Reform Scotland News: 21 May 2012


Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 21 May 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


Megrahi death: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi died yesterday in Libya, 1004 days after his release by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds. Mr. Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison following the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which killed 270 people. The decision to release Mr. Megrahi was a controversial one, as the original diagnosis indicated he had only 3 months to live. Mr. Megrahi had always proclaimed his innocence and concerns about how the investigation was handled were raised in a report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. The Scottish government has come under pressure to continue the investigation although Prime Minister David Cameron indicated that in his view, the court proceedings were done properly.  (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Guardian page 1, The Sun page 7, The Times page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 1, page 2, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 1-5, Courier page 1, Press & Journal page 1)

Independence campaigns: Former Chancellor Alistair Darling has reportedly hosted meetings in his Edinburgh home to discuss the strategy behind the “No to Independence” campaign. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is also expected to join in the campaign. Mr. Darling has indicated that he would have no problem working with political opponents on the campaign. Writing in The Scotsman, Brian Monteith compares the Yes Scotland campaign to the blitzkrieg, in which unionist campaigners will be caught off guard. He encourages the No campaign to find a strong leader to rally forces for the union. The Times points to low turnout in online consultations as indicative of the lack of interest in the debate over independence and identifies the challenges faced by both yes and no campaigns to keep the public engaged. Campaigners on both sides will need to ensure that real people are engaged in the debate, avoiding a “dogfight” amongst politicians which will turn people off. (The Scotsman page 16, page 27, The Herald page 6, The Sunday Times page 14, Scotland on Sunday page 2, The Times page 8, Alan Cochrane in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Express page 7, Sunday Herald page 1, Press & Journal page 18)

Johann Lamont on independence: Writing in the Scotland on Sunday, Labour leader Johann Lamont urges Scots to see devolution as an opportunity in and of itself rather than a way-station on the road to independence. She argues that the Scottish government should be making the most of its existing powers to address current challenges. (Scotland on Sunday page 14)

Scottish regiments: According to a Whitehall source, Prime Minister David Cameron’s personal intervention in the Scottish army reform was undertaken to prevent it from becoming something that could be exploited by the SNP. Army chiefs fear that the intervention will skew their plans to shrink the army for “short-term political gain.” (The Sunday Times page 1)

Pakistani elections: Presidential candidate Imran Khan spoke to Scotland’s Pakistani community last night in Glasgow, promising to root out corruption. For the first time, Pakistanis overseas will be able to vote in the country’s elections and Mr. Khan appealed to the community for support. The event was marked by speeches by MSP Humza Yousaf and MP Anas Sarwar. (The Herald page 9)


Eurozone warning: Chancellor George Osborne has issued a warning about the “enormous risks” faced by Britain should the Eurozone crisis deepen. Mr Osborne issued a plea for France and Germany to find a solution before the crisis spreads. During the G8 summit, David Cameron warned Greek voters that their backing for parties which oppose the existing EU-IMF bailout would be a vote for choosing to leave the Euro. During his remarks, he also urged the ECB to do more, encouraging quantitative easing and a contingency plan should Greece need to leave the Eurozone. (The Sunday Times page 1, The Guardian page 2, The Sun page 8, The Times page 11, Financial Times page 1, The Sunday Herald page 12, The Courier page 22)

Youth unemployment: The number of young people out of work in Scotland has surpassed 5,000, quadrupling in the past year. Kezia Dugdale, the Labour spokeswoman on youth employment, criticised the SNP’s priorities in the matter, arguing for a national jobs guarantee scheme that would place young people in competitive work. In a feature in The Herald, minister for youth employment Angela Constance spoke about the challenges of creating opportunities for youth and cites the Scottish Parliament’s lack of job-creating powers as a major obstacle. (The Herald page 8, page 12)

Employment regulation: Business secretary Vince Cable has reportedly vowed to resist proposals to allow bosses to fire underperforming staff at will while the Prime Minister has said that he will review the proposals. The disagreement reflects underlying tensions in the coalition. (Financial Times page 1)


University fees for EU students: Scottish students could be required to pay fees and then be reimbursed under a plan which would allow Scottish Universities to collect fees from EU students. Original plans to charge EU students a “management fee” were scrapped as they were not compliant with EU law. Applications from EU students to Scottish universities have increased dramatically and the Scottish government estimates their fees equal £75 million annually. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)


National police force: Superintendents have proposed passing tasks like litter and escorting large vehicles to other agencies, allowing police to focus on violent crime. Chief superintendent David O’Connor has urged politicians to rethink cost reduction and instead focus on early intervention, the involvement of the health services in reporting, and enforcement. Mr. O’Connor also criticised promotions in the run up to the merger as “immoral” as recipients may be laid off and would be entitled to a “golden goodbye” at the taxpayers’ expense. (The Scotsman page 19, The Sunday Times page 6)


Train delay measurement: A report from the Scottish Parliament’s infrastructure and capital investment committee proposes changes to the measurement of on-time arrival rates, changing the threshold from 5-10 minutes to one. Additional proposals include simplifying the fare structures and adopting a system similar to the Oyster card system in London. (The Scotsman page 11, The Herald page 5, The Times page 9)


NHS and Nicola Sturgeon: Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has been told to “up her game” after several serious setbacks in the past few weeks. She was accused by Labour of being distracted by her other role as Deputy First Minister after norovirus outbreaks, supply shortages, and the manipulation of waiting lists. (The Sunday Times page 6)

EU and minimum pricing bill: Scottish Conservatives urged the European Union to rule on whether Scotland’s minimum price law for alcohol was legal under EU competition law. Bills must be challenged by a European member state in order for the EU to rule on them. The Scottish government contends that pricing is legal provided it is justified on public health and social grounds. (Daily Express page 10, Sunday Herald page 22)

Local Government

Council reform: Reform Scotland will publish a report “Renewing Local Government” later this week which argues that Scottish councils should be handed the power to decide how they raise their own taxation to increase their autonomy and accountability, proposing that councils should be able to decide to adopt their own taxes, including council, consumption or income taxes. (The Scotsman page 10, The Herald page 6, The Times page 9)