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How flooded coal mines could heat homes

Coal mines were the beating heart of Britain's industrial revolution. Their sooty, energy-dense output gave life to new-fangled factories and shipyards, fuelling the nation's irrepressible march towards modernity. They helped shape a carbon-intensive economy, however, one that took little notice of the natural world around it. They paved the way for a global dependence on fossil fuels, in doing so, fired the starting pistol on the climate crisis that today confronts us all.

Why central banks are getting into the crypto game

From bitcoin to ethereum, digital currencies have been heralded as a new dawn for money. They allow for faster, cheaper transfers, promote financial inclusion and offer greater privacy, according to their proponents. However, the promise of anonymity has also made them a favoured financial medium for fraudsters and criminals. And beset by explosive volatility, they fall far short of being a viable payment method. But what if that wasn’t the case? For monetary authorities worldwide, this is the trillion-dollar question. Spurred by the crypto sector’s meteoric rise, dozens are looking at launching their own central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) — virtual money that replaces cash with electronic tokens. Done correctly, this could democratise finance, clamp down on criminality and offer far greater efficiency. Yet deep in CBDCs’ digital DNA are concerns around state surveillance and individual privacy and the prospect of a cashless society that might not work for all.

How Brexit left small British business out in the cold

It was billed as the rebirth of UK plc, granting British businesses freedom from the high-handed bureaucracy of Brussels. But, for many SMEs with significant EU exports, Brexit feels less like a renaissance than it does the rocky road to ruin. Engulfed by paperwork, taxes and unbearable added costs, some are having to shelve their EU operations indefinitely. Others, unwilling to sacrifice their hard-earned customer base on the Continent, are battling through the red tape, desperate to salvage what business they can. Donna Wilson, a London-based textile designer who runs an eponymous homeware business, is one of the latter, although she is finding it an uphill struggle. “Selling to Europe used to be seamless,” she says. “With the EU agreements in place, we didn’t have to deal with customs and there were no hidden charges. It was a very easy experience for us and our customers.”

This Country Is Finally Teaching Students About Its Ugly Colonial History

Demands to tackle discrimination through education have grown globally over the last 12 months, energised by the murder of George Floyd and wave of racial equality campaigning that followed. In the UK, a petition calling for the compulsory teaching of Britain’s role in colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade got 268,772 signatures – well over the 100,000 needed for the topic to be debated in Parliament. Scotland has an ugly colonial past. It was a ready participant in Britain’s blood-soak

From Indigenous Communities to Faith-Based Organisations, Collaboration is Needed to Tackle the Climate Crisis

There is no greater equalizer than the environment. Regardless of race, religion, gender or geography, we’re all facing a climate crisis — a man-made catastrophe that can only be tackled with collective action. Faith-based organisations and indigenous communities are key actors in this endeavour. With their moral capital and spiritual resonance, they can call for restorative action and greater sustainability, guiding policymakers onto a path that better protects the planet. This was the centra

Scottish Independence Back In The Limelight As Country Votes In Pivotal Parliamentary Election

Constrained by coronavirus restrictions, there’s an eerie quietness to Scotland’s parliamentary election campaign. No raucous street activism, no mass rallies. Just a peculiar sense of calm before the impending constitutional storm. On May 6, polling day, that storm makes landfall. Voters face a stark choice. Plump for a pro-independence party, and they’re saying yes to ‘IndyRef2’: a second ballot on Scottish independence. Deny the nationalists a majority, and dreams of secession fade away (fo

Scotland’s risky route to a new independence vote

GLASGOW — Despite being on course to win next week’s Scottish parliament election, pro-independence parties face a perilous path to secure a new referendum on breaking away from the U.K. The first major obstacle is U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who says he will refuse to grant a second referendum even if the Scottish National Party (SNP) retains power and the broader pro-independence camp wins an overall majority of seats in the election on May 6. If Johnson sticks to that stance, the ind

Would You Dine in This Prison?

Approaching the end of an eight year prison stretch for drug offenses, there was little doubt in Adeeb Sarwar’s mind — sooner or later, he’d be back behind bars. “I’d lost my businesses, my home, £200,000 (USD$275,000) in cash,” recalls the Welshman. “In my head at that time, there was no other way of getting it all back without crime.” It was then that he heard of a program for prisoners on the cusp of release, one that promised new skills and a sense of pride by cooking for the public. It wa

Drug deaths: Can Scotland learn from Germany?

In 1996, Trainspotting terrified and transfixed with its heady portrayal of substance abuse in urban Scotland. Today, cinematic fiction has given way to statistical reality, and the nation battles a spiraling drugs crisis with no end in sight. More than 1,200 Scots lost their lives in drug-related cases last year, new figures reveal, the highest number since records began, and over three-and-a-half times that of the UK as a whole. Staggeringly, Scotland's substance mortality rate is now 15 time

From Germany to Ireland, a fresh push to return the Benin bronzes

As a decolonisation movement sweeps across Europe, there are efforts to return art looted by British soldiers in 1897. The story of the Benin bronzes is one Timothy Awoyemi, a British-Nigerian police officer, knows well. Like all schoolchildren in Nigeria, he was taught of the murderous 1897 raid when British soldiers plundered Benin City, stealing a priceless array of metal sculptures. So, unlike his United Kingdom-educated colleague Steve Dunstone, Awoyemi was not entirely puzzled by the sc

The Sexual Harassment Scandal That Could Derail Scotland's Drive For Independence

A string of sexual harassment complaints topple Hollywood’s most celebrated producer. Four years later on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, dreams of Scottish independence sputter as civil war consumes the country’s governing party. It’s hard to conjure a more far-fetched tale of cause-and-effect; and yet, it’s completely true. As the misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein made headlines and #MeToo reverberated worldwide, Alex Salmond — Scotland’s former leader and an edifice of the nation’s indepen

Scotland’s leadership ‘undermined’ system of government, says Alex Salmond

Former Scottish National Party leader and former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond is sworn in before giving evidence to The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints at Holyrood | Andy Buchanan via AFP The actions of senior ministers are “undermining the system of government in Scotland,” former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond claimed Friday. Addressing a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of sexual harassment complaints against him, Salmond accus

Scotland’s Whisky Industry Is Struggling — The Political Consequences Could Be Huge

A wee dram: surely the perfect tonic to pandemic woes? You might think so; but for Scotland’s world famous whisky industry, it’s been a torrid twelve months. Scotch shipments plunged by almost a quarter in 2020, lumping distilleries with an eye-watering £1.1bn ($1.55bn) in lost sales as exports hit a decade low. COVID-19 can account for much of the shortfall — hospitality closures and travel restrictions have battered booze businesses worldwide. But dig a little deeper, and it’s clear Scotland

Scottish National Party chief executive accused of misleading inquiry

Peter Murrell rejected claims that he had given contradictory answers | Pool photo by Andy Buchanan/Getty Images GLASGOW — The chief executive of the Scottish National Party was accused on Monday of misleading an inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Peter Murrell — who is also the husband of current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon — had been hauled before a parliamentary committee to clarify comments made during a previous sessi

U.K. Green thumbs grow demand for inner-city gardening plots during pandemic

It may be a small plot in Osterley, west London, but it has provided Karen Peck’s kitchen with row upon row of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, fava beans and garlic. But Peck, 60, gets far more out of her allotment than just fresh food. “It’s so tranquil. I have a favorite robin who comes to visit, then the blackbird turns up, and there are wrens in the corner,” Peck said in a telephone interview late last year. “You appreciate the birdsong and the tiny little brown mice, hedgehogs, urban foxe

Nationalist feud could fatally wound Scottish independence hopes

GLASGOW — Bound by a cause of almost sacred importance, the Scottish National Party projects an image of unparalleled unity. But scratch beneath the surface, and the bitterest of divisions fester. Last week, former SNP leader Alex Salmond tore a hole through party ranks, accusing Nicola Sturgeon — his successor as Scotland’s first minister, and one-time protégé — of misleading parliament over an inquiry into the handling of sexual assault claims against him. At stake is not just the reputations
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