Strike action at Trinity Mirror set to go ahead

By Jodi Mullen

Industrial action at the Sunday Mail and Daily Record is set to go ahead later this week after staff voted overwhelmingly to strike in protest at plans to cut 70 jobs.

Journalists at the Trinity Mirror group voted 95% in favour of industrial action short of a strike, including work-to-rule, in an National Union of Journalists chapel poll on Friday. Of these ballots, 85% also supported action including strikes.

The proposed industrial action comes after Trinity Mirror announced a “single integrated editorial production operation”, which would see production resources for both of the Glasgow-based newspapers merged.

The publisher hopes to reduce costs amidst falling advertising revenue and a more competitive newspaper market.

Weekly freesheet titles The Glaswegian and Business7 will also be produced by the same team.

Staff are threatening a 24-hour walkout from midnight on Friday which will disrupt the production on this week’s Sunday Mail and may also affect football coverage in next Monday’s Daily Record.

The strike will be preceded by several days of work-to-rule.

However, Trinity Media remains committed to the proposed reorganisation of the company. Mark Hollinshead, Managing Director of the Sunday Mail and Daily Record, told Edinburgh Napier News that there has been “absolutely no change in our position”.

Angela Austin, Assistant Organiser of the NUJ’s Scottish Office, explained the NUJ’s involvement in the dispute.

“Staff at the Sunday Mail and Daily Record voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a chapel ballot on Friday. The NUJ informed Trinity Mirror of the results immediately. We have made sure the publisher is fully aware of the implications of the vote.”

The ballot at the Trinity Mirror titles follows a similar vote in NUJ chapels at Manchester Evening News and Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers over plans to cut 78 jobs and close weekly newspaper offices in Northern England.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, has spoken out strongly against the threatened job losses and has expressed solidarity with the union’s members.

“Media owners have made hundreds of millions of pounds for after year. Now they are ripping the heart out of papers that are much appreciated by their communities. It’s all about maintaining unrealistically high profit margins.

“From Stockport to Stirling NUJ members, readers and community leaders are banding together to stand up for journalism.

“The NUJ is totally behind these campaigns and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our members in Greater Manchester and Scotland as they fight for their jobs and the souls of their newspapers.”

The NUJ’s position is at odds with the views of media finance expert Richard Wachman. Mr Wachman claimed in his column in this Sunday’s Observer that merging was perhaps to only way to ensure the survival of regional newspapers.

Competition law has traditionally prevented large scale mergers and acquisitions in the newspaper industry. However, experts claim that multiple titles using the same editorial and production resources would allow publishers to reduce overheads and produce more cost-effective and profitable newspapers.

Trinity Mirror has been one of the hardest hit companies in the recent slump in the newspaper market. The publisher has laid off more than 1,400 employees since the beginning of 2008 and has seen ad revenue plunge by over 30% in less than two months.

This week the group also announced that four regional weekly freesheets would cease publication. No job losses are expected, with staff being redeployed to other areas within the organisation.

Labour MP’s sex photo shame

by Andrew Moir

Nigel Griffiths has failed to prevent details of a late night sex romp in his office published by The News of the World.   
Nigel Griffiths
Nigel Griffiths

The Labour MP made a vain attempt to stop The News of the World publishing photos of him by raising an injunction action. But publication was deemed to be in the public interest by Mr Justice King.  

The incident took place on Rememberance Day 2008 and began at 11.35pm.   After publication Griffiths responded: “I am, of course, ashamed that my conduct did fall below acceptable standards. I have little recollection of the evening but that does not make it right.”  

The newspapers have  a clearer idea  as Mr Griffiths took 27 pictures of his unnamed brunette lover in his office before moving and taking 44 more at another location.  Those pictures were timestamped by his digital camera.  The pictures were downloaded to the former minister’s computer suggesting he had a better recollection than stated. 

The pictures show the woman in his office in the House of Commons wearing stockings  and posing naked on a rug.

There could be further problems for the MP as he has broken the Parliamentary code.  Paragraph 15  states

“Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and never undertake any action which would bring the House of Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute.”

Complaints were received by John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, last week regarding   Griffiths’ conduct.  It is the Commissioner’s responsibility to monitor and  code of conduct for MPs and investigate complaints.  However on Thursday Mr Lyon concluded that these complaints did not warrant a full enquiry saying that, “The code states that it ‘does not seek to regulate what members do in their purely private and personal lives’.”   However the interpretation does not take into account that the incident took place within the House of Commons, a place intended for serious parliamentary business.  With the press continuing to run this story  further complaints could of course be made.

Nigel Griffiths is the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South.  He was a member of the first New Labour Government with the portfolio of Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry.  He has served on many committees during the Labour administration.  His last ministerial job was  deputy to the Leader of the House of Commons to Jack Straw until 2005 when he resigned over the renewal of the British Trident system in 2007.   The 53-year old politician has been married to his wife Sally for 30 years.

It is an embarrassing  week for Gordon Brown, Griffiths’ close friend and former flatmate .   It was also revealed at the weekend that Home Secretary Jaqui Smith had claimed parliamentary expenses for adult films viewed by her husband.

Mr Griffiths is no stranger to controversy.  In 2002 it was claimed that he misled  a committee on his own financial affairs.  He was quizzed over  £10,000 worth of claims on a property that he already owned.  But despite the complaint being upheld, and Tory calls for him to resign, no further action was taken after the then Chancellor Gordon Brown stepped in on  his friend’s behalf.

“Hauntings” in Edinburgh

By Domenica Goduto

The days are getting longer and brighter, but this does little to dispel Edinburgh’s eerie atmosphere.

With its narrow closes and bloody history, it is the perfect setting for “Hauntings: The Science of Ghosts,” a one-day public event that will be held this Saturday, April 4, as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, in the appropriately creepy University of Edinburgh Anatomy Lecture Theatre.

 “Hauntings” is a series of talks concerning the many aspects of ghostly phenomena. The speakers, all experts in their fields, will discuss  ghosts from the viewpoint of scientists, social historians, and the entertainment industry.

Dr. Caroline Watt, one of the event’s organizers, hopes the combination will prove both “informative and entertaining.”

The talks are expected to attract people interested in the science of ghost research, as well as the cultural and historical significance of the supernatural.

Dr. Watt is a psychologist at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh.

“My own work deals with the ways in which a person’s experiences are shaped by their expectations, and how our experiences can be distorted by the experiences we’re having – whether we’re cold, or tired,” she explains.

While Dr. Watt concedes that “We can’t be absolutely certain that ghosts do not exist,” she quickly points out that many factors can contribute to the impression that something supernatural has occurred.

She agrees that parapsychology occasionally gets a bad reputation because “it tends to be associated with all sorts of fringe pursuits by people who aren’t really aware of what it is we do.”

In fact, she explains, parapsychologists take a very scientific approach. They do not generally conduct overnight vigils in allegedly haunted locations in the hopes that something may appear. She feels that “there is little to be gained” by these attempts, regardless of the impression given by many popular television programmes.

However, parapsychologists will visit locations to measure a variety of physical conditions, such as light levels, humidity, and electromagnetic activity, though not necessarily at night.

Dr. Watt has conducted experiments with Professor Richard Wiseman – a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire and another of “Hauntings”’ organizers – in Edinburgh’s Underground Vaults.

They found certain correlations between physical conditions and the experiences people report.

People seem to get a spooky impression in dark locations, as well as in large rooms, both of which Dr. Watt points out “tend to make people feel vulnerable.”

Expectations also play a role – people feel more uneasy in places they already believe to be haunted. “Any ambiguous event – a draft, shadow, noise – can then be interpreted as ghostly,” Dr. Watt explains.

Levels of electromagnetic activity may also contribute to ghostly impressions, although to what extent and in precisely which manner is unclear. Dr. Watt notes that the evidence in this area is still “patchy,” although people are certainly sensitive to these levels.

In the lead-up to the “Hauntings” event, Professor Wiseman held a competition in which members of the public were encouraged ttantallon-ghosto send in ghostly photographs for analysis. The entries were posted online, and viewers could comment and vote on the authenticity of each photo.

The results of the competition will be discussed at the seminar on Saturday, although the top ten photos have already been announced online.

Dr. Watt says many of the photos can be explained by the fact that people are “hard-wired as individuals, almost from birth…to see faces.” Thus any kind of pattern seen in nature, or in a photo, tends to be interpreted by our brains as a face. It is a matter of “seeing shapes where there aren’t any.”

Often, when a photo is zoomed in, it is possible to see the effects of light or texture which create the impression of a face.

However, Dr. Watt admits that the winning photo (left), taken at Tantallon Castle in North Berwick, is more difficult to explain.  She and Professor Wiseman visited the site and attempted to recreate the photo, but there is nothing in the background that could suggest a face, possibly belonging to a figure in period clothing, looking out of an upper window of the castle.  Furthermore, experts confirm that the photo shows no sign of tampering.

 The area of the castle in which the figure appears, however, is open to the public, so they cannot rule out the mysterious face belonging to a very human visitor.

For the moment, though, the picture has yet to be fully explained.

Historic cinema still faces risk of demolition

By Sally Edgar

The future of the former Odeon cinema building, on Clerk Street, could be decided within a matter of days.

Former Odeon cinema, Edinburgh
The old Odeon cinema, Clerk Street

More than 2,400 people have joined the online campaign pushing for one last-ditch attempt to preserve the 1930s art-deco style building, which risks partial demolition. Campainers now also have the support of 3,657 members on a ‘Help save the old Odeon cinema in Edinburgh’ group on the social networking site Facebook.

Developer Duddingston House Properties (DHP) intends to preserve the facade and entrance foyer. However, it looks likely that the auditorium, which boasts Scotland’s largest and grandest proscenium arch, will be demolished.

The beautiful building has been labelled ‘the best surviving example of architecture of its time’ in the UK, according to the Cinema Theatre Association. But now it faces losing it’s original infrastructure in order to be adapted into a 231-bedroom boutique hotel, artists’ studios and restaurant. Plans have already been approved by Edinburgh City Council, so now DHP are just awaiting listed building consent from Historic Scotland.

A spokesman from DHP said that they have considered the alternatives, but it does not appear viable to restore the entire building.

He said: “We didn’t buy the building to knock down the auditorium. I’d be delighted if someone would make me an offer for it. We’ve continually said we would consider any credible proposal, but I haven’t seen any yet.”

Many local people have been outraged by the possible future of the historic B-listed building. They have set up a charity in the hope to buy it and re-open it as a cinema, film library and cafe.

Campaign organiser John Need said he was confident that something could be done to stop the plans. He has hope that the charity could successfully raise money through grants and local fundraising activities.

He said: “This is a building that has made a significant impact on Edinburgh. It’s nonsense to say nothing else can be done with it. DHP are saying they have not had another serious offer, but we think this is an alternative.

“This could turn into an economically viable and vibrant space for the community and a nationally important creative hub for artists and filmmakers.”

Originally named The Old Victoria, the now derelict building showed its last film 5 years ago. Since then, DHP have had varying plans of how to use the space. They originally planned to convert it into a 240-room student housing complex, but withdrew their plans following protests from councillors and other Edinburgh representatives. Plans to revamp the building into a live music venue and nightclub were also quashed by the city’s licensing board.
A spokesperson for Historic Scotland said that there is ‘no time limit’ in this case and it could in fact be days or weeks before a decision is finalised. Until then, they will not comment on this individual case.

With both plans and campainers in place, it seems the their fate, and that of the old Odeon, lie in the hands of Historic Scotland.

Portrait Gallery in the money

by Kirstyn Smith

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is due to close this Sunday after receiving a £4.5 million grant to go towards a long-awaited restoration.

The financial aid, awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will help the gallery’s planned revamp which will cost, in total, approscottishnationalportraitgallery1ximately £17.6 million and follows a donation of £5.1 million from the Scottish Government. 

The renovation, which is estimated to last up to two and a half years, plans to double gallery space in an effort to increase visitor numbers.   A  dedicated education suite, auditorium, IT gallery and research centre will also be added. 

James Holloway, the gallery’s director, said: “We are delighted with the support from the HLF. Their confidence in the scheme is a terrific boost at this critical stage of the project.”

The program, called Portrait of the Nation, will increase the number of items displayed by 350%, allowing the gallery to display many more of its 30,000 portraits and photographs.

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “New life will now be breathed into this beautiful historic building. Treasures that have been stored away for years will be brought out to showcase Scotland’s history through the portraits of those who shaped it.”

This weekend the gallery will host the Farewell Festival, two days of events for families and children as a way of marking the closure.

Thou shalt not kilt

By Stewart Primrose

Scotland is facing a kilt famine after kilt hire shops reported a massive upturn in sales.

This is mainly due to the recent international sporting events, with 15,000 football fans travelling to Amsterdam at the weekend and the recent 6 nations rugby.

Scottish Tartans
Scottish Tartans

With Scotland due to play Iceland on Wednesday anyone hoping to hire a kilt for the match could be left disappointed. Sales for accessories such as belts, socks and sporrans have also been popular as the Tartan Army look to support their troubled side.

In Kirkcaldy, one kilt shop Kirk Wynd Highland House has been expecting an upsurge.

“We supply all the kilts for the Kirkcaldy Tartan Army and we always have a really busy time of it when Scotland is playing.

“The kilt hires have gone through the roof this week and the sales of sporrans and belts have also gone up.

In Glasgow, Dominic Capaldi, manager of MacGregor MacDuff, has admitted he has had to order in more stock as the demands exceed expectations.

“The demand from the Tartan Army has been phenomenal this week. We were really bust last week but I’m sure we are about 30 per cent up on that figure, which is amazing.

“The hire of the Saltire and the Thistle kilts have gone through the roof. They are definitely the most popular kilts we have available.”

If you are unable to get a kilt for Wednesday your best bet would be to go a higher class kilt makers. Beware though, as you may have to pay for it. The manager of Geoffrey Taylor in Edinburgh, Hugh Stratham, still has a healthy number of stock available as he feels the price has deterred many from using his shop.

” We have only sold 2 or 3 kilts for the football so it has not really affected our business. People have been shopping around and the prices seemed to have scared them off.

Our shop is at the higher end of the market so our kilts are mainly for long term, not for a one off football match.”

So if you are going to any ceilidhs or weddings, then you better be quick as there is a shortage of our national dresswear.

Swapping cigarettes for courgettes… will Dundee’s new anti-smoking scheme work?

By Rebecca Jamieson

Would £150 encourage you to give up smoking for good? NHS Tayside hopes so.

They have just launched a pilot scheme in Dundee, which gives participants from disadvantaged areas £12.50 a week if they manage to stay off cigarettes. The money is credited onto an electronic card and can be spent at Asda on fresh fruit and vegetables only – not cigarettes or alcohol. Participants can stay on the scheme for up to 12 weeks, earning them a total of £150.

Public Health Minister - Shona Robison

Minister for Public Health, Shona Robison, was in Dundee for the launch of the Quit4u scheme. She said “The most important thing anyone can do to improve their health is to quit smoking – it’s the biggest preventable cause of ill health and premature death in Scotland. This is an innovative project and I’ll be following the results with interest to see if lessons can be learned.”

Life expectancy in Dundee is among the lowest in Britain, according to Scottish Government figures. There are thought to be around 36,000 smokers in Dundee, around half of whom live in poverty. Paul Ballard, NHS Tayside’s Deputy Director of Public Health, says deprived areas are often the worst affected.

“We know that the highest smoking rates are still in our poorest and most deprived communities. This is simply because, on a day to day basis, for them quitting smoking is not the most important thing – the most important thing is actually putting food on the table. What Quit4u does is helps and supports them to put food on the table, so they can make quitting smoking a top priority.”

But will £12.50 a week really be enough to persuade smokers to give up? Granted the first 12 weeks of the scheme are an attractive proposition – they will receive the weekly ‘reward’ money, as well as the extra cash they have saved by no longer buying cigarettes. But concerns have been expressed about the long term success of the project.

Health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, Ross Finnie, said “We welcome any initiative that helps people kick smoking1the habit. We do, however, have concerns over the exit strategy. Support must continue over the three months to ensure smokers who use the financial contribution as an incentive to quit do not light up when the money has dried up.”

NHS Tayside hopes up to 50% of smokers who join the scheme will be successful in their attempt to quit. At the end of the two year trial they will discover if that offer of £150 was as much of a lure as they had hoped.

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Jacqui Smith’s £23,000 claim

By Vikki Graves

Image from
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed £23,000 in tax-payer funded allowances on her second home last year, the maximum claim available to MPs. The news comes as Ms Smith continues to face criticism for an accidental expense claim for adult films watched by her husband, Richard Timney, in April 2008.

The timing of these revelations is not good for the Home Secretary, whose expense claims are currently under investigation. She claims her ‘main’ residence is with her sister in South London which allows her to make claims on her ‘second’ consituency home in Redditch, Worcestershire, despite her family living there permanently.

Despite his full time job as his wife’s parliamentary assistant, Mr Timney found plenty of time for watching movies. As well as the two unnamed ‘adult’ features, he also saw Ocean’s Thirteen, widely regarded as the weakest of the trilogy, and Surf’s Up, a mock-documentary for children that received mixed reviews back in 2007.

Following the news of the mistaken claim, Ms Smith released a statement saying the £67 she received for the television package, billed as part of her internet connection, would be repaid in full and Mr Timney yesterday issued a public apology.

“As soon as the matter was brought to my attention, I took immediate steps to contact the relevant parliamentary authorities and rectify the situation.” – Jacqui Smith

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown defended the Home Secretary at a Downing Street news conference today, and yesterday Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show he thought Ms Smith was doing an “outstanding job”.

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But political pressure on Ms Smith is certainly mounting, with Labour MP Paul Flynn today calling for her resignation. A full review of MPs expenses is due to begin in September, but it remains to be seen whether the Cabinet, and the public, can separate Ms Smith’s ministerial responsibilities from her financial wrong-doings.

A Spring Polish………

By Sarah Mackinnon

Polish culture is set to claim its own place among the throng of cultural celebration which Edinburgh has to offer . It has been announced that a  Polish Cultural festival will take place for the first time on the 20th to the 26th April this year.

The Polish Cultural Festival in Edinburgh
The Polish Cultural Festival in Edinburgh

The Spring programme is packed full of different events, from traditional folk music and dance, lectures by eminent historians and even unique retrospectives by the founding fathers of modern Polish cinema. Theatre and visual art unique to the Eastern European country will also be celebrated which the programme brochure promises will, ‘speak in the voice of young Poland’

Contrary to recent reports that Edinburgh’s Polish contingent was giving up on the city due to lack of work, this festival will reinforce the Poles’ attachment to Scotland’s capital. The celebratory week has been organised, staffed and fund raised entirely by a voluntary network of Polish people under the age of 30 with  main sponsorship coming from the Scottish Arts Council and Edinburgh City Council.

The Festival has the support of the Consul-General of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Dietkow, who said,

“I hope that this Festival will not only help the integration process but also help people to understand Polish culture better and through this to understand Poles even without knowing the language of our country”.

Those at the helm of this injection of a unique and vibrant culture into Edinburgh’s yearly programme of events claim,

“The Festival will allow our Scottish friends to gain deeper understanding of who we are and for everyone in Edinburgh to unite in doing what it does better than anywhere – in raising a glass!”

Edinburgh switches off for Earth Hour

Earth Hour in Edinburgh

By Annabel Cooper

Major city landmarks and municipal buildings were plunged into darkness for an hour on Saturday night as Edinburgh joined 830 cities around the world for the World Wildlife Federation‘s (WWF) Earth Hour.

Edinburgh Castle, the Forth Rail Bridge, the Scott Monument and the National Galleries were among the public buildings taking part in the mass switch off. The synchronised, world wide blackout aimed to publicise the effects of climate change ahead of this week’s G20 summit. Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007 but this was a first for Edinburgh. Council leader, Jenny Dawe, was instrumental in bringing the symbolic protest to her city. She said:

‘A colleague in the council had told me about Sydney 2007 and I thought it was such a great idea that I really wanted Edinburgh to take part this year. It’s a way of making people think about the environment and their part in making the world a better place to live.’

Standard Life and Lloyds Banking Group were among the Edinburgh based commercial companies who lent their support to the protest. They joined the thousands of homeowners across the city who chose to sit it out in the dark alongside one billion others worldwide. The protest comes at a good time for campaigners who hope climate change will not be knocked off the international agenda by financial woes and at a time when the Scottish Government is looking to pass its Climate Change Bill, and Edinburgh Council implements its Carbon Reduction Plan. Council Leader Jenny Dawe is adamant everyone can do their bit. She said:

‘We take the issue of Climate Change very seriously. As part of the carbon reduction plan , the council is working with developers to ensure that all new buildings aim to be carbon neutral. Edinburgh Council alone cannot save the world but if we can get as many other people as possible to buy into this agenda, then it will be all the better for the future.’

Click below to hear full interview with Council Leader Jenny Dawe

Dunfermline taken over by Nationwide

by Kirstyn Smith

Dunfermline Building Society has been bought by Nationwide, it has been revealed today.dunfermline

The institution’s collapse, which resulted in  losses of £26 million, meant that it had to be put up for sale.

Today’s statement from the Bank of England reports that it  agreed to sell “core parts” of the 140-year-old establishment, adding:

“It is business as usual for all customers. Dunfermline’s deposit business will continue to operate normally. Savers can be assured that their money is safe.”

It is reported that the staff who number approximately 530, will not lose their jobs and will be transferred to Nationwide when the takeover becomes effective.

Only 48 hours has elapsed since  news broke of the organisation’s anticipated losses. Nationwide plan to take Dunfermline’s retail deposits on board, which total £2353 million and represent the accounts held by approximately 300,000 Dunfermline customers. They will also take over 34 branches and retail sites and the Society’s Head Office in Dunfermline.

The chief executive of Nationwide, Graham Beale, is positive that the takeover will be a successful move for all involved:

“This is good news for the members of Dunfermline, who are now joining the world’s largest building society. As members of a solid, stable and dependable organisation, members of Dunfermline can be assured that their savings are safe.”

While Prime Minister Gordon Brown has defended the Government’s action at this time, Dunfermline’s outgoing chairman, Jim Faulds, said that government funding of £20m-£30m would have helped secure its future, describing himself as “deeply disappointed” that the government did not provide the support needed for the building society to continue as an independent operation.

The situation has also caused outrage among members of the public, and a protest about the sale took place at the  Dunfermline’s  Head Office this morning.

Time for gathering together

Twenty of the world’s influential leaders meet this week in London at the Excel Centre on the banks of the Thames. They meet during a period of almost unprecedented financial turmoil.

But will they come up with world-changing solutions?

The United Kingdom chairs the Group of Twenty in 2009 and this week it hosts the G20 summit.

The Washington Summit held in November 2008, on the international response to the global financial and economic crisis, set out an agenda for G-20 Finance Ministers to take forward work in areas of financial management such as the promotion of integrity in financial markets. It is also proposed that the G20 should reinforce international cooperation and that  International Financial Institutions should be reformed. 

World leaders gathered in a G20 meeting
World leaders gathered in a G20 meeting

Four working groups were set up to undertake this work in anticipation of the London Summit and now this week they come together to discuss what might still be required to restart the global economy.

World leaders are set to reiterate a pledge to avoid protectionism and complete stalled global trade talks but offer little to those calling for more economic stimulus. 

The G20 now has a crucial role to drive forward work betweenboth advanced and emerging economies to tackle the international financial and economic crisis, restore worldwide financial stability, lead the international economic recovery and secure a sustainable future for all countries.

The financial markets and the world economy both continue to face serious global challenges and the severity of the crisis and ongoing uncertainties demonstrate need for urgent action. During the United Kingdom’s Chair, the immediate priority will be to gain further agreements for a concerted and managed international response.

The G-20 will need to send a strong message that it will do whatever is necessary to stabilise the financial system and to provide further economic support. The Financial TImes says that the group must  commit to maintaining open trade and investment, to avoid a retreat to protectionism, and direct necessary additional support to emerging markets and developing countries. It is understood that it could be emerging markets who actually help other countries out of this dilemma. 

Whilst China holds much of the US debt in its hands it is also exporting many cheap goods to the US, which can only be seen as a relationship which is beneficial to China, a so called emerging market. 

In China the economy continues to grow. 

The G20 should develop proposals to restore growth in the medium term, including the unwinding of emergency measures taken in response to the crisis.

President Barack Obama is voicing optimism that this week’s crucial G20 summit will set the framework for recovery, saying that world leaders know they must “deliver a strong message of unity” for the sake of the global economy but he played down talk of a split between the US and the leading continental European economies, notably Germany and France.

Gordon Brown said: “The world is coming together and the results of this week will show that global problems… require global solutions.

PM Gordon Brown
PM Gordon Brown

“I believe the world will rise to the challenge and defeat those who say doing nothing is an option and defeat those who say protectionism is an option.”

Meanwhile Ministers were struggling to maintain momentum for the G20 summit last night after it emerged that any spending decisions would be deferred to a later meeting.

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister who will hold pre-summit talks with Brown tomorrow, said it was now up to the International Monetary Fund to determine how much additional support the world economy would need next year, and that there had never been any expectation that the decisions on that package would be taken in London.


The so called Casino Capitalism in the City of London has been severely criticised by our neighbours in Europe. The light touch regulation so much revered by Gordon Brown and his Government in 2006 has not worked. The need and desire to reduce the burden of paperwork has allowed loopholes to develop. 

Transparency is now the watchword of the G20 and they want more regulation done more obviously. 

Lord Turner of the FSA thinks that, for example, AIG was the worst case of an institution falling between the stools of the US and the UK regulatory processes. Madoff was also regulated in the UK and the US. But that too was missed by both sets of regulators. 

Now we have toxic assets being sold around the world. Some believe that tax havens such as The Isle of Man, Jersey or Monaco with their shadow banking systems may have to be brought to an end.  France has already threatened that Sarkoy will resign as Prince of Andorra and now Andorra has agreed that it will give up its special status. Common standards will have to be applied. There cannot be a separate banking system evading the national jurisdiction in the opinion of Peter Mandelson, Business Secretary, who also thinks that in this country there was a sound regulatory framework but that the powers could have been used more “intrusively”. 

Separately five British people have been arrested in connection with a suspected plot involving explosives to disrupt the G20 summit.

The individuals were arrested at addresses in Plymouth and they are being held under terrorism legislation.

Despite the involvement of explosives, a police source with knowledge of the investigation has told the Guardian that initial inquiries indicate the five were “not planning a Guy Fawkes plot”.

“I think it was more designed to disrupt than injure or kill,” the source said, adding that reports that the individuals were Greek nationals were false. It is understood that the “suspicious devices” found suggest a small-scale stunt. Unconfirmed reports said the individuals may have had “flares” in their posession.

What is the G20?

The G 20 is otherwise known as the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. It is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 states, 19 of the world’s largest national economies and includes the European Union.

It is a forum for cooperation and consultation on matters pertaining to the international financial system. It studies, reviews, and promotes discussion among key industrial and emerging market countries of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability, and seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.

Burley faces date with destiny

By Stewart Primrose

Scotland surely face a “must win” match on Wednesday as they take on Iceland after their humbling defeat by the Dutch at the weekend.

Kirk Broadfoot scored for Scotland against Iceland in 2008

Saturday’s 3-0 loss in Amsterdam means the Scots have moved down to third place by virtue of goal difference.

Iceland, the team directly above them, come to Hampden Park this week, meaning it is even more important for manager George Burley to gain all three points.

A victory would propel them upwards and hope of reaching next years World Cup will be restored. Defeat, on the other hand, would severely weaken the nation’s chances of major tournament football for the first time in 12 years.

It would also heap pressure on Burley, who is starting to show signs of the strain he is under. Saturday’s game was seen as a write-off by the Scotland camp, but Burley seemed to concentrate on the referee’s performance rather than that of his own team, perhaps a signal that everything is not rosey for the former Hearts’ boss.

A frustrated George Burley for Scotland
A frustrated George Burley for Scotland

“There were one or two decisions that went against us. Allan McGregor was blocked for the corner and then we scored a perfectly good goal and no one can work out what the referee has given a free kick for.”

Results have not been good for Burley. Goals have been hard to come by and he only has one win to his name – against Iceland. Anything other than a win will intensify calls for his removal from office. It is doubtful this will happen, but another defeat could be the beginning of the end for a man who has not been fully accepted by fans and the media.

One defence for Burley’s performance so far in his short tenure is he has never had a full squad to choose from. From day one he has had constant call-offs, which remind you of the dark days of bungling Bertie Vogts. To take the Holland match for example,  6 definite starters were injured including Alan Hutton and James McFadden. When this happens to Scotland they are bound to struggle as there just is not the same strength or depth as in previous years. To be blunt Scotland need their first eleven out if they are to stand any chance against decent opposition.

Against Iceland, Hutton will be fit alongside defender, Stephen McManus. This will surely boost the backline, but it is still goals that the Scots lack. Two goals in their opening four games is just not qualification material. Kenny Miller has experience of scoring in the big games,  but his old ways are returning after his miss on Saturday. He simply is not reliable enough to guarantee goals. With Kris Boyd already stating he will not play again under Burley, it is hard to see where the goals will come from.

The pressure is on Scotland to deliver. Even the opposition knows what it means.

“I’m sure there is more pressure on them than there is on us,” said  Eidur Gudjohnsen, Iceland’s star player.

“Expectations of the Scottish team are much higher than of Iceland.”

A bad result will make the hysteria of 18 months ago in Paris seem a distant memory. Scotland simply must improve or the consequences will be hard but fair.

Assault on Police Academy leaves 14 dead in Pakistan

By Elizabeth Gorrie

Fourteen people have died and nearly one hundred injured after an eight hour siege by gunmen on a police academy in Lahore, Pakistan.

It is being reported that Pakistani police forces have recaptured the building following an eight hour stand-off which saw the exchange of heavy gunfire between the two groups. Military helicopters were later brought in to help diffuse the situation by firing directly on the gunmen.  Officials have confirmed that eight popakistan1licemen are among the dead.

Speaking to the BBC,Pakistan’s Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik believes this was a “planned, organised, terrorist attack”.

The siege began around 7am UK time when gunmen, disguised in police uniform, took the academy by force using rifles and grenades. Around seven hundred trainee officers are thought to have been in the building at the time, many of whom were taken hostage by the gunmen. Eye-witnesses claim there were a series of loud explosions during the siege.

There are unconfirmed reports that the Taliban may have been behind this attack.

Former head of Pakistan’s police academy, Afzal Ali  told the Guardian: “We are at a state of war. This was a relatively soft target. You can’t expect recruits to take on hardened terrorists.”

Today’s attack comes less than one month after the attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team in Lahore which resulted in the deaths of seven people.