{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"uk","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/uk-retail-sales-fall-at-fastest-rate-in-nearly-five-years-1-4344877","id":"1.4344877","articleHeadline": "UK retail sales fall at fastest rate in nearly five years","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484949600000 ,"articleLead": "

UK retail sales fell at the fastest rate in nearly five years last month, as shoppers spent less on clothing, footwear and household goods in the run-up to Christmas.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344876.1484946395!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "High street sales slumped as online business hit new highs. Picture: Neil Hanna"} ,"articleBody": "

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that month-on-month retail sales fell 1.9 per cent in December, compared to a 0.1 per cent fall in November. Economists had been forecasting a drop of just 0.1 per cent.

That is the biggest monthly decline since April 2012, when sales also dropped by 1.9 per cent.

On an annual basis, the overall rate of retail sales growth was 4.3 per cent, but that still marked a slowdown from 5.7 per cent in November.

The news caused the pound to tumble in value against both the dollar and the euro.

The statistics agency said the largest contribution to the monthly decline came from non-food stores.

Alan Clarke at Scotiabank described the figures as “terrible”.

He said: “UK retail sales volumes were terrible in December – much worse than expected.

“We know from the CPI data earlier in the week that prices rose more than expected in December and now we also know that sales volumes fell.

“This is likely to be the theme for the rest of the year – higher prices will reduce disposable income and hurt consumer spending growth.”

The news came as average store prices rose for the first time since June 2014, increasing 0.9 per cent year-on-year and 0.1 per cent when excluding fuel.

Earlier this week, the ONS said the annual rate of inflation jumped to a two-and-a-half-year high of 1.6 per cent in December, squeezing families with higher price tags for food, petrol and air fares.

But the agency noted that the three-month trend was still showing underlying sales growth of 1.2 per cent compared to the preceding quarter.

ONS senior statistician Kate Davies said: “Retailers saw a strong end to 2016 with sales in the final quarter up 5.6 per cent on the same period last year, although the amount bought fell between November and December once the effects of Christmas are removed. There were some notably strong figures from smaller retailers, in particular butchers, who reported a significant boost in sales in the run-up to Christmas.”

Online retail sales also grew by a whopping 21.3 per cent compared with the same month in 2015, but dropped 5.3 per cent on a monthly basis.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "KALYEENA MAKORTOFF"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4344876.1484946395!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344876.1484946395!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "High street sales slumped as online business hit new highs. Picture: Neil Hanna","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "High street sales slumped as online business hit new highs. Picture: Neil Hanna","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4344876.1484946395!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/personal-data-for-sale-on-huge-scale-warns-consumer-group-1-4344881","id":"1.4344881","articleHeadline": "Personal data for sale on ‘huge scale’, warns consumer group","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484946776000 ,"articleLead": "

Potential scammers and nuisance callers could be able to buy sensitive personal and financial data for as little as 4p per record, according to a leading consumer group.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344880.1484946718!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Which? warn that personal data is being sold for as little as 4p per record."} ,"articleBody": "

An undercover investigation of more than a dozen companies which sell data found “numerous” examples of irresponsible behaviour, Which? Money found.

A team from the publication were able to discuss buying personal information for more than half a million people aged 50 and over, including salary, pensions, homes and jobs.

One company issued an invoice for nearly 500,000 pieces of personal information on households with an income of £40,000 and over, including phone numbers and addresses, at just four pence each.

Another firm issued an invoice for 2,200 names and numbers of people with a household income of £35,000 and over at 66 pence per item.

No personal data was exchanged during the investigation except for one company that sent a sample telephone list on which 13 out of 18 people were registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the opt-out register to avoid receiving unsolicited marketing calls.

Which? said basic research by the firms involved would have revealed that the watchdog’s fake business was not listed at Companies House, FCA regulated or registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Four firms demonstrated what Which? believed to be best practice by refusing to deal with the fake pensions company from the outset. The other 10 firms still failed to carry out due diligence up to the point where orders were being placed. Which? stopped short of buying any data.

Harry Rose, editor of Which? Money editor, said: “Our investigation highlights that sensitive personal and financial data is being traded on a huge scale, with some companies apparently willing to sell to anyone who comes calling.”

An ICO spokeswoman described the findings as “very concerning” and raised “serious issues” about compliance with data protection law.

She said: “People have the right to know what happens with their personal data and be given a choice about how their details are used.

“We will be investigating these findings as they may provide a new line of inquiry to our ongoing work looking at the buying and selling of personal data. Where we have found companies have not followed the law, we will consider enforcement action.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "MARTYN McLAUGHLIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4344880.1484946718!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344880.1484946718!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Which? warn that personal data is being sold for as little as 4p per record.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Which? warn that personal data is being sold for as little as 4p per record.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4344880.1484946718!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/call-to-devolve-immigration-powers-rejected-by-uk-government-1-4344656","id":"1.4344656","articleHeadline": "Call to devolve immigration powers rejected by UK government","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484928632000 ,"articleLead": "

THE UK Government has rejected a call to consider devolving immigration powers to Scotland and changing visa arrangements to encourage students from other countries to stay on north of the border after graduating.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344655.1484928574!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell questioned why the Scottish Government hadn't used their current powers to attract more migrants. Picture: Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

A Scottish Affairs Committee (SAC) report recommended UK ministers consider “sub-national migration powers” for Scotland and a tailored post-study work scheme.

The UK Government response, published on Friday, stated it “does not intend to reintroduce a general post-study work scheme for Scotland” and stressed the immigration system is “designed for the whole of the UK” but takes Scotland’s needs into account.

The scrapping of a UK-wide visa scheme which allowed overseas graduates to work for two years in the UK after completing their studies was the source of strong disagreement between the two administrations.

The committee’s inquiry into Scotland’s demographic trends found its population is growing more slowly than rest of the UK due to a lower fertility rate, lower levels of inward migration and continuing emigration.

Demographic challenges facing Scotland include an ageing population and lower life expectancy than the rest of the UK, and both Holyrood and Westminster have powers that can help tackle the problem.

Westminster retains control over immigration policy, employment, pensions and the overall funding allocation to Scotland from the block grant while health, housing, social care and some tax powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

In his response to the report, Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said: “There is a question for the Scottish Government about why, with these significant powers at their disposal and with the high levels of migration we have at the moment in the UK, Scotland is not attracting more migrants to Scotland over other parts of the UK if they deem the current levels of migration in Scotland to be too low.”

SAC chairman Pete Wishart said: “We are disappointed that the UK Government continues to refuse to explore innovative solutions to the demographic issues Scotland is facing.

“Last week, the All Party Group on Social Integration became the latest in a long list of people who have examined the evidence and realised the benefits of greater flexibility in immigration policy for Scotland.

“The Scottish Government, as well as education, industry and healthcare bodies, are all calling for this and the UK Government must take note and allow for an immigration policy that tackles the specific population issues we face in this country.

“Throughout the inquiry many witnesses expressed support for sub-national migration powers for Scotland and for current visa arrangements to be reviewed.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4344655.1484928574!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344655.1484928574!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell questioned why the Scottish Government hadn't used their current powers to attract more migrants. Picture: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell questioned why the Scottish Government hadn't used their current powers to attract more migrants. Picture: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4344655.1484928574!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/labour-candidate-pledges-to-call-time-on-barnett-formula-1-4344600","id":"1.4344600","articleHeadline": "Labour candidate pledges to ‘call time’ on Barnett Formula","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484926098000 ,"articleLead": "

A LABOUR mayoral candidate has vowed to “call time” on the the Barnett Formula in opposition to party policy on the day leader Jeremy Corbyn travelled to Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344599.1484926042!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Scottish Conservatives called on Mr Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to rule out any change to Labours policy to retain the Barnett Formula. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

West Midlands mayoral candidate Sion Simon said on social media he wanted to “call time” on the formula which is used to distribute central funds between the nations of the UK.

He made the announcement ahead of his campaign launch in Wolverhampton on Friday while Mr Corbyn was in Glasgow outlining plans to back a constitutional convention for Scotland.

The Scottish Conservatives called on Mr Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to rule out any change to Labour’s policy to retain the Barnett Formula.

READ MORE: Scottish Independence would bring ‘turbo-charged’ austerity, says Corbyn

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Scotland has, predictably, blown up on the launchpad.

“As he was setting out another muddled plan for Scotland, his mayoral candidate in the West Midlands was demanding that money be taken out of Scotland against his party’s own policy.

“Mr Corbyn now must make it 100 per cent clear that Labour will stick by its promises to voters here about Scotland’s funding.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “This is a boomerang attack from the Tories, who have a history calling for Barnett to be scrapped.

“Around 100 Tory MPs tried to scrap the Barnett formula as recently as 2014.

“Labour is committed to the Barnett formula because it ensures the redistribution of wealth across the UK.

“The Tories would be better focused on their Brexit shambles that has threatened the future of the Union.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4344599.1484926042!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344599.1484926042!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Scottish Conservatives called on Mr Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to rule out any change to Labours policy to retain the Barnett Formula. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Scottish Conservatives called on Mr Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to rule out any change to Labours policy to retain the Barnett Formula. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4344599.1484926042!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/financial/hsbc-to-pay-4m-over-unreasonable-debt-collection-1-4344332","id":"1.4344332","articleHeadline": "HSBC to pay £4m over ‘unreasonable’ debt collection","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484914130000 ,"articleLead": "

HSBC has agreed to stump up £4 million to pay back customers subjected to “unreasonable” debt collection practices following a regulatory probe.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344331.1484914198!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "HSBC said it would be contacting customers who are due a refund. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said that the bank has voluntarily agreed to set up a redress scheme for customers who were left out of pocket after paying debt collection charges imposed by HFC Bank and John Lewis Financial Services (JLFS), both part of HSBC.

The regulator said that, between 2003 and 2009, customers of HFC and JLFS who fell into arrears were referred to the firms’ nominated solicitors. However, on referral, the solicitors added 16.4 per cent of the balance to the account as a “debt collection charge”.

This was deemed unreasonable by the Office of Fair Trading in 2010 as it did not reflect the actual costs of collecting the debt.

About 6,700 customers, the majority belonging to HFC, paid the additional charge prior to 2010 and are potentially entitled to redress.

The FCA also identified certain customers where HFC had miscalculated the interest payable on their loan. HSBC has identified about 350 customer accounts that were affected by this error and has committed to repay the overcharged interest back to them.

In total, HSBC will fork out £4m in redress and, for each group of customers, the lender will also pay 8 per cent interest per year.

The FCA added that the banking giant will proactively contact all affected customers with offers of redress.

A spokesman for HSBC said: “This is a historical issue, dating back to the period between 2003 and 2009.

“We have revisited the debt collection charge and as a result a small number of HFC and JLFS customers may be due a refund. We will be directly contacting these customers shortly.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "RAVENDER SEMBHY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4344331.1484914198!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344331.1484914198!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "HSBC said it would be contacting customers who are due a refund. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "HSBC said it would be contacting customers who are due a refund. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4344331.1484914198!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/financial/martin-flanagan-others-set-to-follow-hsbc-in-eu-migration-1-4344009","id":"1.4344009","articleHeadline": "Martin Flanagan: Others set to follow HSBC in EU migration","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484896447000 ,"articleLead": "

The problem with second-guessing bankers is that conscious inscrutability is in the DNA.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344008.1484896557!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Martin Flanagan believes other banks will follow HSBC in shipping significant numbers of workers to the EU following Theresa May's 'hard Brexit'. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Even if they are worried about something, they cannot fully let on in case it translates as uncertainty, and uncertainty and people’s money are not natural bedmates.

But my guess is that HSBC boss Stuart Gulliver will not be the only one breaking cover soon with plans to ship a relatively significant number of workers to the EU following Theresa May’s clear outline of her Brexit plans for Britain: no membership of the single market, no jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and no freedom of movement.

READ MORE: Brexit: Warning of 232,000 finance sector job losses

The PM does not seek for Britain to become a member of the so-called European Economic Area (like Norway) because it comes with the prerequisite of freedom of movement. She does not want us to be a member of the European customs union (like Turkey) because although it would give us control of our borders we would not have the freedom to conclude trade deals of our own with other parts of the world in an unlikely new imperial Britannica.

That would suggest May would like to have some sort of associate membership of the customs union – the a la carte menu as the Europeans dismiss it or having our gateau and eating it if you prefer Boris Johnson’s language.

Bankers could be forgiven for thinking it is looking like a nebulous dog’s breakfast, and decide to make their plans like HSBC accordingly. It took the EU more than seven years to conclude a trade deal with Canada, and there was goodwill on both sides. And Britain is going to conclude one in two years from when Article 50 is launched this March, plus another two years, say, of transitional arrangements to smooth the way? Looks a long-shot.

READ MORE: HSBC opts to retain head office in UK

Banks might just decide too long a shot, and shift jobs to ensure at least a goodly proportion of their business survives in the EU whatever the upshot of talks.

It will be particularly interesting to see what the big US banks in the City of London do. I don’t believe they can take the chance on a stunningly good trade deal for the UK with the EU. It might happen. But bankers are conservative creatures and operate as a herd (sub-prime lending, Libor-rigging etc). They might feel Gulliver at HSBC has it right.

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" ,"byline": {"email": "mflanagan@scotsman.com" ,"author": "MARTIN FLANAGAN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4344008.1484896557!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344008.1484896557!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Martin Flanagan believes other banks will follow HSBC in shipping significant numbers of workers to the EU following Theresa May's 'hard Brexit'. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Martin Flanagan believes other banks will follow HSBC in shipping significant numbers of workers to the EU following Theresa May's 'hard Brexit'. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4344008.1484896557!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/financial/aviva-merges-uk-insurance-operations-in-new-shake-up-1-4344005","id":"1.4344005","articleHeadline": "Aviva merges UK insurance operations in new shake-up","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484895611000 ,"articleLead": "

Life and pensions heavyweight Aviva is bringing together its UK life and general insurance businesses in a shake-up that also sees the departure of its European boss.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344004.1484895769!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Aviva chief Mark Wilson insisted the group was 'growing in the UK'. Picture: Contributed"} ,"articleBody": "

The group revealed that Andy Briggs will be promoted from head of its UK life operations to chief executive of the merged insurance division, covering life, general and health insurance. Briggs was formerly chief executive of Friends Life, which Aviva acquired in 2015.

The restructure will also see Maurice Tulloch – currently executive chairman of global general insurance – become chief executive of international insurance, heading up the group’s insurance operations in France, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey and India.

As a result of the changes, European boss David McMillan, who is also chairman of the global health insurance division, has chosen to leave the group.

READ MORE: Aviva hikes dividend as first-half profits rise

Aviva Investors, Aviva Asia and the firm’s digital businesses will remain unchanged under the overhaul, which comes as Aviva is making a digital push to offer a range of life and general insurance products online. It has also been pulling out of some overseas markets in recent years.

A spokesman for the company said there is “no news on jobs today” following the decision to merge its three insurance arms in the UK.

Aviva’s general insurance division has major call centres in Perth, Norwich and York, while the life business has key sites in Bristol, Norwich, Sheffield and York. The health insurance arm has call centres in Eastleigh and Sheffield.

Group chief executive Mark Wilson insisted the firm was “growing in the UK”.

He said: “Aviva is entering a new phase in its transformation. We have fixed the balance sheet, focused the business, and turned the operating performance around. The business is developing rapidly.

“We see significant opportunities to differentiate our business in the UK post-Brexit. We like the UK, we are investing in the UK, and we are growing in the UK.

“Our priorities are to continue to deepen our position in our home UK market with our 16 million customers, and to continue to grow in our core international markets to diversify and strengthen Aviva.”

Briggs’ previous roles have included acting as chief executive of Scottish Widows, heading Lloyds Banking Group’s life arm and leading Prudential’s retirement income unit.

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" ,"byline": {"email": "sreid@scotsman.com" ,"author": "SCOTT REID"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4344004.1484895769!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4344004.1484895769!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Aviva chief Mark Wilson insisted the group was 'growing in the UK'. Picture: Contributed","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Aviva chief Mark Wilson insisted the group was 'growing in the UK'. Picture: Contributed","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4344004.1484895769!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/royal-mail-letters-arm-feels-impact-of-brexit-concerns-1-4342630","id":"1.4342630","articleHeadline": "Royal Mail letters arm feels impact of Brexit concerns","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484895105000 ,"articleLead": "

Business worries over Brexit sharply dented letter mailing in the nine months to Christmas as companies pulled a lot of their marketing post, Royal Mail revealed yesterday.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342629.1484814236!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A drop in letter volumes offset a stronger performance from Royal Mail's parcels business. Picture: Julie Bull"} ,"articleBody": "

The privatised former state-owned monopoly said the number of addressed letters, excluding political parties’ election mailings, tumbled 6 per cent, while total letter revenues slid 5 per cent.

Royal Mail said: “We are seeing the impact of overall business uncertainty in the UK on letter volumes, in particular advertising and business letters.”

The group first signalled an impact on its letters arm amid Brexit fears in its half-year results in November, when revenues from advertising mail slumped 8 per cent. It said yesterday the trend for marketing mail revenues had remained broadly similar in the third quarter.

READ MORE: Royal Mail earnings down as Brexit vote hits marketing mail

On the fall in total letter revenue, Royal Mail said: “We have seen the impact of low inflation on pricing and we continue to be affected by ongoing trends in downtrading.”

The poor outturn for the letters business was offset by a better performance from its parcels business, where revenues rose 3 per cent and the number of parcels delivered was up 2 per cent. Combined parcels and letters revenues fell 2 per cent.

However, Royal Mail said its European parcels business, General Logistics Systems (GLS), saw a strong festive quarter and that the division’s revenues climbed 9 per cent over the nine-month period. It helped overall group-wide revenues to hold firm on a year earlier.

Moya Greene, chief executive of Royal Mail, said: “Our postmen and women delivered a great service at Christmas, even better than last year, with 138 million parcels handled in December alone.

“Our comprehensive planning, which started much earlier this year, enabled us to deliver this service for our customers right across the UK.”

While letter mailings have been in decline for some time, Royal Mail said the third quarter was hit particularly hard as it also came up against an “unusually strong” Christmas a year earlier.

Its Parcelforce Worldwide business saw parcel numbers dip 1 per cent. Royal Mail said there was no decision yet over controversial changes to its pension scheme announced earlier this month, which sparked union threats of potential strike action.

The group said it had launched a consultation with 90,000 staff over plans to switch workers in its final salary pension scheme to a less lucrative defined contribution plan.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Letters are in terminal decline and the parcels industry is looking increasingly crowded. Combined with uncertainty around the health of the wider UK economy, which has resulted in steadily falling business mailings, this makes for a pretty unpleasant background in which to be doing business.”

Royal Mail’s shares ended the day 26.9p lower at 422.5p.

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" ,"byline": {"email": "mflanagan@scotsman.com" ,"author": "MARTIN FLANAGAN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342629.1484814236!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342629.1484814236!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A drop in letter volumes offset a stronger performance from Royal Mail's parcels business. Picture: Julie Bull","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A drop in letter volumes offset a stronger performance from Royal Mail's parcels business. Picture: Julie Bull","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342629.1484814236!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-deadlock-looms-as-nations-warn-article-50-talks-could-fail-1-4343791","id":"1.4343791","articleHeadline": "Brexit deadlock looms as nations warn Article 50 talks could fail","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484848281000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s Brexit minister has warned of the growing likelihood that the UK’s devolved administrations will refuse to support Brexit being triggered following “difficult” talks in London.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4343790.1484848225!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Michael Russell has warned Brexit talks between the UK Government and devolved administrations are increasingly likely to fail"} ,"articleBody": "

Michael Russell said “the clock is ticking” towards a constitutional deadlock unless the UK Government makes concessions over its plan for Brexit talks.

Scottish Government proposals to allow Scotland to stay in the European single market will be given detailed consideration by Whitehall officials, in a bid to keep talks alive.

But Mr Russell accused Theresa May of showing “contempt” for pro-EU voters in Scotland by rejected any plan that creates “internal barriers” to trade within the UK.

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Scottish Government’s proposals were an “important contribution” but said ministers had yet to show they were practical or deliverable.

During First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said she was “determined to save Scotland from Brexit” by keeping it within the single market.

“It’s not just the case that the Tories are running towards Brexit, they want to drag Scotland kicking and screaming over that Brexit cliff-edge and I’m determined they are not going to get away with this,” she said.

Mrs Sturgeon said Scottish businesses were at risk of being “ripped out of the world’s biggest single market” because of the UK Government’s “obsession with immigration”.

Emerging from yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) in London, Welsh Government ministers joined Mr Russell in accusing the UK Government of treating the intergovernmental forum on Brexit as a talking shop.

And there were claims that Sinn Fein, which is preparing to fight an election in Northern Ireland following the collapse of the power-sharing executive, could pull out of the process entirely.

Mr Russell said there was “Great frustration building up” about the lack of involvement in developing a common position on Brexit strategy ahead of the start of talks, which will be triggered by the invoking of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March.

“There are difficult discussions, and they weren’t any easier today,” he said.

“The very strong concern remains, and it’s been heightened by today, that the process of getting this committee to agree a position is not going in the direction it should go.”

Mr Russell added: “Of course there’s a chance that it doesn’t agree a position. The clock is ticking.

“We would then be in a very serious situation indeed, where the promises from the prime minister would turn out to be worthless.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell insisted talks were ongoing and that the Scottish Government’s plan would be examined.

He said: “If there is evidence that, for some reason, there should be a differentiated Scottish arrangement, then of course that will be properly looked at and considered.

“But at the moment I don’t have any evidence to suggest that Scotland would benefit from a differentiated arrangement from the rest of the UK.

“If we can get that access to the single market, without barriers and without tariffs, then that’s exactly what Scotland’s businesses are looking for.”

Asked what would happen if the parties failed to reach an agreement, Mr Russell said: “I’m going to come to the next meeting, I’m going to continue to discuss this, but I am even less hopeful than I was last time.

“We are not going to be put in a position where we walk away from this until we are absolutely sure, absolutely sure that nothing can be done.

“We’re patient, I just wish the UK government could show the goodwill and spirit of compromise that we’re showing.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4343790.1484848225!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4343790.1484848225!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Michael Russell has warned Brexit talks between the UK Government and devolved administrations are increasingly likely to fail","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Michael Russell has warned Brexit talks between the UK Government and devolved administrations are increasingly likely to fail","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4343790.1484848225!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/tech/freeagent-inks-accounting-software-tie-up-with-rbs-1-4343108","id":"1.4343108","articleHeadline": "FreeAgent inks accounting software tie-up with RBS","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484822833000 ,"articleLead": "

FreeAgent, the Edinburgh-based accounting software specialist, has fought off competition from more than 30 rivals to land a deal with Royal Bank of Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4343107.1484822894!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "FreeAgent, led by chief executive Ed Molyneux, is to offer its services to small business customers of RBS and NatWest. Picture: Contributed"} ,"articleBody": "

Under the tie-up, small business customers of RBS and its NatWest arm will be offered free access to FreeAgent’s service, which has been piloted by the state-backed lender since October.

FreeAgent, which employs more than 100 people, develops accounting software aimed at the UK’s five million “micro-businesses”.

It said the deal with the banking group would cater for all of its small business customers’ finance requirements, “from timeslips to tax returns and quality after-sales support”.

The company floated on London’s Alternative Investment Market in November, in a move that valued the firm at more than £34 million.

READ MORE: FreeAgent’s maiden results show surge in revenues

Marcelino Castrillo, managing director of business and private banking at RBS, said: “The way customers want to bank with us is constantly changing, so it is important for us to innovate.

“From over 30 vendor proposals we chose FreeAgent because of their willingness to collaborate with us and shape a proposition that really works for our customers, as well as the capability of their platform.”

He added: “The feedback on FreeAgent’s platform speaks for itself, and when we piloted FreeAgent with our customers the majority said they would recommend us if we were to offer the service in future. This sort of endorsement is hard to come by so I’m very excited to see where this partnership can take us.”

The service will be offered free to RBS’ business account customers who agree to share data, with licences paid to FreeAgent directly by the bank.

FreeAgent chief executive and co-founder Ed Molyneux said: “Given that our relationship with RBS only started in October, we do not expect a material revenue contribution from licences sold under the agreement for the year ending 31 March 2017 and we expect an accurate picture of the level of take-up by RBS clients to emerge only once we have several months of operational data at our disposal.

“However, we are naturally excited about the potential for this new agreement, particularly once our services are made available to RBS’ back-book in the second half of 2017.”

Click here to ‘Like’ The Scotsman Business on Facebook

" ,"byline": {"email": "gareth.mackie@scotsman.com" ,"author": "GARETH MACKIE"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4343107.1484822894!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4343107.1484822894!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "FreeAgent, led by chief executive Ed Molyneux, is to offer its services to small business customers of RBS and NatWest. Picture: Contributed","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "FreeAgent, led by chief executive Ed Molyneux, is to offer its services to small business customers of RBS and NatWest. Picture: Contributed","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4343107.1484822894!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/world/uk-tourists-scramble-to-leave-gambia-as-troops-gather-1-4342749","id":"1.4342749","articleHeadline": "UK tourists scramble to leave Gambia as troops gather","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484821667000 ,"articleLead": "

British holidaymakers told of a “chaotic” scramble to get on flights out of Africa when they landed home from crisis-torn Gambia.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342748.1484821612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "People board the ferry leaving Banjul, Gambia, as special flights were being organised to evacuate British and other tourists. AP photo"} ,"articleBody": "

Around 1,000 sun seekers on Thomas Cook packages were ordered to pack their bags and head for the airport after the Foreign Office (FCO) issued an alert late on Tuesday.

Gambia faces the threat of military action by regional forces after its unseated president, Yahya Jammeh, refused to hand over power to his successor by midnight last night.

Holidaymakers described confusion before being greeted by a “nightmare” situation at the airport in the country’s capital, Banjul, when they arrived to board flights alongside desperate locals on Wednesday.

“People were crying and panicking. It was just chaos,” said Sara Wilkins, from Church Stretton, Shropshire, as she arrived back at Manchester Airport.

Thomas Cook deployed four extra flights alongside a scheduled service on Wednesday to return its 985 package holiday customers.

It is believed around 2,500 Britons were in Gambia when the FCO issued its warning.

Elicia Gardner, a teacher at Portland School, Stoke-on-Trent, had been on a week’s volunteering trip in a school with three pupils and another teacher.

“A lot of people out there are quite worried, and we are worried for our friends out there, the Gambian people who were taking care of us while we were out there,” she said.

Among the arrivals at Manchester airport was Gambian Ebrima Jagne, a textile engineer in Burnley, Lancashire.

Mr Jagne was comforted by fellow passengers as he wept out of concern for his wife, Haddytouray, and their three-month-old daughter, Ajiamina Jane, who he is trying to get out of the country.

He said everyone in the country felt “unsafe” and “on edge ... because you don’t know what’s going to come next”.

“I cannot get my daughter out,” he added. “I’m desperate. It’s not easy at all when I leave my wife there and daughter.”

Since the disputed election in December, the FCO advised Britons travelling to Gambia to follow events closely.

Mr Jammeh, who has been president for 22 years, has refused to cede power to rival Adama Barrow.

The FCO warned of a growing risk of unrest, including the shutting of the airport, as Wednesday’s scheduled power handover approached.

When Mr Jammeh declared a 90-day national state of emergency on Tuesday, British officials advised against all non-essential travel to the country.

They have since warned against all travel to Banjul.

However, some holidaymakers said they were unaware of the growing risk of unrest.

Mrs Wilkins said: “We weren’t getting any proper communication.

“Then I rang Thomas Cook again this morning [Wednesday] and they said, ‘Pack your bags, you’ve got to go’.

“We just panicked, just threw everything in a case and just got out of there basically.”

Pensioner Sue Thrower, from Doncaster, said she found out about the evacuation through a friend she met on holiday.

Mrs Thrower said: “If it hadn’t of been for that young woman of 28 with her smartphone talking to her mum back home, we wouldn’t have known we had to pack after breakfast this morning and be ready and we were ready.”

Ralph Newton, from Nottingham, said: “We didn’t get communication until this morning, 9am, you’ve got to leave, the reps are coming at 10am.

“No reps came, the coaches came and then it was just a bit of chaos, but they did their best at the airport.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "MARGARET NEIGHBOUR"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342748.1484821612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342748.1484821612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "People board the ferry leaving Banjul, Gambia, as special flights were being organised to evacuate British and other tourists. AP photo","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "People board the ferry leaving Banjul, Gambia, as special flights were being organised to evacuate British and other tourists. AP photo","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342748.1484821612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/hundreds-allege-attacks-in-football-child-abuse-probe-1-4342733","id":"1.4342733","articleHeadline": "Hundreds allege attacks in football child abuse probe","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484820249000 ,"articleLead": "

More than 500 victims and 184 potential subjects have been identified as part of a police inquiry into child abuse in football.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342731.1484820194!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image"} ,"articleBody": "

The National Police Chiefs Council said that the probe involved 248 football clubs, including organisations which compete in the Premier League.

According to the latest figures, the total number of potential victims stands at 526, of which 97 per cent have been identified as male. They are aged 20 down to four.

Leaders at the Scottish Football Association are preparing to launch an independent review into child abuse in football north of the border.

It is expected the review will start next month.

In December, Police Scotland revealed officers were looking into more than 100 reports of child sex abuse in football.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANGUS HOWARTH"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342731.1484820194!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342731.1484820194!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "editorial image","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342731.1484820194!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/retail/halfords-drives-into-mobile-tyre-fitting-market-1-4342726","id":"1.4342726","articleHeadline": "Halfords drives into mobile tyre-fitting market","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484820105000 ,"articleLead": "

Halfords has reported a robust set of results for the festive period, with the bicycles to car parts chain planning to motor on after acquiring a minority stake in a mobile tyre-fitting business.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342725.1484820051!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Halfords has bought a minority stake in a mobile tyre-fitting business. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The retailer reported a 5.9 per cent jump in like-for-like sales in the third quarter, which includes the critical Christmas trading period. Total sales rose 11.4 per cent in the 15 weeks to 13 January.

The firm also announced it has splashed out £8 million on a minority holding in TyresOnTheDrive.com as part of plans to trial a “mobile delivery proposition for its motoring services”.

Chief executive Jill McDonald said: “I am very pleased with the strong sales performance across our business in the important third quarter of the year.

“We continue to make good progress implementing our ‘Moving up a Gear’ strategy, which will enable us to capitalise on the long-term growth opportunities in our markets.”

READ MORE: Halfords profits motor ahead but cycle sales dented

Retail like-for-like sales rose 7 per cent, with motoring up 6.8 per cent and cycling revenue increasing 7.4 per cent in the period. The only blot was a 0.6 per cent dip at its autocentres arm.

Halfords said its board has approved a special dividend of 10p per share, totalling about £20m,

Last year the retailer said it had been stung by the collapse in the value of the pound, which contributed to profits slumping 16 per cent in the first half of the year.

Halfords said in November that sharp falls in sterling since the Brexit vote had sent the cost of imported goods surging by £6m in its first half.

However, the company said today: “We have developed detailed plans in response to the increase in costs from adverse foreign exchange movement and we are confident that we will be able to fully mitigate the impact over time.”

Halfords added that it is on track to meet current profit expectations. It is due to report its annual results on 25 May.

Click here to ‘Like’ The Scotsman Business on Facebook

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "RAVENDER SEMBHY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342725.1484820051!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342725.1484820051!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Halfords has bought a minority stake in a mobile tyre-fitting business. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Halfords has bought a minority stake in a mobile tyre-fitting business. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342725.1484820051!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-eu-warns-of-tough-road-ahead-as-johnson-sparks-beatings-row-1-4342588","id":"1.4342588","articleHeadline": "Brexit: EU warns of tough road ahead as Johnson sparks ‘beatings row’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484817916000 ,"articleLead": "

European leaders have warned Theresa May that the UK’s Brexit deal will leave it worse off after she set out plans to pull out of the single market and seek a trade deal with the EU.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342586.1484817858!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Angela Merkel insisted that Europe would present a united front in negotiations with the UK. Picture: AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The Prime Minister was told she faces an “arduous task” that appeared to be made more difficult after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of likening EU leaders to Nazi guards.

There was cautious welcome from EU leaders for a speech given by the Prime Minister on Tuesday in which she accepted that the UK could not remain a full member of the European single market while imposing limits on EU migration and withdrawing from the European Court of Justice.

But Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned that talks would be “very, very, very difficult”, and European Council president Donald Tusk said there would be “no place for pick and choose tactics in our future negotiations”.

The prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat,who holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said any deal “necessarily needs to be inferior” to the terms the UK currently enjoys, and warned of an “arduous task” ahead. “Thinking it can be otherwise would indicate a detachment from reality,” Mr Muscat added in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Mr Tusk welcomed the fact Mrs May “finally understood and accepted” the EU’s insistence that the four freedoms underpinning the single market were “indivisible”.

Mr Juncker pledged to seek a “balanced solution”, and told journalists in Strasbourg: “We want a fair deal with Britain and a fair deal for Britain, but a fair deal means a fair deal for the European Union.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU member states would present a united front, saying: “The be-all and end-all is that Europe does not let itself be divided”.

European leaders were told not to take a vindictive stance on Brexit by Mr Johnson, who sparked controversy on a trade mission to India after a spokesman for French president François Hollande echoed comments made in Strasbourg and Berlin.

“If Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anyone who chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War Two movie, then I don’t think that’s the way forward,” Mr Johnson said.

Guy Verhofstadt, the MEP and former Belgian prime minister appointed as the European Parliament’s lead Brexit spokesman, said the Foreign Secretary’s comments were “deeply unhelpful” and urged Mrs May to condemn them.

But the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman dismissed the row as “hyped-up”, insisting Mr Johnson had been doing no more than using “theatrical” language.

“He was in no way suggesting that anyone was a Nazi,” she added.

The Élysée Palace did not respond last night, but the MP from Mr Hollande’s ruling socialist party who represents French citizens living in the UK said Mr Johnson should apologise.

Christophe Premat, who said many French residents no longer felt welcome and were making plans to leave the UK, told The Scotsman: “I know it’s difficult for a politician to apologise, but he should at least correct his comments.

“Right now, we have a strong responsibility – when you have these feelings of fear, speeches have an effect.”

Meanwhile, talks between the UK and Scottish governments on Brexit resume in London this morning, with the SNP administration claiming a majority of people support its demand that Scotland should be allowed to stay in the European single market.

A YouGov poll of 2,066 adults commissioned by the Scottish Government found that 51 per cent believe its proposals to remain in the single market should form part of UK Brexit negotiations, compared to 29 per cent who said the issue shouldn’t be raised in Brussels.

Scottish Government Brexit secretary Michael Russell said the SNP administration had “strong backing” for its case to remain in the single market, despite the Prime Minister ruling out any separate Brexit deal for Scotland.

“Theresa May’s confirmation of the hardest of hard Brexits will only drive more and more people across Scotland to the conclusion that being driven off an economic cliff edge is an act of gigantic self-harm which Scotland must be protected from,” Mr Russell said.

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342586.1484817858!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342586.1484817858!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Angela Merkel insisted that Europe would present a united front in negotiations with the UK. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Angela Merkel insisted that Europe would present a united front in negotiations with the UK. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342586.1484817858!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342587.1484817861!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342587.1484817861!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A selection of German front pages feature images and stories on British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A selection of German front pages feature images and stories on British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342587.1484817861!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/retail/adverts-showing-twerking-men-top-list-of-complaints-1-4342603","id":"1.4342603","articleHeadline": "Adverts showing twerking men top list of complaints","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484817012000 ,"articleLead": "

Adverts featuring twerking businessmen in high heels and shorts and blind footballers kicking cats were among the most complained-about commercials of 2016.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342604.1484810069!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Moneysupermarket.com advert complained about by viewers"} ,"articleBody": "

MoneySuperMarket dominated the top ten – none of which were banned – with its three ads featuring Gary the dancing bodyguard and the twerking businessman Dave and his builder rival Colin.

The three ads received a combined 2,491 complaints from offended viewers who found Gary’s dance moves “distasteful” and argued that the ads featuring Dave and Colin could be seen to be homophobic and could encourage hate crimes.

Match.com’s ad showing a woman removing her female partner’s top and passionately kissing her received 896 complaints from viewers who believed it was sexually explicit and inappropriately scheduled.

Paddy Power’s ad featuring blindfolded men playing football was first shown in 2010, when it generated more than 1,000 complaints, and its re-run last year drew another 450 submissions to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA originally ruled that the ad had not broken the rules and the majority of viewers would see it as humorous and not humiliating or undermining to blind people, and so did not reinvestigate it last year.

Completing the list was Smart Energy’s ad featuring cartoon characters Gaz and Leccy, the Home Office’s ‘Disrespect Nobody’ ad about domestic violence, an ad for Maltesers featuring a woman in a wheelchair and a series of ads for Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which made references to giving up vegetarianism.

The ASA found that none of the ten ads “crossed the line” between bad taste and offence. ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “The ads that attract the highest number of complaints are often not the ones that need banning. Our action leads to thousands of ads being amended.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "JOSIE CLARKE"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342604.1484810069!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342604.1484810069!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Moneysupermarket.com advert complained about by viewers","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Moneysupermarket.com advert complained about by viewers","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342604.1484810069!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/clydesdale-bank-set-to-close-79-branches-and-axe-400-jobs-1-4342664","id":"1.4342664","articleHeadline": "Clydesdale Bank ‘set to close 79 branches and axe 400 jobs’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484816374000 ,"articleLead": "

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is to close 79 branches with the loss of more than 400 jobs, according to Unite.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342663.1484816319!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is to close branches and axe jobs, a union has warned"} ,"articleBody": "

The union said the decision to close a third of the bank’s branch network would be “deeply devastating” to the employees.

It is the largest-ever closure plan by the company and will radically change the face of the bank, according to Unite.

National officer Rob MacGregor said: “Staff across the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank will be devastated to learn that 79 branches will close and consequently over 400 colleagues will lose their jobs.

“Unite is clear that the closure of a third of the bank’s branches will not only be concerning for staff but the local communities which will see their bank branch close.

“This cost-cutting plan leaves customers with less choice for local banking.

“The union has called on the bank to give a commitment to mitigate compulsory redundancies where possible and that they will reconsider closing any bank branches that are the last bank in a town.

“Unite workplace representatives will be able to assist members over the coming day and weeks to support staff impacted by this announcement.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ALAN JONES"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342663.1484816319!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342663.1484816319!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is to close branches and axe jobs, a union has warned","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank is to close branches and axe jobs, a union has warned","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342663.1484816319!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/media-leisure/ladbrokes-to-hit-targets-despite-flurry-of-punter-wins-1-4342658","id":"1.4342658","articleHeadline": "Ladbrokes to hit targets despite flurry of punter wins","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484816011000 ,"articleLead": "

Ladbrokes Coral has defied the “sporting gods” to remain on course for a rise in profits despite what the bookmaking major branded a “savage” December for football and horseracing results.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342657.1484816058!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Wins for favourites at Kempton Park proved unlucky for Ladbrokes Coral. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The company, spawned from the £2.3 billion marriage of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral in October, revealed that a leap in internet revenues helped it weather a challenging end to 2016 when a flurry of short-odds favourites triumphed.

Ladbrokes Coral said it was hit by its worst week of the year for football last month, with nine of 11 domestic favourites winning over two days and all four of the top Premier League teams winning on Boxing Day.

In horseracing, the two feature races at Kempton Park on Boxing Day were won by the favourites, with further wins by favourites in Ireland and Wales.

Rival gambling group William Hill also blamed the string of favourites winning in December when it last week revealed a £20 million hit to its profits.

READ MORE: Betters’ gains are William Hill’s losses as results hit

Ladbrokes Coral said: “December will ultimately be remembered for a savage end to the year thanks to the major Christmas race meetings and a bleak set of football results around the holiday period. Whilst not quite as bad as 2014 it was a very disappointing end to the year.”

However, chief executive Jim Mullen hailed what he said was an encouraging start to the life of the newly merged business as its 2016 profits remain on track to meet a forecast range of between £275m and £285m.

Proforma 2015 earnings for the two separate businesses would have been around £235 million, Ladbrokes Coral said.

Mullen added: “While the sporting gods did not look favourably on us in the period, it is pleasing to report that the business continued to perform well.”

Ladbrokes Coral saw digital net revenues leap 18 per cent in the final three months of the year, offsetting a poor performance from its high street shops where net revenues slid 4 per cent.

Chelsea’s string of victories in December, ended by a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in January, saw punters cash in at the expense of Britain’s bookmakers.

Ladbrokes Coral added that its run of football bad luck was aggravated as only six of the 58 Premier League football fixtures in that month finished in a draw. That is less than half the historical average.

One leisure analyst said: “Overall, a decent performance.” The group’s shares closed up 3.2 per cent at 128.5p.

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" ,"byline": {"email": "mflanagan@scotsman.com" ,"author": "MARTIN FLANAGAN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342657.1484816058!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342657.1484816058!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Wins for favourites at Kempton Park proved unlucky for Ladbrokes Coral. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Wins for favourites at Kempton Park proved unlucky for Ladbrokes Coral. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342657.1484816058!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/media-leisure/martin-flanagan-inhospitable-outlook-for-drinks-sector-1-4342610","id":"1.4342610","articleHeadline": "Martin Flanagan: Inhospitable outlook for drinks sector","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484810863000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s pubs, clubs and small hotels are being squeezed between inexorably rising business rates and utility bills, particularly in rural areas where village pubs are a lifeblood for tourism.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342609.1484811287!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Martin Flanagan says the hospitality sector is facing 'attritional damage' rather than a 'perfect storm'. Picture: Ed Jones"} ,"articleBody": "

And this is not just anecdotal apprehension. The latest empirical evidence comes from the Christmas/New Year review from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA). That shows more than four out of ten pubs, clubs and small hotels saw a decline in trade at the end of 2016, while a little under one in three metaphorically only trod water.

READ MORE: Hospitality sector’s hangover adds to economic concerns

Roughly another third reported growth, but the overall picture, while far from dust and ashes, is also not buoyant, either. The SLTA, which compiles the report in conjunction with KPMG, is concerned that the significant slice of the hospitality sector that is seeing decline or stagnation does not bode well for either the industry or the wider tourism arena.

More shutters going up in the sector and job losses loom, the SLTA says. It says the issue has been exacerbated by Holyrood’s more stringent drink-drive limits than the rest of the UK since December 2014, and minimum wages initiatives.

This all falls short of any “perfect storm” for the drinks and hospitality industry, and there are points of resilience – craft beers and soft drinks, in particular. The concern is more of attritional damage being done to the sector that will compromise it incrementally and over time.

Pearson’s painful education

Pearson has blotted its copybook. Nearly a third has been slashed from the education group’s stock market value after ditching its profit and dividend forecasts. The problem is that the group’s problems look systemic rather than cyclical.

After quitting the media already with the sale of the Financial Times and Economist, and announcing yesterday that it is to sell its stake in the iconic Penguin publishing business, the company is even more irrevocably tied to the educational publishing market.

And all the evidence is that Generation Rent is turning to digital alternatives, or choosing to rent rather than buy print content. What price hapless Pearson boss John Fallow surviving the shock and bleak outlook for what was such a surefooted company.

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" ,"byline": {"email": "mflanagan@scotsman.com" ,"author": "MARTIN FLANAGAN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342609.1484811287!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342609.1484811287!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Martin Flanagan says the hospitality sector is facing 'attritional damage' rather than a 'perfect storm'. Picture: Ed Jones","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Martin Flanagan says the hospitality sector is facing 'attritional damage' rather than a 'perfect storm'. Picture: Ed Jones","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342609.1484811287!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/media-leisure/wetherspoon-boss-cautious-after-sales-and-costs-warning-1-4342606","id":"1.4342606","articleHeadline": "Wetherspoon boss ‘cautious’ after sales and costs warning","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484810354000 ,"articleLead": "

Pubs group JD Wetherspoon boosted sales in its second trading quarter but warned that it expects to be hit by slowing revenues and significantly higher costs in the second half.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342605.1484810578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin is keeping a cautious eye on trading. Picture: Graham Jepson"} ,"articleBody": "

Founder and chairman Tim Martin said like-for-like sales rose 3.2 per cent in the 12 weeks to 15 January, and 3.4 per cent in the first half to date.

But Martin, who still owns some 28 per cent of the business, said he was “cautious” about the second half of the year as he expected staff wages to rise about 4 per cent, £7 million of extra business rates and a £2m hit from the new apprenticeship levy.

READ MORE: Hospitality sector’s hangover adds to economic concerns

Wetherspoon, whose 950-strong pub estate includes dozens of Scottish outlets including The Playfair in Edinburgh and The Blacksmith’s Forge in Dalkeith, said it expects a profit margin of 8 per cent for the first half.

That is 1.7 per cent higher than the same period last year. Wetherspoon’s total sales in Q2 so far are up 0.7 per cent, and 1.6 per cent higher on the year to date.

The company expects a slightly improved trading outcome for the financial year compared with 2016 and said it will increase investment in existing pubs from £34m to about £60m. Wetherspoon told investors that net debt would be £50m at the end of this financial year.

Martin, a high-profile supporter of Brexit, also said the “mutual imposition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs would create a windfall for the UK, so a sensible basic mantra for the UK is free trade or World Trade Organisation rules – the EU can choose”.

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "MARTIN FLANAGAN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342605.1484810578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342605.1484810578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin is keeping a cautious eye on trading. Picture: Graham Jepson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin is keeping a cautious eye on trading. Picture: Graham Jepson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342605.1484810578!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/pm-refuses-to-rule-out-blocking-scots-mps-voting-on-brexit-law-1-4342590","id":"1.4342590","articleHeadline": "PM refuses to rule out blocking Scots MPs voting on Brexit law","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484784060000 ,"articleLead": "

The UK Government has been accused of mounting a “power grab” after the Prime Minister refused to rule out blocking Scottish MPs from voting on parts of a key bill to implement Brexit.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342589.1484776863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

All EU law will be brought into UK statute by a Great Repeal Bill set to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech later this year.

Scottish MPs could be blocked from voting on parts of the bill that apply to devolved responsibilities such as agriculture or higher education after the Prime Minister refused to rule out using controversial regulations on English votes for English laws (EVEL).

It risks opening a new front in the constitutional row over Brexit that could see a second independence referendum called before the end of the decade.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May refused to rule out using EVEL on the Great Repeal Bill when asked by the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman.

The Prime Minister said the government would “need to look at the whole issue of reserved matters and devolved matters”, but added that “if any part of proposed legislation brought before this House applies only to England, it will be subject to English votes for English laws.”

The Scottish Parliament would normally be asked to give approval to UK laws that affect devolved responsibilities through a legislative consent motion, but such votes are not legally binding.

The SNP claimed the Prime Minister’s comments left the door open to MPs from the rest of the UK voting to retain powers over devolved areas at Westminster as they are handed back from Brussels after Brexit.

Commenting after PMQs, Ms Blackman called on the government to “set a clear commitment that devolved matters remain devolved.”

Answering questions in the Commons earlier yesterday, Scottish Secretary David Mundell insisted that no devolved powers would be “re-reserved” after Brexit.

And in her speech setting out the government’s strategy for talks in Brussels this week, Mrs May said Holyrood would gain the “right” powers when the UK leaves the EU.

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342589.1484776863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342589.1484776863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342589.1484776863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-supreme-court-ruling-expected-next-tuesday-1-4342248","id":"1.4342248","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Supreme Court ruling expected next Tuesday","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484750326000 ,"articleLead": "

The Supreme Court is to give its judgment in the legal battle over Brexit on Tuesday 24 January.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342247.1484749599!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Supreme Court will rule on whether a parliamentary vote is needed to trigger Article 50. Picture: SWNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The highest court in the land will decide whether to reject or allow a Government appeal against a High Court ruling which blocked the royal prerogative being used to trigger Britain’s exit from the European Union without Parliament having a say.

The ruling was won by campaigners led by investment manager Gina Miller and hairdresser Deir Dos Santos,

• READ MORE: Brexit: Angus Robertson attacks PM’s ‘little Britain’ plan

In a case of major constitutional importance, three High Court judges unanimously decided last November that Prime Minister Theresa May did not have authority to use Crown “prerogative powers” to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the two-year process of negotiating the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Government is asking a record 11 Supreme Court justices to overturn the decision and rule the use of prerogative powers did not interfere with the sovereignty of Parliament.

The decision will be handed down at 9.30am.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Angus Howarth"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4342247.1484749599!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4342247.1484749599!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Supreme Court will rule on whether a parliamentary vote is needed to trigger Article 50. Picture: SWNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Supreme Court will rule on whether a parliamentary vote is needed to trigger Article 50. Picture: SWNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4342247.1484749599!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/farming/farming-industry-anger-after-pm-signals-single-market-exit-1-4341835","id":"1.4341835","articleHeadline": "Farming industry anger after PM signals single market exit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484729080000 ,"articleLead": "

If a quick and comprehensive trade deal giving UK farmers continued access to their European markets cannot be achieved, transition arrangements that avoid the Brexit “cliff edge” will be vital to allow the industry time to adapt, farming leaders have argued.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4341834.1484729265!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker hit out at Theresa May's plans. Picture: Contributed"} ,"articleBody": "

With farming topping the league of industries affected by the UK’s Brexit deal, all ears were yesterday focused on Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech outlining the course the country was set to take once Article 50 was triggered.

With access to EU markets – which currently account for three-quarters of all the UK’s agricultural exports – playing a paramount role in the industry, yesterday’s confirmation that the UK would quit the single market was a bitter, if not unexpected, blow.

READ MORE: Sturgeon: Indyref2 now ‘more likely’ with hard Brexit plans

NFU Scotland’s chief executive, Scott Walker, said: “For farming and the food industry, access to the EU market without barriers and any new obstacles has always been a priority for us. Next to the UK, Europe remains the largest destination for Scottish food exports and a market that offers us a good opportunity for growth.”

He said that now that the industry knew for sure that the Prime Minister had ruled out staying in the single market, she would have to deliver on her other promises, saying: “It is fundamentally important to the Scottish agricultural industry that the Prime Minister achieves her objective of a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU.”

The issue is of particular importance to the sheep sector, with more than 40 per cent of the country’s total production going to the EU – and the National Sheep Association (NSA) said that the government was set to take away the industry’s biggest export market “with no clear plan for how to replace it”.

“We know we produce a world-class product, but the decision made today does not come with the planning, transition periods or resources that are essential to establish new trade deals with the countries that want to buy our lamb,” said NSA chief ­executive Phil Stocker, who added that the whole structure of the industry was now in jeopardy.

READ MORE: Defra ‘doesn’t have a clue about post-Brexit world’

Similar threats were identified by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), the agri-supply trade body, which said that the implications of a “divorce which did not encompass either single market access or customs union membership” were potentially “very damaging” for UK agriculture and food production.

The English NFU council said it had “legitimate and important concerns” over the proposals for a free trade agreement.

“We know these kind of deals normally take years to conclude and do not cover all products,” said the union’s president, Meurig Raymond.

“If a quick and comprehensive deal cannot be achieved it would be absolutely vital that there are appropriate phased arrangements to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge to allow Britain’s farmers to adapt – especially given that farming is a long term industry where farmers are making decisions now without knowing what a future trading environment will look like.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "bhenderson@farming.co.uk" ,"author": "BRIAN HENDERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4341834.1484729265!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4341834.1484729265!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker hit out at Theresa May's plans. Picture: Contributed","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker hit out at Theresa May's plans. Picture: Contributed","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4341834.1484729265!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-iron-discipline-likened-to-mugabe-s-political-party-1-4341768","id":"1.4341768","articleHeadline": "SNP ‘iron discipline’ likened to Mugabe’s political party","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484728756000 ,"articleLead": "

A Tory MP has accused the SNP of showing the “iron discipline” of Robert Mugabe’s political party over its Brexit views.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4341767.1484728702!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP MPs likened to Robert Mugabes Zanu-PF. Picture: AFP/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Kwasi Kwarteng compared the SNP to Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe for their staunch opposition to leaving the EU, despite 38 per cent of Scots who voted backing Leave in last summer’s referendum.

His comments came as the SNP led a debate on the rural economy in the House of Commons, during which its Commons leader Pete Wishart said the UK voted Brexit “because the UK doesn’t like immigrants”.

Mr Kwarteng told MPs: “Nobody on the SNP side actually thought that leaving the EU would be a good thing.

“That seems very interesting, because one of the curiosities of first past the post is that 38% of Scotland actually voted to leave the EU.

“But because we have a first-past-the-post system, which I’ve defended, the SNP were entirely negative about the prospects of leaving the EU.

“They showed an iron discipline that Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, I think, would be very proud of.

“They are simply not representing the full range of Scottish opinion.”

Earlier, Mr Wishart said that Theresa May was pursuing “the hardest of hard Brexits” which would be remembered as “perhaps the biggest act of economic self-flagellation ever self-inflicted upon a nation”.

Mr Wishart added: “It will practically crucify our rural economy.

“If we were indulging in this hard Brexit for some sort of lofty ideal about tackling global injustice, about trying to improve the conditions of some of the poorest in the world, I think I could just about stomach it.

“But no, we’re indulging in this sadistic piece of national self-harm because the UK doesn’t like immigrants.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Jon Vale"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4341767.1484728702!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4341767.1484728702!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNP MPs likened to Robert Mugabes Zanu-PF. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP MPs likened to Robert Mugabes Zanu-PF. Picture: AFP/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4341767.1484728702!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/tech/mobile-giant-ee-fined-2-7m-for-overcharging-customers-1-4341811","id":"1.4341811","articleHeadline": "Mobile giant EE fined £2.7m for overcharging customers","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484727537000 ,"articleLead": "

EE has been fined £2.7 million by Ofcom for overcharging tens of thousands of its mobile phone customers.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4341810.1484725638!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "EE users calling its customer service number from the EU were charged as if they had called the US. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The communications regulator found that the company broke a “fundamental billing rule” on two separate occasions, resulting in nearly 40,000 customers being overcharged about £250,000.

An investigation by Ofcom accused EE of “carelessness or negligence”, adding that while it did not set out to make money from its billing mistake, the company had decided not to reimburse the majority of affected customers until Ofcom intervened.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “EE didn’t take enough care to ensure that its customers were billed accurately. This ended up costing customers thousands of pounds, which is completely unacceptable.

“We monitor how phone companies bill their customers, and will not tolerate careless mistakes. Any company that breaks Ofcom’s rules should expect similar consequences.”

EE is owned by telecoms giant BT, which acquired the mobile operator last year in a £12.5 billion deal.

READ MORE: BT to retain EE brand as profits surge by 24%

Users who called the company’s 150 customer services number while roaming within the EU were incorrectly charged as if they had called the US.

Ofcom said the mistake saw customers charged £1.20 per minute, instead of 19p per minute. As a result, at least 32,145 customers were overcharged about £245,700 in total.

It added that EE wrongly decided it could not identify the people it overcharged and was proposing to give their money to charity, which would have left them out of pocket.

In another breach, despite making it free to call or text the 150 number from within the EU from November 18 2015, EE continued to bill 7,674 customers up until 11 January last year.

In total, these customers were overcharged £2,203.33, although in this instance EE issued full refunds to those affected.

Proceeds of the fine will be passed on to the Treasury.

Ofcom said the penalty reflects a 10 per cent reduction in light of EE’s agreement to enter into a formal settlement and its admission of full responsibility for the breaches.

While the majority of customers have now been refunded, EE was unable to identify at least 6,905 customers, who have been left around £60,000 out of pocket.

The company has made a donation of just under £62,000 to charity in lieu of the payments owed to these customers. However, Ofcom is requiring EE to make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged.

An EE spokesman said: “We accept these findings and apologise unreservedly to those customers affected by these technical billing issues between 2014 and 2015.

“We have put measures in place to prevent this from happening again, and have contacted the majority of customers to apologise and provide a full refund.

“For those customers that we could not identify, we donated the remaining excess fees to charitable causes in line with Ofcom’s guidelines.

“Following Ofcom’s findings, we have made a number of additional improvements to our systems and policies to allow us to better support our customers in the rare occasion that billing issues do occur.”

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" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "RAVENDER SEMBHY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4341810.1484725638!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4341810.1484725638!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "EE users calling its customer service number from the EU were charged as if they had called the US. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "EE users calling its customer service number from the EU were charged as if they had called the US. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4341810.1484725638!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/1000-holidaymakers-flown-home-from-gambia-amid-unrest-fears-1-4341813","id":"1.4341813","articleHeadline": "1000 holidaymakers flown home from Gambia amid unrest fears","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1484725698000 ,"articleLead": "

Nearly 1,000 holidaymakers on Thomas Cook packages in Gambia are to be flown home amid growing concerns about political unrest in the west African nation.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4341812.1484725645!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, who led three West African heads of state to Gambia in an effort to persuade its longtime leader to step down. Picture: AP Photo/ Azeez Akunleyan"} ,"articleBody": "

The holiday company said it had triggered contingency plans after the Foreign Office (FCO) urged Britons to avoid all non-essential travel to the winter destination.

A 90-day state of emergency has been declared in the country where political deadlock has led to a “high” risk of military intervention and civil disturbance, the FCO said.

The country’s president, Yahya Jammeh, has refused to hand over power after losing an election and on Tuesday banned “any acts of disobedience” while urging security forces to maintain order.

A group of west African nations has threatened to take military action if Mr Jammeh does not cede power to his successor, Adama Barrow, by a deadline later this week.

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) estimates there are around 2,000 people are currently on holiday with its members in Gambia, while an additional number will have travelled there independently.

Abta advised British tourists on package holidays to contact their tour operator to arrange return flights, while anyone who has travelled independently should speak to their airline.

It is understood that at least one flight carrying British holidaymakers flew to Gambia as recently as Tuesday morning.

Thomas Cook said a flight scheduled from Manchester to Gambia on Wednesday would now depart without customers and bring the first groups of holidaymakers home.

An additional four flights have been arranged from the capital, Banjul, back to the UK on Wednesday, with two scheduled to fly to Manchester and two to Gatwick.

A spokesman said: “We will operate a programme of additional flights into Banjul airport over the next 48 hours to bring the 985 UK customers we currently have on holiday in the Gambia home, including four additional flights on Wednesday, 18 January.

“In addition, we have approximately 2,500 flight-only customers in Gambia, whom we are contacting to offer the earliest possible flight availability for return to the UK.”

The company said staff would be flying to the country to assist on Wednesday.

Gambia’s popularity as a winter sun destination has grown in recent years, with holidaymakers drawn to its white sandy beaches and tropical climate by affordable deals.

However, the country was thrown into political crisis in December after president Mr Jammeh reneged on his acceptance of electoral defeat.

Mr Barrow, the country’s president-elect, left the country as the incumbent leader challenged the result in the courts.

The FCO said it had received reports that the sitting government had closed down opposition radio stations and made politically motivated arrests.

Meanwhile the Economic Community of West African States has stated it may intervene, including taking possible military action, if Mr Jammeh does not step down by the scheduled handover date of 18-19 January.

On Tuesday the FCO advised against all non-essential travel to country and urged Britons in Gambia to be vigilant and keep in contact with their holiday company.

A spokesman said: “The potential for military intervention and civil disturbance is high and could result in Banjul International Airport being closed at short notice.

“You should follow events closely, take extra care, keep in regular contact with your tour operator and airline and continue to monitor travel advice and social media updates in case tensions rise as the current political deadlock continues.”

Abta said anyone with a holiday to Gambia booked should contact their travel company to discuss their options.

A spokesman said: “The political situation remains fluid and the FCO travel advice will reflect this. Travel companies will continue to monitor the situation and allow cancellations and rebooking for travel dates while the advice against all but essential travel remains in place.”

Thomas Cook said anyone due to travel to Gambia with them should call 01733 224 536.

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