Scottish news bulletin: 16th March 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

Recession: Britain is showing signs of slipping into a thirties style recession where families find themselves pushed further and further into the red every month in a “debt deflation trap”, according to the Bank of England. (Telegraph page 1)

Business failure: More than 10,000 Scottish firms could go bust in the next two years, and about 75,000 firms in the UK as a whole, according to figures by accountants and business advisors BDO Stoy Hayward LLP. (Scotsman page 1, Financial Times page 2, Daily Express page 58)

Unemployment: UK unemployment figures are projected to surpass the 2 million milestone this week, the highest since the Labour Government has been in power. Some analysts warn that unemployment could reach 3.3 million before the economy begins to recover. The Conservatives and trade unions are criticising the government for the continued closure of jobcentres in light of the increasing unemployment. (Scotsman page 4, Guardian page 12, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 4, Press and Journal page 5)

Islamic banking: Scottish banking veteran John Wright has called for the creation of a dedicated Islamic finance house in Scotland to attract more investment from the Middle East.
(Scotsman page 26)

Equal pay: The current economic climate has prompted the body responsible for safeguarding equality in the UK to state that the current economic crisis is too fragile to impose equal pay reviews on businesses. Women’s pay is on average 17% less than their male counterparts and the gap is increasing. (Guardian page 6)

RBS pensions: Cherie Blair is to take a case on behalf of North Yorkshire and Merseyside council pension funds, submitted to a court in New York, against Sir Fred Goodwin and RBS. They claim that the bank falsely reassured its investors that the bank was in good health when it was in fact effectively insolvent, and are seeking compensation worth hundreds of millions of pounds. (Scotsman page 5, Times page 1)

HBOS merger: Small shareholders in Lloyds TSB have announced that they are to take action over the decision to merge with HBOS, which caused the value of their stakes in the bank to plummet. (Herald page 1, Courier page 10, Daily Express page 10, Daily Express page 58)

Low-paid jobs: Rising unemployment is pressuring British workers to seek low-pay, low-status jobs more commonly associated with immigrants. However, employers are rejecting them as Eastern European immigrants are regarded as better motivated and more reliable workers. (Times page 17)

Crime

ASBOs: The SNP have been accused of going soft on crime after it emerged that ASBOs for those under-16 are to be dropped despite a surge in youth offending. (Times page 21)

Local Government

Council Tax: Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, who is tipped as future leader of the Labour party in Scotland, said he wanted a new annual charge based on a house’s market value, which would hit the wealthiest hardest. Purcell’s call puts him at odds with Iain Gray, who wants council tax to be reformed instead. (Sunday Herald page 17)

Health

Cancer victims: Almost 200 cancer patients have reportedly been left to die in Scotland in the last two years after their last-ditch attempts to get life-extending treatments were rejected by the NHS. (Scotsman page 13, Daily Mail page 1)

Education

University Funding: Scottish Universities are divided about plans to introduce a funding scheme which would match private donations with public money. The concern stems from those who believe it would widen the gap between richer and poorer institutions. The system already operates in England and Wales and some universities have reported a substantial rise in resources as a result. (Scotsman page 8)

Private Schools: It has emerged that demand for places at private schools in Scotland has soared despite the economic recession. Applications to top schools nationwide have risen, in some cases by as much as half. (Sunday Herald page 16)

Politics

Scottish Liberal Democrats: Tavish Scott the Liberal Democrat leader said in a speech that the debate about referendums on independence should be pushed to the side until the end of the current crisis. Mr. Scott stated that the focus of the Scottish Government should be on “jobs, jobs, jobs”. This has produced confusion as hours before Mr. Scott refused to rule out LibDem support for such a referendum in the future. (Scotsman page 2, Times page 21, Telegraph page 13, Press and Journalpage 1, Courier page 1, Daily Express page 10)

SNP/Lib Dem Coalition: Tavish Scott paved the way for a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP after the 2011 election, by saying a deal was now "a possibility", in an interview with BBC Scotland on the second day of his party's conference in Perth. (Sunday Herald page 7, Scotland on Sunday page 2, Sunday Times page 1)

Scottish nuclear power: The SNP have declared that they will stick to their no-nuclear stance despite a slim majority of Scots being in favour. A Scottish Government poll indicated that 53% of Scottish people oppose the SNP’s opposition to nuclear power and only 23% supported it. (Scotsman page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 7)

Labour boost in poll: The Labour Party in Scotland have received a boost from a poll which shows the party has overtaken the SNP in Holyrood voting intentions. This comes amid falling support for an independence referendum. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 1, Courier page 3)

PFI costs: The cost of paying off PFI contracts is to reach £30bn the Scottish government announced. These relate to the unitary charge for all such schemes used to fund local public projects such as schools, hospitals and roads. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 13, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 7)

Alcohol pricing: The UK government’s top medical advisor has supported demands for minimum alcohol pricing across the UK. Sir Liam Donaldson has agreed with alcohol campaigners that there should be a 50p per unit price, a rate which is 10p higher than the 40p per unit the Scottish Government has hinted it’s considering. The UK Government is said to be wary with an upcoming general election just over a year away. Gordon Brown rejected the idea suggesting that sensible drinkers should not have to pay the price for irresponsible excess drinking. (Scotsman page 16, Guardian page 4, Times page 3, Herald page 5, Telegraph page 6, Financial Times page 2, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 6, Daily Express page 12, Daily Mirror page 6, Daily Mail page 4)

Migrant tax: Foreign workers and students from outside the EU will have to pay £50 upon entry to the UK to ease their impact on public services. The new migrant tax will be announced this week. (Telegraph page 2)

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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