Energy markets: switched off

Montage of big six energy suppliers
The major energy companies are facing competition from smaller suppliers

Energy companies are down there with banks at the bottom of the public's league table for love and affection. (Yes, and journalists too.)

So it fits the public and political narrative to pick up on the headline finding of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) review of the energy market - that we've been overcharged to the tune of £1.2bn a year.

Clearly, Something Must Be Done. We'll hear later this year from the CMA as to what it thinks that should be.

What that headline figure can miss is that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are getting relatively harder hit by high prices. They're over-paying by around £500m per year, with a wider margin that that on the domestic customer.

It is, as you might expect, a bit more complicated than that. Not all companies have been making such profits. One of the Big Six was making consistent losses through the years in question, apparently due its own inefficiency.

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Who wins from workplace flexibility?

CalMac workers
CalMac workers are due to hold a second strike next week

If you're reading this while waiting for a train this or coming Sundays, you may want extra battery power, as the wait may be longer due to services being harshly cut. There aren't enough drivers available, says Abellio, the new operator of ScotRail.

But don't worry, because another dispute will be along in a moment. CalMac crew are heading for their second stoppage, next Friday, to get leverage over the current tendering process for the west coast ferry contract. They fear for their job security if private sector Serco wins the bid over publicly-owned Cal-Mac.

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Diageo checks out of Gleneagles

Gleneagles
Gleaneagles is seen as being one of the traditional Crown Jewels of Scottish tourism

Gleneagles occupies a sizeable chunk of Perthshire, and uneven terrain between private opulence and national institution.

Others vie with it to be the best hotel in Scotland. None of them can touch it for being the best known.

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Reality checking the oil gauge

Scotland's oil and gas industry

There are many ways to look at the oil and gas accounts from a Holyrood perspective. Throw in enough numbers, ideally counted in the billions, take five different scenarios, publish it as MSPs are about to head off on their summer holidays, and, well, to borrow a phrase, this was a good day to bury bad news.

Except that it wasn't news. The Scottish government's take on the oil and gas industry had very little new to say that hadn't already been picked over by others.

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Gogarburned: Little guys put the heat under RBS bosses

Sir Philip Hampton
Sir Philip Hampton's final RBS annual general meeting was one of the stormiest he has faced

For around two hours a year, the captains of industry are adrift, rudderless, out of control. They are at their annual general meetings, and at the mercy of their shareholders.

The votes are all sewn up, of course. Institutional investors have been courted, lobbied, reassured and sometimes even listened to. That's all behind closed doors.

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Subdued anniversary for offshore oil

Oil rig

It will be 40 years tomorrow since the first North Sea oil came ashore in Britain. It was from the Argyll field, and landed by tanker at the Isle of Grain refinery in Kent.

The trickle became a torrent later that year, 1975, when the Queen pushed the button on the Forties pipeline.

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Deficits: good or bad?

Fading £20 note

For those of you who fondly remember last year, we're back in familiar territory, with talk of the deficits Holyrood might face if it had full control of Scotland's taxation.

Short of independence, the Scottish government and 56 SNP MSPs would like full fiscal autonomy - that is, all tax-raising powers, while paying a fee to Westminster for shared roles, such as defence and foreign affairs. Or even funding the UK's £1.5tn debt interest payments.

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Royal Bank of Scotland: A new chapter

Royal Bank of Scotland sign

George Osborne told his City of London audience this week that he's not dogmatic about private being good, and public bad.

But there's not much doubt that he thinks private banks are preferable. And he can say it more clearly now that he's unshackled from coalition with the Lib Dems.

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Scotland's growth engine lacks oil

Oil installation

Nearly a year since the oil price began to fall and five months since it bottomed out, the benchmark barrel of Brent Crude remains volatile and we're still not clear what impact it will have on the Scottish economy.

The latest analysis from the Scottish ITEM Club - economists who independently apply the Treasury's economic model - point to the downsides.

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The road to Paris and beyond oil

OPEc seminar in Vienna
The world's big oil exporters are due to attend the Opec meeting on Friday

The world's big oil exporters meet every six months in Vienna. Last November, as prices slid, Venezuela pushed for a tightening of supply to push prices up again. Its public finances badly needed that.

The Saudi oil minister, who calls the shots in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), disagreed. He wanted to maintain market share, and intended to keep pumping.

Read full article The road to Paris and beyond oil