Here are the five things you need to know on Monday 24 February 2014...
1) THE £200BN PRICE TAG ON SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
Both the UK and Scottish governments will be holding cabinet meetings in the Aberdeen area today, to coincide with the publication of an official review into the North Sea oil and gas industry. The Guardian reports:
"David Cameron will use his first ever cabinet meeting in Scotland to promise a revolution in North Sea oil and gas extraction worth up to £200bn over two decades – but that this will only be affordable if the union stays together... His visit to Scotland comes as two new polls found a growing number likely to vote no to independence, with 37% for and 47-49% against. Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, will hold a cabinet meeting just six miles from Cameron's event on Monday, having criticised the prime minister for refusing to meet and debate the issue of independence with him. He has put the oil industry at the heart of his campaign, telling Scots that remaining reserves are worth £300,000 per person. However, Cameron will try to undermine that claim by arguing that the 'broad shoulders' of the UK government are needed to support North Sea oil and gas in the future."
2) WAITING FOR VLAD
Will Russia intervene in crisis-hit Ukraine? From the Telegraph:
"Britain has offered to help fund an international financial rescue package for Ukraine amid mounting fears that Russia may intervene following last week's revolution. George Osborne, the Chancellor, said that Britain and other countries will be ready 'with a chequebook' to help rebuild the country following violence that has seen 88 killed and hundreds more injured. Amid growing fears that Russia could send troops into the country and mystery over the whereabouts of Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president, Mr Osborne joined American and European leaders in pledging financial support to Ukraine. As Russia announced that it was recalling its ambassador to Kiev, senior American diplomats last night warned Vladimir Putin that it would be a 'grave mistake' to use force. However, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said that Ukraine's opposition had failed to abide by a peace deal signed on Friday and had 'in effect seized power in Kiev'. European Union officials will today travel to Kiev in an attempt to help broker a financial package to assist the country as Ukrainian politicians struggle to form a government in the next 24 hours."
3) MOVING THE GOALPOSTS ON CHILD POVERTY
From the Times:
"Iain Duncan Smith will press ahead with a new definition of child poverty within weeks after winning the support of David Cameron, say allies, in a riposte to criticism of welfare reforms led by Church leaders. Currently, a child is deemed to be living in poverty if he or she is part of a family that has less than 60 per cent of median household income. Mr Duncan Smith wants the ability to target help for families using what he believes is a more sophisticated set of yardsticks... It is reported to include measures to reduce energy, water and food bills, an expansion of free school transport and action to boost credit unions. Campaigners say that confusion over how child poverty is defined is undermining the Government's efforts to eradicate it by 2020."
The new government strategy will be launched by IDS and Lib Dem minister David Laws and will focus on worklessness - despite the fact that there are more children living in working, than in workless, households.
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a pug squaring off against a cat - who'll win?
4) END THE DEPENDENCY CULTURE
Not the benefit dependency culture; the banking dependency culture. That's the message from Bank of England governor Mark Carney - from the Times:
"The Governor of the Bank of England warned last night that banks have to stop refusing to follow new international rules on capital and liquidity. As the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Sydney came to an end, Mark Carney rejected claims that some potential new rules were so stringent that they could trigger a surge in shadow banking and risk the beginnings of a new crisis."
According to the paper, the governor told The Sydney Morning Herald: "Banks went into the financial crisis carrying de minimis levels of capital — for example, less than 2 percentage points relative to their risk-weighted assets, let alone their actual assets. They carried basically no liquidity protection and they were reliant on the State to insure... We can't have a system where some of those institutions that are pushing back on this are still reliant ultimately on the State and are getting a massive subsidy from the taxpayer.''
5) CHANGE THE NAME
From the Daily Mail:
"George Osborne is backing a bid to change the name of National Insurance to ‘earnings tax’. Tory MP Ben Gummer will introduce a Bill tomorrow TUE to rename the century-old levy on the grounds that it has become misleading. National Insurance was introduced by Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George in 1913 to pay for state pensions and other benefits... The Chancellor is understood to be ‘attracted to the idea’ of renaming National Insurance, having previously called for a review of whether it should simply be amalgamated with Income Tax. But Mr Osborne has not yet made that move fearing voters would be alarmed to see their headline tax rates rise."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 8
That would give Labour a majority of 86.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "We’re not the bad boys of Europe – just ask our ski instructors."
Gary Younge, writing in the Guardian, says: "What the hell is Barack Obama's presidency for?"
Chris Deerin, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "Scotland is a nation going easy on itself and, the truth is, we all know it."
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