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Editor's blog


8 Dec 10

The big chill

As I write this, Scotland is well into its second week of snow and ice. What lessons can we learn from the response, or lack of it, to the big freeze?
25 Nov 10

The cap didn’t fit

Theresa May’s change of heart on immigration is good news for accountancy firms
26 Oct 10

No prospect of consensus over austerity programme

Almost a week of argument over George Osborne’s spending review and the £81bn cuts has failed to settle the three big questions. Is the austerity programme fair? Will it work? And is it really necessary?
6 Oct 10

Avoidance? Politicians are avoiding the real issue

Just in case we thought the partners in the Coalition Government were getting too cosy, their different stances on tax at their respective party conferences showed that their rhetoric, at least, is different
1 Oct 10

Dark side of the debt management industry

A study from the OFT reveals that consumers worried about mounting debts are being mis-sold solutions by some of the companies claiming to offer a way out
17 Sep 10

Sunshine and surprises at Gleneagles

Golf wasn’t the main event for once at the famous Highland resort, when the CA Conference returned for another stimulating couple of days last week
6 Sep 10

Paramedics or funeral directors?

Much of the time, insolvency practitioners get an unfair press
26 Aug 10

Nadir faces his accusers

Seeing the name ‘Asil Nadir’ back in the headlines is actually quite nostalgic for those of us who followed this complex and politically controversial case at the time
5 Aug 10

Scepticism in short supply?

The Financial Reporting Council’s discussion paper Auditor scepticism: raising the bar is a measured, balanced piece of work, but it raises some very tricky questions for auditors
28 Jul 10

Pensions tax proposals could represent a way forward

High earners welcoming a cut in tax relief? OK, it’s more complicated than that
22 Jul 10

Auditors told: must try harder

Schools had already broken up for the summer when the Audit Inspection Unit published its end of term report. For the auditing profession, it made uncomfortable reading
1 Jul 10

Osborne takes a gamble with his emergency Budget

Chancellor George Osborne presented a Budget last week that some called bold, others disastrous. Now we have to see if he can make it work
18 Jun 10

Radical reform talk is not a cast iron promise

We can’t go like this. That was the Tories’ campaign slogan, and in partnership with the Liberal Democrats they appear to be putting it into practice at least as far as the banking sector is concerned
10 Jun 10

We want a tough Budget, but not for ourselves

There is still more than a week to go before George Osborne’s first Budget and already there is no shortage of free advice for him. I wonder how much of it is really helping
2 Jun 10

Is it always good to be ‘open for business’?

If free enterprise is a good thing, there’s an argument that regulators should seek to interfere as little as possible with the market. On the other hand, if other countries protect their major corporates against takeover bids while we don’t, it’s clearly not a level playing field
27 May 10

Balancing act for the professions

Can a professional body be both a “representative” association and a regulator? The was the question put to Scotland’s lawyers this week, but it’s relevant to any and every professional body
20 May 10

A new world in legal services

Profound change in the legal profession was on the menu when CA Magazine and The Journal co-hosted a round table event on ‘alternative business structures’
13 May 10

Veni, vidi, Vince

The banks’ toughest critic is now business secretary. What will that mean?
5 May 10

Volcanoes, oil spills, Greek tragedies – what next?

Whoever wins tomorrow’s UK elections must be ready to face crises we can’t even imagine right now
27 Apr 10

Pursuit of happiness can take a strange road

At minus 45 degrees the water in your eyes starts to turn to slush. At minus 70 you have to scrape the ice off your eyes, and the enamel in your teeth is liable to shatter into powder. But despite all that, Craig Mathieson loves the polar wastes
22 Apr 10

Now governments will have to pull together to make the bank tax work

The International Monetary Fund surprised banks and pundits alike this week with proposals for a worldwide levy on financial institutions that goes much further than predicted
15 Apr 10

Elephant in the room? More like a herd

All three of the main UK parties have painted a rosy picture of what life would be like if they were in power. None of them has really addressed the downside of their plans for the public finances
7 Apr 10

Tough decisions

Cider lovers may well be drinking the health of Osborne and Cameron, but how about the rest of us?
31 Mar 10

When employees are the owners too

Worker ownership isn't just a touchy-feely idea from the 1970s. It can be a recipe for business success
25 Mar 10

The wait and see Budget

What may be Alistair Darling’s last Budget didn’t contain any big ideas, but it wasn’t meant to
17 Mar 10

Fair or unfair value?

Accountants are often asked the question “What’s this worth?” but they should not expect their answer to be popular
10 Mar 10

Waiting game

Would it really hurt to introduce a little more certainty into the political schedule?
3 Mar 10

SEC commits to work plan but the debate is not yet over

Last week the US financial regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, issued a statement confirming its support for global accounting standards and for the convergence programme between US GAAAP and international financial reporting standards (IFRS). So does that mean the argument has been won?
24 Feb 10

Convergence backed - but under threat

The adoption, implementation, and enforcement of international financial standards is crucial, according to the latest IFAC Global Leadership Survey. This, however, may be easier said than done despite the huge progress already made in establishing international financial reporting standards
18 Feb 10

Changing the public's - and politicians' - perceptions won't be easy

Writing up a couple of stories for the March issue, coming out in just over a week, I was looking at the transcripts from two sets of hearings, running more or less in parallel, in the Scottish and UK parliaments. The contrasts between the two were not so much in content as in style
11 Feb 10

Cleaning up the Commons – is it too expensive?

The annual cost of running the body set up to monitor MPs’ expenses is six times the amount MPs were asked to repay. Is this a price worth paying?
3 Feb 10

The cost of a long-term relationship

One accountancy firm reports that helping clients through the recession has hit its profit margins. In the long term, it’s a price well worth paying
28 Jan 10

Recession is over but recovery is some way off

The UK’s recession is “over”, technically at least
21 Jan 10

Architects offer Sir Fred a chance to rebuild

Levelling all the blame at Goodwin lets too many others off the hook
14 Jan 10

(More) reasons to be cheerful

In the week that the biopic of the late, great Ian Dury hits the big screen, it seems appropriate for the theme of my first blog in 2010 to follow one of Dury’s big hits: “Reasons to be cheerful (Part 3)”
22 Dec 09

Frozen debate

It’s ironic that, in a week when the world’s leaders were arguing over global warming, Europe and North America are suffering a big freeze
16 Dec 09

Utilities, not buccaneers

HM Treasury’s latest paper on banking reform spells out the cost of the implicit guarantee that banks cannot be allowed to fail in the way other businesses fail
10 Dec 09

An answer to the bonus question?

Darling’s blow for bank bonuses is driven by political logic even if its economic logic can be questioned
3 Dec 09

Bonus row highlights Darling’s dilemma

The threat from RBS board directors to resign if the Chancellor of the Exchequer vetoes bonus payments at the bank shows how unclear is the position of the Government’s stake in the “nationalised” banks
25 Nov 09

Is ‘risk management’ a hopeless cause?

Respected economist Lord Skidelsky is arguing that the current financial crisis not only proves that mainstream academics were wrong to trust the rationality of the market, but also that it shows that believing we can price, manage and control risk is a dangerous illusion
19 Nov 09

'W' spells trouble for Scottish economy

Trying to follow economists’ predictions for the shape and timing of the recovery from recession can leave you floundering in an alphabet soup of different scenarios. For Scotland, however, the recovery looks ominously W-shaped
12 Nov 09

Brown’s Tobin tax call wasn’t such a dud

It may not have won over the G20, but Gordon Brown’s call for a levy on international financial transactions should not be dismissed out of hand
4 Nov 09

Wise advice from Global Scots

Earlier this week I sat in on the “Global Scot” conference hosted by Scottish Enterprise in Glasgow
28 Oct 09

Too big – or just too few - to fail?

The latest FRC report on audit choice underlines that the fact that the demise of a Big Four firm would have cataclysmic effects for the market as a whole
21 Oct 09

King’s blast at banks is highly significant

Bank of England governor Mervyn King laid into the banks, and failure to reform the banking system, in a speech in Edinburgh this week. Could that be a sign of reforms to come?
15 Oct 09

MPs should stop complaining and pay up

I have been trying very hard this week to summon up some sympathy for the aggrieved Westminster MPs who feel that the latest crackdown on their expenses claims amounts to a witch-hunt
7 Oct 09

Tax reform could be a lifeline for the developing world

Tax really is a matter of life and death for people living in the world’s poorest countries, according to anti-poverty campaigners
30 Sep 09

Risk and the unknown unknowns

Risk management is top of the agenda, for now, but how long will that last?
24 Sep 09

Bonus of contention

Even the chairman of the Financial Services Authority is gunning for bankers’ bonuses, and he chose to make his point in the very heart of the City of London
17 Sep 09

How Rover was driven to the wall

The inspectors’ report into the collapse of MG Rover reveals that the “unacceptable face of capitalism” is alive and well in the 21st century
10 Sep 09

Celebrations would be premature for “end of recession”

After more than a year of economic doom, gloom and sheer fear, the indicators finally seem to be going in a positive direction. But does that mean we’re out of danger?
2 Sep 09

A hard act to follow

Scottish Enterprise chief Jack Perry is appearing today at his last annual public meeting
27 Aug 09

Are growth measures achieving their aims?

A study published by PWC suggests the VAT rate cut may not have influenced shoppers’ spending behaviour
21 Aug 09

Tax authorities get tough on offshore evasion

Advisers, as well as their clients, could be at risk of penalties if they don’t come clean about overseas assets
4 Aug 09

Bank profits raise more questions

Banks are making money again and the weather forecast for the summer is unsettled and rainy. Yes, normal service has been resumed
29 Jul 09

What is UK Financial Investments actually for?

Leading civil servant John Kingman is leaving UKFI for the private sector. His successor will need a clear set of objectives from the outset
23 Jul 09

Is accountancy really elitist?

A study on social mobility and the professions finds that the UK has become more class-ridden, not less
16 Jul 09

We really want your feedback

If you’re reading this then there’s a good chance you are pretty net-literate. But how do you relate to the whole online world, and how do you want to relate to CA Magazine and the Institute? Let us know, and you could win a Samsung Netbook!
7 Jul 09

Rover: we’re still in the dark

The inspectors’ report into the demise of MG Rover has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office, but the report is still unpublished and the latest announcement poses more questions than it answers
1 Jul 09

A 150-year sentence won’t get $65bn back

Bernard Madoff can expect to spend the rest of his life in prison after being sentenced to 150 years
24 Jun 09

Too big to fail, or just too big?

While the Government is keeping quiet so far about what comes next in banking reform, the Bank of England and Financial Services Authority are stirring up a debate about it
19 Jun 09

A new approach to transparency

The MPs second homes scandal doesn’t get any less murky
10 Jun 09

Reasons to be cheerful (part 2)

A small flurry of good news stories has brought some optimism back to Scotland’s beleaguered financial community. But we’re a long way from seeing the end of this difficult period.
2 Jun 09

Succession planning at Scottish Enterprise

Jack Perry has overseen major changes at Scottish Enterprise, but stability for the organisation going forward is required if the Scottish Government wants to attract the very best to succeed him
26 May 09

Age concerns

Older workers are ready to keep going past a conventional retirement age, but will employers wake up and realise what they have to offer?
21 May 09

Fraud culture starts at the top

A new survey on employees’ attitudes to fraud and unethical behaviour throws some disturbing light on the state of business throughout Europe
12 May 09

MPs pay the price for expenses debacle

The mess that Westminster MPs have got into over second home allowances is a neat illustration of the difference between rules and principles
6 May 09

Ownership but no accountability

Banks are being asked to strengthen their balance sheets, but also to carry on lending to businesses and homebuyers. Maybe there should be more transparency about how this dilemma is being addressed
28 Apr 09

It's squeaky pip time

Taxing the rich has long been a rallying cry for Old Labour, but will next year’s 50p top rate of income tax actually raise any more cash for the beleaguered Treasury?
23 Apr 09

A rock and a hard place

It’s make or break for our Chancellor, but the measures that will save or damn him are not those outlined in yesterday’s Budget
15 Apr 09

A question of class?

A Government study on social inclusiveness has found that, if anything, through the last few decades the professions have become even more the preserve of those from relatively well-off families.
8 Apr 09

Celebrating the first year online

CA Mag online celebrated its first birthday this week. This has been one of the most exciting periods in my time with the magazine, not least because of the leap from a monthly print publication schedule to a medium that is pretty much instantaneous
1 Apr 09

Breaking windows won’t fix the problem

A minority of hardcore protesters are drawing attention away from a serious debate
24 Mar 09

Regulating our way to disaster

Leading economist Professor Avinash Persaud believes that the banking crisis has happened because of a fundamental misunderstanding of risk
17 Mar 09

The true and fair view: inconvenient but essential

The G20 summit has been warned by ICAS not to dispense with transparent financial reporting for the sake of smoothing out market volatility
10 Mar 09

Reasons to be cheerful

This week I thought I’d take a break from undermining the fabric of Western capitalism and focus on some positive developments
3 Mar 09

‘Shredding’ the rule of law?

The row over Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension is a convenient distraction from questions the government would rather we weren’t asking
24 Feb 09

A high price for survival

At some point, government and regulators will have to decide whether they are beating the banks up for lending too much, or not enough
17 Feb 09

Banking on experience

This week, more from the bank chiefs’ Parliamentary grilling
10 Feb 09

Time for your bonus question

The row over banking bonuses was completely predictable. So why is Gordon Brown on the back foot?
3 Feb 09

Animal charities in fundraising dogfight

A cold climate for giving has dragged two leading animal welfare charities into an unseemly squabble.
27 Jan 09

Gong hei fat choy!

This Monday saw the start of the Year of the Ox, in the Chinese calendar, and like the ox, businesspeople can look forward to a hard slog in 2009.
20 Jan 09

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

The ‘most depressing day of the year’ has been followed by a very scary week, as yet another government bail-out for the banking sector has done little or nothing to bring banks’ share prices back out of free-fall
14 Jan 09

More billions thrown at liquidity problem

A large pile of taxpayers’ money has been committed to ensuring the banks’ survival. Now the question is how the rest of business can be helped.
6 Jan 09

Swift, yes. Decisive, yes. But right?

Prime Minister Gordon Brown looked at his best when the economic crisis was at its worst. Now, we’re all waiting to see some positive results.
31 Dec 08

Here's to a prosperous 2011

If businesses and consumers had their way, we’d just skip the next two years. Unfortunately we don’t have that option.
23 Dec 08

Driving home for Christmas? Chance would be a fine thing!

Just one small example of how the credit crunch is affecting business has left this writer in a less than festive mood.
16 Dec 08

What's that behind the hedge?

Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion hedge fund fraud starkly shows up how unregulated and risky this sector still remains. Why should the ordinary punter worry? Because we are investing in hedge funds by proxy, whether we know it or not.
11 Dec 08

When the “worst case scenario” becomes the norm

As retail becomes the next sector to face the crunch, business plans for all companies need to be tested against the worst possible outcomes.
1 Dec 08

CA Magazine picks up another award!

Last Thursday’s PPA Scotland Awards proved to be a good night for CA Magazine.
26 Nov 08

Smart move - or desperate measure

It’s too early to say whether the package of fiscal measures to boost the economy in Alistair Darling’s Pre Budget Report represents bold but astute action, or a reckless gamble with all of our futures.
20 Nov 08

Bail-out policy loses sight of fairness

The government’s insistence that “it’s our way or no way” on the Lloyds TSB/HBOS merger means there is no level playing field.
13 Nov 08

Money talks, and for HBOS it’s still saying ‘merger’

It looks increasingly as if the prospect of an Asian white knight for HBOS is not going to materialise despite the best efforts of three giants of Scottish banking.
5 Nov 08

So it’s Obama!

The US presidential election delivered a true moment of history. But what lies in store for the President-elect?
30 Oct 08

Iceland joins the axis of evil?

40,000 Icelanders are incensed that the UK’s anti-terror legislation was used to freeze their banks’ UK assets, but there’s a wider lesson in all this
7 Oct 08

Why taxpayers should seek a high price for helping out the banks

Last week, huge sighs of relief followed the US House of Representatives’ vote in favour of president Bush’s bank rescue package. The trouble is, it does not seem to have done much to reassure troubled markets around the world.
29 Sep 08

New deal in financial regulation will inevitably follow the bailout

Shocking. It’s not too strong a word to describe what happened to financial institutions on both sides of the Atlantic over the past two weeks.
11 Sep 08

Finding our place in a changing world

The CA Conference at Gleneagles last week focussed on understanding economic and social change, and its impact on business. Meanwhile the world of football gave us a good example of change, on a grand and unexpected scale.
30 Jun 08

Equality Act may harm those it seeks to help

Bringing in positive discrimination through the back door does no favours to those who have made it on merit
23 Jun 08

Another body blow for the final salary pension

Not content with closing schemes to new members, employees are increasingly barring existing scheme members from topping up their DB pensions
13 Jun 08

Celebrating entrepreneurial success... with the Spice Girls?

Some thoughts from the winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year awards
2 Jun 08

2p could be a tax too far for UK's motorists

The deferred fuel tax hike, set to take effect in October, is set to add to the Governmnet's unpopularity
26 May 08

Honesty is best policy for business communicators

One of TV's best known newsreaders gave some sound advice at the Communicators in Business awards
1 May 08

Family businesses in the limelight

A Government reception for the Scottish Family Business Association was a welcome gesture of support for this often neglected sector
18 Apr 08

Twenty years on: the legacy of MCRV

Making Corporate Reports Valuable was a seminal publication, but even after two decades, some of its ideas are still seen as too radical
2 Apr 08

Can auditors really keep it simple?

KPMG's John Griffith-Jones is arguing for an audit "kite mark" that everyone can understand. It's a tough challenge, but worth attempting.
1 Apr 08

Entering the blogosphere

CA Magazine is going online after more than a century in print