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Reform Scotland News: 25 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

Norway killings: Officers at Scotland Yard are seeking to establish whether Anders Breivik, the mass murderer who bombed Oslo and shot dead scores of victims at a nearby summer camp, was assisted by British accomplices. The search follows the revelation that a 1500-page plan written by the right-wing extremist was signed ‘London 2011’. In the document, Breivik claims to have been recruited at a meeting in London in 2002 hosted by two English extremists. He adds that he was just one of up to 80 European ‘solo martyr cells’ on a ‘crusade’ to overthrow governments tolerant of Islam. Breivik appears today in court in Oslo. (Times page 1, Telegraph page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 1)

 

Army barracks: The construction of the new Scottish ‘super-barracks’ at Kirknewton, announced last week by Defence Secretary Liam Fox, could cost £400 million. It is reported that the sale of the barracks at Dreghorn and Redford and the Craigiehall headquarters will raise £70 million, leaving a considerable funding gap. It is also understood that despite the huge cost the new facility will not include accommodation for married soldiers, who will have to travel each day from army accommodation in Edinburgh.  A retired army colonel has described the plans as ‘ludicrous’. (Scotsman page 11)

 

Energy prices: Escalating energy prices will make the goal of eradicating fuel poverty by 2016 ‘extremely challenging’, according to Infrastructure and Capital Investment Minster Alex Neill. Mr Neill’s comments follow confirmation that 3 of the 6 biggest energy suppliers will increase their prices for electricity and gas. Labour has called for a reversal of the Scottish Government’s decision to cut the fuel poverty budget and has requested the involvement of the Competition Commission to investigate the price hikes. (Scotsman p14)

 

Energy compensation: The Energy and Climate Change select committee at Westminster has called on energy companies to pay compensation to customers who were mis-sold gas and electricity contracts on the doorstep. Energy regulator Ofgem estimates that 40% of people who switch providers do not get a better deal. The chairman of the Committee, Tim Yeo, said: ‘If it turns out consumers are being persuaded to switch contracts when it’s not in their best interests…then it would only be right for the energy companies to cough up compensation’. Scottish & Southern Energy recently suspended all of its doorstep sales activities after being found guilty of 2 counts of mis-selling.  (Scotsman page 20)

 

Economy

Economic outlook:  A survey of 1800 companies by Lloyds TSB Commercial reveals that firms in the current climate lack the confidence to invest for growth. Only one in five businesses expected to increase their level of investment over the coming six months.  A continued lack of domestic demand and a ‘weak’ outlook for profits are thought to be responsible. Better news has emerged from figures published by Begbies Traynor, who report that the total number of Scottish businesses in some degree of financial distress fell 4% over the year. This figure compares favourably with the UK-wide statistics which reveal an increase in 1.4%. (Scotsman, page 19, page 34)

 

Transport

Airport taxes: Airports in the north of England have expressed concerns over plans to devolve power on aviation taxes to Holyrood, fearing that passengers will travel north of the border to catch cheaper flights. Newcastle and Manchester airports claim that the Scottish Government’s commitment to lower Air Passenger Duty will put English airports at a competitive disadvantage, with one spokesman for Newcastle Airport predicting ‘devastating’ consequences for airports in the north-east of England. (Herald, page 8)

 

Health

Stroke medicines: Health experts have warned that the replacement of warfarin with a new blood-thinning drug will add tens of millions of pounds to NHS Scotland’s medicine bill. While warfarin is associated with serious side-effects, it costs a mere £12 a year per patient, compared to the estimated £900 of Pradaxa, its proposed replacement. The change is expected to produce savings over the long-term, with fewer people suffering warfarin-related complications such as bleeds on the brain. However, experts believe that in the short-term, health boards will struggle with the extra costs. (Scotsman page 14)

 

Southern Cross: Pressure is mounting on the Scottish Government to prevent private companies from ‘cherry-picking’ the most profitable former Southern Cross care homes, leaving the rest to close. Labour MPs have written to the Scottish Secretary for Health, Nicola Sturgeon, asking that she support the suggestion of employees of the care group to run the 100 homes in Scotland as a co-operative. Labour MP Cathy Jamieson predicts that if the operations are taken over by a private operator, ‘the first thing that will be on the agenda is the closure of the homes in the pursuit of more profit’. She added that ‘the priority must be residents and staff, and not the bottom line of private investors’. (Herald page 10)