Reform Scotland News: 17 April 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

SNP & Nato: Further coverage of SNP’s consideration of changing its policy to allow an independent Scotland to join Nato.  The issue is reportedly causing splits in the SNP ahead of the party’s policy making council’s vote with some MSPs like David Torrance backing joining Nato, while others such as Dave Thompson oppose the move. (Scotsman page 6, Phillips O’Brien in the Scotsman, Herald page 7, Harry Reid in The Herald, Record page 2, Express page 6, Kerry Gill in the Express, Times page 2, Telegraph page 8).

Bill Walker: Bill Walker MSP who has been suspended from the SNP over allegations of domestic abuse has reportedly confessed that he hit his second wife after she threatened to leave him, though claims it was in self-defence (Record page 1, Mail page 26, Courier page 1)

UK Labour lead: A Populus poll for the Times has shown that on a UK basis Labour has a 9-point lead over the Conservative, the highest share Labour has had this parliament. However, latest polling evidence shows that Labour is lagging well behind SNP in Scotland. (Times page 1).

Economist on independence: Peter Jones in the Scotsman comments that although the controversial front cover illustration on the Economist depicting an independent Scotland as “Skintland” was ill-advised, the content of the article was still valid and raised a number of issues about future revenue from oil. (Peter Jones in the Scotsman)

Referendum ballot: James Gilmour in the Scotsman argues that the referendum should include two questions, giving voters a choice of middle option, but phrased in a way that it would only become relevant if a majority said no to independence.

Economy

Windfarm warnings: There have been criticisms over the SNP’s green energy plans. Ramblers Scotland are concerned about the effects of too many sites being developed because of tax-subsidies. While Donald Trump, announced to MSPs that he would not have invested in Scotland had he known the SNP’S green energy plans which have seen an increase in windfarms in countryside and coastal areas. Communities Against Turbines Scotland have announced plans to protest with Donald Trump in Edinburgh next week. (Herald page 2, Telegraph page 1, P&J page 5, Mail page 1)

Charity tax: The UK government has said a full consultation on the implications of the ‘charity tax’ will take place in the summer, leading to reports that this is a way for the coalition to drop the proposal. (Guardian page 8, Polly Toynbee in the Guardian, Mail page 12, Courier page 20)

Pensions: A report by consultancy JLT Benefit Solutions and Cass Business School suggests pensions could increase by up to 40 per cent without workers having to pay any more if companies improved the way schemes were run. (Express page 1).

Justice

Police tasers: Taser weapons that are fired by non-firearms officers may be in breach of ECHR according to a report by Christopher Mason of Strathclyde Police Authority into the use of the weapons by the police. (Scotsman page 8, Niven Rennie in the Scotsman).

Forced marriage: A woman has become the first person in Scotland to be subject to an order protecting her from being forced to marry against her will. (Scotsman page 15, John Fotheringham in the Scotsman, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 8, Mail page 4).

Stephen House: Strathclyde Police Authority has launched an independent investigation into misconduct allegations of chief constable; Stephen House. It is claimed that tens of thousands of pounds of public money has been used to look after a senior officer’s elderly relative who is suffering Alzheimer’s. (Herald page 9, Times page 10).

Local Government

Lib Dem campaign: Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Lib Dems officially launched the Lib Dems local government election campaign in Inverness yesterday. (Scotsman page 12, The Herald page 6, Sun page 2, Courier page 19).

SNP leaflet row: A row has reportedly erupted over an SNP leaflet describing Gail Lythgoe, a Nationalist activist and member of the party’s ruling executive committee, as a Stirling University Student endorsing the party’s policy on votes at 16.  However, the SNP have blamed the editor of the newsletter for making a mistake. (Scotsman page 13, Mail page 29)

Green Party: The Scottish Green Party launched their local government manifesto yesterday and said they expected to see an increase in the number of councillors in next month’s local elections.  Green Party co-convenor Patrick Harvie has accused the SNP government of stripping councils of their powers and leaving them in a “straightjacket”, through decisions such as the council tax freeze which left councils without the financial powers to make decisions for their areas. (Scotsman page 13, Courier page 19, Herald page 5, P&J page 12)

Health

NHS health board cover-up: Police are assessing whether NHS Ayrshire and Arran, which has failed to provide information about 56 incidents at its hospitals, is guilty of “criminality”. Copies of “critical reviews” which are used to improve safety minimise risk and patient care were not there when requested. John Burns, chief executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran refutes claims of a cover-up or criminal deception. (Herald page 5)

Outdoor play: Dr Sue Robertson, a GP and kidney specialist from Dumfries, is expected to make a call for more outdoor play areas to be protected following a possible link between childhood obesity and a lack of Vitamin D. The motion will be proposed at a British Medical Association conference in London calling for UK and devolved governments to promote outdoor play areas. (Herald page 5).

Disease prediction: Scottish researcher’s at the University of Glasgow believe that they have paved the way for a machine that can predict potential diseases a person may suffer, when they may develop and which drugs will cure them. The research has been supported by funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. (Times page 10).

NHS budget cuts:  Health boards across the north and north-east of Scotland are cutting NHS budgets by £42million to balance books. NHS Highlands is planning a £28million saving (4.8% of current spending) and would be the third biggest cut after NHS Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian. (P&J page 3).