Reform Scotland News: 23 October 2013

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 23 October 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

Energy firms: Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major has said it would be “entirely reasonable” for the Treasury to impose a sizeable levy on energy firms’ profits next year, should the government be forced to aid poorer families who cannot afford to heat their homes this winter. Sir John also declared that Labour leader Ed Miliband had his “head in the right place” with the planned price freeze, though stopped short of giving the policy his outright support.  (Scotsman page 1, Brian Wilson in the Scotsman, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 1, Times page 8, Ann Treneman in the Times, FT page 2, Guardian page 1)

Grangemouth oil refinery: Ineos, owners of the Grangemouth oil refinery which has been closed for the past week due to disputes between unions and management, is set to announce plans for the plants future today. The Scottish Government confirmed yesterday that it would seek an alternative buyer should Ineos choose to walk away from the refinery, though refused to rule out the prospect of taking it into public hands. Alex Salmond is reported to be utilising his growing links with China in the search for a potential buyer.

(Scotsman page 4, Herald page 2, Ian Bell in the Herald, Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, Express page 5, Record page 8, Sun page 2, Daily Mail page 1, P&J page 12, Courier page 13, Guardian page 24)

Ineos has announced that the petrochemical plant will close.  BBC 

BBC reform: BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has told MPs that changes in the way the corporation is run are not needed, adding it would be “delusional” to think that alterations to the BBC hierarchy would solve all its problems. Meanwhile, the BBC’s director-general Lord Hall conceded that it had risked developing a leftwing “metropolitan bias”. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 4, Mail page 16)

By-election: The SNP has accused Labour of backtracking in the run up to the Dunfermline by-election. The Scottish Labour campaign leaflets reportedly pledge a host of Scottish “freebies”, despite warnings by Labour leader Johann Lamont that cutbacks could force reconsiderations on their affordability. (Scotsman page 10, Eddie Barnes in the Scotsman, Times page 11, Mail page 8, Courier page 10)

Bedroom tax: A survey by the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) has found that rent arrears in some of Scotland’s poorest areas have risen considerably since the introduction of the Spare Room Subsidy. (Herald page 5)

Ed Miliband: Daniel Finkelstein in the Times argues that despite the apparent success of Ed Miliband’s proposal to freeze energy prices should Labour win the next General Election, the uncharismatic nature of the Labour leader himself threatens to dull the impact of popular policy on opinion polls.

Economy

Government borrowing: George Osborne is expected to beat his deficit-reduction target by a wide margin after another fall in central government borrowing. However, the chancellor insisted that figures would not divert him from his austerity drive, warning that the improving economy would not mean a “windfall” for the Government. (Scotsman page 35, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 2 and page 84, Times page 43, FT page 3, Mail page 2, Guardian page 30)

Pensions: A report by Scottish Widows has shown that the number of women saving adequately for their retirement has fallen to an all-time low, with just two fifths of women in the UK putting enough away for their pension. (Herald page 1, Telegraph page 12, Times page 45, Express page 25, Mail page 12)

Wind turbines: The head of the Spanish wind turbine group Gamesa, Ignacio Martin, has played down the impact of a ‘yes’ vote to the Scottish wind industry. (Herald page 24)

SNP energy pledge: Professor Gordon Hughes, of the University of Edinburgh, has warned that the SNP’s new pledge to reduce energy costs in an independent Scotland would not stop energy bills continuing to spiral in the wake of a majority ‘Yes’ vote. (Telegraph page 9)

Health

Children’s health: A report on the health of children in Scotland by Strathclyde University has found worrying trends in diet and activity levels. The report found that children spent too long staring at screens, get too little exercise, and have high rates of obesity. From next May the report will be used to compare the health of Scotland’s children to those in other countries. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 7, Telegraph page 1, Times page 2, Courier page 2)

Homeopathic treatment: Newly released figures by the NHS have highlighted a huge variation in spending on homeopathic treatment across Scotland’s various health boards. Responding to the figures, the Scottish Conservatives said that the issue of funding needed to be resolved in the interest of equality of access to the controversial alternative treatment. (Scotsman page 19, Herald page 9)

Education

University gagging clauses: Scottish universities have been warned by the National Union of Students (NUS) that they cannot prevent student leaders from criticising their institutions through the use of gagging clauses. (Herald page 8)

Justice

Reoffending: Just one third of prisoners eligible to attend a flagship anti-reoffending initiative launched at Scotland’s newest jail have chosen to do so. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 11)