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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 20 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 20 August 2010

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.

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

Megrahi: Kenny MacAskill has insisted he has no regrets over freeing the Lockerbie bomber, amid growing warnings from figures within and outwith his party that his momentous decision a year ago today is damaging the SNP government\’s chances of re-election next year. Twelve months after Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi flew home to Libya to a hero\’s welcome, Mr MacAskill said yesterday that his call – a ruling that will define the SNP\’s first ever period in government – was "not a matter of regrets, it\’s a matter of responsibility". However, a year on, and with Megrahi about to embark on a fresh course of treatment, Mr MacAskill faces increasing pressure in both Scotland and the USA over why the decision was taken.  Libya has been warned not to mark the anniversary and celebrate as it would be offensive to victim’s families.  (Scotsman page 1, page 28, Herald page 7, page 8, Telegraph page 3, Alan Cochrane page 4, Times page 1, page 6, Courier page 1, Guardian page 9, Press and Journal page 11, Daily Record page 9, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 7) 

Jimmy Reid: Scottish politicians joined leading figures from the worlds of entertainment and sport today for the funeral of Jimmy Reid, a stalwart of the 1970s labour movement, who died last week at 78 after a short illness. First minister, Alex Salmond, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and the comedian Billy Connolly were among the hundreds of mourners at Govan Old parish church in Glasgow. The funeral followed a smaller ceremony on the Isle of Bute, where Reid lived out his final years. Born in Govan, Reid rose to international prominence when he led thwarting government attempts to close the yards. (Times page 12, Herald page 1, Scotsman page 1, Courier page 9, Guardian page 6, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Record page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 1, Sun page 1) 

Dr David Kelly: The government\’s most senior law officer has spoken out over the controversy surrounding the death of scientist Dr David Kelly to "give the public reassurance". Dominic Grieve said those concerned Lord Hutton\’s inquiry into the death of the weapons inspector left unanswered questions "may have a valid point". However, he insisted there was "not a shred of evidence" there had been a cover-up. Speaking yesterday Mr Grieve said: "I have nothing to cover up – we\’re a new government and in any case in my role as attorney general I have to act in the public interest, irrespective of what the political advantages or disadvantages may be.” (Scotsman page 7) 

Calman proposals: Derek Allan, director of taxation at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, comments in the Scotsman and says that if the Calman Commission recommendations are to be enacted, it must be clearly understood who will be affected by the variation in taxation, whether this is up or down. (Scotsman page 28) 

Climate change protest: Climate change protesters will today step up a mass campaign outside the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters as hundreds more activists pour into the site near Edinburgh. As many as 400 people are now camping on the bank’s campus at Gogarburn, and organisers promise to disrupt “business as usual” for RBS in the days ahead. The activists behind the Camp for Climate Action accuse the state-owned bank of funding “the most environmentally damaging project in the world” through its support of tar sands oil extraction in Canada and other fossil fuel businesses. (Herald page 2, Telegraph page 5, Guardian page 13, Courier page 9, Press and Journal page 7) 

Economy

Public finances: The British public was offered a glimmer of economic hope yesterday when a series of indicators showed stronger than anticipated figures. A tentative improvement in the UK\’s dire public finances was evident when a smaller rise in public borrowing than first feared was recorded. There were more encouraging signs when official statistics showed that retail sales rose 1.1 per cent in July, a jump that was accompanied by figures showing that mortgage lending went up for the third consecutive month during July to reach its highest level for a year. (Scotsman page 2, Press and Journal page 5) 

Tourism: Scotland\’s major tourist attractions drew in more than £80 million in revenue from overseas visitors last year, according to a new report.  While historical landmarks proved the most popular draw, the country\’s choice of shopping destinations also encouraged holidaymakers to visit.  The VisitBritain study found that Scotland accounted for 8.4 per cent of the overall £1 billion spend across Britain in 2009.  The tourist body described £84m windfall as "very encouraging", and said the nation\’s reputation for historical sites was continuing to bring in visitors. (Scotsman page 11) 

Poverty: Poverty affects up to one-quarter of households in an area of Scotland, according to a study. Official figures revealed the Western Isles was worst hit, with increases over the past four years in a number of council areas – despite a Scottish Government target to lower the number. Higher than average levels of "relative poverty" were recorded in 19 of Scotland\’s 32 local authorities.  Dundee, Inverclyde, Glasgow and North Ayrshire recorded among the highest rates. The Western Isles recorded 25% of households in relative poverty. Highland Labour MSP David Stewart said: "These figures should serve as a wake-up call to politicians that we need to redouble our efforts to fight poverty. They also draw attention to the plight of peripheral communities, such as the Western Isles. (Herald page 2) 

Mortgages: Despite receiving billions of pounds in taxpayer support during the credit crisis, high street lenders are refusing to pass on the full benefit of historically low interest rates to customers, figures show. Instead, they have used the cheap cost of borrowing to drastically increase their profit margins. Two years ago, the difference between the rate at which banks themselves borrowed money and the rate they offered to customers for fixed-rate mortgages stood at 1.28 per cent.  Today it has risen to 3.29 per cent for a two-year fixed-rate deal, the highest gap since records began 21 years ago. (Telegraph page 1, Daily Mail page 1) 

Health

Diabetes: Eating green leafy vegetables could help cut the risk of Type 2 diabetes, research out today suggests. Broccoli, kale, spinach, sprouts and cabbage can reduce the risk by 14% when eaten daily. The vegetables are rich in antioxidants and magnesium, which has been linked to lower levels of diabetes. Experts from Leicester University compared people’s intake of green leafy vegetables. They found those who consumed more than one serving a day had a lower risk of diabetes than people who barely ate any. The current UK recommendation is for people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with one portion weighing 2.82oz (80g). “Increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables by one and a half UK portions a day (4.29oz) could result in a 14% reduction in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes,” the experts said. (Press and Journal page 13 

Education

University admissions: A record number of students have been accepted for university this year, up 2.3 per cent on last year. The university admissions body, Ucas, said 379,411 applicants had now won a place at university or college across the UK, compared with 371,016 at this time last year. The latest figures emerged yesterday as students received their A-level results. Earlier this month, record Higher exam results in Scotland saw an "unprecedented scramble" to enter higher education. (Scotsman page 6, Times page 8)

Teacher numbers: The SNP came under fire last night over a consistent decline in the number of teachers in Moray schools. New statistics show that the local authority has lost about 35 teachers – including up to 20 in this new school year – and that the number has fallen in each of the last three years. Labour councillor for Elgin City South, John Divers, criticised the SNP government, claiming the administration had gone back on its promises. An SNP spokesman responded that the major budget cuts resulted from the economic mess left by Labour. (Press and Journal page 12)