Reform Scotland News: 29 March 201212.03.2012

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is highlighted and underlined. In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News

Politics
Total’s Elgin platform: It has been reported that the flame on a giant flare stack on Total’s abandoned Elgin platform has been left burning less than 200 yards from the source of an uncontrollable release of highly flammable gas.  This has increased concerns of the likelihood of an explosion on the platform.  However, David Hainsworth, the health, safety and environment manager at Total has insisted that the flare did not pose an “immediate risk”. (Scotsman
page 1, Herald page 1, Sun page 23, Record page 2, P&J page 6, Courier page 15, FT page 4)

Euro Millions tea party: Alex Salmond is reportedly facing an investigation from  Elish Angiolini, an independent standards watchdog, into a tea party he held for EuroMillions winners Chris & Colin Weir  at Bute House. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 6, Ian Macwhirter in the Herald, Mail page 4, Mail page 12, Times page 13, Courier page 15, Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph)

Devo Plus: Lord Steel, a former Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer, has backed Devo Plus as the best option for Scotland’s future as a “strong and positive alternative” to independence. (Scotsman page 11, Lord Steel in the Scotsman)

Pasties: Further coverage of the row over plans for hot snacks from supermarkets and bakeries to face 20 per cent VAT. (Herald page 4, Sun page 4, Mail page 6, Mirror page 4, Record page 7, Courier page 10, Guardian page 3, Telegraph page 5, FT page 2)

50p tax rate: Labour MPs have been criticised by Labour MSP Ken Macintosh for failing to vote against the cut in the top rate of tax.  He commented they needed to learn “a little bit more political savvy, a bit better news management and a bit of political spin.” (Herald page 6, Courier page 17)

Andrew Mitchell: The International Development Secretary reportedly invested into a network of privately owned companies which are at the centre of a landmark tax avoidance case.  Mr Mitchell was an investor in DV3 Ltd when, in 2006, it used a loophole to avoid paying £2.6million in stamp duty. (Times page 1)

Economy
Petrol sales: Sales of petrol have reportedly increased  by 45 per cent and diesel by 20 per cent as motorists fill up following the UK government’s comments advising drivers to “top up” in case of strike action by fuel tanker drivers.  Alex Salmond accused the UK government of encouraging “panic buying.   Unite union drivers, who supply 90 per cent of UK forecourts, have voted to strike but talks are to be held with Acas to avert the walkout. (Scotsman
page 1, Herald page 1, Sun page 1, Mail page 1, Times page 4, Express page 1, Mirror page 1, Record page 1, P&J page 12, Guardian page 3, Telegraph page 1, FT page 2)

Economic output: According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics the UK economy fell by 0.3 per cent in the final three months of last year.    (Scotsman page 8, Brian Ashcroft in the Scotsman, Herald page 6, Sun page 2, Record page 8, FT page 3)

Manufacturing: Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman comments that many manufacturing firms in Scotland are doing well and can help improve the economic situation across the country, though there is a need for young apprentices with basic competencies in reading, writing and science.

Scottish Enterprise: Scottish Enterprise is expected to unveil today a target of helping to create 35,000 jobs by 2015 by attracting foreign investors. (Herald page 30)

Education
Numeracy:  Education Secretary Michael Russell has claimed that the Curriculum for Excellence was beginning to show signs of success following the publication of new statistics which showed an improvement in the numeracy of primary school pupils.  However, Professor Lindsay Paterson has said it was too early to draw conclusions and Ann Ballinger of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association said the argument that the new curriculum had boosted attainment was “not credible”.  The figures also looked at numeracy skills in pupils in secondary 2 and showed that 32 per cent of 14 year olds fell short of expected levels.  (Scotsman
page 1, Donald Macdonald in the Scotsman, Herald page 2, Sun page 2, Mail page 4, Times page 1, Express page 4, P&J page 15, Courier page 2, Telegraph page 10)

Transport
Free bus passes:  Dr Jim McCormick, Scotland adviser with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has suggested that the entitlement age for a free bus pass should be raised to 65 and keeping free travel for long coast to coast journeys should no longer be a priority. (Scotsman page 9)

M8: A road building programme to complete the seven mile “missing link” of the M8 as well as a junction overhaul on the M74 and 11 miles of other new motorways is to go ahead at a cost of £508million.  (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 5)

Cycling: Alison Johnstone in the Scotsman comments that road needs to be friendlier to cyclists.

Justice
Sally Bercow: Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow has sparked a row by suggesting she was tempted to try the drug “mexxy” before it became illegal. (Sun
page 32, Mail page 9, Times page 17)

Health
Food and drink adverts:
Michael Kelly in the Scotsman comments that legislation should be introduced, Europe wide, to ban the use or over use of additives in food as well as banning unhealthy food advertising.

Alzheimer’s: Professor Claude Wischik has warned that one in five adults over the age of 40 has suffered from a “significant degree of mental impairment” which is caused by Alzheimer’s but is undiagnosed. (Herald page 3, Mail page 5)