Reform Scotland News: 27 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 Elections

Tavish Scott: The Conservatives would have “burned Scotland at the stake” if they had entered government last year on their own, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has reportedly claimed. Mr Scott’s comments are among the most provocative made by a senior Lib Dem figure against the Conservatives since the coalition was formed last May.  It comes with the Scottish Lib Dems seeking to distance themselves further from the Tories as they seek to shore up their support ahead of next week’s election. (Scotsman page 1, Opinion page 30)


Labour’s knife crime pledge: Scottish voters have offered their backing for a Labour election policy to jail all those convicted of carrying a knife, a Scotsman poll has revealed. The poll, showing over 50 per cent approval for mandatory sentences for knife possession, came on the first day of Labour’s renewed fight, which saw Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls drafted in to Scotland to help Labour’s campaign. (Scotsman page 6, Opinion page 29, Press and Journal page 13, Daily Record page 6)


Council salary system: Finance Secretary John Swinney has confirmed he will use legislation to end the controversial system of payments to Glasgow councillors sitting on the boards of hived-off bodies if the SNP is re-elected next month. Mr Swinney said secondary legislation would be used to bring the appointments and payments into line with the Local Governance (Scotland) Act, warning that as the city council’s Labour administration has failed to act on recommendations to scrap the Aleo (arm’s-length external organisations) payments a new SNP government would “take what action is necessary”. (Herald page 2, Courier page 1)


SNP green energy target: Alex Salmond yesterday swept aside criticism and insisted Scotland can generate 100% of the electricity it needs from green energy sources by 2020 and re-industrialise Scotland on the way. The goal is 130,000 jobs in the renewable and low-carbon energy sector in the next nine years. The First Minister flew to the Nigg Fabrication yard at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth yesterday to unveil the SNP’s vision. He described the yard as “undoubtedly the best deep-water site on the European continent”, which would be crucial in the development of offshore wind, wave and tidal power generation. (Herald page 10, Press and Journal page 13, Daily Mail page 3)


Ed Miliband: UK Labour leader Ed Miliband will make at least one more visit to Scotland before the election but the party insists this should not be seen as an attempt to rescue Scottish leader Iain Gray’s campaign. After the Holyrood campaign relaunch on Monday, which opposition parties claimed was a sign of panic, a source close to Mr Miliband said yesterday: “Things could be better, we accept that. The way the Scottish elections work is there is always an SNP surge but we believe there is still enough time to turn things round.” (Herald page 11)


SSP tax proposals: The Scottish Socialist Party has set out new tax plans it says could redress the balance between rich and poor. Details of a proposed Scottish service tax, to replace the council tax, show that it would bring in an extra £1.5 billion for services while reducing the burden on lower-income households. The plan would exempt anyone earning below £10,000 and would introduce graduated taxation as earnings increased. The next £20,000 would be charged at 4.5%, rising to 20% on income over £100,000 a year. (Herald page 11)


Small farms fund: The Green Party highlighted its plans to boost Scotland’s’ rural economy, including establishing an £80 million annual fund for small farms and crofters. Other pledges include providing broadband in the country and improving rural public transport and infrastructure, and reducing public transport fares. (Herald page 11)



AV: Senior Labour MPs are reportedly appealing to the party’s tribal instincts in relation to the AV referendum, stressing how a Yes vote would deliver a powerful blow to David Cameron’s premiership. Sources close to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader who is strongly backing the Yes campaign, suggested that defeat for the No camp would lead to senior right-wingers seriously questioning the Prime Minister’s judgment in agreeing with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. Yesterday, Lord Mandelson urged Labour supporters to “think strategically” when casting their votes a week tomorrow. (Herald page 10, Daily Record page 2, Daily Mail page 12)


Andrew Marr: The row over “super injunctions” has intensified after BBC journalist Andrew Marr revealed he had used such a court order to hide an extra-marital affair. Glasgow-born Mr Marr faced accusations that he was a hypocrite, silencing the press at the same time as he grilled politicians on their private lives.  The high-profile television personality even admitted he “did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists”. Last night MPs stepped up calls for Parliament to make the law not the courts, amid claims a privacy law was being introduced by the back door. (Herald page 9, Courier page 10, Press and Journal page 6, Daily Mail page 4)


RAF bases: David Cameron has been urged to halt the UK Government’s defence cuts as fears were raised over Britain’s military capability when Foreign Secretary William Hague warned the UK “must prepare for the long haul in Libya”. Campaigners fighting to save RAF bases in Scotland demanded the Prime Minister halt the defence cuts in light of Mr Hague’s remarks and the prospect of an open-ended commitment in Libya. Mike Mulholland of the Save RAF Lossiemouth campaign argued Mr Cameron now had “an ideal opportunity to put things right, or at least to say we are putting things on hold until we see how the world picture develops”. (Herald page 1)


BBC executive positions: Despite paying annual salaries of hundreds of thousands of pounds, Mark Thompson claimed it was “extremely hard” to fill executive roles as the broadcaster tried to cut costs. Mr Thompson is trying to find a new director of television after Jana Bennett left the public service part of the BBC to join BBC Worldwide, its commercially-funded arm.  Miss Bennett’s remuneration in the last financial year was £517,000, but it is understood that the salary on offer to her replacement could be less than £400,000.

Even so, Mr Thompson told a House of Lords committee yesterday that it was “not true” to say there was a “long queue of people” for top positions. “It’s extremely hard now to fill senior jobs in the BBC and increasingly remuneration is a factor,” he insisted. (Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 5)



Parcel bomb: A parcel bomb addressed to an Irish republican group in Glasgow has been intercepted by police investigating the devices sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two high-profile fans of the club. Detectives said the device – discovered in Belfast at the National Returned Letter Centre, where all UK mail which cannot be delivered ends up – is similar in nature to the deadly packages sent to Mr Lennon, his lawyer Paul McBride QC, and former MSP Trish Godman in recent weeks. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Press and Journal page 5, Courier page 6, Daily Record page 1)



University strike: Union members at a Scottish university walked out in a one-day strike against proposed job losses yesterday. The University and College Union (UCU) said the action at the University of Stirling centred on management plans to sack 17 staff at the Institute of Aquaculture. Nearly two thirds of those balloted (64 per cent) supported a strike and about four fifths (83 per cent) backed action short of a strike. Yesterday, about 30 union members manned picket lines before a union meeting at which members agreed to join a national strike on 24 May. They also agreed to survey members on the level of support for action short of a strike. (Scotsman page 10, Press and Journal page 3)



Dental targets: Thousands of primary school children in Scotland are missing out on routine dental checks, a report has revealed. Parents failing to give permission for the examinations and pupils refusing to open their mouths for the dentist were blamed for targets to inspect the teeth of all five and 11-year-olds being missed. Rates of tooth decay among young people are at their lowest levels ever, according to the experts, but the report also showed four health boards including Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire are behind the rest of the country. Andrew Lamb, national director for professional body the British Dental Association in Scotland, said a gulf had opened between the dental health of children from affluent families and those from poorer homes and this was why some regions were lagging behind. (Herald page 5)