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Scotland on Sunday 21 July 2013
Scotland on Sunday 7 July 2013
Scotland on Sunday 30 June 2013
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Scotland on Sunday 26 May 2013
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Scotland on Sunday 28 April 2013
Scotland on Sunday 14th April 2013
Scotland on Sunday 7th April 2013
Scotland on Sunday 24th March 2013
Scotland on Sunday 17th March 2013
Scotland on Sunday 10th March 2013
Scotland on Sunday 17th February 2013
Scotland on Sunday 10th February 2013
Scotland on Sunday, 27th January 2013
Financial disputes in divorce cases in Scotland could become quicker to resolve, under proposals to streamline the legal process.
Lord Brailsford, the first ever family judge in the Court of Session, is to chair a working group that will look at how to make cases more cost-effective and reduce the time it takes to sort out financial matters.
The working party is to report over the coming weeks with recommendations that could lead to legislative changes in the Court of Session and the Sheriff Court.
Lucy Metcalf, senior associate at Tods Murray solicitors, welcomed the proposals.
“For a long time we have thought that there must be a way of short circuiting the lengthy and costly disputes that are a feature of divorce,” she said.
“In most cases involving finances the range of potential outcomes can be predicted with reasonable accuracy at the start of the process, yet such cases can drag on with acrimony and upset and at huge cost to both parties.”
Most cases are fairly close to a 50:50 split and those instances tend to be easy to identify, said Metcalf. Yet while the end result is predictable, reaching that stage can prove costly and time consuming, she added.
“For a long time we have been very conscious of the fact that fees incurred in this area can rack up pretty dramatically.”
Scotland on Sunday, 20th January 2013
Scotland on Sunday, 23rd December 2012
FSA packaged account rules
Bank customers taking out packaged accounts are to receive annual statements outlining their suitability for the products, under rules drawn up by the City watchdog.
The accounts, which charge a fee in return for perks such as insurance and enhanced savings or overdraft terms, have been the subject of a Financial Services Authority (FSA) probe in recent months amid concerns of mis-selling and mis-buying.
A fifth of UK adults hold a packaged bank account, but research by Which? found that three in ten don’t use the benefits for which they are paying.
The regulator has now decided for forge ahead with plans to make banks provide customers with an annual eligibility statement, including details of the insurance cover bought as part of the accounts.
The new rules, which come into force in March, also compel providers to inform customers if have reached - or are due to hit - the age limit for any travel insurance sold with the accounts.
However, banks will not be forced to provide a breakdown of the insurance premium for packaged account sales, contrary to expectations.
Sheila Nicoll, FSA director of policy, said: “These products are often referred to as upgraded accounts but if you end up paying for an element you can’t claim on, it’s money down the drain.
“We are closely monitoring the promotion of packaged bank accounts and the new rules will make sure customers know what they’re buying and that they can rely on the product or have the limitations explained before buying.”
The regulator may also force banks to send the eligibility statements separately to other material to give them greater prominence. It is also looking closely at the promotion of packaged accounts where monthly costs are advertised alongside yearly benefits.
Scotland on Sunday, 16th December 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 2nd December 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 25th November 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 11th November 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 4th November 2012
Pension savers are risking heavy losses by ploughing their money into unregulated schemes being sold within self invested personal pensions (Sipps).
Around half of all unregulated collective investment schemes (Ucis) are held in Sipps, according to the FSA, which has issued a fresh warning to Sipp operators about the suitability of Ucis.
Its review of the Sipp market, published in October, included an annex in which it told providers to carry out “exceptional due diligence” when dealing with Ucis, which it described as complex, opaque and risky.
Their status gives Ucis greater freedom than regulated schemes to use high risk assets such as traded life policies, wine, art, wind farms, crops and timber. The FSA estimates that some 85,000 people have direct holdings in the UCIS retail market, which is worth around £2.5 billion.
It has proposed banning the promotion of Ucis to investors unless they are deemed to be sophisticated, high net worth individuals.
The regulator is looking particularly closely at the way Ucis are being sold to pension savers through Sipps, but it is also taking action against financial advisers for wrongly selling clients into Ucis.
One South Queensferry adviser was banned and fined £60,000 earlier this year after advising 57 clients to put money into Ucis, including a forklift driver who invested his life pension savings in the schemes.
Another adviser, based south of the Border, was last week banned and fined £117,330 for selling Ucis without checking their suitability.
Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FSA, said: “We have made our views on Ucis very clear: These high risk, complex products should not be promoted to the vast majority of retail investors in the UK.
“We will continue to take tough action against firms and senior management when they mis-sell these high risk products.”
Scotland on Sunday, 28th October 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 21 October 2012
Ofgem proposals ‘a positive step’
Energy suppliers will be forced to make customers aware of their cheapest deals and reduce the number of tariffs they offer, under plans set out by the energy regulator on Friday.
Ofgem’s proposals came two days after Prime Minister David Cameron claimed in the House of Commons that the government would make suppliers put all customers on their lowest tariff. The flawed suggestion was quickly played down by energy minister John Hayes before Ofgem published new plans aimed at making the market fairer and more competitive.
Its proposals feature a ban on complex multi-tier tariffs, more personalised statements to help households get the most suitable deal and making suppliers put customers on their cheapest option once their fixed rate tariffs come to an end. It also said it would look into ways of getting more people shopping around for better deals.
The changes could come into force as early as summer 2013, following consultation with suppliers and consumer groups.
Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said the reforms would help make the energy market clearer and simpler.
“Particularly welcome are proposals which could cut the number of available tariffs by half. Ofgem needed to act to make the energy maze less impenetrable and these are important and overdue measures.”
But Gallacher was among several industry experts to warn that the proposals did not go far enough. She called on the government and Ofgem to do more to put the interests of consumers at the heart of the energy market.
“The Ofgem proposals will not answer every question. Consumers still doubt the relationship between wholesale costs, retail prices and group profits,” she said. “But we welcome this as a very positive step towards making the market work better for consumers.”]
Big Energy Week
Raising consumer awareness of how to keep energy bills down is the aim of this year’s Big Energy Week, launching on 22 October.
The Citizens Advice-backed initiative, funded by the big six energy suppliers, seeks to send the message out to households that there are numerous schemes available to help them reduce their energy bills.
The campaign, also supported by Ofgem, the government and various consumer groups, will promote the benefits of shopping around for energy deals, give advice on energy efficiency and provide information on the free assistance available to many households.
Citizens Advice bureaux will be hosting information stalls in towns and cities across Scotland throughout the week to take their message into the community, with some also holding open evenings and presentations.
A spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland said: “The underlying message is: you think these schemes are all really complicated and difficult and you won’t be eligible for them. But that’s not the case. You really can save hundreds of pounds a year if you take some of these simple steps. We will tell you what to do, and help you do it.”
Scotland on Sunday, 7 October 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 30 September 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 23 September 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 16 September 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 9 September 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 2 September 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 26 August 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 12 August 2012
Scotland on Sunday, 5 August 2012
Boost for first-time buyers but experts say more help needed
Lloyds Banking Group last week pledged to lend £5 billion to first-time buyers by the end of the year as it seeks to help kickstart a moribund housing market.
The state-supported bank - owner of Halifax and Bank of Scotland - claimed that by the end of 2012 it would have advanced loans to more than 50,000 first-time buyers over the year, accounting for one in four first-timers in the UK.
Stephen Noakes, mortgage director at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “This commitment is not about paying lip service. It shows that we’re providing genuine solutions for people buying their first home. It’s important that we dispel some of the myths about first time buyer mortgages.“ Lloyds’ move came in the wake of the government’s new Funding for Lending scheme, which sparked a drop in the cost of lending between banks after it was set out in June.
Ray Boulger, senior technical manager at mortgage broker John Charcol, said: “It is already clear that, in stark contrast to Project Merlin, the Funding for Lending Scheme is very quickly proving effective as far as the mortgage market is concerned.”
But the Lloyds news aside, there has been precious little encouragement for first-time buyers in recent months. The gap between the cost of mortgages for those with 10 per cent deposits and those with 40 per cent continues to widen as lenders compete for business among the latter.
“Lloyds has shown an interest in the affordable housing and new build markets, and announced plans to increase lending to first-time buyers, but at present there is little evidence of any new assistance,” said Alison Mitchell, mortgage expert at IFA Robson Macintosh.
Scotland on Sunday, 29 July 2012
Certain aspects of the new penalty regime appear to have caught many taxpayers unaware. This is especially the case where £100 penalties are being levied from 6 April 2011 for the late submission of tax returns where the taxpayer has no tax liability. Taxpayers are being forced into becoming more pro-active when it comes to their tax compliance. Taxpayers generally have up to 30 days to appeal against an incorrectly issued penalty notice. We had, for example, experience last year of a number of tax returns being submitted prior to the 31 January deadline but still receiving late penalty notices as a result of HMRC’s IT systems not talking to each other properly.
Taxpayers should be aware that these penalty notices will be being produced through an automated system and that they may have just received one in error as a result of their self-assessment records not being updated to correctly reflect their current tax position. It is important not to simply accept them as being correct.
There appears to be an increasing number of penalty notices that have to be challenged and this can sometimes be difficult for someone who is unfamiliar with the penalty regime or dealing with HMRC.
It doesn’t help that different tax offices may be dealing with different aspects of your tax compliance and that you are no longer generally being allocated an individual HMRC officer to deal with your tax affairs.
We have had instances where we have been able to put a successful claim into HMRC for professional costs/additional work arising as a result of their mistakes in issuing incorrect assessments and so on. This is, however, generally the exception rather than the rule.
• Martin Campbell is a tax specialist at Anderson Strathern in Edinburgh
Watch a slideshow of the career of actress Kate Beckinsale - who is featured in this week’s Spectrum.
Scotland on Sunday, 22 July 2012
Information on company pension schemes
Membership of company pension schemes in the UK has dipped below 50 per cent for the first time on record, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.
Just 48 per cent of workers pay into any kind of company pension, its latest Pension Trends report shows.
Its figures also underlined the terminal decline of final salary pensions in the private sector. Just 9 per cent of employees paying into such a scheme, down from 37 per cent just 15 years ago.
Most employers have replaced their final salary scheme with defined contribution (DC) pensions, where the outcome is dependent primarily on the number of years a member pays into it and the level of contributions.
But the amount paid into DC plans compares poorly with final salary pensions, according to the report. While employers pay 15.8 per cent of an employee’s salary into their final salary scheme, on average, the equivalent contribution into worker DC pots is just 6.2 per cent.
Contributions by individuals in DC schemes are lower as well, at just 2.7 per cent on average, compared with the 5.1 per cent the average final salary scheme member pays in.
The number of people saving into personal pensions has plunged alarmingly too, dropping to six million.
The report was published just months before the introduction of radical reforms will see millions of people placed automatically into workplace pensions.
Tom McPhail, head of pensions policy at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “It is absolutely vital to focus on how much people should be saving if they are to hit their retirement income target. Anyone who is saving less than 10 to 15 per cent of their earnings into a retirement plan is unlikely to be saving enough.”
Scotland on Sunday, 15 July 2012
A translation of Alasdair Allan’s Gaelic column...
Gaelic on the Road
As I write this article I’m sitting in Stornoway Airport with my blackberry in hand as I wait patiently for the plane to take mi to Benbecula. As I wait, my mind begins to turn towards the clock as I wonder whether the tide is out in Barra?
While the Western Isles is most famous for its distinct culture and heritage, it must be said that ways of transport are unique too. During my journey my plane will land on the beach in Barra, the only airport in Europe where the timetable is dependant on the sea.
Although I now live in Lewis I was not born in the islands. I am also MSP for the area and Government Minister with responsibility for Gaelic.
I learnt Gaelic whilst at University and while I am now fluent in the language I am still learning on a daily basis. For me, Gaelic is an extremely interesting and useful language.
I often hear ignorant and potentially dangerous views expressed regarding Gaelic and how it’s a waste of time. Yet thankfully, statistics show that those with this view are in the minority. Last year new research showed that 81% of people in Scotland are of the opinion that it is important we do not lose our Gaelic culture and heritage with 70% of the opinion that there should be more opportunities to learn the language.
The Scottish Government recognises that Gaelic is an an intergral part of Scotland’s heritage, national identity and current cultural life and would like to create a secure future for it in Scotland.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig has recently published the new National Plan for Gaelic. The aims of this plan are clear for us all to see; to increase the number of people learning, speaking and using Gaelic in Scotland.
Gaelic belongs to the whole of Scotland. While the Bòrd has a responsibility to prepare the National Plan, it is a plan for the whole of Scotland and the Bòrd will establish effective partnerships with the Scottish Government and public bodies. Gaelic is an official language of Scotland: its future depends on the support of the people of Scotland and Scottish authorities.
While Gaelic does belong to the country as a whole, where else highlights the status and importance of the language like the Western Isles?
As MSP for the Western Isles I am fully aware of how important Gaelic communities are. Without doubt, Gaelic is at the heart of the history, culture and way of life of the Islanders. Gaelic speakers are the most valuable resource available to ensure the language’s vitality.
I was fortunate enough to launch the Shawbost community Gaelic Language Plan on 26 May. This is an important step in the development of the language. It is crucial that Gaelic is spoken more widely than it is currently. This is the first plan of its kind and I am delighted that the community has taken such a positive step towards securing a sustainable future for Gaelic.
For Gaelic to thrive in the future it is crucial that there is support from the people of the Western Isles. Therefore it is heartening that numbers for Gaelic Education are increasing, with support from pupils, teachers and parents.
For now though, I’m hearing that my plane is running late due to the weather. I begin to wonder how I’ll get from Benbecula to Eriskay? I then remember some famous words from the poet Sorley Maclean:
“Gaelic is spoken throughout Uist”
Perhaps I’ll get a lift if I ask in Gaelic……
What comedians Jojo Sutherland and Janey Godley think about Madonna...
Iconic, inspiring and inventive are just some of the adjectives that can be used to describe Madonna. Over the years i’ve danced to all her music and cried at all her films.
I’ve watched enviously her ability to reinvent herself and wished many times to have that confidence and vow that before i die I WILL go out in public wearing a conical bra! In a world that still sees women as less equal (is that PC enough?) Madonna has blazed a trail for many of us to follow and having creative talent achieving so much is what reminds us all that we don’t need to conform to our gender stereotyping, although Madonna hasn’t (to my knowledge) tried stand-up and she might be really rubbish at it - wouldn’t that be ironic? Madonna tries stand-up and reinforces the long held belief that women aren’t funny!
I do genuinely admire her ambition, determination and professionalism plus any woman who can bend her body in that many directions, at that age, without farting..... or worse, gets my vote! Did I mention her music? No? Oh well never mind, I’ve said enough nice things already and for the record i really enjoyed her performance in Swept Away.
JANEY GODLEY, COMEDIAN
I always loved Madonna. She managed to take a very limited singing range and turn it into a full career. Wearing a bra outside a sweater was no longer a sign of mental health issues or flustered new mothers, it became a fashion statement for the youth of the 1980s.
Now in her fifties she is a beacon to all middle aged women, with her appetite for sexy lithe young men and her sharp lunging disco moves. Also we women in our fifties can now expose our nipple and feel justified and modern, but probably not at a bus stop in a cardi & flip flops, as I found out much to the embarrassment of my daughter recently when we took a bus tour to Largs. I don’t think Madonna goes to Largs though, so that’s where the similarity ends.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO APPLECROSS
• You can watch the video here
SPORT - GOLF
In 1979, Seve Ballesteros won the Open Championship at Royal Lytham in style. During that victory Seve played one of his more magical shots, from the car park!
• You can watch Seve’s wonder shot here
Scotland on Sunday, 8 July 2012
T IN THE PARK
For all the best gig reviews from T in the Park T in the Park reviews
To watch the newly-released trailer for Anna Karenina click here
How to switch current account by Jeff Salway
* Decide where you want to move your money to. Compare alternatives based on what best meets your need, whether it’s a cheap overdraft facility, decent in-credit interest rates, local branch access or any other requirement.
* Once you’ve decided where you want to switch to, go to its local branch with some photo ID and a utility bill or current bank statement to prove your address. Also take recent bank statements if you want an overdraft facility, to show that you’ve managed your money competently.
* The new bank or building society will contact your existing one and arrange for your direct debits to be switched across. It will agree a date with you for when the balance on your account is switched. You will get your new debit card, PIN, cheque books before the old account is closed.
* Tell your employer and anyone else that pays you regularly of your new sort code and account number.
* Don’t worry about being charged for missing payments while you switch. You should be offered an interest-free overdraft for two or three in case you go into the red while the change of bank accounts is taking place, so you should never be out of pocket due to a timing problem with switching payments from one bank to the other.
For more top money tips from Jeff Salway click here
Scotland on Sunday, 1 July 2012
Tenancy deposit scheme not plain sailing
By Jeff Salway
Scotland’s new tenancy deposit scheme begins operating tomorrow, more than five years after a similar system was rolled out in England and Wales.
But evidence suggests that it hasn’t been plain sailing for tenants and landlords south of the Border.
Housing charity Shelter revealed last month that tenant complaints about deposits have rocketed by 86 per cent in the past two years, despite the launch of tenancy deposit schemes south of the Border in April 2007.
It believes the problem stems partly from low awareness among tenants at the starting point of their lease.
More than £2 billion in deposits is protected in schemes in England and Wales, according to a recent progress report.
It said there had been a small increase in the proportion of tenancies ending in dispute over the amount of deposit to be returned and found that the main reasons behind those conflicts remain largely unchanged.
Tenants have raised 51 per cent of those disputes but almost six in ten of the decisions end in the deposit being split between the landlord and tenant.
Listen to the bands featured in Radar’s T in the Park preview...
Scotland on Sunday, 9 June 2012
Full list of the 161 Scottish works of literature to be presented this week to the SQA as suggestions for Higher English View the list of 161 texts here
Stockbridge, Edinburgh, home to Andy and Alison Boyes and their family. Pictures: Jane Barlow
Scotland on Sunday, 3 June 2012