REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 13 January 2011

Reform Scotland

\r\n

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 13 January 2011

\r\n

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. 

\r\n

In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News. 

\r\n

Politics

\r\n

Fiscal powers: Professors Drew Scott of the University of Edinburgh and Andrew Hughes- Hallett of the University of St. Andrews have written a letter in response to yesterday’s coverage of their appearance at the Scotland Bill Committee. In the letter, published in the Scotsman and the Herald, they stand by the conclusions that they presented to the Committee that Scotland’s economic performance would be improved by fiscal autonomy and access to full taxation and economic levers that are not included in the Scotland Bill. They claim that the Committee “chose to ignore almost entirely the dedicated evidence that we submitted on that topic”, and that, as it stands, the Scotland Bill is “seriously flawed” and “could have cost Scotland billions of pounds since the start of devolution”. In an accompanying letter in the Scotsman, Stephen Maxwell attacks Wendy Alexander for pressing the professors for their sources, which were clearly documented in their report.

\r\n

(Scotsman page 34, Herald page 14, Daily Mail page 72) 

\r\n

Economy

\r\n

Supermarket tax: 20 new supermarkets and 8,000 new jobs will be at risk if the SNP’s proposed ‘supermarket tax’, designed to raise £30 million, is introduced, the Scottish Retail Consortium has claimed. The tax hike, a surprise announcement in the SNP’s draft spending plans for 2011-12, would see large high-street shops paying up to £320,000 on top of their current business rates. The plan has been widely attacked by both business leaders and opposition parties, who say that they will vote against the tax when it comes before MPSs on 26th January. J Sainsbury chief executive Justin King has warned that the tax would “undoubtedly” lead to the company slowing down expansion plans in Scotland. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 30) 

\r\n

Pension cuts: UK Government reforms will lead employers to reduce contributions to the retirement funds of higher-paid staff, experts claim. With the Pensions Bill published today, the Coalition believes that millions with no pension provision will start a fund for their retirement. Currently, large firms typically pay 6-10% of a worker’s salary into a pension scheme. Under the government’s new proposals, employers will pay only 3%, the worker will pay 3% and the government a further 1%. David Robertson of the ACA, which represents the country’s leading pension experts, has claimed that “a lot of big firms are looking at levelling down their contributions because they are looking at paying contributions for a lot more employees” (Telegraph page 1) 

\r\n

Benefit cuts: The Institute of Fiscal Studies has suggested that more than 140,000 Scottish families could lose out under government plans to introduce a new universal credit in place of a range of benefits and tax credits. Among the worst hit will be families with savings above £16,000. (Scotsman page 2) 

\r\n

Justice

\r\n

Single Scottish police force: Speaking in the Scottish parliament yesterday, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has given strong support for a single police force covering the whole of Scotland, claiming that the case for three or four regional forces has not been adequately made. He also gave his clear support for a single fire service, saying, “a single fire and rescue service, with a national framework and standards, will be best at reducing unnecessary duplication and cost”. Although he announced two consultations on the single police force and fire service, which are to report in May, it is feared that the decision has already been made. Labour backs a single national police force and the Tories support a single force provided it is overseen by directly elected commissioners. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the only major party to oppose the plans. Robert Brown, the Lib Dem justice spokesman claimed that communities would suffer “as local accountability is eroded and local police services damaged”. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 9, Telegraph page 4, Times page 7) 

\r\n

Local Government

\r\n

Officials suspended: Four senior local government officials at Inverclyde council have been suspended after paying £650,000 to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The company was expected to deliver £1.9 million in savings to the council, but only £250,000 was achieved. The four officials suspended are corporate director Paul Wallace, heads of service John Arthur and Gordon McLoughlin and head of IT project management Arun Menton. Previously, the council has indicated its need to save £10 million over the next two years.  (Herald page 1) 

\r\n

New Edinburgh Council boss: The new chief executive of Edinburgh City Council, Sue Bruce, has vowed to play a major part in promoting the city as a global player to attract new investment. Ms. Bruce, formerly chief executive of Aberdeen, has pledged her commitment to the trams project due to the amount of money already spent on it. It emerged last month that the local authority is more than £1.2 billion in debt, with more borrowing expected to fund the trams project. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 7) 

\r\n

Education

\r\n

School closures row: Education Secretary Michael Russell is facing further allegations that he abused his position as minister over his alleged intervention in the closure of 25 schools in the Argyle and Bute constituency, in which he is preparing to stand as the local SNP candidate. Mr Russell wrote to parents in Edinburgh last year to say that it would be “inappropriate” for him as a minister to get involved in the dispute. However, it has emerged that he personally visited and advised parents in the Argyle and Bute constituency. The ministerial code of conduct stipulates that ministers must keep their duties separate from their constituency interests. (Scotsman page 5, Telegraph page 4, Times page 3) 

\r\n