Reform Scotland News: 6 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

SNP campaign: The SNP are attempting to make RAF base closures and the threat to famous Scottish cap badges in the Royal Regiment of Scotland an issue in the campaign for re-election, putting forward Falklands veteran and current transport minister Keith Brown to lead the charge against defence spending cuts. The coalition in Westminster has responded to the opposition to defence cuts saying they were forced into action by a £38m funding shortfall left over from the last Labour government. The SNP have claimed there is an underinvestment in Scottish defence, with national cuts falling disproportionately on Scottish forces. (Scotsman page 6)


Liberal Democrat campaign: The Scottish Liberal Democrats have unveiled plans to turn publicly owned Scottish Water into a ‘public benefit corporation’ and use the estimated £1.5bn proceeds, from freed up debt-servicing, to create 100,000 new jobs. Other proposals include using £500bn to set up a new network of regional banks, £250m each to cover early intervention, energy saving, digital economy and a “science nation fund” (Scotsman page 12, Press and Journal page 9, Herald page 6).


However, the Lib Dems plans have been criticised by the SNP after the Treasury refused to confirm whether Scottish ministers would receive any of the funds released from the change to the ownership of the debt.  Scottish universities have also dismissed their plans to fund higher education without introducing a graduate contribution (Daily Telegraph page 9, Courier page 11, Daily Express page 2, Times page 7, Daily Record page 2, Scotsman page 12).


Labour campaign: Scottish Labour have today promised to hand more than £100m of education funding directly to head-teachers if the party wins the re-election; (Scotsman page 13). However, they have suffered a similar publicity blow to the Liberal Democrats, with Dundee actor Brian Cox shifting his support from Labour to the SNP (Courier page 1). Labour leader Iain Gray has also refused to promise extra funding for Edinburgh’s tram construction, calling the project a “shambles” (Daily Mail page 19).


Conservatives Campaign: Scottish Conservatives have announced they want to introduce locally elected commissioners to replace police boards, and have police publish detailed monthly crime figures in an effort to give “people democratic control of the police”. (Courier page 11)



Census Scotland: One in three households in Scotland has so far failed to respond to the census, amounting to 700,000 households who could face a £1,000 fine. 6,000 temporary staff are standing by to visit householders over the next two weeks to help them complete the forms (Daily Express page 10)



“Worst off Wednesday”: Financial analysts are warning that the tax and benefit changes that come into force today will result in the average Scottish household being £750 worse off by the end of the financial year when combined with January’s VAT increase. The changes will have the most impact on middle earners with children, resulting in 80,000 more Scots being moved into the 40% tax band (Scotsman page 1, Daily Express page 1, Daily Mail page 2).


Local Government

Council phone bill: New figures have revealed Scotland’s councils have spent more than £14million in the past three years on mobile phones for more than 56,000 staff members and elected councillors, with more than one-fifth of the total council workforce being given tax-payer funded phones. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 11, Press and Journal page 7, Daily Express page 6, Daily Mail page 8).


Bailiff bullies: Edinburgh and Glasgow have topped a UK table of councils using bailiffs to collect debts such as unpaid council tax and parking, calling in bailiffs or sheriff officers more than 50,000 times more in the last three years than Birmingham, who ranked third in the table. Edinburgh City Council registered 287,315 caseloads since 2008, while Glasgow registered 281,718 (Scotsman page 17, Daily Telegraph page 2, Press and Journal page 7, Daily Mail page 20, Sun page 8)



Scotland’s roads: New figures show Scotland’s councils have paid out £3million to motorists in the last five years for damaged cars and injuries caused by potholes, with a total of 15,927 claims. A spokesman for Glasgow city council, with the single highest value of payouts in that time, has said the road maintenance budget has been tripled for next year to combat the problem. An Audit Scotland report released earlier this year revealed that more than a third of Scotland’s roads are in ‘unacceptable condition’, estimating future generations will face a £2.25billion bill to fix the 12,800 miles of damaged road. (Herald page 11, Press and Journal page 7, Daily Express page 6, Daily Mail page 12).  



Skin Cancer rates: Rates of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are higher in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK and have more than tripled among those aged 15-34 since the late 1970s. The study by Cancer Research UK found there were 8.2 cases per 100,000 people compared with just 2.2 three decades ago, whereas the UK  average was 5.9 cases per 100,000, compared with 1.8 in the 1970s (Scotsman page 19).