have all labelled the event as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States. The state is banned from developing nuclear and missile-related technology under UN sanctions. Washington has condemned Wednesday’s launch as a “provocative action”. Japan’s UN envoy has called for a meeting of the Security Council.

Mozilla rallies for opposition against secret internet treaty
Another name has been added to the list of critics concerned with attempts to rewrite the International Telecommunication Union to give governments control of the Internet. Silicon Valley’s Mozilla, makers of the highly successful Firefox Web browser for Macs, PCs and smart phones, have come out to condemn a top secret meeting in Dubai this week that could lead to changes with how the world is wired to the Internet. The details of the closed door discussions being held between members of the United Nation’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) this week in the United Arab Emirates remains a secret, prompting Mozilla and other organisations to speak up.

Federal reserve set to expand additional monetary stimulus
United States Federal Reserve is expected to announce a fresh round of bond buying today increasing the government deficit. The move is threatened by political disputes over the government’s budget. Investors await a Federal policy announcement on whether to continue Operation Twist, a stimulus program that is set to end this month. Economists also expect the central bank to continue buying $40bn per month in mortgage-backed securities as announced in September. The programme represents a policy of endless money printing which can only end in runaway inflation warn critics.

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