UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Should Scotland become independent?


As Scotland prepares to celebrate 10 years of devolution on July 1, the question of whether the nation should gain full independence from the Union refuses to go away.

An opinion poll has found that 58 percent of Scots support the Scottish government’s wish to hold a referendum on independence in 2010.

This does not mean that the people of Scotland actually want to break free, however. The poll, carried out by ICM for the BBC, also showed that only 38 percent of the 1,010 respondents said they were in favour of Scotland becoming an independent country, while 54 percent said they would vote against the idea.

Respondents were also asked if they believed it was likely or unlikely Scotland would become a completely independent nation within 20 years, with 10 percent saying they thought it was likely and 28 percent quite likely. A larger proportion were not as convinced — 34 percent said it was quite unlikely and 24 percent said it was very unlikely.

Unchristian comments about BBC’s new head of religion?


The BBC is coming in for flak about its religious coverage, much of it centring on its incoming head of religious broadcasting.

The publicly funded broadcaster has appointed Aaqil Ahmed from Channel 4,  a move that has dismayed a Church of England member who is proposing to discuss the matter at the church’s General Synod, the church’s parliament.

Do you object to your money going to private broadcasters?


It has been suggested that the BBC could be forced to give up some of its income from the licence fee to help fund regional news on commercial broadcasters such as ITV which are struggling during the downturn.

The suggestion was included in a government-backed report called Digital Britain which is aimed at helping those broadcasters such as ITV which have been hit by the fall in advertising.

Should BBC salaries be secret?


As the annual chore of filling in tax returns looms on the horizon again, many taxpayers might be reflecting longer than usual this year about just where the money is going.

Since the last time he ripped open the blue cellophane HMRC envelope with a sigh and started hunting around for his P60, Joe Public has seen billions of pounds going to the banks, thousands if not millions being used to bankroll the expensive tastes of MPs — and now he sees the BBC clamming up about how much it spends on stars from that other effective tax, the licence fee. 

Time to dump premium-rate?


The thought of ringing up a mega-corporation with a query or complaint elicits a mental – and at times even audible – groan from among the most stoic of people.

The frustrations felt at wasted time spent pushing buttons on the dial pad leading to endless tedious messages in the hope of reaching an employee with a modicum of knowledge is often compounded by the thought that there is a financial cost for the effort.

“The Apprentice” is a one-horse race


At the moment it looks as if only one person can win this series of BBC One’s “The Apprentice” – and this is Kate Walsh. The 27-year-old is the only candidate with any natural flair for business and has shone in every task. Last night’s episode was no different.

With 10 weeks gone and just six candidates remaining, Sir Alan Sugar decided it was time for “one of my favourite tasks”. In other words, the one that made the wannabe apprentices (and us watching at home) the most uncomfortable. Both teams were then told they would be thrust in front of a camera and expected to sell products on live TV.

“The Apprentice” candidates are all washed up


The task on last night’s episode of “The Apprentice” had to be the hardest of the series so far. Sir Alan Sugar met the candidates at the O2 Arena, formally the Millenium Dome, and gave them all a lesson in the art of re-branding.

Their challenge was to use their creative and marketing skills to re-brand one of the UK’s faded seaside tourist attractions – Margate.

Pants Man leaves “The Apprentice”


After shouting his way through the previous tasks, estate agent Philip Taylor was booted off ”The Apprentice” last night for breaking that age-old rule: never mix business with pleasure.

Sent to Manchester and Liverpool to sell products pitched to them by inventors, loudmouth Phil instead spent the entire task flirting with Kate — favourite to win the competition — and cheekily saying things like “I’d buy anything off her” as if he was auditioning for a role in a Carry On film.

The invisible man leaves “The Apprentice”


So long Noorul Choudhury, we barely knew you. Mainly because we did not even know you existed.

After surviving for five weeks by lurking in the background and hoping Sir Alan Sugar would not notice he was there, Noorul has finally been ejected from this series of “The Apprentice”.

“The Apprentice” candidates not worth very much


The chief villain of the latest series of “The Apprentice”, now at the half-way stage, is undoubtedly Belfast-born Ben Clarke, who has wound up not just his fellow contestants and Sir Alan Sugar but everyone at home watching the show.

His claim three weeks ago that he should not be fired because he had “won a scholarship to Sandhurst” will surely become part of reality TV folklore. The former stockbroker is on top form again this week, when viewers finally get to see if he can live up to his own hype as project manager of team Empire.