0131 524 9500 | info@reformscotland.com

REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 10 February 2011

Reform Scotland

\r\n

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 10 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

Holyrood budget: MSPs passed the SNP governments £28 billion pound budget yesterday. Finance Secretary John Swinney’s spending plan won the support of the Tories and Liberal Democrats with £26 million of concessions to each party, including a Tory demand of £10 million of extra support for small businesses next year. Scottish Labour voted against the budget, criticising it for inadequately dealing with job creation and economic growth. However, the SNP accused Labour of voting against a budget that included one of its own key demands, a freeze on council tax. Key points of the budget include funding for 1000 extra police officers, an abolition of remaining prescription charges, funding for major infrastructure projects such as the new Forth Crossing, and a pay freeze for public-sector workers. (Scotsman page 10-11, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 1, Times page 1) 

\r\n

Lockerbie bomber: Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has claimed that Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had been prepared in 2007 to examine releasing the Lockerbie bomber in return for a deal devolving firearms legislation. Mr Straw said that he believed that Mr MacAskill was prepared to include Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement in return for Westminster help to prevent compensation claims for prisoners. A spokesman for Alex Salmond disagreed with Mr Straw’s assessment, saying, “We sent eight letters to the UK Government calling for a specific exclusion of Megrahi from the prisoner transfer agreement.”  (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 15) 

\r\n

Economy

\r\n

Bank deal: Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has claimed that George Osborne’s bank deal could unlock £800 million of additional lending for Scottish businesses. The Chancellor announced to the Commons yesterday that the Coalition Government had agreed that the major banks will increase lending to small and medium enterprises by 15% this year. He said, “If the banks don’t come up with the lending then we have made clear that we reserve the right to take further action”. Elsewhere, George Osborne has been accused of a climb-down on bonuses as it was revealed that as Stephen Hester, head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, was awarded a £2 million bonus and Eric Daniels, the head of Lloyds Banking Group, was handed £1.5m. (Press and Journal page 5, Herald page 15 

\r\n

Justice

\r\n

Cadder ruling: A European ruling has allowed almost 900 suspected criminals to be set free in Scotland in the last three months, the Crown Office has revealed.  In October, judges upheld an appeal by Peter Cadder whose assault conviction was based on evidence gained before he spoke to his lawyer and contravened the European Convention of Human Rights. This ruling has allowed the charges of 867 other cases, including charges of sexual assault and possession of firearms, to be dropped. These revelations have led to widespread criticism of the role of the ECHR within the Scottish legal system, with the think tank Policy Exchange this week calling for the UK to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Press and Journal page 8) 

\r\n

Local Government

\r\n

Angus budget cuts: The Angus Alliance administration will today announce how it is to find £9 million of cuts this year. After having already agreed to a Scottish Government package to freeze the council tax rate, the council must find £23 million in savings by 2014. (Press and Journal page 3) 

\r\n

Education

\r\n

Entrepreneur to open school: One of Scotland’s wealthiest entrepreneurs Jim McColl has announced plans to open a school at the historic pumps factory he rescued on the south side of Glasgow. The school will open by the end of the year at the latest and will provide vocational education to pupils aged between 14 and 16 and the prospect of a job when they finish. Mr McColl, owner of Clyde Blowers, has expressed deep concern with the level of youth unemployment in Scotland, and said that the public-sector cuts would create “serious challenges” for young Scots in the short term. His school will actively seek those who have shown little academic aptitude, in line with his belief that training reveals hidden capabilities in people. In Scotland, 8.5% of under-25s claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance in August 2010. (Herald page 9) 

\r\n

School review: Writing in the Scotsman, Professor Gavin McCrone, the architect of the 2001 deal to formalise a 35-hour working week for teachers, has welcomed a proposed review of school education. The “McCrone Agreement”, which set out a 35 hour cap on teachers’ workload, plus a phased reduction of class contact time to 22.5 hours, has been criticised for affecting extracurricular activities and parental meetings. Professor McCrone has distanced himself from the final implementation of his recommendations and writes that he was “dismayed that the agreement referred in stark terms to the ‘introduction of a 35-hour week’” given that he was calling for greater flexibility in the profession. (Scotsman page 4) 

\r\n

University cuts: Strathclyde University is to axe nearly 200 jobs as part of a major effort to cut costs. Unions have been told that 90 staff on short-term contracts will not have their positions renewed, and that a further 100 permanent posts are to be lost later in the year. These losses will come after a voluntary redundancy scheme has already resulted in 350 staff members leaving. In a related story, Glasgow University yesterday announced that it is to scrap or merge a number of courses as it is forced to find £20 million of savings. These cuts have led to leading academics voicing concerns that Scotland’s universities are in danger of becoming “second league”. (Herald page 7)