Reform Scotland News: 21/12/2011

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

Underage drinking figures: Findings from the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey yesterday showed that one in three 15-year olds and one in seven 13-year olds in Scotland had drunk alcohol in the previous week. The evidence has raised concern about the number of young people in Scotland drinking alcohol regularly. The report comes as SNP Minister Nichola Sturgeon has admitted that the SNP’s decision to implement minimum pricing for alcohol is likely to face legal challenges. However, the report did also find a drop in the overall numbers of young people who drank alcohol. (Scotsman page 1, Sun page 2, Press and Journal page 9, Daily Telegraph page 8, Times page 15)

Labour Shadow team: Tom Harris, one of the three contenders in the Labour leadership contest has been given a new role in the Labour shadow cabinet. Mr Harris will review how the party uses technology to campaign. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 6)

West Lothian answer: A Commission to resolve the ‘West-Lothian Question’ will begin work in February and will report back in the spring of 2013. (Scotsman page 5)

Change of time for MSP’s debates: A report into Holyrood’s standards, procedures and practices has recommended that parliamentary debating times are spread more widely throughout the week. The recommendation has been welcomed by the Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick but Labour MSPs on the Committee have not agreed with the majority decision for the timetable change. (Scotsman page 11, Daily Mail page 23, Courier page 7, Times page 13)

Levenson inquiry: Piers Morgan has given evidence to the inquiry. (Scotsman page 13, Sun page 16, Daily Record page 10, Daily Mail page 6, Daily Mirror page 4, Daily Express page 4, Financial Times page 4, Press and Journal page 7, Guardian page 1, Daily Telegraph page 13, Times page 3, Herald page 7)

‘Secret talks’ about the Union: Documents have been released under freedom of information laws show that a number of meetings regarding ‘constitutional issues’ were held between the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Labour MPs in the days immediately following the SNP’s election victory in May. The leader of the SNP at Westminster said the meetings could be viewed as a conspiracy. (Daily Mail page 1)

Economy

26,000 Scots unemployed for more than a year: The TUC has said that number of people out of work for longer than 12 months is rising faster in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. The number of people spending Christmas on the dole in Scotland has risen by almost a third since this time last year and long-term unemployment figures have risen by 107% since 2007. (Scotsman page 8, Daily Record page 2, Daily Mail page 22, Courier page 11, Daily Express page 15, Daily Telegraph page 10, Herald page 5)

UK AAA rating: The influential credit ratings agency Moody’s yesterday stated that the UK is still worthy of its AAA rating although it noted the eurozone debt crisis has damaged the UK and warned that its ability to maintain that rating is under threat.  Vince Cable has stated that many of the proposals outlined at Brussels are necessary to avoid a further slump. (Scotsman page 5, Courier page 13, Daily Mirror page 4, Financial Times page 1, Press and Journal page 7, Guardian page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1,Times page 1, Herald page 2)

Ipsos Mori poll: A poll has shown that 59% of Scots believe that the economy will worsen next year. (Scotsman page 6, Courier page 7)

End of fees on overseas currency: British banks last night agreed to end fees which were imposed on those who use a debit card to purchase overseas currency. (Daily Express page 1, Financial Times page 2, Daily Telegraph page 12, Herald page 5)

Bank of Scotland accounts: Bank of Scotland customers are reportedly no longer able to take out a 6% children’s savings account as this is only to be offered by Halifax, which has no braches in Scotland. (Herald page 3)

Justice

Cutting jail terms ‘bad for justice’: Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk has warned that the ‘routine’ granting of one-third discounts on sentences for those who plead guilty could ‘erode the authority of the courts generally’. The senior judge has argued that the idea that those who pled guilty were entitled to a discount was problematic and argued that judges should use discretion in deciding sentences. His comments were welcomed by Victim Support Scotland but have raised concerns among defence lawyers who feel that the discount is important in maintaining the level of guilty pleas and thus saving the justice system a substantial amount of time and money. (Scotsman page 1, Daily Record page 8, Herald page 1)

Bill of Rights: UK Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke yesterday said that he had never before seen the need for a British Bill of Rights but is open-minded about the idea. David Cameron launched a commission in 2011 to consider getting rid of the Human Rights Act which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights instead. (Scotsman page 5)

Stalking figures: The number of people being stalked in Scotland has not fallen despite the introduction a new law in December 2010. The SNP government has been urged to do more to tackle these types of crime. (Scotsman page 16, Sun page 2, Daily Express page 10, Herald page 8)

Cadder ruling a mistake: The former Solicitor General for Scotland has stated that justices at the UK supreme court ‘kowtowed to Europe’ when they made the ‘flawed, mistaken and misconceived’ Cadder ruling last year. (Daily Express page 2, Herald page 11)

Education

£1bn deal for universities: The Scottish Funding Council has outlined the strings which are attached to a new £1bn funding package which has been announced today. The conditions involve universities agreeing to ‘individually tailored outcome agreements’ and the requirement for universities to work more closely together. There is also the possibility of financial penalties if universities fail to widen access. (Scotsman page 12, Courier page 13, Press and Journal page 3, Times page 13, Herald page 1)

Health

Anti-drink-drive campaign: Scotland footballer Barry Bannan has become the face of a new campaign in the West Midlands. Bannan was found guilty of a drink-driving offence earlier this year. (Scotsman page 1, Sun page 29, Daily Record page 9)

Breast implant fears: British women have been told that there is no evidence to support French claims that silicone breast implants are hazardous and should be removed. There have been concerns in France that the implants are linked to a particular form of cancer. (Scotsman page 3, Daily Mail page 7, Daily Mirror page 2, Press and Journal page 7, Daily Telegraph page 1, Times page14)

Deprivation and ill-health: Figures released by the Scottish Public Health Observatory have show that the majority of deprived Scots are likely to live almost twice as many years in ill-health compared with those who are more affluent. The figures also show a significant difference in life expectancy and ‘healthy-life expectancy’ – the number of years spent in good health – between those who are affluent and those who are not. The findings also showed that Scotland’s life and healthy-life expectancy figures are worse than those of the UK as a whole. A Scottish government spokesperson stated that the figures which relate to the period of 2009-10 are not statistically significant and there has been a general upward trend in life expectancy in Scotland in recent years.  (Scotsman page 6)

Cancer waiting times: Scottish Government statistics have shown that almost 97% of cancer patients started treatment within two months of an urgent referral. (Scotsman page 6, Courier page 8)

OAPs care: Ministers yesterday unveiled plans for a new blueprint for housing the elderly. The plans stress the importance of supporting people to live at home as long as possible but have been viewed by the interests groups as potentially dangerous as cost-cutting measures could lead to people being trapped in their own houses. (Daily Mail page 2, Courier page 9, Daily Express page 15, Herald page 8)

Transport

Rail figuresjump by 6%: Rail firms have announced ‘inflation busting’ fare increases of 6% across Scotland. Passenger groups have said that the rise is not in line with people’s pay and that they ‘deserve better’. (Scotsman page 10, Sun page 2, Daily Record page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Couier page 1, Daily Mirror page 26, Daily Express page 9, Financial Times page 2, Press and Journal page 5, Herald page 10)