Scottish Government - Financial Help For Students

Quick summary of fees for attending a Scottish University

EU STUDENT ENGLISH STUDENT NORTHERN IRELAND STUDENT
Eligible EU students are not required to pay tuition fees whilst studying in Scotland. They are not however eligible to apply for maintenance support Same as Northern Ireland Student Studying in Scotland The max fee level for a degree course is £9,000 per annum. Each institution is responsible for setting it’s own rate, you should contact the institution to establish the cost of the course you wish to attend. You will be able to apply for a tuition fee loan to cover these costs

Therefore in order to attend a Scottish University, anyone from the rest of the UK has to pay fees. However, students from other EU countries can attend for free because under European Law Scotland cannot charge students from other European Union countries more than it charges its own nationals

Hopefully a legal challenge to this situation will be forthcoming fairly shortly and one trusts that if sucessful will be implemented on a retrospective basis. Nevertheless, it would seem as though a holdup has occurred because legal aid is being sought from the Scottish Legal Board, which surprise/surprise is a lengthy process, delaying the attempt

Tags: | Categories: Education

Boundary Commission - What is Proposed

The underlying question is whether the current UK electoral boundaries give an equitable and representative indication of the number of registered electors in a constituency; without excessive bias towards one party or another

The present proposal aims to accomplish two things:

  • Reduce the number of constituencies from 533 to 502
  • ensure each constituency contains a similar number of registered electors

The upshot of the proposals is that inevitably there will be winners and losers - with suggested losers being Labour and Lib Dems.

However, the real problem arises because Nick Clegg is trying to 'horse-trade' over reforms to the House of Lords in exchange for his support over this matter and essentially if he doesn't get his own way, will block any boundary changes in retaliation as a spoiling action

This is not about whether boundary changes are the right or wrong decision for the country as a whole but rather whether Nick Clegg can get his own way like a spoilt child; and if he cannot then he will retaliate by being spiteful

Well Mr Clegg (and other politicians) needs to take a wider view for the good of the country - by all means block the proposals if he believes that there is no benefit for the country as a whole or the electorate.

However, to take any other approach and adopt a childish stance because he has not got his own way in another area, simply shows him up for the opportunist he really is and renders a great dis-service to the country

Do we really need 'self-serving' representatives or should all those of his ilk be simply kicked out

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Apple is a totally shambolic company that woefully fails to meet reasonable expectations over product delivery.

Even speaking to Apple's customer services does not reveal anything and when they are asked difficult questions they simply give up and put the telephone down on you - thereby dodging the issue. Marvellous customer liaison!

Ordered (and paid for) an iPad Mini 5 weeks ago (10 November 2012) from one of Apple's retailers in the UK as a present in time for Christmas

No delivery so far and being given the run around by Apple Customer Services. Their response is, speak to the retailer, with all the ensuing claptrap about data protection, which only ever seems to prevent companies actually providing service or answering difficult questions; never actually benefitting the customer

It is very simple, Apple Computers have released a new iPad Mini range and seem to be incapable of honouring delivery in the UK for products ordered via a retailer and not the Apple web site. From memory this is not the first time Apple have done this and they persistently treat their customers as though they are of no value - well if Apple carry on like this then they will have no customers and their wish will come true

The problem seems to have arisen because Apple have dumped production capacity at a Samsung plant in the aftermath of their patent (IP) scrap with them and failed to ensure adequate capacity elsewhere (AU Optronics-AUO) - totally shambolic and now potential customers suffer because of their abject failures

Only those outside the USA seem to having problems because Apple have now (11 Dec 2012) '.. cut shipping times in half for US and Canadian customers and promising devices will ship in one week ..'

Apple goes on to say '.. other markets where they sell the iPad mini ... including the UK retained their 2-week status ..'

What 2-week status are they talking about, or are they incapable of performing arithmetic as well as delivery because my 2-week status is now running at 5 weeks and counting with no solution in sight?

So blatent discrimination against those outside the American continent, made even more acute if you ordered from a 3rd party retailer rather than Apples themselves - questionnable trading ethics

Yet another disasterous product release by Apple - how long can Apple get away with this sort of behaviour? Surely there will come a time when the customers will have had enough and give them a miss?

Tags: | Categories: Computers

Just had a letter from E-ON notifying us of an impending price rise in 2013. The letter starts off by saying how wonderful the company is for not increasing their prices in 2012

'.. but, unfortunately, we can't protect you from an increase any longer ..'

and the letter goes on about the '.. rising wholesale energy prices ..'

Good to know that 'spin' is alive and well to sanitise the pain of a price rise and lie to the customer to justifty E-ON's stance.

Just have a look at the graph of WTI (West Texas) oil prices below (Brent is pretty much the same profile)

This shows that prices peaked in March 2011 and Feb 2012 but troughs were Sept 2011 and June 2012. Furthermore, prices are currently (Dec 2012) below 50% of their high & more like 33% of their peak; additionally oil projections indicate a future downward trend

With this in mind where does the questionnable statement about '.. rising wholesale energy prices ..' come from, it is certainly not a valid reason for raising prices

There are a number of aspects to this whole matter that need looking into

  • The actual percentage rises themselves - dual fuel 8.7% and electricity 7.7% (i.e. £110 rise for a typical customer). Thought that the Government was encouraging below inflation price rises because any other approach would simply fuel inflation and add to the burden all round
  • Other countries such as France have regulated energy prices (i.e. gas 2-3% from January 2013 affecting 10 million households) and the electricity price for each category of user is regulated by law

Therefore the question is - are UK consumers having high price rises imposed on them in order for these international companies to make up for any shortfall in other 'regulated' countries.

In short is the UK paying for regulated prices on the continent?

Tags: | Categories: Energy

This is about the honour and pride of Jacintha Saldanha in working for the hospital, which should render us all incredibly humble in this grasping world.

Clearly these concepts are totally alien to the two Australian nationals, Michael Christian and Mel Greig who just see people as stepping stones to be crushed on their route to fame

We know that Australia is on the other side of the world, but surely our antipodean cousins are not so far removed from the real world on this side of the planet that they have failed to register the recent uproar about the press & other intrusion into peoples lives Leveson Inquiry

At a time when the press and media are under intense scrutiny in this country the Australian media seem to be totally unaware of the underlying mood, or impending sanctions brought about by press abuse.

One only has to recall the issue of Russell Brand & Jonathan Ross Sachsgate disclosing sex details of another actors grand-daughter 'as a joke', or the plethora of other practical jokes that have gone badly wrong. The simple answer is do not try to embarrass others for your own gain or to further your career

Unfortunately, in the past, people have died or committed suicide to fan the egos of the 'joke' perpetrators. Naturally it is not possible to know the outcome of these practical jokes but history should have taught us that they can and often do go badly wrong with disastrous consequences - but 'hey' who cares, my career has been given a boost by bullying or embarrassing someone!

Let us not forget for one moment that the Australian pair of DJ's Michael Christian (that name is a misnomer if ever there was one) and Mel Greig actually broke the law along the way by failing to abide by the UK broadcasting code and get consent from the interviewee to broadcast a phone call.

Nevertheless, their Austalian employers (2Day FM) have been quick to state that they have done nothing illegal, because although they may have broken Austalian law, this is invalidated due to the fact that the recipient of the call was in another country (England). Interesting interpretation that one would hope does not hold water!

However, all that seems to be incidental in their rush to humiliate others on their climb to 'fame'. Well 'guys' you got it badly wrong this time and should pay the price of never working ever again in the media

Now we get the bleating about 'not realising' and how they feel bad about the situation; probably because their Twitter accounts have been innundated with public disapproval (and subsequently shut down - cowardice over public approbation)

So not only do they bully the vulnerable, they sudddenly get an attack of the 'vapours' when the tables are turned on them; which really says it all!

Quite frankly no-one wants really to know how Mel Greig feels vulnerable and is in danger of having a breakdown, because it is all probably a PR 'get out of jail' exercise anyway, to play the sympathy card. It was their choice to conduct this 'prank' and between the pair of them they have contributed to the suicide of another member of society

Getting their just deserts would be to have them extradited to the UK and charged with contributory manslaughter - at least that would be a wake-up call for all these wanabee stars who think it funny to humiliate others

Their employers, Southern Cross Austero (CEO Rhys Holleran), are just as bad and probably worse because they encourage this abuse in order to gain ratings whilst at the same time refusing to take responsibility for a situation they have encouraged. Some of the excuses they have used simply beggar belief - little gems such as:

  • apologise 'for any inconvenience caused'
  • all done with 'the best of intentions'

unbeliveable !

Thank goodness their advertisers have seen how disgraceful the situation is and started to withdraw their advertising revenue.

With any luck the station will go out of business over this episode ('reasonably forseeable' is a clear concept of negligence) but that is no consolation to the family of Jacintha Saldanha who have our sincere condolences over this terrible episode

Tags: | Categories: Media

Another day - another winner

Under proposed Government plans, details of internet use in the UK will have to be stored for a year to allow police and intelligence services to access it

This is totally unworkable because it is very simple to circumvent by those involved in activities the authorities wish to  monitor. For instance how does the Government propose to get around:

  • Using tools such as The Tor Project - '.. Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security ..'
  • The method used by General Patreus to communicate with mistress by email was - set up a web based email account and give both parties a login. Emails are never actually sent from the account so no sender/received trail ever exists. Instead one party writes a draft message and saves it under the drafts area, then the other person logs in, reads the draft and deletes it. A simple anonymous almost untraceable method of communication which is not going to be intercepted by any Government snooping
  • Proxy servers

The list is endless and unless the Goverment can provide a certain, foolproof method of ensuring that the above avoidance methods cannot be used then what is the point in introducing any legislation whatsoever?

The reason for these few examples is to demonstrate that any proposed legislation will be almost useless in monitoring targeted groups or individuals because they will know ways around the system. However, it will catch an unsuspecting public and open their private lives to public scrutiny and to all the official departments having access to the data; which as we have seen before is a licence for data abuse

... and no don't come up with that 'old canard' about why worry if you have nothing to hide which is a specious argument at the best of times

We have perfectly adequate safeguards in place at the present time without giving the state further licence to snoop on the public at large.

Don't forget that we have already had a situation where - ‘.. A tribunal ruled that Poole council had breached the law by using powers designed to catch serious criminals to track every movement of the Paton family ..’

Family win school catchment spying case

Furthermore, even now there are proposals to widen the scope of those having access to the data to cover almost anything the Government feels is against its best interests; so it just gets better and better! - 1984 and all that ...

References

Draft (Daft) Communications Data Bill

Tags: , | Categories: UK Government

Public sector pensions for new entrants should be stopped immediately because they are an unsustainable drain on the country that the UK simply cannot afford

The longer the Government prevaricates the harder it becomes to implement and the greater the problem becomes. Furthermore, there is no good reason for refusing to introduce the changes as soon as possible

The Private Sector decided long ago that this type of pension was totally unaffordable commercially. Therefore why are they acceptable in the Public Sector because they are just as unaffordable and the only difference is that they are funded by the state (rest of the community). This results in normal commercial considerations being ignored because the State is percieved as a bottomless pit and not required to make a profit

Once again mutualising benefits for one sector over the entire community, who even though they contribute to Public Sector Pensions receive nothing in return despite having paid for a comfortable retirement for others; whilst possibly in pension hardship themselves!

Very simply just place all new Public Sector employees pension funding on the same basis as that of the Private Sector.

The benefit would be an immediate small reduction in state liabilities with savings becoming greater over time, until all Public Sector Pension liabilities have washed out of the system in say 50 years. The Public Sector Pension debt liability will only reduce and benefit the country immensly over time as well as doing away withe the current pension aparthide, where the only winners are those in the Public Sector

This is an equitable and practical solution to reducing liabilities and must be introduced with immediate effect for new entrants

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

This one really does look like sharp practice by the insurance industry whereby drivers 'no claim discounts' automatically expire after 2 years.

This means that if you are a company car driver or have been out of the country for a few years then your insurance premium starts again from scratch with a zero percent no claim discount; despite that fact that you may historically have an unblemished motoring record for many years

Furthermore, should you be a company car driver and wish to hire a car whilst on holiday then you will be penalised in this area as well

Asking the insurers about this practice elicits either a 'don't know' response or blaming the underwriters because these are the rules they have laid down.

Contacting the underwriters themselves (assuming this is possible) gets you no further forward with an explanation, other than stating that insurance companies are not bound to retain the 'no claim' information for longer that 2 years. As a result they have no means of checking the validity of any discount

All very convenient for the insurance companies, but in this era of computers, why have insurance companies adopted such short time span for data retention when they manage to retain your email address, claims record & other details indefinitely - this is totally incomprehensible?

Unless of course the underlying reason is to charge the policy holder a greater premium - all very suspicious!

Tags: | Categories: Car

This is a difficult area to address without the emotive language and strong feelings that inevitably result in any suggestions of change

Nevertheless, change must occur because the country simply does not have the resources to sustain an open ended funding requirement

There are a number of components that make up the demands on welfare

  • Migration
  • Asylum Seekers
  • Jobless

Migration

Nearly every country in the world encourages the 'right kind' of migration and prohibits foreign nationals with nothing to offer. Potentially they contribute little to the country and are regarded as a drain on the available resources.

Nevertheless, the EU has an 'open door' policy that allows free movement of national between countries. However, the disadvantage of this approach is that it ignores the disparity between average salaries in the different countries. The result of this disparity is a massive population polarisation to regions that offer the best opportunities, or best welfare benefits

Therefore the question has to be - 'what attracts such large numbers of foreign nationals to the UK' ? Could it be the welfare system as a whole and more specifically benefit hand-outs on arrival and free access to institutions such as the NHS ?

Asylum Seekers

Surely the underlying concept behind asylum is that those in fear of their lives are given shelter in the first 'safe haven' country they encounter?

Any other approach, such a choosing a country in which to apply for asylum, results in a lifestyle choice, which arguably, cannot be the ethos behind the process of asylum

With this in mind why does the UK become the country of choice for many asylum seekers, once again is it because of the benefits system and what can be extracted from the State?

Jobless

A lot of this area revolves around a perceived 'quality of life' and not attaching any stigma to those unfortunate enough to be without employment

However, it has never really been explained to the public at large why luxuries such as Sky television, top of the range mobile phones (iPhones) etc. form part of a basic lifestyle; especially if funded by the taxpayer

Also what about other areas such as smoking and alcohol? Bearing in mind that the State recognises the harmful effects of smoking and subsequent pressure on the NHS, it does seem rather incongrous that the taxpayer is funding these past times instead of encouraging people to stop smoking; especially with the prohibitive costs involved

Possible Partial Solution

Clearly the aspect that makes the UK attractive to foreign nationals is the Welfare System and all it's components

Therefore why not render it unattractive to those entering the country until they have been here 5 years.

By unnatractive is meant - ineligible for any State Welfare whatsoever for the initial period of 5 years and then potentially limited to what has been paid into the system by way of National Insurance, Tax etc.

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

This is always going to be a difficult subject because no-one wants those in real need to be left destitute.

Nevertheless it is interesting how the extrapolated figures pan out when compared to equivalent salaries. Furthermore, it does beg the question of why anyone should go to work if their prospective salary is less than £34,000 per annum

There are two ways to measure Poverty; either Before or After Housing Costs and most experts come down in favour of After (AHC) because it is not biased by property prices (higher rents) relative to the area where people live (i.e. London .v. Northumberland)

Here is a link to a Minimum Income Calculator

According to Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) - UK Poverty Line the defintion of poverty level goes something like this

'.. At CPAG, we consider a better measure to be the income a household has left AHC (after housing costs), as this more realistically reflects the amount of money families and individuals have at their disposal. All the figures we use are AHC unless otherwise stated ..'

Taking the CPAG example of a couple with:

  • One child under 14, one child over 14 = £346 per/wk or £17,992 per/annum

The abbreviation AHC (after housing costs) is used a lot in determining levels of poverty, however, it is difficult to find a definative explanation as to what is included in this category as 'housing costs'.

Nevertheless 'housing costs' are deemed to include - rent/mortgage interest payments, structural insurance premiums, water charges, ground rent and service charges

Therefore in order to determine the equivalent value of the Poverty Level to a family in work and paying tax these figures need to be grossed back up to arrive at an equivalent salary/wage

Description Weekly Amount Annual Amount
Poverty Level as above 346.00 17,992.00
AHC Details (Estimated)
   
Rent 115.00 6,000.00
Council Tax 24.00 1,248.00
Water Rates 5.00 260.00
Structural Insurance 2.00 104.00
Total Net of Income Tax/NI 492.00 25,604.00

 

Tax Calculations Weekly Amount Annual Amount
Gross Pay 653.85 34,000.00
Tax Free Allowance 155.87 8,105.00
Total Taxable 497.98 25,895.00
Tax Due 99.60 5,179.00
National Insurance 60.94 3,168.96
Total Deductions 160.54 8,347.96
Net Earnings 493.31 25,652.04

Therefore in order for a salaried wage earner to match the CPAG recommended net amount of £17,992.00 per annum they would need to be earning approximately £34,000.00 per annum

Otherwise it is simply not worth going out to work because (apart from self asteem) you will be worse off than doing nothing!

Tags: | Categories: UK Government