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Boris Johnson refuses to grant Scotland powers to hold independence vote | Politics

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Boris Johnson has written to Nicola Sturgeon to formally reject her request for the transfer of powers necessary to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Scotland’s first minister immediately dismissed the prime minister’s position as “unsustainable and self-defeating”, insisting: “The Westminster union cannot be sustained without consent. Democracy will prevail. The only question is how long it will take the Tories and the rest of the Westminster establishment to accept that inevitability.”

The Scottish National party leader wrote to Johnson on 19 December to request the powers to legally stage another referendum under section 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act, at the same time calling for the Scottish parliament to be given permanent powers to hold subsequent referendums on independence from the UK in a 38-page document entitled “Scotland’s Right to Choose”.

Boris Johnson
(@BorisJohnson)

Today I have written to Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish people voted decisively to keep our United Kingdom together, a result which both the Scottish and UK Governments committed to respect.

Let’s make 2020 a year of growth and opportunity for the whole of the UK 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/JjQp3X2J2n


January 14, 2020

When Sturgeon confirmed she had made the request, a week after securing 47 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats with an increased vote share of 45% in December’s general election, she said she “fully expected to get a flat no” from Westminster initially.

The prime minister said on Tuesday he had “carefully considered and noted” Sturgeon’s arguments, but said that “another independence referendum would continue the political stagnation that Scotland has seen for the last decade, with Scottish schools, hospitals and jobs again left behind because of a campaign to separate the UK”.

Johnson stated categorically that he “cannot agree to any request for a transfer of power that would lead to any further independence referendums”, appearing to rule out another vote even if there is a pro-independence majority in next year’s Holyrood elections.

Johnson wrote that Sturgeon had previously promised that the 2014 referendum, in which Scottish voters rejected independence by 55% to 45%, would be a “once in a generation” vote, adding: “The UK government will continue to uphold the democratic decision of the Scottish people and the promise you made to them.”

Responding to Johnson’s letter, Sturgeon accused the Tories of being “terrified of Scotland having the right to choose our own future” and lacking any positive case for the union.

“While today’s response is not surprising – indeed we anticipated it – it will not stand. It is not politically sustainable for any Westminster government to stand in the way of the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future and to seek to block the clear democratic mandate for an independence referendum”.

Sturgeon said the Scottish government would set out its response and next steps later this month, when it will also ask the Holyrood parliament to again endorse the staging of a second independence referendum.

Despite Westminster’s chaotic handling of Brexit and Johnson’s unpopularity among Scottish voters, the anticipated long-term boost to support for independence has not materialised, with polls showing support averaging at around 48%.





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Trump Removes Protections for Waterways, Aiding Developers – NBC Chicago

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration lifted federal protections Thursday for some of the nation’s millions of miles of streams, arroyos and wetlands, completing one of its most far-reaching environmental rollbacks.

The changes will scale back which waterways qualify for protection against pollution and development under the half-century-old Clean Water Act. President Donald Trump has made a priority of the rollback of clean-water protections from his first weeks in office. Trump says he is targeting federal rules and regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on businesses.

Chiefs of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed the new rule before appearing at a builders’ convention in Las Vegas.

“EPA and the Army are providing much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

The changes had been sought by industry, developers and farmers, but opposed by environmental advocates and public health officials. They say the changes would make it harder to maintain a clean water supply for the American public and would threaten habitat and wildlife.

The administration says the changes would allow farmers to plow their fields without fear of unintentionally straying over the banks of a federally protected dry creek, bog or ditch. But the government’s own figures show it is real estate developers and those in other nonfarm business sectors that take out the most permits for impinging on wetlands and waterways, and stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief.

Wheeler specified the changes lift federal protections for so-called ephemeral waters — creeks and rivers which run only after rainfalls or snow melt. Such streams provide a majority of the water for some dry Western states, including New Mexico.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register in the next few days and become effective 60 days after that.

The rollback is one of the most ambitious of the Trump administration”s wide-ranging cuts in federal protections on the environment and public health. While many rollback efforts have targeted regulations adopted under the Obama administration, the draft clean-water plan released earlier would lift federal protections for many waterways and wetlands that have stood for decades under the Clean Water Act.

That includes protections for creek and river beds that run only in wet seasons or after rain or snow melt. “That’’s a huge rollback from way before Obama, before Reagan,” said Blan Holman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

State officials in New Mexico have particular concerns given that the Rio Grande, which provides drinking water and irrigation supplies for millions of people in the Southwest and Mexico, depends largely on the types of intermittent streams, creeks and wetlands that could lose protection under the rule draft released earlier. The Rio Grande is one of North America’s longest rivers.

Jen Pelz, the rivers program director with the New Mexico-based environmental group WildEarth Guardians, said the Rio Grande would be hard hit.

“It defies common sense to leave unprotected the arteries of life to the desert Southwest,” Pelz said.

Trump has portrayed farmers — a highly valued constituency of the Republican Party and one popular with the public — as the main beneficiaries of the rollback. He claimed farmers gathered around him wept with gratitude when he signed an order for the rollback in February 2017.

The federal protections keeping polluters and developers out of waterways and wetlands were “one of the most ridiculous” of all regulations, he told a farmer convention in 2019.

“It was a total kill on you and other businesses,” Trump said at that time.

Environmental groups, public health organizations and others say it’s impossible to keep downstream lakes, rivers and water supplies clean unless upstream waters are also regulated federally. The targeted regulations also protect wildlife and their habitats.

___

Associated Press writer Susan Montoya in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.





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China extended its Wuhan coronavirus quarantine to 2 more cities, cutting off 19 million people in an unprecedented effort to stop the outbreak : worldnews

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level 2

I’d be rather pissed if Toronto or Calgary had a massive outbreak of a confirmed deadly virus and my government didn’t act in this way.



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Schulz says he’s ‘confident’ that a US-EU trade deal will happen

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The German finance minister said he isn’t pessimistic over threats of tariffs on the car industry as he believes an agreement on free trade and digital taxes is possible.

Soon after calling for a fresh trade deal with the European Union, President Donald Trump raised the specter of car tariffs should European nations implement a digital tax on big U.S. tech firms.

Trump’s comments align with a similar warning from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said on CNBC panel in Davos this week that tariffs could come if EU members don’t back off from their digital tax plans.

“If people want to arbitrarily put taxes on our digital companies, we will consider putting taxes arbitrarily on car companies,” Mnuchin said Wednesday.

But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Thursday, Germany’s Olaf Scholz told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore that he believes a free trade agreement with the United States will happen and he wasn’t gloomy about the threat of tariffs.

“No, not really. I think we know that there is a need for debating about trade,” said Scholz, adding that people “could be confident” that EU proposals currently on the table would lead to a deal.

“In the end, we know that trade is most successful if there are not too many barriers,” he added.

Schulz said the digital tax, which would impact companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook, should be agreed globally and he expected an international proposal to come from the OECD in early 2020.

Countries have argued that current rules do not fairly match where digital profits are taxed, to the region where the income is derived. The OECD is currently working on a plan to introduce a multilateral solution which would come into play, replacing any individual taxes by different nations.

German surplus

Germany ran its biggest ever surplus in 2019, according to the country’s finance ministry, hitting 13.5 billion euros ($15 billion) of income over expenditure, thanks to increased taxes and low interest rates.

The German economy grew at a paltry 0.6% in 2019, according to Destatis, the country’s federal statistics office, prompting criticism of the Bundestag for refusing to stimulate demand in its own country. Instead, Europe’s largest economy relies on other nations to import high-value goods from Germany’s powerhouse manufacturing sector.

Domestic pressure has been growing on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to start spending the cash on creaking infrastructure and end its commitment to its “black zero” policy of maintaining a balanced budget. In 15 years of leading the government, Merkel has never reduced taxes.

Scholz, who has said the surplus is down to “good economic management,” said Thursday that the government has been part of a global effort to trigger growth.

“My view is that with the expansionary financial policy we had in the last few years, we did our job,” said Scholz, who claimed that public investment in Germany was also at a record high.

The EU and International Monetary Fund have also called on Germany to spend more money to help stimulate Europe as a whole.

Scholz argued his government had taken the decision to support German industry in spending “many, many billions” in reforming both the energy and auto sectors.



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