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Reform Scotland News: 2 February 2012

The version of this bulletin which was distributed to our mailing list  suggested John Swinney said Scotland could ‘not’ go it alone and maintain a triple A rating.  This was an error on our part and the ‘not’ should not have been included. 

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
Benefits cap: The government has made a concession on its proposed introduction of a benefits cap of £26,000 a year from 2013 by allowing individuals who lose their job a nine-month grace period to find work before the cap is imposed.  A Lords amendment removing child benefit from the cap was overturned by the Commons. The Westminster government plans to instigate a “bedroom tax” for renting under occupied homes. The move could see 95,000 Scottish households receiving £27 to £65 less per month in benefits.(Scotsman
page 10, Herald page 6, The Guardian page 6, Record page 2, Mail page 8)

Sterling: Finance secretary John Swinney said yesterday that he “cannot foresee the set of circumstances” which would lead to a Scottish government in an independent Scotland calling a referendum on joining the euro and in effect ruled out joining the currency for “the medium term”. Professor John Kay, a former economic advisor to Salmond criticised these plans. He said there would be little difference under independence if Scotland retained the same currency as England. However, an article by John Swinney in The Financial Times stated that Scotland could “go it alone and remain triple A”. (Scotsman page 1, Press and Journal page, 14)

Army:  Letters from Defence Secretary Philip Hammon to Sir Menzies Campbell reportedly suggest that uncertainty over the constitutional future is putting plans to double the size of the army based in Scotland in jeopardy. (Scotsman page 1)

David Miliband: David Miliband has said Labour needs “restless rethinking” or its purpose and policies if it is to return to power.  The former Foreign Secretary, who lost out in the Labour leadership to his brother, has set out a seven-point plan for the party. (Scotsman page 19)

Independence debate: Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland, in the Scotsman comments that modern Scotland is diverse and rule from the central belt is viewed with scepticism by many in the Northern Isles.  Michael Kelly in the Scotsman comments that many major decisions would still be made in England even if we became independent.  John Swinney in the Scotsman argues that independence would help encourage economic growth in Scotland.

Bullying: Several high ranking staff have left Historic Scotland, amid reports of a culture of bullying. Two have claimed explicitly in private that they had been bullied, whilst the three others took stress leave before leaving. (Times page 3)

“Leylandii Law”: An SNP Backbencher was yesterday given permission to introduce a private members bill which will work to stop people allowing their hedges to grow too high. The plan is hoped to cut ambiguity and promote neighbourhood cohesion. (Courier and Advertiser page 2)

Economics
Fred Goodwin: Alex Salmond has expressed regret for encouraging former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin win the takeover of Dutch bank ABN Ambro. He went on to suggest that all peers who have serious criminal offences should not be allowed to retain their honours, citing the case of Fred Goodwin as a “convenient distraction” from bigger problems. A survery in the Sun found that 72% of the public agreed with Salmond. The House of Lords may introduce a policy of expelling any member who has served a year in jail. This is already the case in the House of Commons. (Scotsman
page 1, Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman, Herald page 1, Sun page 9, Guardian page 30, Daily Record page 5, Express page 2, Telegraph page 11)

RBS legal action: RBS now faces legal action from small investors who lost their savings three years ago. Fred Goodwin and RBS have previously been cleared of fraudulent behaviour. But the group has appointed Bird & Bird, the high profile law firm, to file a “letter before action”, with the intent of filing a full class action. (Herald page 5)

Tax cut: The Institute of Fiscal Studies has suggested that the Chancellor has scope for temporary tax cuts up to £20bn in his March budget to boost growth. (Scotsman page 4)

Bankers’ salaries: Ed Miliband has called for banks to be forced to disclose how many executives earn more than £1million.  David Cameron rejected the call, arguing it should be done at the same time as the rest of the European Union. (Scotsman page 8, David Chillingworth in the Scotsman, Press and Journal page 15, Times page 21, Mail page 10)

High street sales: Official data for the fourth quarter of 2011 show that the volume of retail sales in Scotland was up 0.7 per cent on the previous quarter and up 0.7 per cent o the previous year. (Scotsman page 14)

Justice
Prison visits: Kenny MacAskill is facing calls to abandon plans to scrap the role of prison visiting committees, replacing them with a government run advocacy service.  Critics are concerned that removing the committees would mean that there was no independent body checking what goes on inside prisons. (Scotsman
page 13)

‘Soft-touch jails’:  Almost 500 inmates have either not applied at all, or turned down an offer of home detention.  Calls have emerged from this to make jail less of a “soft option”.  Plans for a new jail at Peterhead have been likened to a “five-star hotel”. (Daily Mail page 1)

Education
Fee legality: Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) based in Birmingham plan to launch legal proceedings next month against the planned fees of up to £9000 a year for students from the rest of the UK to attend Scottish universities. (Herald
page 1)

Pay levels: The Scottish Government has called for greater transparency and an elimination of bonuses in University Principal’s pay. The SNP propose to introduce elections and quotas for key officials. The plans would see students have a much more power over the day to day workings of their University. (Herald page 8, Telegraph page 1)

Health
Hospital Blaze: Raigmore Hospital in Inverness has reportedly had to move patients out of wards after it failed its safety inspection. It will now undertake a £3 million to upgrade to a higher level of fire safety. (The Press and Journal
page 1)

Sugar warning: The University of San Francisco in California called for sugar to be controlled like many other harmful substances such as tobacco and alcohol. The study cited sugar as “empty calories”. Scientists have warned that sugary foods and drinks are largely to blame for many cases of illness including; obesity, heart disease, cancer and liver problems. (Press and Journal page 18, Record page 18, Mail page 20, Telegraph page 2)

Local Government
Councillors step down:  Jean Urquhart and John Finnie, two highland councillors who won seats as MSPs  have announced that they will not be seeking re-election as councillors. (The Press and Journal, page 3)