Reform Scotland News: 17 August 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

Scotland’s new fire chief: Alasdair Hay, Scotland’s first national fire chief, has promised to keep the Scottish government’s promise of no compulsory redundancies; however he maintains that “community safety and fire fighter safety are my priority as we go forward”. Mr Hay will take charge of 9,000 fire fighters and support staff and a £300 million a year revenue budget, and his appointment has been praised by community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham, and chairman of the Fire Brigades Union in Scotland Alan Paterson. (The Scotsman page 7, The Herald page 4, The Daily Telegraph page 4, Sun page 2, The Daily Record page 2, P&J page 13, Courier page 14)

SNP call for David Cameron to replace George Osborne: Unless Mr Osborne changes his stance on the economy by scaling back austerity and investing in infrastructure, the SNP say that he should be sacked.  The demand mirrored that of leading economists, who had previously backed the Chancellor, but now are urging him to execute an economic u-turn, owing to the current fragile state of the economy. SNP treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie claimed that austerity had clearly “failed”, and “If Osborne won’t shift, he will have to be shifted”. (The Herald page 6)

Economy

Banks damaged by rate-rigging scandals: A leading ratings agency, Standard and Poor’s, has warned that the series of scandals that have hit British banks recently will reduce their earnings for the rest of 2012 and into 2013.  The recovery of banks is predicted to be slower than expected, due to fines and compensation bills imposed on Barclays, HSBC and RBS. (The Scotsman page 10)

Fall in house prices over the past year: Despite the 7.3% increase in the past three months, the average house price has dropped by an annual 1.5%, resting at £164,122. Prices in the North of Scotland have increased the most, by 3.2% to £182,995; whilst houses in Edinburgh remain the most expensive at £291,430, yet this area still fell by 7.1%. Donald MacRae, chief economist at the Bank of Scotland, commented: “Average house prices are now 95 per cent of their peak of four years ago”.   (The Scotsman page 14, P&J page 17, Courier page 18)

Justice

Report highlights major causes for concern in Scots legal system: A report by the Inspectorate of Prosecution showed that prosecutors are not preparing thoroughly enough for summary cases, neglecting to fully assess CCTV evidence and witness statements, resulting in lengthy and excessive court delays. Labour justice spokesman Lewis MacDonald has said that “There are some serious issues identified in this report which are worrying”, heralding the findings a much needed “wake up call” for the Justice Secretary, who should now focus on remedying these faults. (The Herald page 2, P&J page 15)

Education

Scots Universities welcome fee paying students from south of the border: Despite the Scottish government’s assertion that it is “completely wrong” to suggest that Scottish applicants are at a disadvantage owing to fees being charged to rest of UK (RUK) students; NUS Scotland has expressed concern that many Scottish students will be turned away in favour of fee paying students, who can now take their pick from an increased number of places. President of NUS Scotland Robin Parker said “I can entirely understand why students in Scotland will feel aggrieved.  We need to do everything we can to increase the numbers of Scottish students able to go to university in Scotland.” The SNP quotas have already filled the number of places for Scots, so clearing places are now only being offered to RUK and foreign students. This outcry comes amidst figures released yesterday which show that Scotland is the only part of the UK which has seen a rise in university and college admissions. (The Herald page 4, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 17, Sun page 2,  Daily Express page 7, P&J page 18, Courier page 13)

Health

Rise in number of Scots women suffering in labour: New research shows that women in Scotland are experiencing life-threatening blood loss during childbirth, with the number of major haemorrhages rising from 176 in 2003 to 328 in 2010. (The Herald page 3)