Today’s national news: March 8th

Luka Kenyon brings today’s top national stories from across the UK.

To check out Ryan Traynor’s article on the Mary Queen of Scots documents click here.

May’s Brexit speech – as it happened

May delivers Brexit speech in Grimsby, a town in which the majority voted leave.

May begins by stating that Brexit “belongs to the whole country.”

The PM states that the Brexit deal will allow us to “build stronger communities” and will mean growth is not focussed in London and the South-East.

May then goes on to talk about foreign affairs and “taking back control”. She insists Brexit would not be a “race to the bottom” in terms of workers right and that Britain after Brexit will still be able to safeguard them.

May then goes on to note how well her government are managing the economy, stating: “the employment rate is at a record high, unemployment rate is at a 40-year low, borrowing this year is at a 17 year low and debt is falling.”

She says that businesses would begin to invest and money spent on a no-deal exit could be put to better use. There would be a giant “open for business sign” in Britain.

May talks about the failure to get her deal through parliament back in January and claims Corbyn “opposed it because he wanted a general election,” meanwhile other MPs opposed it because they didn’t want Brexit to happen altogether.

Speaking to the EU, May says “now is the time for us to act” and calls for “one more push” to get Brexit over the line.

She says that MPs also need to think hard about rejecting the deal and that more talking isn’t going to solve anything. She continued, saying that the EU might start imposing conditions which could result in a form of Brexit that looks different to what people voted for. A second referendum would “take Britain back to square one”, she claims.

May is ramping up the pressure, saying ‘Let’s get it done’.

She needs the support of those who voted remain but accept the result – and those who voted Leave but accept some compromise is necessary.

The Prime Minister now takes questions from journalists.

When asked how much responsibility she takes for the uncertainty, May says she negotiated a deal and MPs were the ones who rejected it. Now is the moment to get this done, she says.

Workers rights and the energy deal will be good for Grimsby (where she is holding the speech), she adds.

She then takes her leave.

 

Reaction

To find out more about this weeks Brexit goings on, click here.

Review: This week in Brexit

David Paul gives us a round-up of a few big Brexit topics this week:

If you would like to see more news surrounding Brexit, visit our Brexit section here.

BREAKING: ‘Strong but unconfirmed reports’ IS bride’s baby has died

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The lawyer for IS bride Shamima Begum has said there is ‘strong but as yet unconfirmed reports’ that her baby son has died. 

The 19-year-old Islamic State bride and her newborn son Jarrah had been living in a Syrian refugee camp after she had her British citizenship revoked.

Begum – who has previously lost two children – revealed last month that her young son was unwell and she would not allow him to return to the UK alone.

Begum’s husband, Dutch IS fighter Yago Riedijk, told Sky News they both made a mistake when they joined the terror group. He married the British teenager just weeks after she arrived in IS territory as a 15-year-old in 2015.

Begum was 15 when she left London to join IS, along with two other schoolgirls from Bethnal Green.

She gained media attention whilst heavily pregnant last month, speaking of her desire to return to the UK.

Scottish Government plans to tackle pay gap

In celebration of International Women’s Day, the Scottish Government has announced its first Gender Pay Gap Action Plan.

The action plan has been put in place to tackle gender discrimination and inequalities in the workplace. The gender pay gap in Scotland for full-time employees has decreased to 5.7% in 2018, from 6.6% in 2017.

The plan will help the Scottish Government to meet its target of reducing the gender pay gap by 2021. The plan includes over 50 actions, including:

  • Supporting 2,000 women on their return to work after a career break through the new Women Returners Programme, worth £5 million over three years, building on the success of a pilot project run since 2017.
  • Improving workplace practices, including support for women during menopause and for victims of domestic abuse, through the expansion of the Workplace Equality Fund.
  • Refreshing the gender and diversity element of the Scottish Business Pledge.
  • Urging the UK Government to strengthen and enforce the protection of women and carers against discrimination and dismissal – including strengthening paternity leave rights and introducing ‘safe leave’ which would provide victims of domestic violence with additional leave.
  • Promoting gender equality within early learning and child care; schools, colleges, and universities; and within employment support or social security systems.
  • Commissioning a feasibility study for a ‘What Works Centre for Flexible Work’ to design, test and embed new approaches to increasing the availability of flexible working – in particularly for low income parents.
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(Credit: Creative Commons)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the plan today (March 8th) at Business Gateway’s Woman in Business event, to mark International Women’s Day. She said: “The package of measures set out in Scotland’s first Gender Pay Gap Action Plan are a historic landmark in our march to achieving gender equality and closing the gender pay gap.

“While the gender pay gap in Scotland is now the lowest on record and lower than the UK as a whole we still have much progress to make, which requires long term solutions not short term fixes.”

The First Minister  also laid out the specifics of the action plan: “Our plan sets out a whole system approach across public, private and third sectors and looks at breaking down the cause of the gender pay gap throughout a young girl’s life – from challenging gender stereotyping in early years learning and schools to supporting employers to adopt inclusive and flexible workplace practices to help mothers return to work after a career break.

“This plan is not just about supporting girls and women to participate equally in our labour market. It is also about promoting and installing fair work principles and setting out the benefits these can bring to all individuals, employers and the Scottish economy.”

 

Increase in number of Modern Apprenticeships

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(Credit: paisleyscotland)

The Scottish Government has increased the number of Modern Apprenticeships available to young people, in a continued effort to support youth employment.

Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships are jobs which allow people to work and learn, mostly targeted at those who have just left school, or will be leaving soon. They are a way to gain skills and qualifications, and be given the opportunity to start a career, without having to study full-time.

Fair Work Minister Jamie Hepburn announced that more than 29,000 people will benefit from Modern Apprenticeships next year. The target includes Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships and means Scotland is on course to reach its longstanding commitment of 30,000 new apprenticeships each year by 2020. The 2018/19 target of 28,000 new Modern Apprentices is on course to be achieved, with 27,145 people starting Modern Apprenticeships in 2017/18, surpassing the initial target of 27,000.

Mr Hepburn said: “It is vital we continue to develop Scotland’s young workforce to meet the emerging needs and opportunities of our employers and economy. That is why we are expanding the number of Modern Apprenticeship places available to 29,000 next year, meaning even more people can access a wide variety of work-based learning.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for all employers to invest in their workforce and provide the skills the economy needs now and in the future. The Scottish Government are funding more apprentices than ever before and we remain firmly on track to achieve our ambitious target of 30,000 new apprenticeship starts by 2020.”

Around 1,300 Graduate Apprenticeships will be available across 13 different subject, with 5,000 Foundation Apprenticeships available for secondary school pupils to choose alongside their other school subjects. Scottish Apprenticeship Week (which ends today) is a nationwide campaign aimed at encouraging employers to take on apprentices. The year’s theme is ‘Skills for the Future’, recognising the importance of investing in the workforce.

If you have an interest in becoming an apprentice, click here for information on applying.

Should school uniforms be gender neutral?

A bill has been proposed that would make all school uniforms gender neutral. (Credit: Luka Kenyon)

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP, has introduced a bill to the House of Commons that would require school uniform policies in the UK to be gender neutral.

In a piece for Metro, Moran wrote, “I want gender neutral uniforms to be law because what children wear doesn’t affect how they learn.”

She added, “From the day a child starts primary school, gendered uniform policies send the message that boys – who get to wear trousers –should be running around and playing sport, but a girl made to wear a skirt should not.”

Moran has introduced this bill to mark International Women’s Day, asserting that the Liberal Democrats want school children to not be confined by outdated gendered norms.

But what is meant by gender neutral uniform? What clothing options would this policy include?

We asked some students what they think about the proposed policy.

 

Facial palsy awareness: Freya’s journey to a smile

Freya Beaumont was born without a smile, and now she is helping to shine a light on facial palsy as part of an awareness week.

20-year-old Freya has unilateral congenital facial palsy, which affects the nerves and muscles in the left side of her face.

Her condition meant that she couldn’t smile or close her left eye, and in essence had no movement on the left side of her face at all. When she was younger, she underwent two surgeries in London with the intention of giving her a smile, and it worked.

Now, she, and others who have facial palsy, are raising awareness of the condition, and have launched a petition asking the government to do more to support those affected.

Key messages they are hoping to share are the difficulties people have accessing healthcare, the psychological impacts of the condition and the day-to-day struggles faced.

Over 100,000 people are thought to have facial palsy in the UK. However, there aren’t many nationally funded investigations for treatments or cures, so support is limited. There are over 50 causes of facial palsy, and it can happen to anyone at any time in their life.

Previous campaigns have shared the message that people can be happy without expressing it as a lot of people with the condition are unable to smile.

This week they launched a Twitter campaign called ‘#facemyday‘ for people to share their own experiences.

The condition seriously affected Freya’s confidence and self-esteem when she was growing up, and school was not an easy experience for her. She said:

“It hasn’t always been easy. When I was little I didn’t appreciate that my face was any different from other children’s faces, but when I started school, it soon became more apparent.

“Other children would tease, point, stare and laugh at me. I felt like I didn’t fit in. At secondary school, I was bullied a lot about my appearance and I struggled making friends. I would go home crying.”

Sharing her personal experience to help shine a light on facial palsy is important to Freya, and she wants more to be done in the country:

“I have always wanted to raise awareness of facial palsy because I want to help others who have facial palsy so that they do not feel alone and insecure about themselves.

“I have also just written a petition and letter to my MP to raise more awareness by asking the government to encourage greater awareness of the impact of facial palsy in the UK.”

The campaign hopes to not only raise awareness, but also help people with the condition. Freya’s advice for anyone who is facing similar issues is that they are not alone and being different is a good thing because it makes you unique. Her final message is to not measure beauty by your external appearance because real beauty lies within.

The petition for the government to do more with awareness and support of  facial palsy can be found here.

Plastic road firm opens new factory in Lockerbie

A company that uses plastic waste in road construction has just opened a new factory in Lockerbie; the first of its kind in Scotland.

Plastic recycling firm MacRebur’s new factory takes used plastic waste from landfill and turns it into small pellets which can then be used to create road surfaces; a potential milestone in road production and waste recycling in the UK.

MacReburs roads being laid (Credit: Clay10)

Though the true mix for making these plastic surfaces is a well-hidden secret, the pellets replace a percentage of the bitumen used to bind roads, which helps to form a harder and more durable road surface. This could make the roads up to 40% stronger, and greatly lowers the chance of potholes appearing.

The company has already laid roads all around the world, including several sites in Scotland and England. They also have them located in New Zealand and Australia, with several roads being trialled in Bahrain, the United States and Slovakia.

“This could make the roads up to 40% stronger, and greatly lowers the chance of potholes appearing.”

One of the positives of the plastic roads is that they can be laid anywhere that asphalt is laid, as it uses the same process as regular asphalt.

MacRebur says that each kilometre of road laid uses the equivalent weight of 684,000 bottles or 1.8 million one time use plastic bags. 1 tonne of the mix also contains the equivalent of 80,000 plastic bottles.

The founders of MacRebur; Toby, Nick and Gordon (Credit: Clay 10)

Analysis

What do these roads do right?

It is clear that this process could potentially revolutionise the way that we deal with our plastic waste, and with the strength of our roads. MacRebur says that the roads “have been extensively tested and monitored for the over the last three years”, which shows that this isn’t some fairytale; they already have the plans in place.

The CEO of the company, Toby McCartney, says he got his idea on a trip to India, where locals collected plastic waste from landfill, placed it into potholes in the road, and used fuel to melt it in place. On his return, and seeing the state of roads in the UK, he decided to take action. If the plan works, the fate of British roads could be altered forever.

The roads have several benefits:

  • The mix strengthens the road, making it last longer and removing those pesky potholes.
  • The material can also be used in other ways, such as pavements.
  • It is cheaper than the conventional bitumen mix.
  • They are better for the environment.
  • They are stronger than regular roads.
  • The maintenance cost of these roads is almost nil.

The location of MacRebur’s factory in Dumfries and Galloway is also important for Scotland, as it can now be the poster boy for the plastic road industry.

MacRebur’s factory is located in Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway (Credit: Clay10)

The Future 

There are some that aren’t quite convinced yet. The main concern with these roads are the long-term implications. With little knowledge about what would happen to them in the long term, at this stage it is hard to say whether they have the lifespan that we are told. Regardless of how much testing you do over three years, you cannot test for weather and car damage over time. The main reason our roads get so damaged is because of over-use and the great British weather.

“The main concern with these roads are the long-term implications. With little knowledge about what would happen to them in the long term, at this stage it is hard to say whether they have the lifespan that we are told.”

Another possible side effect of the roads is the re-use of plastic. There are some that say all we are doing is taking plastic and turning it into another type of plastic, which doesn’t entirely solve the issue of the planet having an influx of plastic in its waters and in a landfill.

Again, India has been trialling plastic roads for many years, and many have been placed around the country. The process is much the same:

(Credit: Interesting Engineering)

In terms of whether it will be coming to Edinburgh, the future hasn’t been decided. Transport and Licencing Media Officer at Edinburgh Council, Rebecca Gordon, said that “Edinburgh isn’t currently trialling this”, but did go on to say that “we are aware that some other local authorities are, and will take note of the outcome of any trials”. She didn’t specify what other councils were carrying out the trials.

MacRebur’s factory has created 12 new jobs, and they are hoping to expand into other area of Europe in the future, a sign that plastic road building is here to stay for the foreseeable.

If you want to hear more about MacRebur’s work, and about the process of plastic road building, we interviewed the company’s Chief Administrative Officer, Nick Burnett.

Have a listen here:

 

 

BREAKING: Airshow pilot found not guilty of manslaughter

A pilot who crashed a plane onto a public road in 2015, killing 11 people, has been found not guilty of manslaughter. 

Andrew Hill, 54, was taking part in the Shoreham Airshow near Brighton when he lost control of his ex-military plane after attempting to perform a manoeuvre.

Mr Hill was charged in The Old Bailey in London with 11 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence, which he has denied.

His lawyers argued Mr Hill suffered from “cognitive impairment” at the time of the crash.

It has emerged that one of the jurors was discharged during the proceedings after stating that he would never consider convicting anyone over the Shoreham crash, according to reports from The Telegraph.

The judge presiding over the trial, Justice Andrew Edis, said: “just to say to the families, I am enormously impressed and grateful for the dignified way you have all behaved.”

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