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Reform Scotland News: 12 December 2012

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
EU coalition crisis
: David Cameron today will speak in the House of Commons to justify his EU veto, which his deputy, Nick Clegg, has said is ‘bad for Britain’.  Opposition from the Deputy Prime Minister has revealed the extent of Cabinet divisions over the Europe with further comments from Vince Cable reportedly accusing the Prime Minister of going to war with Europe over the wrong issue. The Liberal Democrat Business Secretary suggested Mr Cameron had sacrificed Britain’s national interests to protect the financial service industry and questioned his priorities.

Alex Salmond has reportedly called on Mr Cameron to convene an urgent meeting with the leaders of the devolved administrations, accusing him of ‘blundering into isolation in Europe. The First Minister wrote to Mr Cameron outlining what he said were six crucial questions about the implications for Scotland of the use of the British veto. (The Herald, page 1 and page 6, The Scotsman, page 1, The Times, page 1, The Scottish Sun, page 2, The Guardian, page 1, Scottish Daily Mail, page 1, The Daily Telegraph, page 1, Daily Mirror, page 4, Daily Express, page 4, Press and Journal, page 12 and 13, The Courier and Advertiser, page 9, Financial Times, page 1, Daily Record, page 8, The Sunday Times, page 1, The Sunday Herald, page 1)

Phone-hacking: Former Home Secretary David Blunkett has been criticised by a fellow Labour politician after accepting a ‘substantial’ pay-off in a secret deal after his mobile phone was hacked into by the News of the World.  Reportedly, Mr Blunkett came to the agreement in May for the hacking of his phone when he was at the Home Office between 2001 and 2004. (The Scotsman, page 14)

Rival anti-sectarian strategy: Labour has launched an alternative anti-sectarian strategy days before MSPs will be asked to back the controversial measures.  The party, which does not back the SNP’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill, said its 11-point plan would not need changes to the law.  It calls for a review of how anti-sectarianism can be taught in schools, a ‘stamp out sectarianism’ campaign and a national summit for teachers, youth workers and other interested parties. (Scotland on Sunday, page 5)

Same-sex marriage: Muslim leaders in Scotland have reportedly warned that SNP plans to legalise same sex marriage could turn many of their community away from the party as the Iraq war turned them off Labour.  Their warnings emerged after officials revealed they had received 50,000 responses from members of the public and organisations on the controversial plans under which same sex couples would be able to marry. (Scotland on Sunday, page 4)

Labour leadership: The Scottish Labour leadership challenger Tom Harris has reportedly admitted defeat, reducing the contest to a two-horse race between Johann Lamont and Ken Mackintosh.  One week before the votes are counted, Mr Harris said that the party were in ‘deep trouble’ but was not prepared to make the radical changes required to turn around its fortunes.  (Scotland on Sunday, page 2).

Economy
Energy Policy
: Reform Scotland’s latest report forecast that Scotland could earn £2billion a year exporting electricity and become a world leader in new-energy technology.  The report says the potential for this will only be realised if energy policy is fully devolved from Westminster.  According to the report, Scotland’s natural resources, research talent and energy companies, give the nation a potential to become a world leader in renewables.  One of the study’s authors, Graeme Blacklett has said that the policy of renewable energy development had to be extended and that the Scottish government was right to encourage the further acceleration of renewable energy generation by increasing the 2020 renewables target to 100%. (The Herald, page 2, The Scotsman, page 10 and 11, the Times, page 3, the Press and Journal, page 10, The Courier and Advertiser, page 8, The Metro, page 10, The Daily Mail, page 5, The Sun, page 2, The Record, page 12).  Another report by think tank the Adam Smith Institute has further claimed that renewable energy is too unreliable ever to replace gas, coal and nuclear generation.  Figures revealed by the Sunday Times show the extent of the failure of power generation from turbines as storms and winds of up to 165mph hit Scotland. The energy generated by wind turbines slumped as strong winds swept across the country and the turbines shut down.  Researchers have insisted that wind energy will never be economically viable and that wind turbines will are doing little to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Alex Salmond’s vision of a Scotland powered by wind, wave and tidal energy has reportedly suffered a major setback due to this publication (The Times, page 3, The Daily Telegraph, page 1, Daily Express, page 15, The Sunday Times, page 1). 

Welfare reform: Through a report to be released this week, The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have raised fears that welfare reforms being introduced by the UK government may cost Scotland’s economy £600 million, put 14,000 jobs at risk and hurt the most vulnerable families.  Scottish councils claim that during a time when the demand for services is rising, the benefit changes will jeopardise the council’s ability to respond.  Cosla have been in talks with the UK government about a number of changes to welfare including housing benefit cuts, however, while acknowledging the system is too complicated, Scotland’s councils say they are angry that they have been unable to get answers to key questions about how the new systems will work. (The Herald, page 3)

Economic forecast: The latest CBI Industrial Trends Survey, due out on Thursday, is expected to confirm that the manufacturing sector’s performance has worsened recently, fuelling fears that the UK could tip back into recession.  Adding to the gloomy outlook, a leading economic think tank said the economy grew by only 0.3% in the three months to the end of November.  The figures confirm the Bank of England’s assessment of the economic outlook. (The Herald, page 21)

Infrastructure: Infrastructure and Capital Spending Secretary Alex Neil has said that a plan to help lift Scotland out of recession will deliver better schools, hospitals, roads, rail and housing built over the next twenty years.  Among the 54 projects highlighted were a new Forth road bridge and extensive rail improvements. Mr Neil has claimed that these projects will make a real difference economically, driving growth and supporting jobs.  However, an analysis of the plan suggests that barely a third of the £60billion quoted is clearly identified with new schemes.  Instead, around half will be used to maintain existing roads and railways – money that would have been spent regardless.  The Centre for Public Policy for Regions is due to publish a report on the plan soon, highlighting the maintenance element. (The Sunday Herald, page 22 and 23)

Royal Bank of Scotland: A series of six errors and ‘light touch’ regulations are reportedly to be blamed for the 2008 downfall of Royal Bank of Scotland.  A report by the Financial Services Authority is also likely to admit that the watchdog itself did not understand the banking system, and was under pressure from Westminster to operate a hands off regulatory regime.  The findings reportedly also include recommendations that banks seek independent advice before embarking on major takeover deals (The Scotsman, page 1, Scottish Daily Mail, page 2)

Broadband: BT has announced that Scotland is to receive £2.5billion in infrastructure investment for next-generation broadband.  The communications firm said it would be the biggest ‘superfast’ fibre-broadband project for Scotland, covering about 277,000 homes and businesses (The Scotsman, page 3, The Daily Telegraph, page 5)

Education

Education plans: An internal report by Glasgow university has claimed that the move to replace nine academic faculties with four colleges in one year was ‘over-ambitious’.  Senior vice-principal Andrea Nolan has also said that the financial climate was not ideal, with the university seeking £20million of cuts through voluntary redundancies which lead to 264 staff leaving.  There were other challenges facing academics, including the development of 58 new master’s degree programmes to attract overseas students.  Dave Anderson, president of the Glasgow University branch of the UCU lecturers’ union has said that they have called on senior management to do more to address the concerns of staff that are over-burdened as a result of restructuring. (The Herald, page 8)

Justice
Knife crime
: As part of a new approach to crime, anyone caught carrying a knife over the festive period faces a possible four-year prison sentence.  This follows a strengthening of prosecution policy in the summer which covers anyone found possessing a knife on licensed premises, public transport and when it is linked to gang activity.  Scotland’s top law officer, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, has said that the six-week pilot will involve a zero-tolerance approach to the problem. (The Herald, page 4, the Scotsman, page 15, The Daily Telegraph, page 2, Daily Express, page 2, Press and Journal, page 9, Daily Record page 4)

Health
NHS Investigation
: Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has ordered an urgent investigation into an NHS board’s use of a private hospital to hit waiting time targets.  Auditors of NHS Lothian revealed the board’s doctors had set up firms to secure NHS work farmed out to the independent sector.  The use of spare beds in private hospitals was a policy backed by former First Minister Jack McConnell’s administration, however, the Scottish government was hostile to the policy, believing it took money out of the NHS.  Despite reservations, NHS boards have reportedly continued to make use of private hospitals in a bid to hit targets. (The Sunday Herald, page 4)

Local Government
Glasgow City Council
: Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, is reportedly the subject of a complaint to the country’s independent watchdog for councillors.  He has been reported by Labour councillor Tommy Morrison who claims he was threatened with a loss of an £11,000 a year post at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue unless he helped an ally of Mr Matheson get re-selected as a Labour candidate. (Sunday Herald, page 5).