Reform Scotland News: 4 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

North Sea: George Osborne’s North Sea windfall tax has put up to £50 billion of investment in oil and gas projects at risk, industry leaders have warned. The scale of the funds that could be lost from the industry over the next five years has been outlined for the first time by Oil and Gas UK, the trade association representing the offshore sector, to highlight the potential impact on the British economy and jobs. The figure sparked a political row yesterday with the SNP and Labour stepping up their attacks on the Conservative/Lib Dem government for introducing the levy. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 8, Courier page 7, Daily Telegraph page 9, Herald page 1)

 

Nuclear Power: The situation with Japanese power stations has failed to turn Scots against nuclear power with more than half still believing that nuclear power should be part of Scotland’s energy mix, a poll for Scotland on Sunday reveals. The findings are a blow to Alex Salmond, who has made a no-nuclear stance a key strand of the SNP election campaign. Iain Gray’s Labour Party has argued that there should not be a presumption against building new nuclear power stations resulting in the issue becoming one of the few policies that divides the two main parties apart from independence. (Scotland on Sunday page 4)

 

SNP Takes Lead: The SNP has overtaken Labour in the race for Holyrood for the first time in the election campaign, according to a new poll for the Sunday Times.  Alex Salmond is now on course to remain as first minister, with the Labour leader’s low profile and lack of popularity emerging as key factors.  (Sunday Times page 1, Times page 13, Courier page 10, Herald page 6, Scotsman page 13)

 

Lib Dems: A second Liberal Democrat candidate has dropped out of the election race, just a week after Hugh O’Donnell quit in protest over his party’s coalition with the Conservative Party in Westminster. Businessman Eddie McDaid withdrew his name from the Central Scotland list days after the departure of Mr O’Donnell, the top candidate on the list. (Scotsman page 12)

 

Labour:  Labour will this week deliver 250,000 leaflets to homes across Scotland revealing the financial impact of Alex Salmond’s local income tax. It emerged at the weekend that the taxpayer has so far been forced to foot a £53,000 legal bill after Mr Salmond twice went to Scotland’s highest civil court to block a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by this newspaper. The SNP leader hopes to dampen down the furore by promising not to replace council tax with a local income tax until 2016, but he plans to start laying down groundwork for the change after this May’s election.  (Daily Telegraph page 9, Herald page 6, Scotsman page 13)

 

 Lockerbie: Foreign Office officials will meet Scottish police and Crown officials tomorrow to discuss questioning Moussa Koussa about the Lockerbie bombing. The Crown Office and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary have said they want to speak to the defector about the UK’s worst ever terrorist atrocity. Last night statements released by the Foreign and Crown offices confirmed that a meeting will take place to discuss the situation. (Scotland on Sunday page 8, Sunday Herald page 4, Times page 1, Press and Journal page 11, Herald page 11)

 

Sickness Benefits: The UK Government has claimed a pilot study carried out in the north-east shows that more than 1million people claiming sickness benefit should be working instead. Aberdeen was selected alongside Burnley in Lancashire as a testing ground for the planned changes to the way incapacity payments are awarded. Almost a third – 32% – of claimants in the two areas were found to be fit for work straight away and transferred to Jobseeker’s Allowance. Employment Minister Chris Grayling claimed the figures showed that half a million people claiming sickness benefits could start work immediately and a further 600,000 could work if given support. (Press and Journal page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1, Scotsman page 1)

 

Local Government

Council Cuts: Despite the threat to front-line services from axed budgets, Scotland’s local authorities and government departments are continuing to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on what could be classed as vanity projects. A Scotland on Sunday survey has discovered that they include a £50,000 clothing sponsorship deal with one of the country’s most successful sportswomen, an £85,000 grant to train young people to work in the Gaelic media, and £10,000 to find out whether people in Fife are happy. (Scotland on Sunday page 9)

 

Education

Teachers: Scotland’s largest teaching union is to ballot its members over proposed changes to pay and working conditions.  The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) urges its members to accept a revised deal from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the Scottish Government. (Courier page 3, Press and Journal page 7, Herald page 5)

 

Health

Pre-eclampsia Test: A simple test for a life-threatening complication in pregnancy has been developed by Scottish researchers, raising hopes it could help thousands of mothers and babies. The researchers at Glasgow University have shown it is possible to identify women at risk of developing pre-eclampsia up to ten weeks earlier than is now the case. (Scotland on Sunday page 7)