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Reform Scotland News: 2 August 2013

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

New Peerages: The UK appointments system has been criticised as “indefensible” following the release of the list of new working peers by the UK government. Concern has been raised by campaigners for political reform over the number of big donors from the main political parties who have been appointed to the House of Lords. Former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie is among three high-profile Scots to be given seats in the House of Lords. Miss Goldie has insisted that her primary role would still be at Holyrood. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 4, Times page 7, Express page 4, Sun page 2, Record page 2, Guardian page 3, Mail page 12, P&J page 11, Courier page 16)

 

Independent Scotland: George Kerevan writing in the Scotsman sets out his vision of an independent Scotland and argues that devolution does not go far enough to change Scotland.

 

Land reform: Michael Fry writing in the Scotsman comments on land reform in Scotland and the lack of progress over the 14 years since the Scottish Parliament’s creation.

 

Gas extraction inquiry: The Scottish Government has announced that there will be an inquiry into plans by Dart Energy to expand work on extracting coal-bed methane at Airth near Falkirk. More than 2,500 people objected to the proposals but Dart Energy have stressed that their plan does not include the controversial practice of fracking. (Herald page 1)

 

Monetary policy: Economist Professor Gavin McCrone has warned that an independent Scotland’s key policies would have to be closely related to the UK’s if a currency zone could be agreed. He also warned that Scotland would have very little freedom to pursue its own economic policies. A spokeswoman for Finance Secretary John Swinney responded saying that an independent Scotland would keep the pound and take full responsibility for levels of taxation, revenues and public spending in Scotland. (Herald page 5, Telegraph page 11)

 

Renewables funding: Energy minister Fergus Ewing has announced a scheme to help Scottish families facing fuel poverty install wind turbines and solar panels to make their own electricity. The £3 million fund will provide interest free loans of up to £10,000 to help householders keep energy bills down. (Sun page 2, P&J page 7, Courier page 16)

 

Benefits cap: A spokesman in Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s department has refused to outline the future of the welfare cap should Scotland become independent. The failure to back Westminster’s plans for a new £26,000 benefits cap has raised speculation that the SNP may scrap the plan if Scots vote yes in next year’s referendum. (Mail page 6)

 

Economy

Lloyds: Antonio Horta-Osorio, the chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group has announced the bank is ready for the UK government to sell the 39 per cent stake it holds in the institution. Mr Horta-Osorio said it was now up to the government to decide when and how to sell off the stake. (Scotsman page 1, Telegraph page B1, Times page 2, FT page 1, Express page 2, Sun page 2, Guardian page 28, P&J page 34, Courier page 29)

 

Scottish renewables: Energy regulator Ofgem has indicated it may change the way electricity generators are charged for connecting to the national grid. The news has been welcomed by politicians and environmentalists and the change could see those generating electricity from wind power in the north of Scotland paying an average of £13 per kilowatt less to access the main transmission network. (Scotsman page 9)

 

Financial difficulties: A survey by the Money Advice Service has found that around nine million more adults are struggling with money problems compared with seven years ago. Research also found that income per hour in real terms had decreased, making it harder for people to make ends meet. (Scotsman page 14)

 

Wind farm boost: The UK Government has announced plans to give a £66 million boost to Britain’s wind farm sector. The plan could help the industry contribute £7 billion overall to the economy and create 30,000 jobs by 2020. Scottish Secretary Michael Moore insisted the plan would benefit Scotland’s offshore wind sector. (Herald page 2)

 

UK growth: The National Institute for Economic and Social Research has raised its forecasts for UK growth for the next two years. However they warned that Britain’s recovery now depends on consumer spending. (Telegraph page B1, Guardian page 31)

 

Oil revenues: The Scottish government’s energy minister Fergus Ewing has claimed that independence would boost Scotland’s oil revenues as an independent Scotland would work more closely with industry and could use tax incentives more effectively than the UK.  However, pro-union campaigners have criticised the SNP for exaggerating the likely tax income from oil. (FT page 2)

 

Railcare closure: Workers at Scotland’s last railway repair yard were waiting to see if the UK Government would step in to save their jobs last night. Business Secretary Vince Cable is considering a request for a bridging loan to help pay wages after Railcare went into administration. (Record page 10)

 

Justice

Stop and searches: Human rights groups have raised concerns over the increase in stop and searches being carried out in Scotland after new figures showed the number had doubled. The Scottish Police Authority has called on Chief Constable Sir Stephen House to investigate the increase. (Scotsman page 19)

 

Corroboration: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s plans to abolish the corroboration rule has been criticised by Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC, after he acquitted a postman of dangerous driving due to the statement of a second witness. The former leading prosecutor warned that the corroboration rule was a key plank of the legal system and a safeguard against miscarriages of justice. (Herald page 7, Mail page 26)

 

Health

Empty buildings: NHS health boards have been criticised for holding on to unused property worth more than £66 million. Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw commented that plans should have been in place to get rid of old buildings before new buildings were put up. (Scotsman page 17, Express page 2)

 

Education

Gaelic: Education Scotland has said that Gaelic should be put at the centre of the Scottish Government’s plan to teach primary school children two foreign languages. Critics have responded to Education Scotland’s Gaelic Education Plan by saying parents do not support the plan to expand teaching of the language, particularly when there are other demands on education budgets. (Scotsman page 1)

 

College mergers:  Labour have criticised plans to merge 11 colleges to create four super-colleges as an attempt to distract attention from the £50 million cuts in the sector. Education Secretary Michael Russell has praised the reorganisation and claimed that the new colleges will provide a stimulus for economic growth. (Record page 2, Margaret Curran in the Record)

 

Local Government

Elderly and disabled care: Research by Unison has found that elderly and disabled people are routinely given home visits of as little as 15 minutes by care workers. They found that local government funding cuts have caused the problem and called for the 15 minute slots to be outlawed. A spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities defended the 15 minute slots saying they allowed greater flexibility and denied that cuts to funding meant quality of care was compromised. (Herald page 5, Express page 4, P&J page 1)