0131 524 9500 | info@reformscotland.com

REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 10 January 2011

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 10 January 2011

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

Bank bonuses: Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has urged the UK Government to use all the power at its disposal to block excessive bank bonuses, after it emerged that RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester could receive a bonus of up to £2.5 million. The call follows comments from Prime Minister David Cameron, arguing that since RBS is 84% taxpayer owned it should not be “leading the way” on bonuses. Whilst Mr Cameron said he refused to “micro-manage” banks, he encouraged them to be “socially responsible” with bonuses. Mr Scott, however, went further, saying the Government should use “every possible avenue” to stop massive bonuses. The Scotsman editorial argues that bank bonuses could endanger the public’s trust in both the Coalition Government, which runs on the premise that “we’re all in this together”, as well as in the banks, which need public support to operate. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6, Times page 3, telegraph page 2, telegraph business page 1, ft page 2, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 5, Daily Express page 1)

China visit: First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday agreed a £6.4 million deal to introduce renewable energy technology, developed in Scotland, to China, after meeting with Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang and 6 ministers in Edinburgh. Following the meeting, which covered a number of areas where the Scottish and Chinese Governments co-operate, Mr Salmond said Scotland’s relationship with China was “proceeding apace”. More announcements are expected over the next few days. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 9, Times page 13, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 9)

Alex Salmond: In articles for Scotland on Sunday and the Sunday Herald, First Minister Alex Salmond claims he is fighting a "second rate Labour party", arguing that "person for person", his own team of ministers is "far stronger" than Labour. The First Minister\’s move comes with the SNP hoping to highlight the fact that many of Labour\’s big-hitters in Scotland remain at Westminster or, like Gordon Brown and former Chancellor Alistair Darling, have quit front line politics. The SNP also believes that its front bench team can outshine Labour\’s with politicians such as Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon and Education Secretary Mike Russell outclassing their Labour counterparts Richard Baker, Jackie Baillie and Des McNulty. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, page 5, Sunday Herald page 22, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 1, telegraph page 7)

Sheridan juror: A female juror in the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial is facing a possible jail term after using Facebook to post claims that the Scottish socialist politician was innocent and that fellow members of the jury were “scum bags” for convicting him. The juror, who cannot be named for legal reasons, may have breached the Contempt of Court Act by posting details of the jury’s deliberations – a crime which, if found guilty, can lead to a jail term.  In ungrammatical English she described her fellow jurors as “dirty low life b*******” for finding Sheridan guilty, before saying she hoped they “choke in their f****** sleep, scum bags they are”. The judge in the perjury case will be made aware of her posts. (Sunday Herald page 1, Daily Mail page 12 )

RAF bases: MPs may be given the power to veto the closure of RAF bases if an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill is accepted by parliament. The attempt to give MPs power over base closures, made by Labour MP Thomas Docherty, comes as RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars are expected to close as part of the UK Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review. (Scotsman page 14)

Big society: Senior government figures are planning a relaunch of David Cameron\’s Big Society vision amid reported concerns that the project is in crisis. The Big Society concept was launched with the Tory manifesto in April during the election campaign and was meant to represent Mr Cameron\’s new philosophy on how the country should work by encouraging people to take a more active role in their communities. However, despite the subsequent launch of the Big Society Network – a non-governmental body which aims to encourage the private and charitable sectors to invest in local communities – at a Downing Street reception in July and regular references to it by the Prime Minister in government, the concept has reportedly failed to take off. (Scotland on Sunday page 4)

Tour de France: Scotland is to bid to host a stage of the world-famous Tour de France cycle race for the first time. Either Glasgow or Edinburgh would be the home venue for the pre-race time trial and the start of the first phase of the Tour following three years of talks with organisers. The race route may link the two cities or head as far north as the Trossachs. Scotland\’s national events agency, EventScotland, said 2017 was likely to be the next opportunity to host the opening of the Tour outside mainland France after Corsica was announced as a host in 2013. Previously, stages of the world famous event have been held in England in 1974, 1994 and 2007, with Ireland hosting a stage in 1988. (Scotland on Sunday page 4, Herald page 9)

Fiscal powers: Geoff Mawdsley, Director of Reform Scotland, writes in the Caledonian Mercury on the need for greater fiscal responsibility. (Caledonian Mercury Opinion) 

Economy

Jobs summit: Prime Minister David Cameron will today hold a meeting with business leaders to try and encourage them to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth. The meeting comes as fears were raised over possible inflationary effects of the VAT increase and of fuel duty. Mr Cameron has warned that planned, coordinated, public sector strikes, in reaction to Government spending cuts, will be “futile” but conceded that inflation is a growing concern. Union leaders reacted angrily to Mr Cameron’s comments, accusing him of “unnecessarily raising the ante” due to their provocative nature. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 6, 10, ft page 1, ft page 2, Press and Journal page 16)   

Future jobs fund: Ed Miliband will today accuse David Cameron of having potentially created a “Lost generation” of young people who cannot find work, after the Government cut the £1 billion Future Jobs Fund a year early. The criticisms are expected to follow comments by the work and pensions select committee, which warned of the danger of leaving a gap in support for young people trying to find work. Mr Miliband’s press conference, scheduled today, will coincide with a meeting organised by David Cameron with business leaders about stimulating the jobs market. (Scotsman page 2) 

Finance: Employment in the financial sector is forecasted to fall, meaning up to 15,000 people may lose their jobs, according to the Confederation of British Industry. With 1 in 10 jobs in Scotland either directly or indirectly linked to financial services, the news comes as a blow to claims that the private sector would expand to employ those made redundant from public sector employment. (Herald Business page 26) 

Housing market: Scottish house prices are expected to fall due to declining confidence in the housing market, according to research by property website Zoopla. While 63% of people expect property prices to rise over the next 6 months, this represents a drop from 70% 3 months ago. The research also indicates that confidence is higher in Scotland compared to the UK average, with confidence lowest in Northern Ireland. While few economists anticipate a recovery in the housing market this year, many people are more confident, with the average homeowner expecting a 1.9% rise in house prices over the next 6 months. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 5) 

Justice

Juries: The Scottish Government has made the decision to allow pensioners to be included in juries, branding the old system as “outdated and ageist” and one which did not properly represent society. As well as trying to gain the benefit of pensioners’ “life experience” and avoiding discrimination, the move is intended to widen the pool of available jurors and lessen the burden on younger people who may have other commitments to work and family. Kenny MacAskill, Justice Secretary, said “The composition of juries should be a true reflection of our society, but the current age limit is clearly leaving people in later life under-represented.” (Scotsman page 10)

Prisons: Scottish Labour have claimed that 1,000 violent criminals will be given “get-out-of-jail-free cards” due to changes in prison law, which will generally tend towards handing out community-based sentences instead of 3 month prison sentences. The Scottish Government pointed out that judges will still give 3 month sentences if they see them as appropriate, but that there will be a presumption against putting low-level criminals in jail. It also produced figures which indicate a lower rate of recidivism amongst those sentenced in the community. (Scotsman page 18, courier page 10, Press and Journal pae 8)

Transport

Snow: Oban was cut off from the rest of Scotland after 7 inches of snow fell in less than 2 hours on Saturday.  Hundreds were left stranded after the heaviest snow fall the town has seen for 50 years led to motorists sleeping in cars and public transport. Meanwhile, police forces have urged motorists across Scotland to be aware of the danger of black ice on roads and to check journeys before embarking. (Scotsman page 4, herald page 11) 

Quango threatened: The transport quango, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, could be scrapped after both the SNP and Labour stated that they will put the move in their election manifestos. The quango has been embroiled in criticism after the news that officials had racked up 6 figure expense bills over 3 years, and accusations that they claimed business expenses on personal holidays. (Herald page 4)

Trams: Edinburgh’s tram developers have faced criticism over the news that they spent £20 million hiring consultants, including £2.2 million on “dispute resolution experts” over a period of eight months. The project has attracted a great deal of controversy due to what have been branded excessive salaries as well as disputes between Edinburgh City Council and Bilfinger Berger, the contractor. (Herald page 5)

Edinburgh Airport closure: Edinburgh Airport had to be closed for an eighth time since the end of November after staff struggled to clear around four inches of snow. Some 20 departures and 16 arrivals were cancelled after airport operator BAA was unable to open the runway until 12 noon.  A similar number of other flights were subject to delays, while two flights were diverted to other airports. Scottish Labour transport spokesman Charlie Gordon said yesterday\’s closure proved BAA was not capable of dealing "quickly and effectively" with bad weather. (Scotland on Sunday page 5, Sunday Herald page 3,

Local Government

Bins: Councils across the east coast and central belt of Scotland have been met with criticism after it emerged that bins were still unemptied more than 2 weeks after Christmas, despite claims from local authorities that collections were running as normal. In contrast to council comments, residents have said that conditions were “as bad as ever”, with some people having seen rubbish piled up since the end of November. (Scotsman page 3)

Health

Elderly: A public health expert has urged the NHS to reduce the amount of treatment given to the elderly in order to tackle spiralling costs. Professor Phil Hanlon, a former adviser to the Scottish Executive, says fewer prescription drugs and fewer tests would both save money as well as offering improvements in health, through things like less exposure to hospital superbugs. He said “I am making these arguments because I am worried about what is going to happen if we allow a continued expansion and rise in funding followed by a crash that would be bad for everyone”. (Herald page 1)

MS: A new study has shown that women with MS are more likely than male sufferers to carry a gene linked to the condition, and that women are more likely to pass the condition onto daughters than sons. While the causes of MS are still unknown, scientists suspect that patients carry a genetic susceptibility, which is triggered by something in their environment to develop into the condition. The study demonstrates that the number of MS cases is rising and that women are 3 times more likely than men to develop the condition. (Herald page 3)

Education

Student bursaries: Students at two thirds of Scotland’s colleges are struggling to fund their education due to insufficient bursaries. The Herald reports that 65% of Scotland’s 40 colleges did not have enough bursaries to meet demand in 2009/10 and that nearly half were forced to use reserves to cover the shortage. The situation is likely to deteriorate in the next year after the Scottish Government announced that around £1.2 million, in real terms, will be cut from the college bursaries budget. (Herald page 10)