0131 524 9500 | info@reformscotland.com

Reform Scotland News: 30 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

Politics

Third option: Sir Tom Farmer has echoed fellow entrepreneur Jim McColl’s warning that the absence of a third option in the referendum paper could drive him to support independence. Meanwhile Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was touring Scottish boardrooms yesterday to drum up support for the Union. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 6)

Monarchy & Independence: Divisions in the Yes Scotland campaign over the monarchy will reportedly come to the fore in parliament today when Alex Salmond proposes a motion praising the Queen. The motion expresses the parliament’s “gratitude” for the Queen’s “exceptional public service and unwavering dedication to duty”. (Scotsman page 14)

Leveson Inquiry: Theresa May gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, during which she denied claims that News International pressured her into launching a fresh inquiry into the disappearance of Madeline McCann. She also unveiled new guidelines, which will ban police from accepting any hospitality from journalists. (Scotsman page 12, Telegraph page 12, Guardian page 15)

Michael Gove told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday that the relationship between the press and politicians is not always in the public interest. He also warned that the inquiry itself risked undermining the “precious liberty” of free speech. (Scotsman page 12, Telegraph page 12, Sun page 4, Times page 10, Express page 2, FT page 2, Guardian page 14, Courier page 23)

Civil Service pay: Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, made comments yesterday, which reportedly ‘effectively accused’ Scottish ministers of failing to investigate the number of civil servants which have their salaries paid into private companies. (Herald page 6)

Holyrood extra day a week: Holyrood’s main chamber is expected to sit on three days a week instead of two after the summer holidays. This is a change under the new timetable that will increase MSPs’ “family-friendly” working hours. (Telegraph page 7)

History black hole: Data relating to pivotal moments in modern Scottish history has been lost down a “digital black hole”, the National Library of Scotland (NLS) has warned. (Scotsman page 24, Herald page 9, Record page 18, Courier page 17)

Arts funding: Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has defended the funding of arts in Scotland. Speaking at the launch of a consultation on Scotland’s new architecture policy in Glasgow, she said the recent controversial changes in funding policies at Creative Scotland contrasted favourably with severe arts cuts south of the Border. (Herald page 3)

Yes campaign: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman comments on the Independence debate.

Economy         

Power Bills: Household energy bills will be ‘unaffordable’ in three years time according to new research. The price comparison website uSwitch.com has forecast the average energy bill will reach £1500 per year by 2015. This is apparently the level at which consumers will be forced to compromise on their health and wellbeing. (Scotsman page 1)

North Sea oil and gas: Alex Salmond unveiled a blueprint for the future of Scotland’s oil and gas industry, aimed at the recovery of an estimated £1.5 trillion in reserves locked in the North Sea. The Kuwait government’s recently announced that it is to take a stake in oilfield developments in the North Sea; a deal worth £300 million. (Scotsman page 4, Times page 11, P&J page 12, Mail page 12)

BBC Scotland job cuts: Mark Thompson, the director-general of the BBC, confirmed that about 120 posts would go at BBC Scotland by 2017 in a push to reduce its budget by 16 per cent. Thompson told MSPs yesterday that the cuts will not damage the BBC’s ability to cover major stories, such as the referendum on Scottish independence. (Scotsman page 10, Telegraph page 7, Times page 17)

Charity tax: There have been calls for a coalition U-turn on the so-called charity tax after a series of other U-turns in recent days relating to the pasty tax and static caravans. (Herald page 6, Record page 8, Times page 17, FT page 3, Guardian page 6, Simon Jenkins on Coalition U-turns in the Guardian, Mail page 8, Courier page 17)

Families saving: According to a Family Finances Report by Aviva, families have seen their finances improve over the past year, resulting in a boost to their savings despite the recession. Families take home £2,150 a month on average, after taxes and before paying bills, an above-inflation 4 per cent rise on 12 months ago. (Scotsman page 10)

Rates relief: The Scottish Government is reforming the rates relief that vacant business premises are eligible for. The changes could bring 5,500 empty properties back into use by reducing the relief on commercial properties that have been empty for more than 3 months from 50% to 10%. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry has already warned that the plans could have a “negative economic impact”. (Scotsman page 12)

Interest rates on hold: Interest rates will stay at a record low for five more years, according to Jonathan Samuels, chief executive of lender Dragonfly Property Finance. (Express page 1)

Pasty tax: Ian Bell in the Herald comments on the scrapping of the Pasty tax.

Renewable energy: Energy from gas power stations has been rebranded as a green, low-carbon source of power by an €80 billion (£64bn) European Union programme. This development comes as a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted a “golden age for gas”, which threatens renewable energy. (Guardian page 4, Gordon Wilson in the Courier comments on the future of Scotland’s energy market)

A High Court judge ruled yesterday that the Coalitions’ renewable energy targets do not outweigh the value of the countryside’s beauty. (Telegraph page 9)

Lack of women in top jobs: Around 30% of the most senior jobs in the UK are held by women, according to new research by BBC News. (Herald page 8, Record page 2)

Olympics: Scotland’s benefit from the London 2012 Olympic Games is highlighted by contracts worth more than £30million coming north of the border, according to the UK Government. (P&J page 11)

Education

Irish fee loophole: The loophole, which allows UK students with Irish passports to study for free in Scotland, is reportedly being exploited by Northern Irish students. Aberdeen University said around 16 per cent of current applicants from Northern Ireland had applied claiming Irish nationality, whilst Dundee University said 20 per cent of its applicants from Northern Ireland had applied with an Irish rather than a UK passport. (Scotsman page 21)

Foreign students: The British economy stands to lose out on up to £8 billion a year because of the Government’s immigration crackdown on foreign students. In a letter to David Cameron, senior figures in higher education have called on the Government to remove university students from net migration counts to help boost university income. (Telegraph page 1)

Justice

Gun ownership: Kenny MacAskill has demanded powers to cap the number of firearms owned by one person. The justice secretary has written to Theresa May calling for firearms legislation to be fully devolved after new figures have shown gun ownership has reached a ten-year high in Scotland. Over the past decade the number of firearms held in Scotland rose by one-fifth but the number of licensed owners declined, meaning more weapons are concentrated in fewer hands. Each licensed owner now has an average of three weapons each. (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 1, Times page 19, P&J page 19)

Health

GP appointments: Scottish patients are facing longer delays to see their GPs and one in five are unable to get an appointment within two days, according to an official survey. The Tories said the survey of 145,569 patients’ experiences of the Scottish NHS showed that ministers were failing to meet their official targets. Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the finding, commenting that almost nine out of ten patients approve of the care provided by their surgeries but added: “We know that there is always room for improvement.” (Telegraph page 10)

NHS Lothian: The health board that was found to have manipulated waiting time figures is the only one in Scotland to fail to meet a key target for treating patients. Figures published by national statistics body ISD showed that only 85.3% of patients in NHS Lothian began their treatment within 18 weeks of being referred by a GP. This falls below Holyrood’s target of 90%. (Herald page 5, Scotsman page 14)

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has demanded answers as to why the former health board chief executive, Professor James Barbour, placed a £75,000 contract with a firm that has yet to file accounts. Barbour left his high-profile role last month as pressure mounted into how NHS Lothian had been meeting its waiting time targets. (Herald page 5, Scotsman page 14, Telegraph page 10, Record page 11, Times page 17, Courier page 3)

Ambulance review: MSPs have been urged to review ambulance services in rural areas after it took 45 minutes to respond to an emergency call to help an 89-year-old. (Herald page 9)

Body image: The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image had found that girls as young as five complain of being overweight. The group’s report, published today, calls makes a series of recommendations to Scottish and Westminster governments, including the introduction of mandatory lessons on body image in schools. (Herald page 2, Guardian page 8)

Drug-related illnesses: The number of people treated for drug-related illnesses has risen by 25 per cent in the last four years according to Scottish Government figures out yesterday. (Scotsman page 9, P&J page 16, Mail page 1, Courier page 1)

Abortions: The rate of repeat abortions is on the increase according to official statistics. Almost one third of women who had an abortion in Scotland last year had previously terminated a pregnancy. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 8)