By Mick Krever, CNN
Exactly 36 hours before Scotland begins voting on an independence referendum, former British Prime Minister John Major made an impassioned plea for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom, telling CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the Scottish people had been hoodwinked.
“The Scottish nation have frankly, and I don’t say this lightly, have been fed a load of pap by the Scottish nationalists in the belief that everything will be alright on the night. Well it won’t. There are very serious problems that Scotland will face if they go down this route.”
Scottish nationalists have faced up no none of the realities that would face their country should Scotland become independence, Major said.
“Whenever the realities are placed before them they say people are lying. They say, ‘We can get straight into the European Union.’ Well the European Union say they can’t. So they say the European Union is lying.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
The pro-independence movement in Scotland has both avoided talking about matter of serious economic consequence in its campaign, and convinced the pro-unionist campaign to long avoid the issues as well, the editor of the Financial Times said on Monday.
“I think that it was a brilliant tactic by [independence leader] Alex Salmond to make that case, that you can't come up here and … make your arguments in favor of no, because that will be bullying,” Lionel Barber told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“That meant that a lot of these practical, concrete questions about how the currency would work, what about pricing, were not made until the very last minute.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
To stay or to go.
With just over a week until a crucial referendum and polls on a knife’s edge, the pressure is on Scots to decide whether to end their 300-year-long union with the United Kingdom in favor of independence.
To debate the issue, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke with Brian Cox, an actor and Scotsman who supports independence, and Rory Stewart, a British parliamentarian whose family is Scottish who supports a continued union.
For Cox the push for independence is the result of long pent-up frustrations; for Stewart, it’s a rash and regrettable reaction to a passing set of circumstances.
By Mick Krever, CNN
With just ten days until Scots vote on independence - and with a poll showing a slight lead for the independence campaign for the first time - “there is no room for complacency,” conservative Member of Parliament and former Defense Secretary Liam Fox told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“There’s no panic,” he said. “But I think there’s a genuine feeling at Westminster that the No campaign has focused too much on the negative.”
A ‘yes’ vote on September 18th would mean a bitter divorce after a marriage of 307 years; up until now, the ‘no’ campaign has kept a comfortable lead in the polls.
Political and business titans warn of grave consequences for the Scottish economy, public services, and national security should Scotland leave. But after this weekend’s YouGov poll, critics say unionists must step up their game in the final stretch if the union is to be preserved.
“It’s caused something of a minor political earthquake here at Westminster. I hope that it’s simply a strong wake-up call for those who’ve not been paying attention.”
“It’s very, very important that the ‘no’ campaign give a positive reason for staying in the union,” Fox said.
A report on child abuse in the northern English town of Rotherham is rocking the UK.
It concluded that 1400 children some as young as 11 were abused, trafficked and groomed for more than 16 years.
The London Times' Chief Investigative Reporter, Andrew Norfolk, was pivotal in revealing the extent of abuse. He told Christiane Amanpour how this story started for him four years ago.
"I couldn't help noticing that there was something about the names of the offenders that always seemed to be a problem, which is that they were Muslim names."
"We eventually decided that although it was an incredibly sensitive subject, we needed to carry out some in-depth research to discover whether this generally was a pattern that was not being acknowledged by the authorities."
Norfolk made sure to point out that in the U.K. the majority of convicted sexual predators are white middle aged men who usually act alone. He was completely stunned by the numbers of girls that had been abused over the years by the groups he had been investigating.
"I have to admit to being unprepared for the staggering figure that was announced yesterday in terms of Rotherham, in terms of 1,400 children over a 16-year period. But what was happening in Rotherham is happening in every town and city in England that has a sizable Pakistani community."
"For four years, we have been asking for the research to be carried out to understand why that is the case. There have been some very high-profile criminal prosecutions in the past couple of years because since we've started writing about this, there's been a real change in the way authorities have been approaching it and tackling it, trying to protect the victims, trying to bring offenders to account."
"But until we actually understand why this crime has put down such deep roots in various communities, we're never going to actually prevent it from happening."
It's fair to say that the British Prime Minister David Cameron has had better weeks.
In an embarrassing airing of dirty laundry, leaked recordings of the Polish foreign minister revealed – with a string of expletives – that he believed Cameron had badly handled his EU policy.
Cameron’s strong stand against the appointment of Jean-Claude Junker is likely to leave him wrong-footed and isolated.
And to the jeers of a packed parliament Prime Minster Cameron had to apologize for ever appointing Andy Coulson as his director of communications after Coulson was convicted of phone-hacking in a sensational and costly trial in London.
James Blitz, leader writer at the Financial Times, spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about what it means for Cameron, and the UK.
By Henry Hullah
The inaction of the West has prompted Muslims from across the globe to make the treacherous journey to Syria to join the even more dangerous civil war that has been waged for almost two years.
12,000 fighters have flooded Syria, more even than went to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, have created a violent reaction in western nations known as 'blowback'.
British Counter-Intelligence expert and veteran Intelligence officer Richard Barrett told Amanpour that "In many ways, the Western nations, as Mr. Brahimi suggested, are in a bit of a bind here. What is the correct policy to conduct towards Syria? And I think the retiring ambassador, Robert Ford, also suggested this. It's now a bit too late. But with hindsight, you would have done things differently. But that's always the way. And very, very hard now for Western nations to correct a policy which would satisfy all their citizens that they were doing the right thing."
Amanpour asked if there was any way the U.K., France or even the United States could prevent foreign fighters in Syria returning and encouraging domestic terrorism.
"I mean, there's a big difference I think about being motivated to go as a foreign fighter and coming back as a domestic terrorist. But nonetheless, it doesn't take many. And if it's only 1 percent of 3,000 people already and counting, then that's going to be quite a problem".
By Dominique van Heerden, CNN
As heads of state met in London for a major anti-poaching conference, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about everything from poaching, to conflict in the Central African Republic and Syria, and the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The British government has just hosted the Illegal Wildlife Trading Conference in the hopes they, along with affected countries, can find a solution to protect the world’s most iconic species from extinction, because “we are in the eleventh hour”.
“Rhino populations have been devastated with one killed every ten or eleven hours at the moment. The illegal trade in ivory has doubled in the last six years,” Hague tells Amanpour.
Incidents of poaching are on the rise fueled by a growing demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia.
There are also concerns that poaching is helping to fund violent groups in the region.
When asked what he expected to be different after this conference, Hague says this is a “turning point,” citing an important combination of measures that African countries are going to take, including destroying stockpiles of ivory.
And it’s not just African countries who have pledged to take action; he says the countries through whom these products are transported have committed to do more to intercept illegal ivory and “treat the trade as serious organized crime”.
“This is a moral issue that these great animals have as much right to inhabit this world as we do…”
Crisis in the Central African Republic
Another major problem stalking the African continent is the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic, where the United Nations is warning of “ethnic cleansing” as fighting between Muslims and Christians spirals out of control.
Although there are already French troops in the country, and thousands of African forces are being deployed, Hague says they need more help, and “more help is coming from Europe”.
Britain will not be sending troops to the Central African Republic though, instead they will help with humanitarian aid and logistical support, “but other European countries are going to do more,” Hague tells Amanpour, and he says it is “absolutely crucial” to have the involvement and support of other African states.
Assad “not intending to budge”
Christiane Amanpour also spoke to the UK’s Foreign Secretary about Syria, and the lack of progress in trying to find a solution to the country’s civil war. As the latest round of Geneva talks failed to bring about any notable progress, William Hague says President Bashar al-Assad is “clearly not intending to budge”.
“This has gone backwards and forwards over three years now. And so I think it would be a mistake for this regime to think it’s now so strong it doesn’t need to do anything.”
Britain is still providing help to the opposition, “practical support that isn’t lethal,” Hague says.
“We’ve never taken the position in any of these conflicts that we send lethal supplies. And it’s very hard for us to guarantee what happens to those lethal supplies. And that, of course, is a major difficulty for us.”
He adds that he is “not holding out any prospect” of changing position on lethal supplies in the near future, but says that Britain does want to be able to send “more practical support of other kinds that saves lives”.
The conflict in Syria is creeping closer to home for Britain where there are reports of British nationals traveling to Syria to fight in the war. Hague calls these reports “credible”.
“Hundreds of people from Britain and many other Western countries involved in going to fight in Syria and that is a huge concern for us,” he says.
Asked how he plans to tackle the problem, Hague tells Amanpour there are some actions they can take, like depriving people of their passports and canceling visas for those who are resident in the UK, who they “believe are a threat”.
But ultimately, he says, “the solution lies in resolving the conflict in Syria… That is the only long-term answer to this”.
A final thought on Sochi
There was a lot of uproar in the weeks leading up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi over concerns about security and human rights in Russia.
But despite the “differences” between Britain and Russia, William Hague says he wants it all to go well.
“We want any Olympics anywhere in the world to be successful and to be safe,” he says, “and yes we have some differences with Russia over some issues such as LGBT rights, but we want them to succeed in hosting a successful Olympics”.
Click on videos above to watch Amanpour's extensive interview with William Hague.
By Mick Krever, CNN
Nelson Mandela set an example for leaders, his people, and the world that “doesn’t have a parallel,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at the Johannesburg stadium where world leaders gathered to memorialize the late South African president.
“The people of South Africa – indeed all of Africa – in Mandela have an immense icon, who I think will be looking down at them in the future, and they’ll be looking up to him and hopefully emulating and treasuring his memory.”
It is, he said, “rather like in British politics.”
“When you have, you know, massive figures like Winston Churchill that have sat in the chair that you now sit in, it doesn’t mean sadly that you’re automatically like them, but it does mean that you’ve got heroes to try and live up to.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
Brits have little reason to worry that their intelligence agencies are breaking the law, Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“When criminals break the law they are hoping to have financial gain, make a lot of money. That’s what crime is all about,” Rikfind said, who is also a former UK defense secretary and foreign secretary.
“We’re talking about intelligence agencies. The heads of these agencies are very senior public servants. What personal benefit do they get from breaking the law? They would be committing a crime; they would end up being prosecuted if it was found out.”
“I can’t prove it never happens, but I find it inherently implausible in any rational basis.”