Comment: Temperatures on the rise in Greece and Spain
DAVID Cameron promised to use his appearance on a US late-night talk show to “bang the drum” for British business and encourage more Americans to spend their dollars over here, but he risks being drowned out by the drumbeats emanating from Greece and Spain.
Tens of thousands of Greeks marched through central Athens yesterday in the first general strike since the country’s coalition government was formed in June. Tensions boiled over and clouds of smoke and tear gas billowed near the parliament building, a day after anti-austerity protests in Madrid left dozens of people injured and the Bank of Spain warned the country was in a deep recession.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Prime Minster will have been rehearsing his lines for the Late Show with David Letterman, no doubt keen to divert attention away from talk of plebs and wayward Royals. But there is no escaping the storm clouds looming over the eurozone, our largest trading partner, where doubts are growing about its ability to contain the debt crisis.
A sharp reduction in Britain’s trade deficit in July came on the back of a rise in exports to Europe and a return to some form of normality following the loss of production caused by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, but there is a risk of all this coming undone if Germany – Europe’s economic powerhouse – follows nations such as Italy and Portugal into recession. Some economists believe this could happen by the end of the year, as business confidence has fallen for five months in a row and spending cuts across the single currency bloc threaten its export-driven growth.
At least Germany has finally ratified the eurozone’s new €500 billion (£397bn) rescue fund, paving the way for the European Stability Mechanism to kick into action next month, although it – along with Finland and the Netherlands – is playing tough and insisting that the fund cannot be used to pay for the cost of previous bank bail-outs in Greece, Ireland and Spain.
All this instability has pushed Spain’s borrowing costs sharply higher, piling the pressure on prime minister Mariano Rajoy to go cap in hand to the European Central Bank and ask it to buy the country’s debt. Such a move will inevitably come with strict conditions attached, threatening more spending cuts, but Rajoy is running out of options after raising VAT and slashing spending on education, health and public workers’ wages.
He will outline his plans today. A winter of discontent looks almost certain, but first the Spanish PM must ask his people to endure an autumn of anger and upheaval.
Containing excitement over new hotel plan
If CAMERON is able to entice more US tourists, it would be a welcome boost for Scotland’s hotel industry, which suffered a fall in occupancy during July as a combination of atrocious weather and the economic woes drove visitors away. Occupancy rates in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness were all down, with Aberdeen providing the only glimmer of cheer.
The Granite City saw occupancy rise 11.1 per cent as it continued to benefit from the thriving oil and gas sector. Glasgow was down 1.2 per cent and Edinburgh suffered an 8 per cent decline in occupancy, although the bean counters at PKF point out that the capital still enjoys the fifth-highest room revenues in the UK.
It seems that visitors to next year’s Edinburgh festivals will have another option over where to rest their weary heads as Snoozebox, the temporary hotel specialist, has been given the green light to install 120 rooms for 70 days a year. While sleeping in a converted shipping container might not be to everyone’s taste, the firm said a 48-room trial venue on a gap site off Calton Road achieved 90 per cent occupancy during the Festival period.
Announcing its maiden interim results, the Aim-quoted firm said it would be taking its concept to the US Grand Prix in Texas in November. Former F1 racer David Coulthard, the company’s president, will feel at home.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west