Reform Scotland News: 29.11.2011


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. 


Reform Scotland

School standards: The Commission on School Reform, established by Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, is set to examine the roots of educational decline in Scotland. The commission, headed by Kier Bloomer, will try to find out what the cause of problems in the Scottish education system are and what changes could be made in an effort to improve standards. The investigation will begin this week and its findings will be published late next year. (The Daily Mail page 56)



Pensions: Official documents have reportedly revealed that the Scottish government’s Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) submission to the Hutton Inquiry could potentially have a far bigger impact on public sector pensions than those being proposed by the coalition.  The submission included the option “movement to a defined contribution scheme…which places the risk of uncertainty over the value of their final pension with the members.”  That is similar to most private sector pensions and would mean workers would not be certain of their final pension pay-out. (Scotsman page 15)


Health & safety legislation: The UK government has confirmed plans for a “major cutback” of health and safety regulations. (Scotsman page 6)


Leveson inquiry: Further coverage of Lord Leveson’s inquiry into the phone hacking scandal.  (Scotsman page 10, The Times page 3, The Guardian page 15, The Financial Times page 4)


Independence: David Steel in the Scotsman comments on the lessons Scotland can learn from Quebec for the referendum on Independence while Joan McAlpine, also in the Scotsman, comments that Scotland could cope with independence and people need to stop being negative about Scotland’s prospects.


Strikes: Union leaders have threatened months of strikes in response to a Cabinet minister’s comment that public sector workers have just two weeks left to agree a pensions deal or they will face a worse settlement. Michael Gove has accused union leaders of being “militants itching for a fight”. Up to two million people across the UK are expected to strike tomorrow including tens of thousands in Scotland. Doctors, midwives and the main nursing organisation are now threatening to join the dispute over pensions in the new year.(The Herald page 1, The Times page 10, The Guardian page 9, The Financial Times page 4, The Press and Journal page 1, The Press and Journal page 9, The Courier page 11, The Daily Mail page 4, The Daily Express page 4, Daily Record page 7, The Sun page 13)


Labour Leadership: Labour leadership contender Ken Macintosh told a hustings meeting in Glasgow that if Labour wanted to be successful in Scotland again they would have to do away with Alex Salmond’s kind of politics which he described as “personal, condescending, sneering” and which demeaned the office. Although Macintosh praised Iain Gray he said that during his leadership of the party he had been pulled into “playing Salmond’s game and trading insults across the chamber.” How to tackle Alex Salmond and the SNP’s dominance was the focus for the other leadership contenders Johann Lamont and Tom Harris. (Herald page 6)



Autumn statement: George Osborne is expected to give his autumn statement to the House of Commons today.  It is reported that he is likely to insist that there is no alternative to his “plan A” for deficit reduction, but it is thought he will unveil £40 billion of capital spending to boost the economy including paying half the £100 million costs of upgrading the sleeper train service between London and Scotland.  Osborne is also expected to announce a £300million package of tax breaks to stimulate investment in small businesses. However, the OECD has warned that the UK could be heading towards a double-dip recession. Statistics from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility are expected to overshadow the chancellor’s statement and will echo other forecasts which have downgraded growth to just 1% this year and even lower in 2012. (Scotsman page 1, David Bell in the Scotsman, The Herald page 6, The Times page 8, The Guardian page 1 and page 7, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Financial Times page 1, The Press and Journal page 8, The Daily Mail page 2, Daily Mirror page 8, Daily Express page 2)


Christmas retail forecasts: A survey by the Confederation of British Industry has revealed that UK retailers are entering the Christmas period employing far fewer staff than at the same time last year as they prepare for a seventh month of year-on-year decline in sales. (The Herald page 21, The Times page 41)


Carbon capture project: Doubts over the development of carbon capture projects in Scotland increased yesterday as a senior Treasury minister indicated that UK Government investment would be postponed. Danny Alexander, the Treasury Chief Secretary, said that much of the £1bn budget for the project was now going to be diverted to different projects. This announcement follows the news a few weeks ago that the UK Government was abandoning plans to convert the Longannet plant in Fife to carbon capture and storage. (The Times, page 1, The Press and Journal page 7, The Courier page 1)



University applications: According to figures released by UCAS there has been a 16 per cent drop in the number of Scots applying to study at Scottish universities.  There was a 7.6 per cent drop in applications from England, 19.4 per cent drop from Northern Ireland, but a 0.2 per cent increase from Wales, 4.8 per cent increase from the EU and a 21.2 per cent increase from Non-EU based students. One explanation for the drop suggests it is due to students wanting to delay applications until the current uncertainty over the fee system becomes clear.(Scotsman page 2, The Herald page 4, The Times page 7, The Guardian page 2, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Daily Mail page 13)



Glasgow fire: A fire at the disused former co-op funeral care property on Morrison Street in Glasgow yesterday around 1.50pm sent smoke across the city and caused long delays to motorists in the area and affected the M8 and M74.  There were no reported casualties. (Scotsman page 6 , The Herald page 1, the Daily Mail page 31, The Daily Express page 5, Daily Record page 5)


Edinburgh Trams: It was announced yesterday that motorists in the capital are to expect delays of up to ten minutes in 2012 as a result of contract workers returning to work on Shandwick Place and St Andrews Square. (The Herald page 2)



Drugs in care homes: Holyrood’s health committee has published an inquiry into standards in care homes calling for a crackdown on the widespread use of mood altering drugs in care homes following concerns that they are being used for “behaviour control.” MSPs are calling for tougher standards in care homes for the elderly, protection for whistle blowers and an end to the over-use of sedatives. (Scotsman page 20, The Herald page 5, The Daily Mail page 1)


HIV warning: An official report by the Health Protection Agency has warned of an alarming trend pointing to a rise in the numbers of people contracting HIV within the UK, whilst there has been a drop in UK residents contracting the disease overseas. The report claims that there will be over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK by the end of 2011. The Agency advises HIV tests become routine around the country to try and combat the rise. (The Guardian page 3)



Local Government

Recycling: Figures published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency show that 44 per cent of household waste is now being recycled, more than ever before.  However, there are variations between councils with East Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire performing best at 58.9 per cent whilst Dumfries & Galloway is on 20.7 per cent and Shetland on 17.6 per cent. (Scotsman page 14)



Glasgow is safest city in UK: Mercer’s Quality of Living report has placed Glasgow as the highest ranking UK city for personal safety. Glasgow and Aberdeen are ranked joint 44th in a list of 221 cities worldwide. However, no Scottish city made it into the overall top 50. (The Herald page 5,)


UK riots: A report by The Riots, Communities and Victims panel has said that the riots were able to spread across England during the summer because of a slow response by the police, initially in London, who should have used social media more effectively and responded more quickly and were largely caused by a culture of greed (The Times page 6, The Guardian page 11, The Daily Telegraph page 12, The Daily Mail page 6)


Court fines: Labour MSP, James Kelly, has said that the payment of fines issued by the Scottish Court Service is becoming “increasingly voluntary” as he cites figures showing the number of unpaid fines numbered 5,123, a 33 per cent rise on the same period in the previous financial year. Kelly has urged the Scottish Government to increase efforts to crack down on fine evasion, however the SNP have pointed out that while it is concerned by the figures ultimately it is the responsibility of the Crown Office and Scottish Court Service to ensure collection of payments. (The Times page 7)