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Reform Scotland News: 4 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

Murdoch quits BSkyB: Yesterday, James Murdoch stepped down as chairman of the broadcasting company BSkyB in order to spare the company criticism over his handling of the News of the World phone hacking scandal. He states that he is aware his position at BSkyB “could become a lightning rod” and he hopes that his resignation ensures that this does not happen. (Guardian page 1, Record page 2, FT page 1, Scotsman page 9, Herald page 4, Courier page 33, P&J page 15, Times page 12, Express page 4)

 

Secret Trials: Justice Secretary Kenneth Clark has backed down on the plans for “secret” trials. The proposal to hold a number of trials behind closed doors goes too far, Mr Clarke believes. He accepts that these measures should be necessary only when there is a serious risk to national security instead of the original plan to hold trails when sensitive evidence was given. This move came after Clarke’s plans were under attack by MPs and other peers. (The Times page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1, Courier page 22)

 

Internet Snooping Charter: Ministers are facing a backlash after confirming that the Coalition wants to administer changes that would allow the state access to telephone numbers, people dials, and web page visits. Mr Cameron assures the public that this is not a snoopers’ charter and argues that these new laws allow police members and security officers to “keep up with modern technology” vital for security. However, human rights groups and many MPs see this move as an infringement of civil liberties. (Daily Telegraph page 1, Scotsman page 15, Herald page 6, Courier page 19)

 

Tax Relief Cap: Many academic and artistic institutions have pulled together to ask the UK government to scrap its tax relief cap on charitable donations. Principals of five Scottish universities are among those signatories to a letter asking the ministers to abandon this proposal. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6)

 

Freeze hits Scotland: Yesterday, snow and sub-zero temperatures brought parts of Scotland to a standstill. 11,000 homes were without power as the wind and snow pulled down power lines. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 1, Courier page 1, P&J page 1)

 

Economy

Increase in food prices: As a result of the rising cost of petrol, food prices are also on the rise, putting more and more pressure on household budgets. Figures that were released today show a 1.1% increase in food prices for March, becoming the largest recorded jump since August 2010. (Scotsman page 10)

 

Local Government

SNP setback: One of the SNP’s local candidates Lyall Duff is under fire after calling Catholic midwives “money-grabbing old witches.” (Times page 3, Express page 2, Herald page 6)

 

Conservative local election campaign: The Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson launched her party’s council campaign with the aim of ending the party’s “stagnation” at the ballot box. Her personal target is to ensure the Tory party becomes the third party in local government, pushing the Liberal Democrats into fourth place. The Tories pledge to give communities a chance to run their own services along with other pledges in a promise to decentralise power. The Conservatives also warned yesterday that a vote for SNP in next month’s council elections is a vote for Scottish separation. The Tory campaign coordinator, John Lamont MSP, said that a vote for local Nationalists will only strengthen Alex Salmond’s position in the independence referendum. (Scotsman page 18, Herald page 6, Courier page 2, Times page 3, Daily Telegraph page 7))

 

Transport

£30m fund for new stations: The Transport Minister Keith Brown announced yesterday that a new £30 million fund will help create new stations and upgrade current stations as part of Scotland’s rail service. However, these funds will not be available for another two years. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 10, Courier page 18)

 

Bus firms brace for cuts: The Scottish government is attempting to bring the troubled free-travel scheme under budget, which could lead to more funding cuts for bus companies. A review of the reimbursement rate paid to firms for carrying the disabled passengers and those over 60 will be published by the middle of the summer. (Herald page 2)

 

Education

Scotland’s colleges face the axe: New Scottish government restructuring proposals could see more than one-third of Scottish colleges facing the axe. As a result, five groups of colleges have already submitted plans to merge, while others discuss this possibility. Rumours reportedly abound that staff could be made redundant and courses could be closed. (Herald page 1)

 

Female graduates: Female students graduating in the science and technology sector are not pursuing careers in the same sector, costing Scotland’s economy around £170m a year. Only 27% of women trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) choose a job in this same area, whereas 48% of male graduates with the same qualifications find work in this field. (Herald page 10)

 

Curriculum for Excellence cost: Following Education Secretary Michael Russell’s plan to allocate £3.5 million for the new Curriculum for Excellence package, ministers are now reportedly calling  for more money to be put into the scheme. These new funds are expected to dispel fears that the new initiative is unravelling. (Daily Mail page 8)

 

Health

Health Board review: Nicola Sturgeon has appointed a team of independent experts to review the culture of management at a health board that was accused of doctoring waiting times figures to meet targets. The group will be led by Dr. Charles Winstanley, chairman of NHS Lothian. who has commissioned the firm David J Bowles & Associates to lead the review. (Scotsman page 7, Record page 4, Herald page 8)