13 August 2019

Aidan Reid

13 August 2019

Good morning,
 
To walk around Edinburgh is a difficult task right now. Tempted by the freshness and vibrancy of modern culture reportedly found in the 200-odd festival fringe venues and the heritage of the city’s cobbled streets and castle, the place is teeming with life from all over the world. As a commuter from Glasgow, it’s my favourite time of the year. You genuinely cannot find ‘this’ anywhere else in Scotland, with the exception of singular events like the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014. I have little doubt, though, that living in the midst of a mass migration to the Royal Mile may change that perspective and temper my enthusiasm a little.
 
This clash of the old and the new works for Edinburgh perfectly, but not all of the activities that Scotland offers in August are viewed in the same way.
 
Yesterday saw the commencement of the UK’s 121-day grouse shooting season, referred to as ‘the Glorious Twelfth’. The season’s origins lie in the steam trains that from the 1850s carried the gentry to the Scottish and northern English grouse moors for organised shooting of these birds for sport.
 
Among those who trooped out yesterday are many who would argue that those who run the moors have made adaptions to modern life. There are strict limits on the number of birds placed in the firing line and they argue that the moors are managed with social and environmental considerations in place (though this is in turn disputed by campaigners). The UK government would appear to side with grouse moors at this time, rejecting a petition to ban the practice by highlighting the economic and social benefits it brings to local communities.
 
It is likely, therefore, that the practice will keep going for some time yet, and there will be many who argue that it is a part of Scottish heritage. Because something doesn’t fit with the prevailing winds doesn’t mean that it can’t have its place as part of our culture and economy.

News

The United States’ National Security Advisor, John Bolton, followed up a meeting with the prime minister by emphasising his country’s support for the UK pursuing a no-deal Brexit. He added that sectoral trade deals between the UK and US could be concluded readily, with a manufacturing deal to be prioritised.
 
Facebook representatives have responded strongly to accusations that senior executives withheld evidence from the UK parliament. The response followed comments from the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, Damien Collins, who argued that recent complaints lodged by US authorities showed the social media firm knew earlier than had been acknowledged about its user data being compromised by Cambridge Analytica.
 
The Italian senate will today set a date for a no-confidence vote in its government. It follows the withdrawal of support for the government by the far-right League party, with the potential for themselves and fellow ideologues, the Brothers of Italy, to form a coalition government thought to be a possibility after a future election.
 
It is hoped Ebola will now be a preventable and treatable disease following successful trials of four new drugs. It was found that over 90% of sufferers survived and recovered from the disease if the treatments were provided early, and they will now be used to treat all those diagnosed in DR Congo.

Business & Economy

The New Zealand tax authority has set a world precedent by allowing salaries and wages to be paid in cryptocurrencies, provided it is a fixed and regular amount. Its ruling also includes other stipulations, including that the cryptocurrency must be pegged to a regular currency and will be taxable as regular income. (£)
 
Over 50 major retailers including Asda and Boots have called on the chancellor, Sajid Javid, to “fix” the business rates system. Citing rises of up to 50% in some cases in an open letter coordinated by the British Retail Consortium, the companies also highlighted that retail accounted for five per cent of the economy but paid 25% of the total business rates bill.
 
The auditor KPMG has ousted its third senior figure in a year over misconduct claims. Its now former head of UK financial services consulting, Tim Howarth, was dismissed following a quickly convened disciplinary panel. He follows on the heels of KPMG’s former lead audit partner on Carilion, Peter Meehan, and its former head of the deals advisory unit, Sanjay Thakkar, who have all left in 2019 over disciplinary issues. Mr Howarth has disputed the outcome of the panel.
 
Argentina’s currency and stock markets have plunged in response to Sunday’s primary results which saw the ruling conservative faction suffer a shock defeat. A third of the value of the country’s Merval stock exchange was wiped out amid fears the pro-business agenda pursued by current president, Mauricio Macri, will now be reversed.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Despite starting the day strongly, the FTSE 100 took a dive around 9.00am and remained down to finish -0.37% at 7,226.72. The FTSE 250 also fell by 179 points to 18,913, though the pound regained some of its value after increasing by 0.4% against the dollar. The currency rise came in spite of reports that short bets against the pound have increased to their highest level in two years in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit.
 
The global picture was even more drastic. In Asia, analysists highlighted the recent Hong Kong protests as a key factor behind a 1.7% fall in the Hang Seng index. Singapore’s Straits Times Index also fell by 0.7% on the back of its government slashing current growth projections. In the US, fears over the continuing US-China trade war and the electoral results in Argentina saw the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indexes fall by 1.2% and the Dow Jones index fall by 1.3%

What's happening today?

Interims
Caledonia Min
CLS Holdings
H&t Group Plc
Mears
Menzies
 
Trading Announcements
AA
Eternity Net

AGMs
Ienergizer
 
UK Economic Announcements
Claimant Count Rate
ONS labour market statistics
 
International Economic Announcements
Wholesale Price Index (GER)
Consumer Price Index (US)

Columns of Note

Highlighting her newspaper’s reporting on an increase in the number of people embracing astrology, Nell Frizzell speculates in the Guardian why that might be. Citing her own experiences of charting her life through astrological signs, she highlights the comfort of “falling for” the idea the stars dictate happenings rather than the more mundane answer of real life. She argues that, with a younger generation facing squeezed standards, diminished prospects and greater uncertainty, it is no wonder they are now seeking answers in more mystical concepts.
 
The New Stateman’s Stephen Bush takes a rather disdainful look at the proposals from Caroline Lucas for a government of national unity. He highlights how none of the opposition parties are willing to cede the ground required for such a government to be formed. He argues that the proposals from Lucas give her party headlines rather than a credible solution to Brexit. While crediting the Greens’ ability to retain electoral relevancy, he also outlines the fear that a popular Green party may well make any upcoming general election more winnable for the Conservatives. (£)

Did you know?

There have been over 3,100 episodes of Desert Island Discs recorded, with Mozart the most popular choice among castaways.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
In recess until 3rd September
 
House of Lords
In recess until 3rdSeptember

Scottish Parliament
In recess until 2nd September