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  • UK factory orders hit by 'acute political uncertainty', but retail sales jump - business live

    Rolling business and financial news, as new data show UK consumers raced to buy high powered vacuum cleaners but UK factories report falling exports

    Irelands impressive recovery from its financial crisis has continued, with growth surging in the last quarter.

    The Central Statistics Office has reported that GDP rose by 1.5% in the second quarter of 2014, defying the stagnation in the wider eurozone. That means it has grown by a stonking 7.7% over the last year.

    The CBI survey shows that Britains manufacturing sector is losing momentum after a strong few months, reckons Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight.

    He agrees that geopolitics is probably hurting factories:

    It may well be that the increased uncertainty resulting from current heightened geopolitical tensions particularly related to Russia/Ukraine are causing some big-ticket manufacturing orders to be delayed or even cancelled.

    In addition, weak Eurozone activity is clearly having a limiting impact on foreign demand for UK manufacturing goods, while the strength of the pound has not helped UK manufacturing exports.

    Heres the full key findings from the CBIs industrial trends survey, including the worrying drop in export orders.

    By acute political uncertainty at home and abroad, the CBI is presumably citing Scotlands future and the Ukraine crisis; other geopolitical issues such as the Middle East could also have hurt confidence.

    Britains factory sector has suffered a nasty setback, according to CBIs latest survey of industrial trends.

    Firms reported that total order books have fallen below normal levels, and export order books worsened significantly, and are now at their weakest since January 2013.

    Against a backdrop of acute political uncertainty at home and abroad, exports orders for UK manufacturers are faltering, which is disappointing.

    However, its encouraging that output growth has remained solid and firms expect production to rise strongly in the next quarter.

    UK CBI factory orders balance at 21-month low of -4 (+11 in Aug), export orders balance at -24 (-3 in Aug, series average: -20).

    GBP : Shocker of CBI trend order at -4 v +9 expected ,,,, selling prices at +1 v -1

    Intéressant... the French government is denying that Moodys has given it advance warning of a downgrade tomorrow....

    le denial. Vive l'esprit du crise! MT @meganmurp: French finance ministry says it has not received notice from Moody's of possible downgrade

    A Moodys downgrade would be another blow to president Francois Hollande:

    Moody's will downgrade #France and has informed gov't, according to @Lopinion_fr. News comes in ahead of Hollande's presser this afternoon.

    MOODY'S TELLS FRENCH GOVT OF DOWNGRADE, L'OPINION SAYS. S&P is already there though. Rather a catch up of Moodys...still not bullish for EUR

    There are reports in the French media that rating agency Moodys has downgraded Frances credit rating.

    According to LOpinion, Moodys has told the Paris government that it is lowering the rating by one notch, from Aa1 to Aa2.


    About France's downgrade by Moody's --> RBS note from yesterday pic.twitter.com/ewXWwGHpFH

    Reaction to the results of the European Central Banks TLTRO operation is flooding in.

    Nordea analyst Aurelija Augulyte reckons it wont force the ECB into yet more stimulus measures:

    "you can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink" #ECB

    and no, it does not mean ECB QE is coming #stopasking

    #TLTRO always seemed dumb to hold 1st TLTRO ahead of AQR results, ECB just made another rod to beat themselves with; QE chatter 2 reescalate

    Oh dear. The European Central Bank has only lent around 82.6bn to eurozone banks in its new TLTRO lending operation.

    Thats rather less than experts had predicted, and suggests that the TLTRO programme will only have a limited impact on boosting credit availability in the euro area, stimulating growth and fighting deflation.

    82bn! terrible number..

    #ECB TLTRO uptake: 82.602bn to 255 bidders. A very low number, much lower than expected. #euro

    So below the market estimates of 100 to 300 bio - ECB can increase the amount in the second auction to compensate if needed.

    Heads-up. The European Central Bank is due to announce any moment how much money it has lent to eurozone banks in new, low-cost four-year loans to encourage them to offer credit to small businesses.

    keep an eye on the #euro as #TLTRO details due out in minutes #FX

    Todays retail sales figures also show that the cost of food in the shops fell last month, for the first time in a decade.

    The ONS reports that average store prices fell in August 2014 by 1.2% compared with August 2013, the largest fall since July 2009.

    The slowing of prices at petrol stations, down 5.0%, provided the main contribution to this fall. It is worth noting that prices at food stores fell by 0.1%, the first annual fall in prices at these stores since December 2004 when it also fell by 0.1%.

    Greeces jobless rate has fallen, but remains painfully high with more than one in four people out of work:

    Greek unemployment in Q2 falls to 26.6% from 27.8%. That's the biggest fall in 12 years. ~@ReutersJamie #Greece #euro

    Retailers also reported that sales of flat pack furniture were stronger than usual in August.

    And heres the chart showing how sales volumes surged by 3.9% year-on-year, driven by furniture and electrical goods.

    Confirmation that spending on non-food items such as hoovers pushed up retail spending.

    The ONS confirm that Britain turned into a nation of vacuum-cleaner shoppers last month:

    Electrical appliance stores contributed to the increase in the quantity bought in household goods stores.

    Feedback from retailers suggested that sales were increased as consumers sought to buy high powered vacuum cleaners before the EU energy saving regulation came into force at the end of August.

    UK retail sales grew faster than expected last month, and panic buying of vacuum cleaners is partly responsible.

    Sales volumes grew by 0.4% in August, and were 3.9% higher than a year ago, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics.

    Don't say the EU does nothing for the UK! RT @ONS Purchases of high powered vacuum cleaners boosted sales in electronic goods stores

    Saturday's Daily Mail front page - "The great vacuum cleaner stampede" #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers pic.twitter.com/bq4It0GHnP

    Most European stock markets have gained ground this morning, with the German DAX up 0.8% and the French CAC up 0.5%.

    The FTSE 100 is lagging, though, up just 12 points or 0.2%. The Scottish referendum may be weighing on the City.

    Back on the gold price, and this chart shows how bullion has lost 9% of its value since early July, and 12% since March.

    The decline came as investors brace for the US Federal Reserve to end its quantitative-easing bond-buying spree, and then raise interest rates next year.

    In the City, traders are dashing to protect themselves from being burned by the Scottish independence referendum which began two hours ago.

    The cost of buying overnight protection against sterling volatility has soared this morning, according to Reuters data:

    The overnight sterling/dollar implied volatility rose to a high of 34.75 percent, almost 10 times levels seen a month ago, having closed on Wednesday at around 12.75 percent.

    The overnight options will expire on Friday, when results for the Scotland vote will be announced.

    Alex Salmond going in to cast his vote in the village where he lives #indyref pic.twitter.com/yudo2CgPiG

    And guessing this business bracing for a busy night �� pic.twitter.com/E0DjiC0OP3

    Switzerlands central bank has declared that it will immediately take action to prevent the Swiss franc appreciating any higher.

    The SNB voted to leave interest rates unchanged at 0.0%, but also warned that economic conditions have worsened.

    The economic outlook has deteriorated considerably. The Swiss franc is still high. With the three-month Libor close to zero, the minimum exchange rate remains the key instrument to avoid an undesirable tightening of monetary conditions. The SNB will therefore continue to enforce the minimum exchange rate with utmost determination.

    For this purpose, it is prepared to purchase foreign currency in unlimited quantities. If necessary, it will take further measures immediately.

    Talk of negative Swiss rates isn't followed up with action...for now at least. No policy change from SNB, Swiss franc rises.

    Overnight, the International Monetary Fund has warned that the global recovery is precarious.

    It told G20 finance minister and bank chiefs that excessive risk taking and geopolitical hazards pose new threats to the global economy, and cut its growth forecasts for this year.

    Bloomberg also reports that the gold price was hit by the Feds forecast that rates will rise more rapidly in 2015 and 2016 (even if theres a considerable pause before the first hike)

    Higher rates are becoming a reality, Chris Gaffney, the senior market strategist at EverBank Wealth Management in St. Louis, said in a telephone interview. The sentiment is turning very very bearish.

    #Gold Falls to Eight-Month Low as Fed Raises Rate Estimate http://t.co/ImNWCB1zLZ

    Heres Reuters take on the falling gold price:

    Gold tumbled to its lowest in 8-1/2 months on Thursday as the dollar index jumped to a four-year peak after the Federal Reserve signalled that a faster hike in U.S. interest rates might be on the horizon.

    The Fed on Wednesday renewed its pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a considerable time, but also indicated it could raise borrowing costs faster than expected when it starts moving.

    Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the financial markets, the world economy, business and finance.

    The US dollar is rallying this morning after the Federal Reserve signalled last night that US interest rates will rise faster than expected, once the hiking begins.

    In commodities, Gold has taken another dive to $1217/oz, its lowest since January, after the US Fed increased its interest rate projections, spurring USD gains which made the safehaven more expensive.

    GLOBAL MARKETS-Yellen comments boost U.S. stocks; gold falls

    Gold falls to lowest since January http://t.co/UO5jHNjpqI

    The labor market is still struggling to recover, Yellen said to reporters on Wednesday. There are too many people who want jobs but cannot find them too many people who are not searching for a job but would be if the labor market were stronger.

    Fed in no hurry to raise interest rates as it details gradual plans to exit stimulus

    What else is afoot today?...

    The message that Hardouvelis is sending to Germany and Greeces other creditors in an interview to be published on Thursday in German newspaper Handelsblatt is that the country is able to refinance its requirements by itself.

    Just a few days before a meeting between the Greek and German heads of government, Antonis Samaras and Angela Merkel, Hardouvelis argued that Greece does not need a third bailout package, noting that the country is able to borrow from markets at a cost below that of the loans from the International Monetary Fund....

    Continue reading...

  • Alice Gross police say Arnis Zalkalns has murder conviction and is suspect
    Police believe Zalkalns, who was jailed for murder in his native Latvia, came across Alice on day she went missing

    Scotland Yard has said 41-year-old Arnis Zalkalns is a suspect in the disappearance of teenager Alice Gross, who went missing last month.

    Police say Zalkalns had a murder conviction in his native Latvia, where he was jailed in 1998 and served a seven-year sentence. They say in 2009 he was arrested in connection with an indecent assault on a teenage girl in the Ealing area of west London but the case was dropped.

    Continue reading...

  • Scottish independence referendum: Scotland decides 'yes' or 'no' - live

    Rolling coverage throughout the day as Scotland votes to decide whether to stay part of the United Kingdom

    Lots of readers of this liveblog will know very well how we got here. For others, the imminent possible break-up of the United Kingdom has come out of the blue. For those people, heres a quick rundown of several hundred years of Scottish history (with apologies for the inevitable gaps). So, how did it come to this?

    Some would say it all began with the Battle of Bannockburn, or even William Wallace (Braveheart), but the landslide victory of the Scottish National party (SNP) in the Scottish government elections in 2011 was the moment when the referendum was placed firmly on the political map.

    John Curtice, elections expert and professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, tweets this final verdict from the poll of polls: Yes 48%, No 52%.

    Final @whatscotsthink #indyref poll of polls now on site. Yes 48 No 52. http://t.co/YaqwJ3QErp

    Want to watch the campaign leaders heading into their polling stations and take a bet on which way they voted? Here you go:

    More fabulous pictures arrive of voters making the most of their chance to decide the future of their country:

    "This is the most exciting day of my life," says James Orr, 74, part of a 10-car convoy on M74 bridge pic.twitter.com/FnO1TjdNfS

    IPSOS MORI final poll is No 53 and Yes 47. Less than a third of Scots think Yes will win....Now no more polls, just outcomes.

    No ahead by 6 in final @IpsosMORI poll. 95% (!!!) say they will vote today https://t.co/6D3K71Ittr (via @benatipsosmori)

    #indyref polls are clear. In 15 hours or so we'll know if they're all right, or all wrong.

    Despite small no lead, most Scots polled expect No to win today (46%) in our fin poll. Only 30% expect Yes to win #indyref

    Our last poll on #indyref No at 53% and Yes at 47%. 95% say they will vote to day for @standardnews

    The Guardians economics reporter, Katie Allen, is at the Scottish chambers of commerce in Glasgow:

    Businesses in Scotland will need the country to unite around whatever decision it wakes up to tomorrow if they are to continue to shake off the downturn, says Garry Clark from the Scottish chambers of commerce..

    The head of policy and research at the organisation told the Guardian its members saw both opportunities and risks in independence but most importantly they needed clarity.

    My colleague Esther Addley is on the island of Unst, at Scotlands most northerly polling station:

    Have counted at least 5 union jacks on main road in Unst, some w/ Shetland flag. No saltires yet #indyref #shetland

    Brief pause at Unst's famous bus stop, decorated in tribute to Mandela with comfy chair, small library #shetland

    A reminder, as the votes are counted tonight, to keep up to date with the key question: Are the Scots independent yet?

    The Guardians Scotland reporter, Libby Brooks, is in Govan, Glasgow, hanging out with voters:

    Standing outside the polling station with their bags of shopping at their feet, Angela Colquhoun and Helen-Marie Tasker say they are absolutely gobsmacked because polling day has come and they have still not decided how to vote.

    Ive watched all the debates but you get no answers, says Colquhoun, 41, a nursing auxiliary. She raises concerns about currency and pensions. One of the upsides of being independent is the oil money, but that wont last forever.

    Tasker, 33, a working mother, is likewise uncertain. Its been going on for two years and nobody can give you a straight answer. I think David Cameron shouldve been telling us the positives of staying in the UK. I do wonder if its just scare stories, but theres no going back after this.

    Colquhoun says shell spend another few hours thinking about it and come back to vote later. People are scared about whats going to happen. They might vote no to stick with the known, but thats not a good enough reason.

    The campaign has been fought just as much across social media as it has been with placards and meetings. And its a campaign that the yes supporters seem to have clinched.

    SimilarWeb, which monitors web trends, spots that YesScotland has been attracting double the traffic heading to BetterTogether, the lead no campaign site:

    The campaign for an independent Scotland currently has more than twice the number of followers (95,600) as its opponent Better Together (41,200). Yes Scotland also has 307,960 Facebook likes to Better Togethers 210,335.

    To put this in perspective though, the two campaigns combined would only make up 1.7% of the 8m plus follower base of Russell Brand, who has recently weighed into the debate himself.

    Our political editor Patrick Wintour is reporting signs of a backlash against prime minister David Cameron regardless of the result of the referendum. He writes:

    Claire Perry, the rail minister, has become the first Conservative front bencher to join the growing rebellion over promises to give Scotland more powers regardless of todays referendum result by warning against promises of financial party bags.

    She attacked the pledge made by the three main parties to maintain the current level of funding for Scotland and devolve local tax raising powers as hardly hardly equitable to the situation in England.

    Scottish Green party co-convener and a lead yes campaigner Patrick Harvie is still waiting to cast his vote. He doesnt seem too downhearted about having to stand in line:

    I'm queuing to vote. *Queuing*!

    Alistair Darling, former UK chancellor and leader of the Better Together campaign, has cast his vote in Edinburgh:

    Readers have been enthusiastically taking up the GuardianWitness assignment to map the mood of Scottish voters today.

    A reader who goes by the name of silentglow undaunted by the communications problems that have hampered our own reporter on the northerly Shetland island of Unst sends us this snap of divided neighbourly opinions:

    Even in Scotland's remote reaches of Unst, in the Shetland Islands, opinion is divided although the Shetland flag often waves in place of a Scottish flag

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    Esther Addley is outside North Unst public hall, the northernmost polling station in Scotland. It took her a while to get there, there is hardly anyone to be seen, the scenery is bleak and beautiful, but the comms means its hard to send pictures. She tells us this:

    To reach the island of Unst from Shetlands capital Lerwick, you drive north, passing the huge oil refinery of Sullom Voe, then take a short ferry crossing to Yell and, having crossed that island, on to the most northerly inhabited island in what is still, for now, the United Kingdom.

    Unsts scenery is spectacular huge, open moorland valleys and rugged coastline, with scattered small settlements and farms. It is grey and drizzly here today, and islanders are wrapped in sensible macs as they head out to vote.

    This gallery of todays newspaper front pages rightly concentrates on the day of reckoning; its worth remembering that almost all the Scottish and UK press have urged their readers to vote no today. Roy Greenslade has been casting an eye over what he calls the English newspapers dramatic front pages.

    The Herald carries a cheekily-placed front-page advert upon closer inspection, that big blue no isnt really anything to do with the referendum:

    Today's front page: Day of destiny. Live #indyref coverage as Scotland decides pic.twitter.com/8cssWtbAwD http://t.co/XYrSmTatmK

    The Guardians Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell is touring polling stations this morning and finds Yes and No supporters enjoying the moment:

    #Stenhouse, #no & #yes folk Jackie, Vanessa & Chris laugh and #banter "it's democracy, there's no need for nastiness" pic.twitter.com/SBAeG77bRC

    In Gorgie/Dalry, next to Protestant club #Hearts, polling place has pro-union David Bowie / Queen stickers on railing pic.twitter.com/mfV20Z6ya0

    Libby Brooks is at Kelvinbridge polling station in Glasgow and has been talking to first-time voter Flora McGuigan, 17:

    My colleagues in the Guardian video team have stitched together this round-up of the mornings voting highlights so far:

    Ewen MacAskill, who has been following pro-independence Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond through the campaign for us, has written this very brilliant reflection on the referendum debate so far.

    The Scottish National Party lifted much of Barack Obamas election playbook for the referendum campaign. Watching the final rally in Perth on Wednesday night was like a scaled-down version of the early Obama ones.

    The most striking comparison was when the hundreds in the Perth hall began chanting Yes We Can, the slogan chanted the length and breadth of America during Obamas campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Another is the little blue and white yes cards distributed to the crowd to wave at key points in the speech.

    Steven Morris has been talking to voters at the Mill of Mains primary school polling station in Dundee:

    Ben Quinn was with first minister Alex Salmond as he cast his vote this morning; you can catch his Vine of that here. Ben writes:

    Alex Salmond cast his vote in his home village of Strichen this morning before coming out of the polling station to declare that tennis player Andy Murray had hit another winner this morning.

    The comments appear to be a reference to a tweet made by Murray late last night in which he said: Huge day for Scotland today! no campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. excited to see the outcome. lets do this!

    Gordon Brown the man who, according to some elements of the press this morning, might have single-handedly saved the union with a speech yesterday has cast his vote. Not sure what hes indicating in this picture: perhaps what he thinks will be the gap between yes and no votes

    Im seeing some fantastic pictures of Scottish voters at polling stations this morning, including, cheeringly, young voters this is the first vote in which 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible to have their say. Here are some of the best:

    My colleague Ben Quinn is in Strichen, where first minister Alex Salmond has just cast his vote for yes, accompanied by two first-time voters: Natasha McDonald and Lia Pirie.

    Voting goes on until 10pm BST tonight, though anyone still in the polling station queue at that cut-off time will get the chance to put their cross on the ballot paper.

    Counting starts immediately after that, with the first results expected around 2am, with Eilean Siar, North Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, Orkney, East Lothian, Perth and Kinross, and Moray vying to be the first local authority to declare.

    Our reporters out and about in the drizzle at polling stations across Scotland say voters are turning out in good numbers and good humour:

    Twins Les & Simon Hodge at #Fountainbridge for @YesScotland "our job is to stand here and be friendly" #indyref pic.twitter.com/9kw0da6CK3

    Love this sign outside an Edinburgh church doubling as a polling booth today. pic.twitter.com/xoq2Y6XksX

    My colleague Aisha Gani has put together this compilation of 11 10 is so last-election highlights of the referendum campaign. Sky News presenter Kay Burley calling a yes supporter a bit of a knob is in there, naturally. Did you miss it? Here it is again:

    Jamie Murray, tennis-playing brother of Andy (who earlier tweeted his own, slightly enigmatic, support for a yes vote), has tweeted his own, rather more explicit, views on todays vote:

    Love UK..love the Royals..but it's time for Scotland to stand on its own 2 feet and control their own destiny.

    Scotland is full of smart talented hard working humble people. Have faith in them to run our country successfully.

    My colleague Steven Morris is hanging out with voters in Dundee and sends this dispatch:

    Tom Dumphie, 59, was first in the queue at the Mill of Mains primary school polling station in Dundee. I was surprised there were five or six in the line by the time I voted. This is going to be important not just for us but our kids and grandkids. But the atmosphere is friendly. I dont think therell be tensions here.

    A reader by the name of clearwood sends this contribution via GuardianWitness of yesterdays final Yes rally in Glasgow:

    What a delightful atmosphere, peace and love all round! Lots of children too. People are so positive about Scotland's future in the yes crowd. They played "the times they are achanging" and it just sounded true!

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    Weve been hearing from our readers, via GuardianWitness, about the #indyref atmosphere where they are, from Kirkwall in the far north to Dumfries and Galloway in south west Scotland.

    Take a look at the map of readers contributions so far; you can use the tool to zoom into different places. The largest clusters are in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but voters from there or elsewhere can still participate today by going to GuardianWitness.

    Jackie Bailey, MSP for Dumbarton, tweets this picture from a local polling station:

    Shocking behaviour from yes campaigners. Should not be trying to threaten and intimidate #voteno #indyref pic.twitter.com/L7zhP5rDFc

    Rupert Murdoch whose Scottish Sun newspaper declined to back either camp has weighed in on Twitter this morning:

    Scotland now voting. Nobody can be sure of outcome, but Yes organisation likely to make it very close. Either way, UK changes forever.

    The polling stations are busy already with 97% of the eligible electorate registered to vote today, and turnout expected to be way above 80%, theres a lot of voters to get through those booths.

    #LetsDoThis! @NicolaSturgeon and John Mason MSP cast their #Yes votes in Glasgow #indyref pic.twitter.com/KeCW8ENs12

    Just voted #No for Scotland and the UK. My polling station the busiest I've ever seen it at 7.30am. Our precious democracy.

    Central #Glasgow polling station @ 6.50am: Ivan thinks 'yes' has momentum & David is hopeful for quiet 'no's #indyref pic.twitter.com/tEQKtMaUJt

    Incredible queues at the Polling station at 7am. I doubt I'll ever see the likes again. #ivotedyes

    My colleague Helen Pidd is in Ecclefechan, in the south of Scotland, talking to early voters on their way to the polling station:

    The polling station at Ecclefechan community centre in Dumfries and Galloway was doing brisk business from the off. The first voter, a man in his 60s, looked ecstatic, refusing to give his name but saying simply: This is history in the making Ill no see the benefit of it, mind.

    Factory worker Scott Stewart, 24, followed. On his way in, he said he was a yes: I think we will be better off on our own. But for those who are hoping that apathy has died in Scotland with the referendum, Stewart added: This is the first time Ive ever voted and it will be the last. I dont understand politics.

    Scott Stewart, 24, a yes: "This is the 1st time I've voted & it will be the last." Apathy won't die with independence pic.twitter.com/A214rqz03M

    Theres a full list further down this liveblog (see here) of the Guardians #indyref team if you want to track them through the day, and night, on Twitter, you can follow them via this handy list.

    It wouldnt be polling day without a weather report. Press Association files this:

    Scotland will have start off largely dry in many places, although rain is expected to push into western Scotland during the day, but it is expected to remain mostly dry to the east with some hazy sunny spells.

    Good morning, Edinburgh #indyref pic.twitter.com/2rviCXPWNH

    Voters are already queuing at polling stations, which opened at 7am:

    Nicola Sturgeon deputy first minister arrives to vote in Glasgow. pic.twitter.com/Aed1Z7UpIV

    Overnight, it looks as if one of Scotlands biggest stars has in a slightly roundabout way endorsed yes. Former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who does not live in Scotland and thus does not have a vote, tweeted this as the clock ticked into polling day:

    Huge day for Scotland today! no campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. excited to see the outcome. lets do this!

    Murray had previously been careful not to publicly back either side of the independence debate because of the grief he suffered following earlier forays into the world of politics. In March this year he said: I will take a position. My thoughts on it arent that relevant, because I cant vote myself.

    But he has confirmed that he would play tennis for an independent Scotland.

    Theres been no shortage of words/pictures/videos published in recent days and weeks on the referendum. Im aware that some readers of this liveblog will be steeped in the debate, and some will not know their Salmonds from their Saltires.

    Fortifying ourselves with tablet and enthusiasm, the Guardians team in Scotland will be covering polling day from beginning to result and beyond. Clicking on their names will show you their tweets, but well also be showing off their contributions in this liveblog.

    In Edinburgh, alongside me, Claire Phipps, are my colleagues (in no particular order) Andrew Sparrow, Severin Carrell, Nicholas Watt, Polly Curtis, Paul Owen, Frances Perraudin, John Crace and Michael White.

    Thursday's Guardian front page - "Day of destiny" #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers #indyref pic.twitter.com/h1JD44JDI5

    Good morning and welcome to live coverage of what will be whatever the result a day that will change Scotland, and the rest of the United Kingdom, profoundly.

    The result certainly is too close to call, with a poll last night putting the No vote at 51% and Yes at 49%, excluding those voters still undecided which way to topple.

    Continue reading...

  • High air pollution levels hit south-east England

    Dirty air a result of weeks of low pressure which has drawn in pollution from the continent, Met Office says

    Air pollution is expected to be high on Thursday over the south-east of England, leading to warnings to people with respiratory difficulties.

    The pollution is likely to be localised, with clear skies over Scotland as people cast their ballots in the independence referendum.

    Continue reading...

  • How to dance to northern soul

    Its joyful and cathartic, but mastering this classic 1970s dance high kicks and all is serious business. Read on for soul nights round the UK

    Like any good student, I am telling my teacher how I think something should be done differently. How about, I say to my northern soul dance instructor, Sharon Sullivan, I miss out the tricky shuffle part of this dance step youre trying to show me and just slide my foot along the floor instead its basically the same thing, right?

    No, cries Sharon in horror. Thats dad dancing! And if I catch you dad dancing on a northern soul dancefloor, Ill track you down and slap you!

    Continue reading...

  • Shia rebels in Yemen besiege university run by Sunni radicals
    Thousands flee homes and number reported dead rises to 60 as Houthi fighters expand area under control in north of country

    Security officials say Shia rebels have reached a suburb of Yemen's capital, Sana'a, where they are fighting Sunni militias and besieging a university run by one of the nation's best-known Sunni radicals.

    The officials say Thursday's fighting in Shamlan has forced thousands to flee their homes, but they have no word on casualties. They say the rebels, known as Houthis, are surrounding the Iman University, an institution long viewed as a primary breeding ground for militants.

    Continue reading...

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