Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 21 September 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.
UN in Edinburgh: The United Nations is set to open an office in Edinburgh in Hunter Square, off the Royal Mile. The primary mandate of UN Scotland House will be to raise awareness of the organisation’s humanitarian and environmental work, as well as to serve as a meeting place for academics, students and members of the public interested in being involved in UN projects. (Scotsman page 2, P&J page 20)
Universal Periodic Review: The time has come, as it does every four years, for the UK’s record to be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council. A strong Scottish presence has reportedly been felt in Geneva, with Professor Alan Miller of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, backed by the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, expressing concerns before the UNHRC about the Westminster government’s proposed Bill of Rights, as well as pointing to the disproportionate effect that the government’s austerity measures have had on women, children, ethnic minorities, and the disabled. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 13, P&J page 11)
Scotland in Europe: SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, convener of Holyrood’s European committee, has been accused of trying to silence Labour’s Helen Eadie and with her concerns over the place Scotland would command as an independent state in Europe. This comes amid a backlash in parliament against Alex Salmond’s attempts in court to block the release of the SNP’s legal advice on the EU, with Johann Lamont accusing him of running Scotland “like North Korea”. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 6, Times page 10, Express page 5, Sun page 2, P&J page 13, Courier page 15)
Independent economics: George Kerevan considers in the Scotsman the diverging impact that the global recession has had on pro-independence sentiment: in Catalonia, it has sparked massive independence rallies; in Scotland, the response is one of extreme caution. (Scotsman page 32)
A “patriotic and adventurous thistle”: Glasgow has unveiled its mascot for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, a giant, playful thistle designed by 12-year-old Beth Gilmour of Cumbernauld. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 5, Record page 2, Express page 5, Sun page 25, P&J page 11, Courier page 23)
Scottish Budget: Finance secretary John Swinney unveiled the latest government budget yesterday. It includes a controversial below-inflation (1%) public sector pay rise, increasing the likelihood of a strike this autumn. The government sought to soften the blow by guaranteeing a £7.50/hour living wage for the duration of this parliament, as well as by committing to a minimum £250 pay rise for anyone earning below £21,000 per annum. Meanwhile, water charges have been unfrozen for the first time in four years and are now set to rise once again with inflation. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 1, Times page 1, Telegraph page 1, FT page 4, Record page 8, Express page 5, Sun page 6, P&J page 18, Mail page 4, Courier page 15)
Green energy: Yesterday’s budget also included £30 million to be put towards developments in energy efficiency, in the hopes of both addressing fuel poverty and stimulating the construction industry. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 2, P&J page 19)
Youth employment: One of the reported centrepieces of John Swinney’s budget was a £15 million grant, matched with European Structural Funds, to be earmarked for increasing youth employment in the private sector, particularly in smaller firms. (Scotsman page 6, Times page 4)
Pay freezes: Eddie Barnes considers, in the Scotsman, the (poor) prospects for above-inflation wage increases in the pay deal discussions that will follow on from yesterday’s budgets, and indeed for budgets in the future.
Slow growth: John McLaren, of the Centre for Public Policy for regions, writes in the Scotsman of the challenges of achieving economic stimulus within a fixed budget.
Hype: Arthur Midwinter accuses the government of spin when it comes to their portrayal of the success of yesterday’s budget. Swinney’s budget, he writes, “will not drive economic recovery, as despite his acting, capital spending levers remain far below 2010, and his Budget decisions will continue the haemorrhage of jobs and services in the public sector”. (Herald page 3, see also Peter Jones in the Times page 4 and Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph page 4)
Golden rules? Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, yesterday suggested that it may be acceptable for the Westminster government to abandon its commitment to reduce the national debt within five years, breaking a “golden” fiscal rule that George Osborne had determined for public finances two years ago. (Telegraph page 1, FT page 1, P&J page 16, Mail page 2)
Fracking: Permission has been granted to the Dart energy company to explore the potential of a site at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway for use in the controversial hydraulic fracturing method of onshore gas extraction, known as “fracking”. This is despite a general moratorium on the process that has applied to the UK since last year’s minor earthquake in Blackpool, the UK’s only active site, with action there now suspended. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 5)
Cod stocks: Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead has reacted angrily to suggestions by scientists that numbers of mature cod in the North Sea are dangerously low and that next year’s fishing quota ought to be lowered to 25,600 tonnes, down from this year’s 32,000, and compared with 360,000 tonnes in the 1970s. (Scotsman page 23, Herald page 14, Courier page 20)
The future of the NHS: Jenny Stewart considers some of the issues surrounding proposals to merge health and social care within the NHS, in the Scotsman.
Restricting IVF: NHS Fife has caused controversy by introducing a new policy which would deny IVF fertility treatment to couples where one partner smokes. This is in addition to an existing body mass criterion for women seeking to undergo fertility treatment with the trust. (Herald page 4)
Malnutrition: Nearly 500 deaths in Scotland have been linked to malnutrition in the last five years, particularly among the elderly, with concerns raised over the “Victorian” and “Third World” character of a problem that nevertheless dwells so close to home. (Herald page 7)
A Venezuelan education in Glasgow: The El Sistema programme, which takes children from deprived areas of Venezuela and gives them a rigorous orchestral training, has been successfully pioneered in the Raploch estate in Stirling, and is now set to be expanded into Glasgow’s Govanhill area. (Herald page 8, Times page 15)
Funding for justice: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s departmental budget has risen to £2.5 billion, to cover the transfer of police and fire services funding to Holyrood from local governments. Meanwhile, Legal Aid, the court service, and Criminal Injuries Compensation have all suffered cuts. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 2)