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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 21 SEPTEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 21 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

Holyrood Presiding Officer: Lord Foulkes of Cumnock has accused Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Alex Ferguson of giving Alex Salmond too much leeway at First Ministers’ Questions since June 2007. Lord Foulkes, who will step down as Labour MSP in May criticised the ‘drab formulaic farce’ of the Holyrood chamber, which he claimed makes it harder to hold ministers to account. (Telegraph page 8, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph page 11, Scotsman page 2)

Liberal Democrats Party Conference: Deputy Prime-minister Nick Clegg promised voters in Scotland that there would be no return to 1980s-style Thatcherism as he tried to reassure critics of the government\’s deep spending cuts in his keynote conference speech. Speaking in Liverpool, Mr Clegg highlighted the elections for Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly when he promised that the coalition\’s cuts would be different. In a fighting speech to a troubled conference, he claimed that the cuts were "not an ideological attack on the size of the state." In retort to the former Labour Treasury secretary Liam Byrne’s letter to his successor, "there is no money left", Mr Clegg replied “Even when all the cuts have happened, we will still be spending 41 per cent of our national income – the same amount we were spending in 2006," He also asked delegates who were worried about welfare reform and cuts to services to "stick with it" and "hold our nerve." (The Scotsman Page 8 & 9, The Herald, Page 6, Financial Times page 2&3, Times page 1, Angus Macleod comments in Times page 9, Telegraph page 13, Guardian page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Record page 2, Daily Mail page 10, Daily Express page 4, Sun page 5) 

Liberal Democrats Former Leader: Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has given rise to concern after missing a third scheduled public appearance during the party’s annual conference. Mr Kennedy left Liverpool yesterday, two days before the conference is due to end, and just hours before leader Nick Clegg made his keynote speech. The timing of his departure, and his repeated failed appearances, will raise questions, senior party figures admit. Only a week ago, Mr Kennedy warned the party not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” on public spending cuts. (The Herald Page 6, Scotsman Page 9) 

Lib Dem Deputy Leader: Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has quit as deputy leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, citing the pressures of being a Cabinet minister. Mr Moore, who has held the post for seven years, announced his departure to a meeting of Scottish delegates at the Liberal Democrat’s UK conference. An internal contest for a replacement saw only Jo Swinson MP nominated and she takes up the post immediately. (Daily Express page 4) 

Climate Change: The Scottish Government should force taxpayer-funded bodies to publish details of what action they are taking to tackle climate change, environmental groups have warned in response to a consultation into public sector policy on green issues. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland – a coalition of 60 environmental charities including WWF Scotland and RSPB Scotland – has claimed that new voluntary guidelines may not be enough to ensure that state-run organisations work to their full capacity in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The consultation comes just weeks after new data revealed that public sector bodies in Scotland increased their greenhouse gas emissions by 7 per cent in 2008, despite an overall 3 per cent reduction in output north of the Border. (The Scotsman page 20, Courier page 9)

Budget Cuts: Up to 25,000 job losses and serious hardship will result from cuts to "breadline benefits" in the coming years, a top legal body has warned. Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Fife and Ayrshire will be among the areas worst hit by welfare cuts being introduced by the coalition Government, the Law Society of Scotland claimed. UK ministers confirmed they are to press ahead with plans next month to make Aberdeen the first area to move incapacity benefit claimants on to the new employment and support allowance (ESA). The coalition wants to slash £15 billion from the UK benefits bill as part of a drive to cut the annual £155 billion benefits bill. But the Law Society of Scotland says it will lead to an increase in mortgage repossessions, evictions and household poverty, and the group warned against any funding cuts on frontline legal services. (The Herald page 6, Courier page 8) 

Snare Guidelines: New guidelines on the use of snares have been published in a bid to ensure a more "professional approach" to the practice. At the launch of \’Snaring in Scotland – A practitioners\’ guide\’, environment minister Roseanna Cunningham said the details would address animal welfare issues and warned that the Scottish Government will continue to "closely monitor" the use of snares so that all practitioners are properly trained. Snaring is expected to be one of the most controversial issues within the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. Animal rights campaigners oppose the use of the devices, claiming that pets and protected species are often accidentally caught. Those who use snares maintain it is an essential tool for protecting crops, livestock and endangered species. (The Herald page 10, The Scotsman page 24, Courier page 9) 

National Trust Scotland: The new chairman of Scotland’s national conservation charity said yesterday it must work in closer partnership with like-minded organisations to survive. Sir Kenneth Calman said the move would be in the best interests of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which is in the process of changing its “confused and uneasy” management regime. The 68-year-old former chief medical officer for Scotland, who takes over from interim chairman Dick Balharry on Saturday, said greater co-operation with other organisations, as opposed to a merger, would be a “very positive way forward.” (Press and Journal page 9)

Economy

HBOS: Eric Daniels, the chief executive of the Lloyds Banking Group who oversaw its controversial take-over of HBOS, is to stand down within the next year. His departure will complete a clean sweep of Britain\’s banking bosses since the financial crisis was triggered two years ago this month. Mr Daniels\’ departure was announced in the wake of more grim news for the economy after it emerged yesterday that mortgage lending is at its lowest level for a decade. The taxpayer-backed bank revealed that the 59-year-old will retire in a year\’s time. (Scotsman page 1 & 4, Financial Times page 1)

Tax rise:  Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has backed plans to increase environmental levies by £15 billion to free hundreds of thousands of people from income tax. He is already drawing up proposals for the proportion of government revenue raised by environmental taxes to jump from 7.7 per cent to 10 per cent within five years, from £35 billion annually to around £50 billion. The increase is equivalent to an extra £800 from every taxpayer. At present, most of the money from green taxes – around £26 billion – comes through fuel duty. (Telegraph page 1) 

Glasgow: Glasgow has climbed the league table of global financial centres in the latest list of 75 world locations. The city’s position rose from 52nd to 46th, with its rating score climbing from 570 to 572 out of 1000, in the twice-yearly Global Financial Centres Index league table, published by London-based think-tank Z/Yen. Edinburgh’s position in the latest Global Financial Centres Index survey fell from joint 28th to outright 31st, with its rating score dropping from 615 to 600. (The Herald page 1 & 2) 

Defence Cuts: A cross-party agreement has been reached on Scottish opposition to feared defence cuts which could halt construction of new aircraft carriers. A joint submission will now be lodged to a sweeping UK government review of military spending on behalf of the Scottish Government and main opposition parties at Holyrood. The document will outline the case for keeping jobs and skills in Scotland and be submitted to the UK government\’s strategic defence and security review. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 2, Courier page 8)

Mortgages: Mortgage lenders are under pressure to start giving more credit to first-time buyers in Scotland after new figures revealed mortgage lending had reached a ten-year low for August. The news came as a leading Scottish property expert claimed that lenders were refusing mortgages to people for "the least little thing" such as missing a monthly mobile phone bill payment. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 5 

Renewables: Proposals for a new wind farm that could power up to 40,000 homes have been unveiled for a site in West Lothian. The plans, for a £100 million, 30 turbine wind farm and forest development at Fauch Hill, 8km south-west of West Calder, were last night presented to the local community at a meeting at the Dalmahoy Hotel, near Edinburgh Airport. The development is one of three planned for Scotland over the next five years by European Forest Resources, owned by French energy conglomerate the Louis Dreyfus Group. Another substantial project, near Inverness, is due to be submitted for planning in the first quarter of next year, while the firm is now considering sites for the third wind farm. (Scotsman Page 12, Herald Page 24) 

Justice

Prisoner Release: Senior police have called on the Scottish Government to end the automatic early release of prisoners now, warning it is putting "communities at risk". The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) has also called for tighter assessment of long-term prisoners and those convicted of violent or sexual offences, before release. Prisoners sentenced to four years or less are currently released after serving half their term, and without licence. Legislation to end this was first passed in 2007, but the Scottish Government has failed to implement it. (Scotsman page 2) 

Legal Aid: Scotland’s poorest will take a double hit if the country\’s legal aid budget is cut, a leading lawyer has warned. The Law Society of Scotland has predicted a rush of people made unemployed or losing benefits and struggling to pay their rent or mortgage as a result, requiring help to fight for what they are entitled to. But it warns their last refuge – civil courts and tribunals – may be out of reach if legal aid is cut. Scotland\’s legal aid bill currently totals £150 million a year. Like the majority of public sector budgets, it is facing potential cuts of up to 10 per cent next year, and 25 per cent over the next four years combined. (Scotsman page 16) 

Judiciary of Scotland: A website charting the work of Scotland\’s judges has been launched. Members of the public will be able to get an insight into the job of the country\’s senior law figures by clicking on the new Judiciary of Scotland webpage. The site aims to increase understanding of the role they play in Scotland\’s justice system. (Herald page 7) 

Transport 

Winter Salt: Scottish motorists could face further chaos on the roads this winter if severe low temperatures are encountered after an official report warned that councils are struggling to replenish their salt levels. A review of the country’s response to the historic cold snap in January and February by a Government-led expert group found there was a “critical” need to increase salt stocks in order to de-ice carriageways and pavements and avoid the need for road closures. It concluded last winter’s weather – the second coldest on record since 1914 – had exposed deficiencies in the system of replenishing salt stocks as suppliers had been “unable to cope” with the competing demands from councils around the UK. ( Herald Page 7) 

Health

Hospital deaths: The number of Scots dying from bedsores was branded as "totally unacceptable" after new figures revealed high numbers of patients are being killed by pressure ulcers in hospital. Scottish Government statistics showed that 78 people have died because of bedsores and pressure sores in Scotland during a five- year period. Parliamentary questions also revealed that there have been 566 cases during the same period where pressure ulcers or sores were mentioned on the death certificate either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributory factor. (Scotsman page 7, Courier page 7)

Fracture Audit: A pioneering scheme that led to great improvements in the care of pensioners in Scottish hospitals has been axed. The annual probe into how well patients with hip fractures were being looked after became a model for the rest of the UK and helped drive down waiting times for surgery. However, the Scottish Government has cut funding for the audit, sparking concern that standards could slip. As well as checking how quickly people with broken hips received operations, the scheme looked at differences in survival rates and recovery speeds at different hospitals. (Herald Page 7) 

Health and Safety: An open-air nursery has triumphed in its battle with health and safety chiefs over claims that its use of antiseptic wipes to clean children\’s hands could lead to health problems. The pioneering Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery in Fife, which operates in a woodland setting, had been ordered to use soap and water instead of wipes if staff and children visited a farm or walked across a field containing livestock. However, the nursery argued that carrying up to ten litres of water into Letham Woods where the children play and learn was impractical and that the threat of catching E coli was being exaggerated. Last night Cathy Bache, the nursery\’s founder, welcomed the victory over what she described as Health Protection Scotland\’s (HPS) "very unworkable" hand-washing policy. (Scotsman page 17) 

Education

Graduate Tax: Student leaders will today open the door to a graduate tax in Scotland, as part of a radical package of measures to solve the country’s growing university funding crisis. NUS Scotland, which represents 200,000 higher education students, has said that, in the current financial climate, it would be willing to discuss controversial proposals for a greater contribution from graduates. But it will only support such a move if a number of key requirements are met, including higher levels of funding from the Scottish Government and additional money from business. (Herald page 1, comment page 12)