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Reform Scotland News: 19th August 2011

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 19 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.

 

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

Home improvement tax: A “Conservatory tax” cut should be considered by UK ministers to help boost the country’s economy, Alex Salmond has declared, in a fresh call for measures to stop the country plunging into a double-dip recession. The First Minister has backed a targeted reduction in VAT on home improvement works, such as extensions and repairs, in the hope it could convince homeowners to press the button on long-standing plans to make over their properties. A cut from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, as backed by the construction trade, would take £750 off the cost of a £5,000 extension. (Scotsman page 4)

 

Oil spill: Specialist oil dispersant and containment vessels and aircraft are on full alert as oil giant Shell begins the operation to finally stem the flow of oil spewing from a pipeline more than 300ft below the surface of the North Sea. Conservation groups have called for Shell to be held to account in the courts for any alleged failings in their pipeline maintenance and integrity procedures. Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, said a full report on the investigation into the leak – the worst in the UK for a decade – would be sent to the Crown Office for possible court action. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 7, Press and Journal page 7, Courier page 9)

 

SPT: Sources close to ministers in Holyrood have reportedly described Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) which runs Glasgow’s Subway, subsidises buses and delivers strategic rail projects in the west of Scotland, as “bloated” and claim there will be moves to overhaul it by the end of the year. Another option is to drastically reduce its powers. Although its current chairman, Jonathan Findlay, has been credited with drawing a line under the junkets and expenses scandals which beset the agency’s previous regime, Government sources have said SPT will not survive in its current guise. (Herald page 1)

 

Economy

Petrol prices: Drivers in Scotland have missed out on the benefits of a drop in the wholesale cost of fuel, after petrol retailers failed to lower their prices in line with the dip, new figures reveal today. Motorists are paying more at the pump this month than last – despite a 3p-per-litre fall in the wholesale costs of petrol and diesel for retailers. (Scotsman page 1)

 

Debt figures: The government should add £35 billion of debts from private finance initiative projects to its books to give a more honest picture of how far in the red the UK is, MPs said in a report today. Members of the Treasury Select Committee have hit out at the use of controversial PFI projects, which dominated public building projects for the past 15 years, and said they are an “extremely inefficient” method of financing projects. The committee has also called on the UK government to renegotiate the contracts, which MPs believe would save the taxpayer £400 million a year at a time of reductions in spending to bring Britain’s debt under control. (Scotsman page 11)

 

Transport

Edinburgh trams: Disruption is due to hit Edinburgh city centre next month if councillors approve plans to resume major building work on the tram scheme, which would bring the total cost to nearly £1 billion. Traffic will be diverted from both Princes Street and Haymarket for months, which is likely to hit bus passengers hard. The tram line work will go ahead if the city council approves plans to borrow more than £200 million in extra funding next Thursday. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 2, Times page 1)

 

Education

University places: Scottish pupils sat almost 6,000 A-levels this year as the pass-rate went up for the 29th year in a row. More than 250,000 pupils across the UK received their results yesterday prompting an intense battle for university places, with those who miss out this year facing tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year if they study in England from next year onwards. (Scotsman page 15, Telegraph page 1)

 

Justice

Single police force: A new national police force could badge patrol cars with the name of their local town or city, Scotland’s leading officer has suggested in a bid to dampen concerns that the move will centralise policing. Stephen House, the chief constable of Strathclyde, said he backed moves to merge the country’s eight forces into one, as part of a long-term cost-cutting measure. With critics warning that the local link to communities will be lost, Mr House said that patrol cars could be branded as “Glasgow City Police” or “Edinburgh City Police”, to maintain a symbolic tie to the area. (Scotsman page 12)