Bank of Scotland Community Support

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I have been passed information by the Bank of Scotland regarding a number of opportunities for community funding and projects they run across Scotland.

I thought I would post these for the interest of local community groups that may be able to benefit.

  • Bank of Scotland Foundation – an independent charity registered at The Mound, Edinburgh. It receives an annual donation of £2m from Lloyds Banking Group to fund the Foundation’s Small Grants Programme (offers grant’s of between £1,00-£10.000), Medium Grants Programme (offers grants of between £10,001 -£25,000, particularly those that help developing and improving local communities and financial literacy and financial inclusion),  Volunteering Grants Programme and Matched Giving Programme. The Foundation supports local, regional and national charities which are registered on Scotland.  Further details about each grant programme and application forms can be found at http://bankofscotlandfoundation.org/
  • Bank of Scotland Community Fund - the Community Fund aims to help local people make a positive difference in the hearts of communities. Last year nearly 380,000 votes were cast for 208 good causes in 52 communities across Scotland. In each community, the two good causes with the most votes received £3,000 and the other two each received £300 to help them benefit their community. More information about the BoS Community Fund can be found here https://communityfund.bankofscotland.co.uk/voting/cf_home.asp but I will be in touch shortly to ask if there are any good causes that you would like to nominate.
  • Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs ProgrammeThis Programme gives students a fully funded year of learning and a grant to help them grow their project. Applications are being taken until 3pm 03/04/14. – more information about the programme can be found here http://www.the-sse.org/schools/26/lloyds-banking-group-social-entrepreneurs-programme
  • Bank Of Scotland Midnight League- – through its 10 year partnership with the Scottish Football Association, 70,000 children have taken part in 5-a-side football sessions at 90 venues across all 32 local authorities in Scotland. http://www.bankofscotlandcommunities.co.uk/midnightleague/ I will be in touch in the future to let you know if there are any sessions running in your constituency.
  • Bank of Scotland Money for Life Programme – Money for Life is Lloyds Banking Group’s £8 million financial capability and personal money skills programme. The programme is targeted at the Further Education, Adult and Community Learning sector across the UK. We provide tutors, practitioners and support workers with the skills they need to talk confidently about money management, and to support their learners to stay out of debt and save for the future. More information about the programme can be found here – https://www.moneyforlifeprogramme.org.uk/the-programme/

Currency in Scotland – Media Round-up

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This morning I was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 4 and last night I was on Scotland Tonight. On all of these programmes I was speaking about the very important issue of the currency in Scotland post-2014.

BBC Radio 5 Live (5 Live Breakfast): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03t7d4b [skip to 2.25.30]

BBC Radio 4 (Today Programme): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03tt7kl [2.36.30]

Scotland Tonight: http://player.stv.tv/programmes/scotland-tonight/ [From the beginning].

Westminster Hall Debate on Currency in Scotland after 2014

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Today I had the pleasure of speaking in a Westminster Hall debate that I had called for on the subject of the currency in Scotland after 2014. In a heated debate, my clear point was that Scotland should continue to use the pound as part of a strong and successful United Kingdom. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the SNP’s plans, as stated in the White Paper, just don’t add up.

You can read much more about the currency issue in the latest briefing from the Better Together campaign here: http://bettertogether.net/blog/entry/without-the-pound-the-nationalists-are-left-without-a-viable-plan-for-indep

You can find the full debate here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140212/halltext/140212h0001.htm#140212165000345

Speech in Westminster Hall on Scotland’s Currency after 2014 – 12/02/2014

The last couple of weeks have been a watershed in the referendum debate in Scotland.  The Governor of the Bank of England’s non-partisan and technical intervention on the currency issue has been critical in debunking the false assertions that the SNP have been peddling about keeping and using the pound.  I’ll come back to these revelations later.

You can sum up his intervention with reflection on a quote by renowned economist, Keynes when he said:

“He who controls the currency controls the country”.

And which eminent economist said

“A country without it’s own currency is a country not only without a steering wheel but also without brakes”?

Not Keynes, Adam Smith or Marx but, the lesser known SNP education secretary Mike Russell.

There is little doubt that the Governor was saying just that.

“It is no coincidence that effective currency unions tend to have centralised fiscal authorities whose spending is a sizeable share of GDP.”

“In short, a durable, successful currency union requires some ceding of national sovereignty.”

The central message of the Governor’s speech was that currency union requires fiscal, economic and political union to avoid financial crisis. It is precisely that fiscal, economic and political union that the SNP seek to dismantle with independence.

When the First Minister met with the Governor of the bank of England there was one person in that room that would control Scotland’s fiscal, monetary and spending policies in a currency union after independence and it wasn’t the First Minister.

A key test that Mark Carney set for any currency union is that a centralised fiscal authority would need to control about 25% of GDP – that is about 50% of spending in Scotland.  The SNP immediately responded by saying that they would have 100% of control over taxes and spending in an independent Scotland so, by default,  it’s the SNP that have ruled out a currency union by completely ignored the central warning of the Governor’s analysis.

And we don’t have to look too far back into history to see that the Governor was correct.  The Euro created sovereign debt crises, financial fragmentation and large divergences in economic performance. This clearly illustrates the risks and challenges of creating and maintaining a formal currency union across different states with differing economies. The euro area is now seeking very significant steps to expand the sharing of risks and pooling of resources to create a more homogeneous currency union.  Exactly what the UK currently provides for the pound. 

John Cridland, CBI Director-General emphasised this last week:

“As the Governor highlighted, successful currency unions need strong fiscal agreements and a banking union, with common supervisory standards and resolution mechanisms. The negative effects of not having these structures in place have been starkly illustrated by the Eurozone crisis.”

There is a very positive case for staying with the UK as part of the currency debate.

Scotland benefits from being part of the UK economy; the third largest economy in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. Being part of the larger, more diverse UK economy brings strength, stability and security to Scotland’s finances.

Being part of the UK offers us protection from financial shocks. During the financial crisis, banks based in Scotland took advantage of the protection offered to UK banks. Since 2007, the UK has committed £1.162 trillion to bailing out the banks. At its peak, the Edinburgh-based Royal Bank of Scotland received £253.6 billion in support from the UK Government.

The rest of the UK is Scotland’s biggest trading partner. Scottish businesses buy and sell more products and services from the rest of the UK than every other country in the world combined. In 2010, 70% of Scotland’s exported goods and services went to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, accounting for 35% of Scottish GDP. Likewise, 70% of Scotland’s imports are estimated to come from the rest of the UK.

And this is not just a technical or political issue.  It is also a significant issue for the Scottish public.  The recent Scottish Social Attitudes Survey said that 79% want to keep the pound with only 11% wanting their own currency (no doubt the Greens and the Chair of the Yes campaign are included in that 11%) and 7% want the Euro (Alex Salmond’s previous favoured option).

The First Minister has gone from saying the pound is “A millstone around the neck of Scotland” to being the currency of choice for the SNP but not all of the Yes camp.  Their own SNP Fiscal Commission was not even in favour of an informal monetary union or currency union.

In fact, if we refer to the HBOS banking museum on the Mound in Edinburgh it says that people think of money today as banknotes and coins, things like tea, shells and even feathers have been used in the past.  We may need to go back to that again!

People need to know what the money will be in their pockets.  We can’t run a modern economy on empty ginger bottles?

Incidentally, you can also press your own coins at the museum so perhaps I could point the Scottish Government in that direction as a Plan B given they don’t have one.

This is too important an issue for the SNP and Yes campaign not to be honest with the Scottish people and businesses about the way forward.

The overwhelming weight of opinion is now against a currency union. 

And it is little wonder as any agreement would mean our interest rates would be set by a foreign bank and would include strict instructions on how much Scotland could tax and spend.  Scotland would have no control at all over monetary policy. It would also mean the loss of our UK central bank, which acts as the lender of last resort.

It was this lender of last resort issue that the Business Secretary raised last week in relation to the large Scottish financial institutions being forced to move to have a strong central bank that can support them in a crisis.

Essentially, Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK will be the same as the relationship of Greece to Germany.

But it is not just an issue for Scotland.  The rest of the UK would also have to agree and it would appear that from speculation in the press today that there is not going to be agreement on currency union as it is undeliverable.

If an agreement was not possible or ruled out by the Treasury –  what is the SNPs Plan B?

Even The Scottish Government’s own Fiscal Report says that an informal monetary union was “not likely” and “not to be a long term solution.” – So, what is the long term option?  What is the Plan B?  What should they be setting out for the Scottish people before we go to the polls?

-       Well, it is clear that leaving the UK means losing the security of the UK pound.

-       If the yes camp cannot even tell us what money we would have in our pockets – how can they ask us to vote to leave the UK?

-       The pound is one of the most trusted and secure currencies in the world. The Eurozone crisis has shown us how important it is to have a strong and stable currency.

-       And this isn’t just about what money is in your pocket, it is about what it will buy you. Losing the pound means more expensive mortgages, more expensive credit card bills, more expensive car loans.

What about business – we sell twice as much to the rest of the UK as we do to the rest of the world combined. Losing the pound means every time a Scottish company sold to somewhere down south there would be the cost of changing money – that means fewer jobs. Every time we bought something from down-south we would have to pay too – that means a higher prices for all of us – the supermarket bosses have already warned us on this.

We should listen to business.  In a strong criticism of the SNP White Paper, Scotland’s accountants, ICAS, have warned that there is a “high degree of uncertainty as to what the currency of an independent Scotland will be” and “there are no alternatives set-out if negotiations were unsuccessful.” The choice of currency will have a very significant impact across the pensions sector, the economy and the country generally, and this will inevitably remain as a major uncertainty for the time being.”

The Pension Insurance Corporation, which manages almost £10bn on behalf of nearly 100,000 pension scheme members, has turned down a number of potential investments in Scotland because of uncertainty over what currency any long term debt would be repaid in.

Losing the pound means the SNP must tell us what currency Scotland would use – is it setting up an unproven currency or rushing to join the Euro (if they are in the EU?) or will they join the only other 2 countries that tie their currency to another informally  – Panama and El Savador who use the dollar. 

And then we have the unedifying assertion by the First and Deputy First Minsters in Scotland saying that they will default on their debt if no currency union is forthcoming.  This ill-though-through, toys-out-the-pram threat is a recipe for economic crisis and political conflict. It is reckless and irresponsible to say the least.

Experts like Professor MacDonald and Professor Armstrong are clear – defaulting on debt would be a reckless move that would have negative consequences for the people of Scotland for years to come

This threat shows that the SNP accept that Scotland cannot keep the pound if we leave the UK. Defaulting on our debts as a nation has the same impact as if you defaulted on your debts as an individual. What happens if you do not pay your bills?

Your credit rating would be terrible and we would have to pay more for everything.

That would be a disaster for ordinary individuals and families up and down Scotland.  Anyone who borrows money, who has a mortgage, who has credit card bills, who has catalogue payments will have to pay more.  This is not scaremongering but the facts of very basic economics.

Also the SNP have said in their fantasy white paper they would have to rely on the rest of the UK to collect our taxes, pay our pensions and pay our benefits for years after independence. They can’t threaten to dump the debt one minute and then ask to share everything else the next. This is recipe for crisis.  How would these UK institutional systems work with a separate currency?  Could the Minister tell us if DWP can work in a currency other than the pound?

Give the White Paper is underpinned and predicated on the pound, perhaps it will turn into an actual white paper, when they have to so heavily Tippex it that it contains just Tippex.

Scots have an international reputation for being prudent and thrifty.  To default on debts would irreparably damage Scotland.  In fact, even just to threaten to default has significant consequences for interest rates, borrowing and international reputation. In fact, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research put this at a minimum of 1.5% higher.

To summarise – What losing the pound would mean

Higher cost of living with higher mortgage repayments, higher credit card and store card bills and more costly car loans because Scotland would start out as a separate state with no credit rating or a hugely damaged credit rating due to threats of default.

Fewer jobs due to the cost of changing money every time Scottish firms buy or sell from our biggest customer – the rest of the United Kingdom.

Deeper cuts or higher taxes as the Scottish Government pays more to borrow money meaning more debt and lower public spending.

Risks to benefits and pensions as payments are converted into a different currency.

Risks to our economy. Without the back-up of the rest of the UK Scottish banks would have gone under and families and businesses would have lost everything. Tens of thousands of those employees in my constituency.

And an unproven and weak currency with a poor credit rating and high borrowing costs.

You can sum up the SNPs current proposition as this –you go from a proven and respected single currency backed by a strong lender of last resort as part of the UK – to a promise from Alex Salmond that he simply is not in a position to deliver.  That is not good enough for the Scottish people and not good enough for Scottish business.

I can say this afternoon Chair – without contradiction, without doubt, without argument, without assertion – that the currency of Scotland post-2014 will be the pound, but only if we stay in the UK.

It is clear now that the most positive case for the union is the pound in our pockets and we must do all we can for today and future generations to save it.

Currency in Scotland after 2014

Proposed Residential Development in The Drum

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I have been keeping residents up to date on the Local Development Plan and the proposals being put forward by developers for our area.  A developer has now submitted outline proposals for a public consultation for the Greenbelt site in the Drum, south of Candlemaker’s Park.  I urge local residents to look at these proposals and send your comments to the developer using the feedback form below before the closing date of 26th February.  This is our opportunity to make an impression on the plans prior to a full application being submitted to the Council once the LDP has been adopted.

Plans 1: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363869/Plans-1

Plans 2: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363859/Plans-2

Plans 3: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363853/Plans-3

Feedback Form: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363794/Public-Exhibition-Feedback-Form

Ian Murray MP fights heart disease by ramping up the red in pop-up Parliament shop

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The MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray supported the British Heart Foundation (BHF) on today when the BHF revealed their first ever pop-up shop in the Palace of Westminster.Image

Ian met shop staff and volunteers to hear how BHF shops raise vital funds for life-saving research. During the visit, Ian added his voice to the call for people to Ramp up the Red this February.

On the 7 February, the BHF are urging the public to Ramp up the Red by wearing something red, hosting a red-themed party, or baking some red-coloured treats. After his trip to the pop-up shop, Ian has been inspired to join in too.

Ian Murray said: “I am delighted to help raise awareness of heart disease by taking part in Ramp up the Red. I hope the public join me on the 7th February and help to beat a devastating disease which can affect anyone, from babies to grandparents.”

“By popping up in Parliament, the BHF has reminded us of the vital role their shops play in raising funds for life-saving research.  The shops and volunteers do a terrific job up and down the country in local communities and on high streets.”

Coronary heart disease is the UK’s single biggest killer, responsible for almost 74,000 deaths in the UK each year, an average of 200 people each day. There are currently 2.3 million people in the UK living with coronary heart disease.

Mike Taylor, Retail Director at the BHF, said “We wanted to show MPs just how important our shops are – without our shop staff, including 23,000 volunteers across the UK, we simply couldn’t continue our life-saving work.

“It is fantastic to see Ian Murray MP showing his support and ramping up the red. All the money raised on 7 February will help us truly fight for every heartbeat.”

For more information about Ramp up the Red or to donate please visit  bhf.org.uk/red

We need answers on pensions – ICAS

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When Scotland’s accountants enter the referendum debate, Scots sit up and listen. So this week’s Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS) report on pensions in a separate Scotland is significant.

In advance of the SNP’s white paper, last year ICAS published a comprehensive account of the questions which leaving the UK poses for Scots pensions. Just wait for the white paper was the SNP response. Well ICAS did and this is their considered view.

There is something bigger at stake here however than shredded nationalist credibility. Pensions are an insurance policy against poverty in old age. Across the UK for a century we have each paid our share. Sharing risks so that we can all enjoy greater reward. We built this pensions system together across the UK. We all contribute together. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents helped build a system where everybody from Wick to Walsall can be sure of dignity in retirement. We built it up together over 100 years. Governments come and go but the sharing remains. The Scots, English, Welsh and N Irish people who built this system did so on the basis that we share our resources so that those in need get what they need.

As a United Kingdom we spend far more on the state pension and associated pensioner benefits than in any other area of social security. Last year alone £8bn (Over £6.5million in South Edinburgh alone) was redistributed to our poorest pensioners through Labour’s pension credit and the total redistributed to poor pensioners is almost £75bn since Gordon Brown introduced the top up in 2003.

The UK regulatory architecture protects the pensions of Scots wherever they live across the UK. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) together provide a UK wide firewall for Scots against the loss of pension savings.

The PPF pays pensions to UK workers who otherwise would lose their pension savings when their employer went bust. Just ask the Ayrshire steel workers left high and dry and facing a retirement in penury when Allied Steel went bust. Steel workers who had paid into their pension for a lifetime were suddenly faced with losing everything. Until the PPF stepped in. Or ask the British and Irish workers what happened when Waterford Crystal went bust. While Waterford’s UK employees are protected by the PPF, its Irish workers continue to this day their legal fight to get the pension they paid for and were promised. Every year 16 000 Scots pensions are paid and managed by the PPF.

The UK pensions system, which Scots helped build together with our partner nations, demonstrates why pooling our resources at the UK level is not just sensible, but a statement of our common values. It ensures uniformity of provision for Scots even as the cost of dignity in old age for Scots pensioners whether through illness, disability or poverty associated with illness and disability.

Our system is not perfect nor is the system in any nation; but we work hard together, generation by generation, to improve it. We built it together across these islands. A shared vision sustains the pension system -  a shared commitment to a dignified retirement based on sharing our resources in the long term so all can enjoy a dignified retirement. The UK system is built, it is sustainable and it has a broad spread population to support it; a system built through the generations and there for the generations to come. That’s something worth celebrating.

From Frontbench to Lab Bench at the University of Edinburgh

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Ian Murray MP, with Dr Stuart Gilfillan and Flowave TT teamIan Murray MP swapped legislation for a lab coat, when he visited Dr Stuart Gilfillan at the King’s Buildings campus, University of Edinburgh on the 24th January as part of a unique ‘pairing’ scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK national academy of science.

During his visit Ian viewed the internationally leading All-Waters Combined Current and Wave Test Facility with the team at Flowave TT. This 30m diameter and 5m deep circular tank is a unique facility which can be used to test any wave or tidal renewable energy generation system in any combination of current and wave environments.

Ian also toured the state of the art CO2 laboratory at the Grant Institute of the School of GeoSciences, were he spoke to Ms Rachel Kilgallon, a PhD candidate with Dr. Gilfillan, who is investigating how carbon dioxide injected underground can be tracked to ensure it is safely stored.

Finally, Ian was shown the detail of the planned Higgs Centre for Innovation by Prof. Arthur Trew, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy. The Higgs centre, which is due to open in 2016, will be constructed on the site of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.

Ian Murray MP said: “It was a privilege visiting the world leading University of Edinburgh King’s Buildings Campus in my constituency.  The work being done there is fascinating and I enjoyed Stuart’s guide through the different facilities; from developing leading wave technology to testing the safe storage of carbon dioxide.  I was also delighted to view the plans for the Higgs Centre for Innovation, which will keep Edinburgh at the forefront of international technology development for years to come.  I’m grateful to all who gave up their time and who organised the visit.”

Dr Stuart Gilfillan has already spent a week in the Houses of Parliament as part of the pairing scheme’s ‘Week in Westminster’.  This provided Stuart with a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into how science policy is formed as well as an understanding of the working life of an MP.

Stuart said: “I thoroughly enjoyed giving Ian a brief insight into the ground-breaking research and education which is being undertaken within his constituency at King’s Buildings. It was a pleasure to return the hospitality he showed whilst I was shadowing him at Westminster and we both learned a great deal from the pairing scheme. I’m extremely grateful to the Royal Society for providing this unique opportunity.”

The Royal Society’s MP-Scientist pairing scheme aims to build bridges between parliamentarians and some of the best scientists in the UK. It is an opportunity for MPs to become better informed about science issues and for scientists to understand how they can influence science policy. Over 200 pairs of scientists and MPs have taken part in the scheme since it was launched in 2001.

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society said:

“We set up the Royal Society’s MP Scientist pairing scheme in 2001 to provide the opportunity for MPs and scientists to build long-term relationships with each other and have now organised over two hundred pairings.

I know many parliamentarians and scientists who have gained from the scheme, and the shaping of public policy can only improve over time as these relationships continue to grow.”