Tuesday, 31 March 2009

CONTEMPORARY LESSONS OF POLL TAX TWENTY YEARS ON.



CONTEMPORARY LESSONS OF POLL TAX TWENTY YEARS ON.

Commenting on the twentieth anniversary of the Poll Tax SNP MP, Mike Weir, reflected on the legacy of the controversial Conservative policy, and highlighted contemporary issues in relation to the case for full economic powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Weir, the MP for Angus, said:

“The Poll Tax was foisted on an unwilling Scottish population by a Tory Government with no democratic mandate in Scotland.

“The imposition of the Poll Tax transformed the case for a Scottish Parliament from a good idea into an absolutely necessary one, so that never again could such a democratic outrage be perpetrated on the people of Scotland.

“In the same way, being dragged into an illegal war in Iraq by a Labour Government in London, Westminster demonstrated the case for the Scottish Parliament to have the full powers of independence. More than ever Scotland needs the need for economic and financial powers so that we can take action to recover from recession.”

MANDELSON PRIVATISATION PLANS IN PIECES.



MANDELSON PRIVATISATION PLANS IN PIECES.

COMMONS COMMITTEE UNCONVINCED ON ROYAL MAIL PLAN

Controversial UK Government plans for part-privatisation of Royal Mail are “in pieces” today (Wednesday) after a Commons Committee said the government has not made the case for the move, and criticised the worrying lack of transparency over Lord Mandelson’s proposals.

SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, seized on the Business and Enterprise Committee report, which follows attacks on the privatisation proposals by unions, Labour MPs and party officials.

Mr Weir said:

“Labour’s privatisation plans are now holed below the water line and sinking fast.

”Backbench rebellions are one thing, but for the cross-party committee which is scrutinising these proposals to say they are not convinced leaves Lord Mandelson’s plans in pieces.

“It is plain as day that privatisation would spell the beginning of the end for Royal Mail, and open the door to job losses, service cuts and a deterioration in the working conditions of postal workers.

“A private partner will only be concerned with profit, and Royal Mail must not loose the social focus which is essential for rural areas. Labour must ditch these ridiculous plans, and focus on investing in Royal Mail as a public service for the public good.

“Assurances that there could not be any further privatisation without new primary legislation, and setting out the Universal Service Obligation in legislation, are simply worthless.

”Such legislation could be introduced or amended at any time in a future parliament, and part-privatisation is the start of a slippery slope towards full privatisation.

“The future of Royal Mail as a public service is a vital interest to Scotland and every community and small business should make known their outright opposition to this crazy scheme.”

DARLING’S ‘APRIL FUEL’ DUTY INCREASE MAY HINDER ECONOMIC RECOVERY.



DARLING’S ‘APRIL FUEL’ DUTY INCREASE MAY HINDER ECONOMIC RECOVERY.


AS LABOUR INCREASE FUEL DUTY - SNP FREEZE COUNCIL TAX AND CUT BUSINESS RATES AND PRESCRIPTION CHARGES

SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson, Angus MacNeil MP, has appealed for the Treasury to ditch plans for today’s (Wednesday) near-2p increase in fuel duty arguing that the twice delayed hike may hinder economic recovery.

Increases in fuel duty were twice postponed in July and October last year – and Mr MacNeil argues that now, in the teeth of recession, is the wrong time to go ahead with the plans.

Mr MacNeil said:

“The Treasury is clearly desperate for every penny it can get, but pushing up fuel prices is the wrong thing to do in the teeth of recession.

“Fuel duty increases have twice been postponed previously, and Alistair Darling will be an April fool if he doesn’t rule it out again now. It may boost empty treasury coffers, but an increase will actually hinder economic recovery.

“At a time when the Treasury should be stimulating the economy, this increase will hit already hard-pressed households and businesses.

“It is clearly another blow for motorists and fuel duty will account for about 71 pence of every pound the motorist spends at the forecourt. It is also a further below to motorists who were told last month the cost of replacing a lost or stolen driving licence, or getting a photocard, was going up along with vehicle testing charges.

“It is more than ironic that Scotland, as one of world's largest oil producers, is being hardest hit by Labour’s irresponsible fuel duty increase.
“The contrast between Labour’s fuel tax increase, on the day that the SNP Scottish Government freeze Council Tax, and cut business rates and prescription charges, could not be more stark.”

HOSIE CALLS FOR MYNERS’ RESIGNATION.



HOSIE CALLS FOR MYNERS’ RESIGNATION.

‘MINISTERIAL CAREER A CATALOGUE OF FAILINGS’

SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP has called for the resignation of Lord Myners after it was revealed, in a letter to the Treasury Select Committee today (Tuesday) from former RBS Chairman Sir Tom McKillop, that the City Minister was fully briefed about former chief Sir Fred Goodwin's pension arrangements. Lord Myners previously insisted he had no knowledge of the detail of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension arrangements.

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

“Lord Myners’ position is untenable and he should resign or be removed from office.

“In his short ministerial career, he has presided over a catalogue of failings from the Goodwin pension mess to his failure to properly negotiate a solution for the Dunfermline.

“Gordon Brown’s government is lurching from one fiasco to another, and enough really must be enough.”

SNP DEMAND CLARIFICATION ON DUNFERMLINE DEAL.



SNP DEMAND CLARIFICATION ON DUNFERMLINE DEAL.

CATALOGUE OF QUESTIONS FOR TREASURY AND FSA

SNP Treasury Spokesman, Stewart Hosie MP, has demanded answers from the UK Government after it emerged that a Scottish-led consortium was interested in a merger with the troubled Dunfermline Building Society, but was denied the opportunity to make a full bid.

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

“The possibility of alternative bidders - including a Scottish based bid - that could have seen HQ functions and jobs remain in Scotland is something that all parties should have been aware of prior to the deal with Nationwide.

“Revelations of a possible bid from a Scottish-led consortium and the speed at which decisions appear to have been made only add to the catalogue of questions that the Treasury and the FSA must answer.

“There is a certain feeling of déjà vu over the Dunfermline deal in the sense that, just like HBOS, this is another Scottish institution which appears to have been sold off in haste without a thorough examination of the options.
“The FSA, the Treasury and the Dunfermline must reveal what offers where on the table and when."

SNP GET SCOTLAND “ON THE BUSES”.



SNP GET SCOTLAND “ON THE BUSES”.

New figures show Scotland is winning the race to provide better bus services.

And the Scottish Government has extended the scheme to allow Scotland’s disabled veterans to travel for free – in contrast to the cuts in concessionary travel in England coming into effect tomorrow (1st April).

Under the SNP Government spending on bus services in Scotland reached £275 million, a real terms increase of 2% and spending on concessionary fares increased by 3%. Spending in Scotland is now 20% higher than spending on bus services across England.

The cost of bus travel fell in Scotland, in comparison to a 1% rise across the UK and the distance travelled by buses increased, with commuters taking longer bus journeys.

Welcoming the figures SNP MSP Rob Gibson – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Transport committee said;

“These figures show the SNP is getting Scotland on the buses.

“Scots are travelling further and bus services are expanding. Spending has increased and the concessionary fares scheme has been extended to disabled veterans.

“In contrast Labour is cutting the concessionary fares scheme south of the border and spending is lagging behind Scotland.

“More people are travelling longer distances on Scotland’s buses at a lower cost, with the average Scot taking 100 bus journeys a year – more than their counterparts in other parts of the UK and travelling further with every journey.

“The increase in funding for bus services and for concessionary fares ensures Scotland’s bus services have a strong future.

“It’s now time to encourage even more people onto buses and public transport to help Scotland hit our climate change targets.”

A FRESH START FOR DUNDEE – SNP SET OUT EARLY PRIORITIES.



A FRESH START FOR DUNDEE – SNP SET OUT EARLY PRIORITIES.
Attracting more jobs to Dundee will be top of the agenda for the new SNP Administration on Dundee City Council. The SNP administration was formally appointed at a special meeting of Dundee Council held today (30th March). Councillor Ken Guild, SNP group leader, said today his administration would begin immediately to focus on steering the city through the economic downturn. He also said the SNP would continue the authority's no-redundancy policy. Councillor Guild said: "We will concentrate on trying to attract more jobs to the city and we will be looking long and hard at some of the performance areas in various departments of the council and hope to bring forward suggestions for improvements.” The SNP group has today issued the following statement detailing early priorities of the SNP Administration: Overall approach An SNP administration is an opportunity for a fresh start for the city with a new and open approach to politics. We have begun that process by being inclusive of those of other parties and of no party in the civic leadership and non political convenorships of the council. We intend to continue that approach by changing the culture of the council to one of openness and transparency in the way the council does its business. Key priorities Steering Dundee towards economic recovery The economic downturn has hit Dundee’s manufacturing jobs hard. We will work with local businesses, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government in taking forward an economic recovery plan for the city, building on the securing of £33m of investment from the Scottish Government towards the Waterfront development. Raising the standard of education. Concerns about educational attainment in the city are long standing. Our key priority is to re-double the efforts of the education department to improve education standards in the city. Some progress has been made but more needs to be done. We will give this our earliest attention as a new administration. Addressing the housing needs of the city Making sure that we step up efforts to increase the availability of affordable homes to rent and buy in the city is our key priority as we recognise the pressures on the existing housing stock in Dundee. Working with the Scottish Government we will identify opportunities to improve the availability and access to affordable housing for Dundee residents. The SNP administration will ensure early implementation of Brandon Muir Inquiry Recommendations Future vision Dundee – Renewables capital of Scotland We want to seize the opportunity for Dundee to become the renewables capital of Scotland in the same way that Aberdeen benefited from North Sea oil and gas. By working with Forth ports and Scottish Enterprise we will help Dundee to take advantage of its port and its ideal location for turbine manufacturing. Dundee – City of Culture We want to build on the city’s growing reputation for arts and culture by helping to secure the V&A for Dundee with an iconic waterfront building which will put the city on the international destination map.

Monday, 30 March 2009

SNP ON DUNFERMLINE DEAL - JOBS CLARITY ESSENTIAL.



SNP ON DUNFERMLINE DEAL - JOBS CLARITY ESSENTIAL.
BROWN LETS DOWN LOCAL BUILDING SOCIETY Commenting on the sale of the Dunfermline Building Society to the Nationwide SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP, said: “With the Chairman of Dunfermline branding this deal a “sacrifice” there are serious questions over how the society has been treated by the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority. “That the Dunfermline is being sold to a building society is welcome - but there remain fundamental concerns over the way this deal has been brokered and if it was necessary at all. “Their determination to push for a sale of the society and the spin and leaks over the last week are reminiscent of the way the Treasury behaved over HBOS and Lloyds. “The Dunfermline’s accusation that the Treasury and FSA offered them little more than tea and sympathy adds ever more evidence to the catalogue of failures by the UK Government.” SNP MSP for Central Fife Tricia Marwick said; “We must have clarity on the jobs guarantee. Nationwide have said all staff will transfer – but the Scottish Secretary has now said HQ jobs are not secure. For workers in Dunfermline and across Fife there is a need for this to be clarified. “While Gordon Brown has been jetting around the world, the building society on his doorstep has been let down by his government. “The Treasury’s refusal to offer a loan has seen the Dunfermline “sacrificed”. “The UK Government have split up and sold off the Dunfermline – handing over the strong elements of the society lock, stock and barrel to Nationwide. “The Dunfermline has a long, independent history as a mutual and has played a major role in Fife society. That must not be lost.”

SNP TURN ON THE HEAT WITH FUEL PLAN.



SNP TURN ON THE HEAT WITH FUEL PLAN.

The SNP Government’s Energy Assistance Package has been welcomed by SNP MSP John Wilson.

The package which is backed by £60 million of funding will see efforts to tackle fuel poverty focussed on those that need it most – expanding the scheme from simply covering pensioners to supporting families with young children.

The package offers help with central heating and insulation, free benefit and tax credit checks to boost incomes and tariff checks to ensure people are paying the correct amounts on their bill.

Mr Wilson welcomed the scheme as he called on Energy companies to bring prices down further;

“Scotland is leading the way in tackling fuel poverty.

“The new Energy Assistance Package delivers the right kind of support to those who need it and will make sure those facing fuel poverty have access to the benefits, tariffs and help with the installation of central heating or insulation where it is needed.

“Energy company’s contributions to tackling fuel poverty are welcome but they could go further. Energy prices increased by 40% in the last year but are only falling by 4%.

“Similarly the UK Government must adopt OFGEM’s recommendation that energy companies should stop penalising customers based on their method of payment.”

“Previous schemes missed many of those who struggled to pay their bills and left some, particularly those with young children, in fuel poverty.

“This is real help for people in communities across Scotland. Anyone who is struggling to pay their bills, or unable to heat their house should speak to Energy Savings Scotland, to Citizen’s Advice or to their energy company for help and support.”

DUNFERMLINE BUILDING SOCIETY SELL-OFF.


DUNFERMLINE BUILDING SOCIETY SELL-OFF.

UK TREASURY'S APPALLING BEHAVIOUR IN THE FRAME.

Commenting on the comments made by the Chairman of the Dunfermline Building Society, Jim Faulds, on the Politics Show today (Sunday) the SNP's Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said it was clear that his frustration was borne out of the appalling nature of the process undertaken by UK authorities, and in particular the behaviour of the Treasury. Commenting Mr Hosie said: "The process undertaken by the UK authorities has been appalling, and the behaviour of the Treasury is now well and truly in the frame for public scrutiny. It is abundantly clear that they have arrived at this pre-determined conclusion by leaking information to the media on Saturday afternoon. We need to know who did that briefing, and on whose orders. "There is a distinct impression of spin and lack of fair play - with huge implications for HQ jobs and social housing in Scotland. "It is clear that a public intervention was necessary to secure the Dunfermline, and the Scottish Government still stands ready to intervene. However, what we getting is an intervention by the Treasury to break up the society, endangering HQ functions, jobs and social housing in Scotland. The Chelsea and Newcastle Building Societies have already recorded similar losses, and have not been met with the threat of break-up. "The Treasury need to explain their behaviour, and explain what this means for jobs and housing in Scotland."

On 6 March 2009: * the Chelsea Building Society reported a loss of more than £29m for 2008; and * the Newcastle Building Society announced pre-tax losses of £35.7 million.

LATEST BREAKING NEWS-

It seems the Nationwide Building Society will be picking up the best parts with the UK Government picking up the bill for all the bad debts, you heard here here first on Scotland News Blog powered by Blogger.com

LABOUR PARTY UP TO THEIR NECKS IN SLEAZE WITH LATEST REVELATIONS.


LABOUR PARTY UP TO THEIR NECKS IN SLEAZE WITH LATEST REVELATIONS.

Commenting on the latest expenses allegations to engulf Labour’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson said:

“These are serious allegations and only add to the impression that Labour is becoming engulfed in expenses sleaze.

“”The ongoing allegations of expenses irregularities left the Home Secretary’s credibility in tatters and present real questions over her future as a senior minister.

“Along with Tony McNulty’s expenses claims this entire issue is overwhelming Labour at Westminster.

FIFA DEMAND LEAVES BROWN GOVERNMENT IN DISARRAY OVER TEAM GB.


FIFA DEMAND LEAVES BROWN GOVERNMENT IN DISARRAY OVER TEAM GB.

WISHART TACKLES MURPHY OVER FANTASY FOOTBALL ASSURANCE
.

Commenting on a Sunday Post article which reports that the SFA, and the other UK national football associations, have been told by FIFA to come to an agreement on Team GB for the London Olympics by May, SNP Sport spokesperson Pete Wishart said the revelation further undermined Jim Murphy’s claim of having assurances from FIFA that Team GB would not endanger Scotland’s footballing independence. SFA President George Peat has revealed that FIFA have set a deadline for the matter to be resolved and said that “we don't want anybody playing as 'Team GB'.” The latest revelations clash with comments made by Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy who claimed he had written assurances from FIFA that Team GB would not endanger Scotland’s footballing independence. An FOI request has revealed that the Scotland Office has no record of such written assurances from FIFA. This is despite an explicit statement by UK Sports Minister (Gerry Sutcliffe) that the UK Government had received written assurances. SNP Culture and Sport spokesperson, Pete Wishart, has called on the Secretary of State for Scotland to clarify his position. Commenting, Mr Wishart said: “George Peat’s comments are very welcome and I support him to the hilt. They underline the strength of opposition to the concept of a Team GB football team. “They also undermine the claims being made by several UK government ministers that Team GB is no threat to the independence of the Scottish football team. “Time and time again, Jim Murphy has told us that there are written assurances from FIFA that Team GB would not endanger Scottish football yet his department now admit that he has no such document. “The future of our national teams is far too important to be treated as a political football, and Jim Murphy’s fantasy football assurances over the future of the Scotland team are not worth the paper they apparently aren’t even written on. “The cut and shut creation of a GB side would endanger Scotland’s long term ability to compete in international football, and the UK Government must ditch their crazy proposals and look at ways in which the situation can be resolved. “We must allow no precedent that could be used against us in the future, and no reason or argument given by those who seek to change the status quo has addressed that. “The SFA are opposed, the Tartan Army are opposed and the overwhelming majority of football fans are all against Gordon Brown’s meddling team merger plans. “The future of Scotland’s national game must be assured. Jim Murphy needs to get off the bench and stand up for Scottish football, and he should start by clarifying his position.”

Householders urged to avoid another Christmas FAREPAK TYPE Crisis.


Householders urged to avoid another Christmas FAREPAK TYPE Crisis.

It may only be March, but SNP Work and Pensions spokesman, John Mason MP, is urging householders to avoid falling into another Farepak Christmas trap and start saving now.

Highlighting an advice campaign initiated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the Glasgow East SNP MP is encouraging those struggling with household bills to start saving.

Mr Mason has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons supporting the sensible saving scheme which helps people economise for Christmas without taking out loans or using credit cards.

Mr Mason said:

“It may only be March, but we have to do everything we can to prevent another Christmas crisis.

“It’s more than two years since the Farepak collapse but this nightmare of Christmas past still looms large, and in the current economic climate, with job losses and uncertainty, the OFT’s scheme has some sensible suggestions.

“Many Farepak families are still struggling to find their feet but, while the UK Government rushed to bail out the banks, these savers have not seen a penny of compensation.

“By signing up for schemes like the Save Xmas campaign, households will be doing all they can to prevent another festive nightmare.

“It’s simply shocking that the Farepak families are still waiting for compensation all these years later. It was failure of regulation that led to this scandal and Gordon Brown’s Government has a clear obligation to help these hard pressed families.”

LONDON LABOUR THREATEN TO CUT WHAT THEY WASTED ON SPIN. £1bn OF TAX PAYERS MONEY BLOWN ON SPIN WHILST SNP FOCUS ON FRONTLINE.
The London Labour Government has spent as much on advertising, sponsorship and public relations since the last election as it threatened to cut from the Scottish budget in the approaching two years. According to the figures from House of Commons’ sources the figures also show the cost of the Central Office of Information rose by 16%. These figures contrast with the SNP Government where figures have revealed that the current administration spends 60% less a month on PR than the previous Labour/LibDem Executive and a recent Audit Committee report showed that previous Executive blew £114m on consultants in their last year in power. Commenting on the figures and the contrast with Labour at Westminster the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: “It is more than ironic that figures show London Labour have wasted £1 billion on spin since the last election. With London Labour threatening to cut frontline Scottish spending by £1 billion in the approaching two years it just highlights how wasteful and profligate they have been with the public’s money. “Whilst the SNP Government have been making great advances in reducing waste in public spending it would appear that Labour have carried on regardless. “The public are sick and tired of taxpayers money being wasted and if the London Labour government wants to cut waste from the system they could look no further than their own addiction to spin. “Instead they threaten to cut £1 billion from frontline Scottish public spending instead of looking behind them. “Cutting frontline public spending in the face of recession is the wrong action to take. This is the time for protecting investment and essential spending, not Labour cut backs and closures. “All the devolved governments, trade unions and even London’s former Labour Mayor have said what Labour’s Scottish leader dare not. “To cut Scotland’s budget in the middle of Gordon Brown’s recession is the wrong thing to do and will have a deeply damaging impact on Scotland’s ability to respond properly to this economic downturn.”

UK GOVERNMENT LETS DOWN UK MUSICIANS IN BRUSSELS.

UK GOVERNMENT LETS DOWN UK MUSICIANS IN BRUSSELS.


DISCRIMINATION ‘NOT ON’ SAYS WISHART.

Pete Wishart MP has reacted furiously to the betrayal of the UK Government in its refusal to back the extension of copyright term on sound recordings in an important European Committee today (Friday).

Despite the numerous assurances to musicians and the music industry that it would be seeking to increase the copyright term to 70 years, the UK Government did not support the draft directive when it appeared before the European Union Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels, potentially killing the directive at First Reading.

Former musician, Pete Wishart, brought forward a Private Members Bill in support of term extension in the House of Commons

Commenting on the UK Government’s backtrack, Mr Wishart said:

“This is an enormous betrayal of the whole music industry and a total slap in the face to UK musicians.

“As late as last Wednesday, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham offered reassurances that the UK Government would be doing the right thing on term and would be supporting the extension of copyright term on sound recordings to 70 years. But today the UK Government could not bring itself to vote for term extension and allowed the committee to throw the plans out.

“With only a few months left before the European elections, it is important that UK Ministers work round the clock to get this back on track and honour its commitments to UK musicians. Being uniquely discriminated against on royalties is not on for musicians and they deserve to be treated the same as all other creators.

“I am leading an All Party delegation to meet the Secretary of State and Intellectual Property Minister, David Lammy, on Wednesday and I will want to know why this Government says one thing in London and then does another in Europe. It’s not good enough and Government must now get this fixed.”

PETE WISHART TACKLES MURPHY OVER FANTASY FOOTBALL ASSURANCE.


PETE WISHART TACKLES MURPHY OVER FANTASY FOOTBALL ASSURANCE.

UK GOVERNMENT IN DISARRAY OVER TEAM GB.

On the day of Scotland’s football match against the Netherlands, it emerged that the UK Government is in disarray over Team GB proposals.

An FOI request has revealed that the Scotland Office has no record of written assurances from FIFA that the creation of a Team GB would not endanger football in Scotland. This is despite an explicit statement by UK Sports Minister (Gerry Sutcliffe) that the UK Government had received written assurances.

SNP Culture and Sport spokesperson, Pete Wishart, has called on the Secretary of State for Scotland to clarify his position.

Commenting, Mr Wishart said:

“Time and time again, Jim Murphy has told us that there are written assurances from FIFA that Team GB would not endanger Scottish football yet his department now admit that he has no such document.

“The future of our national teams is far too important to be treated as a political football, and Jim Murphy’s fantasy football assurances over the future of the Scotland team are not worth the paper they apparently aren’t even written on. “The cut and shut creation of a GB side would endanger Scotland’s long term ability to compete in international football, and the UK Government must ditch their crazy proposals and look at ways in which the situation can be resolved. “We must allow no precedent that could be used against us in the future, and no reason or argument given by those who seek to change the status quo has addressed that. “The SFA are opposed, the Tartan Army are opposed and the overwhelming majority of football fans are all against Gordon Brown’s meddling team merger plans. “The future of Scotland’s national game must be assured. Jim Murphy needs to get off the bench and stand up for Scottish football, and he should start by clarifying his position.”

Friday, 27 March 2009

ROBERTSON SEEKS TIMETABLE ON ACT OF SETTLEMENT REPEAL.



ROBERTSON SEEKS TIMETABLE ON ACT OF SETTLEMENT REPEAL.


‘CROSS-PARTY AND CROSS-FAITH CONCERN’

SNP Westminster leader, Angus Robertson MP, has called on the Prime Minister to announce a timetable for the repeal of the Act of Settlement after it emerged that the PM and Palace have discussed plans to change the rules of succession to the throne, including giving female members of the Royal Family equal rights.

The House of Commons today (Friday) debated on the Royal Marriages and Succession to the Crown (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill.

Mr Robertson said:

"The Act of Settlement represents clear institutional discrimination against millions of our fellow citizens, and we need a clear timetable for its removal from the statute book.

"This is an issue of cross-party and cross-faith concern. The Act is state sectarianism and has no place in a modern society.

“The Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government and Catholic church in Scotland have long called for this institutional discrimination to come to an end to send a signal to society as a whole that religious discrimination of any kind and at any level is unacceptable.

“Changing the Act of Settlement allows us to deal with a fundamental issue of discrimination; it enables us to state clearly that discrimination is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in a modern country.

“I welcome reports that Downing Street and the Palace have been in discussions, but it has taken long enough to address this problem. The UK Government must act to bring forward real reforms and end institutional discrimination however high up it is.”

WEIR WELCOMES DEBIT TRANSPARENCY CALLS.



WEIR WELCOMES DEBIT TRANSPARENCY CALLS.

MP ENCOURAGES CONSUMERS TO CHALLENGE CHARGES

SNP Energy spokesman, Mike Weir MP, has welcomed OFGEM’s recommendation that energy suppliers must be more transparent about direct debit payments. The recommendation is contained within a review of direct debit arrangements of the six major energy suppliers, following complaints by customers late last year about significant increases in amounts they were being asked to pay.

Commenting, Mr Weir, a long-term campaigner on energy and consumer protection issues, said:

“Action to ensure companies provide greater clarity for those paying by direct debit is a welcome step forward.

“There have been long-standing complaints about the way payments are increased without proper warning and the new regulations should help consumers know where they stand. There has been a real need for changes to make it easier for customers to know when charges are being increased and give them an opportunity to challenge them.

“No one should just accept the new monthly payments being sought if they think they are too high. It has to be asked why when prices are currently supposed to be falling, that companies are still seeking increases in direct debit payments. Anyone receiving such a demand just now should challenge it. I know from my own experience it is possible to get these reduced.”

Thursday, 26 March 2009

RENEWABLES PROJECTS CREATES 250 JOBS.



RENEWABLES PROJECTS CREATES 250 JOBS.

Highland & Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Climate Change & Energy Committees – has welcomed today’s announcement by the First Minister today (Thursday) which will secure 85 jobs in Argyll and create at least 250 more. The SNP Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Development International (SDI) have been working together for some months to secure a long term future at the Vestas turbine manufacturing plant near Campbeltown, which will now be taken over by Danish firm Skykon. Its future is now secure and offers long-term employment. The £45 million investment will see a three fold expansion of the plant saving the present 85 jobs, creating 250 more, and 150 indirect spin-off jobs. Mr Gibson said: “This is very good news for Argyll and the Highlands & Islands. Due to the hard work of the Scottish Government, HIE and SDI the people of Campbeltown can now not only feel more secure but look forward to even more jobs. “That is not only good news but shows how renewables offer us a means to stave off the economic difficulties that many people are facing. “This announcement shows how renewables can transform the economy of some of the remotest parts of Scotland, particularly in these harsh economic times. “Investment in renewables shows us the way forward and shows how they can create jobs. That is why the SNP is focussing on renewable energy as the future for Scotland. “That is why we have seen the SNP Government determine 26 energy applications since May 2007, including consenting 20 renewables projects, totalling over 1.5 GW. That equals one a month - more than during the entire previous 4 years of the previous Labour/LibDem Executive added together.”

HAPLESS HARMAN REPEATS BILLION POUND BLUNDER.



HAPLESS HARMAN REPEATS BILLION POUND BLUNDER.

DEPUTE LABOUR LEADER IN DENIAL OVER DAMAGING CUTS

Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman has repeated her denial that the UK Government is set to cut spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern - less than 24 hours after she first made the glaring gaffe.
Standing in for Gordon Brown at PMQs yesterday, Ms Harman flatly denied that spending cuts were planned.

Today (Thursday) at Business Questions, questioned by SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP, Ms Harman repeated her claim – putting her completely at odds with the comments from the Treasury that £5 billion in cuts are planned.

Speaking after the exchange, Mr Hosie said:
“Labour’s planned spending cuts are on record and indisputable, and for Harriet Harman to repeat her denial is a glaring gaffe.
“Harriet Harman is not kidding anyone with her desperate denials – the facts speak for themselves.

“Despite their political diversity, the governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Labour Ministers in Wales can all see the danger of the Treasury’s planned cuts in the teeth of recession, why on earth can’t Harriet Harman recognise this.


“It would be madness, in the deepest days of the Downing Street depression, at a time when we need to support the economy, to slash spending.

“Labour has no place to hide on this issue and must now get their heads out the sand and oppose these cuts.”

COUNCIL TAX INCREASES UNDER LABOUR WHILST FROZEN IN SCOTLAND.



COUNCIL TAX INCREASES UNDER LABOUR WHILST FROZEN IN SCOTLAND.

Commenting on confirmation today (Thursday) that council tax in England will increase by an average of 3% compared to Scotland where it is frozen, SNP MP for Glasgow East, John Mason, pointed to the difference as an example of how the SNP Government is delivering for Scotland whilst Labour fails south of the border. Estimates based on calculations by CIPFA, the organisation of local government accountants, shows that typical families were paying £726 more in council tax – an increase of 105% - since Labour came to power in 1997.

Commenting Mr Mason said:

“This news highlights Labour's lack of answers when it comes to helping people in these hard economic times. It also stands as an example of how things could have been if Labour were still in power in Scotland.

“Thankfully we have an SNP Government delivering a continued council tax freeze for the people of Scotland. A freeze that will help hard-pressed households keep more of their own money in these uncertain economic times. "Since the SNP came in to Government we have seen council tax frozen after years of increases under Labour. The SNP has confirmed that it will fund a council tax freeze to 2012, with people paying the same in 2012 as they were at the 2007 election.

“This news just shows the benefits voting SNP has brought to people in Scotland and that Labour is out of touch.”

TAX CREDIT DOUBLE WHAMMY FOR LOW PAID.



TAX CREDIT DOUBLE WHAMMY FOR LOW PAID.
WEIR BID SECURES CROSS-PARTY SUPPORT SNP Business and Enterprise spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, has secured cross-party support in a bid to persuade the UK government to revise the threshold for Working Tax Credits (WTC) after warning that low income workers are missing out on the benefit because they have had their hours cut as a result of the recession. The Working Tax Credit (WTC) is intended to “help make work pay” for lower income workers. For people with children and disabled people, WTC is payable if the person works 16 hours or more a week. For others, the threshold is 30 hours a week, however, as a result of the recession many workers have had their hours cut and now face a “double whammy”. Mr Weir has today (Thursday) tabled an EDM on the issues which has already received backing from Labour, Liberal Democrat and SDLP MPs. Mr Weir, the SNP MP for Angus, said: “For low paid workers to lose hours at work and then be punished again by having their Working Tax Credit entitlement withdrawn is clearly a double whammy. “Working Tax Credits are supposed to help make work pay, but clearly the reality of the recession is having an impact on peoples employment and the UK government must look at revising the threshold. "Just like the 10p tax fiasco these ridiculous rules are hammering those on low incomes especially hard, and is further compounded by the recession. Instead of helping the less well off and the vulnerable these ridiculous tax credit rules are punishing them. “The tax credit system is patently not working, and I hope that Ministers can be persuaded to sort it out.”

SIR TIM BERNERS-LEE ADVISES.




SIR TIM BERNERS-LEE ADVISES.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee.


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, today warned MPs and peers that they should not allow third parties, including commercial companies, to snoop on people's internet browsing.

"We use the internet without a thought that a third party would know what we have just clicked on," Berners-Lee said.

"Yet the webpages people use reveal a huge amount about their lives, loves, hates and fears. This is extremely sensitive information.

"People use the web in a crisis, when wondering whether they have a sexually transmitted disease, or cancer, when wondering if they are homosexual and whether to talk about it … to discuss political views."

He said people "use the internet to inform ourselves as voters in a democracy", adding: "We use the internet to decide what is true and what is not.

"We use the internet for healthcare and social interaction."

He said people would consider using the web in a crisis in a different light if they knew they were being monitored and the data would be shared with a third party such as an advertising company.

"There will be a huge commercial pressure to release this data," he said. "The principle should be that it is not to be collected in the first place."

His remarks at a Westminster roundtable discussion about the commercial use of data on the internet followed trials by BT and a company called Phorm of the monitoring of 30,000 people's internet use in order to deliver targeted advertisements based on users' search interests.

The recent development of behaviour-targeted advertising has alarmed privacy campaigners.

In its simplest form, a single website, such as the online retailer Amazon, will keep a record of which pages a user has visited and show them relevant advertisements the next time they visit.

But privacy concerns arise when records of web activity are shared or sold to other commerical third parties, particularly if they involve a popular search engine such as Google, which stores millions of users' searches.

Lady Miller, the Liberal Democrat peer who convened the meeting, said the age of innocence on the internet was over.

"We must come to terms with the cynical reality that, unless parliament does something about it, business will ride roughshod with internet users' data," she said.

"Our privacy laws are outmoded and unco-ordinated, completely unsuited to the competitive commercial environment that is developing on the internet."

She said the internet was developing so quickly that it was bound to be seen as a goldmine by companies such as Phorm, Google and Microsoft, which she claimed were waiting to get their hands on data to sell it to the highest bidder.

Berners-Lee said personal users could turn to encrypted surfing as a way of protecting their privacy, but warned this would make the process more expensive and slow down the user's computer.

He said there were considerable risks of abuse of such histories of personal internet use, including the selling of personal profiles, using it to determine job applications and insurance premiums, and the danger of criminal predators choosing, stalking and targeting victims.

"The power of this information is so great that the commercial incentive for companies or individuals to misuse it will be huge," he said. "It is absolutely essential to have absolute clarity that it is illegal."

He was backed by Dame Wendy Hall, a Southampton University professor of computer science, who appealed to politicians to protect the privacy of people's digital lives and take the issue seriously.

"There are lots of good reasons why companies and government want access to our data but there are huge downsides to that," she said.

"This debate is about our digital lives. It is about who we are, what we are interested in and what is private to us."
story from the Gaurdian U.K.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

SOCIAL NETWORK SNOOPING IS ‘UK BIG BROTHER GONE BONKERS’.


SOCIAL NETWORK SNOOPING IS ‘UK BIG BROTHER GONE BONKERS’.



MP PLANS FACEBOOK FIGHTBACK AGAINST LABOUR PLANS.
SNP Home Affairs spokesperson, Pete Wishart MP, is set to establish a Facebook group against proposals by the UK Government to monitor social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace.

Mr Wishart described proposals to monitor and record details of exchanges and profiles from social network sites on a Home Office database as ‘Big Brother gone bonkers’, and the MP plans to start a Facebook fight-back against the proposals.

Mr Wishart said:

“These grossly intrusive plans by the Home Office are another case of Big Brother gone bonkers.

“Not content with their unwanted and expensive ID card plans, the UK government is now set on snooping through social network sites.

“We are talking about sites used by tens of millions of people which contain personal information such as religious and political beliefs, and sexual orientation. These issues are no business of government bureaucrats.

“The UK Government’s appalling record of data security will have alarm bells ringing, and that is in itself an argument against these plans which will do nothing to improve national security.

“I think once people realise what the Home Office has planned, that Ministers will be hit with a Facebook fightback.”

IRAQ INQUIRY TIMETABLE FARCICAL ATTEMPT TO PLAY FOR TIME.


IRAQ INQUIRY TIMETABLE FARCICAL ATTEMPT TO PLAY FOR TIME.


Speaking after this afternoon’s vote on an inquiry into the Iraq war, SNP MP, Angus MacNeil, has hit out at the Labour government’s announcement of a timetable for an inquiry into the conflict.

The SNP have led demands for an inquiry into the Iraq war, and secured the first substantive debate in October 2006 – at that time the vote was narrowly lost by just 25 votes – with 12 Labour rebels. It was backed by all Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Mr MacNeil said:

“David Miliband’s announcement of a timetable is farcical. It is a desperate attempt to play for time by a discredited government.

“An inquiry into the Iraq war is long overdue, and the process should begin right now, not be delayed for another day.

“Labour’s plans for an inquiry to begin post July mean parliament will be in recess, by autumn everyone will be looking at the economy and Pre-Budget Report, and then it will buried under the General Election.

“This inquiry should have been held years ago, not held on ice by those politicians who dragged us into an illegal war on the basis of false information.

“By every measurement this has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times, and those responsible for it have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this mess.

“The claim that the war was about weapons of mass destruction was a blatant lie, a mere cover story unsupported by the facts, which has cost the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of our brave soldiers.

“The SNP have been pressing for years on this issue, and the UK Government to tell us the truth right now.”