Daily Political Media Summary: 4 November 2009
All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is blue and underlined.
RBS and Lloyds Banking Group: The enforced break-up of Royal Bank of Scotland will make it more difficult for taxpayers to get their money back and will not help consumers, its chief executive Stephen Hester has warned. On a seismic day for the UK banking sector, Mr Hester said RBS\’s path to recovery could be impeded by the European Union\’s insistence on the sale of its most profitable arms.
Thousands of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group employees are to lose their cash bonuses in return for another massive taxpayer bailout worth £31 billion. While RBS is lining up £5m in “golden hello” payouts to 11 new employees from American banking giant Merrill Lynch, about 3000 staff in Scotland are set to forfeit their annual handouts. A similar number at Lloyds will also lose out. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, page 26, Daily Mail page 6, Daily Express page 5, Sun page 8, Times page 15, page 48, Telegraph page 1, FT page 1, Press and Journal page 4, Guardian page 14, BBC, STV)
Scottish Banks: First Minister Alex Salmond has urged that senior Scottish financiers be allowed to buy part of Lloyds TSB and the Royal Bank of Scotland that are being put on the market. The First Minister wants to encourage Scottish based consortia or management buy outs, with any new institutions based and headquartered north of the border. (Telegraph page 4)
Minimum alcohol pricing: Scots will flock to England to buy alcohol if a minimum price is imposed along with a ban on off-sale promotions, an industry body claimed last night. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said English retailers stand to profit from the planned introduction of new legislation. The organisation said shoppers from the Republic of Ireland were already travelling to Northern Ireland to buy cheaper alcohol. The Scottish Government dismissed the claim stating that the Irish travelled north to do all their shopping, not just for alcohol. (Press and Journal page 9)
Wind Turbine Jobs: A revolutionary wind turbine which could provide 750 jobs is likely to be manufactured in Scotland rather than abroad, after a last-minute change of attitude by Scottish Enterprise. Renewable Devices of Midlothian, a wind energy design company which has succeeded in manufacturing a noiseless and energy-efficient domestic turbine, had failed to win backing from Scottish Enterprise. However, it is now understood that Scottish Enterprise is now anxious to see the venture succeed in Scotland. The company has designed a small-scale wind turbine capable of generating 1.5kW of electricity, about half the usage of an average household. This is about twice as efficient as any other small turbine and has the added advantage of being virtually silent and vibration-free. (Times page 9)
Lockerbie: A Holyrood committee has agreed to write to the US and UK governments as part of its inquiry into the release of the Lockerbie bomber. The justice committee will request information from London and Washington about both governments\’ understanding of a prisoner-transfer agreement between Libya and the UK signed by Tony Blair. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill rejected the transfer of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, to Libya and released him on compassionate grounds. (Scotsman page 17)
Glasgow Rail Link: Finance Secretary John Swinney was labelled "judge, jury and executioner" as he defended his decision to cancel the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL). Mr Swinney told Holyrood\’s finance committee he would not reinstate GARL and compared its spiralling cost with the parliament building\’s overruns. The decision to scrap the project was taken to balance the budget for the coming year, Mr Swinney said yesterday, and he challenged opposition MSPs to give him alternative projects to scrap instead. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 2, Press and Journal page 3)
Universities: Universities now generate £59 billion for the UK economy, putting the higher education sector ahead of the agricultural, advertising, pharmaceutical and postal industries, according to figures published today. A report produced for the umbrella body Universities UK by Strathclyde University found that, in 2007-8, the higher education sector spent £19.5bn on goods and services produced in the UK, which generated more than £59bn of output. The figure four years ago was nearly £45bn, meaning there has been a 25 per cent increase. (Scotsman page 6, Guardian page 20)
Crofting Reform Bill: A new bill to plot the future of crofting will be presented to the Scottish Parliament by Christmas but crofting communities are divided on the way forward, five years after reform was first mooted. The Scottish Government publishes an analysis of responses to the Draft Crofting Reform Bill today. Despite consensus that land speculation, absenteeism and restructuring the Crofters Commission need to be tackled, there remains division on how to proceed. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 4)
Flooding: Householders, businesses and travellers were yesterday still suffering disruption from severe flooding which brought chaos to many parts of Scotland this week. The deluge on Sunday and Monday closed roads and rail lines and saw some people being plucked from vehicles and homes when flood waters rose. Among the worst-hit areas were the Aberdeenshire communities of Huntly and the coastal town of Stonehaven. (Scotsman page 12)