Author Archives: admin

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Fergus Muirhead- 60 Secs on Best Budget Tips

Category : Uncategorized

Fergus Muirhead- 60 Secs on Best Budget Tips

In a brand new series listen to and watch Fergus Muirhead here as he explains common money and consumer issues in less than one minute.
This series will build up over the next few months into a valuable library of money and consumer tips, all delivered in a simple and straightforward way.

I’ve written about the importance of budgets before but now, for the first time, you can watch for 60 seconds and learn the basics of an effective budget. Part 2 to follow soon.

 


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Online Reputation Management

Reputation Management Infographic

Reputation Management Infographic

Online Reputation Management

These days the internet is omnipresent and as a result, it radically changed the business landscape. Today an engaging and updated website is necessary for business success. Back then, websites are static and only serve as a brochure where people only scan and check for offerings but today, if consumers happen to come across an outdated website, chances are they would close that tab to go find a more engaging site to avail services.

Aside from that, customers are no longer passive. If they find that your services are dissatisfying, chances are they’d tweet about it or post negative reviews online for the entire world to see. These are very detrimental to any business small or large. No one wants to avail the products or services of a business that has bad reputation.

So what can we do about this?

Put online reputation at the center of your business!

When you say online reputation it is simply how customers see your business online. Your website, your social media accounts, your customer reviews; all of these plays a vital role in managing your reputation online.

Tips to Manage your Online Reputation

  1. Create your Website – Creating a website is a must for any business. Make sure to highlight your services and offerings clearly. It is also important put out your business’ contact info as well as directions to your establishment to make you accessible to your customers.
  2. Set up your Social Media Accounts – Many business owners don’t realize the positive impact social media can bring to their business. It is a great marketing tool and it is free! It is a good way to bring your brand in front of billions of people and a lot of them could be your next client.
  3. Update – Setting up a website is not enough as you need to create content for your customers to read while they are browsing. Try to post a blog once a week to show your readers as well as other professionals in your field that you are an expert in your industry. The blog posts that you make should be focused on helping your current or potential customers in some way.

How to deal with Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can’t be avoided when running a business. You can never please everyone and some of them are keen to get their thoughts online. The internet can be quite vicious. Someone in your personal or professional life who wants to do damage to you can post their thoughts online putting your company’s name and reputation at stake. What do you do when this happens?

  1. Respond Quickly and Politely – In case of a complaint from a customer, a prompt “We are aware of the problem. We are working on it and will get back to you as soon as possible” is better than a late reply with information.
  2. Address Criticism – Never ignore negative comments hoping that it will somehow disappear because it won’t. People who read these comments will wait for your response regarding the matter and if there’s no explanation from your side then they would assume all those bad reviews were right. Address these criticisms as soon as you can.
  3. Understand them – Bad reviews are a way for you to learn more about your audience. Understand what their sentiments are and try to evaluate if their complaints are legitimate. Maybe there really is something wrong with your service. You can treat these criticisms as a way to improve your business in the future.
  4. Deal with Illegitimate Attackers – Everyone has a right to express their opinions but if what they say is false? Then defend your reputation at all costs. Don’t let them destroy something you worked so hard in building. Sometimes, if you don’t do something to defend your business, they might do it again until your online reputation is completely destroyed.

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The Need for Website SEO for Your Growing Online Business

The Need for Website SEO for Your Growing Online Business

A lot has changed in the way people do business today. With the Internet, it becomes much easier to reach out to customers at a personalised level and upgrading to a global scale is easier than ever before. In today’s digital age, a great website is mostly all that you need to interact with your audience and turn them into potential customers later on. It is also a fantastic way to “Start a lean business” ie test your ideas and see if there is strong consumer demand for the product or service you intend providing, before you go out and invest in a manufacturing process!

 

Create a Professional Website

Websites are very important because it is the first impression that potential customers will see receive. It establishes a  lasting impression that could make or break your relationship with them.

However, websites are not just limited to aesthetics and professional web design,  companies such as Soapbox Digital Media understand that. There is also a dire need to make sure that the site is created using clean, SEO-friendly code, so that they run fast and are easily searchable on the Internet. Otherwise, what use is a great-looking website when you have no audience to show it to?

 

Blogging for Your Business

There are really only so many keywords and phrases you can put in your website without making it look stuffed and forced. SEO experts such as Chris Cagienard who has been in the business for years attest to the effectiveness of blogging as a way to add fresh content into the site so that it looks, feels and reads as natural as possible – even if you are actually injecting important keywords, phrases and search terms into the article. There is a whole lot more to SEO success than just putting together some backlinks and Blog posts. There are deeply effective methods that allow Chris and the team at Soapbox to persuade Google that your site is worth ranking higher than your competitors. They are not going to explain those methods here but are happy to make themselves available for client consultations to demonstarte just wwhat they can bring to your SEO table.

 

“Roadtrafficlaw and Graham Walker Soliciotrs are clients of Soapbox Digital Media and I have no hesitation in recomending them to you. I have developed an online presence the hard way by creating my own sites and building SEO and then by trusting variuous folk over the years to help with the site development. Chris and his team far excel what you will get out there in the land SEO experts and Gurus”… Graham Walker Solicitor

 

When the Effort Is Just Too Much

It can all get to be a little too much for most of us. We need to concentrate on running our business and delivering what our present clients need not what our future clients may want.

If you are not technically inclined person, you can call for web design companies like Soapbox Digital Media which is made up of a group of Scotland’s most talented web designers and developers who aim to bring out the best of your business through their web design and SEO efforts.

 

Looking for SEO Scotland services is one tricky task, so make sure you check out a portfolio of past works to see how well they do their work. Chris Cagienard and his team of highly experienced digital marketers can help you with your SEO and online business woes by making sure that your site is clean, optimised and is of the highest quality. Soapbox Digital Media ensures results being delivered on time and on budget, every single time.


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Are You Consulting the Best Road Traffic Lawyer?

Graham Walker Solicitor

Graham Walker Solicitor

Are You Consulting the Best Road Traffic Lawyer?

A Road Traffic Lawyer is needed when things go wrong and you are facing a driving ban. Who do you choose and do you know what really matters when it comes to fighting a Mobile Phone Road Traffic Case?

No matter how many reminders from the police, the Government or Road Safety Organisations about not using your mobile phone while driving, there are still times when you just can’t help but pick up that call. If by any chance you’re already up to 9 penalty points on your driver’s license, and you got pulled over by the police because they say, you were using your phone, you may already need assistance from Graham Walker, Scotland’s leading road traffic lawyer.

 

Graham has been dubbed by the press as “Scotland’s Loophole Lawyer” you will get the message that he has earned a reputation amongst his peers and those who are “in the know” for his ability to spot opportunities to win a case where others fail. He has represented fellow solicitors, QCs, high ranking political figures as well as high powered business people and celebrities.

 

Roadtrafficlaw.com fight “Mobile Phone” road traffic cases on the basis that the evidence needs to be examined rigorously. Often a video reconstruction is required to examine the police viewpoints, phone records may require to be obtained and lodged in court. Obtaining phone records in a Mobile Phone Road Traffic Case is not as straight forward as you might think and actually involves drafting and lodging a document with the higher, Sheriff court and having a hearing to allow the telecoms co to release the third party data to you. We are not looking to mitigate the offence with an excuse. Use of your mobile phone while on the road knows only one excuse and that is use in an Emergency (As defined in law…calling the police etc)

It doesn’t matter if you tell the officer that pulled you over that the phone call you had to make was an emergency, they’d still charge you with an offense until that issue has been checked out. However, with the help of Graham Walker Lawyer, you might be able to win the case in court. Here are some common reasons that clients have explained to us as being “Emergencies” They are not regarded as emergency telephone calls as far as the law is concerned.

Examples of when clients could not help but pick up that phone:

  • Your boss is calling, and you are expecting to be dealt with in a disciplinary hearing that may lose your job.
  • Your pregnant wife is calling you.
  • You remembered leaving the door at home unlocked.
  • An unknown number is calling, and curiosity makes you want to pick up that call.
  • Your child’s teacher or principal is calling you.

 

These are only a few of the many reasons why people can’t help but pick up the phone. As much as possible, you need to pull over when picking up the phone. Even when pulled over you may still be committing an offence if it looks to the police as though you are still in the process of driving. Switch that engine off.

Though using a hands-free device is presently considered safer (The jury is out on that research) this may actually be accepted by court to establish your defence so take photographs of your hands free set up. Try to show the police where it is and how it works. Don’t be surprised if they are not interested as they have made up their mind and “you are it”, as far as they are concerned.

Our main website at Roadtrafficlaw.com gives further advice and assistance and we have a free factsheet that you can obtain simply by getting in touch. No obligation and no sequence of Spam mails from uninvited authors!! I promise.

What if that phone call surprises you, distresses you or otherwise contributes to an accident of some kind? —whether it’s good or bad news—that causes you to drive off road, or collide with another road user, you can expect to be dealt with by way of a much more serious charge. Dangerous Driving or a contravention of Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is what you can expect to face and that carries a 12 month ban minimum and an order to re sit your driving test. It’s bad enough to get into an accident by yourself but even worse when you have other people involved in that accident? If that happens you could be in the nightmarish position of facing causing a death by Dangerous Driving.

 

Road traffic law in Scotland is a complex and difficult area of practise and many general practitioners feel that it is best to refer such cases to specialist firms like Graham Walker and roadtrafficlaw.com. We work on a completely transparent process of rewarding such firms with a “Profit share” referral fee, they can receive 10% of our agreed fee or they may wish to discount the client’s fee by that 10% or have us make a charitable donation for that amount.

Police officers do sometimes get it wrong. In a split second they draw the wrong conclusion and the next thing is that you are facing a 3pp endorsement and a £100 fine or much worse a Totting Up ban of 6 months. However, if you need help in your defence or if you badly need to win this case, then you must consult with a road traffic lawyer such as Graham Walker.

 The police don’t need video/photo evidence to say that you’ve disobeyed the road traffic law in Scotland  so you definitely need a road traffic lawyer in order for you to win the case. Trust no one but a road traffic lawyer with 30 years of experience in Criminal Law with a  road traffic specialty—contact Scotland’s Loophole lawyer for a FREE case consultation today. Call Graham Walker on 0800 612 9597 today.

Road Traffic Law


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The Best Way To Take Notes

Hacking Chaos: The Cornell Method of Note-Taking

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Taking notes by hand is better than typing your notes on a computer. Handwriting forces you to slow down and focus on what is important. This greatly increases comprehension.

That is where the Cornell Method comes in. The Cornell Method has you separate your notes into a note-taking portion, key points, and a summary. It is ideal for lawyers.1

Setting Up the Cornell Method

To arrange your notes in Cornell fashion, take your standard legal pad and draw a thick vertical line down the left-hand side of the paper, approximately 2-3 inches from the side of the page. Then draw a horizontal line all the way across the paper about two inches from the bottom of the page. You will end up with something like this:

cornelllined

You can also design one online and print it, or you can purchase Levenger pads optimized for the Cornell Method.

There. You are all done getting ready to take notes Cornell-style.

The Structure of the Cornell Method

Dividing your paper gives you three sections:

  1. The largest section is for note-taking.
  2. The left-hand margin is your key points and key questions section.
  3. The bottom is your summary.

Opinions differ wildly on what should happen with your notes section. Some people — particularly those that recommend it as a college study tool — subscribe to an elaborate set of rules about recording, reciting, reflecting, and reviewing. You probably do not need to go that deep. However, there is one principle that should guide you if you’re going to take notes using the Cornell Method: write less, not more.

If you have gotten used to taking notes on a laptop, you are already guilty of writing down too much. Treat your notes section like an outline. Shoot for key points, not a verbatim transcript. Think of that section as an outline you will return to later, after your lecture or meeting or motion hearing has finished.

The left-hand margin is your cue and recall section. When you are using Cornell as an academic note-taking method, the cue functions as a memorization and comprehension tool. You should be able to cover up your notes section, and answer any questions you posed to yourself in the cue section. You probably are not going to need to do that with your notes. Depending on what you are taking notes, this section can contain a series of questions, a roundup of notable points, or to get all business-speak, action items. You should be able to throw your entire notes section away and walk out of your meeting, hearing, or lecture with the key ideas intact. If you are the kind of person who likes to distill your oral arguments down to one notecard, this will seem pretty familiar.

The summary at the bottom is exactly what you would expect — a quick summary of the notes on that page. Internet nerds differ on whether you should do that right when you are done taking notes or after you have reviewed them. I tend to summarize right away. Otherwise, that summary section sits alone

How the Cornell Method Works For Me

It is not an exaggeration to say the Cornell Method helps me in every note-taking situation I have in my professional life.

In meetings, I use it to easily call out follow-up items by dumping them in the cue section. This can be anything from a statute I need to look up to a call I need to return. Pulling those to-do items and reminders out of the main text of the notes really highlights them. Every time I fall in love with a new type of notebook that does not have the Cornell margin, I go back to trying to just circle, underline, or highlight my follow up items and two things happen:

  1. My notes look like an utter mess
  2. I can’t easily find the things I want to do just by glancing at the page.

Pulling your next steps/to-dos/action items over into the left-hand column also works well if you like to reduce your notes to an actual to-do list you put on an index card, in a computer file, or a fancy Getting Things Done tickler file. That left-hand column is now functionally your list of next actions. In meeting situations, the summary usually ends up being nothing but the date, time, purpose, and attendees of the meeting. This gives me a way to file my notes easily.

When I am listening to someone else talk for any length of time, whether an opponent in court or speaker at a CLE, being forced to organize my notes Cornell-style on the fly means I am actively engaged. If I do not take handwritten notes, my mind drifts, and suddenly I’ve missed everything. Here, I use the notes section to force me into keeping a cohesive outline, even if the speaker wanders around a bit (as lawyers often do).

Then I use the recall section to break out big-picture points I’m going to address and key questions I’d like to ask. Again, pulling those things out of the notes section cleans up my notes visually, and creates a quick mini-outline that I can refer to quickly.

The arena in which I’ve definitely found the Cornell method most helpful is in organizing my own teaching notes. The notes section covers the main points of my lecture in an outline and forces me to stay on task. The recall section is my dumping ground for everything I can’t deal with in my notes without things getting messy. Questions I plan on asking appear there, linked to whichever part of the lecture they’re related to. Reminders to myself also go there when I’m re-reading notes before getting up to speak. Notes on sources, if I need to mention those, go in the side margin as well.

With that wide Cornell margin, my teaching notes last three or four semesters instead of one. This is because I’m able to use that recall section to highlight key changes I want to make next time I present the material. Finally, the summary functions like the tagging function in Evernote. I have got the week of the semester the lecture occurs, the name of the class, the major topics I’m covering that week, and a page number. This way, when I have shuffled and reshuffled the pages while speaking, I can easily put them back together again when I’m done (or let’s be honest, mid-lecture).

If you are hopelessly disorganized like me, but wish you were an organized person hacking your own tendencies towards chaos, you really can’t go wrong with taking your notes by hand using the Cornell Method to force you into a specific but flexible note-taking framework. All my notes — meeting notes, lecture notes, deposition notes — look and function the same, which means I always know where to put information when I am writing, and I always know how to find information when I’m reviewing later.

The Cornell Method is the only productivity tool that has stuck with me for more than a year, and I am never giving it up.


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Can You Trust Online Reviews?

Can You Trust Online Reviews?

At Roadtrafficlaw.com we use a third party site called Trust Pilot to host our reviews and seek reviews from clients on our behalf. Other members of the RTLcooperative use different methods including simply hosting the testimonials on their main website. Easyanswering.co.uk have provided client testimonials on their website.

More than ever before people are inundated with choice whether they are buying a washing machine or selecting a lawyer to fight an impoirtant case for them. We all tend to find that personal stories go a long way in describing if a compnay can meet our own needs so it is not at all surprising that testimonials play a major role in the purchasing decisions made by todays savvy online purchasers.

But can we trust those online reviews. With a firm like Easyanswering they will allow you to speak to clients and hear exacly what the service is like, with companies like roadtrafficlaw they offer masses of detailed case reviews and testimonials and also offer to put you in touch with those foremr clients who will allow such access. Solicitors have a real difficulty with reviews as they require to observe strict client confirdentiality codes, even when the case has finished and that is where a third party site, like Trust Pilot, really come into its own

Here are some signs to watch out for to make sure you get the facts and not the fiction when it comes to online reviews.

 

Check out the reviewer

Your first point of reference should be the person who left the review. They are more likely to be a legitimate person if the following checks out:

  • They have been using the site for a long time before leaving the review
  • They have left reviews for other products
  • They have friends or belong to a network

All of these point to the behaviors of a real person who can be deemed impartial. If the review has only just joined the site or only left a review for the product or service in question, then you may want to consider basing your purchase on their advice.

Profile

 

 

Verified customers

Many websites run employ services such as Revoo to help provide transparent and authentic feedback on their products. The review is actually part of the purchasing process so that you can be sure that only those that actually purchased the product have left a review.

Confirmed Purchase

 

Shop around

If you’re shopping for a big ticket item or booking at a pricey hotel, it is definitely worth checking reviews on many different sites and even social networks.

If something has great reviews on Yelp or Google Reviews, may have a bad rating on Trip Advisor, Amazon or another service. If the reviews differ significantly, it is certainly worth investigating a little further into them.

A quick search on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t hurt either. Check out any mentions of the product name or if a restaurant or hotel, visit their Twitter page to see how people are engaging with them. If there’s a lot of angry customers complaining, you may want to think twice before booking!

Do you have any tips to get trusted review online? Let me know on Twitter or on Facebook.

Thanks to Charlie Sanchez at AVG Software for the above hints and tips on his Blog post


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Starting Up A New Business?

Starting Up A New Business? (From the Law Society Of Scotland –as amended by rtlcooperative)


Setting up your own business involves making some of the biggest decisions of your life. And before your new venture is up and running, there are even more day-to-day decisions to be made. A solicitor can guide you through this tricky process, protecting your business and helping you avoid costly pitfalls. With the legal and financial issues watertight, you can focus on what you do best – building a successful business.

Business structure

One of the first, and most important, decisions you will make is the structure that best suits your business needs. The options – sole trader, partnership, limited company or limited liability partnership – involve different legal requirements, for instance, when making agreements and keeping company records. To help avoid disputes, it is important to set out the relationships between those involved in running the business. Franchising can also be an attractive option. Your solicitor can give independent advice and assistance on business structures and their legal requirements.

Finance

Many of those starting a business need to borrow money to do so. If so, the lender may want security over the business premises or other private property. A solicitor can help identify different sources of finance, explain the terms that lenders are offering, outline the risks involved and help with negotiations. You also need to think about your personal finances, how will you be able to afford a pension? What happens if you are too ill to work? Can you get cover for key personnel insurance?

That is when it is time to consider the advice of a Financial Planner such as Fergus Muirhead. Fergus is well renowned in Scotland.

Fergus has years of experience helping people manage their money, both as a professionally qualified Certified Financial Planner and as a regular writer and broadcaster across a wide range of programmes, magazines and newspapers.

These days he can be heard on the John Beattie Show advising viewers and listeners on money and consumer issues. Fergus was a regular on GMTV and has also appeared on Channel 4 hit programme Location Location Location. He was Woman’s Own Consumer Champion for five years, helping hundreds of readers find solutions to their consumer problems.

 

Premises

It is important to find the right premises, whether leasing a shop, renting an office or running a business from your laptop. But problems can arise, for instance, understanding the terms of a lease or finalising a property purchase. Solicitors understand the legal complexities and are familiar with local property markets.

Taxes and insurance

New businesses must register with HM Revenue & Customs and are expected to pay national insurance. Other tax issues may arise, for instance, over VAT, inheritance tax planning and trading abroad.

A range of different types of insurance is available to help businesses protect against risks. A solicitor can guide you through these issues.

Employing staff

The rules for employing staff are complicated – and constantly changing. Solicitors can give specialist advice on the rights of employees and employers, drawing up contracts and dealing with any disputes that occur. Consider outsourcing. Staff costs can be crippling for any new company so why not consider outsourcing some of your staff requirements. A fantastic way to do this, is to use a company such as Easyanswering.co.uk. A Scottish company who are local, yet have a broad range of experience, that is world wide. They will answer your phones as if they are based in your office and wil provide a highly professional service for you at a fraction of the cost of employing your own secretary or PA.

As Helen at Easyanswering.co.uk says “My team of PA’s and I have been delivering a telephone answering and virtual office service since 2004. And the only thing that has changed in that time is the range of services we now offer and our name which resulted from our re-branding in November 2011.. Our personal professional telephone answering service has been a constant since we answered our first call for our first client way back then – incidentally that same client still uses our service. So you could say that after all these years we obviously do something great.”

Disputes

Problems can arise for a number of reasons – contractual disputes with suppliers, recovering bad debt, disagreement with business colleagues or associates – so it is vital to receive professional advice and, if necessary, representation. Solicitors have the expertise to draw up terms of business and review contracts. More serious disputes do not necessarily end up in court. Your solicitor can help you avoid disputes in the first place or, if need be, arrange mediation.

Further information

Whatever the legal issue – from data protection and product liability to advising what you can say in promotional material, protecting your ideas and applying for licences – a Scottish solicitor can help. Use our website to find a solicitor.

 


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The Magic of Outsourcing Your Call Handling

The Magic of Outsourcing Your Call Handling

Why You Should Consider Outsourcing Your Telephone Answering Service

One of the most important decisions that business owners and managers need to make is whether to perform some activity in-house, or whether to outsource it to a more specialised third party. Each side will have its pros and cons, so the wise manager will need to compare the two sides thoroughly before coming to a decision. This is something that also applies to the question of how to handle the telephone answering service of a business. In the past, this type of thing would be handled by a personal assistant who is an employee, but today, that no longer needs to be the case.

The Benefits of Outsourcing

One of the pluses of outsourcing is that it allows your company to be more flexible. So for example, if you find that your need for individuals to handle order processing drastically increases at certain points in the year, you can negotiate with a telephone answering service to provide the necessary additional people during those times. This allows you to ensure that there are enough individuals answering phones so that your order processing doesn’t get bogged down, but you still remain flexible so that when the demand for order processing decreases, you can simply adjust the number of outsourced staff downwards. It’s much less flexible if you do this in-house because your firm will need to hire additional employees or workers in order to be able to do so. The lack of flexibility will be a further drain on the company’s resources.

Another benefit of outsourcing is that the telephone answering service staffs are specialists in what they do. Whether the job involves simply answering calls, or something more intensive such as telemarketing, these individuals know how to do it well because that is what their job is all about. This is unlike the in-house option, where employees will tend to be more like generalists, who sometimes handle phone calls but often handle other responsibilities.

 

The Downsides of Outsourcing

One possible disadvantage to outsourcing is where the staff of the telephone answering service lack the knowledge to properly address questions that callers ask. This is why it is very important to hire a firm like Easy Answering, which makes it a point to ensure that any personal assistants who are handling calls have sufficiently in-depth knowledge about your company.

Another possible downside involves telephone answering services, which attempt to lock their clients into longer term contracts. This is a problem because it tends to nullify the advantage of flexibility, which is one of the reasons to outsource in the first place. So again, you need to choose a firm like Easy Answering, which does not obligate clients to enter into long-term contracts, so that you can maintain the flexibility to increase or decrease the number of individuals involved, as needed.

 

The Magic of Easyanswering.co.uk is we can appear to be in your office when we are in fact your online partner, at your side throughout the day.

Easy Answering Service -The Magic Of Easyanswering (Enhanced) from Alice Walker on Vimeo.

Music: All the things by M.A.G. Trio (http://freemusicarchive.org/music/MAG_Trio/MAG_Trio_plays_Standards/All_the_things_)

Check out the testimonials of easyanswering to get an idea of what their clients appreciate about their service. They might just be that piece of magic that your business needs to reach the next level.

 


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Retirement and the new pension provisions

Retirement and the new pension provisions

One of the founding members of the RTLcooperative is Fergus Muirhead. Those of you who know Fergus will be aware that as well as being passionate about piping he is also “On the money” when it comes to financial matters and planning for your retirement. He is one of Scotland’s leading financial advisers and as such, is regularly requested by the BBC and other TV Cos to provide comment and advice on a regular basis on TV and Radio.

He is more than happy to take questions from our members about their retirement planning or other financial concerns that may have occurred. He asks that you contact him in the first place with any general type questions through his Moneysucks.net website. Just drop him a line info@moneysucks.net  but don’t  be surprised if you then end up hearing him chatting about your type of concern on the Johnnie Beattie Radio Show or the afternoon news with Jackie Bird!

In his Moneysucks.net website this month he discusses the pension reforms published in the last budget back in April and subsequent changes. Pension reform has been the subject of much comment throughout the financial press ever since. He makes the point that:- The changes are complicated and are not quite as clear as was initially suggested so no question is too straightforward or simplistic to answer. It’s become clear, for example, that many people may have a bigger tax liability than they initially thought so it’s wise to check out exactly what tax you will have to pay before you take money out of your fund, since once it’s out it can’t go back in.


People have been asking about the ‘free’ information the Government is offering. I would suggest that you go to the Pension Wise site at www.pensionwise.gov.uk. There are full details on that site of the options available and how the recently introduced changes impact what you can now do with your pension pot. You can also call Pension Wise if you are looking for more information. You do have to be aware, however, that while they can give you general guidance and information on the new rules, they are not qualified to give you specific advice relating to your situation. They can’t, for example, tell you which option is best for you or advice you which products you should buy. For that you will need to talk to an Independent Financial Adviser, and you can find one who is suitably qualified and in your area at www.unbiased.co.uk .

The rules that came into force this month are in relation to the choices you have available with the money you have in a personal pension. These rules allow you to take the money in your pension fund whenever you like, without having to buy an annuity, or income, with your pension fund. If you have already ‘sold’ your pension funds in exchange for an income you are not likely to be impacted by these rules. You will, instead, be hoping that the Government delivers on its promise of extending the pension changes to people like you who are already in receipt of an income.

They have said that they will, although the details of how this will work are not clear yet. The thinking is that you will be able to carry out some sort of ‘reverse purchase’ where you sell your income back to someone in exchange for a lump sum. At this point it’s not clear who you will sell it to, whether it will be the company that you bought the annuity from or from one of a number of third parties that decide to become involved in this new market. It’s also not clear at this stage what value there will be for you in taking this course of action. It will require careful consideration that what you are doing is actually good value for money. There are likely to be lots of charges to the various parties involved so you will need to make sure that buying back your lump sum does make sense for you, and is more attractive than continuing to take a regular income.


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Drink Drive Rehabilitation Schemes In Scotland

Drink Drive Rehabilitation Schemes In Scotland

Why is the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) an effective disposal for Courts for people found guilty of a Drink Driving offence?

Since 2000 every Sheriff Court in Scotland has had the option of referring people convicted of a Drink Drive Offence to a rehabilitation Course as part of their disposal. The Road Traffic Offenders Act (ROTA, 1988) makes provision for sentencing drink drive offenders and for the conduct of approved DDRS training providers.

An article published in the early 1970’s (Martinson, 1974) about the impossibility of reducing re-offending attracted considerable academic activity including research, theorising and debate. There is now a belief that much that can be done to reduce re-offending, including offering offenders an offence focused group-work intervention. Effective programs utilise the risk, need and responsivity principles. They are also community based, have a range of treatment modalities and have program integrity (McGuire, 1995).

How does the DDRS fit with the ‘What works’ debate?

The Risk Principle: There is a match between the offender risk level and the intensity of the intervention. From experience of delivering these course, most drink drive offenders are not versatile offenders involved in a range of offending but first time offenders. The 16 hours of education in the DDRS is suitably pitched for the risk of re-offending these participants pose.

The Needs Principle: Interventions should address criminogenic needs (i.e. needs that contribute to the offending). The DDRS focuses on behavioural change models, cognitive distortions, increasing knowledge about alcohol consumption and legislation and relapse prevention planning.

Responsivity Principle: The intervention should be structured, have a range of participatory rather than didactic methods of learning and should draw on the experiences of the participants. The DDRS is a structured course that uses experiential participatory methods for learning. The ISM course is also developed particularly for a Scottish culture drawing on legislative changes and Government Policies on Alcohol consumption and healthier lifestyles.

Community based: Interventions based in the community yield more effective outcomes. The DDRS is facilitated in the community, which is likely to enhance real-life learning.

Treatment modality: The most effective interventions are multi-modal (i.e. recognise the breadth of participant’s difficulties), are skills orientated and utilise cognitive-behavioural methods. The DDRS has scope for participants to discuss the range of difficulties contributing to their offence, develops strategies and skills for managing drink driving behaviour and is underpinned by a Cognitive Behavioural model for understanding and implementing behavioural change.

Programme Integrity: The intervention is facilitated as per the stated aims, there is sufficient resources and facilitators are appropriately trained and supported. There should also be an agreed plan for monitoring and evaluation. The DDRS is aligned to the prescribed syllabus as set by the Driving & Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA). All staff are trained to at least degree level and are experienced in facilitating behavioural change training. Both ISM and the DVSA have an administrative infrastructure for evaluation and monitoring of both participants and the standards adopted by the facilitators. These are systematically recorded and submitted on an annual basis to the DVSA, who publish these for public information.

                              This evidence demonstrates the suitability of the DDRS as a disposal in reducing the likelihood of re-offending and making Scotland’s roads safer!!!

Drink Drive Rehab Courses In Scotland