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Reform Scotland News: 26 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

Scottish Labour: Labour leader Iain Gray has admitted he is on the back foot and the SNP has a “real chance” of forming the next Scottish government. Relaunching his party’s election campaign yesterday; Mr Gray switched focus from attacks on the Tories at Westminster to attacking the Nationalists at Holyrood. With just over a week to go to the Scottish Parliament election, he warned of the threat to the United Kingdom if Alex Salmond led the SNP to victory. Mr Gray told party members and supporters in Glasgow that Mr Salmond believed a second term in government would give him the “moral authority” to pursue independence. (Scotsman page 2, Opinion page 28, Herald page 1, page 6, Times page 8, Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane page 11, Press and Journal page 11, Daily Mail page 1)

 

SNP council tax freeze: The majority of Scottish voters back the SNP’s flagship policy of extending the council tax freeze, the latest Scotsman/YouGov poll has revealed. Scots also favour introducing a local income tax – but only at a level that would not raise enough money to replace the funds which go to council coffers from the council tax, the survey shows. The results, which will be a further boost to Alex Salmond’s campaign to remain First Minister, come as Labour leader Iain Gray yesterday sought to put a series of poor polls behind him by launching a fierce attack on the SNP’s plans for independence. (Scotsman page 1, Opinion page 29)

 

SNP backers: One of Aberdeen’s top businessmen has announced he is backing the SNP and First Minister Alex Salmond to win a second term. Aberdeen Asset Management Chief Executive Martin Gilbert said the SNP have “impressed” him since winning power in 2007. Last night, Mr Salmond said the endorsement has handed the SNP the “momentum” with just 10 days to go before the polling stations open. Mr Gilbert, 55, who also sits on the board of FirstGroup and Aberdeen Football Club, said: “I am pretty pragmatic when it comes to who runs the country where I live and started my career and have a simple view – I want to see policies in action that create a more financially responsible and stronger Scotland.” (Press and Journal page 1, Daily Express page 4)

 

Gay marriage: Alex Salmond has declared his personal support for gay marriage for the first time, in a move which risks alienating religious voters ahead of the election, including the SNP’s biggest donor. The First Minister reportedly said he was in favour of same-sex couples being allowed to wed in church, but opposed denominations being forced to allow such ceremonies. (Herald page 6)

 

Politics

Royal Mail: A Royal Mail worker has been suspended after thousands of packages were deliberately held back from addresses in Scotland. The postman, based at the Edinburgh West Delivery Office, is understood to have left his job when officials launched the probe into his conduct. The Royal Mail’s internal security department will prepare a dossier for the Procurator Fiscal and the worker could face charges. Around 4,000 letters and parcels are now being delivered to addresses, while the Royal Mail yesterday issued an apology for the latest case, saying: “Royal Mail has a zero tolerance approach to any dishonesty and that stance is shared by the overwhelming majority of postmen and women, who are honest and hardworking and who do all they can to protect the mail and deliver it safely.” (Herald page 15)

 

Economy

Royal Wedding tourism boost: Scotland’s tourism body has revealed details of a raft of measures designed to promote Scotland as the country where the royal courtship began.

But while VisitScotland’s campaign has included news coverage on main news channels in places such as the United States, Canada and Australia, and is targeting more than a million people by direct marketing, it has emerged that Scotland’s most successful royal wedding event, to be broadcast worldwide, has been organised by a group of volunteers in St Andrews. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 10)

 

Sick days: Scotland’s absenteeism from work through illness is costing the country at least £2.8 billion a year, a new study has shown. Research has found that employees in the UK take an average of 10 days’ unscheduled leave each year – nearly twice the rate in the United States and more than double the figure for east Asia. Disenchantment at work and a lack of “hunger” among UK workers could help explain the disparity, according to professional services firm PwC. (Herald page 2)

 

Local Government

Scotland’s streets: Councils have paid out millions of pounds in recent years to members of the public who have fallen over on Scotland’s streets. The compensation payments totalled about £3.2 million over the past five years and range from £721,000 in South Lanarkshire to about £17,000 in Orkney. The figures include a payout of £1,700 to one man who fell off his bike in Inverclyde. The same council paid out £4,500 to another member of the public who fell on “uneven cobbles” at the edge of a road. (Scotsman page 12)

 

Patronage payments: A controversial system of “patronage” payments for councillors at Scotland’s largest local authority has come in for renewed criticism amid cross-party moves for a fresh allocation of lucrative posts on outside bodies. Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson has come under fire as the organisation continues to pay councillors for sitting on the boards of arm’s-length external organisations – Aleos – which carry salaries of several thousand pounds each. The move comes despite pledges to crack down on a system under which some councillors with little experience earn up to nearly £20,000 on top of a basic £18,000 a year salary. It costs the council more than £200,000 a year to have its councillors involved in bodies which carry out work the authority did itself. (Herald page 5)