REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 28 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

 

Politics

Strike action: John Swinney has reportedly claimed that David Cameron and his ministers are ‘relishing the prospect’ of a showdown with unions as a day of strike action looms on Wednesday.  The Scottish finance minister has accused the coalition government of a ‘naked cash grab’ with its proposed general levy on pension contributions.  Further, he has urged the UK government to take action to avert the strike and the disruption it will cause. Business leaders have warned that the biggest strike in 30 years will have ‘significant costs’ to the economy. Schools are set to be closed and hospital services cut during the 24 hour walkout by up to two million public sector workers across the UK.  The leader of the TUC, Brendan Barber, vowed yesterday that there is nothing that the government can do to make unions call the strike off.  (The Scotsman, page 6, The Herald, page 6, The Times, page 1, the Press and Journal, page 16, The Courier, page 9, The Daily Telegraph, page 6, The Sun, page 2, Scottish Daily Mail, page 1, Daily Express, page 2, Financial Times, page 3, Sunday Herald, page 16, Scotland on Sunday, page 18

 

Knighthood nominations: Stagecoach tycoon Sir Brian Souter has accused Labour of ‘mischief-making’ after Alex Salmond was cleared of playing any role in the award of his knighthood.  Sir Brian is one of the SNP’s biggest donors and Labour MP Jim Sheridan complained about the award.  A report from Lord Fraser has cleared the First Minister of any wrongdoing. (The Scotsman, page 11, The Times, page 6, The Daily Telegraph, page 13, Daily Record, page 10, Daily Mail, page 9)

 

Labour leadership: One of the candidates for the Labour leadership, Tom Harris, has accused MSPs of bringing ‘cataclysmic’ defeat down on themselves by shutting their minds to new ideas.  Further, the MP for Glasgow South is reportedly unhappy that Labour MSPs are not having a hustings for the leadership.  Labour MPs will hold one in London next week.  (Sunday Herald, page 6). 

 

Economy

Autumn statement: George Osborne has been urged to ditch a planned increase in fuel duty when he sets out the government’s spending plans tomorrow.  The move to raise the price of petrol and diesel by around 3p per litre in the New Year is to be examined in the face of continued opposition from Tory MPs and campaign groups.  The SNP urged Mr Osborne to freeze fuel duty in his autumn statement, saying record fuel prices were hindering economic recovery.  Mr Osborne will reportedly unveil credit easing schemes of £20billion –which will potentially expand to £40 billion – in loans to small firms in the autumn statement.  This initiative will reportedly cut the interest rates small firms pay by a fifth, or one percentage point.  Mr Osborne has been warned that his £40 billion plan will not be enough to restore business confidence.  His Labour shadow, Ed Balls, has said that credit easing alone would not be enough to revive economic growth; reportedly, he claimed that the Chancellor was ‘borrowing for unemployment and failure’.  Mr Osborne is to also to announce another £5billion in public spending cuts to raise money for an overall £30 billion national infrastructure and building scheme. Nearly 500 public sector projects will be unveiled, many of them to be funded by commercial pension fund investments. The Chancellor has said that Britain will face six more years of constraints on public spending to maintain the country’s credit rating. (The Scotsman, page 2 and 3, The Herald, page 6, The Times, page 8, The Courier, page 9, The Daily Telegraph, page The Sun, page 2, Daily Record, page 2, The Guardian, page 1, Daily Mail, page 8, Daily Express, page 4, Financial Times, page 2, The Sunday Times, page 1, Scotland on Sunday, page 1)

 

European debt: Britain faces a bill of up to £23 billion as part of an International Monetary Fund rescue deal for Italy and Spain.  This call came amid fears that a European bail-out was not enough to prop up the countries.  Reports in Italy suggest that the IMF is drawing up plans for a £517 billion assistance package for the country. Meanwhile, Spain may be offered access to IMF credit rather than a bailout package to avoid it being ‘picked off’ by the markets in coming weeks. (The Scotsman, page 2, The Daily Telegraph, page 1)

 

Housing market: According to a new report by Lloyds, Scotland’s house prices have experienced a ‘marked’ recovery from a sales slump at the start of the year, with prices up 1.7% in the three months to the end of October.  It shows the average price of domestic property has risen for the first time following three consecutive quarterly falls – but is still down 2.9% on last year.  However, average house prices are now 90% of their peak of three-and-a-quarter years ago, with a typical house costing £155,805. (The Herald, page 1, The Times, page 12, The Courier and Advertiser, page 3)

 

Independence cost: Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has raised concern through party research that an independent Scotland could lose £210 million each year in research funding from UK sources.  He has reportedly said that expertise will still exist, but funding will dry up, particularly within Scottish universities (The Courier, page 7).

 

Education

Commission on School Reform: The Commission on School Reform, established by independent think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, has launched a major enquiry into all areas of schooling in Scotland.  The body includes people from a wide range of backgrounds including representatives from political parties, heads of schools and colleges, and figures from the business world.  The inquiry, chaired by Keir Bloomer the former president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, is designed to come up with ideas to improve the system and help young people reach their full potential.  Mr Bloomer has reportedly said that the Commission will begin by examining whether Scotland’s reputation for international excellence is still justified although there is no aspect of education that the Commission is prevented from considering.  (The Scotsman, page 14, The Times, page 19, The Daily Telegraph, page 2, The Express, page 10, The Herald, page 8,)

 

UK student fees: Students from the rest of the UK studying at Scottish universities will pay on average £600 less in fees than expected.  Universities Scotland reassessed the figures in a paper to be submitted to Holyrood’s education committee and MSPs will discuss legislation to introduce fees for the rest of the UK  students tomorrow. (The Herald, page 8)

 

Teacher strike: Scottish teachers are being urged to abandon plans to bring schools to a standstill with a national strike after an independent report has claimed they earn more yet work less than most professionals.  The study, by Professor David Bell, also claims that teachers who have 13 weeks paid leave enjoy longer holidays than other workers and fare better than their international counterparts. (Sunday Times, page 4)

 

Health

NHS costs: Labour health spokesman Richard Simpson is demanding a parliamentary inquiry into the practice of flying foreign doctors to Scotland to cover for GPs who refuse to work out of hours.  Despite a record number of NHS doctors employed in Scotland, health boards are paying up to £1,000 a day to locum doctors; GP cover has cost up to £150 billion over the past five years. (The Times, page 19)

 

Local Government

Senior employees benefit: Glasgow City Council, Scotland’s largest local authority, has reportedly approved six-figure ‘golden goodbyes’ for executives at the same time as implementing a pay freeze for staff on low wages.  Eight senior employees shared a £738,000 early retirement pot.  The staff will also receive ‘annual compensation’ payments for the rest of their lives. The council’s ruling administration has tried to cut costs in the face of budgetary constraints by reducing headcount and sticking to a national pay freeze for the remaining staff.  New figures show that it was the senior employees that benefit most from last year’s exit packages (Sunday Herald, page 30)

 

Justice

Failed payment of cash penalties: Thousands of fines imposed by a controversial system to free up Scottish courts have gone unpaid.  According to latest figures, almost half of 12,000 fiscal fines handed to offenders in the three months to the end of June have not been paid.  Further, more than half of the total values of fines imposed since the system was introduced in 2008 have not been paid.  Victim support groups have said that the failure to collect fines would undermine the public’s confidence in the legal system.  Opposition politicians have reportedly said the findings bring the Scottish legal system into disrepute; they call on the Scottish government to step up efforts to have the money claimed back. (The Scotsman, page 1, Daily Express, page 15)

 

The Double Jeopardy Act: Suspects who are acquitted of crimes will be able to be retried for the first time in Scotland today as a new law changing the 800 year old principle of double jeopardy comes into force.  The Act, passed unanimously in Holyrood, allows the people cleared of offences to be sent back to court if new evidence arises which substantially strengthens the case against them.  Calls for a review of the principle came in 2007 after convicted murderer Angus Sinclair was cleared of killing Helen Scott and Christine Eadie in the ‘World’s End murders’ after the judge upheld a defence argument of insufficient evidence. (The Scotsman, page 8, Scotland on Sunday, page 6)

 

Human trafficking: One of Scotland’s leading legal figures Senior QC and Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy has warned that Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games could lead to a surge in human trafficking and prostitution.  The warning came after a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission claimed that Scotland’s police forces had a ‘significant intelligence gap’ in their for strategy dealing with human trafficking. (The Scotsman, page 12, The Herald, page 4, The Times, page 16)