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Reform Scotland News: 11 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.

 

Politics

Rape Laws: Scotland’s poor record of securing convictions in rape cases is to be tackled in radical law reforms being proposed by both Scotland’s leading parties. The SNP will unveil its manifesto this week with a keynote pledge to overhaul Scotland’s rape laws with the aim of reversing low rates of convictions. Meanwhile, Labour has revealed that it wants to review the historic requirement under Scots law for corroboration in a rape case, removing the need for two pieces of evidence proving a defendant’s guilt. (Herald page 6, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Iceland: The UK Government is to take legal action against Iceland to try to recoup the billions of pounds lost when the country’s banking system collapsed. Icelanders have voted against a settlement in a referendum which would have seen the £2.3 billion spent by the UK Government compensating savers paid back over a 30-year period, starting in 2016 and finishing in 2046. Scottish councils face a long wait to get back more than £30 million they lost in the crash. (Times page 1, Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 5)

Scottish Elections: The leaders of the four main parties have clashed over local income tax, knife crime and alcohol policy in heated exchanges during a televised hustings. SNP leader Alex Salmond came under pressure from Labour’s Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie of the Conservatives, and Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott over his attempts to fight a Freedom of Information ruling on plans for local income tax. (Herald page 7)

 

Iain Gray: Jailing everyone caught carrying a knife for six months will add 500 inmates to Scotland’s prison population, Labour leader Iain Gray has said. Doubts have been raised over the ability of the prison system to cope with such a crackdown: overcrowding concerns are a regular feature of jail inspection reports and the 8,000-strong prison population is increasing every year. (Scotsman page 6)

 

Unified Police Force: The proposed single Scottish police force would face a £20 million annual VAT bill that would severely reduce any potential savings to be made.  The Scottish Government has calculated that merging all the eight current forces into one would cost £92m to set up but save up to £154m per year. It is holding a public consultation on whether to have three regional forces, covering the north, east and west, or just one for the whole of Scotland. (Scotland on Sunday page 9)

 

Economy

Banking: An interim report into a review of the banking sector is expected to conclude today that allowing Lloyds Banking Group to take over HBOS was a mistake because it left the bank with too much market share. The Independent Commission on Banking (ICB), which is investigating how to stabilise the sector and avoid future bail-outs, could call for banks’ retail arms to be split from their investment arms in a move insiders say would make it cheaper to relocate overseas. Big banks, including HSBC, Barclays, and Standard Chartered, have hinted they could leave London if the ICB suggests measures that drive up the cost of being based in the UK, according to reports yesterday.  (Daily Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, Scotsman page 4-5, Financial Times page 1, Press and Journal page 5)

 

Hotels: Revenue at Scotland’s hotels has remained steady over the past five years and has outperformed all other parts of the UK, an annual study has found. Figures from accountancy firm PKF revealed that, despite the recession, the revenue generated per room fell by just 0.2% from 2006 to 2010. This contrasted with a UK fall of 2.3% and a dip of 2.7% in England. In each of the five years, revenue – known in the industry as “rooms yield” – was highest every year in Scotland compared to the other parts of the UK. (Herald page 9)

 

Education

Tuition Fees: Scotland’s universities could provide a model for the rest of the UK, a contender for the National Union of Students’ presidency has declared. Liam Burns, currently head of NUS Scotland, said the experience north of the Border should show Westminster that “there is an alternative” to up-front charges. The 26-year-old physics graduate, hoping for election at the NUS national conference this week, said Scottish students had “a different outlook” to those facing £9,000 fees in England. (Herald page 9 )

 

Health

NHS: Clinical staff, including doctors and nurses, are accounting for half of NHS job cuts across the UK, it has been claimed. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which is holding its annual conference in Liverpool, said cutting these jobs could have “catastrophic consequences” for patient safety and care. It said some hospitals were shedding hundreds of nurses, while others were downgrading nursing jobs by using less-qualified healthcare assistants instead. The union said it had identified almost 40,000 NHS posts across the UK that faced the axe over the next three years, up from the 27,000 it reported in November.  (Press and Journal page 9, Scotsman page 2, Daily Telegraph page 14, Courier page 3)

 

Organs:  Scottish scientists have succeeded in growing kidneys in a laboratory in a breakthrough that could help tackle the tragic shortage of organs for transplant. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh created the organs by manipulating stem cells – early cells which are the building blocks of the body – to form the structure of a kidney. The scientists then managed to create kidneys which measure just half a centimetre in length – the same size as a kidney in a foetus. They hope the tiny kidneys will be able to grow to maturity after being transplanted into patients’ bodies. (Herald page 3, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Daily Telegraph page 11)