Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 11 March 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. 



Scotland Bill: The SNP has backed plans to hand more tax-raising and borrowing powers to Holyrood, despite concern among Nationalists about the key measures of the Scotland Bill. MSPs from all four main parties at Holyrood last night supported the legislation, which is now passing through Westminster. A specially-convened committee of MSPs, which was set up to scrutinise the proposals, last week called for the bill to go further than currently planned. Conservative deputy leader Murdo Fraser said the SNP\\\’s support showed that the party was “all at sea” on the constitution. (Scotsman page 6, Telegraph page 7, Times page 3) 

Sir Fred Goodwin: Former RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin is at the centre of a legal gagging mystery after he was named as having taken out a court order preventing publication of information about him. Sir Fred, who presided over the near collapse of RBS, took out the “super-injunction” which is understood to be so strict that it even prevents him being identified as a banker. The terms of most super-injunctions are so stringent that the media is normally prevented from reporting on them. But the details in this case emerged in the House of Commons when Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to reveal that Sir Fred had obtained the gagging order. Parliamentary privilege protects politicians from prosecution over comments they make in the House of Lords and House of Commons during parliamentary proceedings. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 1, Times page 5, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 1) 

Scotland Office: The days of the Secretary of State for Scotland may be numbered, after a House of Commons committee called for a review of the position as part of a cull of ministers. The public administration committee yesterday called for the number of ministers to be cut by at least eight because the number of MPs are to be reduced from 650 to 600. It also said that savings could be made by reducing the number of ministerial salaries. Among its recommendations is a suggestion that a Ministry of the Nations should be created to replace current Scotland, Welsh and Northern Ireland offices. If this was taken up it would end more than 300 years of history since the first Scottish secretary, the Earl of Mar, was appointed in 1707, making it one of the oldest offices of state in the UK. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 10) 


Civic values: Ahead of the SNP conference this weekend, George Kerevan comments in The Scotsman that promoting Scotland’s traditional civic values would put public morality back into politics. (Scotsman page 33) 


Alex Salmond: Alan Cochrane comments in the Telegraph on the First Minister’s speaking style at First Minister’s Questions. (Telegraph page 13) 



Pensions: Proposals to overhaul public sector pensions have raised fears that thousands of workers will opt out of the schemes and provoked threats of a summer of industrial action. The publication yesterday of Lord Hutton\\\’s report into the future of public sector pensions led to warnings that Scotland will be worst hit by the reforms. Dave Watson, Scottish organiser for Unison which is the biggest public sector union, claimed shorter life expectancy north of the Border and a higher proportion of people employed in the public sector than the rest of the UK, combined with lower wages, would lead to many abandoning pension schemes. (Scotsman page 5, Letters page 32, Herald page 4, Press and Journal page 5, Courier page 1, Guardian page 6-7, FT page 1, Daily Express page 4, Sun page 1) 


Local Government

Councillor pay rise: Plans to give councillors in Scotland a 16.5 per cent pay rise at a time of cutbacks have come under fire. Councillors are paid a basic salary of £16,234, but a report by the Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC) has recommended an increase of 16.5 per cent – to £18,916. Under the plan, the total remuneration budget would increase by 24 per cent, or £5.5 million. The committee has told the Scottish Government the increase should be given to reflect growing workloads. Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis said: “Surely, they cannot be serious. There shouldn\\\’t be any change to councillors\\\’ pay and allowances.” (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 7, Telegraph page 6, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 12, Daily Express page 15) 



Weather conditions: The warmer spring weather will be replaced by an icy blast over the coming days, with winter set to return to Scotland. Travellers are set for disruption, as up to 20cm of snow is forecast for the Central Belt. The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings across the whole of Scotland for the next 48 hours, with predictions of heavy snowfalls across the whole of the country. (Scotsman page 3) 


Languages: Language skills in Scotland are poor and have to be improved if young people are to compete with their European counterparts in the future, a new report has warned. A European survey showed that at least 60% of secondary school pupils study at least two foreign languages and, among the adult population, 28% speak at least two foreign languages.  The figures show that in countries such as the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, all pupils are learning two or more languages. The figure for the UK is just above 6% – and 51% are not learning any foreign language. (Herald page 10) 


Spending plans: Doctors have called for greater involvement in decision-making in the NHS, allowing them to help choose the services their patients access. Yesterday delegates at the British Medical Association conference in Clydebank backed calls to “explore models of GP commissioning of health care for Scotland”. (Scotsman page 14)