A noisy and combative PMQs ahead of the budget today was dominated by rows over Brexit, with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn attacking the Prime Minister on issues ranging from Northern Ireland and worker’s rights to immigration and tax avoidance.
Scottish Labour has been thrown into disarray just days before the announcement of the results in its leadership election.
Interim leader Alex Rowley has resigned his post and referred himself to party investigation chiefs following allegations of abuse and threats of violence to an ex-lover – claims Rowley denies.
In a statement, the Mid Fife and Central Scotland MSP said: “I totally refute these allegations and will take all steps necessary to clear my name. These allegations must be properly and thoroughly investigated in line with our party’s procedures – and I will refer myself to the party so such an investigation can take place. While that investigation is carried out, I will step aside as Deputy Leader, as well as Interim Leader, of the Scottish Labour Party.”
The Labour Party confirmed in a short statement: “Alex Rowley has stood aside as Interim and Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour and referred himself to the Party’s internal complaints procedure regarding allegations made against him.”
Rowley stepped in to run the party and to steer Labour through new leadership elections after Kezia Dugdale’s surprise resignation in August.
But his interim leadership has been dogged by allegations of bias and increasingly bitter tone between MSPs supporting rival candidates Anas Sawar and Richard Leonard, has lead to claims that the party in Scotland is deeply divided.
In September secret recordings, claimed to have been made of a discussion between Rowley and a student activist in a queue for an event at the party’s Brighton conference, suggested that Rowley and fellow left labour MSPs had plotted the ending of Kezia Dugdale’s leadership of the party and declared his support for Richard Leonard as its new leader. The claim led to calls for Rowley to stand down as chair of an important Labour committee.
Richard Leonard’s campaign for the Scottish Labour leadership has been spear-headed by Alex Rowley’s daughter, Danielle Rowley, MP for Midlothian, who has refused to comment on her father’s resignation.
Tomorrow at 12.30 am, the Chancellor Philip Hammond will deliver first Autumn Statement to the Parliament in London.
The Autumn Statement is one of two big economic statements made by the government every year. It is based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) for the economy and public finances.
The first Autumn Statement was held in London in 1982, although people used to refer to it as a Spending Round.
Under the last Labour government, it was called the Pre-Budget Report – George Osborne changed the name back to the Autumn Statement in 2010.
Scottish councils are set to lose out on 46 million pounds in funding for local projects when the UK leaves the European Union.
The news comes following figures released through a freedom of information request made by the Liberal Democrats.
The party’s Europe spokesman, Tavish Scott said that the figures demonstrate the importance of EU funding for Scottish councils;
“These figures reveal just how beneficial EU funding has been for council projects and the material threat posed by the UK’s departure from the EU. The UK and Scottish governments must now explain how disruption to these projects will be minimised and the loss of funding mitigated.”
The European funds have this year supported a variety of projects; everything from youth employment in Aberdeenshire, infrastructure projects in the Highlands and Islands to support for anti-poverty programs in Fife.
By Nicholas Mairs, Jasper Farrell & Frederik Gammelby
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that a Yes to June’s Brexit vote could trigger a new Scottish independence referendum. Her statement comes Monday after one of the most politically intense weekends in recent British EU-membership history.
Saturday saw Prime Minister David Cameron announcing that the Brexit referendum will be held on June 23rd this year, coming in the immediate wake of securing a reshaping of the British membership of the EU last week.
Despite Cameron himself being a supporter of staying in the EU he has already had to face multiple unforeseen consequences of finalizing the date for the Brexit vote – one of them being the reactions in Scotland.
The announcement of the Brexit referendum comes as a new cross-party Scottish independence movement, The Radical Independence Conference, was setup Saturday, pushing for a new Scottish independence referendum in 2021.
The SNP now has more then 150.000 members nationwide, but a new YouGov poll shows that only 36 per cent of Scots supports a new independence referendum within the lifetime of the next Scottish government. Meanwhile, 46 per cent of respondents in the YouGov poll also say that a new independence vote will be a bad thing for the Scottish economy.
The Brexit referendum has been announced just in time for Scottish parties beginning preparations for the Scottish General Election in May.
Scottish Labour politicians have said Alex Salmond will be remembered for the negative impact he has had on Scotland during his time as First Minister.
Claire Baker, a Scottish Labour MSP, described Mr Salmond as a “divisive” person and politician:
“While people should recognise his achievement as First Minister, it is time that he went.
He lost the referendum, and during his time in politics we have seen fewer teachers in schools, huge cuts to the college sector and the NHS have been put under enormous financial pressure. These are things that he will be remembered for.
Alex Salmond is a divisive person and a divisive politician and it is time for Scotland to move on.”
Salmond will submit his resignation as First Minister to the Scottish Parliament and to the Queen at 2.30 this afternoon.
Deputy SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to replace Salmond as leader of the Scottish National Party after his seven and a half years in power.
Salmond began his career in politics in 1973 at the University of St Andrews, when he joined the Federation of Student Nationalists aged 19.
He became SNP leader in 1990, and won the position of First Minister in 2007 after winning more seats than any other party in the Scottish Parliamentary Election.
He led the country into the most dramatic Scottish Independence Referendum in history, achieving a result of 44.7% yes, 55.3% no.
Despite stepping down from his position as First Minister following the ‘no’ vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum, the SNP’s campaign for Scottish Independence is far from over.
A recent poll suggested that nearly half of Scots want a second independence referendum before 2024.
This puts pressure on Ms Sturgeon to promise a re-run after the 2016 Holyrood election, despite 12% of the population being against another independence referendum.
Gordon Brown today suggested that corporation tax should remain to be set at Westminster and for Scotland to raise 40% of its income as part of his calls for greater devolution of power.
National Insurance would also be best decided at Westminster said Brown, who recommended that only limited powers of taxation be passed on to Holyrood in the event of a No vote.
His proposals have been fiercely criticized by deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has questioned why the former Prime Minister failed to implement any of these proposals during the his ten year tenure in Westminster.
Brown was speaking in Glasgow today ahead of a tour of Scotland to advocate the union, and suggested six constitutional changes to devolve power, including the permanent status of Scottish parliament as part of the United Kingdom.
His idea to “make for a better relationship between Scotland and the United Kingdom to turn what I could call a centralized system of power to one where there is power sharing” will not appease the nationalists, however, with his plans falling well short of full powers of taxation and welfare.
Instead, he put forward plans for the Scottish parliament to have the power to vary income tax by 15p in the pound as opposed to the current level of 10p set to come into force. The first 5p in the pound of income tax would remain set within the corridors of Westminster, however, with Scotland responsible for raising 40% of its future budget.
“There should be scope for devolved taxation to raise something like 40 per cent of the Scottish Parliament’s expenditure. As we note above, the tax freedom available to the Scottish Parliament is presently very limited – only 12 per cent of its spending – and under the Scotland Act 2012 that figure will rise to around one-third.
“To raise the money that is equivalent to the cost of non-covenanted services – about 40 per cent of its budget – the best way forward is to widen the Scottish Parliament’s power to vary the income tax, which is currently 10 pence, to 15 pence.”
Devolved powers to Scotland would involve pooled resources to strengthen areas of the Scottish economy, including health and education, where Scotland is already in charge of spending:
“Within the social union of the United Kingdom, not only should UK taxes provide directly for redistributive welfare benefits such as the old-age pension, but we should also pool and share sufficient resources across the UK to ensure that the devolved administrations and the UK government can provide, on a common basis, for the key services of the UK welfare state – the right to free health care, and the universal right to education.”
“Whether you are Scots, Welsh, English or Northern Irish you have the right to a pension when elderly, help when unemployed, sick or disabled, universal free health care and basic education.”
Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to attack Brown’s proposals, questioning the authenticity of his desire for devolution, given his inaction during his time as Prime Minister:
“[Gordon Brown] was prime minister for a number of years, he was in government for more than 10 years, and didn’t deliver the powers that he is now saying he thinks Scotland needs. That underlines the point that the only way that we can secure new powers, and the new powers that Scotland needs to meet the challenges we face, is to vote Yes in referendum and support independence.”
SNP’s media spin doctor Kevin Pringle was equally dismissive of Brown’s speech:
Brown & Campbell floating tax/welfare powers validates aspects of indy – & only delivery mechanism in Scotland's hands is #voteYes. #indyref
Brown’s speech today comes as one part of a wider, concerted cross-party effort from Westminster to put on a united front about devolving powers in the event of a No vote come September.
However, with the parties unable to agree on just what powers, and to what extent, they are willing to devolve to the Scottish parliament, voters are being left with yet more uncertainty as to what the future would hold for a Scotland that rejected independence.
Better Together spokesperson Ross MacRae on cross-party devolution front:
Just this month Scottish Labour announced grandiose plans to back the devolution of key welfare and tax powers to Holyrood in an effort to give undecided Scottish voters more confidence in a No vote.
Despite its unified façade, however, there are deep fault lines within the party regarding the issue, with senior sources admitting that the party are split about the fully devolved powers of income tax.
Any less than full devolution of income tax, as recommended by the party’s Devolution Commission, would be pounced upon by the SNP as a U-turn in Labour policy indicating a lack of commitment to achieving devolved powers.
The Scottish government have previously stated that any measures of devolution that fall short of full powers on taxation and welfare would represent a failure to the people of Scotland in the event of a No vote, and would see a perpetuation of the social inequality handed to Scotland as a result of governments they never voted for.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has waded into the independence debate for the first time, announcing his desire to see greater levels of power-sharing across the United Kingdom.
In a speech in the east end of Glasgow today, Brown will set out six proposed “major” constitutional changes that will overhaul the current division of power between Westminster and Holyrood.
Among these mooted changes is a constitutional guarantee of the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.
“A moment cannot now be lost in detailing the positive case for a strong Scottish Parliament in a strong Britain,” Brown will tell a conference in Labour’s Scottish heartland to mark the beginning of a No tour of Scotland.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Brown has indicated that more coordinated measures are required to tackle Scotland’s social malaise regarding poverty, housing, unemployment and the environment.
The six “radical” constitutional changes to be proposed by Brown in his speech today are:
Constitutional law proposed to guarantee the UK pool and share resources for the defence and security of the citizens of all four nations;
The permanence of the Scottish Parliament enshrined in the British constitution for the first time;
Increased powers for Holyrood in health, employment, transport and economic growth;
A new tax sharing agreement that would balance pooled resources of the UK, including accountability to the electors where tax revenue is spent;
New power-sharing partnerships to address shared social problems of poverty, housing needs, unemployment and environmental issues;
A major transfer of powers running down from Westminster and Holyrood to more localised power for communities.\
Listen to Better Together spokesperson Ross MacRae on Gordon Brown’s speech today:
Brown’s No tour of Scotland is to appeal to those voters who want more powers for Holyrood short of being fully independent from the UK.
The latest polls indicate that the No vote is standing at 53% compared to 35% set to vote in favour of independence. With 12% still undecided, however, there is still plenty of political ground to be made up over the next 191 days.
Brown’s speech makes up one part of a double-pronged attack on independence, with former Liberal Democrat leader Mingus Campbell making a similar speech in Edinburgh.
Suggesting tax-raising powers could be delivered unto Scotland in the event of a No vote, Campbell is also calling for increased devolved powers as a viable alternative to independence:
“Gordon Brown’s approach, and indeed my approach and indeed the approach of the Lib Dems, is to look at the UK as a whole.
“I am endeavouring to point the way forward so that all of these contributions – for example from devo plus, from Reform Scotland – that all of these contributions make a very, very considerable – and in my view – effective alternative to the narrow minded view of independence.”
The Home Office has lifted a deportation threat on an American-born headteacher working in Dunfriesshire who had his request for permanent residency turned down.
David MacIsaac, who has lived and worked in Scotland for almost 10 years, was told his application had been turned down in a letter from the Home Office, which said that they considered his four-year marriage to a Scottish woman “a sham”.
Mr MacIsaac will now start the application process again after his lawyer and the Home Office agreed a new framework for re-applying.
Mr MacIsaac has been working as headteacher for Ae Primary School for five years, having discovered a shortage of headteachers in rural communities in Scotland during a holiday to the country.
When the decision by the immigration authorities was brought down, Mr MacIsaac and his wife Susan were devastated. Their misery was compounded by the fact that Susan was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is due to begin a course of treatment in Edinburgh.
The Home Office decision caused widespread condemnation from all corners of the Scottish political spectrum and various Parliamentary figures have welcomed the Home Office decision.
In a statement, MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine said:
“This is a victory for common sense and I’m extremely pleased the Home Office has dropped its threat to deport Mr MacIsaac.
“The meeting with Scotland’s education secretary clearly sent a strong signal to the Home Office that its harassment of Mr MacIsaac was wrong.
“The Home Office should be ashamed that its archaic system brought about this highly stressful and unsettling situation.
“I hope Home Office officials learn from this situation and address the serious concerns it has raised about this barbaric Westminster system.”
Mr MacIsaac said: “Sue and I are both delighted and we have been overwhelmed by the cross-party support and the numerous letters and e-mails we have received”.
Downing Street Soothes Recession Fears
Downing Street has insisted that the U.K economy is “slowly healing” despite ongoing speculation that the country has entered an unprecedented triple-dip recession. Thursday will see the publication of the latest growth figures for the first part of the year. If GDP contracts Britain would officially have entered another recession.
Poll Shows Immigration Concerns Unfounded
A survey has shown that the number of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants planning on moving to the U.K is lower than expected. Work restrictions for the two countries are expiring later this year, sparking fears that there would be an influx of immigrants seeking work. However the poll suggests that most wouldn’t re-locate without a job offer.
Suarez Faces Ban Over Bite
Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez has been fined by his club after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during yesterday’s match between the clubs. The FA are set to review footage of the incident before deciding whether to impose a retrospective ban. Suarez stayed on the field before scoring a late equalizing goal in the game, which finished 2-2.
Cameron Defensive Over Nurse Plans
Plans to reform training for student nurses have been defended by Prime Minister David Cameron. The proposals have been blasted by the Royal College of Nurses, which also expressed concern over staffing levels. Cameron has said that the NHS should focus on the “level of care” provided.
Google Hits Back at Tax Critics
Google have defended their tax record in the U.K, after facing damning criticism last year over allegedly avoiding corporation tax. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt claimed that the internet giant, which has only paid £6m in corporation tax, was responsible for “billions of pounds of start-ups” in Britain.
This weekend saw Scottish Labout hold its annual conference in Inverness. With Scotland just over a year away from the independence referendum, the conference was an opportunity for the party to establish its agenda for the coming months. Here were a few of the talking points.
Lamont pledges to help SNP on social justice
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has vowed to work with the Scottish government to help those affected by Tory cuts. In an emotional speech to conference, Lamont pledged to work with the SNP to protect Scots from the “injustice” of the much-maligned “bedroom tax”. She told delegates “Scotland can stand united against the Tory cuts and I call upon the SNP to work with us. If they truly believe in social justice, we can work together.”
Labour attacks Thatcher legacy
Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar accused George Osborne of carrying on the “vandalism” of Margaret Thatcher with his austerity measures. In a fiery speech to conference Sarwar blasted the Chancellor in the wake of the former PMs funeral last week. He said “(Osbourne) has shaped his whole political ideology and cut his political teeth so he can carry on the work of his political hero. Today, he is carrying on the vandalism Thatcher started and his targets are just the same.”
Future Employment Taskforce Launched
Margaret Curran MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, used conference to launch a taskforce on Employment for the Future. The taskforce will be in place to explore ways in which Scotland can increase employment opportunities in the years to come. Speaking at the launch, Curran said “We have close to 200,000 people unemployed in Scotland, and 17,000 people have spent the last two years on the dole, trying to find jobs. This is a challenge that is too urgent to wait until we are in Government again.” The taskforce will be chaired by Lord John McFall and leading tech entrepreneur MT Rainey.
New Health Watchdog Proposed
Labour announced proposals for a new healthcare watchdog, which would have the power to monitor and turn around troubled hospitals with troubleshooting “Change Teams”. Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Jackie Baillie said that it would be a body “with teeth”, to “regulate, inspect, enforce and encourage continuous improvement.”
Johann Lamont was praised by attendees for her keynote speech to her party. However the SNP took the opportunity to criticise her “obsession” with the nationalists, claiming that it overshadows the party’s lack of policies. A spokesman said “There were 22 mentions of the SNP in Johann Lamont’s speech and Alex Salmond was name-checked 13 times. But sadly she was unable to come up with even one new policy.”
Joachim Gauck has taken up the official functions as the new German President and taken over the official residence Schloss Bellevue. With 991 out of 1228 (approx 108 abstentions) votes the top candidate was confirmed in the first run and will be sworn-in on Friday.
Gauck, a former GDR civil-rights activist, was the federal commissioner for the Stasi archives from 1990 to 2000, during which he was critised for retaining former Stasi employees.
He will take over the position from Christian Wulff, who was forced to step down following a financial scandal involving private banking transactions. The expectations for him as the eleventh president are high and it is hoped he will repair some of the damage caused by Wulff’s financial affair. In his first speech following the vote yesterday, Gauck promised to advocate freedom and responsibility.
1940 Joachim Gauck is born to a captain of the merchant navy and a office clerk on the 24th of January.
1951 Gauck’s father is taken in and sentenced to two times 25 years of heavy labour for supposed anti-soviet agitation and spying. The family does not know about the trial or the deportation.
1953 Gauck and his family are informed that the father has been sent to a labour camp in Siberia.
1955 Konrad Adenauer achieves the release of about 10 000 prisoners of war, among them Gauck’s father. As a result of these experiences, Gauck and his sibblings are brought up with a strong rejection of any type of forced government.
1959 – 1965 Gauck studies theology in Rostock. He gave up his original dream to study journalism due to the situation in the GDR.
1959 Gauck marries his school friend Gerhild Radtke with whom he has four children.
1965 – 1982 Pastor in different religious communities.
1982 – 1990 Leader of the church convention work.
1988 / 1989 Participation in the public and church-initiated protest movement in Mecklenburg. Work as a civil-rights activist.
1990 Election into the Volkskammer.
1991 Seperation from Gerhild Radtke.
1990- 2000 Federal Commissioner for the Stasi archives. The administrative office is unofficially called Gauck-Behoerde as a result of his leadership.
2000 Relationship with the journalist Daniela Schadt.
2001 Host of the ‘Joachim Gauck’ show on the German public TV channel ARD.
2001 – 2004 German representative honorary member of the administration of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia organisation.
2003 – 2012 Leader of the organisation ‘Gegen Vergessen – Fuer Demokratie’ (translated ‘Against forgetting – for democracy’).
2010 First nomiation for president.
2012 Election for president on the 18th of March, exactly 22 years after the first time G
Iain Gray used today’s First Minister’s Questions to corner Alex Salmond over his refusal to name a date for Scotland’s referendum on independence, accusing the First Minister of being “scared of separation”.
In typical First Ministers’ Questions style, Mr Salmond responded in kind by accusing the Labour leader of being “frightened of the concept of independence.”
The Labour leader urged Mr Salmond to “steady the ship and decide a date for the referendum,” after a week of bickering between Holyrood and Westminster, which saw Finance Secretary John Swinney accuse the UK Government of “becoming ever more hysterical” over the issue of independence.
The First Minister confirmed that the referendum would take place in the second half of the SNP’s current term in parliament, as set out during the party’s election campaign earlier this year, but refused to confirm a specific date.
Mr Gray said: “The longer this goes on, the more it looks as if Alex Salmond is trying to rig the referendum to get the results he wants.
“He always puts party before principal and isn’t that why he can’t name a date?”
Mr Salmond responded by saying: “Some people in the Labour party actually recognise that they lost the election and have to accept the mandate of the Scottish people.”
He added: “Westminster should keep out of the referendum and not meddle.
“It would be insulting and contemptuous for the Scottish people for Westminster to get involved.”
The First Minister went on to say that a number of opinion polls are showing increasing and substantial support for an independent Scotland. He reminded the main chamber that the SNP were re-elected with “a massive majority” six months ago on the basis of their promise to hold a referendum.
He went on to express concerns that the UK Treasury was not keeping the Scottish Government properly informed about the impact the euro will have on the Scottish economy. The Chancellor, George Osborne, is yet to respond to John Swinney’s request that economy-boosting measures are included in the Treasury’s autumn statement, including an increase in capital spending.
The Irish austerity budget is likely to be Brian Cowen’s last action as Taoiseach , as he is set to call an election early in the New Year.
The budget was set to be announced on December 7th but after mounting political pressure, an announcement will be made this afternoon. The aim will be to set out the plans to reduce the country’s deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014.
This will lead to welfare cuts and tax rises of up to 50% for low paid workers. The minimum wage is set to be cut by 13% and middle class families will lose tax credits.
The IMF and the EU have sanctioned an extensive bailout package of €90Bn to the Irish govenment.
The Irish government states, “providing assistance to Ireland is warranted to safeguard financial stability in the EU and Euro area.”
Initially, they did not wish to accept the bailout package, feeling confident the problems could be resolved without a handout. After extensive meetings with EU finance ministers it was accepted on Sunday evening.
In a reversal, Cowen rejected calls from junior coalition partners the Greens to hold a snap election.
After discussions with his own parliamentary party last night, Cowen stated he will, ” seek the dissolution of Dail Eireann and enable the people to determine the responsibilities of government in the challenging period ahead.”
He has denied accusations that he is “hanging on” to power.
This could be welcomed by Sinn Feinn, who called for a vote of no confidence in the Taoiseach yesterday. The party has seen increased support in recent times, prompting Gerry Adams to say that he will stand in Louth for election to the Dail.
It has been recently reported that Ireland’s international credit rating has been dropped by Standard and Poor’s from AA- to A. This could have a great impact on the overall economy due to Ireland being highly dependent on oversees investment. The view that they may have difficulty repaying loans could increase interest rates and cause further problems.
Ireland’s debt crisis is the result of the property market crash, starting in 2008. After the huge economic boom, house prices have fallen by up to 60% and the banks have held bad assets ever since.
Aiding to matters is the part-nationalisation of many of the country’s banks, turning into state-held debt.
Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan stated “an increase in corporation tax will not be a condition of the bailout.”
Ireland has the lowest level of corporation tax in the Eurozone at 12.5% which has come under scrutiny by other EU member states, such as Germany and France.
The bill will outlaw volume discounting – offers such as two crates of beer for £14 – and make a ‘Challenge 25′ ID policy compulsory, and has paved the way for a possible Social Responsibility Fee which will make on and off licenses pay a sum towards policing and health costs relating to alcohol abuse.
However, the SNP’s key policy of minimum pricing of alcohol was rejected by the majority of MSPs, with the votes going 76 to 49.
David Simpson, 32, assistant manager of the Golden Rule pub near Fountainpark, was unhappy with the majority of the measures introduced by the bill, especially the Social Responsibility Fee. He said: “The point of a license is that you are licensed to sell alcohol responsibly, so having a license should imply that you are socially responsible, so I think this fee is pretty pointless.
“I think it will be harder for independent pubs, whose margins are being squeezed more and more. The massive chains like Wetherspoons will be able to absorb these costs. Inevitably, in independents prices will have to go up yet again to absorb the costs of a fee. Unfortunately, and I hope it doesn’t happen, more pubs may close and more people may lose their jobs.”
Mr Simpson supported the minimum pricing of alcohol to 45p a unit, believing that was the only policy that would have tackled Scotland’s perceived alcohol problem.
He said: “Minimum pricing is the only thing that would have helped. It wouldn’t affect the price of a pint, or of a nice £15 bottle of wine that I sometimes want to enjoy. What it would change is the price of stuff like cheap cider.
“I was in the local shop the other day and I saw someone buy four and a half litres of cider for £3. That proves to me that minimum pricing is socially responsible, and that the rest of these measures are just penalising the on-trade.”
Shoppers’ views at Edinburgh off-licenses were mixed. Michael Webber, a 24 year-old Edinburgh student, said he was “all in favour of a Challenge 25 ID scheme”. He added: “If people are offended by being asked for ID, who cares?”
Gail Stevens, 45, a part-time receptionist, agreed with Mr Simpson on minimum pricing. She said: “Minimum pricing should have been voted through – there is a problem with drink in Scotland.”
Callum Black, 20, a bar worker in St Andrews, also took issue with the Social Responisibility Fee. He said: “The fee is a big problem. How will they decide how much to charge? Smaller pubs struggle as it is.”
Myalgic Encephalomyelitus, (M.E.) has been in the headlines recently regarding the announcement to prevent people with the illness donating blood, prompted by the possibility of a link between a retrovirus and M.E. Also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) it is an illness which causes severe symptoms in the sufferer.
Symptoms can be complex and hard to diagnose. There are often a mix of symptoms and one sufferer may not experience the same symptoms as another. Symptoms include: persistent and overwhelming fatigue, pain in joints and limbs, sleeping difficulties, problems with thought and difficulty concentrating, heightened sensitivity to outside factors and upset to the digestive and nervous systems. There is no cure and currently research is ongoing. Last year, the Medical Research Council spent £109,000 researching the illness.
This debilitating disease is a difficult syndrome to live with and affects the sufferer’s daily life. Earl Howe, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the Department of Health said of the blood donation ban:
“This decision was prompted by a recent independent risk assessment of a possible link between a murine retrovirus and CFS/ ME. Although the risk assessment was found no evidence of a link or a risk to transfusion recipients, the UK blood services recognised that practice for CFS/ ME should be brought in line with other conditions where individuals are permanently excluded from blood donation to protect their own health.”
Although this would indicate that M.E. is an illness which is easily definable as seriously debilitating due to the effect it can have on concentration and judgement and its obvious physical restrictions to the sufferer, it is not as clear-cut as that. Often professional opinion does not regard it as a disability. Tony Britton has said of the Syndrome:
“Despite being recognised by the UK Department of Health as a neurological disease and categorised as such by the World Health Organization since 1968, sufferers from this chronic, distressing disease have been labelled variously as work shy, attention-seeking and suffering psychosocial behavioural problems by some members of the medical profession, who would prefer it to be in the mental health category. To the press, it is still ‘yuppie flu’.”
This diminished view of the seriousness of the illness has a damaging effect on M.E. sufferers. In the issuing of Taxi cards, a scheme run by Edinburgh council where people suffering from a disability can claim to help with costs for travel by taking off a few pounds from the total cost of traveling by taxi. As people with M.E. have a disability they are entitled to claim. The application for a Taxi card from the council must be accompanied by a supporting letter from your G.P. and it is on their support you can claim.
One Edinburgh CFS sufferer has had her G.P. take away her supporting letter when trying to renew her Taxi card. This has been revoked as the treatment she was receiving no longer included physiotherapy. However, removal of a treatment does not mean the disability is gone. On describing what the Taxi card means to her in her daily life, she said:
“It’s like a lifeline. Without it, I am restricted on where I can go. It’s another financial penalty and if I was able to get a bus somewhere, I may begin to feel really unwell and not manage to get back home.”
It is unfair that the decision alone rests with one G.P. when medical opinion in terms of seriousness can be varied. Currently a supporting letter from a G.P. should only include that a person does have a disability or not and that should be enough for the council. When asked to make a response, the Edinburgh Council stated that sufferers “must be able to prove they are eligible for this benefit.”
It is difficult for the sufferer and the sufferer should be supported through this disability, and recognised as truly ill. The debate on the definition of whether it is truly a disease remains unfathomable until further research is provided.
The nominations for the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards have been declared. The awards, introduced in 1999, are for politicians from all walks of life – from local authorities to Westminster.
The annual awards are based on nine categories including the Politician of the Year, Public Campaign of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award.
The winners will be announced at the Prestonfield House Hotel on November the 18th. The awards aim to encourage political performance and bring together key individuals in business and politics in Scotland. The nominees and winners are chosen by a panel of judges in what has been described, by key sponsors The Herald, as heated debates.
Running for Politician of the Year are Health Secretary and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Labour leader Iain Gray, Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott and convener of Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee Hugh Henry. Henry is the first back bencher at the Scottish Parliament to be nominated for the top award. His work attracted attention in 2010 through the Audit Committees scrutiny of senior Civil Servants and First Minister Alex Salmond’s controversial handling of the Homecoming event, the Gathering. Hugh Henry told Edinburgh Napier News:
“I’m surprised but honoured to have been nominated. I hope that this will reflect the good work done by many backbenchers over many years in the parliament”
The most popular award is the Public Campaign or Campaigner of the Year. This year’s award nominees include Tina McGeever, who’s late husband Michael Gray was denied drugs to combat cancer, and she has tried to stop the post-code lottery on new medicines in Scotland. The second campaign nominee is stalking victim Ann Moulds who has campaigned successfully to make such behaviour a crime. Finally Kelly McGee who has worked hard on mandatory sentences for knife crime after her brother Paul, a Scots Guard, was stabbed and killed outside the family home in Lochwinnoch.
One award has remained a secret and that is Lifetime Achievement. According to The Herald, two excellent candidates have been nominated but judges had difficulty coming to an agreement.
The Awards have had their share of bad behaviour. In 2004 Lord Watson of Invergowrie set fire to curtains at the Prestonfield Hotel, and in 2007 Matthew Marr, chief press aide to then Labour leader Wendy Alexander, became abusive to guests and the staff. Both men resigned from political life.
Winning, however, does not necessarily lead to success. In last years awards Steven Purcell won Councillor of the Year but stepped down from Glasgow City council in March this year due to a drugs scandal.
Last year’s Politician of the Year was won by John Swinney MSP, pictured, but the Finance Secretary could be excused for having other things on this mind with the pending budget speech to Holyrood on November the 17th.
The MOD says the Royal Navy website has been taken offline after being ‘compromised’ by a hacker.
Ed Miliband has become a dad for the second time.
A public enquiry has got under way to investigate hundreds of patients who have allegedly died unnecessarily due to poor standards of care.
Parents of a nurse who was stabbed to death by her ex boyfriend want the judge who allowed him out on bail to be investigated.
The new Chief of Defence, Sir David Richards, says British troops must not cut and run from Afghanistan.
The two political parties backed by Burma’s military regime look likely to triumph in the countries election.
More than a 180 organisations from 42 countries are appealing to world leader to impose a tax on banks.
David Cameron will today fly to China at the head of the largest UK Government buisness delegation to ever visit the far Eastern country. He described the visit as, ‘a vitally important trade mission for the British economy’. But he also faces the awkward challenge of voicing concerns about China’s human rights record.
One of the 33 miners who was trapped underground for 69 days in Chile has completed the New York marathon.