REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 21 February 2011

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 21 February 2011

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.
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
Iain Gray: The Labour leader has insisted that he can beat Alex Salmond in May\\\’s Holyrood election after recent polling indicated a lack of awareness of the Scottish Labour leader. Labour and the SNP are "neck and neck" going into the May election, according to Mr Gray, who said he was not surprised he was not as recognisable a face as the First Minister. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 6, Times page 11, Courier page 11, Scottish Daily Mail page 14)
Alex Neil: The Housing Minister is reportedly being investigated by Holyrood’s Presiding Officer after allegedly misrepresenting his position to voters.  Alex Neil was reported after appearing to suggest he was the MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, when he is only the SNP candidate for the seat. Recent posters advertising his surgeries billed him as “Alex Neil MSP, Airdrie and Shotts”, while his 2011 calendar to voters was headed “Alex Neil MSP, Scottish National Party, Airdrie and Shotts”. (Herald page 6)
Alex Salmond: The Scottish Government and the US administration clashed again last night over a leaked report from a US Diplomat suggesting Alex Salmond was prepared to ditch a referendum on independence. Claims that the SNP leader was privately ready to accept a vote on boosting Holyrood’s powers, but crucially without an independence option, were last night dismissed by the party as a “blunder” made by US diplomats. (Press and Journal page 1, Daily Mail page 8)
Tourism Plan: Plans detailed in a "tourism strategy", set to be published later this week, will include a scheme to move the clocks in line with most of Europe, bringing longer evenings but less light in the mornings. However, there have been fears expressed in Scotland that putting the clocks forward would increase road accidents in the darker mornings. (Scotsman page 19, Herald page 4, Telegraph page 2, Times page 13, Press and Journal page 10, Courier page 14, Scottish Daily Mail page 25)SNP poll: The SNP has claimed its appeal goes beyond party politics after releasing a poll showing that large numbers of Labour, Tory and Lib Dem supporters think a Nationalist-led government should be re-elected at Holyrood. The poll asked people to discount who they intended to vote for personally on 5 May and asked whether they backed the SNP being re-elected as the government. Among those certain to vote, 48 per cent said the SNP, as against 44 per cent who backed one of the other main parties. Among all those asked, the figure was 42 per cent for the SNP, and 45 per cent for the rest, still giving the SNP a clear majority.  Broken down by voting intention, the poll revealed that even among people who planned to vote against the SNP, there were substantial numbers who thought Alex Salmond\\\’s party should be re-elected. (Scotland on Sunday page 10, Eddie Barnes analysis page 14
Bill Aitken
: Bill Aitken, the Tory MSP who caused outrage by suggesting a rape victim may have been a prostitute, is facing fresh calls to resign as Convener of the Parliament’s Justice Committee.  Patrick Harvie MSP will reportedly table a motion in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow demanding that Mr Aitken quits. The move is backed by rape charities and follows a motion on Friday from Labour deputy leader Johann Lamont. (Sunday Herald page 3)
Wendy Alexander: Iain Macwhirter comments in the Sunday Herald on Wendy Alexander’s resignation and the state of the Scottish Labour party. (Sunday Herald page 10)
Justice
Gang money: More than £1 million in cash has been seized from criminal gangs in Scotland in less than a year. The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) has confiscated £1.25 million since last April – more than six times the total for 2009-10 (£207,000). It marks a new approach by the specialist unit, which is increasingly focused on disrupting crime gangs\\\’ activities at an early stage – before the cash can be invested in drugs to turn more profit. (Scotsman page 2, Press and Journal page 7, Courier page 14)
Crime crackdown: Scottish criminals believed to be hiding on Spain’s Costa Del Crime are being targeted in a new crackdown. Police in Scotland have provided information to Crimestoppers’ top 10 most wanted list for the first time, with Scots now appearing on the latest bulletin. The names of 10 known criminals thought to be on the run overseas will be released today as part of a joint operation between Crimestoppers, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and British police forces. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 10)
Transport
Network Rail: Network Rail is to give more responsibility to local operators in Scotland as part of a drive to improve regional services. The group which runs Britain\\\’s railway infrastructure will hand more control over issues including safety and operations to Scotland when it launches a "significant change of emphasis" in April. The move comes weeks after passengers complained of communication problems and delays during the extreme winter weather. (Scotsman page 12, Telegraph page 1)Forth bridge: Taxpayers could face an extra £100 million bill for the new Forth bridge if it affects an underground pipeline, ministers have admitted. Finance Secretary John Swinney will this week tell MSPs that because the southern approach to the £2 billion bridge crosses the BP Forties system, the Government must indemnify the oil giant against any losses caused by roadworks or accidents. The alternative would be to re-route the approach at a cost of £200 million, or re-route the pipeline, which would cost more than the whole bridge. (Herald page 1)
Parking: Motorists in Scotland’s capital city pay more for parking than most other cities in the UK, a new study has shown.  Research by consumer watchdog Which? has revealed drivers face a postcode lottery when it comes to parking charges and the chance of getting a ticket. London had the highest fees, followed by Manchester and then Edinburgh, which was the only city in the study not to offer any council-run car parks. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 7, Scottish Daily Mail page 13)
Health
Forgetfulness: Researchers in Scotland are seeking a cure for forgetfulness and lack of concentration caused by an overload of information and the frantic pace of life – a condition they have labelled "busy lifestyle syndrome". They believe there is evidence that people are becoming increasingly absent-minded as they struggle to cope with constant streams of information from mobile phones, the internet, radio and television. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 7, Press and Journal page 8)
NHS Reform: A panel of independent experts has backed plans to reform the system of NHS compensation claims in Scotland. The No-Fault Compensation Review Group, headed by medical law and ethics professor Sheila McLean, was set up by ministers in 2009. The body has recommended a change to the system which would mean patients who have suffered loss, injury or damage as a result of their treatment receive compensation without having to take the NHS to court. (Scotsman page 18, Herald page 4, Press and Journal page 8, Courier page 9)Staff Shortages: NHS workers logged more than 1,500 complaints concerning short-staffing in Scotland last year, according to figures obtained by Labour. The highest number of incidents (502) was reported by those employed by NHS Lothian, followed by NHS Highland (328). No concerns relating to staff problems were raised with NHS Borders. A total of 1,519 incidents were reported among 11 of Scotland\\\’s health boards. (Times page 13, Press and Journal page 8, Courier page 11, Herald page 11)
Red Meat:  Consumers will be advised to eat no more than 500g of red or processed meat per week or face an increased risk of bowel cancer in a report from a group of independent government advisers. The Scientific Committee on Nutrition is due to deliver its conclusions on meat consumption this week after being asked to look at dietary advice by the Department of Health. It is expected that the committee will say that red meat should not be cut from diets completely, but that it needs to be consumed in moderation. (Scotsman page 14, Press and Journal page 11, Scottish Daily Mail page 10)Education
Universities: Scottish universities reportedly want to charge students fees of £12,000 for a four-year degree under confidential proposals seen by The Herald. A leaked circular from Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, proposes setting a graduate contribution for the first time at roughly the same level charged in England – currently £3,290 a year. Universities, which want to see the charge levied from 2012, do not support an upfront tuition fee and would prefer to see payments deferred until after graduation – and only payable when graduates earn £21,000 or more. (Herald page 1)