Reform Scotland News: 15 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

IDS: Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has accused Nicola Sturgeon of “saying one thing in public and another in private” with regard to the welfare reforms.  He also accused the SNP of wanting a “pick-an-mix independence”. (Scotsman page 1).

 

Referendum: Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman suggests that one of the greatest threats to independence may come from Scotland’s small ‘c’ conservative attitudes.

 

Public service reform: Des McNulty in the Scotsman comments that the presence of a UK government does not prevent the Scottish government reforming public services, rather there is an unwillingness of successive Scottish governments to take the reform agenda forward.

 

Credit rating: A former SNP advisor, Martin Wolf, told MSPs that an independent Scotland was unlikely to retain the triple-A credit rating it enjoys whilst in the Union. The comments were rejected by the SNP. An article in the Herald, however, reveals the Fitch ratings agency expects Britain to lose its AAA credit rating within two years. (Herald page 6, Telegraph page 1).

 

Economy

Youth unemployment: The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 44,200 18-24 year-olds are claiming out of work benefits, up by more than 3,000 compared to the same time last year.  Of the 44,2000 4,800 are recorded as having been looking for more for more than a year, up from just 1,600 this time last year.  Scottish labour leader Johann Lamont commented, “The number of people losing their jobs in Scotland under the SNP continues to grow while a complacent First Minister puts all of his focus on separating us from the United Kingdom.” (Scotsman page 4, David Bell in the Scotsman, Telegraph page 1).

 

Total unemployment levels in Scotland are at their highest for 18 years having risen to 8.7 percent compared to the average of 8.4 percent across the Britain. Total unemployment now stands at 234,000. This accompanies the news that more people are taking part-time positions due to a lack of full-time, producing claims of the hidden unemployed. (Mail page 12, Sun page 6, Times page 19 and 45).

 

Islamic banking: Omar Shaikh in the Scotsman comments that Islamic banking could work in Scotland.

 

Electricity costs: Former Chairman for Scottish Power, Donald Miller, has warned that the target to obtain more energy from renewable sources will push up bills for consumers. Apparently, this will be worse in Scotland than the rest of Britain due to the SNP’s pledge to source 100% of Scotland’s energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. (Mail page 1).

 

100 year bonds: Plans by George Osborne to reinstate 100 year bonds were criticised for placing a further debt burden on generations to come. In an article in The Times, Stephen King questions not the validity of the 100 year bond but their attractiveness to buyers. (Mail page 6, Times page 27).

 

Education

Top universities: Edinburgh University, Scotland’s only entry in the list of the world’s top 100 universities, has fallen from 45th to 49th place. Only 10 British Universities altogether feature in the Times Higher Education magazine world rankings. (Scotsman page 21, Times page 13)

 

Foreign students: Inquiries by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) may lead to several colleges losing their sponsorship status for foreign students. Anniesland, Stow & Cardonald and Motherwell are in urgent talks with UKBA after inspectors were dissatisfied with attendance records kept. (Herald page 1).

 

Transport

Rail conditions: The state of carriages used by Scotrail were criticised by MSP Maureen Watt after findings by an investigative committee at Holyrood showed people from Aberdeen were taking longer routes to avoid certain types of carriage. (P&J page 16). 

 

Justice

World’s End murders: Angus Sinclair could face a new trial for the murder of teenagers Helen Scott and Christine Eadie in the 35-year-old World’s End Murder case.  His previous trial collapsed in 2007 when the judge ruled he had no case to answer.  However, following the reform of double jeopardy laws it is understood that new evidence, which may meet the “new and compelling” criteria, has been obtained by prosecutors. (Scotsman page 1, Mail page 6, Sun page 14, Times page 11, Herald page 5, Courier page 13).

 

Police VAT: A letter from Treasury minister David Gauke to the Unison union reportedly suggests that the merged single Scottish police force would lose its VAT exemption. The UK Goverment confirmed the bill would come to an estimated £26m. The National fire and rescue service would also become liable for VAT charges. (Scotsman page 15, P&J page 22).

 

Local government

Perth: Perth has regained its city status after almost 40 years. ‘The Fair city’ was once Scotland’s capital. The reinstated is hoped to bring a wave of self esteem to citizens and civic leaders. (Scotsman page 7, Mail page 29, Sun page 37, Times page 23, Courier page 1).

 

Glasgow Labour: Labour in Glasgow has lost its majority on the council after another councillor, Shaukat Butt, resigned from the party.  Councillor Butt is the seventh councillor to resign since the passing of the city’s budget last month and in the wake of 20 councillors being axed by the party last year.  (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 1, Express page 4).

 

Health

Minimum pricing: The SNP’s proposals to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland were endorsed by MSPs last night.  32 of the 33 Labour MSPs abstained on the bill with the other opposition parties backing the legislation. Nicola Sturgeon will not reveal the minimum price until the bill goes through the next stage of parliament. SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse called upon the MOD to offer more support to the suggested 13 percent of personnel who have alcohol dependency issues. (Scotsman page 14, Mail page 9, Times page 19, Herald page 3, Record page 13).

 

Breastfeeding: A study by researchers at the universities of Aberdeen and Stirling has suggested that official advice which suggests mothers should breastfeed exclusively for the first six month can be “unhelpful” and idealistic. (Scotsman page 22, Mail page 13, Press page 24, Telegraph page 14).

 

Fruit: A new study published found that Scots consume more fruit and vegetables and are more likely to cook meals from scratch than in England and Wales. A researcher a Kantar Worldpanel commented, “…people associate it with haggis and deep-friend food, but it is far more complex than that.” (Mail page 30).