Scottish news bulletin: 17th March 2009
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.
RBS: Three big local authority pension funds, including Strathclyde Pension Fund, Scotland’s largest, are planning to sue RBS to try to reclaim some of the money they lost when the bank nearly collapsed last year. They allege that RBS failed to tell investors about the poor state of its balance sheet as a result of the takeover of ABN Amro (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 4).
Barclays: Shares in Barclays rose yesterday after the bank said that it was in discussions about selling its fund management business. The money raised from the sale of iShares could mean that the bank does not need to participate in the government’s insurance scheme (Herald page 30, FT page 17, Telegraph page B1).
Equal pay tribunal: A group of women employees is to take Glasgow City Council to a full employment tribunal to claim compensation for being paid less than their male colleagues in equivalent jobs. If the women win this legal test case, it could pave the way for similar settlements in thousands of other cases. Some estimates put the potential compensation cost for local authorities at £1billion (Scotsman page 3, Record page 2, Herald page 8).
Alcohol minimum pricing: The three main opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament now all oppose minimum pricing for alcohol: after Gordon Brown said yesterday that the plan would punish the majority of responsible drinkers, the Scottish Labour Party confirmed that it would vote against the plans. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats announced their opposition last week (Telegraph page 1, P&J page 1). Hamish Macdonell argues that even if the plans fail, they have sparked a useful debate (Scotsman page 26). Magnus Linklater argues for minimum pricing (Times page 28).
Scottish qualifications: Cambridge University praised the integrity of Scottish school qualifications yesterday. It announced that whilst it is raising its A-Level admission requirements to two As and an A*, it will still only require two As and a B at Advanced Higher because ‘it is harder to get an A in Scotland than it is in England’ (Herald page 5).
Expat voting rights: A think-tank has called for Scots who live abroad to be given the right to vote in Holyrood elections. The Institute for Public Policy Research also recommends that the Scottish Government offers tax breaks and resettlement grants to encourage people to return to Scotland (Scotsman page 15).
PM apology?: The Prime Minister declared in an interview that he accepts ‘full responsibility’ for his role in the banking failures which led to the recession. He also said that the regulatory system he put in place in 1997 could not keep pace with the complexity of the financial system (Guardian page 1).
Licence fee: David Cameron was criticised yesterday for suggesting that the BBC licence fee should be frozen for one year to reflect the difficult economic circumstances. He also said that a future Conservative government would aim to do ‘more for less’ and that taxpayer-funded institutions should lead by example (Herald 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.