Scottish news bulletin: 26th January 2009

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All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is blue and underlined.

Economy

Governments economic plans: Gordon Browns plans to revive the economy by spending billions to build schools, hospitals and roads have been setback over lack of private finance and the crippling recession. Plans involving more than 100 schools and hospitals have been put on hold or delayed, at the same time the government is under pressure to inject more capital into the public sector and this month promised to create 100,000 new jobs through public works project. Alistair Darling has accepted that a second emergency package of tax and spending measures may be needed in the UK’s spring budget to claw the economy out of a deepening recession. (Times page 1, Jill Sherman in The Times, Guardian page 1)

Edinburgh recession: Edinburgh could be hit hard by the recession as a result of the high level of finance and insurance jobs which drive the Scottish capitals economy. Edinburgh has been put on “amber alert” by research group, Centre for Cities. (Scotsman page 13, Daily Express page 10)

Firms going bust: The number of firms going under in Scotland has tripled in the last quarter, proving that the recession has taken hold north of the border. (Herald page 28)

Three-day working week: In light of the continuing recession the UK government is considering controversial plans to cut the number of hours worked in a week, thereby cutting costs. The plan emerged after a report warned that UK cities would be hit hardest. (Herald
page 4)

VAT: The UK government has called on all retailers to pass the tax cuts from the Chancellor’s 2.5% VAT reduction to consumers. (Scotsman page 13)

Crime

Assault: The Scottish Government has come under fire from both Labour and Conservative opposition after it emerged that hundreds of assault cases, including those involving injuries, did not make it to court. Instead fiscal fines or work orders were issued, prompting allegations that the government has a ‘soft touch’ on assault. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 10, Press and Journal page 11)

Police job cuts: Scores of mid-ranking officers at Scotland’s largest police force could be axed as part of a program of radical budget cuts. This seriously endangers the SNP’s manifesto pledge to recruit an additional 1000 policemen. (Herald page 12)

Transport

Waterbus: A report has stated that waterbuses like those used in New York could succeed if introduced to work on the Clyde. The service could be used by leisure customers and commuters alike, with 13 vehicles needed for a successful outcome. (Herald page 9)

Health

Superbugs: Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon will announce a newly dedicated website that will enable patients to monitor superbug infection levels at all hospitals. It is believed that this increased transparency will encourage health boards to tackle the problem of MRSA and C Diff. (Herald page 1)

Spinal injuries: Patients paralysed by spinal injuries in Scotland could be given stem cell transplants to help them move and feel, as Scotland is being considered as a trial centre for cutting-edge treatment. (Herald page 2)

Teenage Pregnancy: A small rise in unplanned teenage pregnancies could be linked to an increase in binge drinking, Ministers have suggested.
The warning comes as part of the Scottish Government’s campaign to raise awareness of the costs of heavy drinking. (Herald
page 12)

Education

Scottish Colleges: Students studying at Scottish Colleges should be given priority to financial aid, the Scottish Government has said, after review of student finances was undertaken. Means-tested bursaries are being considered after a survey revealed that debt is the single biggest concern for most college students. (Herald page 10)

Politics

Investigation of RBS: Police have launched a fraud investigation into Sir Fred Goodwin’s running of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) following a complaint from Christine Grahame MSP. This follows calls from the UK government for a police investigation and the Scottish Lib Dems demanding a Serious Fraud Office investigation into RBS. (Sunday Times page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 2, Daily Telegraph page 1, Scotsman page 6, John Forsyth in Scotsman, Herald page 1, Times page 18, Courier page 3, Press and Journal page 10, Daily Express page 6, Daily Mail page 1)

Referendum: Alex Salmond is reportedly set to press ahead with plans for an independence referendum bill next year despite the economic downturn and the collapse of Scottish banking. (Sunday Times page 2)

Drug addicts benefits: The UK government is set to unveil plans to stop benefit payments to crack and heroin addicts unless they agree to seek help. The SNP has been accused of trying to block the UK-wide policy by refusing to help collect data, in addition to using the devolved powers on drug treatment to halt reform. (Scotsman page 9, Times page 17)

Housing: The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations will launch a new campaign to get 10,000 new affordable homes for rent built in the next year, in an attempt to meet the demand for housing and give the economy a boost. (Herald page 2)

SNP council tax plan: The Scottish Government is furious over the leak of an official document which condemned the SNP plans to turn council tax into local income tax as illegal. Labour has since commented that the SNP local income tax plans are now in disarray. (Herald page 6, Daily Mail page 2, Sunday Herald page 21)

Scottish Budget: John Swinney warned that £2bn that is ear marked for public spending would be lost if the proposed Scottish Government Budget is not passed by Holyrood on Wednesday. (Herald page 6, Times page 9, Courier page 6, Daily Express page 4, Sunday Times page 13)

Pensions: The basic state pension scheme has suffered serious decline in value over the last 30 years, research suggests. The basic pension is now worth only 16% of average earnings compared to 26% in 1980. (Herald page 7, Times page 42, Press and Journal page 10)

Social Services: Child Protection Services are a “ticking-time bomb” as social workers are struggling to cope with increased case loads coupled with staff shortages. Unions say this could lead to tragedy. (Press and Journal page 6)

Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility.

www.reformscotland.com

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