Scotland split between minimum and maximum Council Tax increase

All Scottish Councils have decided on their 2019/20 council tax increase; Edinburgh is one of 13 councils to decide on keeping a 3% increase, while those living in Midlothian will see a 4.79% increase, the largest allowed by the Scottish Government.

The 2017/18 Local Government Finance settlement included an agreement between the Scottish Government and local government for locally determined Council Tax increases to be capped at 3%. However, this has been increased to 4.79% after debate in the Scottish Parliament.

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(Credit: Ryan Traynor, contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown Copyright and database right)

The split between 3% and 4.79% is relatively even. 13 areas have opted for 3% and 12 for 4.79%, with only a handful of councils choosing a rate in between.

Band D – the average housing type in Scotland – in Midlothian will have the highest increase with £60.62, taking residents’ annual bill to £1344.

Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee have all opted to stay at 3%.

Reactions on social media have been mixed with some users saying they felt “betrayed” by the 4.79% maximum. Others thought that local government needed more funding, and were happy to pay more tax. More efficient spending was a concern shared by both sides.

As well as the ability to decide their council tax rates, local authorities will be able to charge a transient visitor levy and workplace parking charge.

Devolved benefits roll-out timetable announced

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced the timetable for the launch of  new devolved benefits yesterday.

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Infographic (Credit: Ryan Trayor)

Ms Somerville said: “The timetable I have set out is ambitious but realistic and at all points protects people and their payments. I have seen the mess the DWP has made when transferring people to PIP and introducing Universal Credit, and we will not make the same mistakes.

 

“There is much hard work to be done but the prize is great – a social security system with dignity, fairness and respect at its heart and which works for the people of Scotland.”

SNP: ‘an Independent Scotland should have its own currency’

The SNP has announced it wishes to introduce its own currency within the first few years of leaving the UK, if Scotland were to become independent.

In the new policy the SNP say the pound would be kept initially for a “transition period”.

However the Scottish Parliament will make the decision on when to introduce a new Scottish currency within their first term.

This announcement is far from the policies outlined during the 2014 independence referendum, which suggested Scotland keep the pound in a formal currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom.

This suggestion was ruled out by the UK – an issue which some in the Yes campaign believe may have contributed to the referendum defeat.

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SNP deputy leader Keith Brown hopes the new currency policy will help gain support for the independence movement (Credit: Scottish Government)

SNP Deputy Leader Keith Brown stresses that although party policy will be to establish a new independent currency, Sterling will remain in place until this can be done “safely and securely”.

 

Alex Salmond in Court: A picture timeline

The Former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond yesterday appeared at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court where he was charged with 14 offences, two of which included attempted rape.

Salmond did not make any plea but did make a short statement outside the court before returning inside to receive his bail papers.

EN4News reporter Calum Wilson has the full story here.


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Slideshow Images: Ross Cowper-Fraser

Alex Salmond charged of attempted rape and sexual assault

 

Former First Minister Alex Salmond was arrested on Wednesday evening, January 23, and appeared at Edinburgh’s Sheriff Court at 2PM the following day where he faced the charges of 14 offences in the minutes-long private hearing, without making his plea.

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Salmond entering Edinburgh’s Sheriff Court (Photo credit: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

The charges were nine counts of sexual assault, two counts of indecent assault, two counts of attempted rape and a charge for breach of the peace.  

Salmond made a short statement to the  media outside the court strenuously denying the charges : “I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever.” 

The former First Minister could not take any questions and said: “I have got to observe the rules of the court and in court is where I will state my case.” 

 

The written statement read: “I co-operated fully with the police. I was released by the police after [the] interview and agreed to attend court today. I have always maintained that I have never engaged in criminality and that remains my position.” 

Police Scotland launched its investigation on Salmond in September last year following the Scottish Government’s inquiry after several complaints of sexual harassment against Salmond.  

After an internal investigation by the Scottish Government, Salmond won a legal battle against them earlier this month after Judge Lord Pentland said that the government’s actions had been “unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair” and had been “tainted with apparent bias.”

The former leader had been at the forefront of the Scottish Independence campaign. The referendum results were in favour of no to independence winning by 55%.     

Salmond had stopped to shake hands with two Yes supporters before entering the court.

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One supporter handed out badges, which read: “I stand with Alex. I would walk 500 miles.” (Photo credit: Calum Wilson)

Alex Salmond resigned as First Minister and SNP leader after Scotland rejected independence in 2014.

 

Nicola Sturgeon rally for IndyRef2 amid Brexit turmoil

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced she is working on plans for a second independence referendum, which will be released “in the coming weeks.”

Sturgeon is waiting for the Brexit chaos seen in the last week to dissipate before making a move on independence. She said she would forward with the plans even if the March 29th Brexit deadline was to be extended.

Fears of leaving the EU had been a common reason for voters to back the No campaign in 2014. Scottish voters had then backed the Remain campaign by 62% in 2015. Despite the support, it mattered little when the UK voted for Leave. This didn’t sit well with Scottish voters and sparked renewed interest in another independence referendum.

In an online post, Sturgeon said: “Scotland cannot be left at the mercy of a dysfunctional Westminster government.”

She added that “the interests of Scotland haven’t even been an afterthought” for the Government during the Brexit negotiations.

The SNP had called on May to extend the March 29th deadline for Brexit to no avail.

Sturgeon said the loss to Scotland neglecting independence has “never been clearer.”

Leaked Brexit documents could affect UK’s access to single market

A leaked document regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union suggests access to the single market may be restricted.

The obtained leak – in a draft section of the UK and EU’s withdrawal agreement – states that during the post-Brexit phase the EU wants the power to restrict the UK’s market access and suspend “certain benefits”.

Meetings are taking place today to decide the Uk’s future with Brexit. Image: Pixaby

Theresa May will meet with her senior ministers today as she chairs the first of two discussions to clarify the UK’s position.

Nicola Sturgeon – who will not be involved in the meeting at Downing Street – has demanded discussions with the administrators associated with the Brexit negotiations.

Scotland’s First Minister has written personally to Theresa May ahead of the crucial meetings to say the Scottish Government should be able to have a say in the influence of the exit objectives from the EU.

The leaked documents have led to politicians on both leave and remain sides to advise Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis, to take a cold hard Brexit deal.

Sturgeon wants the Scottish Government to have a say. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Last month the Scottish Government released in its own analysis that a hard deal could leave the Scottish economy £12.7 billion worse of a year – leaving the SNP leader to take action.

Holyrood’s Brexit minister Michael Russell will meet in Dublin today to discuss the Irish border.

If the EU obtains the power to restrict the UK’s access to the single market during the transition period, it will begin on 29 March 2019, when the UK leaves the EU and will end on 31 December 2020.

Scottish government to discuss funding for colleges

New figures show that the number of college students in Scotland has risen by more than 3% in the past year but is down 38% on 2007/2008.

A report by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has stated that 235,737 students were studying at colleges across Scotland in 2016/17, up 3.8% on the previous year.

That’s hundreds of thousands of Scots who have been cut off from the opportunity of studying at college – Iain Gray, Shadow Education Secretary

The SFC report states the fall in student numbers from 2007/08 is due to the “policy shift away from short courses and non-recognised qualifications that did not support labour market demands” and student numbers have “comparably levelled out since 2012-13″.

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College stats published today confirm there are over 140,000 fewer people students going to college under the SNP.

The figures show the proportion of learning hours for students with a declared disability has increased slightly up from 16.8% in 2015/16 to 17.1% in 2016/17.

Iain Gray, Shadow Education Secretary, told EN4News: “If you look at the 143’000 students that have clearly been excluded they are part time students, older students, women and disabled students. They are some of the most vulnerable in society, some of those who face the greatest barriers getting back into work”.

Defending the results of the report, Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Over the last decade, Scotland’s colleges have undergone a transformation. This report shows two things, that the quality of learning at our colleges has never been higher and also that the college sector has equality firmly established at its heart – something we highlighted in a recent government report.”

Listen here for more with our reporter Kendal Dick:

Dugdale: Scottish Labour’s disappointment after joining ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me out of Here?

The decision to suspend Kezia Dugdale from Scottish Labour could be decided today when the party group hold their weekly meeting at Holyrood.

Last week it was announced that MSP Kezia Dugdale would be a contestant on the latest series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here with her first appearance expected to be broadcast later this week.

Dugdale in hot water over latest venture. Photograph: Herald Scotland.

The Labour MSP has confirmed that the salary she receives for being MSP will be given to charity while she is away filming in Australia but it is unconfirmed if she will also be donating the tens of thousands she is expected to receive from starring on the show.

Dugdale’s foray into the world of reality television just months after she stepped down as leader of Scottish Labour has split the party. It was revealed by the new Scottish party leader, Richard Leonard, that Dugdale failed to gain permission from party chiefs to join the show and that he was personally disappointed.

Former Labour leader, MSP Neil Findlay, also voiced his displeasure described her decision as “utterly ludicrous”.

Dugdale’s partner and Scottish National Party MSP, Jenny Gilruth accused the Labour party of bullying tweeting her opinions.

 

Tory MP, Nadine Dorris, who was previously suspended from her party after joining the same show in 2012 also took to twitter to show her support.

 

What is more important is how this will affect the residents of Lothian who are represented by Dugdale. Three weeks is a long time to leave your constituents and considering the reputation of the show voters may begin to look elsewhere for representation.


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