Brexit news – live: DUP warns NI Protocol could cause ‘political instability’ as Salmond lashes out at SNP

Too much Brexit ‘red tape’, says Keir Starmer

A senior DUP MP has warned that the Northern Ireland Protocol has “the potential to cause political instability” as his party called on the government to remove it and restore the nation’s ability to trade freely with the rest of the UK post-Brexit.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told MPs that Northern Irish businesses were experiencing “enormous difficulties” with their supply chains and warned it was the government’s “responsibility” to act.

He said: “That is why we are calling on them to use their powers under the protocol to take the necessary action through Article 16 to resolve the diversion of trade, the disruption in trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and to restore the citizenship rights of the people of Northern Ireland to trade freely with the rest of the UK, a freedom they have enjoyed for 200 years.”

It came as Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond claimed that there was a “malicious and concerted” attempt by members of the Scottish government and the SNP to see him removed from public life.

Mr Salmond alleged a number of officials were involved in efforts to damage his reputation in relation to the handling of harassment allegations against him.

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Hate crimes against transgender people rising in Scotland

Racially aggravated hate crimes in Scotland have fallen by a fifth (20 per cent) in the last five years while such attacks against transgender individuals have doubled in the same period, new figures show.

Hate crimes relating to the victim’s race fell from 4,967 in 2014-15 to 3,969 in 2019-20 while crimes targeting the transgender community increased from 48 to 96. The figures showed a 30 per cent rise in crimes where sexual orientation was the aggravating factor, with 1,314 recorded last year, compared to 1,010 in 2014-15.

Race-related incidents still accounted for more than three-fifths (62 per cent) of the 6,448 recorded hate crimes in 2019-20 in Scotland.

Twenty per cent of incidents were linked to sexual orientation, 8 per cent to religion, and 4 per cent to disability. Transgender identity was seen as the aggravating factor for 1 per cent of hate crimes and in 5 per cent there were multiple aggravators.

Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the report “provides more detail of how hate crime affects our communities and is a timely reminder that crime motivated by hate is an all too common occurrence, with real-life impacts on victims and those around them”.

He added: “Just from those that are reported, we know that an average 18 hate crimes are committed every day in Scotland.

“The fact that visible minority ethnic groups, which represent 4 per cent of the population, experience two-thirds of all race-related hate crimes shows we have much more to do to overcome prejudice, while the findings also highlight the need for more to be done to ensure workplaces are an environment free from hatred and from fear.

“The report also highlights the risk that police face in the line of duty on a daily basis where almost one in five recorded hate crimes involved a victim that was a police officer.”

Sam Hancock23 February 2021 12:34

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Salmond evidence to be removed from parliament website

Evidence from Alex Salmond will be removed from the Scottish parliament website before a redacted version is published later, Holyrood’s corporate body has said.

The change follows concerns raised by Scotland’s prosecution service after the former first minister’s written evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s botched investigation of sexual harassment claims against him was published on Monday evening.

A Scottish parliament spokeswoman said: “Following representations from the Crown Office on Monday evening, the SPCB (Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body) agreed collectively this morning that it will remove the Alex Salmond submission on the Ministerial Code from its website with immediate effect and republish it later today in a redacted form. The SPCB will respond formally to the Crown Office shortly.”

(Getty)

Sam Hancock23 February 2021 12:18

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‘Poverty premium’ means ethnic minorities in UK face higher living costs, study finds

Labour has urged the government to address the “scandal” of higher living costs faced by black, Asian and other ethnic minorities in the UK.

A new report by academics at Bristol University has found those on low incomes are more likely to be paying extra costs for essentials, such as electricity and gas.

Our reporter, Adam Forrest, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 12:07

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Crown Office expresses concern about publication of Salmond evidence

The Crown Office has expressed concern about the publication of Alex Salmond’s written evidence by the Scottish parliament over the handling of harassment allegations against him.

In his evidence, Mr Salmond accused Nicola Sturgeon of misleading parliament and breaching the ministerial code, while also describing the Crown Office as “not fit for purpose” under its current leadership.

Following its publication, the Crown Office – the body responsible for prosecuting crimes in Scotland – sent a letter to Holyrood’s corporate body that raised concerns and reportedly asked for redactions or for the evidence to be removed from parliament’s website.

“The Crown Office wrote to the SPCB last night,” a Scottish parliament spokesperson said.

“We have asked the Crown Office to clarify its concern so that we can respond today.”

A Crown Office spokesperson declined to comment on the contents of the letter but said “in all cases where the Crown becomes aware of issues of potential contempt, these will be considered carefully and action will be taken if considered appropriate”.

Mr Salmond is due to appear before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, set up to look into the unlawful investigation of allegations against the former leader of the SNP.

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 11:50

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Number of universal credit claimants doubles since start of pandemic, figures show

The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, with 6 million now receiving the welfare benefit, new figures have shown.

The data comes amid concern over plans to remove the £20 uplift to the benefit which was introduced due to the economic impact of Covid-19.

Our social affairs correspondent, May Bulman, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 11:34

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World’s poorest countries could be charged for ‘surplus’ vaccines, minister suggests

Some of the world’s poorest countries could be charged for access to the UK’s “surplus” vaccine supplies, a government minister has suggested.

Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad repeatedly refused to rule out making developing nations pay, triggering fresh criticism of the uncertainty over when jabs will be sent overseas.

Our deputy political reporter, Rob Merrick, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 11:15

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Local government pensions invest nearly £10bn in fossil fuels, data shows

Nearly £10bn remains invested in fossil fuel companies through local government pensions, it has been revealed.

Figures obtained via freedom of information requests show that local authority pensions invested £9.9bn in fossil fuels in the financial year of 2019 to 2020 – a 40 per cent decrease on the amount invested in fossil fuels in 2017.

Our climate correspondent, Daisy Dunne, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 10:53

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Johnson’s union unit hit by ‘troubles’, Scottish Tory leader admits

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has admitted that the government unit tasked with countering support for Scottish independence has been hit with “troubles and difficulties”.

His comments follow the exit of two leading figures from the union unit this month, amid reports of tensions over strategy.

Our reporter, Adam Forrest, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 10:27

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Labour’s David Lammy labels culture secretary as ‘authoritarian minnow’

Labour’s shadow justice secretary has called culture secretary Oliver Dowden an “authoritarian minnow” over reported plans to warn heritage organisations against focusing heavily on Britain’s imperial history.

Mr Dowden will be holding a round table event with 25 heritage organisations on Tuesday to discuss the presentation of the UK’s history, with a focus expected on the country’s role in slavery.

“Oliver Dowden is an authoritarian minnow for threatening to withdraw funding from our cultural institutions that don’t toe the government’s line,” David Lammy wrote on Twitter.

“Perhaps he should apply to be culture secretary in Russia?”

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 10:14

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G7 ministers condemn ‘intimidation and oppression’ of Myanmar protesters

Foreign ministers from G7 nations have condemned the “intimidation and oppression” of protesters in Myanmar following a military coup in the country.

The group, including foreign secretary Dominic Raab, warned on Tuesday that anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence “must be held to account”.

Protests against the junta continued on Tuesday after two demonstrators were shot dead over the weekend.

“Use of live ammunition against unarmed people is unacceptable. Anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence must be held to account,” the joint statement said.

“We condemn the intimidation and oppression of those opposing the coup.

“We raise our concern at the crackdown on freedom of expression, including through the internet blackout and draconian changes to the law that repress free speech.”

It added: “The systematic targeting of protesters, doctors, civil society and journalists must stop and the state of emergency must be revoked.”

The UK currently holds the presidency of the G7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, plus the European Union.

On Monday, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK was summoned to the Foreign Office for the second time this month.

Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 09:54

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