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Reform Scotland News: 1 June 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

Supreme Court: Alex Salmond has called for the forthcoming Scotland Bill to be changed to stop the UK Supreme Court having the final word in Scottish criminal cases. The First Minister said the current situation “must not be allowed to continue” after the London-based court ruled last week that Nat Fraser’s conviction for the murder of his estranged wife Arlene should be quashed on human rights grounds. The decision prompted an angry reaction from SNP ministers. Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill reportedly claimed the Supreme Court judges’ knowledge of Scottish law was limited to what they might pick up on a trip to the Edinburgh Festival. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 1, Times page 5, Press and Journal page 10, Sun page 3)

 

Tax powers: The Scottish Government would face a cut of up to £1.5 billion in its block grant from Westminster if the country was to gain power over corporation tax, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has warned.  Alex Salmond wants control over the levy to help generate growth in the economy. Northern Ireland is the first devolved administration in line to receive the power to compete with the Irish Republic, which has a rate of 12.5 per cent compared with the 26 per cent blanket UK rate. But, after a trilateral meeting in Edinburgh yesterday of the heads of the devolved governments, Mr Robinson said that his country was a “special case”. (Scotsman page 13, Telegraph page 1, Times page 5, Daily Mail page 10)

 

Tourism quangos: Tourism and leisure quangos such as VisitScotland, EventScotland and Scotland Food and Drink should be privatised and brought together to create “Marketing Scotland plc”, a former chairman of the tourism body has claimed. Peter Lederer warned that Scotland needs to take responsibility for its own image and not rely so heavily on government input. (Scotsman page 14)

 

Labour resignation: Senior Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm has quit the shadow cabinet in a rift with the party leadership, just days after being after being handed the job.  Mr Chisholm resigned as shadow education secretary after claiming Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray had blocked him from standing as convener of Holyrood’s health committee. (Scotsman page 17, Herald page 6)

 

Economy

Jobs boost: Projects intended to create or safeguard 7160 jobs in Scotland were backed with £52.2 million of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) grants in the year to March.

This represented a much bigger promised jobs impact than in the 2009/10 financial year, when RSA grants totalling £53.4m were pledged by taxpayer-funded economic development agency Scottish Enterprise to support the creation or safeguarding of 5338 jobs.

Scottish Enterprise’s latest annual report on RSA, published yesterday, shows that this much-greater jobs impact has been fuelled by big inward investment projects by foreign-owned companies. US computer giant Hewlett-Packard and online retailer Amazon were among overseas firms to accept grants for big inward investment projects in Scotland during 2010/11. (Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 17)

 

 

 

Transport

Edinburgh Trams: Edinburgh’s tram project has been thrown into further disruption after it emerged four senior figures overseeing the scheme are quitting. The directors of tram company Tie are expected to leave shortly after the departure of chief executive Richard Jeffrey next week, following prolonged criticism of its stewardship of the project.  Council chiefs are now set to take full responsibility for the project, which is facing a £200 million funding black hole and increasing calls for it to be scrapped. (Scotsman page 9)

 

Education

Rural schools: The Scottish Government is demanding a year-long moratorium on the closure of rural schools. Education Secretary Michael Russell has written to council leaders calling for a halt to all current and pending closure consultations until June next year.

He has also announced the setting up of a Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education, which will look at how closure proposals are being dealt with under current legislation. (Herald page 5, Comment page 16, Press and Journal page 13)

 

Health

Cancer scare: Using a mobile phone may increase the risk of developing brain cancer, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation. In a detailed study into the health effects of mobile phone use, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said a “causal link” had been established between radiomagnetic fields and an aggressive form of malignant brain tumour called gloom. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 3, Telegraph page 5, Daily Mail page 1, Guardian page 4)

 

Patient waiting times: Patients in Scotland will not wait longer than 18 weeks for treatment after being referred by their GP, pledged the health secretary. Nicola Sturgeon said figures showed that 85 per cent of patients were already being seen within this target as she vowed that this would cover all patients by December. But the battle to bring down waiting times still lags behind the NHS in England, where the 18-week target was introduced much earlier and where almost 90 per cent of patients are treated within that time. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 9)