Dividends soar as companies hand out Covid cash reserves
Payouts hit £34.9bn between July and September, 89% higher than the same period last year.
Shareholder dividends paid to investors soared this year as companies handed out cash hoarded during the pandemic, according to new data.
Payouts hit £34.9bn between July and September, 89% higher than the same period last year, according to financial data firm Link Group.
The sharp jump was in part due to large one-off dividends, but regular dividends also soared by 52.6% to £27.7bn.
Payouts halved in the same period last year as the pandemic took hold and left businesses guarding cash reserves.
Link’s Ian Stokes said: “The good news is that we have consistently seen companies deliver more in dividends than we thought likely at the beginning of the year in the depths of the UK’s longest, strictest lockdown.
“The boom in special dividends reflects how some companies are making catch-up payments, some are capitalising on very strong demand, and others are seizing the moment to sell assets at a time of high prices and numerous cash-rich potential buyers.”
Mining investors enjoyed the biggest rise with payouts quadrupling to £12.8bn and outgunning the next five biggest sectors combined.
As a result mining firms will be responsible for nearly £1 in every £4 distributed by UK-listed companies this year. Shareholders in Ferrexpo and Rio Tinto have already seen two special dividend payments this year as soaring iron ore prices bolstered profits at the firms.
But Link Group warned that falling commodity prices would lead to a drop in mining dividend payouts next year.
Banking dividends played a large part in growth between July and September after the Bank of England lifted all restrictions on payouts in July.
The Bank had ordered lenders to scrap nearly £8bn worth of dividends last year to free up cash which lenders could use to support the economy.
Link Group’s monitor showed that almost all travel and hospitality firms are yet to restart dividend payments after a difficult 18 months in which lockdowns have severely restricted revenues.
Oil and gas giant Shell has pulled out of the proposed Cambo oilfield development saying the economic case lacked strength.
The company confirmed the move to STV News on Thursday evening following what it described as a “comprehensive” screening of the project.
Shell has a 30% stake in the controversial development, off the coast of Shetland, originally licensed in 2001.
Citing the potential for delay and a lack of strength in the economics, the multinational company said it had concluded against investment.
Siccar Point Energy, Shell’s partners in the development, said it was disappointed at Shell’s change of position but that it remained confident in the merits of the project.
The company’s CEO Jonathan Roger said it would continue to engage with the UK Government.
“Cambo remains critical to the UK’s energy security and economy,” he said.
“Whilst we are disappointed at Shell’s change of position, we remain confident about the qualities of a project that will not only create over 1000 direct jobs as well as thousands more in the supply chain, but also help ease the UK’s transition to a low carbon future through responsibly produced domestic oil instead of becoming even more dependent on imports, with a relatively higher carbon intensity.
“Given Shell’s decision, we are now in discussions with our contractors, supply chain and wider stakeholders to review options for this important development.”
The plans for the Cambo oil field have been the subject of climate campaigners calling for an end to fossil fuel production.
Tessa Khan, director of Uplift, which is coordinating the Stop Cambo campaign, said: “This is the end for Cambo. Shell has seen the writing on the wall.
“Its statement makes it clear that the economics are against new oil and gas developments. But the widespread public and political pressure is what’s made Cambo untenable. There is now broad understanding that there can be no new oil and gas projects anywhere if we’re going to maintain a safe climate.
“This is a message to the government that there is no case for new oil and gas. It must put Cambo out of its misery and reject it now.”
The UK’s trade association for the offshore oil and gas industry, OGUK, said the announcement that Shell had suspended its involvement did not change the need for investment in the sector.
Jenny Stanning, OGUK’s external relations director, said: “This is a commercial decision between partners but doesn’t change the facts that the UK will continue to need new oil and gas projects if we are to protect security of supply, avoid increasing reliance on imports and support jobs.
“However, we know that to deliver the transition to a lower carbon future, investor confidence remains essential.
“Gas and oil has a critical role to play in the nation’s future energy supply and we will continue to work with governments, industry and politicians of all parties to make this case.”
The Cambo field will produce 170 million barrels of oil equivalent during its 25-year operational life and 53.5 billion cubic feet of gas, enough to power 1.5 million homes for a year, accoring to Siccar Point Energy.
The UK Government said the investment in oil and gas was necessary to avoid a cliff-edge putting jobs and industries in the country at risk.
A Shell spokesperson said: “Before taking investment decisions on any project we conduct detailed assessments to ensure the best returns for the business and our shareholders. After comprehensive screening of the proposed Cambo development, we have concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time, as well as having the potential for delays.
“However, continued investment in oil and gas in the UK remains critical to the country’s energy security. As Shell works to help accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy, we remain committed to supplying UK customers with the fuels they still rely on, including oil and gas.
“We believe the North Sea – and Shell in it – have a critical role to play in the UK’s energy mix, supporting the jobs and skills to enable a smooth transition to Britain’s low-carbon future.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “This is a commercial decision that has been taken independently by Shell.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have said previously that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations and we continue to call on the UK Government, who have the power to act in this instance, to urgently reassess all approved oil licenses where drilling has not yet commenced against our climate commitments.
“A just transition must be delivered across all of our communities, including those that have a dependency on oil and gas.
“That is why we are undertaking a programme of work and analysis to better understand Scotland’s energy requirements as we transition to net zero, ensuring an approach that supports and protects our energy security and our highly skilled workforce whilst meeting our climate obligations.
“We are already investing in the sector’s net zero transformation. Our £500m Just Transition Fund – which we have called on the UK Government multiple times to match – will support the north east and Moray as one of Scotland’s centres of excellence for the transition to a net zero economy, with our investment supporting transformation across the region.”
The UK-wide Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued advice after the emergence of the new Omicron variant making all over-18s eligible for a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine three months after their second.
But the change had not filtered down to health boards with several people at vaccine centres told they could not be jabbed because they needed to wait 24 weeks from their previous dose.
Catriona Mowat told STV News: “When I went along and I went to the desk, they said I couldn’t have it because it wasn’t the 24 weeks yet and their guidance hadn’t yet changed, so I got turned away
“But now that I’ve had an appointment, to get my booster jab, it wont let me reschedule or book a new one, I should say, online on the portal
“So I, instead, phoned up the national helpline, and the woman I spoke to there said that’s fine she could reschedule it for me but then said she couldn’t reschedule until 24 weeks had passed because their guidance hadn’t been updated.”
The Scottish Government said those who had gone to the vaccine centre and were turned away attended before “necessary protocols were in place”.
On Thursday, the First Minister apologised for what had happened with failed booster appointments.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am very sorry to anyone who was turned away from a vaccine clinic yesterday.
“When advice changes, and the JCVI advice changed on Monday, then because this is a clinical procedure, there is a process for updating protocols and materials to make sure that everything is being done in line with clinical protocols.
“In the normal course of events that is a process that would take around a week. That has happened now already.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC) announced that those eligible for booster shots could book appointments online or by phone on Monday.
The health board has apologised to those who were turned away.
On Monday, Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “Booster appointments are currently being offered to all those over 40 years old and we encourage anyone who is eligible for a booster – or who is still to have any dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – to book an appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
The JCVI said both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines can be used as boosters for adults.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the government’s communications on booster jags had been a mess.
“We are still hearing this morning of people turning up on Thursday to get the vaccine they had booked and they were turned away, turned away despite having an appointment,” he said.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said every health board had been spoken to and he did not expect anyone who has booked an appointment to be turned away.
“Of course concerns should be raised, by public, politicians [and] press, when things don’t go quite right,” he said.
“But I hope [people] recognise what an amazing team there is, many behind the scenes, including brilliant civil servants working tirelessly to make this programme a success.”
A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the health board was “fully committed” to implementing the new guidelines as soon as possible and said it have already started to do so in all clinics.
“We apologise to anyone who booked their booster vaccination three months after their second dose, if they were not able to receive it when they attended and we would ask those individuals to please rebook their appointment.
“Our teams have worked exceptionally hard to make sure that all of our vaccinators have now received the appropriate clinical documentation needed for them to move to the next stage of the programme and ensure we implement the changes within all of our clinics as swiftly and safely as possible.
“We would like to sincerely thank members of the public for their patience while we implement these new guidelines.”
Twin brothers have appeared in court accused of murdering a cyclist who disappeared more than four years ago and attempting to cover up the alleged crime.
Anthony Parsons, also known as Tony, travelled from his home in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, to Fort William in the Highlands for a charity cycle on September 29, 2017, but failed to return home.
The 63-year-old former Navy petty officer travelled south on the A82 and was last seen on October 2 at around 11.30pm outside the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, Argyll and Bute.
On January 12 this year, specialist search officers, supported by forensic scientists, discovered his remains in a remote area of ground close to a farm near the A82 at Bridge of Orchy.
On Thursday morning, Police Scotland confirmed that two men had been arrested and charged in connection with Mr Parsons’ death.
In addition to the murder charge, twins Alexander and Robert McKellar, both 29, have also been accused of conspiracy to murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.
Alexander McKellar faces a further charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The pair, who are due to turn 30 on Friday, made no plea when they appeared at Dumbarton Sheriff Court, West Dunbartonshire, on Thursday afternoon.
The case was committed for further examination.
The McKellars, from Argyll and Bute, were remanded in custody meantime and will return to court within the next eight days.
Earlier on Thursday, detective inspector John McFall said: “I would like to offer my thanks to the local community for all their help and assistance throughout this investigation and to those who came forward with significant information.”
A controversial goal from Kyogo Furuhashi was enough to give Celtic victory over Hearts in a close encounter at Parkhead.
The Japan forward looked like he might be marginally offside as he converted Anthony Ralston’s cross in the 33rd minute but Bobby Madden and his officials gave the goal.
Celtic had other chances but Hearts came back strongly after the break with Barrie McKay causing a number of problems before missing an excellent late chance in an exciting finale.
The 1-0 victory took Celtic back to four points behind Rangers after the leaders won by the same score against Hibernian 24 hours earlier following a much-debated penalty award.
Celtic had Carl Starfelt and Tom Rogic back in the team following injury while James Forrest also came in. Defender Cameron Carter-Vickers was missing because of a personal issue and Jota and Stephen Welsh both went off injured in the second half.
Hearts made four changes with Andy Halliday and the injured Beni Baningime among those dropping out. Josh Ginnelly replaced Liam Boyce up front as Robbie Neilson looked for pace to cause Celtic problems with attacking midfielders Ben Woodburn, Aaron McEneff and McKay also starting ahead of a back four.
Celtic started brightly. Starfelt headed wide before Hearts had a huge let-off after David Turnbull robbed Cammy Devlin. Craig Gordon spilled Jota’s resulting shot but Forrest stabbed the loose ball against the post from close range.
Jota twice shot over the bar from outside the box, Ralston was too high from a half chance and Gordon tipped Callum McGregor’s deflected effort wide.
Hearts were attacking when they could and Joe Hart was called into action when Craig Halkett got a shot away following Stephen Kingsley’s free-kick.
The opener came after Ralston ran round the outside of Rogic and drilled in a cross which Furuhashi turned home at the near post. The Japan international was ahead of the Hearts defence and replays suggested he was also slightly ahead of Ralston when the right-back struck the cross, but offside appeals went unheeded.
Ralston was injured in the process and soon went off for Adam Montgomery, with Juranovic swapping flanks.
Turnbull had several shots diverted behind after the interval, one after a sweeping and silky counter-attack.
Hearts defender Kingsley had a brilliant chance when he ran untracked to the near post to meet McKay’s corner but he cut his header too thinly and it flashed beyond the far post.
Juranovic shot over from a decent chance but Hearts kept threatening.
McKay had an effort saved and set up both Boyce and Halkett for chances, the former fluffing his first opportunity and the defender heading wide. The former Rangers winger set up the second chance while dodging missiles from the standing section behind him.
Celtic lost Jota and Welsh in quick succession. Nir Bitton came on in central defence before Jota’s replacement, Mikey Johnston, came close with a strike that Furuhashi almost turned in.
Forrest had a great chance to settle matters in the 84th minute when he was played in by Furuhashi but Gordon saved and Hearts were soon away on the counter-attack.
Substitute Gary Mackay-Steven looked set to score but he stumbled and McKay shot just wide from the loose ball with Hart stranded.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was booked as he remonstrated with the officials, claiming Mackay-Steven had his heel clipped.
Turnbull had a shot diverted inches wide in stoppage-time and Celtic saw out the remainder of the game in the Hearts half.
Family of mother who died after M9 crash awarded more than £1m
Lamara Bell died in hospital after lying undiscovered at side of motorway for three days.
The family of a young mother who died after lying undiscovered in a car for days following a crash on the M9 has been awarded more than £1m in damages.
Lamara Bell and her partner John Yuill both died after their car left the motorway near Stirling on July 5, 2015.
Despite a call being made to police, it took three days for the force to respond and when officers finally arrived at the scene, Yuill was found to be dead while Bell died four days later in hospital.
In a statement, the Bell family said: “Imagine chasing answers, recognition and justice for six years and all you get is silence then in the space of three months you get a conviction and a civil settlement – it is fair say our thoughts and feelings are all over the place right now.
“Our pain and loss won’t stop just because the legal proceedings are over but there is at least a sense of peace that comes with their conclusion.
“But that peace is fleeting because ultimately we are still without Lamara.
“We are without a daughter and sister and her children are without a mother – such an outcome cannot, and should not ever, go unheeded in a fair society and we are glad to finally have attained that which we sought.
“We’d like to thank our friends, family, community and legal team for all their support but now we really would like to be left alone as we look to the future.”
Police Scotland was fined £100,000 earlier this year after admitting failings which “materially contributed” to the deaths of Bell and Yuill.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard in September that Bell would probably have survived had she had been found sooner.
Delivering the sentence, Lord Beckett said: “This case arose from terrible events in which two relatively young people died, one of them after days of severe physical suffering when she must have been in an almost unimaginable state of anxiety.
“As days and hours went by she must have been in a state of disbelief that no help arose.”
Lord Beckett said it was “unprecedented” for the police service of Scotland to have been accused and convicted in the High Court.
The office of the Chief Constable of Police Scotland admitted it failed to ensure that people, including Yuill and Bell, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety by failing to provide an “adequate and reliable call-handling system” between April 1 2013 and March 1 2016.
It also failed to ensure the system was “not vulnerable to unacceptable risks arising from human error” and to ensure that all relevant information reported by members of the public was recorded on a Police Scotland IT system so that it could be considered and a police response provided where appropriate.
The force admitted that as a result, members of the public were exposed to risks to their health and safety and, in particular, on July 5, 2015, a police officer at the force call-handling centre at Bilston Glen Service Centre failed to record a phone call from a member of the public reporting that a vehicle was at the bottom of an embankment at the side of the eastbound junction nine slip road from the M80 on to the M9.
The phone call was not recorded on any Police Scotland IT system and no action was taken.
The force admitted Bell and Yuill remained “unaided and exposed to the elements” in the car between July 5 and 8, 2015, and that the failings “materially contributed” to Bell’s death on July 12 that year at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
The force pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
David Nellaney, Partner at Digby Brown, added: “The Bell family has endured things very few people could ever comprehend but the patience, resilience and compassion they have shown at all times cannot be understated.
“It is unfortunate Police Scotland did not admit its failings sooner as it might have spared them unnecessary distress but at least we do now have a conclusion and the Bells can rightly focus on themselves and times ahead.”
St Mirren chairman John Needham has been fined by the Scottish FA over comments he made on social media about Rangers fans.
An independent disciplinary tribunal found that Needham had broken three of the SFA’s rules, and fined him £6,000, with £1,000 suspended until the end of the season.
Needham, who took up the role at the Paisley club this summer and has been a board member since 2020, posted messages on Twitter earlier this year, with an earlier tweet in 2015 calling Rangers fans “h**s”.
Another message earlier this year was in reply to a photograph of thousands of Rangers supporters crossing a Glasgow bridge, with Needham saying: “Here’s hoping the Squinty Bridge tips as well. Second thoughts… the pollution would be awful.” The tweet was followed by a ‘laughing’ emoji.
Rangers wrote to St Mirren, the SPFL and the SFA about the comments and the governing body charged Needham with bringing the game into disrepute, making comments of a discriminatory or offensive nature, and acting in an improper manner while using indecent or insulting words or behaviour.
When the messages were highlighted, the club chairman made an apology, saying that the messages were “inappropriate” and expressing regret, claiming that they do not reflect his character.
In October, Needham tweeted: “On Friday 22 October a number of Tweets I created in the past referring to Rangers fans were highlighted on Twitter. As a club chairman I have extra responsibility for the conduct and example I show.
“These posts are completely inappropriate and do not reflect my character or beliefs as a person and I very much regret them.
“I apologise unreservedly to the directors and fans of Rangers and to everyone at St Mirren. I am acutely aware of my responsibilities. This won’t happen again.”