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Scotland set to scrap key climate targets | UK News

Scotland is expected to announce a dramatic watering down of its key climate targets tomorrow, Sky News understands.

The Scottish government will deliver a ministerial statement at Holyrood after a report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 is out of reach.

Scotland has missed eight of the past 12 annual targets and its wider plans are “beyond what is credible”, according to the independent experts.

Campaign organisation Friends of the Earth Scotland described the decision as “the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish parliament”.

Ministers and government officials have refused to comment tonight on suggestions its ambitions will be weakened but multiple sources are widely expecting a U-turn.

In a damning report to the Scottish parliament last month, the CCC said: “The Scottish government is failing to achieve Scotland’s ambitious climate goals.”

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Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced the initial climate plans, rejected suggestions she had “overcooked” the ambitions when asked at a COP26 event in Glasgow in 2021.

Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan will deliver the update in Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon.

People protesting ahead of COP26. Pic: Alberto Pezzali/AP
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People protesting ahead of COP26. Pic: Alberto Pezzali/AP

Mark Ruskell, climate spokesperson for the Green Party, which is in partnership with the SNP in government, said: “We are absolutely determined to accelerate the urgent and substantial action needed to tackle the climate crisis as laid out by the CCC recently, and fully expect the Scottish government to respond to that challenge.

“This is a pivotal moment for us to ramp up the kind of meaningful change that will put us on track to achieve net zero by 2045 at the latest, in the face of a complete reversal of climate action from the UK government.”

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‘Worst environmental decision in history of Scottish parliament’

Imogen Dow, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns, said: “If the SNP and Green ministers choose to scrap these vital climate commitments, it would be the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish parliament.

“The 2030 target could and should have been met, but instead it looks like politicians are going to break their promises and betray both their constituents and the most vulnerable people on the frontlines of climate breakdown.

“These climate targets are based on what climate science says Scotland must do as part of a global effort to limit dangerous warming. Politicians right across the spectrum made a promise to the people of Scotland by voting for strong 2030 targets so they must be willing to work together to back the transformative ideas that improve lives and cut climate pollution.

“Instead of using the past decade to deliver warm homes, reliable public transport and a fair transition away from fossil fuels, inept, short-termist politicians have kept millions of people trapped in the broken status quo that only benefits big polluters.”

David Cameron warns of ‘danger and instability’ in the world as he defends UK strikes on Houthi targets | Politics News

Not taking military action against the Houthis would have led to “more attacks” in the Red Sea, according to Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron.

The British military took part in a joint operation in Yemen alongside the US this week in retaliation for the targeting of international trade in the key shipping lane – followed up by a fresh attack by the US on Friday night.

Lord Cameron said the action by the Houthis was “effectively terrorist attacks”, adding: “If you don’t act against the Houthis in the Red Sea, you are going to see more attacks.”

And he hinted the government would be willing to join in further military action, telling Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Philips the UK had “demonstrated that we are prepared to follow words and warning with action”.

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RAF Typhoons strike military targets in Yemen
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RAF Typhoons strike military targets in Yemen

Lord Cameron also warned: “It is hard to think of a time when there has been so much danger and insecurity and instability in the world.

“The lights are absolutely flashing red on the global dashboard and what we need at that time is strong leadership and a plan and that is what we have with the prime minister and the team in place.”

The foreign secretary further defended the initial response to the attacks on ships in the Red Sea, saying there had been 26 incidents since November – including an attack on HMS Diamond, that saw over 20 drones and missiles used by the Houthis.

Asked about concerns that the military operation could lead to an escalation in tensions in the Middle East, the foreign secretary said: “What are the consequences of not acting?

“We have endured almost two months of continual attacks and we gave warning after warning and frankly, ultimately that wasn’t working and the number of attacks was going up, the severity of those attacks was going up.

“So not acting is also a policy, and it was a policy that wasn’t working.”

A spokesman for the Yemeni armed forces in the Houthi-controlled north of the country said in a televised statement that the bombardment “will not go unanswered and unpunished” – saying it would not deter their support for Palestinians amid Israel’s war in Gaza.

Lord Cameron denied any link between the Red Sea attacks, saying the action was “completely separate”.

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Houthis vow ‘punishment’ for attacks

However, also speaking to Trevor Philips, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, said the strikes had “inevitable” connections to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“If one’s being rational in analysis, I agree with David Cameron that freedom of navigation is a different issue from Gaza, but the Arab street doesn’t think that,” he said.

“Inevitably there’s a connection. They’re going to have an impact across the whole area.”

Cameron may need to keep unintended consequences in mind

Rob Powell Political reporter

Rob Powell

Political correspondent

@robpowellnews

If there’s a foreign policy mantra to be extracted from David Cameron’s time as prime minister, it is likely around the cost of doing nothing.

As he wrote in his memoir about the 2011 intervention in Libya to stop a massacre in Benghazi, “to do nothing in these circumstances was not a neutral act – it was to facilitate murder”.

Two years after the Libya strikes and Cameron made a similar argument to persuade MPs to back bombing in Syria. It didn’t work.

He was defeated in a Commons vote and ruled out any intervention.

The now Lord Cameron says he still believes that was a mistake, but denies he is “over-correcting” by taking a firm line against the Houthis.

It is worth looking at how events in Libya and Syria ultimately played out though.

After initial claims of a new era of freedom, Libya eventually descended into violence, with the UK intervention criticised as ill-informed and lacking in strategy.

In Syria, President Assad remains in power, while Russian involvement there has increased Moscow’s influence in the region.

Two countries. Two different approaches. One similarly undesirable outcome for the UK.

A related danger hangs over military involvement against the Houthis. Set against the wider turbulence in the Middle East, any direct Western involvement must present a risk of triggering uncontrolled escalation.

Far from the cost of doing nothing, it may be the rule of unintended consequences that the foreign secretary should keep in mind.

The government has got the support of Labour in the action, with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting telling Sky News it was an “open and shut case”.

He also said his party understood the need to act “swiftly and decisively” without recalling parliament to debate the issue.

“These strikes were targeted and focussed and absolutely necessary in Britain’s self-defence and national interest,” Mr Streeting told Trevor Philips.

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How UK jets struck the Houthis

But the Liberal Democrats have attacked the government for “bypassing” parliament, and called for a retrospective vote on the action in the Commons when the prime minister makes a statement on Monday.

The party’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Layla Moran, said: “We remain very concerned about the Houthi’s attacks.

“But that makes it all the more important to ensure that MPs are not silenced on the important issue of military action.”

Royal Mail is fined £5.6m for missing delivery targets | Business News

Royal Mail has been fined £5.6m by the industry regulator for missing targets covering both first and second-class deliveries.

Ofcom said that for the 2022-23 financial year – a time when it was hit by 18 days of strikes by frontline workers – Royal Mail‘s reported performance results showed that it had only delivered 73.7% of first-class mail on time.

It added that just 90.7% of second-class mail was received on time. It also completed 89.35% of delivery routes for each day on which a delivery was required.

Under the rules, each year Royal Mail is required to deliver 93% of first class mail within one working day and 98.5% of second class items within three working days.

The target for completion of delivery routes is 99.9%.

“Ofcom can consider evidence submitted by Royal Mail of any exceptional circumstances that may have explained why it missed its targets,” the watchdog’s statement said.

“Even after adjusting Royal Mail’s performance for the impact of industrial action, extreme weather and the Stansted runway closure, its first and second class performance was still only 82% and 95.5% respectively.

“This means that Royal Mail breached its obligations by failing to meet its targets by a significant and unexplained margin. This caused considerable harm to customers, and Royal Mail took insufficient steps to try and prevent this failure.”

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Royal Mail delivered just 73.7% of first class mail on time

The fine was reduced by 30% to reflect the company’s admission of liability and co-operation.

During the 2022/23 timeframe, the industrial action by over 112,000 delivery workers centred on pay and opposition to productivity changes the company wanted to impose.

The strikes, which intensified in the run-up to the core Christmas season, even prompted a warning from the company that jobs were under threat due to the severity of the impact on its earnings.

The bitter dispute, which lasted almost a year and culminated in the departure of chief executive Simon Thompson, was eventually settled in April and formally concluded in July.

Simon Thompson, CEO Royal Mail
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Simon Thompson’s performance was severely criticised by MPs

Royal Mail has raised stamp prices substantially as part of efforts to bolster its finances since and an update on its performance is due this week when its parent firm IDS reveals its latest financial results.

Ian Strawhorne, Ofcom’s director of enforcement, said of the penalty: “Royal Mail’s role in our lives carries huge responsibility and we know from our research that customers value reliability and consistency.

“Clearly, the pandemic had a significant impact on Royal Mail’s operations in previous years. But we warned the company it could no longer use that as an excuse, and it just hasn’t got things back on track since.

“The company’s let consumers down, and today’s fine should act as a wake-up call – it must take its responsibilities more seriously.

“We’ll continue to hold Royal Mail to account to make sure it improves service levels.”

A company spokesperson responded: “We are very disappointed with our Quality of Service performance in 2022-23 and acknowledge Ofcom’s decision today.

“Last year was uniquely challenging for Royal Mail. Quality of service was materially impacted by the long-running industrial dispute which included 18 days of strike action.

“We are pleased that Ofcom has acknowledged that elements outside of Royal Mail’s control had a significant impact on service levels and has adjusted the figures to 82% for first class and 95.5% for second class mail.

“Quality of Service is extremely important to us. We take our commitment to delivering a high level of service seriously and are taking action to introduce measures to restore quality of service to the level our customers expect.”

Rishi Sunak accused of ditching housebuilding targets to please Tory members | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has been accused of ditching housebuilding targets to court Tory members while he was running to be party leader and prime minister.

In an interview with the ConservativeHome website on Thursday, Mr Sunak acknowledged that the “vast majority of people want to own a home” and insisted it was something his party “continue to be incredibly supportive of”.

However, he said that during the summer Tory leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson, he had spoken to Conservative members, activists, and councillors and they expressed “no support” for national housebuilding targets.

Boris Johnson’s downfall ‘not my doing’, Rishi Sunak says – politics latest

“I spent a lot of the time over the summer when I was talking to so many of our members, so many of our councillors, about our planning system and their views on it,” he said.

“What I heard, consistently, particularly from our councillors and our members, was what they didn’t want was a nationally imposed, top-down set of targets imposed telling them what to do.”

He said the government was instead investing in brownfield sites, schemes for first-time buyers, and stamp duty exemptions.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up and housing secretary, branded Mr Sunak’s comments “utterly shameful” and accused him of putting party before the country.

“It is utterly shameful that the prime minister admits he ditched housing targets because he’s too weak to stand up to Tory members,” she said.

“That decision has pushed housebuilding off a cliff and exacerbated a housing crisis that was already causing misery for millions of families and young people, but Rishi Sunak clearly thinks that’s all OK because a few thousand Tory members are happy.

“We need a prime minister that puts our country before his party.”

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Why is a Labour tweet causing a stir?

The prime minister’s comments come just two weeks after the government released new figures showing that planning applications in England had fallen to their lowest level in at least 16 years.

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Last December the government came under heavy criticism for watering down a target to build 300,000 homes every year after a number of Tory MPs raised objections.

A Commons vote on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill had to be dropped in November after 60 Conservatives signed an amendment calling for the mandatory target to be scrapped.

The target was then redefined as a “starting point” and “advisory” in a move that generated a backlash from a different set of Tory MPs – including former party chairman Sir Jake Berry – who said: “Conservatives need to deliver for the next generation if we ever expect them to vote for us.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Sunak conceded that his plan to stop small boats in the Channel “won’t happen overnight” as he was pushed on the timescale for fulfilling one of his five key pledges to voters.

He also denied that he had played any role in Mr Johnson’s downfall as prime minister, saying it “wasn’t my doing” and that he had resigned for reasons “personal” to him, including a “fundamental difference on economic policy”.

The Conservatives have been contacted for comment.

Retired South Wales Police officer carried out breathalyser tests on himself to meet targets | UK News

A retired police officer who was having an inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable woman carried out breathalyser tests on himself to meet internal targets, a disciplinary hearing has heard.

The panel found in favour of gross misconduct allegations against former PC Julian John and concluded that he would have been dismissed from South Wales Police had he not already retired.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated an inappropriate relationship the former constable formed with a vulnerable woman.

Their investigation began after the IOPC received a referral from South Wales Police relating to an allegation of an inappropriate relationship formed during the course of his duties as an officer.

Flirtatious text messages were found on John’s work mobile sent by him to the woman.

These messages were sent over a nine-month period and evidence suggested that he had stayed overnight at her property on at least one occasion.

The hearing was told that in mid-December 2019 John carried out two negative breathalyser tests on himself – which measures how much alcohol is in the air you breathe out – before he falsely recorded them as tests carried out on the public.

He said in an interview that he wanted to see if a mince pie he had eaten would impact his blood alcohol level, which the panel found to be “wholly implausible”.

They say it is more likely to have been a conscious attempt to inflate breathalyser figures during an anti-drink and drugs driving campaign over the Christmas period.

The IOPC’s investigation came to an end in January 2021 and found the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

He retired from the force in March this year.

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Following the hearing held on 28 March, which was overseen by an independent legally qualified chair, John has been added to the police-barred list.