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UK TREASURY MUST NOT RESUME OIL CASH GRAB

UK TREASURY MUST NOT RESUME OIL CASH GRAB | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it
This cash boost must not just go straight to the Treasury coffers and never be seen again by the industry or by Scottish communities.
Mark Saunders's insight:

Tax revenues of up to £1 billion this year from the North Sea oil and gas industry should be reinvested in Scotland’s economy and in futureproofing the sector to maximise jobs over the long term, the SNP has said. 

Reports today reveal the industry body Oil and Gas UK is forecasting a £1 billion tax intake this financial year. Successive Westminster governments have failed to invest sufficiently in the industry in previous years – leading to today’s calls from the SNP for the Tories not to make the same mistakes all over again, and instead to reinvest to protect jobs, maximise return in the long-term and grow Scotland’s economy. 

Failure to do so will only heighten calls for Holyrood to be given full powers over the oil and gas industry, including revenues, so that the Scottish Government can take the action needed to protect jobs. 

Commenting, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East, Gillian Martin, said: “This is excellent news and further evidence of the strength of the North Sea oil and gas industry as it continues to recover from the recent downturn. 

“But this cash boost must not just go straight to the Treasury coffers and never be seen again by the industry or by Scottish communities. 

“The oil and gas industry needs continued support from the UK government in order to protect against future downturns – and the industry should see a return on the revenue it is generating through appropriate levels of reinvestment in the sector, to protect jobs across Scotland. 

“Better still, they could devolve full control over the oil and gas industry, including revenues, to Scotland – and allow the Scottish Government to take the action needed to maximise jobs and return from our energy sector.”
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SCOTLAND'S RURAL ECONOMY, TOGETHER WITH THE HEALTH OF THE NATION, IS UNDER THREAT BY HARD BREXITEERS.

Despite concerns about a potential cancer link, cheap, low-quality hormone-treated beef may soon be sold in UK markets in post-Brexit trade deal with Australia.

Mark Saunders's insight:

Scotland’s rural economy and the health of the nation is on the line.

There is now a clear threat to the producers of high quality Scotch beef. With their desperate scramble for trade deals, the Hard Brexiteers are putting the future of Scotland’s rural economy and the health of the nation on the line.

Following reports that the International Trade Secretary may consent to watering down food standards to secure a trade deal with Australia, the SNP’s Stewart Stevenson has warned that the Tories “cannot be trusted to protect Scottish farmers’ interests in Brexit negotiations.”

Today’s Scottish Times reports that Liam Fox may bow to the Australian Government’s demands that cheap, low-quality hormone-treated beef can be sold in UK markets in any post-Brexit trade deal. The sale of hormone-treated beef has been banned in the European Union since 1981, amid concern about a potential cancer link. 

Responding to the news, the National Farmers’ Union chief livestock adviser has said: “We do not believe the British public would want our own farmers to be put at a competitive disadvantage by allowing the import of food produced to different standards and using methods which are not allowed in Britain.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, who sits on Holyrood’s Rural Committee, said: “The Tories have already sold out Scotland’s fishermen in Brexit negotiations - they must not be allowed to treat Scottish farmers with the same contempt by lowering food standards and allowing cheap, hormone-treated beef to flood the UK market after Brexit. 

“While the SNP continues to stand up for Scottish farmers and the jobs they support - Liam Fox must immediately confirm whether Scotland’s prized farming industry will pay the price for a post-Brexit trade deal with Australia, as his Tory Government continues to pursue a disastrous Brexit ‘at all costs’ policy.”
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BREXIT BUDGET TO HIT THE PUBLIC PURSE TO THE TUNE OF AN EXTRA £280M

BREXIT BUDGET TO HIT THE PUBLIC PURSE TO THE TUNE OF AN EXTRA £280M | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it
This year alone, the Tory government’s Brexit preparations are costing them more than £5.3m per week more than they planned.
Mark Saunders's insight:

BREXIT BUDGET TO HIT THE PUBLIC PURSE TO THE TUNE OF AN EXTRA £280M

One of Parliament’s longest standing functions is the consideration and authorisation of the Government’s spending plans, requiring the Government to obtain parliamentary consent before spending public money.

After decades of parliament being unable to debate the planned departmental public spending by the UK government, and following the revelation that the UK government is spending an extra £280m of public money to fund its damaging hard Brexit plans, Stephen Gethins MP, the SNP’s Foreign Affairs and Europe spokesperson has secured a debate today on the spending of the Brexit Department.

With the 'release' of the Brexit Analysis Papers, it is widely known that an extreme Tory Brexit will leave the UK worse off. The Scottish economy alone faces a hit of £12.7 billion a year – a loss equivalent to £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland. And, now the public purse is set to be hit to the tune of £280m to fund the UK government's ideological Brexit plans.

Prior to the debate, Stephen Gethins MP said that “Brexit is costing more than a quarter of a billion pounds above and beyond what was expected – and we are only in the preparatory stages of leaving the EU. The reality is that the UK government is woefully underprepared and underestimating how damaging its plans to leave the EU will be."
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HOLYROOD: WARNINGS OVER RIGHTS FOR FAMILIES POST-BREXIT

HOLYROOD: WARNINGS OVER RIGHTS FOR FAMILIES POST-BREXIT | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

The threat of Brexit is not some abstract notion – it is real, and the Tories either have no clue or don’t care when it comes to protecting the interests of families and young people

Mark Saunders's insight:
WARNINGS OVER RIGHTS FOR FAMILIES POST-BREXIT 

Janys M Scott QC of the Faculty of Advocates has voiced concerns ahead of Holyrood Justice Committee session.

Janys M Scott QC of the Faculty of Advocates evidence in full: 

Evidence submitted to Holyrood’s Justice Committee ahead of a key evidence session today warns of the legal risk to families as a result of Tory plans for a hard Brexit. 

In a written submission to the Justice Committee ahead of an evidence session on Brexit and Family Law, Janys M Scott QC of the Faculty of Advocates has highlighted a number of areas where Brexit is set to have an impact on family life – particularly for families who have “taken advantage of free movement around Europe,” who are now “at risk of waking up one morning and finding their problems much more difficult and expensive to resolve.” 

Ms Scott QC adds that if it “is difficult for the adults, it is worse for the children” – yet another warning that Tory plans will hit younger people hardest. 

Commenting, SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon, who sits on both Holyrood’s Justice and Europe committees, said: “This is a stark warning from a respected family law expert, showing the damage that Brexit is set to cause Scottish society. As Janys Scott QC makes perfectly clear, those who have built families on the back of free movement across Europe – something that I have a very personal experience of – are now facing very real threats, through no fault of their own. And those difficulties for families will be felt most acutely by children."
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All Aboard The Magic Health-Care Bus

All Aboard The Magic Health-Care Bus | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it
Accepting the suggestion and implementing a ward closure may lose votes or even party members. But, is that abstract notion more important than a child’s health? For Shona Robison, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party, it seems not.
Mark Saunders's insight:

ALL ABOARD THE MAGIC HEALTH-CARE BUS

Act I - Misdirected Indignation

We accept that the Labour Party in Scotland like to whip up all kinds of ‘happenings’ in our society into a vote craving political frenzy. After all, with that political Party showing signs of electoral difficulties since the days of the Iraq war and the economically disastrous PFI contracts, it is not overly surprising. But, vote seeking activists knocking on doors attempting to cause ordinary people to be angry but uninformed is political game playing at its most egregious. 

Perhaps the Labour party still hold fast to the idea that “If You Teach Them To Be Angry at Something, Their Hearts and Minds will Follow”. If true, I would suggest that we need to be more cautious of those who tell us where to focus our anger. For today's angry doorstep message, it's the turn of the restructuring of Children’s Health Service in Scotland. 

Parking our anger at the very thought of some busybody 'meddling' in our NHS for just a moment, let's think about those local areas where Labour activists suggest will suffer from a lack of access to children's health care services - specifically the closure of the children's ward at the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Paisley and what that closure means for the wider community and its children's overall wellbeing.

Back in 2006, the Labour administration in Holyrood introduced the Emergency Care Framework for Children and Young People. This important and meaningful document has served as the blueprint for Scottish paediatric care provision since its publication. Although it has been the basis of informed decision making in the practical considerations that surround the RAH Children's Ward closure, the Labour Party seems to have forgotten the existence of their previous accomplishment. 

Since the decision to close the Kid's Ward at the RAH was based on a Labour Party commissioned framework, it is obvious then that the Party activists are shouting "Disaster! Crisis! Ward Closure!" to evoke feelings of primitive anger in parents and guardians solely for votes at the next election. The faux outrage is being promulgated regardless of any and all pragmatic evaluations of the future wellbeing of our children to which the Labour Party had previously given its assent.

Act II - The Pragmatic Evaluations

Most of our local hospitals are old and, like many of their patients, are in constant need of repair. However, they do have Accident and Emergency departments which will continue to provide paediatric care to sick children and stabilise any of those children who arrive in a particularly critical condition. From an adult point of view, it is comforting to know that children will be well cared for locally. But the perception of hospitals by children is a different thing entirely. For children, hospitals are scary places. 

At the Royal Hospital For Children in Glasgow, sick kids will now be looked after and their families supported within a child-friendly environment. The health benefits being in such an environment is substantial although unquantifiable. 

That's only one side of the coin. There are also safety issues. Sick kids in a local hospital need a host of highly trained paediatric staff to provide exceptional health services. Normally in local hospitals, there are one or maybe two professionals from each required health discipline available to provide the level of expertise which we all demand for our children. In these local hospitals, it is likely that no trained paediatric staff will be available during the out of hour periods. 

In the Royal Hospital For Children, through centralisation of expertise, sick children will have a full compliment of paediatric staff on-duty looking after them every moment of the the day and night. 

However, centralisation of specialist services can be easily presented by political doorstep activists as cuts, and they know very well that public opinion is always opposed to cuts in services. We would all love to live in a world where state of the art health facilities, full of highly skilled specialist staff, are a few minutes away. But, all these highly skilled specialist staff and equipment are an expensive commodity. And the Scottish budget is fixed and at the mercy of Westminster funding via the Barnett formula. 

Of course, Scottish NHS spending is prioritised by the Scottish Government and is presently at record levels. But, not having all the normal economic levers to find more revenue, from all kinds of indirect taxation etc., the money to keep our nation's health service the best in the United Kingdom has to be diverted from other services. 

Act III - The Golden Goose and the Golden Egg

It has taken some time to put the centralisation of children's health care into existence. The Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board has reassured the Scottish government and convinced it to accept the results of an extensive consultation free from any calculated political expediency. Accepting the suggestion and implementing a ward closure may lose votes or even party members. But, is that abstract notion more important than a child’s health? For Shona Robison, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party, it seems not. 

Nevertheless, with the new centralised facility in Glasgow, there will be patient and family transportation issues. Consequently, our concern should be directed towards ensuring that no family member but for the want of a tuppenny bus ride is left sitting at home worrying about their hospitalised child. 

There's our focus of concern. Ensure that every immediate family member of a child patient has the correct transportation to and from the new Children's Hospital. Don't express anger at a hospital ward being closed, as Labour activists on your doorstep would like, without first thinking of the whys and wherefores. 

Therein denies us all the golden opportunity of having our children cared for as emergency cases or as sick paediatric inpatients at a brand new dedicated children's hospital which is fully staffed with specialised paediatric health care professionals twenty four hours per day, seven days per week, three hundred and sixty five days per year.

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How to link the SNP to PFI

BBC Scotland - Sunday Politics Scotland, 21 January 2018.
Mark Saunders's insight:

THE SUNDAY POLITICS MYSTERY HALF HOUR. 

Even John le Carré would find it difficult not to reveal in chapter one of “Spooks on the Box” that if you are employed in certain divisions of the British Broadcasting Company, part of your job is to undermine any aspect of Scottish life which, however slight, may nourish Scottish independence. 

The BBC Sunday Politics program was a masterclass in how to be successful in performing your duty in accordance with that part of the ‘job description’. 

During the PFI/PPP slot, the program makers made no effort to explain to their audience that the Scottish Government had, ten years previously, put an end to reckless PFI/PPP financing and introduced its own NPD (Non-Profit Distributing) ‘version’. 

The new version, the Scottish Future’s Trust, is based on public/private partnership and cooperation for infrastructure projects where, unlike the PPP/PFI contract, the profit taken from the public purse by private building contractors is limited and has a strict no nonsense ceiling. And, more importantly, a local authority clerk of works, previously axed in the unregulated PPP contracts has now been re-established in order to oversee the construction process. 

However, the BBC, by conflating part of the recent SNP party political broadcast with images of the Labour Party’s PPP schools in Edinburgh, which had begun to crumble within ten years of completion, was nothing less than a first class piece of political propaganda taken from the pages of Public Mind Manipulation 101. 

The BBC Sunday Politics Show employees' mission, and they did choose to accept it without fear of being disavowed, was to tarnish the reputation of the Scottish National Party by visually associating it with the disastrous PPP legacy left in Scotland by the similarly disastrous Labour Party of the early 2000s, whose dirty hands in the economic shambles, incidentally, were entirely washed from the BBC script. 

Labour, a political organisation so desperate to convince the British electorate it was the party of low borrowing that it refused to create an infrastructure financed by low cost Treasury Bond or traditional government borrowing, and had much preferred to mortgage to the hilt all our futures with an ‘off-book’ accountancy trick that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of. To this day, our valuable public services are suffering from local councils being in hock to the Racketeering Usury Inc mob. 

Forty percent of all schools built in the UK under the shadow of PPP/PFI were built in Scotland. 40% of building for only 8% of the population. Great stuff, eh? Unless of course Scotland now has thirty-two cash strapped local authorities with a debt mountain of billions through PFI/PPP invoices. 

These local councils are contractually obligated to make payments to the Private Finance companies before any council worker’s wage packet is filled or a rubbish bin is emptied. And, these payments will most likely find their way into various tax-avoiding offshore accounts where many of our governing classes have stashed away their rainy day money. 

But, you know all that, right? You heard it on the British news and you read it in the British papers. Or maybe not. “That’s all from us. Here is the news where you are. Traffic problems as snow falls on roads in winter.”
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LABOUR MUST NOT DELIVER BREXIT ON A PLATE FOR THE TORIES

LABOUR MUST NOT DELIVER BREXIT ON A PLATE FOR THE TORIES | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

The SNP's Foreign Affairs and Europe Spokesperson is "baffled" that the Labour leader continues to mislead the public by repeatedly claiming that "the single market is dependent on membership of the European Union

Mark Saunders's insight:

TIME FOR CORBYN TO STOP DITHERING ON SINGLE MARKET

The SNP's Stephen Gethins says time is running out for Jeremy Corbyn to support staying in the single market, which is in the best interests of the economy and is a position supported by a majority of Labour supporters. 

The SNP's Foreign Affairs and Europe Spokesperson is "baffled" that the Labour leader continues to mislead the public by repeatedly claiming that "the single market is dependent on membership of the European Union." Speaking on today's Peston on Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn continued: "So I don’t quite understand why she [Nicola Sturgeon] would keep saying 'join the single market' when leaving the EU means you leave the single market – you have to make a special relationship with the European Union." 

Commenting, Stephen Gethins MP said: "It's time for Labour to determine whose side they are on - they can choose to deliver a hard Brexit on a plate for the Tories or protect the interests of people, jobs and communities across the UK by making the case for remaining in the European single market. 

"It is baffling that the Labour leader continues to falsely claim that single market membership equates to membership of the European Union, when obviously this is not the case. Norway is just one example of a country that trades within the single market but is not a member of the European Union. 

"We have a real window of opportunity here to bring consensus together in the House of Commons and make the case for a deal on our terms, not on the Tories’ terms. But that needs Labour to get its act together. More than eighteen months on from the Brexit vote, it beggars belief that Labour in Scotland and UK-wide are still unable to say what kind of relationship they want with the EU. This at a time when jobs the length and breadth of the UK are under threat because of the Tories' reckless Brexit plans. 

"The SNP has a duty and a mandate to make the case for a deal on Scotland’s terms, not on the Tories’ terms, and that is what my colleagues and I in the SNP will continue to do. We will continue to work with MPs from across the political spectrum and take on the Tories.”
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LET'S BE CANDID. CORBYN WANTS TO BE THE POST-APOCALBREXIT PRIME MINISTER AT ALL COSTS

LET'S BE CANDID. CORBYN WANTS TO BE THE POST-APOCALBREXIT PRIME MINISTER AT ALL COSTS | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

There is no Red, White and Blue Jobs First Brexit. There is only ‘Brexit’ - economic chaos borne entirely of British exceptionalism and Westminster incompetence.

Mark Saunders's insight:

THE POST-APOCALBREXIT PRIME MINISTER 

The European Union has recently issued “be prepared” warnings to all UK businesses as it contemplates a potential no-deal Brexit. This is the starkest warning yet about the devastating impact that a Conservative led, Labour approved 'Red White and Blue Jobs First' Hard-Brexit will have – a ‘no deal’ Brexit, in a Panglossian paradigm shift, is the worst of all possible worlds. And, Professor Pangloss himself, Jeremy Corbyn, continues to cultivate his own little garden with optimistic thoughts of becoming the post-apocalbrexit Prime Minister. 

When Mr Corbyn states that being out of the EU also means being out of the single market, conveniently ignoring the existence of countries like Norway and Switzerland, it is obvious his focus is on extracting the UK from the EU in the most drastic of fashions - no doubt in the hope of electoral 'success' at the next General Election. It almost seems like Mr Corbyn and his Front Bench hierarchy are gleefully looking forward to becoming the overlords of a thoroughly impoverished Little Britain. The leader of the Labour Party even ignored the recent cross-party leader talks on efforts to save Scotland's place in the single market. 

The Labour Party are not only ignoring cross-party talks to oppose the Tory's hard Brexit policy but, with its own incoherent Brexit policy, it is also ignoring the fact that businesses in around 15 economic sectors which rely on operating licences have been warned by Brussels that they should be prepared to lose the automatic right to operate in Europe. The warnings from Brussels state that the UK would become “a third country” after Brexit and operating licences would lapse. Simply put, the EU has advised businesses in all four nations of the UK that they may have to set up EU premises in order to avoid disruption to any part of their business. 

The elephant in the room? If businesses, in order to survive, have to set up shop in a member state of the European Union, why then should they continue to invest money and manpower in any constituent part the United Kingdom? What then, happens to Labour's 'Jobs First' and other such colourful sound-bites? Like the proverbial rats, it'll be jobs first to desert a sinking ship. 

Every day it is becoming more and more apparent that being in the Customs Union and the single market is the only way to protect jobs and household incomes across Scotland. There is no Red, White and Blue Jobs First Brexit. There is only ‘Brexit’ - economic chaos borne entirely of British exceptionalism and Westminster incompetence.
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Let's Just Agree to Dis and Agree.

Opposition parties have warned that time is running out to avoid the economic catastrophe of an extreme Brexit - as Tory and Labour plans to drag Scotland and the UK out of the single market and customs union edge closer.

Mark Saunders's insight:

TIME RUNS OUT TO AVOID ECONOMIC CATASTROPHE OF A TORY EXTREME BREXIT.

"Failure to oppose a hard Brexit would be an abdication of responsibility”. 

Opposition parties have warned that time is running out to avoid the economic catastrophe of an extreme Brexit - as Tory plans to drag Scotland and the UK out of the single market and customs union edge closer.

Following a cross-party summit in the UK parliament this morning, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford released a joint statement with the leaders of the Lib Dems, the Green Party, and Plaid Cymru - pledging to work together in the national interest to prevent the unprecedented threat of leaving the single market, and to safeguard jobs, incomes, and living standards from the devastation it would cause. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was left empty-chaired at the summit after refusing to engage in cross-party talks on the biggest issue facing the country, despite 87% of Labour members backing single market membership. Urging Labour to join the opposition to a hard Brexit, the leaders said leaving the single market was “incompatible” with commitments to a “jobs-first Brexit”, and warned failure to oppose a hard Brexit would be an “abdication of responsibility” making Labour “just as culpable” for the lasting damage a hard brexit would do. 

The parties pledged to act as a united and effective opposition to a hard Brexit in the months ahead - with just ten months to go before a deal is to be in place between the UK and EU. 

With speculation over a devastating ‘no deal’ scenario the parties urged Theresa May to take the option “firmly off the table”. Joint statement from Ian Blackford MP, Vince Cable MP, Caroline Lucas MP, and Liz Saville-Roberts MP: 

"Tory plans for an extreme Brexit represent an unprecedented threat to our economy that would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, and damage the incomes, livelihoods, and living standards of millions of people across the UK."  


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SNP MSP PUTS PRESSURE ON THE BIG SIX ENERGY SUPPLIERS TO HELP ALLEVIATE FUEL POVERTY IN SCOTLAND

“This started out as a local campaign but has the potential to change the way we support those facing the uncertainty of fuel poverty across Scotland." - Christina McKelvie, MSP

Mark Saunders's insight:

CALLS FOR A LIFELINE CREDIT SCHEME FOR HEATING AND LIGHTING TO BE EXTENDED

Thanks to a deal struck by SNP politicians with a major power company, food bank users in the Hamilton and Clydesdale constituency will continue to receive credit for heating and lighting in a welcome pilot scheme.

The Scottish National Party’s Christina McKelvie MSP, working alongside local councillor Julia Marrs, secured the support of Scottish Power in piloting the project in her constituency. The voucher scheme offers a one off £49 credit voucher for to help people heat their homes, and cook meals — with many of those reliant on foodbanks also at risk of fuel poverty.

In an attempt to tackle wider fuel poverty, the Hamilton, Larkhall and Storehouse MSP is now calling on Scotland’s biggest energy providers to work with foodbanks and extend the scheme to residents of all Scottish council areas. 

Ms McKelvie has written to the CEOs of E.ON, British Gas, EDF, SSE and Npower, asking for them to meet with her to discuss how the pilot scheme is already working in practice and whether they might add their support to extending availability across all energy providers.

Commenting, Christina McKelvie MSP said: “I’m delighted to already have the support from Scottish Power for the voucher scheme, and I’m really interested to see whether the other big energy providers will now come on board. In an ideal world we wouldn't need such measures at all. In an energy-rich nation like Scotland we should all be able to heat our homes and cook for our families at fair and competitive rates and everyone should have the means to do that."

Ms McKelvie continued: “But the reality is that more and more people across Scotland are being driven into fuel poverty by relentless austerity of the Tory government at Westminster. Nobody should be freezing in the dark at this time of year, and I’m extremely hopeful that the rest of the Big Six recognise the benefits of backing Quick Credit Vouchers in conjunction with local foodbanks. I look forward to further discussions with the energy sector about how they can play a responsible and supportive role in helping hard pressed families to heat their homes across Scotland this winter and in the future.”
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Jobs-starved Inverclyde locals are battling modern day carpetbaggers to save the second biggest dry dock in the UK

Jobs-starved Inverclyde locals are battling modern day carpetbaggers to save the second biggest dry dock in the UK | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it
Jim McColl and Ferguson Marine have ambitious plans for the future and they could undoubtedly utilise Inchgreen. Peel Ports however have been unwilling to do anything with the site which is preventing the development of this key industrial asset.
Mark Saunders's insight:

Jobs-starved Inverclyde locals are battling modern day carpetbaggers to save the second biggest dry dock in the UK 

Present owners, the Peel Group, one of the UK's foremost privately-owned investment enterprises who also own A&P Group based at Cammel Lairds in Birkenhead, Merseyside are not short of a dry dock or two. The Group who have four dry docks in Merseyside, also have dry docks in Falmouth, Tyneside and Teesside. 

Peel Ports have made no investment at the Inchgreen facility in Inverclyde since they took ownership back at the turn of this century. If they really have no interest in creating or re-creating the infrastructure of Inverclyde, then it is high time that they divest themselves of this facility, the second biggest dry dock in the United Kingdom and release it for industrial development. 

Rumours abound that Peel Ports hope to fill in the dry dock and sell the land for housing. Inverclyde has no need of new riverside apartments at vastly inflated purchase prices - holiday homes that will offer little to the local economy. With 500 houses already built and another 500 houses being built in the neighbouring town of Port Glasgow, affordable house building in the area is being targeted by the Scottish Government. 

Inverclyde needs jobs. Inverclyde needs population growth. Inverclyde needs this dry dock. Inverclyde needs this industrial asset to flourish and not be sacrificed on the altar of Cayman Islands bound profits. 

Lesley Riddoch the award winning journalist, commentator and broadcaster, recently visited Inverclyde and voiced her concerns and ambition for the Inchgreen Dry Dock. Ms Riddoch has now followed up with an article in The Scotsman.

Ronnie Cowan MP for Inverclyde said, "I'm pleased to see Lesley Riddoch raising the issue of Inchgreen Dry Dock in Inverclyde. 

"Although I welcome Peel Ports commitment to expanding their facilities at Ocean Terminal in Greenock, I continue to be frustrated by the fact that Inchgreen has effectively been mothballed. 

"Jim McColl and Ferguson Marine have ambitious plans for the future and they could undoubtedly utilise Inchgreen. Peel Ports however have been unwilling to do anything with the site which is preventing the development of this key industrial asset.”
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SCOTTISH TORY CUTS, TAX HANDOUTS FOLLOWED BY SPENDING CALLS – IT JUST DOESN’T ADD UP.

SCOTTISH TORY CUTS, TAX HANDOUTS FOLLOWED BY SPENDING CALLS – IT JUST DOESN’T ADD UP. | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

Whatever the answer, it is obvious that the scale of Tory hypocrisy has become nothing short of breath-taking.

Mark Saunders's insight:
The Philosopher's Stone or the philosopher's stoned? 

The dossier linked below shows that the Tory party in Scotland have issued dozens of demands for extra spending in Scotland and called for tax cuts for the wealthiest while their colleagues in Westminster have systematically cut the Scottish budget.


With these wild notions for more and more spending from less and less money returned from Westminster's treasury to the Scottish economy, the Tories who sit on the opposition benches in Holyrood have all but decreed that black is white, up is down and tax cuts actually bring about more spending on public services. 

The public aren’t daft. They know that the money for public services has to come from somewhere and they also know that the Scottish budget has been squeezed for years by the UK government. While the UK government have hammered Scotland with cut after cut, Tory MSPs have demanded the Scottish Government spend more and more money. Tories seem to believe that the electorate's communal head buttons up the back.

It is obvious to all including the followers of a Right Wing Conservative agenda, that the Scottish Tory plans would mean less money available for our public services. The Tories have demanded that the Scottish Government cut taxes for the highest earners, cut business taxes, reverse progressive changes to Council Tax and cut the progressive taxes on property purchases while producing at least 70 demands for more spending on health, education, local government, transport and other funding.

When this Scottish conservative alchemy is placed alongside the UK government cutting Scotland’s discretionary budget in real terms by £2.6bn, it becomes obvious that someone in Tory HQ has either found the Philosopher's Stone or is a stoned philosopher. 

Whatever the answer, it is obvious that the scale of Tory hypocrisy has become nothing short of breath-taking.
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UK PRIME MINISTER IS A DANGEROUS PUPPET ON A STRING FOR THE DUP

UK PRIME MINISTER IS A DANGEROUS PUPPET ON A STRING FOR THE DUP | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

The UK government must talk to all parties and devolved administrations across the UK to ensure that there is a clear and understood position, and absolutely no threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

Mark Saunders's insight:

THE CONTINUING UK GOVERNMENT BREXIT SHAMBLES CANNOT THREATEN GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT.

When the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May was in Brussels on Monday striking a deal with the EU to solve the Irish border problem, this year's pantomime season was about to begin in earnest. "She's Behind You!" an audience member cried. And, behind Theresa May stood Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party dressed as Stromboli O'Murphy the Irish puppet master. 

Foster told the British prime minister that she and her Party would not support any plans to keep Northern Ireland aligned with EU law even if that position brings the curtain down on The Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

On the 5th day of the EU Withdrawal Bill at Westminster later today, the debate will focus on key amendments from Lady Hermon, Member for North Down, which aim to protect the Good Friday Agreement. 

Today's debate follows the extraordinary shambles of a UK Prime Minister’s inability to ignore a political party which is stuffed with climate change deniers, homophobes, misogynists and secure a deal that would insure continued peace in Northern Ireland. Brexit cannot endanger the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and the UK government must talk to all parties and devolved administrations to ensure there is absolutely no threat to peace continued in Northern Ireland. 

To that end, the SNP MPs will be supporting Lady Hermon’s amendment along with Members across the House to ensure the Good Friday Agreement is not sacrificed on the altar of British Nationalism.

SNP Foreign Affairs and Europe Affairs spokesperson Stephen Gethins MP has said in advance of the debate: "The return of a hard border in Ireland would be a very serious consequence of Brexit, and the attitude of the UK government has been deeply irresponsible. This week has proved beyond any doubt that they are clueless and in danger of doing immense damage in relation to Northern Ireland . 

Mr Gethins continued, "The potential for such a hard border has been one of the most concerning aspects of Brexit, and the UK Government’s position to date on protecting the terms of the Good Friday Agreement has left much to be desired. Clearly, the simplest solution to the Irish question would be for the whole of the UK to remain in the single market – which, regardless the border issue, would be the best deal for jobs, communities and household incomes. 

One of the lessons from this week must be that the UK government must talk to all parties and devolved administrations across the UK to ensure that there is a clear and understood position, and absolutely no threat to the Good Friday Agreement and all it means.''
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EMBARRASSMENT FOR PM AS SOCIAL MOBILITY BOARD WALKS OUT

It’s an example that the Tories at Westminster could learn from and we can only hope that today’s embarrassing headlines make them sit up and listen — and, crucially, change course.

Mark Saunders's insight:
EMBARRASSMENT FOR PM AS SOCIAL MOBILITY BOARD WALKS OUT 

The SNP has called the en masse walkout by the board of Theresa May’s Social Mobility Commission “a complete embarrassment for the Tory government”, proving just had how badly it is failing to address inequality and create a fairer country.

The body was set up to promote social mobility in England. All four members of the board, including a former Tory cabinet minister, have quit — slamming the lack of action by the government on tackling inequality in the process. 

Commenting, Clare Adamson MSP said; “This is a complete embarrassment for the Tory government and deeply humiliating for the Prime Minister. 

“The UK government is going nowhere when it comes to tackling inequality and giving everyone the opportunities in life to fulfill their potential. And it’s clear the board are utterly frustrating by the inaction of the government in talking a good talk on creating a fairer society whilst doing absolutely nothing about it in practice. 

“But this shouldn't come as a bolt from the blue for the Prime Minister. The Resolution Foundation had already warned that the UK was on course for the biggest increase in inequality since the days of Margaret Thatcher. 

“Tackling inequality is one of the major challenges we face as a society. That’s why the SNP in Scotland is taking a markedly different approach. 

“We’ve put tackling inequality at the heart of what we do in government, we’ve done everything we can to mitigate the worst of Tory welfare cuts, we’re supporting young families and doubling childcare, we’ve committed £750 million to raising attainment in schools and promoting the Living Wage across the public sector. 

“It’s an example that the Tories at Westminster could learn from and we can only hope that today’s embarrassing headlines make them sit up and listen — and, crucially, change course.”
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LABOUR’S SHAME - THE GREAT HOCK 'N' SCHOOL SWINDLE

LABOUR’S SHAME - THE GREAT HOCK 'N' SCHOOL SWINDLE | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

PFI/PPP Introduced by John Major’s Tory government and massively expanded by Gordon Brown and embraced by former First Minister Jack McConnell in Scotland.

Mark Saunders's insight:

INVERCLYDE COUNCIL'S 'AUSTERITY' BUDGET

On the 15th of March 2018, councillors agreed a budget for 2018/19. The proposals put forward by the Labour Administration, agreed by the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent groups, ratified around £3m worth of cuts to plug a shortfall of Council funds.  

The cuts, including the loss of 47 full-time jobs, the doubling of car parking charges, another rise in burial and cremation costs and the end to free swimming for the over-60s, with its associated health benefits, come on top of a 3% council tax rise agreed earlier. It was also announced that, since 2010, the Council budget has been reduced by some £53 million. 

Inverclyde Council is not alone with its financial balancing act. Tough economic conditions continue to impact on public spending across Scotland. Most people would assume that this stems from seven years of a UK wide Conservative austerity agenda, one which has been supremely indifferent to the widespread suffering and misery it has caused. 

However, austerity is only part of the problem. The ongoing legacy of the Labour Party’s Public Private Partnership scheme appears to be a major factor in Inverclyde’s present financial woes. A recently-accessed Freedom of Information request has revealed details regarding Inverclyde Council spending and debt which make grim reading.

A LESSON FROM HISTORY

In the early 2000's, Blair’s Labour Party governed in Westminster and a Labour-led administration governed Scotland. After years of de-industrialisation by the Conservatives, it was a time of hope for change in Inverclyde. But the Labour Party was desperate to show that it was a party of financial prudence and adopted much of Conservative ideology.

One particular Tory ideology they championed was the Private Finance Initiative. PFI was a convenient method of creating 'off-books' funding for public infrastructure projects by using private capital. The Labour Party embraced the Tory (PFI) policy and re-branded it as their own Public Private Partnership – taking Inverclyde into the ugly world of investment opportunities for private equity investors. 

The Labour Party steered local authorities away from employing traditional public borrowing practices to pay for much needed infrastructure projects. We now know through Whitehall’s own spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, that PPP deals have been approximately 40% more expensive than traditional public borrowing methods. This is the Labour Party’s shameful legacy.

INVERCLYDE TAX PAYERS FORCED INTO AN EYE-WATERING LEVEL OF DEBT.

If they wanted to build schools, local authorities like Inverclyde really had no choice other than to use Labour’s Public Private Partnership. And, according to the Freedom of Information request, the scale of Labour's PPP legacy for Inverclyde is absolutely staggering.

Miller Construction was the main PPP contractor for the four new schools built in Inverclyde between 2009/2011 - Notre Dame High, Clydeview Academy, Aileymill Primary and All Saints Primary. It is difficult to put an absolute figure on how much this will ultimately cost local taxpayers because the only available figures are for the initial building costs of the four new schools - which is only part of the picture.

However, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that in 2010 Inverclyde Council made its first yearly payment of £3.6 million to service its PPP debt for the four schools. In 2017, the payment had risen to £9.5 million - and will continue to increase year on year until the thirty year financial burden finally comes to an end. Taxes used to pay this debt could have been spent on protecting local jobs and improving our local services. 

In fairness, no one should be overly critical of Inverclyde Council. For 20 years, Labour-dominated Strathclyde Regional Council did next to nothing to repair or build new schools. In reality, it was time for Inverclyde to invest in schools for our children. 

Labour-led Inverclyde Council bought into the PPP ideology offering little choice but to use PPP contracts (signed prior to the 2007 Council elections and containing severe financial penalties for withdrawing). It appears that our local administration was hood-winked. All this mitigation, however, doesn't alter the fact that the public of Inverclyde has been ripped off - and will continue to be ripped off for the next twenty odd years.

THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

Using traditional public borrowing, the cost of the schools could have been 40% less in the long term. If the Labour Party had not followed a Conservative lead and used traditional public borrowing mechanisms, Inverclyde would now be spending over £3 million less per year to service a building program debt - ironically the same amount announced as this year’s budget shortfall. 

Over the past decade council funding has been reduced by £53 million. Yet over the same period, due to Labour short-sightedness and mismanagement, Inverclyde Council has paid out £64 million for the four PPP schools. Had things been done under traditional borrowing ( 40% cheaper), then £25 million could have been available to balance the yearly budgets in Inverclyde and protect jobs and services.

'THOSE WHO FAIL TO LEARN FROM HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT'

Under the SNP government, public procurement in Scotland has improved in recent years. The current model, using the Scottish Futures Trust, caps the profits made by private companies and so there is considerable saving to the public purse compared with previous PFI /PPP schemes. Profit to private investors is also capped at 5% and there is more public scrutiny of the construction process. 

In the past, it was not unusual to hear of UK building projects running significantly over budget. Not so with the recently completed Queensferry Crossing. Despite severe weather hampering the timetable, the project was hailed for being delivered on time and under budget. Not only was the Queensferry Bridge the biggest infrastructure project in Scotland for a generation, this project released £245m of savings back into the Scottish Budget.

BRINGING PROCUREMENT UNDER SCOTTISH CONTROL 

There are some new ideas on the horizon which could bring further improvements. The Scottish government plans to launch a Scottish National Investment Bank which will help fund public infrastructure projects and end the dependency on private finance. 

Most recently, former MPs, George Kerevan and Anne McLaughlin, have proposed the formation of a Scottish National Infrastructure Company. This would be under public control and employ first-rate project and financial managers, architects, engineers, building experts and become a centre of excellence in design and technology. 

Establishing a SNIB and a SNIC is the perfect opportunity to bring an end to private financing and build Scottish infrastructure, both nationally and locally, for the public good and not as a method of increasing the profits of large institutional investors.
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UK TREASURY MUST NOT RESUME OIL CASH GRAB

UK TREASURY MUST NOT RESUME OIL CASH GRAB | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it
This cash boost must not just go straight to the Treasury coffers and never be seen again by the industry or by Scottish communities.
Mark Saunders's insight:

Tax revenues of up to £1 billion this year from the North Sea oil and gas industry should be reinvested in Scotland’s economy and in futureproofing the sector to maximise jobs over the long term, the SNP has said. 

Reports today reveal the industry body Oil and Gas UK is forecasting a £1 billion tax intake this financial year. Successive Westminster governments have failed to invest sufficiently in the industry in previous years – leading to today’s calls from the SNP for the Tories not to make the same mistakes all over again, and instead to reinvest to protect jobs, maximise return in the long-term and grow Scotland’s economy. 

Failure to do so will only heighten calls for Holyrood to be given full powers over the oil and gas industry, including revenues, so that the Scottish Government can take the action needed to protect jobs. 

Commenting, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East, Gillian Martin, said: “This is excellent news and further evidence of the strength of the North Sea oil and gas industry as it continues to recover from the recent downturn. 

“But this cash boost must not just go straight to the Treasury coffers and never be seen again by the industry or by Scottish communities. 

“The oil and gas industry needs continued support from the UK government in order to protect against future downturns – and the industry should see a return on the revenue it is generating through appropriate levels of reinvestment in the sector, to protect jobs across Scotland. 

“Better still, they could devolve full control over the oil and gas industry, including revenues, to Scotland – and allow the Scottish Government to take the action needed to maximise jobs and return from our energy sector.”
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The petition to save the historic Inchgreen drydock on the Clyde.

The petition to save the historic Inchgreen drydock on the Clyde. | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

One way or another, Peel Property must allow Inchgreen Dry Dock to survive and not become another footnote to the history of Clyde Shipbuilding.

Mark Saunders's insight:

"You May Say I'm a Dreamer, but I'm not the only one"


Jobs-starved Inverclyde is battling to save the second biggest dry dock in the UK. The battle, if won, will inject some much needed economic lifeblood into an area that has witnessed such economic and industrial stagnation that a once thriving 120,000 strong population has dwindled to a mere 60,000. People in Inverclyde are being told that this is capitalism's normal march of progress. It is not! 

Launched last month by former shipyard worker, Robert Buirds, support is now growing for a campaign to save the historic Inchgreen drydock on the Clyde. Mr Buirds has not only called for the Scottish Government to step in and consider taking over the site from owners Peel Property but is also attempting to attract public attention to a £10m renewables hub, an idea for the site which has recently been floated. Although Ferguson Marine owner, Jim McColl, has previously expressed an interest in Inchgreen to complement his Port Glasgow based shipyard, Peel Property, has been reluctant to sell the site as they themselves have suggested that they have future plans for the dock. 

Consequently, Mr Buirds' on-line petition is multi-faceted. Not least that if it attracts enough support, Peel Property will be compelled to do the right thing. One way or another, by selling the facility or releasing those Inchgreen ‘future plans’ for all to see, the company must allow the dry dock to survive and not become another footnote to the history of Clyde Shipbuilding. 

Peel Property have a great opportunity to earn the gratitude of the residents of Inverclyde. Let Peel Property know, by signing the petition at the following link, that there is hope in Inverclyde the company is prepared to invest in or allow for the ambition required to regenerate part of an historic and unique coastline;


______________________________________________________________

Present owners of the Inchgreen dry dock in Greenock, Peel Property, one of the UK's foremost privately-owned investment enterprises based at Cammel Lairds in Birkenhead, Merseyside are not short of a dry dock or two. 

The company has expanded its Birkenhead site right across 130 acres that now has the benefit of four dry docks. The Group also have dry docks in Falmouth, Tyneside and Teesside. And, today the company is rapidly expanding its extensive world class facilities to support a broad range of sectors and projects. 

Great for the people on the Mersey. But, what of the people on the Clyde? Has the concept of a social contract between business and their communities really sunk to the bottom, itself becoming one of those footnotes in history? 

Although Peel Property is showing commitment to expand their facilities at Ocean Terminal in Greenock, their Inchgreen site has effectively been mothballed. There has been no major economic activity there since 2009. Worryingly, there are rumours in the Inverclyde area that Peel has given serious thought to filling in the dry dock and selling the land for private waterfront housing. 

Surely such a world leader specialising in military ship refit, commercial ship repair, upgrade and conversion and shipbuilding would balk at the idea of sacrificing this historic dry dock on the altar of profiteering? Although the Group have made little to no investment at the Inchgreen facility in Inverclyde since they took ownership back at the turn of this century, hitherto Inverclyde has accepted that the Group’s main focus has been on Merseyside. Perhaps Inverclyde hoped that the company would eventually bring their world class ideas back to the Clyde, the natural home of shipbuilding. 

However, after a decade of inactivity, it is quickly reaching the point where Peel Property must do something positive with this historic part of Clydeside. If the company have no concrete future plans or interest in creating or re-creating the infrastructure of Inverclyde, then perhaps they should divest themselves of this facility and release it for marine development. 

Inverclyde needs jobs. Inverclyde needs population growth. Inverclyde needs this unquestionable industrial asset to flourish and attract jobs and investment. Inverclyde needs you to sign this petition.

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FIXED ODD BETTING TERMINALS: "NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION"

FIXED ODD BETTING TERMINALS: "NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION" | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

SNP MP for Inverclyde, Ronnie Cowan MP has welcomed reports that the UK Government is set to reduce the maximum unit stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Mark Saunders's insight:
FIXED ODD BETTING TERMINALS: "NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION" 

SNP MP for Inverclyde, Ronnie Cowan MP has welcomed reports that the UK Government is set to reduce the maximum unit stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) to £2, and has said now is ‘the time for action’ following reports suggesting the UK government will introduce a £2 maximum unit stake on FOBTs in the wake of the overwhelming number of responses to the consultation in-favour of such action. 

Ronnie Cowan MP - who has been a strong campaigner for action on FOBTs – said that would be ‘a real opportunity to take drastic action on tackling gambling related harm.’ FOBTs are linked to gambling addiction, debt and family breakdowns, with gamblers currently able to bet £100 every 20 seconds whilst using the terminals. 

Earlier this month, Ronnie Cowan MP hosted an event at Westminster alongside the charity Gamble Aware to bring together regulators and key stakeholders who either campaign on issues concerning gambling-related harm or provide treatment services to those with gambling addiction. 

Ronnie Cowan MP and vice-chair of the Westminster All party group on FOBTs said: "I welcome the reports suggesting the UK Government looks set to see sense and reduce the maximum unit stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminal to £2. They have been described as the crack cocaine of gambling – and now is the time for action. 

“There are over 33,000 FOBTs in betting shops across the UK in easily accessible locations, providing hard, high stakes gambling across the UK's high streets. 

“According to the Gambling Commission, there are 2 million at risk gamblers and 1 in 10 men aged between 16-34 are at risk. Alongside this, the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) showed that problem gambling is also a huge cost to the Government. It estimates that gambling costs £1.5bn a year when its impact on wider social welfare is taken into account – including areas such as employment, mental health and financial stability. 

“I believe the UK government have a real opportunity with this consultation to take drastic action on tackling gambling related harm. One of the measures must be to reduce the maximum unit stake on FOBTs to £2 per spin. However, this must sit alongside a raft of measures which aim to reduce problem gambling and ensure the necessary support is made available to individuals and their families who suffer with gambling related harm.”

____________________________________________________

FOBTs - Inverclyde Estimates (2016) 

Betting shops - 19 
FOBTs - 69 
Cash inserted - £11,527,602 
Amount lost - £2,966,052  
Amount lost 2008-2016 - £20,094,585 
Amount lost by problem gamblers 2008-2016 - £8,037,834 
Jobs lost by FOBT expenditure 2008-2016 - 326 

The estimates were compiled by Howard Reed (former chief economist at the IPPR, now of Landman Economics).
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POLL FINDS JEREMY CORBYN “COMPLETELY OUT OF TOUCH” WITH PARTY SUPPORTERS ON SINGLE MARKET

POLL FINDS JEREMY CORBYN “COMPLETELY OUT OF TOUCH” WITH PARTY SUPPORTERS ON SINGLE MARKET | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

There is clearly a gulf as wide as the Clyde between what Jeremy Corbyn wants and what Labour supporters want. He is completely out of touch.

Mark Saunders's insight:

POLL FINDS LABOUR LEADER “COMPLETELY OUT OF TOUCH” WITH PARTY SUPPORTERS ON SINGLE MARKET 

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of being “completely out of touch” on the constitution - as he becomes increasingly at odds with Labour supporters on both further devolution and on his tacit support for a hard Brexit. 

An opinion poll published in today’s Observer finds that four times as many Labour supporters want the party to back membership of single market membership and customs union than oppose it - 56% vs 13%. 

Jeremy Corbyn has come under criticism in recent weeks for repeatedly - and falsely - asserting that a country cannot be in the Single Market without being in the EU. Meanwhile, today’s Scotland on Sunday suggests that Labour has ditched its commitment to a federal UK, quoting Mr Corbyn’s Scotland Spokeswoman Lesley Laird as saying that federalism was not her primary objective and that her focus was on local government reform. 

This is despite the fact that the Scottish Labour conference last year voted to endorse federalism as party policy, and their general election manifesto committed to “considering the option of a more federalised country." A Labour Holyrood source told Scotland on Sunday that there is “deep frustration” within the party over the lack of progress. With only around nine months left for the UK to negotiate its relationship with the EU, the SNP have warned Jeremy Corbyn not just to try and ‘run down the clock’ and wave through a Tory hard Brexit. 

Commenting SNP Deputy Westminster Leader, Kirsty Blackman MP, said: 

“The revelation that Labour are once again ditching their commitments on federalism should come as little surprise to people in Scotland - when push comes to shove, Labour in Scotland always ultimately fall into line behind Westminster Labour. 

“Let’s not forget that, time and time again, Scottish Labour criticise the SNP Government for not doing more in areas like employment law and public sector rail franchises - when it was Labour themselves who have repeatedly blocked our attempts to secure the devolution of the necessary powers in these areas. 

“And when it comes to the UK’s future relationship with Europe, there is clearly a gulf as wide as the Clyde between what Jeremy Corbyn wants and what Labour supporters want. He is completely out of touch. 

“It beggars belief that the Labour party have got themselves into a situation of siding with the Tory hard Brexit rather than siding with their own supporters - and the wishes of the people of Scotland, who of course voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. 

“Time is running out for the UK to secure a deal with the EU - Jeremy Corbyn clearly hopes he can just run down the clock and get away with supporting a hard Brexit. That is just not good enough - and even Labour supporters clearly can’t stomach that. 

“Both and Holyrood and at Westminster, the SNP have worked tirelessly to respect the wishes of the people of Scotland, and secure a deal which puts jobs and living standards first - it’s time for Labour to start doing the same."
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THE KAMAKAZI CABAL

There’s now little left to set Labour and Tories apart on Brexit. They’ve formed a kamikaze cabal, taking a wrecking ball to Scottish business, Scottish public services and Scottish jobs.

Mark Saunders's insight:

THE KAMAKAZI CABAL

With the SNP’s clear and unambiguous position on Brexit; to continue to oppose Brexit in principle and practice and fight for Scotland’s continued place in the single market, the Labour Party's backing for a Tory Hard Brexit has become both ridiculous and inexcusable.

Scottish Labour’s new Brexit spokesperson, Neil Findlay MSP has today exposed the complete vacuum in his party’s approach to the biggest political challenge facing the country.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Mr Findlay confirmed that he wants Labour to take no position whatsoever in standing up to the Tories on Brexit – in lock step with his new leader Richard Leonard’s admission earlier in the week that he is content to go along with Tory plans for a hard Brexit.

The SNP has slammed Labour’s inertia as “ridiculous and inexcusable” given the risk to Scottish jobs, living standards and the wider economy of being dragged out of the single market. 

Commenting, Holyrood Europe committee member Mairi Gougeon MSP said: “Labour’s say nothing, do nothing approach to Brexit is increasingly ridiculous and inexcusable. By sitting on their hands, they’re failing to stand up to the Tories and demonstrating that they’re willing to go along with their disastrous plans for a hard Brexit."

Ms Gougeon continued, "It beggars belief that any politician claiming to stand for working people can sit idly by as the Tories haul Scotland out of the single market, put jobs at risk, trash workers’ rights and living standards and inflict serious damage upon our economy. Labour supporters in particular will be utterly dismayed."
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The Panglossian Paradigm Shift

The Panglossian Paradigm Shift | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it
If businesses, in order to survive, have to set up shop in countries within the European Union, then why should they continue to invest money and manpower in the United Kingdom?
Mark Saunders's insight:

The Panglossian Paradigm Shift 

The European Union has today issued “be prepared” warnings to all UK businesses as it prepares for a potential no-deal Brexit. This is the latest stark warning about the devastating impact that a Conservative Party led Labour Party sanctioned 'Red White and Blue Jobs First' Hard-Brexit will have – a ‘no deal’ Brexit, in a Panglossian paradigm shift, is the worst of all possible worlds.

And, continuing to fiddle while Rome burns, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn conveniently ignores the existence of non-EU countries like Norway and Switzerland when he says that being out of the EU also means being out of the single market (falsely suggesting that the one necessitates the other). He, and his Labour Front Bench hierarchy have also proactively ignored the recent cross-party talks and efforts to save Scotland's place in the single market.

Businesses in around 15 sectors that rely on operating licences, including drugmakers and airlines, have been warned they should be prepared to lose the automatic right to operate in the single market from March 2019. The warnings state that the UK would become “a third country” after Brexit and operating licences would lapse. Simply put, the EU has advised businesses in all four nations of the UK that they may have to set up EU premises in order to avoid disruption to any part of their business.

The elephant in the room? If businesses, in order to survive, have to set up shop in a member state of the European Union, then why should they continue to invest money and manpower in the United Kingdom? Every day it is becoming more and more apparent that being in the Customs Union and the single market is the only way to protect jobs and household incomes across Scotland.

There is no Red, White and Blue Jobs First Brexit. There is only ‘Brexit’ - economic chaos borne of British exceptionalism and Westminster incompetence.
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The Prime Minister has rewarded him for his 'sterling work' in assaulting Glasgow's most deprived

Damian Hinds MP, the man who engineered the plans to close half of the Job Centres in Glasgow has just been rewarded for his efforts with a promotion to Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education.
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Damian Hinds MP, the man who engineered the plans to close half of the Job Centres in Glasgow has just been rewarded for his efforts with a promotion to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education. 
 ______________________________________________________ 

Damian Hinds MP, the man who engineered plans to close half of the Job Centres in Glasgow has been rewarded by The Prime Minister for his 'sterling work' in assaulting the city's most deprived demographic. Mr Hinds has now been promoted to the Government Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education. 

Some of the most deprived communities in the country are situated in Glasgow, the very communities who need the Job Centres most. Centres in Parkhead, Bridgeton, Easterhouse, Castlemilk, Langside, Anniesland, Cambuslang and Maryhill are due to close adding misery to the many tens of thousands of people who currently use these facilities. 

Thanks for the pat on the back Mrs May.
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SCOTS ON-LINE SHOPPERS PAYING ADDITIONAL £36.3M FOR PARCEL DELIVERIES IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

SCOTS ON-LINE SHOPPERS PAYING ADDITIONAL £36.3M FOR PARCEL DELIVERIES IN THE UNITED KINGDOM | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

Imagine shopping on-line with the promise of ‘free delivery in the UK’ only to be told once you have hit ‘checkout’ that you’ll have to incur hundreds of pounds in delivery charges. Welcome to rural Scotland.

Mark Saunders's insight:

According to shocking new analysis from Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), delivery surcharges are costing on-line shoppers resident in Scotland an extortionate £36.3 million more than the rest of the UK each year. 

Example of Amazon £500 delivery charge: 

https://twitter.com/CalumSteeleSPF/status/942500460665110529 ;
 
SNP MSP Richard Lochhead launched his Fair Delivery Charges website last month after first raising the issue at First Minster’s Questions in December 2016 that brought the issue to national attention. The campaign website has so far received over 2,000 submissions from the public and has highlighted examples of absurd surcharges that are too often levied on Scotland’s consumers. 

The Advertising Standards Authority agreed to crackdown on firms that, despite advertising UK-wide delivery, penalise residents and businesses in rural Scotland with extortionate delivery surcharges, following a meeting with Richard Lochhead MSP last week. Scottish and UK Ministers have also agreed to investigate the cases highlighted by the campaign. 

This new research vindicates a campaign that has caught the public imagination and won support across Scotland and the political spectrum. It’s now time for the authorities to act and for every retailer to review its delivery charges and to stop discriminating against many parts of Scotland. 

Richard Lochhead MSP said: “It is absolutely astonishing that on-line shoppers in Scotland are having to spend an estimated additional £36.3 million each year on parcel delivery surcharges compared to the rest of the UK simply because of where they live.  

“This Christmas will be more expensive for many Scots on-line shoppers because of parcel delivery surcharges that are applied without any justification to many northern postcodes. Many retailers deliver free or for a modest cost but others apply eye watering surcharges amounting to a whopping £36.3 million in extra costs. 

“So far, my campaign has led to the UK Government agreeing to review rip-off surcharges and inspired action from the Advertising Standards Authority to crackdown on the firms that are charging extortionate delivery fees for residents and businesses in rural Scotland. 

“One of the latest examples of rip-off surcharges is a £500 delivery fee to the Hebrides for Amazon items costing £85, and this is just one of many ridiculous examples of excessive delivery surcharges. 

“Rural Scotland is home to some of the most loyal on-line shoppers and in the run up to Christmas I will continue campaigning and piling the pressure on retailers to end the rip-off surcharge facing too many Scottish consumers."

[Reports of the Advertising Standards Authority response to Richard Lochhead MSP’s campaign appeared on page 7 of the Scotland on Sunday newspaper on 17/12/2017] 
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'AS SOUND AS A POUND' - THE UK’S DIMINISHING GLOBAL INFLUENCE

The EU Bill as it stands will see the UK government cutting the very rope they are holding on to.

Mark Saunders's insight:
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Downing Street.

As the cost of living rises to a six-year high of 3.1%, the UK government has finally admitted that many households in the United Kingdom are feeling the Brexit pinch. The current squeeze on family incomes is being compounded by a continuing fall in real wages and an erosion of the value of working age benefits for lower income families. Consequently, the residents of Downing Street, in their wisdom have generated a double economic whammy which few families will escape in the run-up to this Christmas and beyond. 

The 'Old Lady of Threadneedle Street' failing to keep inflation within the expected Government target is suggesting that the latest squeeze on living standards on the 'temporary weakness' of the GB Pound. However, as the finality of Brexit approaches, the weakness of the national currency may be a permanent one.

It has been a long time since everything was 'As Sound as a Pound', and weaknesses in national currency are nothing new. Many 'crashes' have caused dramatic fluctuations in the values of currencies. However, for the past 44 years, the UK as part of the largest trading block on the planet has been able to weather economic storms by relying on its global standing, influence and economic partnership with the European Union. 

But, this is where the present condition of the UK departs from all those 'Black Wednesdays' and other such economic shocks. Reputable economists have described Brexit as the single biggest issue the British economy has ever faced. The EU Withdrawal Bill is a clear and present danger to the United Kingdom's global influence. Therefore, the fast approaching self-inflicted economic catastrophe may not only be long lasting but also damn near irreparable. 

The Scottish National Party has said that the UK government must give serious consideration to amendments tabled by the party which call on the UK government to remain part of key EU programmes such as Erasmus, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Euratom – or risk “damaging and diminishing” the UK’s influence internationally. 

The SNP has tabled key amendments to the EU Bill for Wednesday 13th December, seeking to protect the UK’s continued membership of cross-border programmes, which impact on sectors such as healthcare, finance and food safety – as well as continued membership of the single market and customs union: 

 •   Amendment 196 - calls on the UK government to ensure that the UK remains a member of the crucial EU’s Political and Security Committee 

 •   Amendment 227 - requires the publication by the UK government of an impact assessment on the UK leaving the single market and its impact on the forecast to UK public finances – and amendments 74 and 75 which calls for the continued membership and access to the single market and customs union. 

 •   Amendment 241 – ensures reciprocal healthcare arrangements are held after the UK exits the EU.

 •   Amendment 242 - looks to ensure that the UK remains a member of the European Medical Agency. 

 •   Amendment 244 - calls for the UK to remain a member of the European Chemicals Agency, to ensure the safety and quality of chemical ingredients used in consumer products. 

 •   In addition, the SNP have tabled amendments which seek to protect the UK’s participation and membership of influential programs such as the European Investment Bank, Euratom, the European Medicines Agency, the Single Skies Agreement and Erasmus. 

Ahead of the seventh day of debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill today, Dr Philippa Whitford MP has warned that if the UK government continues with its self-imposed exile from the EU and its key institutions, then it will be damaging and diminishing to any and all of the remaining influence that the UK has on the international stage. 

Dr Whitford continued, “The EU Bill as it stands will see the UK government cutting the very rope they are holding on to, as the UK edges closer to its self-imposed exile from key EU programmes, which have contributed so much to delivering healthcare standards, environmental protection and have allowed us to attract talent to our universities and healthcare systems. 

“Instead of attempting to railroad through parliament its botched EU Bill, the UK government should give serious consideration to SNP amendments which seek to protect the UK’s membership and participation in cross-border EU programmes such as the European Medicines Agency, Euratom, Erasmus and food safety standards. There are serious concerns that the latter might be abandoned in the drive to get quick trade deals with the US and others. 

“These programmes do not just protect citizens’ rights and ensure high industry standards – they are also vital in upholding the UK’s standing on the global stage."
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ON 'HUMAN RIGHTS DAY' - A WARNING AGAINST UK GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON CITIZENS’ RIGHTS

ON 'HUMAN RIGHTS DAY' - A WARNING AGAINST UK GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON CITIZENS’ RIGHTS | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it
The UK government cannot and will not get away with any curbs on citizens’ rights and attempt to move away from the guarantees within the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Mark Saunders's insight:

SNP MARKS HUMAN RIGHTS DAY BY WARNING AGAINST POST-BREXIT BRITAIN CRACKDOWN ON CITIZENS’ RIGHTS

Today marks the 69th anniversary of the day when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.The Declaration outlined the "inalienable rights everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

The anniversary comes a matter of weeks since the UN published two reports critical of the UK government over its austerity policies and for violating the rights of the disabled. But, the Tory rhetoric of the past few months and the long-term infliction of Tory austerity, is a reflection of a government ignoring the concerns of the United Nations and pushing ahead with regressive policies that is pushing more and more people into desperation and poverty.

The UN has repeatedly warned of the impact this government’s policies are having on disabled and vulnerable people, coupled with the dangers raised of the UK’s threat of withdrawing from the ECHR. The Tories now also want to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights once they have torn the UK out of the EU.

The leader of the SNP’s Westminster Parliamentary Group, Ian Blackford MP will mark Human Rights Day (and also the beginning of a year-long campaign to officially mark the 70th anniversary for next December) by calling on the UK government to ensure that a post-Brexit Britain “upholds to the letter” the rights of every citizen in the UK, “It is important, that as EU law is transferred to UK domestic law, that the Tory government ensures that they uphold to the letter the rights of every single citizen in the UK – regardless of their background and beliefs. Those rights are paramount and unassailable."

During a debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill in Westminster, SNP MPs were prepared to back an amendment put down by Tory rebels calling for the full protection of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights in post-Brexit domestic law. However, that amendment was later withdrawn by the Tories, and a similar amendment fell as the government and the DUP voted it down.

Mr Blackford MP warned that the UK government should renew its efforts to uphold crucial human rights, and U-turn on its decision to remove the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights from UK law - adding that the removal of the charter risks creating an additional level of legal uncertainty and instability as the UK plans to leave the EU. It is important, that as EU law is transferred to UK domestic law, that the Tory government ensures that they uphold to the letter the rights of every single citizen in the UK regardless of their background and beliefs. Those rights are paramount and unassailable.
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The Scottish Parliament's devolved powers must be protected in legislation.

The Scottish Parliament's devolved powers must be protected in legislation. | Cut To The Chase | Scoop.it

The invocation of medieval powers by the UK Government give sufficient reason to believe that the Devolution settlement is under severe threat.

Mark Saunders's insight:

MPs will vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill today. The bill in its present form holds the tools to enable the biggest power grab on devolved administrations since 1999. Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party Parliamentary group is calling on the Scottish Tory MPs in Westminster to work with the SNP to protect devolution.

The inclusion of the so-called 'Henry VIII Clauses' within the EU Withdrawal Bill will give UK ministers sweeping powers to rewrite laws with little or no interference from parliament. The invocation of these medieval powers by the UK Government give sufficient reason to believe that the Devolution settlement is under threat.

There is a real possibility that, no matter who resides at Bute House, Holyrood's ability to act in a successful or efficient manner for the nation of Scotland will be severely diminished. Considering that the archaic Henry VIII clauses were written in a time of divine right of kings - essentially god-given dictatorial powers - it is hardly surprising that there is more than passing suspicion the United Kingdom is setting out down a very undemocratic authoritarian political path that may completely reverse the devolution settlement forced upon Westminster by the Council of Europe in 1989.

The SNP has said it would not support the Bill as it stands, and called on the Scottish Tories to support their amendment which aims to ensure devolved administrations have equal consultation on the Bill. Mr Blackford said Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill creates “the biggest power grab Scotland’s Parliament has faced since being reconvened in 1999.”

Commenting, Ian Blackford MP said: “The Tories must stand with the SNP today and vote for our amendment if they are serious about protecting the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government reiterated the importance of the devolved administrations being fully involved in the Brexit negotiations. Good progress has been made in several areas, most specifically on the issue of UK frameworks. However this Bill does not go far enough." 

Mr Blackford continued, “Clause 11 so fatally undermines the devolved settlements across the UK, both the Welsh and Scottish Governments have worked together in tabling amendments to the Bill. “It’s clear to the legal profession and experts that Clause 11 has been drafted without proper understanding of devolution law. This undoubtedly raises questions about the mechanisms used in Clause 11." 

And, Mr Blackford concluded, “For the SNP it is clear. The Bill needs to be amended to ensure that control over devolved issues - such as farming, fishing and food - comes to Holyrood. All powers in devolved areas returning from Brussels must be returned to the Scottish Parliament– anything less would breach the founding principles of devolution and would be a complete betrayal of promises made during the EU referendum." 

“The Scottish Tories must join with the SNP today and support our amendment – and protect devolution.”
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