Sunak announcement to help Edinburgh businesses as furlough comes to an end

By Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament

Edinburgh businesses are set to benefit from the UK Chancellor’s new job support scheme and extension VAT reduction.

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has today revealed plans which will ensure workers on reduced hours will still receive most of their pay

Sunak also revealed an extension to the reduced 5% VAT until March 2021, it was previously going to go up to 20% in January.

Edinburgh café owner, Peter Jackson, said “The curb on VAT is really good, it’s helped us out a lot.

“We need an allowance to help towards wages, not a furlough scheme but a percentage of a government pay towards that.”

However, the owner of August_21 feels more could be done to help reduced trade.

“We are trading about half what we were originally and we’re probable at breaking point, no profit.

“I think (aid) should be based on a percentage on how much you trade, you should be backed up by what you’ve taken in gross sales.

“There could be an allowance towards that or even a temporary loan.”

Owner of August_21, Peter Jackson, outside his cafe

The new scheme announced today will ensure employees working at least 33% of the hours will receive 77% of their pay, with the government paying a third of hours not worked and the employer paying the other third.

Sunak also announced that the repayment of emergency loans has been extended with a new loan scheme set to be announced in January.

Sunak explained his thoughts behind the plans, “Our economy is now likely to undergo a more permanent adjustment.

Our task now is to move to the next stage of the economic plan, nurturing the recovery, by protecting jobs through the difficult winter months.”

Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, welcomed the announcement but fears the announcement should have come sooner tweeting, “It will be too late for too many workers… Never again should the government wait until the last possible moment when millions of jobs and livelihoods are at stake.

The SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss also fears not enough has been done claiming on a video posted to Twitter, “it’s not for him to decide the viability of businesses.”

She also raised concerns for those not covered by furlough or the new job support scheme.

“There is nothing here for those excluded in previous support schemes… how dare he say these 3 million people be left high and dry with nothing.”

The new job retention scheme will begin in November and is to last for 6 months and is expected to safeguard “viable jobs.”

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, expressed, “I cannot save every business. I cannot save every job. No chancellor could.”

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The return of National Album Day: What it’s about and what’s on

A year on from its successful debut, National Album Day is set to return on October 12, with celebrations being held throughout the UK.

Teaming up with BBC Sounds –  who are supporting the day as an official broadcast partner – several events and activities have been set up to highlight the UK’s love of the album.

‘Don’t Skip’ is this year’s theme, encouraging music fans to listen to albums both new and old in full, in order to appreciate the entire body of work. This theme also serves to highlight the mental health benefits of listening to albums, which are said to provide listeners with a sense of musical mindfulness.

Several of the UK’s most prominent artists have signed up as ‘album champions’ in support of this years campaign, including No. 1 artist Lewis Capaldi, Mercury Prize winners Elbow, BRIT award nominee Mahalia and international producer/musician Mark Ronson.

Mahalia said she was supporting National Album Day to feel a sense of nostalgia.

“I see myself as an ‘album artist’, which in my world means timeless music that you don’t skip past,” she said.  “I want to make whole pieces of work that other little girls like me find comfort in listening to; a 40 to 60 minute dreamland where they can be away from the world. That’s why I’m supporting National Album Day. Streaming has changed everything. I want the kids younger than me to feel about albums how I did.”


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The continuing impact of the album

Despite the musical landscape being in a state of constant flux, albums have secured a high popularity in the UK, maintaining a strong cultural and economic relevance. As reported by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) earlier this year, 143 million albums or their equivalent were either streamed, purchased or downloaded in the UK in 2018, an amount that is worth approximately £1.3 billion in retail, and representing a near 6% rise on the year before. As part of this, 4.2 million vinyl LPs were sold, a 2000% rise since their low point in 2007 and the 11th year of consecutive growth for the medium.

An ERA tracking study in May 2018 provides further evidence of the formats continuing relevance, which showed that nearly 60% of respondents listened to in album in full a month prior to taking the survey. Despite the belief that albums are associated with older music consumers, the research suggested that younger fans were far more likely to have listened to an album with 55% of those polled aged 25 or below saying they had listened to an album in the previous week. In comparison only 45% of 45-54 year olds and 33% of those aged 55 and above could say the same.

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In addition, recent studies have also highlighted the positive mental health benefits of listening to albums. A survey conducted in August this year specifically commissioned for National Album Day found that around 80% of participants use albums to relax and around 70% listened to Albums when they were feeling down or considered them a source of comfort.

Author and academic Dr Julia Jones said listening to an album helps listeners get away from the stresses of our daily lives.

“We’ve been aware of the scientific evidence regarding the positive effects of music on the brain and body for decades,” Dr Jones said. “We also know that taking ‘time out’ of our hectic schedules is essential to maintain our well-being. So the album offers a perfect recipe for delivering the cocktail of neurochemical and physiological benefits, while also ensuring we enjoy an extended break.”


What To Expect From National Album Day

In commemoration of the event, HMV has procured a list of 26 albums to be released as coloured vinyls on Oct. 11, just in time for National Album Day. This varied lineup features Queen, Lady Gaga and Mumford & Sons.

Each record will be available in HMV stores and are available for preorder online. For a full list of vinyls on offer be sure to check out the National Album Day website, here.

In addition, as part of Scotland’s celebrations, HMV Ocean Terminal will be hosting will be playing host to live music on the day, featuring local artists Acid Club, Screamin’ Whisper and Liam Clayton.

Outside of Scotland, a touring exhibition has been making the rounds throughout the UK, celebrating the variety of sounds within the country. After making several stops throughout the UK’s rail including Glasgow and Manchester throughout the month of September, the exhibition’s final stop will be in London with the event lasting until Oct. 19.

In terms of radio, BBC Sounds will be acting as the Official broadcaster for National Album Day, providing programming throughout the BBC Network.

For a comprehensive list of events throughout the UK be sure to click here for more information via the National Album Day website.

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Landmark ruling as woman who killed husband with a hammer granted retrial

sally challen

Sarah Challen will face a new murder trial (Credit: Family Handout)

Sarah Challen, the woman who killed her husband with a hammer at their home in Surrey in 2010, will face a new murder trial a panel of judges has ruled.

The 65-year old has never denied killing husband, Richard Challen, 61, but denied murder claiming diminished responsibility.

She was convicted of murdering her car-dealer husband by striking him repeatedly over the head with a hammer. She hit him over twenty times before wrapping his body in a curtain.

Over the two-day hearing, the court heard from a psychiatrist that, at the time of the killing, Challen was suffering from two mental disorders.

Her lawyers argue that she would have faced the lesser charge of manslaughter had the coercive or controlling behaviour offence, as part of the Serious Crime Act 2015, been in place at the time of the trial in June 2011.

Lady Justice Hallett said:

“The Court of Appeal heard that, in the opinion of a consultant forensic psychiatrist, the appellant was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing.

“This evidence not available at the time of the trial and the court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial.”

Coercive control is a term of domestic abuse that aims to control a victim’s behaviour and restrict their liberty and freedom.

Justice for Women, who campaign on behalf of female victims of domestic abuse, worked with Challen for a retrial.

Her son, David, 31, has also been outspoken in his support for his mother and said:

“…a lot of good can come from this for my mother and for anyone else suffering from mental domestic abuse in reference to coercive control”

The court said the new murder charge must be put to Challen within the next two months.

She has already served eight years of her 22 year sentence.

Lord Ahmed charged with attempted rape of young girl

Lord Ahmed official portrait (Credit: Creative Commons)

A member of the House of Lords has been charged with attempted rape of a young girl. 

Lord Nazir Ahmed, a 61-year-old former Labour Peer, has been named by prosecutors along with two other men in relation to allegations dating to the 1970s’.

The charges include attempted rape of a girl and indecent assault involving a 13-year-old boy.

Ahmed would have been aged 14-17 at the time when the alleged crimes took place.

Ahmed and the two other men are due to appear in Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on 19 March.

Originally from Pakistan, Ahmed moved to Rotherham along with his family in 1969. He joined the Labour party aged 18 and went on to be elected a councillor before being made a Lord by Tony Blair.

Ahmed was suspended by the Labour party in 2013 under accusations of antisemitism after he claimed a Jewish conspiracy was responsible for a prison sentence he received after being found guilty of dangerous driving resulting in the death of a man in 2007.


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Children’s Mental Health Week rounds off fourth consecutive year

(Credit: Let The People Speak)

Children’s Mental Health Week comes to an end in the UK this weekend after the ‘Place2Be’ campaign received an overwhelming amount of support on social media.

Overseeing school talks and spreading awareness has been the main focus for mental health organisations this week after figures were released late last year showing that one in eight people under the age of 19 suffered from mental health issues.

The ‘mental health of young people and children survey’ conducted by the NHS was launched in November 2018 and provided evidence to suggest that one in five children were victims of cyberbullying, statistics many organisations have highlighted to underscore the importance of awareness campaigns like Children’s Mental Health Week this year.

Place2be‘ has focused this week around their ‘Health: Inside and Out’ campaign which attempts to spread awareness around the physical wellbeing of children and how it can affect their mental state.

However, much attention has now been drawn towards the social media aspect of the campaign after reports surfaced of children attempting to commit suicide as a result of online bullying in the past few months.

According to government surveys, at least 40% of parents are concerned about their child’s wellbeing in relation to online bullying.

Many public figures have been spreading awareness on Twitter using ‘#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek’, sparking high levels of online debate regarding recent issues.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party used the hashtag to push for better access to arts and sports in schools:

Mick Coyle, presenter for Radio City Live in Liverpool, highlighted a public art project that saw 200 pairs of childrens’ shoes laid out, representing the annual suicide rate for young people:

Government proposals have now been put forth as a part of Children’s Mental Health Week and MP’s are now expected to introduce sanctions on social media websites in order to tackle the ongoing cyberbullying crisis.


One in ten Scottish households avoids TV licence fee

This week’s revelation by The Times that 10% of Scottish households avoid paying their TV licence raises the question of whether the BBC is effectively providing for a Scottish audience.

While the BBC Annual Report claims that “it’s been a great year for Scottish content”, audiences in Scotland expressed that the extent to which the BBC provides for their part of the UK is lower than the rest of the UK.

BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. (Photo credit: Stevie Spiers)

The difference, however, is not significant. UK wide, 56% of adults think the BBC is effective at reflecting people like them, and 53% of adults in Scotland say the same.

Furthermore, 55% of UK adults say the BBC is effective at reflecting the part of the UK they live in.


Last year saw a variety of Scottish productions from the BBC, including the murder mystery Shetland and documentary series Island Medics, as well as the announcement that comedy classic Still Game is returning this year.

Despite this, the BBC’s spending in Scotland during 2017/18 had a sharp decrease from the year before.

While in 2016/17, £233 million was spent in Scotland, 2017/18 experienced a decrease of £10.4 million.

An analysis done by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) in 2016 found that out of the £320 million raised from the licence fee in Scotland, just over half of that money was spent on investing across platforms and channels in Scotland.


Looking over to Northern Ireland and Wales, 75% and 95% of licence revenue were spent in the countries respectively.

According to the BBC Report, the spending on Scotland will increase this year, which is to be expected with the launch of the new BBC Scotland channel next month.

Last year, half of the Scottish adults viewed dedicated Scottish news services on BBC Television each week. The new channel will bring Scotland news from a Scottish perspective and reflect on Scottish life through contemporary programmes.

A spokesperson from TV Licensing says that they do not speculate on future evasion rates as they use a number of factors to calculate them.

“TV Licensing’s estimated evasion rate has remained broadly the same over the last three financial years. Our figures show the rate was between 6%-7% for 2016-17, and 6.5%-7.5% for 2017-18. Changes of less than one per cent are not significant.”



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