This week’s news has focused on the British Government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as the trials and tribulations north and south of the border. Greg Bianchi continues The Bottom Line series from the UK.
After weeks of pressure the UK agreed to accept some of the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the on-going Syrian crisis. During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday David Cameron confirmed that while the UK will accept up to 500 refugees, it won’t sign up to the UN backed quota system. The Guardian reported that this was the conclusion of weeks of negotiations between the Home Office and UNHCR after the government came under mounting criticism for failing to accept refugees.
The trend of immigration and asylum has been contentious in recent months. With the emergence of the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as a political force, there has been increased pressure on the government to cut immigration. Some have claimed this is a politically motivated manoeuvre to stop UKIP gaining more votes. The media war over the end of controls on Romanian and Bulgarian workers resulted in some newspapers The Daily Mail claimed that the UK was facing large scale immigration, however in an report by the BBC David Cameron apparently said to the Conservative Party that the levels of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria were “reasonable”.
Meanwhile, north of the border Scottish nationalists received a boost this week as a poll suggested the pro-independence movement had gained more support from the public. According to The Scotsman 46 per cent of the Scottish public could support independence, provided the party is able to gain more votes in the undecided portion of the electorate.
However, the pro-unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign today claimed that the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney had “quietly demolished” the claims made by Alex Salmond about the nature of an independent Scotland’s relations with the rest of the UK. Carney suggested that in order to remain within a currency ‘sterling zone’ the Scottish government would have to cede some sovereignty.
— Alistair Darling (@TogetherDarling) January 29, 2014
The referendum on Scottish independence takes place on 18 September 2014.
The Phone Hacking trials continue this week with claims that Andy Coulson, former director of communications for David Cameron, knew about phone hacking at the News of the World. Coulson allegedly said that a voicemail left by actress Sienna Miller for actor Daniel Craig was “brilliant”.
The phone-hacking controversy has led to calls among some in society for greater controls on the press in the UK with politicians proposing a Royal Charter. However the press have rejected this proposal claiming it would infringe on press freedom.