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Reform Scotland News: 28/03/2012

 

 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

North Sea gas leak: The oil giant Shell has shut down production on its Shearwater platform when it was revealed that it could take six months to put a stop to the leak at the nearby Total Elgin installation. North Sea union leaders demanded the platform be completely evacuated due to the high risks of the presence of a cloud of explosive gas, while also calling for other rigs in the North Sea to be evacuated amid continued fears of a dangerous explosion. Oil chiefs have called in a team of American experts to help plug the leak and prevent a North Sea rig blowout. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 5, Times page 1, Express page 2, Sun page 7, Courier page 18, P&J page 6)

 

Stock up on petrol: The UK government suggested yesterday that motorists should stockpile petrol in case the warnings of a strike by tanker drivers disrupt supplies next week. The government is considering stockpiling fuel with a priority on emergency services and advises those to consider alternative plans to get to work next week in the case of a disruption in the fuel supply network. (Telegraph page 1, Scotsman page 6, Daily Mail page 1, Express page 4, Sun page 2, Record page 2, Herald page 11, Courier page 25)

 

Royal Mail’s stamp raise: Royal Mail’s decision to raise the first-class stamp to 60p may force millions of people to abandon the next-day delivery services, consumer groups warn. This rise comes into force on the 30th of April and Royal Mail has also not ruled out the possibility of the stamp eventually reaching the £1 mark. (Telegraph page 1, Scotsman page 1, Express page 1, Record page 2, Courier page 14, Herald page 6, P&J page 18)

 

SNP donation by lottery couple: The Weirs, a couple who won Europe’s largest lottery jackpot, donated £1 million to the SNP four days following a tea party at Alex Salmond’s official residence. Their contribution included £500,000 each to the SNP for the party’s independence referendum campaign. This tea party was not included in the official register of the First Minister’s guests at Bute house and the secrecy of the meeting has reportedly sparked controversy. (Telegraph page 1)

 

Call to clean up beach: Gordon Brown is now demanding a timetable for the clean-up of a beach affected by radiation. He calls for the Ministry of Defence and the Scottish Protection Agency to begin an immediate clean up of Dalgety Bay in Fife following investigation. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 4)

 

Economy

Health Budget: Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that the health budget in Scotland would be cut by over £50m in 2012-2013 if the Scottish government refused to enact the pension reforms and bring in more contributions. (Scotsman page 17, Herald page 6, Courier page 16)

 

Food and drink exports: Scotland has recently surpassed a target to grow its food and drink exports by a third. Export sales reached a new high of £5.4 billion in 2011 three years ahead of schedule. Scotland’s industry leaders claimed the food and drink sector as a “real bright spot in tough economic times.” (Scotsman page 37, Herald page 3, Courier page 35, P&J page 30)

 

Pasty price hike: George Osborne introduced plans in his budget for a 20p price hike on pasties and a VAT on all hot takeaway food amid angry calls from bakery shop owners. Instead, Mr Osborne advised that citizens could buy cold meat pasties to save cash. (Sun page 6, Express page 4)

 

Education

University application plan cut: Criticism from universities in Scotland has led to a new plan, which encouraged students to apply to universities only after they received their results, being ended. The universities claimed the new plan would lead to unfair disadvantages to applicants north of the Border if the admissions cycle was cut to the summer months. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 7)

 

New Courses: Starting in August, new Scottish baccalaureate qualifications in the expressive arts and social science area will be open to students. The new exams are aimed at high-achieving sixth-year students and are expected to drive up standards in Scottish classrooms. (Herald page 5, Times page 5)

 

University clearing system: The clearing system of the application process is expected to be cut within two years. These changes come as a result of the huge rise in applications by the clearing system last year, which reached a peak of 50,000. Instead of the clearing system’s race to apply by phone, students will now apply online and wait for an offer. (Times page 5)

 

Transport

Proposal to cut direct trains abandoned: Keith Brown announced yesterday that the new proposal that was part of Transport Scotland’s Rail 2014 to enforce passengers to change trains at Edinburgh for onward travel, has been abandoned. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 8, Sun page 2, Courier page 11)

 

Electronic airport gates: Edinburgh Airport is to introduce new electronic security gates that will cut passport queues by half. This move will allow passengers to clear immigration more quickly with the installation of five gates. (Scotsman page 19)

 

Bus Fare: Scotland’s bus companies warn that fares will continue to rise this year as the concessionary travel scheme for the over-60s and disabled people will run out of its budget. The companies expect a shortfall of more than £7 million for the next year. (Herald page 1)

 

Health

Prescriptions Rise: In Scotland, the number of prescriptions has risen by almost 3 million as a result of the scrapping of charges last year, while the Scottish government claims that prescribing will continue to be “economic and efficient.” (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 5)

 

Drug-taking falls: A new crime survey recently published reveals that one in four Scots have admitted to taking illegal drugs at some point in their lives. However, the survey also found that the level of use is falling with only 6.6% of Scots using drugs last year. Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, former director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, claimed the issue was not any less widespread and that policies are continuing to solve drug misuse. (Scotsman page 16, Times page 11, Express page 2, Courier page 2)

 

Cancer Target: Yesterday, figures revealed that NHS Fife, NHS Shetland, and NHS Grampian failed to meet cancer waiting times of when a patient was diagnosed and when they began treatment. These three boards failed to meet the benchmark, while the Scotland-wide average was 96.9%. (Courier page 5, Herald page 11)