9am Briefing: House sales on the rise

HOUSE sales in Scotland rose slightly last month as an increased number of first-time buyers looked to buy before the current stamp duty holiday comes to an end.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Scotland said the looming end to the duty holiday partly lay behind a small increase in newly-agreed sales in January.

From March 24, first-time buyers purchasing homes worth between £125,000 and £250,000 will no longer be exempt from paying the 1% duty.

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However, despite the findings, Scottish surveyors said they did not expect the withdrawal of the two-year duty amnesty to create a huge rush from buyers over the next couple of months.

• FAMOUS quotes from some of Edinburgh’s best-known literary figures will be shone onto buildings in the New Town as part of a £100,000 project.

The Enlightenment initiative, to be launched on March 1, will see wise words from the likes of David Hume, James Hutton and Adam Smith beamed onto structures on Rose Street, George Street, Charlotte Square and St Andrew Square.

Not only will the scheme brighten up the city’s street, organisers said, but raise awareness of how important a role the Capital played in educating the rest of the world.

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Ali Bowden, director of the City of Literature Trust, said: “Enlighten will match the architectural brilliance of this historic city with our world-renowned literature.”

• THE funeral of singer Whitney Houston looks set to be held on Friday in front of up to 18,000 people, it was reported today.

The family of the tragic star are understood to be considering the Prudential Centre in Newark as a potential venue, which is one of the busiest entertainment arenas in the US.

The singer was found dead in a bath at her suite in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California, hours before she was due to appear at a pre-Grammy Awards party.

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Mourners have left flowers, balloons and candles for the singer at the wrought-iron fence around Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music programme for many years.

• BRITAIN’S AAA credit rating was put on a “negative outlook” by ratings agency Moody’s today amid fears over weaker growth prospects and potential shocks from the eurozone crisis.

Chancellor George Osborne said the assessment was a vindication of the Government’s tough austerity measures and “a reality check for anyone who thinks Britain can duck confronting its debts”.

Moody’s downgraded the ratings of six countries and also put France and Austria on the same caution as the UK amid violent protests in Greece over stringent measures to secure a fresh bailout.

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