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Reform Scotland News: August 23rd 2011

Reform Scotland

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: The regime of Colonel Gadaffi came under severe pressure yesterday as Libyan rebels advanced and appeared to claim control of large parts of the capital city Tripoli. Despite initial claims of being under rebel capture, Colonel Gadaffi’s son Saif al-Islam has appeared in Tripoli and claimed that the government has “broken the backbone” of the rebel offensive there. The whereabouts of Colonel Gaddafi himself are still not known. The recent developments also have implications for ‘Lockerbie bomber’ Abdelbaset al-Megrahi; Republican politician and leading candidate to be the party’d presidential candidate Mitt Romney said last night new Libyan leaders must extradite al-Megrahi once they take charge. A No. 10 spokeswoman said that Prime Minister David Cameron believed the decision to release him was “wrong.” (The Sun Page 6-7, The Guardian Page 1, The Scotsman Page 1, Daily Record Page 1, The Herald Page 1, Daily Mail Page 1, Financial Times Page 1, Press and Journal Page 1, Daily Telegraph  Page 1, Daily Express Page 4, Daily Mirror  Page 4, The Times Page 1)          

Shell oil spill: Oil firm Shell has defended its safety regulations after WWF Scotland called for the UK government to restrict all the company’s operations in the North Sea until an independent audit had been carried out on its installations. A spokesman for the company, which last week tackled the worst oil spill in UK waters for more than a decade, said safety was its “foremost priority”. (The Scotsman Page 23, The Herald Page 7, Courier Page 7, The Times Page 11) 

Army cuts: According to British Army sources, up to four Scottish regimental names are under threat because of plans to reduce the size of the armed forces. Concerns have been heightened following reports that the head of the army, General Sir Peter Wall, has personally warned Prime Minister David Cameron that a fifth of infantry battalions will be lost as a result of the 18,000 reduction in regular forces. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Highlanders, the Black Watch and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are all believed to be under threat. (The Scotsman Page 16 , Courier Page 8)    

Housing: Housing charity Shelter has called for urgent action to bring Scotland’s 23,000 empty private homes into use to ease the nation’s housing crisis. More than 160,000 families, couples and single people are stuck on waiting lists for social housing as properties across the country lie vacant. The Scottish Government plans to consult on introducing legislation that would allow local authorities to scrap the 50 per cent council tax discount on empty homes. Meanwhile, house prices in Scotland fell by almost four per cent over the last three months, leaving them at almost the same level as in early 2007, according to a new survey by Lloyds TSB Scotland. (The Scotsman Page 18, Daily Express Page 10)

Single police force: Pressure increased on the Scottish Government last night to back down on plans for a single police force. Critics said the SNP must listen to the views of the public, police and councils who feel a single force covering all the country is a step too far.

The government has been accused of attempting to stifle debate after Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill refused to attend today’s conference on police reform organised by the local authority umbrella group Cosla. Martin Greig, convener of Grampian Joint Police Board, claimed that a “single police force is out of touch with local policing needs.” (Press and Journal Page 11)

Scottish Water: Sir Ian Byatt, the former head of the Water Commission, has warned that Scottish Water must be allowed to borrow money from markets to fund future investment – a move which has been ruled out by the Scottish government who say Scottish Water must remain a nationalised firm. (The Scotsman Page 11)

Economy

Oil prices: The AA has suggested that the fall of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya will aid motorists by bringing about a four pence fall in petrol prices. The rebels’ advances into Tripoli were already apparent yesterday when Brent crude fell more than one per cent in London to 107.9 dollars. Additionally, Libya could return to the global oil market within weeks if the rebels succeed in securing their victory, although the full resumption of output is still a long way off. (Financial Times Page 3, The Sun Page 6-7, Daily Express Page 5)   

UK growth figures: according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the UK economy has grown by just 0.7% in the past year, the lowest performance of all G7 countries apart from Japan. Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 index gained 54.54 points yesterday to 5095.30. (Daily Mail Page 6, Courier Page 9)

Transport

Trams: Business leaders have warned that hundreds of small firms will be put at risk if the city presses ahead with its controversial trams scheme.  Michael Apter, chair of the West End Traders Association, and Michael Dixon, chairman of the Edinburgh branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, have cited the prospect of prolonged disruption combined with fragile trading conditions as being potentially damaging to independent firms whilst also claiming not enough is being done to offset another three years of tram works, calling a £200,000 cash pot set aside by the city council as “hopelessly inadequate.” (The Scotsman Page 1)       

Education

Teacher recruitment: Education Secretary Michael Russell has apologised for failing to tackle problems regarding teacher recruitment quickly enough. Figures published last week showed the first upturn in probationer employment in five years, although only 16% have found permanent jobs. He insisted that the Scottish Government was now making progress. (The Herald Page 1)

New teaching union: A new national teaching union has been set up in Scotland after anger over a recent deal on pay and conditions. The Scottish Primary Teachers’ Association (SPTA) was formed after widespread concern over the introduction earlier this year of a two-year pay freeze. The country’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, recommended the proposal. (The Herald Page 2)

Health

Hospital closure: A Scottish hospital has been closed to new patients after an increase in cases of Clostridium difficile. NHS Lanarkshire said it had taken action at Lockhart Hospital in Lanark after seven patients tested positive for the infection since June. The 30-bed hospital, which provides medical, rehabilitation and terminal care to patients, is currently not admitting any new patients after the increase in cases was identified. (The Scotsman Page 4, Courier Page 13)