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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 7 JANUARY 2011

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 7 January 2010

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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. 

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

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Politics

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Government carbon emissions: SNP ministers have reportedly admitted they have fallen short of targets to reduce the Scottish Government\’s carbon emissions. Finance Secretary John Swinney admitted the most recent figures showed ministers had cut the size of their carbon footprint generated by work-related transport by only 3 per cent since 2007, despite government targets of a 20 per cent reduction by 2011 and 40 per cent by 2020. Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, warned the government could be expelled from the One in Five Challenge if it did not dramatically improve its emissions record. "Obviously, this is disappointing," he said. "They have failed to deliver on their own 20 per cent target.” (Scotsman page 13) 

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Fiscal powers: There is ongoing debate in the Scotsman on the Scotland Bill and its provisions. (Scotsman page 32) 

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Economy

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Retail surge: Scottish stores have enjoyed an increase in sales in the aftermath of the recent weather conditions, according to retail chiefs. Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said November and December were "difficult" months because of the weather.  She said: "The adverse weather was a major issue for retailers for most of December, but shoppers battled on and things picked up in the last week before Christmas and there was very brisk and heavy trade between Christmas and Hogmanay. Consumers were very conscious of the looming VAT rise, so shoppers purchased \’large ticket\’ items in particular." (Scotsman page 8) 

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Justice

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Tommy Sheridan: Three new witnesses have come forward claiming they can give former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan an alibi for the night he is alleged to have been at a swingers\’ club. Mr Sheridan\’s legal team have unearthed the fresh witnesses who say they can place the former MSP at an SSP meeting on the day he was accused of being at a swingers\’ club in Manchester – a key part of the prosecution evidence used to convict him.  The lawyers claim the witnesses will cast serious doubt over the perjury conviction and could lead to the guilty verdict being thrown out on appeal. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6, Daily Mail page 4)

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Police force merger: Scotland’s senior police officers have said to the Scottish Government they will "robustly challenge" any merger plan that fails to "deliver effective policing to our local communities". Chief Constables met on Wednesday after being told the Scottish Government would later this month back the creation of a single force, and make it an SNP manifesto pledge for the Scottish Parliament elections. The chief constables are also critical of police mergers being considered in isolation from other public bodies, such as local authorities, health boards and fire and rescue services. (Scotsman page 4) 

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Transport

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M8 closure: An investigation has been launched into why part of the motorway linking Scotland\’s two main cities was closed by weather for the second time in a month. The move came as further snow caused problems for drivers across northern Scotland yesterday, where up to another 8in is expected today. The Met Office said about 2in could also fall across the east coast late tonight in an area from Edinburgh to Dundee. The Scottish Government\’s Transport Scotland agency has ordered the investigation after police closed the westbound carriageway of the M8 during Wednesday morning\’s rush hour following a series of crashes on black ice. (Scotsman page 6) 

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Health

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Winter flu: Deaths linked to this winter\’s flu outbreak have more than doubled in the last week, with six deaths reported in Scotland. Figures show that 38 people with flu needed intensive care in the week ending 3 January, bringing the total this winter to 61, with younger people making up the majority of cases. With 50 deaths now reported across the UK this winter, Scotland appears to have a higher proportion of fatalities per head of population compared to the rest of the country. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 4, Times page 3, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Record page 1, Daily Mail page 3, Daily Express page 1) 

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Education

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Class size targets: A survey of all 32 local authorities has found that 13 have abandoned the target of maximum class sizes of 20 pupils in S1-2 for English and maths, while a further three are considering dropping it. The remaining 16 continue to honour the target. The move, attributed to authorities’ need to cut budgets, was branded a “retrograde step” by teaching unions and the Labour Party. The former Scottish Labour/LibDem government introduced the target in 2004 and it was implemented in virtually every local authority. Access to smaller class sizes has now become a postcode lottery, claimed Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland. “The scrapping of this target is not universal, emphasising once more the inequality of education provision that exists across the country,” he said. “Where you are will depend on whether you get access to smaller class sizes; that’s simply not fair.” (TESS page 1) 

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Carbon bill: Scottish universities are facing an unexpected bill of up to £20 million after the introduction of a new tax to cut carbon emissions. Research shows higher education institutions in Scotland will face the estimated charges between 2012 and 2016 under the UK-wide Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme. Although universities have publicly supported efforts to reduce carbon emissions, privately they will be concerned about the scale of the payouts. The tax comes at a difficult time for higher education in Scotland with universities facing reductions in their teaching budget of nearly 11% for 2010/11. That means funding for universities will fall by £69m, from £678m to £609m. (Herald page 14)