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What will the Scottish referendum on independence mean for the West?

David Cameron's promise to devolve more powers to the English regions and cities could have major implications for us here in the West - but it depends what they are, and how quickly they come.

There seems little appetite for a regional assembly, embracing the entire south west - somewhere like Cornwall would like to have one on its own. So we're left with the current mish-mash of local authorities, ranging from all purpose unitaries (in the case of Bristol, with an elected mayor), and two-tier county and districts, which still exist in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Given their range in size, both in population and tax base, what sort of devolved powers would apply equally to such a range of places? Surely reorganisation of local government needs to take place first?

The Prime Minister seems to be hinting at some tax-raising powers, or greater retention of business rates - but we'll have to see. A big city authority like Bristol would certainly welcome that.

Stephen Williams MP, Lib Dem, Bristol North

The related question arises of whether England should have a separate Parliament to determine solely English affairs - to get round the anomaly whereby Scottish MPs can vote on issues south of the border, but not the other way round.

Wiltshire Conservative MP James Gray says he supports this idea, though many of his colleagues are wary of creating another tier of government.

James Gray MP, Con, North Wiltshire

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All-day free Durdham Down parking could be abolished

Free parking on Durdham Downs could be abolished Credit: ITV West Country/Richard Payne

All-day free parking on Bristol's historic Durdham Down could be abolished.

It's the latest controversial attempt to cut down on commuters using the city's streets. Mayor George Ferguson has divided opinion with a rapid roll-out of residents' parking zones and now risks further anger by removing the 500 spaces. He insists it's for long-term good of the city.

Mayor: it's "irresponsible nonsense to talk of a 'black hole'"

George Ferguson says it's "irresponsible nonsense to talk of a 'black hole' Credit: Rod Minchin/PA

Questions have been raised over a thirteen million pound funding black hole for Bristol's arena project.

The Liberal Democrat Bristol City Councillor Tim Kent says the city's mayor, who is behind the scheme, hasn't given enough information on how the twelve thousand seater Arena will be financed. George Ferguson says it's "irresponsible nonsense to talk of a 'black hole' and project is a long term investment.

The £90 million plus project budget for the arena is based on a business case report but, as with all large projects, it is inevitable that there will be variances as we test some of the assumptions made in that report. The budget, agreed at Cabinet, identified £53 million from the City Deal Economic Development Fund and £38 million to come back to the council from rental and other related income.

As we move forward, of course some of the initial predictions for elements of that £38 million income will vary. This may result in the arena breaking-even earlier or later than predicted. However it must be understood that this is a long term investment that will break-even over the 25 year life of the project and will deliver millions of pounds of investment to the city region. It is irresponsible nonsense to talk of a 'black hole'.

The arena has been a long held aspiration for the city that we are now well on the way to delivering. Shortlisting teams for the design competition will start next week and, crucially, we are due to appoint an operator by the end of the year. No-one has ever pretended that this would be easy but it is a priority for Bristol and the region and the report to scrutiny shows that we are fully aware of the challenges. We are taking the necessary steps to address any potential gaps in funding whilst remaining completely committed to delivering this vitally important venue, that is a major catalyst for the regeneration of the enterprise zone and the wider city region.

– George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol

Protesters try to disrupt badger cull

Marksmen were out in Somerset and Gloucestershire last night as the second badger cull got underway. The government confirmed shooting has started as part of its controversial attempt to prevent the spread of bovine TB in cattle.

This year targets have been lowered to 316 badgers in Somerset, and 615 in Gloucestershire. Overall the aim is for a reduction of 70 per cent in badger populations over the successive culls.

Protesters were also out in both counties trying to disrupt the cull.

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Labour MP says Government should listen to the evidence

Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Credit: PA

Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary has spoken out against the Government's decision to resume culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

She says the Government should listen to the scientific evidence and put an end to what she calls 'disastrous badger culls'.

Last year an Independent Expert Panel concluded that these badger culls were ‘ineffective’ and ‘inhumane’, and more recently they have been described as an ‘epic failure’ by the Chief Scientific Advisor to Natural England. But instead of abandoning these appalling culls the Government have chosen to press ahead without any further independent expert monitoring.

Labour has consistently said that to get Bovine TB under control we need to bring in stricter cattle measures and prioritise badger and cattle vaccinations, but these culls are not the answer.

– Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary

Team Badger speaks out against culls

Team Badger calls for culls to be cancelled Credit: PA

Team Badger, representing 25 different organisations with a total of 2 million supporters, is calling for the second year of badger culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire to be stopped.

It's almost beyond belief that the Government is blundering ahead with a second year of inept and barbaric badger killing. TB in cattle in England is currently at it lowest level in 10 years, the drop being predictably the result of improved husbandry in cattle. So this is a most inappropriate moment for Cameron to be wasting tax payers' money persecuting our wildlife against the advice of every independent scientist in the field; even the Government's own expert panel has branded the cull as ineffective and inhumane.

Current revelations from a whistle blower damn the process even more - making it clear that the numbers the present shooters are working towards are completely unreliable. This cull is a failure and a disgrace - no more than the fulfilment of a dirty promise - which will rebound on this Government at election time.

– Dr Brian May

If you read the document you'll see it is full of caveats about the unreliability of the methods they have used. To then use such methods to derive some target numbers in an attempt to give the culls an air of scientific credibility is an affront to the principles of good science.

– Dr Chris Cheeseman

Second badger cull underway

This year's controversial badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire is underway, the Government has announced.

The second year of a four-year scheme has started in the two counties in an attempt to prevent the spread of bovine TB in cattle.

We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy supported by leading vets which includes cattle movement controls, vaccinating badgers in edge areas and culling badgers where the disease is rife. This is vital for the future of our beef and dairy industries, and our nation's food security. At present we have the highest rates of bovine TB in Europe. Doing nothing is not an option and that is why we are taking a responsible approach to dealing with bovine TB.

– Elizabeth Truss MP, Environment Secretary
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