Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 12 October 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.


Aid Worker: A Scottish aid worker was killed by a grenade thrown by American troops and not by her Taleban captors, according to US intelligence shedding new light on the rescue attempt. US commander General David Petraeus phoned Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday to tell him that previous NATO reports that Linda Norgrove died after her kidnappers detonated a bomb vest were incorrect. There will now be a joint UK and US investigation into the actions of 150 Delta Force, which carried out the operation, and Gen Petraeus is expected to be in London on Thursday to answer questions about the circumstances surrounding Miss Norgrove\’s death. Later Mr Cameron spoke with President Barack Obama, who offered his condolences on Ms Norgrove\’s death in a telephone call to No 10 Downing Street. (Scotsman page 1 & 4, Herald page 1 & 5, Times page 1 & 8, Financial Times page 1 & 2, Telegraph page 1, 4 &5, Telegraph page 14, Daily Mirror page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 1, Sun page 15, Courier page 1) 

Tommy Sheridan: The former Scottish Socialist Party MSP yesterday opted to dispense with a QC and represent himself just as he had done four years ago in his successful defamation case. In a charged atmosphere, the 13 women and two men of the jury were brought in to Court Four of the High Court in Glasgow 90 minutes late to take their seats. They had not been privy to an announcement earlier that Margaret Scott QC would no longer be appearing for Mr Sheridan, but her absence, and that of her two junior counsel, Shelagh McCall and Jillian Brown, at the lawyers\’ table was immediately drawn to their attention by the judge Lord Bracadale. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 1 & 3, Times page 6, Daily Mail page 9, Daily Express page 7, Daily Record page 1, Sun page 1, Courier page 1) 

Budget Cuts: Scotland will be hit by "painful" cuts with the country\’s politicians facing their "biggest challenge since devolution". Mr Jim Gallagher, formerly an adviser at 10 Downing Street and a one-time head of the Scottish Justice Department and Professor Jeremy Peat, director of the David Hume Institute and former group chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, claim the "health budget faces heavy pressures" due to a package of cuts that cannot be avoided. They go on to say that pay and pensions "dominate" public expenditure and governments had been "spending fairy gold" leading to the funding crisis in the sector. Politicians were also warned that big reductions in spending on public services would have to be "managed" as the funding squeeze continued. The claims were made ahead of the UK Government\’s spending review on 20 October, which is expected to lead to deep cuts in public expenditure. (Scotsman page 11, perspective page 30-31)

RBS Fuelled Corruption: Four British banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, have been accused by a watchdog of accepting millions of pounds in deposits from Nigerian politicians accused of corruption. Global Witness said in a report that between 1999 and 2005, the banks had taken huge sums from two former Nigerian governors, but had failed to investigate sufficiently either the customers or the source of their funds. It said that in failing to do so, RBS, Barclays, NatWest, HSBC and Switzerland’s UBS might not have broken the law but had helped to fuel corruption in the West African country. (Herald page 7) 

AV Referendum: Jim Tolson, the Lib Dem MSP for Dunfermline, has broken ranks with his party leadership over the planned poll on the alternative vote system. His comments to a consultation organised by Westminster\’s Scottish Affairs Select Committee, reflect concerns that the current proposals will overshadow the Holyrood election and cause the sort of confusion among voters that led to 147,000 votes being discounted in Scotland in 2007. Submissions from Ron Gould, who carried out the inquiry into what went wrong in the 2007 elections, and Holyrood\’s Local Government Committee also suggested that an alternative date might be better. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 6, Financial Times page 4) 

Incapacity Benefit: In the first phase of the coalition government\’s welfare reforms, almost 1,000 people in the north-east of Scotland who have been on Long-term incapacity benefit are to be reassessed. Launching the pilot scheme in Aberdeen, employment minister Chris Grayling said the aim of the new scheme was to find a way back to the workplace for those who had been "abandoned" to a lifetime on benefits. But opposition MPs and mental health charities voiced concerns that the new assessments could have a serious impact on the lives of people who cannot hold down a regular job because of their disabilities. Using a points-based system those deemed fit enough to work will be moved to the jobseeker\’s allowance. (Scotsman page 21, Herald page 6) 

Bannockburn: Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) are currently considering proposals for a new £5 million visitor attraction near the battlefield site. They hope to include a "black-out room" to give visitors a sensory experience and interactive, digital exhibits. The project, which was announced by Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop yesterday, will be created in time for the next year of Homecoming in 2014 – which is also the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 11)

Royal Navy: Tens of thousands of people gathered by the Clyde to see the launch of the latest Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Duncan. The 7,500-tonne Type 45 vessel is the sixth ship of its kind to be made for the Royal Navy and is expected to enter service in 2014. The "world class" warship is named after Admiral Adam Duncan and was launched on the anniversary of his defeat of a Dutch fleet off Camperdown, to the north of Haarlem, on October 11, 1797. HMS Duncan was launched on Monday afternoon by Marie Ibbotson, wife of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief Fleet Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson, who sent the Type 45 down the slipway into the river. The launch was watched by a crowd of 14,000 people in Govan, Glasgow, including Defence Minister Peter Luff. (Herald page 3, Times page 18, Telegraph 10)


Business Rate: The Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) has calculated the Scottish Government will earn an extra £150 million out of firms this year despite claims it has reduced or frozen rates for the majority of companies. This significant increase comes from a recent revaluation of business rates. Ministers had previously claimed 60 per cent of firms had benefited from the changes or seen their costs remain the same. Liz Cameron, chief executive of the SCC, says new figures showing that 25 out of Scotland\’s 32 local authorities will collect more in business rates in 2010-11 compared to 2009-10 "damaging competitiveness". (Scotsman page 2, comment page 28) 

Housing Market: The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) says the outlook for property market remains positive in Scotland, but England, Wales and Northern Ireland are lagging behind. Ten per cent more Scottish chartered surveyors reported a rise rather than a fall in house prices in September, compared with 3 per cent in August, according to the latest RICS UK Housing Market survey, for September 2010, which is published today – the 15th consecutive month of positive price net balance readings in the market. Craig Henderson of Graham & Sibbald chartered surveyors in Glasgow said: "The market is showing signs of a recovery after a sluggish summer period.” (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 2) 

Jobs: 200 jobs are to be created at Indian-owned call centres in Scotland during the next year, First Minister Alex Salmond has announced. The new staff will be recruited during the next 12 months to work in call centres in Larbert, near Falkirk, and in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire. The firm already has seven call centres in Scotland, employing more than 1,600 people, and has been awarded £850,000 of taxpayers\’ cash to "significantly extend" its European trade operation. The company is part of Hero Group, an Indian manufacturing and engineering giant which has expanded into other areas including training, offshore call centres, IT, financial services and insurance. (Scotsman page 17, Herald page 3) 


Police Cuts: A Scottish police force has unveiled plans to save £5 million. The cuts include shutting up to 16 rural stations and reducing the number of civilian staff. Chief Constable Ian Latimer said the measures were being taken in an effort to save the jobs of frontline police officers, though they may still have to face a reduction in numbers. But David Ross, secretary of the Northern Branch of the Scottish Police Federation, said the scale of the cuts being sought would ultimately hit officer numbers and affect policing in rural communities. (Scotsman page 17)

Bogus Crimes: Police officers are being forced by insurance red tape to waste valuable time investigating bogus crimes, Scotland’s most senior front-line officer has claimed. Chief Superintendent David O’Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, warned of a rising tide of “fake offences” reported by members of the public trying to scam their insurers. Mr O’Connor said such claims were now being routinely recorded and investigated as crimes because of strict rules saying alleged victims should always be believed, unless there is overwhelming evidence that they are lying. (Herald page 8)

Legal Aid: A key committee of the Law Society of Scotland has formally proposed wholesale bureaucratic reforms that it believes could save £40 million worth of red tape in just five years. The Access to Justice Committee wants to shut down the Scottish Legal Aid Board (Slab), which spends nearly £13m a year on administration, and hand over its functions to a new “one-stop shop” body funded and managed by lawyers. Committee convener Mike Dailly stressed the plan was designed to protect front-line services from an expected bid to rein in Scotland’s roughly £190m annual legal aid bill. (Herald page 10)


Edinburgh Trams: The Scotsman reports that despite the incorporation of measures to avert pitfalls suffered by other schemes, like early appointment of a tram operator and co-ordination with buses, the project has progressively unravelled. With construction slowing to a virtual standstill and contractors destined to quit the project or be sacked, radical action looks necessary to salvage the massively expensive yet still hugely significant tram scheme. Operator Transdev was axed last year and Lothian Buses, the city\’s main operator, may be asset-stripped to pay for the scheme to be completed. At the centre of the sorry mess of disputes, delays and soaring costs is the city council-owned firm TIE, formerly Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, which is responsible for developing the scheme. Every major component of the project for which it is responsible has hit problems, except for the one element not happening in Edinburgh – the manufacturing of trams in Spain. Most significantly, TIE\’s bitter 18-month dispute with the construction consortium building the 11.5-mile Edinburgh airport-Newhaven line has been deadlocked for months. (Scotsman page 8 & 9) 

Lothian Buses: Commuters in Edinburgh are facing cuts to bus services and fares being raised under controversial plans to use the city\’s main operator to help pay to get trams up and running, it has been claimed. Two former executives of Lothian Buses have spoken of their fears for its future amid mounting concern it will be put in jeopardy by the project. Neil Renilson, former chief executive, and ex-chairman Pilmar Smith are worried services will be cut and bus fares hiked up to ensure Edinburgh\’s scaled-back tram route can start operating. (Scotsman page 9)  


NHS Staff Cuts: Research by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland found that more than half of nurses (54 per cent) said they were prevented from providing dignified care to patients to a standard they were happy with. Of these, 76 per cent blamed a lack of staff for the lower standards they felt they were able to deliver. It comes as the NHS in Scotland is cutting staff numbers by almost 3,800, including more than 1,500 working in nursing and midwifery. Opposition MSPs voiced concern about the impact of cuts on patient care. The Scottish Government said it had told health boards that patient care must be at the centre of any future plans. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 7) 

Hospital Hygiene: The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate praised work at St John\’s Hospital in Livingston to provide a clean environment and tackle infection. But it said while good hand hygiene was generally observed among staff, on one of the wards inspected they were not washing or cleaning their hands appropriately when moving between beds. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "There really is no excuse for staff failing to comply with hand hygiene procedures, given it is recognised as one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of infections in our hospitals.” (Scotsman page 13) 


St Andrews University: Scotland’s oldest university contributes more than £300 million each year to the nation\’s economy and supports 7,400 students and 2,100 staff. According to the report produced by Midlothian-based BiGGAR Economics, the University creates more than four times as many jobs as it has staff on its payroll. The report – Economic Impact of the University of St Andrews – found that for every £1 of public money invested in St Andrews, the university returned more than £7.50 to the Scottish economy. University leaders said the study showed universities are net generators of wealth, rather than consumers of public funds. They warned that if investment was withdrawn from the sector, the knock-on effect for the economy would be considerable. (Scotsman page 13) 

University Funding: The long anticipated review by former BP boss Lord Browne is widely expected to raise the fee limit universities in England can charge, allowing institutions to charge commercial rates. Although the review has not included Scotland it is expected to have a knock-on effect. University principals in Scotland last night conceded their institutions would be directly affected by the report. Pressure is also growing on the Scottish Government to introduce a graduate contribution after leading figures including Lord Sutherland, the former principal of Glasgow University, and current principal Anton Muscatelli spoke in support of graduates making a contribution to the cost of their education. The author of an earlier review of higher education in Scotland Sir Andrew Cubie was expected to lay out plans for a future funding system. (Scotsman page 15, perspective 27; Herald page 6, comment page 14; Times page 15, Telegraph page 1 & 2)