REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 02 February 2011

Reform Scotland

\r\n

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 2 February 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 highlighted 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

Tesco tax: The SNP’s bid to levy a £30million “supermarket tax” on large retailers is expected to be dropped later today, with opposition MSPs vowing to vote it down in parliament. The opposition to the bid claims it is an unfair tax on job creation; retailers have also pointed to the huge differences in the rates for which retailers and non-retailers would be liable. (Scotsman page 15   ). According to a Populus telephone poll for supermarket chain Asda, 74% of respondents said the levy was unfair and 63% said it would have a negative impact on jobs and investment. (Press and Journal page 8)

\r\n

Wikileaks: The UK Government is set to publish more official documents on the Lockerbie bomber after Wikileaks released information that suggested the Labour Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell had advised Libya on his release. Prime Minister David Cameron has asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell to review government papers on Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi’s case, with a view to publishing them “shortly”. (Scotsman page 8, Press and Journal page 9)

\r\n

Prisoner rights: Taxpayers in Scotland could face a multimillion pound compensation claim from Scottish prisoners denied the right to vote in this year’s Holyrood elections. It had originally been thought that a European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2005, which said a blanket ban on prisoners voting was illegal, would only affect Westminster and European elections. However, prisoner rights expert, Aidan O’Neill QC, has told MPs the UK Government was open to legal challenge if it did not allow prisoners to vote in the devolved administration elections on May 5th. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 2, Times page 16, Daily Mail page 1)

\r\n

Economy

\r\n

Home sales: The value of homes sold in Scotland fell last year as the country’s property market dramatically slowed down, according to the annual report from Registers of Scotland. The figures show that from October to December 2010 property sales fell by 6.4% in value compared to the same period the year before. The report also shows that Edinburgh was overtaken by East Dunbartonshire as the local authority area with the highest average price. Meanwhile, Bank of England statistics revealed lending in the UK had fallen to a record low last year – a fall of more than £11 billion on the previous year. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 5, Daily Record page 6, Daily Express page 4). Accompanying this fall in lending and property value, the number of sales has fallen by 7.9%, from 21,498 in 2009 to 19,798 in 2010. (Press and Journal page 7)

\r\n

Construction unemployment: Thousands of skilled tradesmen in Scotland are facing unemployment as the lack of major contracts forces businesses to make cuts, according to industry body figures. According to Chief Executive Michael Levack of the Scottish Building Federation, approximately a quarter of construction workers have been made redundant in the last few years and more layoffs are expected as the economic downturn affects demand. (Herald page 8)

\r\n

Energy link: The creation of a 440-mile-long subsea electricity cable between Norway and Scotland, allowing the countries to “top up” each other with green energy and export to Europe, is being investigated. Hydro power provides 99% of Norway’s energy needs, but much of it is to pump storage requiring energy to move the water back up the mountains. Scotland’s power could help when domestic demand is low. Additionally, almost 60% of Scotland’s power comes from non-constant, renewable supply; therefore Norway’s hydro power could return the favour when their demand is low. (Herald page 12, Times page 11)

\r\n

Justice

\r\n

Sheridan tapes: Police have denied leaking tapes of Tommy and Gail Sheridan being interviewed by officers during their perjury investigation. Lothian and Borders police chiefs have told their local police boards that, after an internal inquiry, they have found that the leak to the BBC did not come from within the police force. The Sheridans have threatened legal action and demanded an investigation into how the BBC acquired the tapes. (Scotsman page 11, Daily Record page 5

\r\n

Community payback: Communities and victims are to be given a say on the type of work they want to see low-level offenders carrying out in their area as part of new community payback plans. The work could be cleaning up graffiti, clearing litter, renovating elderly care homes or restoring fallen gravestones. (Courier page 13)

\r\n

Transport

\r\n

Loch Lomond waterway: Following a successful six-week trial, the waters of Loch Lomond will be equipped with a regular water-bus service. The experiment has led to upgrading work on six pontoons and piers in preparation for the return of ferries to the national park. Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham claimed the water-boats would reduce road-traffic and help to reduce carbon emissions. (Scotsman page 3)

\r\n

Local Government

\r\n

Council job losses: Budget cutbacks will result in more than 1,000 job losses in three small councils over the next few years, saving nearly £70 million. Aberdeenshire, Borders and Orkney councils all agreed the savings yesterday; with Aberdeenshire Council confirming it will set its budget next week expecting to make £51 million savings over the next two years. The council also projects savings of up to £36 million in efficiency savings, through initiatives such as Worksmart, which allows flexible working including home working, and the generation of extra income. (Herald page 2). However, an unlikely alliance between SNP and Labour councillors in Aberdeen is backing a plan to lift the threat of compulsory redundancies to hundreds of local authority workers (Press and Journal page 4)

\r\n

Health

\r\n

Health and social care: The Scottish Government is expected to announce today plans which would bring health and social care services in Scotland closer together as the country faces soaring bills to look after its ageing population. These plans will fall short of Scottish Labour’s plans for a merged National Care Service. Last year, the Scottish Government said that if current models of care are sustained, the present care budget of £4.5 billion will need to rise by £1.1bn by 2016 and £3.5bn by 2031. (Scotsman page 14)

\r\n

As a result of this plan, tens of thousands of council staff across Scotland will transfer to the NHS, shifting responsibility for delivering adult community care from local authorities to health boards in two years. (Herald page 1)

\r\n

Education

\r\n

Abertay leadership struggle: Abertay University Principal Professor Bernard King and Vice-Principal Professor Nicholas Terry have been suspended from office on the orders of the University court following a leadership crisis. The university has described the reasons behind the suspensions as “unrelated issues”. Professor King has also stepped down from his post as Convenor of Universities Scotland, the representative body for Scotland’s 21 higher education institutions. Commentators point to the dispute between the principal and the court members over the timing of his departure and suggest a struggle for power at the university has led to the suspensions. (Herald page 7, Scotsman page 4, Times page 3, Daily Telegraph page 16, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Record page 24, Daily Express page 27)

\r\n

Teacher crisis: Official figures, from the General Teaching Council for Scotland, show the number of teachers from outside Scotland registering each year to work in Scotland has fallen by more than two-thirds since 2006, from 1,128 to just 364. This decline is attributed to the shortage of jobs in schools at a time when a large number of staff have been trained by Scottish universities to reduce class sizes. Additionally, large numbers of teachers who were expected to retire are staying on due to the economic downturn. (Herald page 4)