Scottish news bulletin: 23 February 2009

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Daily political media summary: 23 February 2009

Economy

RBS: RBS has announced that it will shed a fifth of its global business and return to its banking roots. This shake-up could result in up to 20,000 job losses, though insiders are hopeful that the Scottish workforce will be spared. Scotsman page 1, Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman, Herald page 1, Herald page 26, Times page 3, Guardian page 4

Bank bonuses: Alex Salmond’s chief economic adviser was under fire last night after he described criticisms of bonuses for bankers as grossly simplistic and populist. The First Minister said on Saturday that a cap on bonuses was a ‘perfectly workable solution’ a belief not shared by Sir George Matthewson. Both HSBC and Barclays are set to defy government calls to restrict bonuses as they prepare to give out up to £2bn in payments to their staff. Sunday Herald page 9, Scotsman page 26

Banking bailout: Gordon Brown is to announce a £500bn new rescue package this week. Under this, the UK government will insure toxic assets and pump £14mn into the mortgage market through Northern Rock. The state owned bank is set to make a major return to the mortgage market by an increase in lending of up to £14bn in the next two years. Restructuring will also take place in order to allow the bank to focus on it new lending schemes. Herald page 1, Telegraph page 1

Budget Cuts: Alastair Darling will reportedly urge Alex Salmond today to stop ‘blustering’ about £500m of Westminster cuts to Scotland’s budget and tell the SNP Government to make some savings of its own during the recession. However, the First Minister claims it will cost potentially 7000 jobs north of the border. Scotland on Sunday page 2, Courier page 11, Press and Journal page 1,
Scotsman page 13, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 4

Economic Speech: The First Minister will tell an audience at Georgetown University today that Scotland needs a new approach to deal with the economic downturn. Sunday Herald page 8, Courier page 11

Business Education: Andrew Bolger writes in the Financial Times on the Saltire Fellowship, which aims to give participants the entrepreneurial drive to enhance Scotland’s commercial success. FT page 12

Gordon Brown: At the meeting of European leaders in Berlin, Gordon Brown called for a return to more traditional sober and responsible banking. Herald page 2

Crime

Prolific offenders: The offending rate of some of Scotland’s most prolific criminals has been cut by almost 30% by a radical new scheme which gives criminals such as shoplifters, housebreakers and prostitutes the option of drugs and alcohol rehabilitation, or being targeted by police. Herald page 1

Transport

Edinburgh Trams: The crisis over funding the project could lead to a 12 month delay at the least in the tram project, Edinburgh Council conceded. Motorists are facing disruptions even if the major tram works fail to get under way in the coming month.
Scotsman page 8, Herald page 4, Scotland on Sunday page 8, Sunday Herald page 1

Roads: Scotland’s roads could need up to £2.5bn of investment to bring them up to standard, the Society of Chief Officers in Transportation in Scotland claim. Engineers and transport officials last night revealed that more than 3000 miles of carriageway need urgent but as yet unfunded maintenance.
Scotland on Sunday page 5, Herald page 4

Health

Alcohol curbs: Scotland has the eighth highest level of alcohol consumption in the world, the Scottish Government revealed, with the country’s women now at a greater risk of dying from drink-related diseases than men in England . This comes as the Scottish Government is to back down on key parts of its licensing laws following complaints from the drinks industry that they would intensify the effects of the recession.
Sunday Times page 1, Hamish Macdonell in Scotsman, Herald page 5, Times page 9, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Daily Express page 7

NHS:
Paying for new drugs and treatment is the biggest challenge facing the NHS in Scotland, the huge number of new therapies being developed means that costs are forecast to sky-rocket. Scotsman page 6

Flu: The discovery of proteins that neutralise a wide range of viruses could be a breakthrough in the campaign against flu. Scotsman page 13

Cancer vaccine:
Tens of thousands of girls are at risk of contracting cancer because of a row over funding for a vaccine between doctors and the Scottish Government. Scotland on Sunday page 1,
Courier page 6

Politics

Referendum bill: Opposition leaders have agreed to vote down the SNP’s referendum bill next year, denying Scots the opportunity to opt to breakaway from the UK. Sunday Times page 2

Holyrood powers: Labour MSPs have won a battle against their MPs to keep hold of their powers ahead of a major review of the Scottish Parliament. The party will agree this week that none of Holyrood’s current powers should be handed back to Westminster, as some of its MPs had wanted. Scotland on Sunday page 2

Migrant workers: The Home Secretary said that she intends to tighten curbs on foreign workers from outside the EU entering the UK, including raising the requirements for the most skilled worker, who will now need a postgraduate qualification and a salary of over £20,000. This has angered academics and ministers in Scotland who have been promoting the benefits of skilled migrant labour to the economy. Scotsman page 7, Herald page 1, Times page 7, Guardian page 7

Nuclear power: Scotland’s chief scientific advisor has come out in favour of nuclear power, contradicting the SNP policy which has ruled out nuclear plants in Scotland. However Professor Glover stated that she thought it was a matter for the government not scientists. Scotsman page 10

Council tax: Senior Labour MSP Tom McCabe has called for a 25% cut in council tax for homes worth under £400,000; he hopes this could be the first step in the abolition of the council tax which he describes as discredited. Herald page 6

Care homes: The EU working time directive which limits the number of hours people can work in a week at 48, could lead to the closure of one third of Scottish care homes because of the increased financial burden, Alyn Smith SNP MEP warns. Herald page 8

Mandelson: Plans to axe new laws concerning enhanced maternity leave and tougher equality are threatening to split the Labour cabinet because of the consequences for businesses in this time of recession. Times page 1

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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