REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 6 SEPTEMBER 2010

Politics

Independence Referendum: First Minister Alex Salmond has shelved his plan to introduce a Referendum Bill on independence in this parliamentary term. The SNP leader will not lodge the legislation at Holyrood as he believes the flagship policy will be rejected by MSPs. His abandonment of a referendum vote is also reportedly linked to fears that the question he wanted to put to the electorate could be illegal. Mr Salmond said he still intended to publish a Referendum Bill, but that introducing it to Parliament made little political sense. He argued that if the measure was defeated, which he thought was a certainty, such a loss would give his political opponents an election boost. (Sunday Herald page 1, Telegraph page 6, Courier page 7, Daily Record page  4, Daily Express page 4, Daily Mail page 1, Scotsman page 1, 4-5, Herald page 6, Times page 1, 9) 

Public sector: The chairman of CBI Scotland, Linda Urquhart, has urged Scotland’s public sector to treat economic adversity as “a time of opportunity”, giving the chance to ask fundamental questions about how public services are delivered. In remarks previewing her keynote speech at next week’s CBI Scotland dinner in Glasgow, Ms Urquhart, who is also chief executive of Morton Fraser solicitors, said that the current era of anticipated public-sector cuts should be seen as “a time of opportunity … which gives us the chance to think differently [and ask]‘does the public sector need to be doing everything they currently do?’” She adds: “There are more opportunities than ever for the private sector to be involved. There is a lot that the public sector can learn from the private sector, which in turn can learn from closer collaboration. Together we can work to reduce the cost and improve the quality of services.” (Sunday Herald page B12) 

BBC: The BBC has hit back at comments by the UK Culture Secretary likening the broadcaster to an arms-length government department.  Director General Mark Thomson said he was alarmed by a statement from Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, which indicated that the BBC may have to accept cuts of up 25 per cent in line with other government departments. Mr Thomson said: "We are not part of government, so I\’m sure it was a slip of the tongue by Jeremy. We are an independent public institution and we must never be thought of as an intrinsic part of government." (Scotland on Sunday page 6) 

A senior Catholic has accused the BBC of an ‘institutional bias’ against Christianity ahead of next week’s papal visit. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, claims that a radically secular and socially liberal outlook is tainting the corporation’s news and current affairs outlook. (Sunday Times page 1, Daily Express page 10) 

Scottish Government report: A policy document by the Scottish Government, leaked to the Sunday Herald, outlines how ministers plan to meet their ambitious target of a 42 per cent cut in climate pollution by 2020. The report contains more than 30 specific measures across several areas of policy, all designed to reduce the emissions that they believe are helping to trigger floods, storms and droughts around the world. It is, by any standards, a hugely ambitious venture that has already received many bouquets and brickbats. It gives a taste of the many battles to come, if the government is serious about making Scotland a truly low-carbon economy. (Sunday Herald page 6, Daily Mail page 2) 

Economy

Budget Cuts: An overall figure of £3.7 billion has been identified by the Finance Secretary John Swinney as the amount of public spending cuts required in Scotland.  He has announced a series of meetings across the country, with representatives from the public services, businesses and the third sector, in an effort to determine where the cuts will be made. He has linked the need for cuts  to the way the Scottish Parliament is funded by the UK Government and suggested greater financial independence as a remedy. Opposition figures have accused Mr Swinney of a vagueness and lack of creativity concerning where and how the cuts are going to be made. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 6) 

Edinburgh Festival: The Festival came to an end last night with a firework display watched by thousands across the capital. This marks the end of reportedly the most successful Festival yet, with ticket sales generating upwards of £2.67 million, a record figure and an increase of 3 per cent on last year. (Scotsman page 12-13, Herald page 1, 5, Times page 9) 

Job Creation: 350 new jobs have been created in Glasgow as Barclays reveals plans to create a shared global services hub there. The figure could rise to 600 with the Scottish Government set to provide a series of grants to the firm. Alex Salmond welcomed the news by visiting the Aurora Building this morning. These grounds for optimism have been complemented by a survey revealing 56 per cent of Scottish businesses plan to hire more workers in 2011. (Herald page 7, 28) 

Transport 

Transport Charges: The Government have come under fire from members of the transport sector for a series of proposed transport charges. The proposals, which include road tolls and higher parking fees, were suggested as part of a bid to address climate change in Scotland. Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, has argued that the charges, which would come on top of road taxes set by the UK Government, would be “fundamentally unfair” on Scottish drivers. Peter Spinner from the Association of British Drivers has branded the proposed move “political suicide”. The Scottish Government has set a target of a 42 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 6, Times 9) 

Rural Buses: Council members have criticised bus companies for failing to provide adequate service to large parts of South Lanarkshire and East Lothian which have been left with poor service. The South Lanarkshire Council has accused them of “cherry-picking” the best routes, leading to an overabundance of services on more popular routes whilst leaving large members of the rural population lacking. The Southeast Scotland Transport Partnership has complained that the tactics of large bus companies monopolise the market to the detriment of smaller rivals. Spokespersons from the industry have said the claims are unfounded. (Herald page 10) 

Local Government

COSLA: The organisation which represents Scotland’s councils has warned ministers that the country’s schools and roads face years of neglect unless a “catastrophic” 50 per cent cut in capital spending is averted. Figures from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) umbrella group suggest the looming cuts could thwart any large-scale infrastructure projects until 2015. The umbrella group also has its “reservations” about the performance of the Scottish Futures Trust, the body set up by the SNP Government to advise on new building programmes. (Sunday Herald page 9) 

North Lanarkshire Council: About 1,400 jobs are facing the axe at one of the country\’s biggest councils, it emerged yesterday. The cutbacks at North Lanarkshire Council are part of a drive to save £70 million in the next two years. The council aims to shed most of the posts by not replacing staff who leave, along with early retirements and voluntary redundancies. However, compulsory redundancies may also have to be considered. Council leader Jim McCabe said: "North Lanarkshire Council did not put itself in this position, but we have to deal with it.” (Scotland on Sunday page 5) 

Health

Junk food: Junk food could be just as addictive in humans as heroin or cocaine, researchers have found. Chemical processes triggered by the high quantities of fat, sugar and salt hidden in burgers and milkshakes give people the same cravings as do hard drugs, tobacco or alcohol. (Sunday Times page 9) 

Rosiglitazone: Doctors are reportedly continuing to prescribe a dangerous drug to patients despite health warnings, the British Medical Journal has revealed. Rosiglitazone, a popular diabetes drug marketed and produced by GlaxoSmithKline, was linked with heart attacks by the Commission on Human Medicines two months ago. The Commission had said the drug “no longer has a place on the UK market”. GlaxoSmithKline have defended the safety of the drug. (Scotsman page 18, Herald page 11) 

Education

Student Hardship: A new report by the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland has revealed alarming levels of student hardship. The paper, Still In The Red, claims that 61 per cent of students have considered dropping out of university for financial reasons, while 68 per cent of students are forced to work in excess of the recommended hours in order to supplement their income. Liam Burns, the president of NUS Scotland, has called for reforms to alleviate burdens. He warns that the student vote may be lost over the matter. The Scottish Government has acknowledged the situation and pointed to the abolition of tuition fees as a sign of its commitment to protecting students. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 11) 

Primary Schools: A new report by Glasgow City Council aimed at documenting the difficulties of life in primary schools has identified a wide range of problems facing pupils, the majority of which stem from troubles at home. In response, education officials have announced plans to extend a new parenting programme, from the 5 pilot schools to 40 across the city. (Herald page 1-2)