Reform Scotland News: 1 March 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

Devo Plus: Jim Sillars has said that if the SNP put a Devo Plus option on the ballot paper at the referendum it would “cut down the case for independence” and “rings the death bell for independence”. (Scotsman page 6, Tavish Scott in the Scotsman)

 

Future of Scotland: Martin Sime in the Scotsman outlines the Future of Scotland campaign which is looking at the constitutional future of Scotland.

 

Referendum vs. economy: Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman comments that Scotland’s economic problems are being pushed aside to discuss the referendum.


Business concerns: Keith Cochrane, chief executive of the Glasgow based Weir Group has warned that lack of details over the independence referendum was creating “uncertainty” for businesses. This comes just after Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) voiced concerns over the prominence of debate over the referendum in such times of economic unease. (Scotsman page 6 , Sun page 2, Guardian page 25, Express page 1)


Scottish MP Eric Joyce: The former Labour MP’s political career was reported as effectively ending as it emerged he had a romance with a seventeen year-old political aide. This allegedly occurred during his campaign to remain the MP for Falkirk in 2010 and apparently has carried on for the last two years. The recent revelation occurred after police were called to a bar at The Houses of Parliament following reports he was involved in a “drunken brawl”. A senior party source last night commented that “Joyce does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of representing Labour again.” (Record page 5,)

 

Referendum Opposition: During this weekend, the political movement “Friends of Scotland in the Union” will be initiated by Labour and The Liberal Democrats. The campaign will coordinate political parties to oppose the SNPs move to an Independent Scotland. The Conservatives will also join to build a united front against Scotland leaving the Union. (Telegraph page 1).

 

Economy

Unemployment: The Fraser of Allander Institute has revised upwards it estimates for Scottish unemployment suggesting that 265,250 people could be searching for work by the end of the year, 9.8 per cent of the labour market.  The institute also suggests that Scotland will finally begin to emerge from the recession in 2014. (Scotsman page 1, John McLaren in the Scotsman, Sun page 2, Times page 13, Mail page 2)


Rangers and Salmond: The Treasury has said that Alex Salmond was involved in talks about Rangers going into administration a month before it happened.  (Scotsman page 1)

 

News International: James Murdoch has stood down as executive chairman of News International. (Scotsman page 7, Sun page 2, Guardian page 1)

 

Meanwhile Alex Salmond met with Rupert Murdoch yesterday and reportedly discussed Scotland’s constitutional future, the Leveson Inquiry and press standards. (Scotsman page 7, Iain Gray in the Scotsman, Sun page 2)

 

Work experience plan: Following threats from some of the UK’s biggest employers, the UK government yesterday dropped benefit sanctions against young people who take part in the voluntary work experience scheme but then drop out. (Guardian page 1)

 

Independent shops: Small family owned shops are apparently leading the way for Scottish high street recovery. Whilst chain stores and supermarkets are closing stores at a rate of six stores per week, independent stores are in comparison doing very well. Scotland now has two-thirds of its shops as independents in town centres, greater than England’s 59%. (Mail page 19)

 

Education

University selection: Mike Russell insisted he will continue with proposals to ensure young people from more disadvantaged areas are given chance to gain a place at University. This is in response from criticism by Aberdeen University who insist the places should be awarded on “academic merit”. The University of Aberdeen called the proposals “unfair…to advantage or disadvantage any group of applicants” (Telegraph page 12)

 

Eco School: Scotland’s first official “wholly sustainable school” will be opened tomorrow by Education Minister Michael Russell.  Acharacle Primary School cost £6.5 million to build and includes many structural and technological features to save energy. (Press and Journal page 6)

 

Justice

Lockerbie bomber: In a statement to MSPs yesterday, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill denied suggestions that he had urged Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to drop his appeal to make it easier to release him on compassionate grounds.  Mr MacAskill said that he would be “entirely comfortable” with the appeal being reopened. (Scotsman page 9, Sun page 2, Mail page 10)

 

Court closures: Labour MSP Jenny Marra criticised Holyrood’s proposal to shut various local courts as part of a £52.3m budget cut. The suggested courts involved include; Cupar, Forfar, Stonehaven and Kirkcaldy’s Justice of the Peace court. She raised concerns that victims, witnesses and the accused may all have to share public transport to further away courts. (Courier page 15)

 

Transport

Aberdeen bypass: Three Scottish judges yesterday threw out an appeal by campaign group RoadSense against the £400m Aberdeen bypass. (Scotsman page 17)

 

Buses: Bus journeys in Scotland have fallen to their lowest level for more than a decade.  Passenger numbers fell by 6 per cent to 438million in 2009/10.  However north of the central belt the number fell by a quarter last year and the only area to show any growth was around Edinburgh. (Scotsman page 18, Gavin Booth in the Scotsman).

 

Fuel Prices: Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael is under scrutiny for his 5p per litre rural fuel rebate scheme. It is estimated that those in the Highland pay on average 7p more per litre than the AA’s average petrol price, whilst the Islands fair worst with fuel costing up to 20p more per litre in places. Carmichael’s move has been criticised for not doing enough to make a significant difference to the price discrepancies. The Office of Fair Trading is now investigating claims the recent price rises have been in anticipation of the 5p rebate scheduled. (Record page 8, Courier page 18, Press and Journal page 5)

 

Rail crash: Network Rail will face an “unlimited” fine after admitting responsibility for the crash in 2007 which killed Scottish passenger, Margaret Masson. The company admitted safety regulation failures resulting in it derailing after hitting a faulty set of points. A guilty plea is expected. (Express page 25, Mail page 19, Press and Journal page 19)

 

Health

Catholic midwives: Two Catholic midwives have lost their legal battle to be classed as conscientious objectors and avoid any involvement in abortions.  Although they did not carry out abortions themselves they had claimed that delegating and supporting staff who were administering abortions was a breach of their human rights.  Lady Smith ruled that the two midwives were protected from having direct involvement in the procedures and nothing they did as part of their duties terminated a pregnancy. (Scotsman page 13, Hugh McLachlan in the Scotsman, Sun page 6, Record page 6, Courier page 13, Express page 10, Telegraph page 15)