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Reform Scotland News: 4 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

Free personal care: Free personal care for the elderly is reportedly under threat as unaffordable. The Scottish Government vowed to defend its flagship policy, launched in 2002 by the Scottish Executive. Costs have doubled since its inception to over £370 million a year and a spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities warned that charges were inevitable and means testing a likelihood. The Scottish Government’s budget will fall this year by £1.3 billion; it already faces a £40 million shortfall in the care budget. (The Scotsman page 1)

 

David Manion comments that ending free personal care would be a false economy (Scotsman Page 5)

 

Referendum spending: Spending is likely to be capped at £750,000 for each of the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campiagns in the upcoming referendum on independence. (Herald page 2)

 

Benefits reform: Leaked letters have suggested that UK Government plans to cap total benefits payments at £500 a week per family could leave thousands of Scots homeless, with numbers rising to 40,000 across the UK.  SNP spokesperson for work and pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford called for a U-turn on government policy. (The Scotsman page 2)

 

Inverclyde by-election: Former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Ross Finnie has branded the party’s result in the Inverclyde by-election ‘humiliating’. Labour held the seat on Friday with 15,118 votes, with the SNP coming in second on 9,280. However, the Lib Dem vote reduced dramatically, from 5,007 last year to just 627 putting them fourth behind the Conservatives. (Sunday Herald page 2)

 

Scottish Conservatives: Ruth Davidson, a former BBC reporter and openly gay MSP, who was elected as a Glasgow list MSP just eight weeks ago, is reportedly being urged to stand as leader of the Scottish Conservatives by senior figures at both Westminster and Holyrood. The 32 year old is understood to have the backing of current leader Annabel Goldie and allies of the Prime Minister. (Sunday Herald page 2)

 

Scottish Labour: Scottish Labour is set to distance itself from the UK party by creating a beefed-up leadership team north of the Border as part of its fight back against the SNP, following their defeat in the May election. A review panel concluded there was “a strong case” from activists and members to hand more authority to its Scottish operation to show policies are “made in Scotland, for Scotland.” A majority of grassroots members believe there should be a dedicated Scottish leader of the party, the review has learned, to map out a distinctive agenda. While no decisions have yet been made, a new leader along those lines would not necessarily be an MSP, opening the door for a Westminster figure to take overall charge of Labour’s fortunes north of the Border. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Eddie Barnes page 11)

 

SNP achievements: The Scottish Government has published a list of achievements and announcements since the SNP was re-elected. Just some of these include the opening of the new section of the M74 through Glasgow, an announcement by Amazon of 900 jobs in Edinburgh and a drop in unemployment. (Press and Journal page 9)

 

Monarchy: Alex Salmond has been accused of ‘making up’ his party’s policy to retain the Queen as Head of State in an independent Scotland. The SNP leader described  the monarch as the ‘Queen of Scots’ when he officially opened the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament last week. (Times page 5, Press and Journal page 6)

 

Commonwealth Games: First Minister Alex Salmond is under pressure to publish details of the Commonwealth Games organising committee’s spending. A Conservative MSP has said the event organisers should be obliged to publish details of its spending on foreign trips, hospitality and consultants. (Sunday Herald page 21)

 

Kofi Annan: Scotland can play a leading role in ending poverty and tackling climate change, according to former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan who is due to address guests at Scotland’s International Awards ceremony in Edinburgh in November. (Press and Journal page 9)

 

Economy

Scottish film industry: Scotland’s first major film studio could open by the end of the year to compete with facilities such as Pinewood and to provide a focus for the country’s fast-growing film industry. Discussions are now at an advanced stage on an expansion of the Film City Glasgow project, which has helped produce a string of acclaimed hits including Red Road, Hallam Foe and Neds. (Sunday Herald page 10)

 

Hotel opening: Travelodge have announced a £10 million investment in Edinburgh’s Princes Street to open a hotel above Topshop, on a site that is currently unused and another site has been announced on Queen Street. (Scotsman page 4)

 

Renewable energy: A boom in renewable energy schemes in the north-east is continuing to gather pace, with plans lodged for 33 wind turbines and 40 solar panels in just a week. Aberdeenshire Council’s weekly planning list for July 1 featured a noticeable surge in applications, after a steady flow of bids for several months. (Press and Journal page 10)

 

Local Government

Green targets: Recycling rates in 16 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Highland have fallen short of key targets of 40% set in 2008; a blow to Scotland’s drive to become a ‘zero waste’ economy. Average rates reached only 37.8%; below England’s 39.7% and Wales 40%. The lowest rates were recorded in urban centres. (The Herald page 1)

 

Glasgow City Council: The private sector should be given a greater role in the leadership of Glasgow to help re-focus the city’s economy towards fast-growth emerging industries, according to a hard-hitting report published yesterday. Research from the Glasgow Economic Commission, a group set up after the recession involving business leaders such as Weir Group chief executive Keith Cochrane and Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins, recommends that a new “private-public leadership body” be established to co-ordinate the economic development efforts of the city council, Scottish Enterprise, the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and other organisations. The commission recommends that particular attention should be paid to attracting low carbon industries, engineering, design and manufacturing firms. Other key sectors should include life sciences, financial services and tourism, the group said. (Scotland on Sunday page B1, Sunday Herald page 44)

 

Justice

Primary school hate crime: Nearly 2,000 incidents of ‘hate crime’ were reported in Scottish Schools and Nurseries with most of the offenders being toddlers. One civil liberties group condemned the condemned the obligation on teachers to collect such reports as ‘a waste of time’ (Herald: page 12)

 

Private prison: A private prison has been confirmed as the “softest” in Scotland with one in three inmates who break the rules escaping punishment. Kilmarnock prisoners committed more than 17,500 offences in the past five years, the highest of any adult prison in Scotland. The figures include almost 2,000 cases of assault, drug abuse and destruction of prison property. But statistics for punishments handed out show that a third escaped with a caution, no action or had their case dismissed. The toughest, Shotts prison, by contrast showed only 7 per cent of prisoners going unpunished. (Scotland on Sunday page 5)

 

Education

University fees: Conservative MPs have branded the SNP policy of charging English and Welsh students up to £36,000 for a Scottish degree as unfair discrimination and may attempt to derail it with equality legislation. At present, Scottish and EU students face no charges while other UK students face up to £9,000 a year. The SNP insisted it would not budge and blamed successive Westminster governments for raising tuition fees remarking ‘places for Scottish students must be protected’. (The Scotsman Page 6, Telegraph page 1, Times page 14)

 

Private nurseries: Private nurseries have made more appeals against their rates bills than any other businesses but have had little success in getting substantial rebates, prompting fears that some operators may go to the wall. Experts point to a “double blow” for privately-run nurseries – upon which the majority of Scottish parents depend for childcare – following last year’s rating revaluation and a decision by the Scottish Government to remove transitional relief. (Scotland on Sunday page B2)

 

Health

Drug deaths: A new batch of extra-strong Ecstasy has been blamed for the death of two men in Ayrshire, South West Scotland. Strathclyde Police have appealed for witnesses to come forward and help identify the source of the drug. (Herald page 4)

 

Cancer research: Faulty genes which cause cancer cells to multiply could be ‘instructed’ to go to sleep with drugs, potentially saving or prolonging the lives of thousands of patients. Scientists in Glasgow have discovered that targeting mutations in two genes could help prevent tumours growing and spreading to other parts of the body. (Sunday Herald page 14)