Reform Scotland News: 28 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

Europe contests SNP alcohol pricing: The European Commission yesterday declared that it has a problem with the SNP’s radical proposals to impose a minimum price on all alcoholic drinks.  They questioned the legality of this pricing, yet Scottish ministers hold firm that this move will save lives and will massively cut the enormous cost of alcohol-related crime as well as health issues in Scotland. (Scotsman page 1, Daily Mail page 1)

Oil tycoon brothers pay £2.5 million settlement: A two-year long legal battle between former director of Dundee FC Calum Melville, his brother Stuart and marine safety company Cosalt Offshore has finally culminated in a £2.5 million out-of -court settlement, which the brothers agreed to pay to Cosalt. The case was originally brought to court following investigations by Cosalt, which revealed an unexpected stock shortfall in its Aberdeen branch, which was reportedly traced back to transactions between Meatpac Ltd and the Melville brothers. (Scotsman page 11)

Lamont questions Sturgeon over her health benefits: Labour leader Johann Lamont asked Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon some awkward questions yesterday, including why she received free prescriptions despite living in a household with a combined income of £200,000-a-year.  Ms Lamont asked: “If spending cuts threaten the kind of free care for the elderly that we want to deliver, is it fair that a woman like her on two-hundred grand gets free prescriptions?” However, Ms Sturgeon retaliated by insisting that Ms Lamont’s questions were irrelevant, as the system of widespread benefits is not starving public services of vital cash.  She instead concentrated on demonstrating what the SNP government can and will achieve in the future.   (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 6, Daily Record page 5, Daily Express page 4, Sun page 8, P&J page 12, Courier page 16)

Senior Scottish Officials given “golden goodbyes”: SNP ministers handed out a total of £38 million in six-figure exit packages to civil servants, despite deep cuts in public spending on services.  Gavin Brown, Scottish Tory finance spokesman, demanded that these payoffs be reviewed: “people will be shocked and angry – especially given the current economic situation – that the Scottish government is using nearly £40 million in this way.” (Daily Telegraph page 1)

Academic set to wipe out sectarianism: Community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham named the head of Northern Ireland’s Community Relations Council, Dr Duncan Morrow, as the independent advisory group’s chairman.  Ms Cunningham revealed: “We are committed to eradicating the scourge of sectarianism from Scottish society…the advisory group on tackling sectarianism in Scotland will form a key plank of this wider work.” (Daily Record page 2)

Nuclear subs row: Getting rid of nuclear subs if Scotland votes for Independence would cost defence-related jobs across the country, according to Labour MP Ian Davidson. (Sun page 2)

The Milibands: David Miliband will reportedly snub brother Ed’s speech at next week’s Labour party conference, claiming that he simply does not want to overshadow his brother by being present during his address, as “It’s Ed’s show”. (Sun page 2)

Economy

RBS traders allegedly fixed interest rate: An affidavit filed earlier this month, which was submitted to the Bloomberg financial news agency by an ex-RBS member, showed traders internally boasting about their making “amazing” amounts of money by interest rate-rigging. A government ordered report has said that the guilty bankers should face criminal sanctions, and has suggested that the sector be stripped of responsibility for Libor. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 2)

“Green” energy fall in Scotland: The amount of energy produced from green energy sources in Scotland fell by almost half, due to lack of wind and rain. Government figures have shown that renewable electricity fell from 4,596 gigawatt hours (GWh) to 2,498 between April and June this year, constituting the most dramatic fall in mainland Britain. Tory MSP Murdo Fraser called wind power “an unreliable and intermittent form of energy production”; yet despite this sudden drop, total renewable energy production is up by 13 percent over the first half of 2011, suggesting that 2012 could be a record breaking year. (Scotsman page 15, P&J page 21)

Education

Heriot-Watt University best in UK for student experience: The National Student Survey (NSS) 2012 revealed Heriot-Watt’s rise to be the top ranked university in Scotland, pushing it up from third place last year, and ranking it fourth in Britain overall.  Mike Ross, president of Heriot-Watt University Student Union, said “These results represent the excellent work that has been done by students and staff working together to enhance the student experience” (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 7)

Local government

Glasgow Council’s cash shortage: Glasgow City Council’s financial forecast declared a £48.8 million spending gap as a result of rising costs and limits on Scottish government funding. The council will seek to shed 1,000 jobs to compensate for this, having already reduced staff by almost 3000 over the past two years; with services such as education and OAP care reportedly bearing the brunt of these cuts. As a result of these looming job losses, increasing pressure has been put on the Scottish government to ditch the council tax freeze, after unions warned that it will affect employment. (Scotsman page 9, Times page 13, Daily Record page 4, Daily Express page 14, Sun page 8)

Glasgow City Council Leader Gordon Matheson in the Daily Record slams the SNP for their treatment of Glasgow, believing that Glasgow City Council has been given a “dreadful deal” by the Scottish government despite its successes.

Health

Pregnant women immunised against whooping cough: This temporary programme has been introduced after health officials discovered that Scotland suffered the worst outbreak of the disease since the 1980s.  It was reported that 65 of the 1,037 confirmed cases of whooping cough concerned children under 3 months.  As newborn children are not normally vaccinated till they are at least 8 years old, pregnant women are now to be vaccinated, so that they can pass on the immunity to their children. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 1, Daily Telegraph page 6, Times page 15, P&J page 19, Daily Mail page 6, Courier page 14)

Doctors set to strike again: If the row over pensions is not resolved, doctors have threatened that they will strike again, for a 24 hour period, with the possibility of further days of action over a sustained period.  Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish consultants committee said: “It is disappointing that we are considering further, stronger industrial action on the issue of pensions but we believe that this is the only way we can get the Scottish government to listen to us.” (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 1, Times page 1, P&J page 11, Daily Mail page 2, Courier page 16)

Scottish government must pay attention to NHS staff: Health secretary Alex Neil has declared that the government “must do better” at listening to NHS staff.  He will visit care workers, ambulance staff ward nurses and elderly carers to find “new and innovative ways of delivering healthcare”, affirming: “I want to speak to the people directly delivering care.” (Scotsman page 14)