Reform Scotland News: 16 May 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.



Independence Lite Backlash: The backlash against the SNP’s plans for a watered-down form of Scottish independence has begun, with activists criticising Alex Salmond’s party for failing to fight for a complete break from the rest of the UK. The first signs of discontent came as it emerged that the SNP is pursuing an “independence-lite” constitutional settlement that could see Scotland sharing defence, social security and foreign policy with England. A prominent SNP supporter told Scotland on Sunday that independence-lite was a “silly fudge” that showed a “failure of ambition” at a time when the SNP was perfectly placed to push for full independence.  (Daily Telegraph page 1, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 7, Times page 13, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Times page 1, Scotsman page page 1 )


Lockerbie Files: New laws to allow the publication of Lockerbie files are to be brought in by the SNP. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was jailed for life for the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which exploded in the skies above the Scottish town, killing 270 people. The SNP reportedly wants to change the law to allow the publication of papers from the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which said there were six grounds where it believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.  (Press and Journal page 7, Courier page 10, Scotsman page 5, Herald page)



Joblessness: Areas of Scotland have overtaken inner London boroughs to become the UK’s worst employment blackspots, according to a study. The TUC said West Dunbartonshire was the worst place to find a job, with more than 40 people chasing every vacancy, compared with a national average of six. The number of dole claimants per vacancy had quadrupled since 2005, said the TUC, adding that new employment blackspots had emerged since the recession.  (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 8 )



Tram Scheme: The tram scheme in Edinburgh could be scrapped within weeks if questions on funding are not resolved soon, the boss of the city council has admitted.  Sue Bruce has said in an email to “key stakeholders” that the tram network would not be financial viable unless it ran as far as St Andrew Square, in the city centre. If it did not, she raised the possibility that it may be cancelled. (Daily Telegraph page 6, Times page 11, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Herald page 2)



Tuition Fees: One-quarter of Scots would like to study part-time at university but are put off by tuition fees, according to a  poll out today. The figure rose among unemployed people polled, with 73% of those saying the cost of studying part-time stopped them applying for courses that would help them back into work. “Access to higher education should be based on the ability to learn but many part-time students continue to have to pay tuition fees,” said Dr James Miller, director of the Open University in Scotland, which commissioned the MORI poll. (Herald page10, Press and Journal page 3, Courier page 9)


Holyrood Trade: Edinburgh University has earned an estimated half a million pounds selling internships at the Scottish Parliament at £5,560 a head, it was confirmed last night. The prized places have been snapped up by students from a number of exclusive American universities, going back to the start of devolution. It has been confirmed that the students receive no pay for their time working in the Parliament, where they are allocated to MSPs from a range of parties. A university spokesperson said last night: “The period which students spend in Parliament is an integrated, supported and assessed part of the wider internship programme. Our students are properly trained and informed to work with MSPs.”   (Scotland on Sunday page 3, Times page 11, Sunday Herald page 4)


Cox on Tuition Fees: Hollywood film star and Dundee University rector Brian Cox has urged the new Scottish Government to take immediate action on the issue of tuition fees. The actor, who opposes the introduction of a graduate contribution, said “any delay” in addressing the matter could result in the “erosion” of the country’s standards which he believes are the “envy of the world”. Press and Journal page 3, Herald page 7)


Teachers’ Union: A second teaching union has voted to take strike action in a growing row over changes to pay and conditions in Scotland. Members of the NASUWT union unanimously agreed to reject the changes proposed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) and the Scottish Government which included a two-year pay freeze as part of a £45 million package of cuts. Their move came a day after teachers in the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, which represents a third of secondary teachers, also backed strike action.  (Herald page 9, Scotsman page 10)



Depression linked to Gene:  A gene that could be linked to depression is being tracked by scientists, who hope the discovery will help in the future treatments of the illness.  Researchers said they have good evidence that genetic variations on a particular chromosome could be a strong factor in the development of the mood disorder. (Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 8)