Weekly digest of events in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
• Scottish Liberal Democrats Health spokesman, Ross Finnie, warned of a £134 million “black hole” in the budgets of Scotland’s NHS boards. Scottish National Party Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. however, described the allegations as “ill-informed scaremongering”.
• Figures out this week showed that the number of people out of work had fallen by 2000 in the last quarter to 187,000. The SNP declared that their efforts at Holyrood had “lessened the impact” of the recession in Scotland, and Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy made clear that Westminster were not complacent, adding:
“We will have to roll up our sleeves in the New Year and work even harder to get people back into work.”
• Arriving at the Copenhagen climate conference, Alex Salmond concluded that “Scotland is a small country making a big difference on this global challenge”; he subsequently got snubbed by California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
• A review into MSPs’ expenses by Sir Neil McIntosh concluded that they should sign a binding agreement not to “fiddle their expenses” and should be prevented from employing relatives from 2015. The Parliament’s presiding officer, Alex Fergusson said the Parliament’s corporate body accepted the proposals in full. However, SNP MSP Sandra White, who employs her son, was clear in her belief that MSPs were being punished for a Westminster problem. She added:
“If you ask anyone who employs members of their own family, you’ll find the trust and the availability of them being able to work extra hours is something that we actually treasure.”
• Speaking ahead of his first major engagement since taking office, at Copenhagen, First Minister Carwyn Jones said:
“The world must not fail in its duty to come to a meaningful deal that will protect us all from runaway climate change.”
• The Terminator had a simple message for Wales:
“Keep up the good work in your efforts to fight climate change.”
• Unemployment figures showed that over the last quarter, the number of people in Wales out of work increased by 9,000. Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones urged people to be “cautious in over-interpreting the latest figures”, and Shadow Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, concluded that:
“People will look at these figures and judge both Labour and Plaid Cymru on their record of failure to keep Wales working.”
• MPs supported moves to give the Welsh Assembly powers to legislate on issue concerning the Welsh Language.
• With Christmas just a week away, new figures revealed a 30 per cent increase in alcohol related hospital admissions over the last five years. The British Medical Association described the figures as “truly disturbing”.
• Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson engaged in what the press described as a public spat following a meeting with Irish Taioseach Brian Cowen over the devolution of policing and justice power. Both sides accused each other of reneging on promises and standing in the way of progress.
“All countries must commit to tackling the problem, otherwise economic activity will just be displaced and there will be no overall benefit to the environment.”
“The view of most economic commentators is that there will be a time lag before any recovery in business confidence is translated into jobs growth.”
Quote of the week
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“We are inspired by Scotland’s commitment to low carbon growth. Scotland is an example for others to follow.”