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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 15 SEPTEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 15 September 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

Papal visit: 65,000 Catholics are reportedly expected to take part in the Papal Mass on Thursday 16th September – one third fewer than expected and nearly one fifth of the number that attended mass in 1982 for Pope John Paul II’s visit. Critics point to the child abuse controversy as the reason behind pilgrims’ indifference to the Pope’s visit. (Scotsman page 1 and 4). (Telegraph page 1 , Press and Journal page 1, Daily Record page 7). 

More than 1,500 officers will be deployed in Glasgow and Edinburgh. (Herald page 1).  

Human rights: William Hague will promise today to publish Foreign Office guidance on how to respond to possible torture cases as he vows to strengthen Britain’s commitment to human rights. He will also announce a new group of advisers to guide the UK Government’s approach to human rights, and that the Foreign Office will report directly to the UK Parliament annually on the issue. (Times page 1 & page 10) 

Union action: STUC leader Grahame Smith insisted today that industrial action across Scotland is inevitable as a response to the Coalition Government’s cuts programme. Leaders of the Trade Union Congresses in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland held a private meeting in Manchester to plan a joint attempt to lobby the devolved administrations to maximise pressure on the Coalition Government’s proposed cuts programme. (Herald page 6).  

BBC strike: Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi yesterday wrote to the BBC director general Mark Thompson calling for reassurances that planned strikes by staff (5/6 October) would not breach impartiality rules by blacking out the Conservative Party conference. (Scotsman page 16).  

Lockerbie bombing: US Senate officials will meet Scottish Government officials on Thursday for talks on the release of Mr Al Megrahi. (Scotsman page 17 & Times page 10, Courier page 10). 

Veterans’ support: Veterans who struggle to cope with a return to civilian life will be able to get advice/support from a new £600,000 project. The support will be open to anyone who has previously served, or is still serving in the armed forces, and their families. (Herald page 14).  

Defence cuts: Planned defence cuts could put military operations at risk MPs warned yesterday. The Commons Defence Committee cautioned against the pace of the cuts and the potential for mistakes. They also raised concerns that funding the replacement of Trident (costed at £20bil) would have negative consequences if funded from the MoD budget and not centrally from the Treasury. (Scotsman page 10 & Herald page 2).  

As part of the cross-party submission to the UK Government’s Strategic Defence Review (SDR), Alex Salmond has agreed to include a demand for the retention of the Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde which houses Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent. This is being seen as contrary to previous SNP policy. (Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 1, Sun page 17) 

Economy

Inflation: The cost of living is to continue to rise above the target rate as inflation remained at 3.1 per cent in August. Spending power is also falling as inflation is followed by month-on-month decreases in pay rises. The highest increases in costs were for air travel and high street shopping. Global cotton and food cost increases are two main drivers of inflation. Analysts warn that the blame for inflation cannot squarely be placed at the door of external influences – underlying domestic costs are also building up pressure (Scotsman page 2 & Herald page 8).  

Unemployment: Unions claimed yesterday that long term unemployment has doubled over the past two and a half years. They claim that the number of Scots on the dole for more than a year has doubled from 9,110 to 21,170 between January 2008 and July 2010. (Scotsman page 2 & Herald page 8). The steepest rises have been in the Borders, East Lothian, and South Lanarkshire.  

Public sector pay freeze: Scotland’s public sector workers are in line for a pay freeze as the Scottish Government deals with the billons of pounds of cuts to its budget, John Swinney made clear yesterday. In the first public indication of the Scottish Government’s view of the pay freeze for the country’s 200,000 public sector workers, Mr Swinney said: “We’ll be setting out a pay policy in advance of the financial year. Pay policy has become more constrained in each year of this government and the maximum increase in the basic award this year is 1 per cent. I have to make it clear that I expect that to become constrained again by the time we come to set out the pay policy.” (Times page 12, Daily Express page 4) 

Energy: Enterprise Minister Jim Mather has announced that Scotland will lead a European project to increase wind power development as one of the eight countries signed up to help the EU achieve its 2020 target for carbon reduction and to consider environmental issues. The proposal has secured £1.66 million funding from the Scottish Government. (Scotsman page 13)

Housing insulation scheme: Households will be offered free/discounted insulation to help to lower energy bills and prepare for winter. 200,000 households will be contacted across Scotland over the next few months. Low income households will get free insulation; higher-income households will get discounted insulation. The Scottish Government has budgeted £15 million for the scheme and claims that it could save households £50 per annum and cut carbon emissions. (Scotsman page 13 & Herald page 10).  

Royal Bank of Scotland: RBS kick off a road-show to issue £4.7 billion of bonds backed by ‘prime’ mortgages in its first deal of this type since the financial crisis. City analysts say the sale marked the continuing recovery of the asset-backed securities market. (Scotsman/Business Section page 1).  

Edinburgh staff losses: The bank Adam & Company is to lose 130 jobs as part of RBS’s slimming down of its wealth division. (Scotsman/Business Section page 3 & Herald page 27).  

High street spending: High street spending edged upwards last month marking the first increase since March – but it continues to lag being a much stronger UK-wide recovery. The Scottish Retail Consortium said that the like-for-like retail sales rose by 0.1 per cent in August, compared to the year before, but it cautioned that this may be a temporary bump. (Scotsman/Business Section page 3). 

Justice

Open prisons: Concerns have been raised about the future of Tayside’s two open prisons after it was revealed they had just over half as many inmates as they can hold. The open prisons at Castle Huntly at Longforgan, near Dundee, and Noranside, near Forfar, are able to hold 425 inmates in total. As of last month, the open estate held 252 prisoners, which means about 40 per cent of spaces in the prisons are empty. Inmate numbers were reportedly low as a result of more stringent risk assessments for prisoners coming into the open estate after a series of violent offenders absconded from the prisons in recent years. (Press and Journal page 6) 

Transport 

Transport route interruption: The A83 in Argyll, one of Scotland’s best-known tourist routes and transport arteries, has been blocked by the third landslide in three years. It raises concerns that local businesses who rely on the link will suffer. A new phase of improvements, a £470,000 drainage project funded by Transport Scotland, started in June this year. (Herald page 9).

Local Government

Homes for heroes: Plans to build affordable housing for former military personnel have been turned down in Inverness. The proposal for eight properties in the Milton of Leys area was voted down 10-4 in favour of converting the premises into a district centre. (Scotsman page 8). 

Health

Smoking: Campaigners claim that prevalent smoking in deprived areas in Scotland is driving a health gap and poor life expectancy. Ash Scotland applaud the progress that has already been made, with smoking rates falling from 31 per cent to 24 per cent of the population since 1999, but claim smoking rates were still much higher for the poorest 10 per cent of the population. (Scotsman page 14) 

Assisted Suicide Bill: Nurses have warned of the effects that will occur if Margo MacDonald’s assisted suicide bill becomes law. The bill would enable seriously ill patients to take the decision to end their own lives and would be unique in the UK. (Scotsman page 17).  

The spectre of doctors specialising in assisted suicide in Scotland was raised yesterday amid concerns about plans to legalise the practice. A panel of experts giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament also expressed fears about terminally- ill patients who say they want to die but change their minds after receiving palliative care. (Times page 5) 

‘See and Treat’ scheme: Figures show that thousands more Scottish patients who called an ambulance were treated at home or on the scene rather than being taken to the hospital. The number increased 16.9 per cent from 2008-2009, a real increase of 8,332 patients. Reducing the number of patients admitted to the A&E/hospital is estimated to save the NHS £13 million per annum. (Scotsman page 21).  

Cancer treatment: Breast cancer researchers in Aberdeen will announce a major breakthrough today that could dramatically boost survival rates by explaining why some forms of chemotherapy work for some patients and not for others. The north-east scientists believe they have pinpointed a molecule that forms a protective barrier around cancer cells and blocks one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs from working. By identifying women with this molecule before they start treatment, they hope it will be possible to increase their chances of survival by giving them a more aggressive form of chemotherapy from the start. (Press and Journal page 1) 

Education

Class sizes: The SNP have been accused of ‘failure’ on their flagship class sizes policy by opposition politicians. Scotland’s Education Secretary Michael Russell said he would bring plans to introduce a limit on class sizes of 25 before MSPs on Thursday – a reduction from the current limit of 30. He was subsequently accused of abandoning the 2007 election pledge to reduce class sizes to 18 for primaries 1-3. (Scotsman page 13 & Herald page 7).  

Low income graduates: Statistics in a new UK Universities report show that only 25 per cent of undergraduates in Scotland come from a less well off household. This compares with 32.4 per cent for England and 32.5 per cent for Wales. (Scotsman Page 15). 

School Exam Gap: Children who get free school meals perform 60 per cent worse than children from wealthier homes according to Save the Children. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Dundee were highlighted as having the most significant gap. (Herald page 4).