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Reform Scotland News: 13 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

Trainee teachers: SNP’s education secretary Michael Russell’s pledge to guarantee all trainee teachers a job has been dismissed as a “pipe dream” by a teaching union leader. Jim Docherty, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association has said there is “no mechanism” to force local authorities to give all trainee teachers jobs as the government was “not the employer”. Political opponents have also criticised the scheme (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 13).

 

Green transport: Alex Salmond has pledged £50 million for improving green transport id the SNP are re-elected. (Scotsman page 17)

 

Cancer campaign: Labour have launched an online campaign urging voters to back its plan for the right to see a cancer specialist and get results in under two weeks; this policy initiative follows a poll that showed cutting cancer waiting times was a top priority of many voters in the Holyrood election. (Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 13, Daily Express page 2)

 

Liberal Democrat rural campaign: Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has set out his party’s plans to boost the farming industry, pledging support for producers, the spread of superfast-broadband in the countryside, and keeping Scotland’s forests under public ownership (Scotsman page 16, Press and Journal page 13, Daily Express page 2).

 

Conservatives Campaign: The Scottish conservatives have called for a package of measures to cut drug abuse in prison, which they stress would improve rehabilitation and reduce recidivism (Scotsman page 17, Press and Journal page 13).

 

Edinburgh Hustings: The party leaders took part in a hustings in Edinburgh, organised by the Federation of Small Businesses yesterday. When asked what they would do to encourage banks to lend Iain Gray and Alex Salmond said that they would put political pressure on the banks to start lending again as the Scottish Parliament had no major powers in this area; Tavish Scott highlighted his manifesto pledge to create a network of regional banks that would lend to small businesses directly; and Annabel Goldie said there was a need to readdress how banks are structured, and ways of introducing more competition into the market. (Scotsman page 17, Press and Journal page 13). The leaders’ debate also saw a fiery exchange between the Labour and SNP leaders, with Mr. Salmond criticising the underlying premise of Labours plans to “create 250,000 jobs” (Daily Telegraph page 1)

 

Economy

Paying for Retirement: A survey of 1055 people by the insurer Prudential found 38% of people who had previously planned to retire have rethought their decision. The survey also showed 22% of people responded they were unable to afford to stop working, which has increased from 15% this time last year. The survey suggested most people now think they will retire at 68 rather than 62. (Herald page 13, Daily Express page 1)

 

Justice

Moussa Koussa: Families of the Lockerbie bombing have raised concern at the release of Libyan defector Moussa Koussa, claiming he had “played” ministers. The decision to grant the former intelligence officer free passage from the UK led to claims that questioning by the Crown Office and Scottish police had failed to establish any “evidential link” between Mr. Koussa and the Lockerbie bombing. First Minister Alex Salmond has said that while the Scottish prosecuting authorities had no control over his movements, he was under the understanding that they would be able to have access to him in the future if required. (Scotsman page 1, Daily Mail page 7, Courier page 10, Press and Journal page 11, Daily Express page 7).

 

Edinburgh housing scandal: Council chiefs in Edinburgh are investigating claims a contractor was given access to a computer system to help it outbid rivals for millions of pounds worth of housing repair contracts. A fraud probe into the council’s property services has so far uncovered allegations that at least one senior official disclosed a database password to a contractor illegally. The 10-month probe has already led to the suspension of 6 staff and has been widened to look into claims that home-owners have been billed for work that was not actually done. (Scotsman page 3)

 

Asbestos campaign: A campaign to overturn a piece of Scots law that allows industrial workers to claim compensation for asbestos-linked medical conditions was condemned last night by Frank Maguire, a senior partner in Thompsons law firm in Glasgow.  He said legislation protecting the rights of former employees suffering from pleural plaques, scarring of the lungs, following asbestos-exposure must be respected. Currently more than 1000 Scots workers are claiming against their former employees, coming mostly from shipbuilding, construction or engineering. The Court of Session threw out a second appeal by the insurance industry, which claims that pleural plaques should not be compensated as they produce no symptoms; the Association of British Insurers vowed to take the matter to the Supreme Court (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 5, Daily Telegraph page 6, Press and Journal page 9, Daily Express page 19).

 

Education

Cuts to Culture: Strathclyde University, one of Scotland’s leading universities, is planning to close its theatre and art gallery, and abolish its post of music director as part of its cuts to its cultural activity. Internal documents reveal that for the year 2009-10 these activities cost £344,185 in salaries and expenses, and the income sources necessary to keep open the Ramshorn Theatre and Collins Gallery were “speculative at best”. The university will instead put in place a new Cultural Affairs Strategy in 2011/12 worth £100,000 (Herald page 1)

 

Health

Iodine in the Diet: New research has shown that Scottish mothers are risking the mental development of future generations by failing to include sufficient iodine in their diet. The study, conducted by Dr Mark Vanderpump of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, examined 700 schoolgirls across Britain and found that more than two-thirds were deficient in iodine. The researchers suggest iodine be added to salt, as is the case in other countries (Herald page 3).