Reform Scotland News: 22 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


Reform Scotland

Localism: Ben Thomson in the Scotsman previews Reform Scotland’s latest publication, ‘Local Taxes’, which is due to be published tomorrow.  The report calls for Scotland’s local authorities to have greater control over tax revenue, including returning business rates to councils.



Budget 2012: Comment and coverage on yesterday’s budget.  Key elements of the budget included: 50p tax rate cut to 45p; personal allowance raised to £9,205; partial u-turn on child benefit proposals; and freeze on the personal allowance on pensioner income with age-related allowances removed for new pensioners from April 2013.  A lot of media comment is focused on the impact the budget will have on pensioners with suggestions that many pensioners will be £80 a year worse off. Yet a loophole which saw businesses able to acquire residential property without stamp duty has been stopped with a 15 per cent tax.  SNP finance secretary John Swinney said that the budget failed to deliver a boost to job creation in Scotland and offered “next to no new resources”.


(Scotsman page 1, Alf Young in the Scotsman, Gerry Hassan in the Scotsman, Ailsa McKay in the Scotsman, John McLaren in the Scotsman, Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman, Rev Ian Galloway in the Scotsman, Larry Elliot in the Guardian, Guardian: Budget 2012, page 1, Financial Times page 1, Sun page 9, Mail page 1, Financial Times page 9, Express page 5 , Herald page 1).


The Chancellor was accused of discrimination due to regulations which effectively put 41p extra tax on a bottle of whiskey. Exports of whiskey stand at over £3 billion and are on the increase. This is part of a “sin tax” which increases the price of alcohol and cigarettes. (Mail page 6, Times page 5).


Pay reform: Strathclyde could be affected by proposals for new regional pay.  Evidence published by the Treasury suggests the area has the second highest “public sector premium” in the UK with public sector staff earning on average 17.5 per cent more than their equivalent in the private sector. (Scotsman page 6)


Pension age: John Lawson, head of pension policy at Standard Life, has suggested a child born today may have to work till they are 80 after Treasury documents indicated the government is struggling to keep up with increasing welfare costs. (Scotsman page 10).


Game: The fate of high street video game store is doubtful after the Royal Bank of Scotland blocked an offer from OpCapita to take over the failing business. Game Group has now filed for administration. This filing has effectively allowed them to postpone their quarterly rental bill on 600 stores across Britain and puts over 6,000 British jobs into jeopardy.  (Guardian page 29, Times page 37, Financial Times page 41, Press and Journal page 39)


Supermarket bids: Asda has been awarded the rights to build a £24 million superstore on the outskirts of Dundee. It is estimated the development will create 480 jobs in the area. The decision made by the UK Supreme Court was strongly contested by Tesco who operate a supermarket close to the proposed site. (Record page 26, Herald page 10, Courier page 8).



Scotland Bill: The SNP has agreed to back the Scotland Bill despite five of their six demands for more powers being ignored.  The new legislation will pass new financial powers to the Scottish Parliament including 10p of income tax, stamp duty land tax and landfill tax as well as the ability to borrow up to £2.2billion for building projects and £500m for revenue.  (Scotsman page 13, Elspeth Orcharton in the Scotsman, Herald page 6).


House of Lords: Lord Forsyth has accused the UK government of treating the House of Lords with “contempt over the Scotland Bill.  He said the Lords had agreed to defer consideration of the parts of the bill that could relate to a referendum until after the end of the consultation on 9 March.  However, he claimed that Michael Moore gave the Lords a two page letter which said very little about the consultation and therefore gave the Lords no time to take the consultation process into account.  (Scotsman page 13)


Commonwealth Games: Audit Scotland has warned that the Commonwealth Games faces real risks of an overspend in its £524m budget.  The four areas reportedly causing concern are security, costs associated with the workforce, the athletes’ village, and turning Hampden into a track and field venue. (Scotsman page 20).


Independence: Gavin McCrone in the Scotsman comments that there is already plenty that can be done in Scotland to boost growth and independence may not be the best solution.


Monarchy: Michael Kelly in the Scotsman comments on the SNP policy on retaining the Queen as head of state.


Centralisation: Tavish Scott in the Scotsman comments that devolution was not meant to end at Edinburgh, but it has and the islanders he represents, as well as other communities, want something better.


Nuclear: SNP MSP Rob Gibson yesterday stated that the UK Atomic Energy Authority should have full responsibility for removing foreign nuclear waste from Scotland. (Record page 10).


Scots Brigade: The proposal to create a Scottish Brigade of 6,500 has been criticised by Army chiefs for the emotive effect the loss of lives could have upon the public. The creation would risk a concentration of deployed forces from Scotland. (Herald page 9).



New exams: Scotland’s two main parents’ groups have called on schools not to put off the introduction of the new exams following education secretary Michael Russell’s decision to allow councils to opt for a one-year delay.  The groups fear the delay could undermine their children’s learning.   An article in the Herald highlights the £3.5 million package of support offered to schools who are struggling to meet the deadline. The funds will mostly go to supply teachers to free subject specialists’ time in order to prepare. (Scotsman page 21, Record page 20, Herald page 7, Times page 20, Press and Journal page 21).


Adam Smith principal: Dr Craig Thomson, Principal of Scotland’s third largest college was suspended pending an independent investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment towards staff members. (Courier page 3).



Waiting times: Nicola Sturgeon has ordered an inquiry into NHS Lothian following accusations that the health board had “masked” the true number of patients waiting longer than they should do by marking them as unavailable. The issue was brought to light after a report by Price Water Coopers showed that management had actively encouraged the manipulation of data. (Scotsman page 15, Times page 17, Courier page 2).


Doctors’ surgeries: The BMA has warned that patients have to see their GPs in “sub-standard rooms” because of a lack of proper investment.  The report acknowledged improvements to services such as NHS24 but highlighted the lack of “adequate premises” for consultation.  (Scotsman page 22, Herald page 6).