Theresa May unveils new anti-terrorism measures. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

What are Theresa May's new plans to combat terrorism?

The Home Secretary is to announce new measures to respond to the terror threat.

The Home Secretary Theresa May, who was busy over the weekend admitting the government's net migration level target was "unlikely" to be met, and stating her preference for Abba's Dancing Queen, will outline this week new government plans to combat terrorism. Her proposals will be part of the government's Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

They include:

 - Banning UK-based insurance companies from covering the cost of terrorist ransoms, in the hope that firms will be deterred from paying ransoms to terrorists who take hostages. The UK government refuses to pay ransoms and is hoping to curb families' opportunities to do so.

 - Permitting cancelling passports (for up to 30 days) of terror suspects at the border, in order to put people off going abroad to fight.

 - Controlling under what terms British citizens who are terror suspects return from overseas, by imposing temporary exclusion orders.

 - Mandating public bodies such as colleges, schools and prisons to work to prevent terrorism.

 - Firming up aviation security, for example, asking airlines to provide data on passengers rapidly and efficiently.

 - Adjusting Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) so that the authorities can force terror suspects to move to different parts of the country, and also raising the burden of proof for imposing TPIMs from "reasonable belief" to "balance of probabilities".

 - Forcing companies to hand over details about who was using computers and mobile phones, and when, to the police.
 

These proposals arrive alongside a week-long public initiative that began this week to inform the public of how it can work to counter terrorism threats. According to the BBC, this action involves counter-terror authorities briefing more than 6,000 people at schools, universities, airports and publoc places like shopping centres and cinemas about what they can do to reduce the risk of a terror attack.

Counter-terror officers are also handing out information at railway stations. Students will learn about the "Prevent" strategy from police officers and even theatre groups, which is a strategy that helps guide young people against being drawn into terrorism.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Scotland's huge deficit is an obstacle to independence

The country's borrowing level (9.5 per cent) is now double that of the UK. 

Ever since Brexit, and indeed before it, the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum has loomed. But today's public spending figures are one reason why the SNP will proceed with caution. They show that Scotland's deficit has risen to £14.8bn (9.5 per cent of GDP) even when a geographic share of North Sea revenue is included. That is more than double the UK's borrowing level, which last year fell from 5 per cent of GDP to 4 per cent. 

The "oil bonus" that nationalists once boasted of has become almost non-existent. North Sea revenue last year fell from £1.8bn to a mere £60m. Total public sector revenue was £400 per person lower than for the UK, while expenditure was £1,200 higher.  

Nicola Sturgeon pre-empted the figures by warning of the cost to the Scottish economy of Brexit (which her government estimated at between £1.7bn and £11.2.bn a year by 2030). But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose considerable austerity. 

Nor would EU membership provide a panacea. Scotland would likely be forced to wait years to join owing to the scepticism of Spain and others facing their own secessionist movements. At present, two-thirds of the country's exports go to the UK, compared to just 15 per cent to other EU states.

The SNP will only demand a second referendum when it is convinced it can win. At present, that is far from certain. Though support for independence rose following the Brexit vote, a recent YouGov survey last month gave the No side a four-point lead (45-40). Until the nationalists enjoy sustained poll leads (as they have never done before), the SNP will avoid rejoining battle. Today's figures are a considerable obstacle to doing so. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.