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Reform Scotland News: 1 April 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.

 

Scottish Election

Coalition: A coalition between the SNP and Labour after the election was branded “incredibly unlikely” by First Minister Alex Salmond last night. The SNP leader faced those of the other main parties in a campaign during a hustings event in Edinburgh last night. Nuclear power, North Sea tax revenues and local income tax were among the issues that came to the fore as they each made their pitch for the 5 May election. (Scotsman page 4, Comment page 38)

 

Local income tax: First Minister Alex Salmond reportedly went to Scotland’s highest court twice at the taxpayers’ expense to keep secret the financial implications of plans to introduce a local income tax. Mr Salmond last night insisted his party’s controversial income tax policy would be implemented if he wins the election. The SNP leader said he still favoured the introduction of a local income tax set at three pence in the pound, despite a growing furore over his aborted attempts to introduce it in the last parliament. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 7, Press and Journal page 11, The Times page 8, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Record page 2)

 

SNP: Alex Salmond yesterday vowed that a further £1 billion would be put into the Scottish NHS if the SNP are re-elected in May. (Scottish Daily Express page 10)

 

Politics

Retiring MSPs: George Kerevan writes in the Scotsman on the 20 MSPs who are retiring from Holyrood. They include former First Minister Jack McConnell, two other former party leaders, Labour’s Wendy Alexander and the Lib Dem Nicol Stephen. Other big names leaving are Jim Mather, the SNP enterprise minister, and Robin Harper of the Greens.

 

Jim Devine: The descent of Jim Devine from Member of Parliament to common criminal reached a conclusion yesterday when he was jailed for 16 months for fiddling his expenses. Mr Devine, the former Labour MP for Livingston, was branded a liar by a judge as he was sentenced for submitting false invoices totalling £8,385 between 2008 and 2009. The 57-year-old, who is now bankrupt, became the third MP to be jailed in the wake of the expenses scandal. (Scotsman page 3, Herald page 7, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 6, The Times page 9, The Daily Telegraph page 6, Scottish Daily Mail page 11, Daily Express page 4)

 

Economy

150 new jobs in Glasgow: New budget airline Jet2.com operated their first flights from Glasgow yesterday, which has created 150 new jobs for the city.  (The Times page 21, Scottish Daily Mail page 19)

 

North Sea tax backlash: UK Ministers have indicated they are willing to compromise with oil companies over their surprise tax hike on North Sea profits by agreeing to look again at the $75-a-barrel threshold. Ministers have reportedly agreed in principle to consider raising the threshold to above $75 as the point at which the 12 per cent rise on taxed profits is withdrawn. The offer came at a tense meeting with representatives of the oil and gas sector with Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and junior Treasury minister Justine Greening. The move came after a string of firms, led by the Norwegian giant Statoil, put their plans for North Sea exploration on hold, in the light of last week’s Budget announcement threatening the future of hundreds of jobs and billions in investment. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 6)

 

Local Government

Glasgow Council chief: A senior council official has come under fire for accepting regular gifts and hospitality when hundreds of staff within his department are being made redundant. Robert Booth, the £130,000-a-year head of Glasgow City Council’s roads, parks and environmental health department, enjoyed regular free concerts at the SECC and Hampden, trips to Ibrox and Murrayfield and dinner with a firm employed to undermine industrial action. A spokesman said: “There are a variety of reasons why it would be appropriate for a senior officer to accept hospitality. In every case, Mr Booth and Mr Gillespie acted appropriately and within the rules. “Robert Booth has done everything that could be asked of a senior official to make the council aware of these matters and to ensure no conflict of interest arises. The council is entirely comfortable with the situation.” (Herald page 9)

 

Edinburgh City Council staff: Five council staff from the property conservation team have been suspended over a police inquiry into an alleged housing repair fraud (Scottish Daily Express page 17)

 

Justice

Lockerbie: Scottish prosecuting officials have requested to interview the defected Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, over the Lockerbie bombing.  David Cameron, the Prime Minister stated that the police would be allowed to question him over the attack on PamAm Flight 103, in December 1998 which led to the death of 270 people.  However Whitehall officials have noted that Moussa Koussa is not a “prime suspect.” (The Times Page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 1)

 

In related news, it emerged yesterday that Moussa Koussa visited Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, while he was serving his life sentence in Greenock prison in 2009.  Official documents show that that Mr. Koussa has claimed that if al-Megrahi was left to die in prison it would “not be good for relations” between the UK and Libya.  (The Times page 13).

 

Prisoners’ right to vote: Convicted murderer, George McGeoch, has petitioned to the highest court in Scotland to gain the right to vote at the May 5th elections.  Mr. McGeoch claims that the UK Government’s opposition to giving convicts the vote does not comply with EU Law. (The Times page 5, The Daily Telegraph page 4, Daily Record page 2, Daily Express page 7)

 

SFA demand apology: The Scottish Football Association has demanded an apology from its Brazilian counterpart over allegations by Brazil striker Neymar that the Tartan Army subjected him to racial abuse. The footballer, 19, sparked controversy by making the claim after a banana was thrown on to the pitch as he celebrated one of his two goals against Scotland in Sunday’s 2-0 friendly win at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. An investigation by the club and the Metropolitan Police found that a German student seated among the Brazilian supporters was responsible, and that it was not a racial incident. (Herald page 1, Press and Journal page 7)

 

Education

University dropout rates: New figures that have been released by the Higher Education Statistic Authority show that Scotland has the worst dropout rates in the UK. Scotland also has the lowest rates of students from state schools going to University. n(The Times page 8, The Daily Telegraph page 4, Scottish Daily Mail page 10, Scottish Daily Express page 17)

 

Protests at Adam Smith College: There have been protests over plans to scrap theatre courses at Adam Smith College in Fife, as they plan to concentrate on “growth areas” such as business. (The Times page 21, Daily Record page 39)

 

University Fees: University chiefs last night ambushed Alex Salmond, Iain Gray and Tavish Scott and criticised their plans to provide free higher education for Scots as unrealistic and “not credible”. The SNP, Labour and Lib Dem leaders were confronted by two of Scotland’s most eminent academic figures when they went head to head in a leaders’ debate. The calculations used by the three parties to support their controversial plans were disputed by university principals among the invited audience, who saw a stormy encounter between the leaders of the four main political parties. (Scotsman page 1, Gavin McCrone page 40)

 

Less well-off students: Scottish universities have the worst record on widening access in the UK – and the situation is getting worse. New figures show just over one-quarter of those studying in Scotland come from the lowest socio-economic classes – well below the UK average of 30% and the lowest figure since 2002. Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) also show Scottish universities have the worst drop-out rates in the UK. The Hesa figures show some 3000 students who went to university in 2008/09 have now dropped out – 9.3% of the total compared to a UK average rate of 7.9%. NUS Scotland said the lack of progress demanded a much tougher stance from the Scottish Government. (Herald page 5, Press and Journal page 6)

 

Health

Eating disorders: Children as young as six are developing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, according to a new report which calls for urgent action to improve detection among young people. The previous belief that eating disorders were linked to the onset of puberty has been overthrown by the study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry that reveals that three in every 100,000 children under 13 in Britain have some sort of eating disorder. Experts from University College London’s Institute of Child Health have, for the first time, carried out extensive research into the prevalence of eating disorders among those aged five to 13. Using more than 3,000 contacts, including hospital, university and community consultant paediatricians and psychiatrists, the team was able to build up a picture of disordered eating in the very young. (Scotsman page 27)