Reform Scotland News: 22 August 2011

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 22 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

Libya: Libyan rebels have advanced into central Tripoli without encountering military resistance from forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi. Unconfirmed reports state that the Libyan leader’s son Saif Islam has been arrested, and that Gaddafi’s presidential guard has surrendered. (Times page 1, Herald page 1, Scotsman page 1)

 

North Sea oil rigs: Government safety inspectors have blamed oil companies for failing to deal with serious corrosion on North Sea rigs that could put lives in danger and lead to a disaster. On one rig corroded pipes led to a “significant quantity” of gas leaking and it was “fortunate” there was no explosion. The revelations are in reports from the Health and Safety Executive, which launched an inspection programme last year over concerns about oil platforms and pipelines which are being used beyond their expected lifespan. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

 

Euro zone: The SNP is backing away from taking an independent Scotland into the Euro zone and towards maintaining Sterling as the currency of a newly-created state. The Nationalist-led Scottish Government has said it is opposed to proposals put forward last week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to harmonise taxes such as corporation tax. Such powers should be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, the government says. MEPs said last night that such a stance would “blow a hole” through any idea that Scotland could join the Euro zone, with analysts predicting that tight fiscal integration will be required of all countries in the zone as part of current efforts to lift it out of economic strife. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

 

Economy

House prices: According to a Lloyds TSB report, Scottish house prices fell by 3.7% between May and July. The biggest falls were recorded for Central Fife, Perth and Tayside, where prices dropped 4.3%. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have responded by calling on the government to do more to stimulate the housing market. (Scotsman page 1)  

 

Energy company profits: The Scottish government has lent its support to a plan to investigate the manner in which leading energy suppliers calculate their profits. Ofgem is to appoint a team of forensic accountants to investigate six companies including ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy. (Herald page 8)

 

Local Government

Cost savings: In a bid to save an estimated £30 million per year, seven councils in western Scotland are considering proposals for the creation of a joint agency to supply back-office functions including IT and HR. The councils involved in the discussions are North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde and West and East Dunbartonshire. Unison criticised the plan, claiming that “It is the wrong approach to service design, comes with huge risks in return for limited savings that are unlikely to be realised.”

(BBC News)

 

Justice

Single police force: The Chief Constable if the new national Scottish police force will be forced to report to MSPs at lease once a year to explain the work of the organisation. The country’s most senior police offer will be quizzed by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee as part of a system designed to ensure democratic oversight of the body. (Sunday Herald page 6)

 

University fees: Scotland’s university funding system faces a legal challenge from a leading human rights lawyer, who claims it is unlawful to charge fees to English students studying in Scotland. Phil Shiner intends to end what critics term anti-English discrimination in Scotland. More than 20,000 English students in Scotland pay up to £2,895 a year, which will rise to up to £9000 a tear, while Scots and other European Union students do not pay. The Scottish Government contends that under the European Convention on Human Rights it is permissible to discriminate within a member state such as Britain. (Sunday Times page 1, BBC News)

 

Health

NHS job losses: More than £10 million was spent last year giving Scottish NHS workers voluntary redundancy deals as part of plans to cut the workforce in healthcare. Labour yesterday published Freedom of Information documents which showed how the voluntary redundancy costs went up from £3.5m in 2009-10 to £10m in 2010-11, as health boards sought to cut spending on pay in advance of major spending slowdowns. The increase was largely brought about due to a major severance scheme in NHS Lanarkshire which persuaded 130 staff to leave during the year. A Scottish Government spokesman said most of the redundancies in NHS Lanarkshire were administrative staff and would not impact on patient care. He said: “Over the last 12 months we have seen NHS boards deliver a planned reduction in the NHS workforce and the number of acute beds, while at the same time increasing activity and improving quality. (Scotland on Sunday page 7)

 

Education

Over-recruitment by universities: Four Scottish universities have incurred fines of over £1.7 million for over-recruitment of students. The Scottish Funding Council penalised Aberdeen, Stirling, Heriot-Watt and Abertay for exceeding their quota of publicly-funded places. Labour has described the policy of punishing institutions for their success in attracting students as ‘perverse’. (Herald page 1)