Going solo: The Scottish dilemma
Going solo: The Scottish dilemma
It is not that every day a 300 years’ old union is broken up, nor it is the first time for Scotland to try to go solo and have its impact on world stage.
Back in 1698, it tried to colonize the Isthmus of Panama and have a world role; the attempt backfired and few years later Scotland signed to join the UK.
Last Friday saw the first shot in a long campaign that will last more than two years to woo voters to side with independence or to continue the status quo of unity. Arguments look equal. To those who want unity with the British crown, whatever Scotland is going to gain in terms of taxes on oil is slated to loose in subsidies; while those favor independence think by having its oil for itself alone, Scotland stands good chances of booming and ally more with Nordic countries in northern Europe where a well-established welfare state is the envy of many.
So oil and economics are more or less in the heart of the debate.
It was the North Sea oil that has been fueling British economy for more than three decades.
Although recent figures speak of an annual 6 percent decline in oil production from the North Sea, attempts to write out its obituary had always proven to be premature.
Still basing the economy of yet to be born state on one commodity, highly affected by movements of world market, is an unhealthy development that would be compounded by the fact that Scotland has only a small population of merely five million people.
Because of that, stream of polls were trying to gauge the mood of the audience and how they will vote when the time comes in October 2014.
Interesting enough one of these polls found out that only 21 percent of Scots could vote for independence if it would leave them 500 pounds a year worse off; and only 24 percent would vote to stay with the Union Jack even if they would be less well-off sticking with Britain.
Aside from that, votes will go for independence if it would bring in enough cash to buy a new iPod and against it if it is not! Reducing a big issue to do with national independence to a personal preference like this is quite revealing of the general mood.
It is interesting to note that the program of those calling for independence looks for the same monarchy, the same currency at least initially, though a European Union membership and euro look like a possibility, but now it has started drifting away given the current problems of the euro zone.
Problems that may face independent Scotland are for its people to worry about, but the implications for such a step that are the source of concern to many.
A successful bid for a break up will encourage other minorities and groups around Europe and far away to try their luck also. High on the list are the Welsh and Irish. If that also is to take place, it will diminish British role not as a leading power on world stage, but even within its own borders. Add to that what could happen to Spain’s Basque or Catalans and a host of groups around Europe. Even far away Canada can feel the heat, though it had its chance and has managed to escape narrowly the independence drive by Quebec more than 15 years ago.
And if that is the case with well-established societies with mature political experience and traditions like the United Kingdom, where civil rights are respected, how about developing countries?
Last year’s break-up of Sudan and South Sudan, though conducted smoothly through a recognized referendum, later proved far away from a velvet separation — with Sudan getting into the worst case scenario of losing both unity and peace.
That is unlikely to be the case of Britain and Scotland, but with the European Union facing a tough choice of between breakups and moving toward a super state where other countries cede some of their sovereignty, the issue became more than a bilateral one. Europe’s attempt to integrate for more than 60 years is now being put to test; the same like the 300 years of British-Scottish union.
It is the age of globalization that has been raising the stakes and dictating a new game and its rules.
Ironically enough with the communication revolution that has engulfed the world and disintegration of the politico-economic order created by the industrial revolution, no new system has emerged to substitute what has been disintegrating. And what we see now between Scotland and Britain is only a symptom and a signal of what to come.
— Alsir Sidahmed ([email protected]) is media consultant, trainer and freelance journalist.
Wells Fargo to pay $1B for mortgage, auto lending abuses
- Fine the latest in a series of setbacks for US bank
- Federal Reserve in February prohibited lender from growing assets until governance issues addressed
Wells Fargo will pay $1 billion to federal regulators to settle charges tied to its mortgage and auto lending business, the latest chapter in years-long, wide-ranging scandal at the banking giant. However, it appears that none of the $1 billion will go directly to the victims of Wells Fargo’s abuses.
In a settlement announced Friday, Wells will pay $500 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, its main national bank regulator, as well as a net $500 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The action by the CFPB is notable because it is the first penalty imposed by the bureau under Mick Mulvaney, who President Trump appointed to take over the consumer watchdog agency in late November. The $500 million is also the largest penalty imposed by the CFPB in its history, the previous being a $100 million penalty also against Wells Fargo, and matches the largest fine ever handed out by the Comptroller of the Currency, which fined HSBC $500 million in 2012.
The fine against Wells Fargo had been expected. The company disclosed last week that it was in discussions with federal authorities over a possible settlement related to its mortgage and auto lending businesses, and that the fine could be as much as $1 billion.
The settlement also contains other requirements that would restrict Wells Fargo’s business. The bank will need to come with a risk management plan to be approved by bank regulators, and get approval from bank regulators before hiring senior employees.
“While we have more work to do, these orders affirm that we share the same priorities with our regulators and that we are committed to working with them as we deliver our commitments with focus, accountability, and transparency,” said Wells Fargo Chief Executive Tim Sloan in a statement.
The $500 million paid to the Comptroller of the Currency will be paid directly to the US Treasury, according to the order. The $500 million paid to the CFPB will go into the CFPB’s civil penalties fund, which is used to help consumers who might have been impacted in other cases. But zero dollars of either penalty is going directly to Wells Fargo’s victims.
The bank has already been reimbursing customers in its auto and mortgage businesses for these abuses. Wells Fargo has been refunding auto loan customers since July and been mailing refund checks to impacted mortgage customers since December.
While banks have benefited from looser regulations and lower taxes under President Trump, Wells Fargo has been called out specifically by Trump as a bank that needed to be punished for its bad behavior.
“Fines and penalties against Wells Fargo Bank for their bad acts against their customers and others will not be dropped, as has incorrectly been reported, but will be pursued and, if anything, substantially increased. I will cut Regs but make penalties severe when caught cheating!,” Trump wrote on Twitter back in December.
The abuses being addressed Friday are not tied directly to Wells Fargo’s well-known sales practices scandal, where the bank admitted its employees opened as much as 3.5 million bank and credit card accounts without getting customers’ authorization. But they do involve significant parts of the bank’s businesses: auto lending and mortgages.
Last summer Wells Fargo admitted that hundreds of thousands of its auto loan customers had been sold auto insurance that they did not want or need. In thousands of cases, customers who could not afford the combined auto loan and extra insurance payment fell behind on their payments and had their cars repossessed.
In a separate case, Wells Fargo also admitted that thousands of customers had to pay unnecessary fees in order to lock in their interest rates on their home mortgages. Wells Fargo is the nation’s largest mortgage lender.
Wells Fargo has been under intense scrutiny by federal regulators for several months. The Federal Reserve took a historic action earlier this year by mandating that Wells Fargo could not grow larger than the $1.95 trillion in assets that it currency held and required the bank to replace several directors on its board. The Federal Reserve cited “widespread abuses” as its reason for taking such an action.
This settlement does not involve Wells Fargo’s wealth management business, which is reportedly under investigation for improprieties similar to those that impacted its consumer bank. Nor does this involve an investigation into the bank’s currency trading business.
Consumer advocates have been critical of the Trump administration’s record since it took over the CFPB late last year. However, advocates were pleased to see Wells Fargo held to account.
“Today’s billion dollar fine is an important development and a fitting penalty given the severity of Wells Fargo’s fraudulent and abusive practices,” said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union.