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Reform Scotland News: 18 July 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

Met chief resigns: Britain’s most senior police officer, Sir Paul Stephenson, has resigned from his role as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The announcement came last night amid allegations over Sir Paul’s relationship with former News of The World deputy editor Neil Wallis. Sir Paul cited these allegations in explaining his decision to resign, but insisted that ‘he would not lose sleep over’ his personal integrity. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Press and Journal page 1)

 

Hacking scandal: Labour has published a list of 25 questions put to the SNP about the latter’s links with News International. The list includes a question as to when the First Minister last met News International chairman James Murdoch, and a question concerning the amount spent by the SNP on advertising with the company in the past 4 years. (Press and Journal page 5, Sunday Herald page 1, Sunday Times page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Iain Gray: Iain Gray announced immediately after May’s election that he would stand down “in the autumn” in light of his defeat by the SNP. However, delays in the replacement process mean any leadership contest is difficult this year, and if, as expected, the Scottish party decides to beef up the role of the Holyrood leader, that would delay the contest until next spring. The hold-ups are reportedly exasperating some in the party, who feel the First Minister and the SNP are escaping proper scrutiny and building up momentum for an independence referendum. The timetable problems have arisen as a result of soul-searching into why Labour suffered its worst defeat for 80 years north of the Border, when its MSPs fell from 46 to 37, while the SNP added 22 to rack up Holyrood’s first overall majority. (Sunday Herald page 2)

Military bases: The RAF bases at Leuchars and Kinloss are to be converted into army barracks, leaving RAF Lossiemouth as the last remaining RAF base in Scotland. Opinion is divided as to what these developments signal for the future, with SNP spokesmen claiming that the UK government are preparing to make ‘massive and disproportionate cuts’ to the RAF in Scotland. On the other hand, news that RAF Kinloss is not to be closed but instead has a future as an army barracks may alleviate the concerns of communities in Moray which rely heavily on defence spending. Further details are to be set out today by Defence Secretary Liam Fox. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 1, Daily Record page 2)

 

Referendum: SNP MP Angus Macneil has said that the referendum on independence will be the ‘gold standard’ in transparency and procedural terms. Mr Macneil said that the vote would be conducted in accordance with the highest international electoral standards and that a regulator, accountable to Holyrood, should undertake a supervisory role. Mr Macneil’s comments come after Conservative Scotland Office Minister David Mundell suggested that the Westminster government might legislate for the Electoral Commission to run the referendum. (Herald, page 6)

 

Economy

Economic growth: Growth in the Scottish job market slowed last month, an RBS report on jobs reveals. The report is the latest piece in a growing body of evidence suggesting reduced growth in the second quarter of the year. However, figures show that this is the 3rd consecutive quarter in which the Scottish jobs market has outperformed the UK as a whole. (Scotsman page 34)

 

Female unemployment figures: The effect of the economic downturn on women continues to be ‘disproportionate’, according to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC). Figures reveal that the number of women claiming unemployment benefit in Scotland has risen nearly 20% over the year to June, from 18% over the year to April. The figures appear against a backdrop of general decline in unemployment to the lowest rate since 2009. (Herald page 11)

 

Absenteeism: A PwC survey has revealed that over 50% of Scottish workers have taken at least one sick day in the past year because they are disillusioned with their job. Two-thirds of the sample admitted to lying to their employer as to why they were absent. Isabel McGarvie, a partner at PwC in Scotland, said that it is estimated that absenteeism costs British business around £32 billion a year. (Scotsman page 19)

 

Growing confidence in the economy: Lloyds has observed a 29% increase in the value of long-term deposits by Scotland’s largest companies, indicating increased confidence in the economic outlook and a desire to further invest in their operations in Scotland. The bank notes that foreign companies with Scottish subsidiaries are also accumulating substantial cash deposits in the country, suggesting that they are also looking at further investment. (Scotsman page 33)

 

Local Government

Edinburgh tram project: Edinburgh’s city council has been criticised for its decision to employ a £3,000-a-day consultant to mediate between itself and the constructors of the Edinburgh tram project. Michael Shane was brought in to broker a deal between the builders and the council so that work on the scheme could restart, and was paid nearly £15,000 for 5 days’ work. John Campbell QC, who had been counsel to the inquiry into the building of the Scottish Parliament, had offered to mediate for nothing. Officials announced that the talks had been successful and that the modified St Andrew Square proposal is expected to be confirmed in August. (Scotsman page 15)

 

Education

Higher education funding: There is growing uncertainty as to the level of financial support which Scottish students studying in England can expect to receive from the Scottish government. The SNP administration has yet to reveal the details of its plans for domiciled Scottish students who choose to study south of the border, and the concern is that members of this category could face fees up to £9,000. Currently, around 8500 Scottish students study in England, with 600 at Oxbridge. A spokesman for the Scottish government said that its ‘main priority has to be to protect opportunities for Scottish students to study at Scottish institutions. Scottish students studying in England will continue to receive support in the form of bursaries and loans.’ (Herald page 8)

 

Health

Cancer rates: According to Cancer Research UK, cancer rates among women in Scotland aged 40-59 have risen by more than 25% over the last 30 years. This statistic represents an increase of 974 in the number of diagnoses per year. According to health officials, the increase is in part due to the NHS breast screening programme. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 2)

 

Hospital standards: NHS Grampian has admitted that 30 of its 89 hospital buildings are not in a ‘satisfactory’ condition. Even more may not meet legally required standards for fire safety, access for the disabled, asbestos and control of legionella. NHS Grampian refused to disclose the locations where renovations were needed but a freedom of information request by the Press and Journal has led to disclosure of the full list. The ‘maintenance backlog’ faced by the health board is thought to equate to £169m of repairs. (Press and Journal page 7)

 

Consultant bonuses: Liberal Democrat figures show that the Scottish Government has spent £105m on NHS consultant bonuses since 2007. (Scotsman page 15)