Daily Political Media Summary: 5 November 2009

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Media Summary: 5 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.

Economy

Drink prices crackdown: Whisky chiefs have made the extraordinary claim that the SNP\’s policy of minimum pricing on alcohol will cost the flagship Scottish industry a massive £600 million a year in lost export sales. As MSPs meet today to debate the controversial alcohol crackdown, the Scotch Whisky Association claimed that the plans would wipe out 20 per cent of the entire overseas market. A Scottish Government survey shows minimum pricing will target cheap, high-strength products while leaving others untouched. (Scotsman Page 13, Herald Page 2, Daily Telegraph Page 13, Press & Journal Page 10)

Public spending: Radical reform of Scotland’s public services is needed if a £3 billion shortfall is to be avoided within the next three years, the country’s spending watchdog has said. Auditor General Robert Black said there was an “urgent need” to improve the efficiency and productivity of public services in Scotland. Mr Black’s report highlights spending pressures made worse by a smaller budget, an ageing population, the rising cost of free public services, extra pressures on public services through rising unemployment and a backlog of road and building maintenance. (Herald Page 1, Times Page 3, Daily Telegraph Page 1, Press & Journal Page 10, Courier Page 3)

GM: General Motors said last night that it expects to cut around 10,000 jobs across Europe as part of its restructuring of Vauxhall and Opel. The news follows Tuesday’s announcement that the car giant had decided to scrap plans to sell the brands to Canadian car parts firm Magna. Union leaders responded to the latest development by saying that redundancies were inevitable, but pledged to work towards minimizing the impact on Vauxhall’s UK workforce. (Press & Journal Page 5, Courier Page 13, Financial Times Page 24-25)

New Hospital: A £550 million contract to build Scotland’s largest hospital has been awarded to the firm behind the new Wembley Stadium, health officials are set to announce. Australian construction giant Brookfield beat two other bids to win the right to work on the South Glasgow Hospital, which will replace the city’s Southern General within the next five years. Funded entirely from the public purse, the new hospital will be part of a massive “health village” with 1100 beds, all in single-room accommodation, and 20 “state-of-the-art” operating theatres. (Herald Page 1)

Transport 

BMI: There are fears for the future of more than 500 Scottish jobs at airline BMI after it signalled cuts across the group. It follows an announcement yesterday that 158 staff were being cut at its BMI baby arm. The carrier said a "restructuring exercise" was now planned next month at both Aberdeen-based BMI Regional and BMI’s main operations. (Scotsman Page 25)

Local Government

Disabled parking: A major shake-up of the way parking spaces for disabled people are enforced is being carried out in Perth and Kinross. The local authority will spend more than £100,000 making the changes needed to comply with new laws on disabled parking bays.

Parking spaces outside the home of a disabled person will be enforceable rather than just advisory under the new rules. Disabled spaces in supermarket car parks could also fall under council control. (Press & Journal Page 3, Courier Page 5)
Health

Elderly: Free personal care for the elderly heads a list of benefits introduced under devolution which should be cut or "fundamentally reviewed" to help plug a £3.8 billion black hole in public finances, a new report has warned. Possible other casualties of the 7-13% reduction in the Scottish budget include concessionary bus passes, the council tax freeze, abolishing prescription charges and free eye tests – all policies that have come to define devolution. The report questioned the Scottish government’s financial management and policies, namely forecasts on future savings and costs. (Scotsman Page 2)

NHS: The NHS in Scotland sometimes fails to come up to the standards the public deserves, health secretary Nicola Sturgeon admitted yesterday, as patients spoke of their own problems with the service. Her comments came during the Patient NHS Alert event, organised by the Scotland Patients Association (SPA) to allow people to voice their concerns about the care received. The SPA said the aim was to help the NHS work together with patients to improve the standards of care they received. (Scotsman Page 20)

Swine flu: Another person has died after contracting swine flu, bringing the total number of H1N1-related deaths in Scotland to 31, health officials said yesterday. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "It is with regret I need to confirm another H1N1 fatality. A rise in influenza cases is to be expected as we enter the winter months, but fortunately, for most, H1N1 is mild and symptoms shouldn\’t persist longer than a week." (Scotsman Page 11, Herald Page 7, Times Page 4, Press & Journal Page 9) 

Education

Stirling: Stirling University is facing legal action over a voluntary redundancy exercise which has already seen cuts to the jobs of more than 130 staff. The University and College Union Scotland, which represents lecturers, has begun employment tribunal proceedings against Stirling University. The union claims the university “flagrantly breached” employment law by failing to consult properly over the job losses, announced in February. The university denies the claims. (Herald Page 2)

New college: A new college campus in Scotland has come a step closer after it won council backing. East Renfrewshire councillors voted 12 to eight in favour of a business case for the development, giving the council\’s directors of environment and finance permission to start designing the campus facility. They also approved £7.8 million of capital funding in principle, subject to approval of the council\’s capital fund for 2010-11 onwards, in February next year. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC), which provides government cash for colleges, has agreed to contribute £3m. (Scotsman Page 12)

Politics

Afghanistan: Five British servicemen murdered by an Afghan police officer in Helmand province were named yesterday as Gordon Brown defended the Afghan policy of training and mentoring the country’s security forces. He told MPs: "Security will be stepped up where that is necessary, but we cannot desist from the practice which is absolutely essential for the future of Afghanistan and the security of our country, and that is training and mentoring the Afghan forces." Former foreign office minister Kim Howells, who chairs the intelligence and security committee, said the attack had struck a blow at the heart of the strategy of building up the Afghan police and army to take over responsibility for security from Nato forces. He argued that the government would be better off using the resources it was spending on the campaign to strengthen anti-terrorism measures in the UK. (Scotsman Page 1, Herald Page 1, Times Page 1, Daily Telegraph Page 1, Press & Journal Page 1, Courier Page 1, Guardian Page 1, Financial Times Page 1, Daily Mail Page 1, Daily Mirror Page 1)

MPs expenses: Members of Parliament are privately pushing for a significant pay rise to compensate them for the biggest crackdown on their expenses in parliamentary history. Aware of public anger over the issue, all main party leaders have accepted recommendations based on the long-awaited report from Sir Christopher Kelly\’s Committee on Standards in Public Life yesterday called for an end to MPs claiming mortgage interest payments on expenses and employing family members from the public purse. However, behind the scenes a number of MPs are lobbying for a pay review, a significant number of MPs want to see a pay rise from its current level of £64,766. (Scotsman Page 8, Times Page 28, Daily Telegraph Page 1, Press & Journal Page 8, Courier Page 1, Guardian Page 13, Financial Times Page 2, Daily Express Page 1)

Salmond: Sir Christopher Kelly\’s recommendation that politicians should not be members of more than one UK parliament has reignited calls for Alex Salmond to give up his position as an MP. The report said the practice of MPs sitting at Westminster as well as devolved institutions, known as "double-jobbing," should come to an end. Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said, “Surely his job as First Minister of Scotland should take up all his time, energy and commitment. Likewise, any constituent should expect full commitment from their MP. He cannot fulfil both jobs properly." (Scotsman Page 9)