Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 18 August 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.
North Sea oil spill: Scotland faces its worst environmental disaster since the Braer tanker ran aground off Shetland as oil continues to leak from the pipeline of Shell’s Gannet platform, it emerged last night. A total of 660 tonnes of toxic oil remains trapped inside the leaking system – and there are fears of a sudden and catastrophic release if plans to use divers to close a leaking valve go wrong. Shell has estimated that 216 tonnes have already escaped into the North Sea. Hercules transport planes with dispersants were put on stand-by yesterday to deal with any emergency and specialist vessels with booms and other containment equipment were heading for the scene, 112 miles off the Aberdeen coast, as a small amount of oil continued to spill from the 20-year-old pipeline. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 7, Times page 1, Guardian page 9, Press and Journal page 12, Daily Mail page 8)
Gay marriage: First Minister Alex Salmond has clashed with a Labour MP during a school visit about a recent row over gay marriage. Dunfermline MP Thomas Docherty claimed the SNP leader went “absolutely crazy” after being called on to apologise for critical comments made by local Nationalist MSP Bill Walker about anti-homophobia campaigners. Mr Walker is among three MSPs who backed a Holyrood motion by fellow Nationalist John Mason that states no person or organisation should be forced to be “involved in or to approve of” same-sex marriages. Mr Salmond yesterday criticised the Labour MP’s approach and called him a political novice. “I think he’s only been an MP for a year or so, and he’ll learn as time goes on that there’s a time and a place for everything.”You don’t bring politics into a school. That’s just daft,” Mr Salmond said. (Scotsman page 6, Telegraph page 5)
Scottish families survey: Scots are becoming more satisfied with their lives and happier in their communities, despite rising debts, falling home ownership and fewer having access to a car, a new survey reveals. Women are happier than men, and antisocial behaviour is at its lowest point since devolution. The Scottish Government’s comprehensive Scottish Household Survey (SHS) also shows satisfaction with local schools and healthcare is on the rise, smoking is at an all-time low, internet access is increasing and households are continuing to recycle in high numbers. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 8, Telegraph page 1)
European Union: The First Minister has been accused of “arrogant secrecy” by a Member of the European Parliament for refusing to divulge information on how an independent Scotland would go about joining the EU. Labour MEP Catherine Stihler submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) but was told “to reveal whether the information you have requested exists, or is held by the Scottish Government, would be contrary to the public interest”. Ms Stihler claims that if Scotland, having seceded from a member state, had to apply to enter, the EU would impose joining the single currency as a condition. (Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 7)
Youth unemployment: New figures on youth unemployment brought fresh warnings of a “wasted generation” being created, as it emerged that more young people in Scotland are looking for work than at any time since the last days of John Major’s government.
As unemployment in Scotland rose marginally for the first time since last year, the detailed figures revealed that 45,000 young people aged 18-24 were claiming jobseeker’s allowance in July, up by more than 5,000 in a month. (Scotsman page 1)
Energy jobs: Energy giant ScottishPower is to create 1,500 jobs in Scotland as it spends £3 billion upgrading electricity networks to boost use of renewable energy. The Spanish-owned firm said it needs the extra staff over the next ten years to upgrade about 500 miles of overhead power lines and carry out upgrades to the electricity grid links between England and Scotland. (Scotsman page 11)
Unemployment in Women: Women now make up almost one-third of Scotland’s unemployed, with the latest figures revealing that the number of females out of work north of the Border has soared 20% in the past 12 months. The figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that 47,000 women aged 16 and over in Scotland are now claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) out of a total claimant count of 146,900. The figure compares with 39,000 in July 2010. The surge is in contrast to a year-on-year rise among Scottish men of just 1.9%, although men remain twice as likely as women to be claiming JSA –with the data for July showing almost 100,000 male claimants in Scotland. (Herald page 1, Courier page 7, Daily Mail page 1)
Interest rates: Bank of England chief economist Spencer Dale and fellow Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Martin Weale have abandoned their attempt to raise UK interest rates, it has emerged. Their U-turn, revealed yesterday with publication of minutes of the MPC’s August 3 and 4 meeting, underlines the troubles facing the UK economy and reinforces the likelihood that there will be no rise in base rates for the foreseeable future. Their shift is good news for those on base rate tracker mortgages. The minutes show the MPC is acutely aware of both domestic economic weakness, amid Chancellor George Osborne’s public spending cuts, and the dangers posed to the UK by the ongoing eurozone crisis. (Herald page 30)
Student poverty: Students in Scotland survive on less income than any others in the rest of the UK and are more likely to have to take paid work alongside their studies to make ends meet. On average, Scottish students survive on 6 per cent less money than other UK students (living off just £5,640 a year) according to the latest Lloyds TSB Student Finance Report. UK-wide, more than half of all students say they are struggling to get by – while almost one in five say they do not have enough to get them through each month. (Scotsman page 19)