Daily Political Media Summary: 3 December 2009

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Media Summary: 3 December 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

RBS: The board of the Royal Bank of Scotland is in an escalating battle with the Treasury over directors’ pay after signalling that it could resign en masse if the Chancellor of the Exchequer attempts to block £2 billion-worth of bonuses at the state-supported bank this year. The RBS board was reported to have sought legal counsel after Alistair Darling insisted that the Treasury had the “right to consent” to how much the bank paid in bonuses and how it paid those bonuses. RBS has told the Government that it must increase bonuses by 50 per cent this year to remain competitive: “Our agreed business plan requires us to operate commercially in competitive markets and this plan underpins the prospects of recovering value for taxpayers and other shareholders alike.” (Herald Page 1, Scotsman Page 1, Press & Journal Page 9, Courier Page 17, Daily Telegraph Page 1)

North-east development: Ambitious plans were unveiled yesterday for a £250 million housing, retail and business development which could give the north-east a major economic boost. Developers claim the construction scheme at Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, will create about 1,000 jobs over 15 years, reinvigorating the former county town and local economy. Their plan includes up to 1,500 houses, a 5,500sq m food store, a hotel, shopping precinct and 25-acre Business Park. (Scotsman Page 16)

National Grid: The National Grid is working on a new formula which could cut 50 per cent of the huge transmission charges facing developers of wind farms in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Islands. It has long been an issue of bitter dispute between Holyrood and Whitehall that the areas which produce most renewable energy from wind, wave and tide are charged most to transmit the power. This location-based pricing regime is seen as holding back renewable energy development in Scotland and undermining its drive to become the mainstay of European green generation. More than 50 objections to the development of wind farms lodged by the Ministry of Defence could also delay the Scottish government’s renewable energy policy. (Herald Page 2, Times Page 3)

Lloyds Banking Group: Archie Kane, a board member of Lloyds, yesterday told MSPs that it was "finished" as a separate entity ahead of its takeover last year. Mr Kane\’s comments to the Scottish Parliament\’s banking inquiry are likely to close the chapter on criticisms that the UK government should have intervened earlier to maintain HBOS as an independent bank. (Scotsman Page 2, Times Page 29, Daily Telegraph Page 10, Daily Express Page 2)

Crime

Ring of Steel: Scores of suspected criminals and gang members will be stopped and searched on their way into a city centre this Friday night in a pioneering crackdown on crime and antisocial behaviour. More than 160 additional officers from Strathclyde Police and the British Transport Police (BTP) will use metal detectors to target known troublemakers and suspects. The aim is to create a “ring of steel” around Glasgow city centre to prevent weapons and drugs coming into the city and curb anti-social behaviour, robbery and assault. (Herald Page 3)

Double jeopardy: The Scottish Law Commission (SLC) has recommended the 800-year-old principle of double jeopardy should be set out in law and clarified. The centuries-old law which protects Scots from being tried for the same crime twice looks set to be altered. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill pledged to legislate "at the earliest practical opportunity."  However, the commission has been criticised by Tories after it made no recommendation on whether the clarified law should allow for a retrial if new evidence emerged, which is the position in England and Wales. (Herald Page 8, Scotsman Page 12, Times Page 13, Press & Journal Page 14, Courier Page 11, Daily Telegraph Page 1)

Transport 

Bus lane: Road authorities are planning to use the hard shoulder of the M77 to create Scotland’s longest bus priority lane in the hope of luring more drivers on to express services between Glasgow and Ayrshire. Transport Scotland, the Government agency responsible for trunk roads and motorways, said it was considering options for allowing buses to run alongside the 20-mile stretch of road as part of a national network designed to improve public transport routes into Scotland’s major cities. (Herald Page 1)

Local Government

Classroom accident: A former primary school pupil suffered complete loss of sight in his left eye and severe permanent disabilities after colliding with another pupil and falling onto the end of a classmate’s paintbrush. The pupil’s father is suing the education authority, North Lanarkshire Council, for £2.5m at the Court of Session in Edinburgh following the incident in 2005. (Herald Page 2, Scotsman Page 9, Daily Telegraph Page 10)

Health

Binge-drinking: The NHS is suffering from the strain of helping thousands of Scots who repeatedly need hospital treatment because of alcohol abuse. Statistics show one third of drink-related admissions were repeat visits. These figures have led to renewed calls to tackle the ‘vicious cycle’ of alcohol abuse in Scotland. (Daily Express Page 2)

Minimum alcohol pricing: A leading doctor has today warned that failure to take action on alcohol misuse, including not introducing minimum pricing, will lead to more lives being lost. Professor Ian Gilmore, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, speaking at an event in Aberdeen states there is "compelling evidence" that price is linked to alcohol use. He will urge politicians to back measures to reduce the burden of alcohol misuse. Professor Gilmore\’s comments come after Scottish Labour said it would not back SNP plans to introduce a minimum price per unit as part of its Alcohol Bill. It means the SNP will not have enough support to pass the legislation. (Scotsman Page 22)

TB: Cases of tuberculosis in Scotland are increasing, figures showed yesterday. A report by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said 452 cases of the disease were diagnosed in Scotland last year, up from 408 in 2007 and 381 in 2006. Rises were seen across the UK, with the number of people infected at the highest level since the late 1980s. Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, head of tuberculosis at the HPA\’s Centre for Infections warned: "Efforts to control and accelerate the downward trend must be kept up." (Scotsman Page 17)

Education

Business diploma: A college in Scotland has taken hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees from overseas students who have gained visas to study for a “diploma” that has no official status. Nearly 130 students from the privately-run Edinburgh School of Business have paid up to £5,500 each to take the qualification, because they believed the Advanced Diploma in Business was about to be accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and that they would then be able to progress on to the final year of a business degree at Glasgow Caledonian University. (Herald Page 1)

Education secretary: Scotland\’s new Education Secretary Michael Russell has pledged to create a fresh relationship with Scottish councils. After the clashes that led to the demotion of his predecessor, Fiona Hyslop, Mr Russell called for a "full and open" debate where nothing was ruled "in or out" and a "new atmosphere" is created with local authorities. However, in a series of articles written before he returned to Holyrood as an MSP in 2007, Mr Russell reportedly described councils as "arrogant, mealy-mouthed and domineering" and has said schools should be allowed to run themselves. The revelation is likely to fuel conflict between councils and the Scottish Government, after Mr Russell\’s predecessor, Fiona Hyslop, said they should be stripped of the power to run education. (Herald Page 6, Scotsman Page 6, Times Page 6, Press & Journal Page 9, Courier Page 3, Daily Telegraph Page 12, Daily Express Page 8)

Politics

Mussolini: A Labour politician is facing demands for an apology after he compared Alex Salmond to the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Lothians Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes, a former UK government minister, reportedly referred to the First Minister as "Il Duce" – the nickname of Italy\’s Second World War leader. His comment, during a meeting of Holyrood\’s audit committee, provoked a furious reaction from the SNP. (Scotsman Page 7)

MPs’ Expenses: MPs will be forced to pay back excessive expenses claims by having their pay docked if they refuse to hand over the money. Dozens of MPs are thought to be resisting demands from Sir Thomas Legg, the former Whitehall mandarin carrying out an expenses audit, who wants them to reimburse the taxpayer for any unwarranted payments. Some are facing bills of thousands of pounds. (Herald Page 6, Times Page 22, Press & journal Page 11, Courier Page 10, Guardian Page 2, Daily Telegraph Page 1)