If an independent Scotland doesn’t ‘pay up’ rUK could veto Scotland’s EU application and ‘hang on’ to North Sea Oil and tax revenues

FM Alex Salmond has responded to the Treasury’s confirmation that it will honour all of the UK’s debt in the event of a vote for independence in the referendum.

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Editors Note:  Readers wanting an in-depth & non-political view of the legal process & potential complications of a post ‘Yes’ vote will benefit from watching a recent 3-hour hearing of the HoC Scottish Affairs Select Committee HERE

No education, no chance of a job

Almost 75% of young offenders return to crime when they are released.  Currently, young offenders spend on average just 12 hours a week in education, but under new proposals this would be more than doubled to give young offenders much more time in the classroom or workshop to help them develop the skills they need to turn their back on crime.

Under the plans to transform youth custody, a pioneering Secure College will be built in the East Midlands.  The fortified school will ‘provide young offenders with strong discipline, while focusing squarely on rehabilitation & education’.  The Secure College will have a head teacher or principal at the core of a leadership team made up of educational professionals and offender managers.

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New offer could be a ‘fraction’ of the eventual ‘sweetener’ offered 

The PM has announced that councils can keep 100% of business rates they collect from shale gas sites – double the current 50% figure.  This commitment could be worth up to £1.7m a year for a typical site.  Community benefits for local people will also be strengthened.  The industry has confirmed it will further consult on how this money can best be shared with the local community, with options including direct cash payments to people living near the site, plus the setting up of local funds directly managed by local communities.

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Following the USA & Australia into more dependence on reserve forces

A brand new Army recruitment campaign'More than meets the eye' – launched recently to kick-start Army recruitment in the New Year.  Also, the Territorial Army has now been rebranded as the ‘Army Reserve.  This is to help demonstrate its integration with its regular counterparts.

The new campaign is the first fully integrated, joint recruitment drive for the Army & Army Reserve and seeks to capitalise on the New Year resolutions of those wanting to transform their lives with a more exciting and more rewarding career.  January will also see the launch of a new simplified online application form, a more streamlined medical clearance process, and an Army fitness app, making it easier for potential recruits to join.

Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, said:  “The Army offers people unique opportunities for challenge and adventure, both at home and overseas, during peacetime and on operations.  It develops personal qualities that are key to success in any walk of life: leadership, judgement, determination and physical stamina”.

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Walking is the best exercise for all the family

The official launch of the new National Trails website has taken place and the site is packed with practical information and new maps for the 15 National Trails in England & Wales offering over 2,500 miles of some of the best walking, riding & cycling experiences for people who love outdoor adventures.

The site uses high quality mapping thanks to support from the Ordnance Survey, showing the Trails in great detail as well as nearby attractions & facilities to visit – such as castles, churches, parks and museums.  Recommended itineraries for walking & cycling are easily downloadable.  For the first time, new interactive features mean that local businesses can upload details of the services they provide to people visiting the area.  This includes how to get there and where to stay, what to see & where to eat, and where to find facilities such as bike hire shops, horse-riding stables and outdoor equipment shops.

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The Word(s) from the Trenches, not sanitised historical accounts, now available online

The unit war diaries are among the most popular records from their First World War collection (file series WO 95) and the first in a series of First World War records to be digitised as part of our centenary programme - First World War 100.

They have also launched Operation War Diary, an innovative online crowdsourcing partnership project, which aims to unearth the details from within the diaries, using the same technology that has been used to map the stars. 

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Bridging the digital gap

Millions of people who do not have internet access in their homes can now find information about Universal Credit (UC) and finding work by hitting the red button on their TV remote control.  The new Universal Credit information channels have now seen more than 30,000 hits since they were launched at the end of October 2013, according to digital content provider Looking Local.

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Government by the Commission for the Commission?

A practical guide on the 'Habitual Residence Test' to help Member States apply EU rules on the coordination of social security for EU citizens that have moved to another Member State has just been published by the European Commission.

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Last reminder

Londoners are more likely to miss the tax return deadline than taxpayers in any other part of the UK, figures released today by HMRC reveal.  The longer you delay, the more you have to pay.  So if you still have to send us your tax return, take action now.  Anyone with an outstanding 2012 to 2013 tax return must send it online, and pay any tax they owe, by 31 January 2014.

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