Countdown to Brexit

Experts aim to illustrate what lies ahead.

Edinburgh University. Photo Credit: Graham Millar

This evening provides an opportunity for anybody who is confused about Brexit and its latest developments to put their questions to a panel of experts on the complex issue.

The event organised by the European Union Society at the University of Edinburgh, hopes to shed some light with an expert panel of various backgrounds as they aim to bring some clarity, one week before the UK Parliament votes on the provisional deal. Their intention is to consider the state of Brexit in general and where are the politics headed at such a crucial time…

The President Emeritus of the European Union Society, Anthony Salamone,  who is also a member of the panel said,

“I think Brexit is confusing, even for people who follow European politics, British politics and Scottish politics. It can sometimes be difficult to keep pace with the developments and I hope the members of the audience will bring their questions and get some analysis and some insight into all the noise that’s going on around us.”

The President of the European Union Society, Robert Jacek Wlodarski, who will be chairing the discussion said,

“I want to cover a wide range of topics as possible. The last time we talked about Brexit with the Economic Society, many speakers were talking about theories, about philosophies and the EU – what they liked what they didn’t like – and we ended up with a fascinating debate but very little practical meaning to it.”

The event takes place at the Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh at 1800-1930 hrs.

Anthony Salamone discusses the members of the panel


Report reveals marginalised Scots hardest hit by tax & spending plans

By Graham Millar

Lone parents, black families and those with three or more children are the biggest financial losers as a result of the tax, spending and local services reforms, a new study has suggested.

With the UK Government’s commitment to the deficit reduction strategy, devolved governments have had to re-shuffle spending and taxation. The report, titled ‘The Cumulative Impact on Living Standards of Public Spending Changes’, and published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, shows how the Scottish Government’s decision to slash higher and further education budgets, as a means to cope with stricter targets, has caused this detrimental impact.

As a consequence of these cuts, those among some of the lowest household incomes are losing around £450 per year with richer households enduring an even higher loss. By 2022, it is estimated that spending on schools, higher education and further education will have reduced by between 30-50%.

The report also discloses how black households experience the largest overall spending cuts in cash terms, while white households lose less than other ethnic groups. In terms of their final income, lone parent households (predominantly female) are the most greatly impacted than any other demographic.

John Wilkes, Director of the Commission in Scotland, said:

“The findings show just how stark and unequal the combined impact of the recession, austerity and public spending cuts have been. Using this new approach to assessing the combined impact of tax and spend policy reveals that it is the most marginalised who have suffered the most.”

Compared to England and Wales, Scotland’s “pro-poor” policy has led to more positive results. There are various reasons for this, such as population growth – England has outgrown Scotland at a considerable rate – and different spending decisions.

The author of the report, Howard Reed, said:

“This research shows  that the combined impact of tax and social security reforms since 2010 has hit the poorest households in Scotland hardest.” He added, “The Scottish Government’s own spending choices have mitigated some – but not all – of the adverse consequences of the tax and social security decisions made by the UK Government in Westminster.”

The report calls for the Scottish Government to review its spending on the higher education and further education where the greatest cuts have taken place. It also recommends that the UK government should consider mitigating the vast negative changes to reduce disproportionate impacts on some groups in our society.

Theresa May begins five day debate

Theresa May will desperately bid to push through her Brexit deal this week

Theresa May has begun five days of debate over her Brexit deal in an attempt to sell it to MPs in Westminster in what is being called the ‘meaningful vote’.

The prime minister will spend eight hours per day fielding questions arguing that her Brexit deal delivers on her commitments to end free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. MPs are set to cast their final votes next Tuesday evening.

The Importance of the Deal

The future for Theresa May and the UK government are resting of the outcome of the vote. If MPs reject the deal, it is likely that there will be a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister and the current government. With 100 conservatives saying they intend to vote against the deal, the odds are currently stacked against Theresa May.
Opposition MPs have said that they would also trigger a second EU referendum if the deal collapses.

Dr Marc Geddes, lecturer in British politics from the University of Edinburgh, said that the majority of MPs are unsatisfied with the way that May is handling the deal: “the Brexit vote, we have been repeatedly told, was all about ‘taking back control’ and returning sovereignty to Parliament. For the government to then ignore the will of Parliament is why so many MPs are angry.”

Potential outcome

The outcome of the next few days of debate is uncertain. It is unlikely that Theresa May will gain the majority vote, but where will that leave parliament? Geddes believes that “it partly depends by how much May loses.

If it is a significant chunk of the House of Commons, then there are question marks over her authority as prime minister – though I think it is unlikely that she will either resign or be pushed out by losing the [majority vote] motion.” There are other possibilities, however. Article 50 could be extended, or perhaps there will be another Brexit referendum. There could also be a no-confidence vote in Theresa May or even a confidence vote in HM Government.

What will happen next?

At this stage, what will happen after the next five days of Theresa May’s debate and after the vote is cast next week is uncertain, but updates will come throughout today and we will keep you updated with the latest.

Click here to see news on the Brexit deal as it happens.

Missed today’s headlines?

Liam Mackay and Emer Harrison have today’s front page round-up.

Read about Nicola Sturgeon’s £200,000 pledge.


Foodbank usage set to rise as Universal Credit rolls out in Edinburgh

Foodbanks in Edinburgh have raised concerns over the controversial roll out of Universal Credit as over 10,000 local tenants are set to be moved to the new system.

food bank photo.jpg

Foodbanks prepare for the incoming rush of service users

The Trussel Trust, who funds a network of foodbanks, have recorded an increase by nearly a fifth of all users in areas where universal credit has recently been rolled out across the country.

Despite the Scottish Conservatives maintaining a positive attitude towards the introduction of Universal Credit, December is predicted to be one of the busiest months on record for local foodbanks.

What is universal credit?

Universal Credit is a combined payment of six different kinds of benefits;

  • Working tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Income support
  • Housing benefit
  • Income based job seekers allowance
  • Income related employment and support allowance

Why is it now a problem?

Since the roll out of this new benefit system, people have had to wait up to five weeks for their first payment.

Consequently, this has left families unable to pay for basic living costs and leading them to fall further down the poverty line.

Despite the government claiming there will be funds in place to support the roll out, recent evidence that more people are falling into poverty has triggered several MP’s to call for it to be paused.

Bethany Biggar, operations manager at Edinburgh North West Foodbank, claims all foodbanks in the local area are prepared for the worst.

‘We are expecting to see an increase in both young people and families since the Trussel Trust have reported an 18% rise in usage around the country.’

‘As of yet, since the roll out only began on the 28th here, I couldn’t comment on a rise but we are certainly hoping for the best and prepared for the worst.’

With Christmas time known to be a difficult time for those living in poverty, many will claim the roll out is poorly timed and an unnecessary strain on already struggling families.


Sturgeon offers cash injection to combat climate change

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged £200,000 to fight climate change ahead of her appearance at Poland climate change summit.

The money will be given to the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action – the body responsible for enacting the Paris Agreement strategy.

It is hoped that the funding will help all levels of Society to come together to reduce climate change. The first Minster said this about the funding.

“We have a moral responsibility to do what we can to prevent, and mitigate the effects of, global climate change.

“Scotland has been widely praised internationally for our work to tackle climate change, and I am absolutely determined that there will be no let-up in our efforts.”

“It requires everyone in society – individuals, businesses and governments – to play their part in changing behaviours, and I’m pleased that the Scottish Government is able to support the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action in its work.”

David Attenborough kicked off the conference with a speech about climate change being humanities greatest threat.

The conference has came under fire for being hosted in Poland’s coal country with the Polish Government have announced the opening of a new coal mine next year near the conference centre.

The conference will run from the 2nd to the 14th of December.

National News


UK should be allowed to change its mind on Brexit, says top law officer

According to a top European law officer, the UK should be allowed to cancel its withdrawal from the EU.

This was claimed by the European Court of Justice’s advocate general.

The advice from the advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona, comes in the wake of the final five days of deliberations on Britain’s final Brexit deal.

In a written statement, The European Court of Justice said his opinion was that a country should have the power to change its mind during the two-year exit process if it chooses to leave the EU.


Guardian investigation on name discrimination

A Guardian investigation found that inquiries from a person with a Muslim name about flat share ads received significantly fewer positive responses. In a survey of the private flat share market carried out as part of the Bias in Britain series, expressions of interest were sent from “Muhammad” and “David” to almost 1,000 online advertisements for rooms across the UK. The Guardian found that for every 10 positive replies David received, Muhammad received only eight. Muhammad was twice as disadvantaged compared with David as he was more likely not to receive a response (44% of the time compared with 36%), and when he did receive a response it was more likely to be negative (25% of the time compared with 18%).


Sturgeon urges Prime Minister to have Brexit plan B

Sturgeon has made a last-ditch appeal to the Prime Minister to put forward a second Brexit plan just days before the final vote on the UK’s terms for leaving the EU. The First Minister met Theresa May for a second time in a fortnight for face-to-face talks on Brexit ahead of the start of MPs’ deliberations on the Prime Minister’s deal with Brussels.

The First Minister said that next week’s vote “cannot – and must not – be a false choice between a proposed deal and a no-deal outcome, which threatens to be utterly disastrous for jobs, business and living standards”.


Death in Buchanan Galleries

An unidentified man has fallen to his death from the top floor of Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries yesterday afternoon

The incident happened at 4.20pm. It is understood that the man plummeted from the area at the top of the centre’s elevators.

Police Scotland said the incident was not thought to be suspicious. He was pronounced dead at the scene by police. The area has been cordoned off, with a white tent erected at the scene. The centre has been closed to the public while investigations are carried out.


Scotrail plan to end free travel for children

Free travel for schoolchildren is set to be ended by ScotRail after Christmas. The operator’s Kids Go Free scheme has allowed an adult to take up to two children between the ages of five and 15 on return journeys for free. But the initiative will be scrapped from 2 January, with a £1-a-child charge to instead be levied.

The rebranded scheme has been called Kids for a Quid.

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth described ScotRail as “Scrooge” given the timing of the decision.

“With Christmas less than a few weeks away, it’s sad to see bosses at ScotRail acting like Scrooge by taking free rail travel away from children across Scotland,” he told STV.

See the front page roundup with reporters Emer Harrison and Liam Mackay here.

By Rory Hill

Thousands rally for pay equality

Glasgow is seeing its biggest equal pay strike in decades as 8,000 march on George Square.

Hundreds of schools, nurseries, and other local government organisations are striking due to a long-running dispute about equal pay for women.

GMB gen sec on far right

GMB General Secretary Tim Roache with striking workers at Glasgow City Chambers

Although Glasgow City Council has said the strike is unnecessary, GMB and Unison workers unions note a distinct lack of progress in negotiations over the pay issue.

The problem has arisen from a pay and conditions scheme introduced by Glasgow City Council in 2006. The scheme means that due to differing work conditions, workers in female-dominated industries like teaching, catering and cleaning are receiving up to £3 an hour less than workers in male-dominated industries like refuse collection.

Gary Smith, the Scottish secretary of GMB, spoke to us about the march in Glasgow:

“The Glasgow Women’s strike is the biggest ever strike over sex discrimination and equal pay. 8000 women have downed tools and brought large parts of the city to a halt. This is a magnificent display of solidarity amongst the women of Glasgow.”

Other industries which are unaffected by the pay dispute – or on the other side of it, such as refuse workers – have also been striking to support the female marchers in Glasgow.

GMB European Officer Kathleen Walker Shaw told EN4 News:

“The strike action and demonstration has met with widespread public support in Glasgow, Scotland, the UK and internationally with messages of solidarity pouring in from public service workers across the world.”

These messages included a speech from Rosa Pavanelli, the general Secretary of the 20-million-strong PSI Global union:

Councillors in Glasgow reiterate that there is no need for the strike. Council Leader Susan Aitken spoke to the BBC, stating:

“I’m not entirely sure why this strike is taking place. Negotiations have been continuing. We’ve made considerable progress in a number of areas.”

Over 12,000 claims have been made to the council to alert them of pay issues caused by the 2006 scheme. After pay increases and payouts for backdated claims, the issue could ultimately cost between £500 million and £1 billion.

Final day of SNP conference

snp conf 2 - add credit to Nick Eardley

Final day of the SNP conference in Glasgow, Tuesday 9thOctober 2018. Photo by Nick Eardly.

Tensions rise as Nicola Sturgeon paves the way for a second Independence Referendum.

As the final day of the SNP conference gets underway Nicola Sturgeon is set to send a message of hope. Today, the First Minister is expected to declare how independence is the only way forward for the people of Scotland.

The pressure from ‘Yes’ activists have been heightened after protesters took to the streets of Edinburgh on Sunday. Sturgeon is expected to tell delegates that it is up to them now more than ever to offer optimism and hope.

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Audience members today look forward to an inspiring and uplifting speech from the First Minister. An audience member told EN4 News that they were “looking for an affirmation of where most members stand and patiently waiting for the kick off for the second referendum.”

SNP Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf said today that patience is needed in order to win a second referendum.

“There needs to be patience, there needs to be an understanding that we have to take the Scottish public with us and it has to be guided for when the timing is absolutely right and I don’t have an answer for when that is, I don’t have a crystal ball, but the campaigning for independence should take place just now.”

Calls for Indyref2 comes with the First Ministers announcement that the SNP would back any calls for a second vote on Brexit. During an interview on the Andrew Marr Show, when asked if SNP MPs would back a second Brexit vote, Sturgeon said:

“I would expect the SNP MP’s to vote for that if it comes to a second vote in the House of Commons. A second EU Referendum, the case for that is understandable but we have to be absolutely clear it’s not the clear solution.”

However, the SNP’s stance is not backed by members of the opposing parties. Scottish Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour told EN4News:

“The people have made the decision to leave and the UK Government need to negotiate the best deal and get on with it. I want the First Minister to get on with the day job and stop talking about independence.”

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “The SNP should be focusing on areas that concern the public. These are our health and social care system, education and economy. We see one million Scots living in poverty, the educational attainment gap growing and a national housing crisis.”

Bike storage costs rocket in the Capital

Bike storage photo

Bike storage shelters in Edinburgh.

The price for bike storage is now higher than car parking permits in certain areas of Edinburgh.

New bike storage units have been introduced throughout Edinburgh, meaning it now costs more to park a bike than it does a car in some parts of the city.

Edinburgh city council will build a total of 128 units throughout the city over the next two years, costing the average biker £84 a year to lease.

The subject was first brought to attention in November 2016 when the council proceeded with plans to introduce 20 to 30 storage units to the city over the next 3 years.

The pilot schemes proved to be successful over the years with each unit at maximum capacity with waiting lists for future spaces.

However, many have expressed anger towards the situation, claiming that the high prices will only discourage people from riding bikes.

Spokes is one of Edinburgh’s largest cycling groups. Spokesperson Ian Maxwell has highlighted certain problems with this scheme but insists prices should not be compared with car parking permits.

He said, “The price is a bit high. What you can’t do is compare it directly to an on-street parking space because you are actually having a structure built and maintained, so there is an additional cost for that which has to be paid for by somebody”

“That said, there should be a scheme to provide lower rates for people who are unemployed or simply can’t afford it. You shouldn’t be deterred from having a bike and parking it safely just because you can’t afford it”

“What we have been concerned with for a long time is the slow roll-out of this scheme and the continued delays in implementing it.”

New additions come after the council received requests for an increased amount of storage in over 200 different streets across the city.

Despite the price not being Ian’s main concern, Chas Booth, Green councillor for Leith, believes the council are not sending out the right message for sustainable and active travel.

He said, “Green councillors have very real concerns about the proposed costs of the cycle storage. Five pounds a month doesn’t sound like a great deal but when you compare it to an outer zone resident parking permit for a car which comes in at £35.50 a year, I don’t think that the price sends the right message”

“I think the council should be saying loud and clear that we support active travel.”

Travel group, Sustrans Scotland, have agreed to donate half of the project cost in order to support the councils aim for a greater amount of sustainable travel in Edinburgh.

Overall, the project is said to cost around £600,000.


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