Reform Scotland News: 30 September 2011


Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 30 September 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. 



Ed Miliband: The UK Labour leader Ed Miliband has apologised to the front-runner in the Scottish Labour leadership contest after he forgot his name during a television interview at his party conference.  Mr Miliband phoned Ken Macintosh to say sorry having failed to name all three people battling to succeed Iain Gray as Scottish Labour leader.  (The Scotsman page 10, Herald page 8, Alison Rowat in The Herald, Times page 19, P&J page 10, Courier page 14, Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Express page 2, Daily Mail page 8, Daily Record page 6, Sun page 2)


Corporation tax:  Banking and finance industry leaders have raised questions over the Scottish Government’s demands for corporation tax to be devolved to Holyrood.  Scottish Financial Enterprise, which represents the financial services industry in Scotland, has provided a submission to the Holyrood Committee examining the Scotland Bill that will hand new powers to MSPs.  The organisation is reportedly “constructively sceptical” about demands for control of corporation tax to be added to the legislation. (The Scotsman page 2)


Alcohol prices:  Retailers will defy the Scottish Government by continuing to sell cheap alcohol despite a ban on discounted package deals.  The Alcohol etc (Scotland) Act 2010, which bans group discounts and buy-one-get-one-free offers, is aimed at reducing the incentive to buy in bulk. However, customers will still be able to buy alcohol at discounted prices after the ban comes into effect this weekend, through loopholes and changes to the way retailers price their drinks.  (The Scotsman page 1, Leigh Sparks in The Scotsman, Daily Express page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Sun page 1)


SNP spending:  The SNP’s high-profile plan to switch £200 million a year from Scottish Government departments to spending on big infrastructure projects has not yet been accounted for in its own spending figures, Holyrood’s independent finance analysts have found.  Last week, SNP ministers announced they would be switching more than £750 million up to 2015 from so-called “resource” budgets to “capital.  But a report by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPiCE) into the budget figures has reportedly found no sign of the £200 million-a-year switch. (The Scotsman page 2)


Sir Peter Housden: Scotland’s three opposition party leaders are reportedly to lodge complaints with the head of the Civil Service over what they say is politically partisan behaviour by Alex Salmond’s most senior mandarin.  The Daily Telegraph has obtained transcripts of briefings from Sir Peter Housden, the First Minister’s permanent secretary, which states that the Coalition’s plans to devolve only limited tax powers to Holyrood are “lost in the mists of time”.  Instead, Sir Peter urged officials to “embark on a journey of constitutional reform”, starting with the “near-term strengthening of the Scotland Bill”.  Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Willie Rennie last night expressed their concerns that Sir Peter has “gone native” as the code governing civil servants prevents them expressing political views or advice. (Daily Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in The Daily Telegraph)


Independence: A call for the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence to be held across the whole of the UK and not just in Scotland has been made by the Earl of Caithness, a former Conservative minister.  The Tory peer’s suggestion to extend the vote beyond Scotland’s border is just one of a number of amendments which seeks to change the Coalition’s Scotland Bill, now progressing through the House of Lords.  Its detailed committee stage is expected in December. (Herald page 9)


Sectarianism:  First Minister Alex Salmond has warned that football in Scotland would go into terminal decline unless politicians in the Scottish Parliament united to crack down on sectarianism.  Mr Salmond yesterday said that European football authorities would take action against Scottish clubs and there would not be “a football game left” unless religious hatred was tackled effectively.  (The Scotsman page 6, Herald page 1, Times page 11, P&J page 15, Daily Express page 15, Daily Mail page 9, Daily Record page 2)



Property prices: High-end properties in Scotland are outperforming the UK’s flagging housing market – commanding asking prices which are up almost 7% since the turn of the year.  Experts claim the increase is due to a strong demand from wealthy buyers in Scotland, combined with a lower number of owners of desirable homes putting their houses up for sale.  The value of Scottish homes in the top quarter of the market in terms of price has risen by an average of £25,000 since January, according to research by  The company found that the asking price in Scotland rose by 6.8%, compared to a UK average of 3.5%. (The Scotsman page 11, Herald page 13, Daily Mail page 24)



Borders railway: There has been fresh concern over the ill-fated Borders Railway, after the Scottish Government pulled the plug on a competition to build the £295 million line and handed control to Network Rail.  Ministers ditched the competition after two of the three bidders pulled out.  The government is understood to have acted after the remaining contender sought more than the planned maximum £230 million for the main construction contract.  Network Rail has agreed to take over the project, but last night refused to rule out further delays and cost increases. (The Scotsman page 1, Iain Docherty in The Scotsman, Herald page 4, Times page 7, Daily Telegraph page 11, Daily Express page 15)


Train passengers: A blueprint drawn up by Network Rail calls for trains to have fewer seats so more standing passengers can be crammed on board under new plans for Scotland’s railways.  They also want rules preventing people from standing for more than 10 minutes to be relaxed as they look to ferry more passengers.  The report states that: “high-density stock can move more passengers in the same space by having a larger proportion of space available for standing”.  The measures are designed to help fund annual savings of between £70 million and £140 million between 2014 and 2019 from the bill for running Scotland’s rail network, which has increased to £700 million a year.  Passengers groups and unions were furious at the proposals, saying customers already faced some of the highest fares in Europe and should not suffer further from a drop in the quality of service. (Herald page 1, Daily Mail page 11)


Road repairs:  Four utility firms have become the first to be threatened with fines of up to £50,000 each for failing to properly fill in holes in Scotland’s roads.  Scottish Water, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), BT Open-reach and Virgin Media face the penalties from the Scottish Road Works commissioner after an unacceptably high proportion of their road-works were poorly finished.  (The Scotsman page 17, Herald page 13, Courier page 12)



Scottish studies:  The introduction of Scottish studies in the country’s schools could see other subjects “squeezed”, the Tories have warned.  Outlining plans for the new subject during a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, SNP learning minister Alasdair Allan said Scotland was “the only place on Earth” where the teaching of native culture and history was not seen as “healthy” and “normal”.  But concerns were raised that the introduction of a new subject could place further strain on already under-pressure teachers and schools.  (The Scotsman page 13, Herald page 8, Times page 17, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 2)


Mergers:  Education secretary Michael Russell has said he wants to see more university or college mergers where it “makes sense”.  He called for greater collaboration after accusations from opposition parties that the SNP was cutting the college budget.  The intervention came days after education expert Lord Sutherland criticised the way a proposed merger of Abertay and Dundee universities was being handled.  Last night, it was revealed that there would be no forced merger of Dundee and Abertay Universities.  Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Mr Salmond said: “Just as there will be no closure of any college or university in Scotland, there will be no forced merger either”. (The Scotsman page 13, Times page 17, Courier page 1, Daily Record page 2)



London Olympics: Senior Scottish police are digging their heels in over a request to provide almost 1,000 officers to police the London Olympics next year.  The Herald revealed that at a recent meeting to discuss the security of the event, Scottish police were asked to provide between 950 and 1,000 officers.  However they said, according to current numbers of specialists, they could only provide between 750 and 800.  Sources claim Scottish officers are “drawing a line in the sand”, as there is concern that the use of Scottish police officers at the London Olympics “could leave the cupboard bare” in Scotland – particularly in relation to specially-trained firearms and public-order offences. (Herald page 5)



Cancer patients: The Scottish Government has come under fire over the treatment of cancer patients, with claims that sufferers in Scotland are three times less likely to get medicines than those south of the Border.  The Tories say the interim Cancer Drug Fund gives patients in England better access to medicines that have been approved by their doctors but not given the go-ahead for widespread use on the NHS.  But a Scottish equivalent is not backed by the government amid concerns that the treatment of other serious conditions could fall behind. (The Scotsman page 15, Herald page 9, Courier page 15)