Reform Scotland News: 27 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.

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

Devo-plus: The devo-plus group yesterday published a new report claiming Scotland was performing less well on a range of key social indicators than when the parliament was created. They argued further tax and welfare powers were required to address social problems. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 2, Times page 5, Courier page 22)

Alistair Darling: Former chancellor and leader of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling has accused the leader of the Yes campaign of not answering questions. “The people of Scotland will feel cheated if there isn’t a discussion,” he said, and challenged the Yes side to engage more in policy debates. (Scotsman page 10, Telegraph page 1)

Public focus: Jennifer Dempsie describes the grassroots nature and focus of the Yes campaign, in the Scotsman, writing that “if every person who currently wants an independent Scotland persuades just one other person – then Scotland will vote yes”. (Scotsman page 29)

Better Together: JK Rowling has come out against independence on the eve of the publication of her first novel for adults. (Times page 16, Express page 3, Mail page 7

Operation Joint Warrior: Scotland will be playing host to warships from Britain, the US, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Norway, Denmark, and Estonia next month as part of a large-scale NATO training exercise labelled “Operation Joint Warrior”. RAF fighter planes will also take part in the sessions, flying out of Scottish bases. (Herald page 10, P&J page 9)

Economy

Labour commission: Professor Arthur Midwinter, asked by Scottish Labour to run a policy commission on free services and the council tax freeze, has claimed that the SNP’s policies of free university tuition, free prescriptions and the council tax freeze have cost 18,000 jobs this year alone in the public sector, by starving it of cash. Johann Lamont’s suggestion of potentially withdrawing Labour’s support of free services has reportedly solicited a backlash among some party officials. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 2, Sun page 2, Record page 2)

A Labour change of heart: Iain MacWhirter criticises the new policy stances of Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, pointing out the relative insignificance of free services costs, “fair and humane policies”, as compared with the salaries and pensions of the higher-earning public sector workers.

Honesty is the best policy: The Sun’s Bill Leckie has come out in favour of Johann Lamont and her concerns over the sustainability of free services, in a sarcastic piece that lauds her courage to be honest about such cuts, going against the grain.

Progressive charges: Keith Aitken accepts the principle behind Johann Lamont’s claims that people who can afford to pay for currently free services should be made to do so, but wonders where the details will come from, where the cut-offs will be, and when and how the changes would be made. (Express page 15)

Targeting “the rich”: Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman criticises the Lib Dems’ and Scottish Labour’s tirades against “the wealthy”, and particularly wealthier pensioners, varying defined as having assets greater than £50,000. Such rhetoric, he writes, evades the uncomfortable truth that we will all need to make sacrifices to eventually escape the economic trough we find ourselves in, while placing too much blame on “those who had the temerity to save a little more for their old age than what is now deemed good for them”. (see also Herald page 6)

Quango mergers: The Scottish Government’s effort to merge related quangos has actually proved more cost-effective than originally predicted. It was expected that the moves would save £73 million over the past four years, but they have in fact saved £5 million on top of that. (Herald page 5)

Budget analysis: David Bell, professor of economics at Stirling University, has challenged John Swinney’s claim that last weeks budget was a “budget for growth”, saying that cuts in funding for colleges and to local governments are likely to result in job losses. Professor Bell’s report to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee found that the greatest beneficiary from the budget was the health service, with health spending increasing by £290 million over the financial year. (Herald page 5, Telegraph page 6)

Education

New schools: Education secretary Mike Russell has reaffirmed the Scottish government’s plans to build 67 new schools across the country by March 2018, giving further details on the next 30 schools to be built under the Scottish Futures Trust. Last week’s budget dedicated £80 million to the plan in addition to its existing budget. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 7, Record page 2, Express page 4, Courier page 1, P&J page 7)


Justice

Combined police force: As part of the move towards a combined police force in Scotland, paired with the Scottish Government’s savings target of £106 million over the next five years, up to 3200 civilian police support staff could reportedly face redundancy across Scotland. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 9, Times page 1, Record page 20, Express page 7, Courier page 15, P&J page 11)


Local government


Glasgow city council: Glasgow city council will likely seek the voluntary redundancies of up to 1000 workers in order to meet its cuts target of £50 million over the next two years, with social work, education and public/private ventures departments all being targeted. The council will seek to adhere to its policy of no compulsory redundancies, but unions have warned that a further loss of staff (3000 have left since 2010), even voluntarily, will put an unreasonable work burden on those remaining. (Herald page 1)

Health

 

Child nutrition: Researchers at Queen Margaret University have found that nutrition among Scottish children has declined substantially since the late 1990s, with many children consuming fewer than three portions of fruits or vegetables per day. Intakes of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron have all declined, while intakes of sugar and saturated fats have risen. (Herald page 9)