REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 21 November 2011


Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 21 November 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. 



Deportation flights: The Coalition government have been told to ‘get a grip’ after figures have revealed spending of up to £1 million a month on private flights to deport failed asylum seekers.  The SNP have raised serious questions over how much was being spent and called on the Home Secretary to investigate the already beleaguered UK Border Agency. (The Herald, page 6)


Britishness: A poll has shown that the concept of ‘Britishness’ appears to be losing its appeal in England.  According to the poll, the proportion of people who define themselves as English rather than British has risen dramatically over the past three years from 41% to 63%.  The SNP have reportedly said that there are many in England who desire a new relationship between England and Scotland. (The Herald, page 7, Scotland on Sunday, page 1)


Pensions protest: Senior UK Cabinet ministers have suggested reforms to strike laws if a 24-hour trade union stoppage over changes to public sector pensions goes ahead at the end of November.  Staging a mass walk-out at a time of economic turmoil will reportedly lead to a clamp down on trade unions; Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander admitted that the Government was ‘looking at those things’. (The Scotsman, page 6, Daily Express, page 1)


Anti-English sentiment: One of the most UK’s most senior judges, Lord Hope, has spoken of the ‘corrosive, anti-English sentiment’ in Scotland’s courts, saying that the antipathy towards Scottish cases being sent to the Supreme Court was not seen elsewhere in Britain.  These comments come after a series of high-profile spats between the SNP and the Supreme Court earlier this year. (The Scotsman, page 10, The Times, page 17, Daily Express, page 4, the Sunday Herald, page 16)


Labour leadership:  Scottish Labour leadership contenders have clashed about the future direction of the party north of the Border during an event.  Glasgow South MP Tom Harris voiced concern that working class people no longer felt that the Labour party stood for them.  Scottish Deputy Labour leader, Johann Lamont reportedly said that the party had a long way to go before it could hope to be in government again. Brian Gilda, one of Scotland’s leading business has backed Mr Lamont just days before the party’s members are to receive ballot papers for the three-way contest. (The Scotsman, page 12, Scotland on Sunday, page 11)


Temporary workers: A detailed breakdown of last year’s accounts have revealed that Scottish Ministers spent millions of pounds on temporary staff last year, despite a high profile drive by the SNP to cut waste and make the Scottish government more efficient.  Emergency staff were often brought in to cover the loss of fulltime employees who were let go through expensive voluntary redundancy deals.  This approach caused a significant overspend in last year’s budget; opposition politicians have reportedly warned that the wasted money shows that the Scottish government have got it wrong. (The Times, page 6)


Single currency: Lord Ashdown has made a defence of the euro, saying that Britain’s decision not to join made it reform its economy 15 years too late and run up debts that it should not have done.  He suggests that it may be in Britain’s interests to join the euro ‘sooner than we think’ to create stricter rules and stronger regulations.  Lord Heseltine, the former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister, has reportedly fuelled Tory tensions by saying that the determination of France and Germany will secure the single currency and that Britain will then sign up. (The Times, page 3, Daily Mail, page 2, Daily Express, page 5)


Broadband: The Scottish Government is finally experiencing a burst of sudden action in relation to fibre-optic connectivity needed to make the country competitive.  Stuart Gibson, former head of telecoms and media at HBOS, who led the Digital Power report for Reform Scotland, is clear that an internationally competitive infrastructure needs to be put in place.  He has said that Scotland needs this more than elsewhere because of its location on the edge of Europe.  Further, he believes that the weight of public sector procurement of IT connectivity could incentivise private sector providers to invest in the infrastructure which could benefit every area from health to mobile connectivity. (The Sunday Herald, page 43)



High street shopping: Families have reportedly been forced to tighten their spending belts due to job cuts, wage freezes and rising house-hold bills.  This has caused a near 10% drop in the number of people shopping compared to last year.  Figures published by the Scottish Retail Consortium show that shops north of the border are facing a tougher time than elsewhere.  The retail industry has issued a stark warning to the Scottish government about the future after such figures have shown that shoppers are deserting the high-street. (The Herald, page 1, The Scotsman, page 33, The Press and Journal, page 11, the Courier, page 14, the Times, page 15)


Government debt: John Swinney has urged the UK Coalition government to borrow £20 billion, including £2 billion for Scotland, for investment in construction projects to kick-start the economy.  Conservative Chancellor George Osborne has consistently argued against higher borrowing, warning that the Greek and Irish bailouts prove the dangers of too much debt.  Labour have reportedly accused Mr Swinney of hypocrisy over his call for greater investment in building projects due to his high rate of capital spending cuts. (The Herald, page 6, The Scotsman, page 2, The Press and Journal, page 11, The Courier, page 9, Daily Mail, page 8, The Sun, page 2, Daily Record, page 2, Scotland on Sunday, page 19)


Export push: The Confederation of British Industry has called for a tax credit to encourage companies to expand overseas as it argues the economy could get a £20billion boost from an export push.  Business leaders believe that key Scottish industries such as food and drink, oil and gas, mechanical engineering and chemicals could benefit.  The CBI wants the government to get behind a drive into emerging markets in Asia and Latin America to wean British exporters off a reliance on the eurozone and the US. (The Herald, page 24)


Scottish tourism: The VisitScotland chief has revealed a secured £30million in additional funding to help promote Scotland on the back of forthcoming sporting and cultural events, such as the London Olympic Games.  He has warned, however, that Scotland is in danger of missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the face of tourism over the next three years. The VisitScotland chairman, Mike Cantlay, is openly appealing to the tourism industry to help Scotland grasp this opportunity. (The Scotsman, page1)


Youth unemployment: A Scots businessman, Willie Haughey, has vowed to take youngsters off the dole to prevent a ‘lost generation’ of Scots without work.  He aims to tackle the youth unemployment crisis by spending £2million to support 100 apprentices.  This pledge comes after official figures show that youth unemployment has rocketed to its highest level since records began nearly 20 years ago (Daily Mail, page 4)




Exam changes: Pupils who sit their highers early due to Scotland’s new curriculum changes will reportedly be discriminated against by universities unless admission procedures are changed.  Universities currently prefer pupils to sit five highers required for university entry in one year as it shows their ability to cope with a tough workload. However, the new Curriculum for Excellence allows more flexibility over when pupils take their exams to allow for different rates of progress. Those candidates would be competing against other pupils whose schools have decided it would be better to take all highers in the same year. (The Herald, page 4)


University autonomy:  The Scottish government has commissioned an investigation into the governance of institutions and ministers have suggested that some should merge.  However, the Principal of the University of Stirling has warned against changes that could affect the range of higher education provided north of the Border.  He argued that Scotland’s universities need to be preserved to meet the needs of students and employers. (The Times, page 15).


Teaching reform plans:  Professor McCormac of Stirling University has defended his recommendations for improving professionalism and children’s learning in schools.  The review by Professor McCormac, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government, has been criticised by unions; they have threatened industrial action if the recommendations go ahead. (The Times, page 1)



Miscarriage of justice: William Mills, who spent 14 months in prison for an armed robbery he did not commit, has been refused compensation.  Mr Mills was recognised by the Appeal Court as a victim of a miscarriage of justice, but the Scottish government have now ruled that the circumstances of his case are not sufficiently unusual to merit a pay-out. (The Herald, page 5)


Corroboration proposal: Senior police and legal experts have warned that a controversial proposal to abolish part of the Scottish legal system could make investigations harder for police and disadvantage rape victims. An official review has recommended scrapping the ‘archaic’ rule of corroboration, claiming that ending the need for two independent sources of evidence could lead to improved conviction rates.  However, according to experts, getting rid of corroboration could leave victims worse off, since it would open innocent individuals to malicious complaints. (The Daily Telegraph, page , the Sunday Times, page 21)


Charity boss sued: A suspended charity chief, who lead a campaign to raise funds for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, is being sued for almost £6,000 in unpaid legal fees by her former solicitor Kippen Campbell.  (The Herald, page 7)



Obesity: Figures obtained through Freedom of Information have revealed that weight-loss surgery on the NHS has risen by more than 50% in three years.  The rise has been driven partly by the rolling out of the service from five to eight health boards.  There is also evidence to suggest, however, that NHS cost pressures may be putting a squeeze on weight-loss surgery, particularly upon the two leading health boards concerned with obesity problems. (The Herald, page1, 3)


Cancer research: Thousands of Scot cancer patients are taking part in pioneering £5.5 million research which could help save lives in the future.  Cancer Research is aiming to establish a world-class NHS genetic testing service for the UK which could help doctors identify ‘personalised’ treatment for cancer patients. (The Herald, page 10, The Scotsman, page 7, The Press and Journal, page 1, The Courier, page 8)


Local Government

Housing shortages: The true extent of Aberdeenshire’s housing shortage has been revealed after it emerged that 7,618 of people are stuck on a stagnant waiting list.  According to new figures, just 1,081 people have moved into one of the authority’s 12,903 properties in the last year – a turnover of 8%. (The Press and Journal, page 9)


Wind farms:  Campaigners in the North and North-East have seized on comments made by the Duke of Edinburgh attacking windfarms as ‘absolutely useless’.  Prince Philip is reported to have described onshore wind as a ‘disgrace’; wind-farm opponents have welcomed this remark and believe that wind-farms are not the solution that they are hailed to be. (The Press and Journal, page 9)



Edinburgh Airport: Sir Brian Souter, the founder of Stagecoach, is reportedly preparing a bid for Edinburgh airport after its current owner, BAA, appointed Citigroup and BNP Paribas, to sell the Scottish hub (The Sunday Times, page 2)