04 Nov News in Scotland Thursday
Alistair Darling, chief of Better Together, has been urged to return a £500,000 campaign donation to Ian Taylor, the Vitol boss. Some Vitol executives are known to have or have had shares in Dart Energy to which the UK government awarded licences to frack in Scotland
Scottish News: News in Scotland – Thursday
SNP’s Robertson writes to Darling over Taylor donation
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, has written to the chair of the ‘no’ campaign in Scotland’s independence referendum, urging him to hand back the £500,000 donation from Ian Taylor, president and chief executive of Vitol, a company with a $3000bn turnover. Pointing to Mr Darling’s Labour colleague John Mann MP who, it was reported in The Daily Telegraph (26 Sept 2012) accused Vitol of “immoral trade” and “backing corrupt regimes” calling on the Tory party to hand back the “dirty money” it allegedly received from Mr Taylor – Mr Robertson said: “Mr Darling met Mr Taylor before this donation was made, so he bears personal responsibility for it. We need to know if any of these issues – such as Vitol paying Serbian war criminal Arkan $1 million, or avoiding UK tax through an ‘offshore pay scheme’ for over a decade – were discussed.” Vitol vehemently deny these accusations and have sent lawyer’s letters to various Scottish newspapers and blogs which have carried the story. It was reported in The Guardian that the Vitol boss had given £550,000 to the Tory party and that two other key Vitol executives were personal shareholders in a company bringing “hydraulic fracturing”, commonly known as fracking, and a related technology, coal bed methane (CBM) extraction, to the UK. The Guardian article points to Vitol executives who are also shareholders of Dart Energy which has been given a licence by Westminster for ‘unconventional gas extraction’ in Scotland’s Forth Valley area. It is also reported that Mr Taylor had a private dinner with Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2011.
Westminster welfare cuts increasing income inequalities in Scotland
The case for Welfare being devolved to Scotland is ‘unanswerable’ the SNP has said, after a report has laid bare the scale of cuts being inflicted on Scotland. The research by Sheffield Hallam University, found that the welfare cuts will cost Scotland £1.66bn a year. Significantly, Councils covering the poorest areas are being hit hardest, further entrenching Britain’s income inequalities. Recent Scottish government analysis found the cumulative impact of all the cuts would be £4.5bn by 2015 – and could result in the loss of up to 17,000 jobs. Reacting to the report, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn commented: “It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way. Scotland has already made its opposition to these welfare cuts absolutely clear, and a majority of Scots believe that the Scottish Government would be best at deciding welfare policy for Scotland. The case for this is now becoming unanswerable”.
Scottish independence: UK Treasury declared untrustworthy by its own MPs
The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons has today (Thursday) published its report into the coalition’s whole government accounting programme (WGA) into the management and reporting of public finances. Commenting on the findings, Stewart Hosie MP SNP Treasury spokesman said : “When a committee with a majority of coalition MPs says the Treasury can’t be trusted, then there are real questions about the accuracy of all the information we are given. With the Treasury supposedly publishing a paper opposing independence next week it’s only fair to ask how trustworthy it will be and how close politicians’ fingerprints will have got to the final figures”. A Treasury paper has already had to be rewritten because its case against independence was based on the UK’s triple-A credit status – and not the recent downgrade.
Police launch Rangers raids
The police have launched raids in relation to Craig Whyte’s deal with Sir David Murray to buy Rangers. Mr Whyte famously bought Rangers for £1 in the middle of a tax liability dispute. A year later the club was liquidated after HMRC rejected a deal over the outstanding tax bill. A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers have carried out a number of searches at addresses in Scotland and England. These related to both domestic and business premises. This remains an on-going investigation, and no further information can be provided.”
UK population part of the global obesity epidemic
Researchers in the Netherlands have found that successive generations are building up medical problems worse than those faced by their forbears. Life expectancy has grown dramatically in recent decades as a result of improved nutrition, housing and medical care. But today’s 40-year-olds are experiencing problems of excess weight, high blood pressure and diabetes similar to those now in their mid-fifties. The younger generation is thus 15 years ahead of the older generation on the pathway to disability and ill health. For more than a decade doctors have warned that our existing way of life is killing us, due to an excess of fat, sugar, salt and sloth. Two thirds of the population are overweight or obese and, on present trends, that will rise to a staggering 90 percent by 2050.
UK and US must come clean on money-laundering and tax havens, warns Austria
Both the UK and the US has been told to shed light on offshore financial centres if information-sharing on cross-border cheating is to be achieved warns Austria’s finance minister Maria Fekter. “What we demand of Cyprus, a small island, we also demand of the (United) Kingdom,” Fekter said. She added: “(The U.S. states of) Delaware and Nevada are tax havens and money-laundering havens that have to be laid bare just as much,”.
Cyprus bailout costs underestimated
Crisis-hit Cyprus is to be forced to find an extra €6bn to contribute to its own bailout under leaked plans for an updated rescue. In total, the bill for the bailout has risen to €23bn, from €17bn, less than a month after the deal was agreed – with the entire extra cost imposed on Nicosia. Under the new plan, which is likely to spark fresh public riots, Cyprus will be forced to sell €400m worth of gold reserves, renegotiate the terms of a loan with Russia and “bail-in” creditors of the Bank of Cyprus, to claw back some of the cost of the rescue. Cyprus’s economy is expected to suffer deep recession, with GDP contracting by 8.7 percent in 2013. However, a government spokesman in Nicosia last week suggested the downturn could be far deeper, perhaps up to 13 percent, which would throw the bailout plans off course within months.
CIA accused of ‘targeted killing’ in Pakistan
The New York Times has detailed troubling origins of the CIA’s targeted killing programme in Pakistan which it states began in 2004 with the killing of one of the country’s internal enemies – not a member of al Qaeda. The piece claims that the agency switched to killing accused terrorists – rather than capturing them – because of a 2004 internal review that was highly critical of the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Targeted killing gave the CIA a way out of the prison business – but into the assassination business –according to the writer Mark Mazzetti and, he states, also a way to get access to Pakistani skies by taking out one of their enemies. This revelation that the first target was not part of al Qaeda, but rather a target picked by an ally country, has raised serious questions for critics of the CIA’s actions.
North Korean rhetoric at odds with reports from residents
Despite Japanese reports that a North Korean missile launcher has moved into the firing position with rockets facing skyward – with the Japanese government on high alert – visitors this week have instead described a calm atmosphere. North Korean residents are apparently preparing not for bitter military conflict, but instead for Monday’s anniversary of Kim Il-Sung’s birth, the country’s most important holiday. Such reports therefore call into question Japanese and US statements of an imminent nuclear strike upon South Korea – and what is to gain from citing the North as an imminent nuclear threat.