By a Newsnet reporter

Graeme Dey MSP has made fresh calls for a cut in VAT in tourism in Scotland following Business Secretary Vince Cable’s admission that there is huge pressure on the UK Government to cut VAT for the industry.

Despite the budget passing and no cut being made, Mr Cable – while on a visit to northern England – refused to rule out a VAT cut in the future following calls from Labour councillors for action.

George Galloway has inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Labour party by taking the Bradford West seat in yesterday’s by-election.  Mr Galloway achieved 18,341 votes, more than 10,000 ahead of his Labour rival.  

The by-election was called after the resignation of Labour’s Marsha Singh, due to a long term illness.  Mr Singh won the seat for Labour in the 2010 General Election with 18,401 votes.  However in Thursday’s by-election the Labour vote collapsed to 8,201, a swing to Mr Galloway’s Respect party of 36.59%.  Early indications are that the 40% of local voters who are Muslim, and traditionally Labour voters, switched en masse to Respect.    

There was little cheer in the result for the Conservatives either.  Their vote evaporated, falling to just 2,746 compared to their General Election result of 12,638.  

Not long after the polling stations closed at 10pm, senior Labour MPs told Sky News that they were confident that they would retain the seat.  However within hours the jitters were starting to show amongst the Labour camp.  

The scale of Mr Galloway’s victory has stunned the Labour party, and will come as a bitter blow to leader Ed Miliband, who had hoped that the unpopularity of the recent Conservative Budget would translate into votes for Labour.  

Speaking after the result was announced Mr Galloway said: “By the grace of God, we have won the most sensational victory in British political history … Labour has been hit by a tidal wave in a seat they have held for many decades and dominated for 100 years. I have won a big victory in every part of the constituency, including in areas many people said I should not even compete.”

Mr Galloway claimed his victory was due to people’s disaffection with “the path of treason by Tony Blair in 1994” that has taken Labour “so far away from its traditional supporters that people feel neglected and betrayed”.

He added that Blair remained revered inside the modern Labour party, “swanning around making millions, instead of facing trial in the Hague for war crimes. The big political parties have had a very salutary lesson, and I hope they take note.”

He added: “Labour should have won a landslide victory, so voters are not looking for the austerity-lite policies of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.”

Result in full

Galloway/RESPECT 18,341 (55.9%)
Lab 8,201 (25.0%)
Con 2,746 (8.4%)
LD 1,505 (4.6%)
UKIP 1,085 (3.3%)
Green 481 (1.5%)
Nat Dem 344 (1.0%)
Loony 111 (0.3%)

Environmental campaigners have expressed “serious concerns” that US property tycoon Donald Trump is set to fund a campaign in the 3 May 2012 Scottish council elections.

In an interview in Holyrood magazine, the chair of protest group Communities Against Turbines Scotland descibes plans to use substantial funding from the American billionaire to create a “massive campaign” during the local elections against council candidates who support wind power developments.

Trump Organisation executive vice-president George Sorial told the Sunday Times in February that Mr Trump was prepared to spend up to £10m on his campaign against wind power.  The campaign was launched after plans were put forward to construct 11 wind turbines offshore from the controversial £750m golf resort being built by the Trump Organisation at Menie in Aberdeenshire.  Mr Trump has shut down construction at the site in protest at the development.

Anti-wind power activists say they plan to make life uncomfortable for politicians, planners and wind power developers, in a national campaign that could see what Holyrood magazine dubbed “an unprecedented single-issue intervention in Scotland’s local elections.”

Even a fraction of the £10m pledged by Mr Trump would dwarf official party spending on 3 May local elections in Scotland.  The Scottish Green party has referred the matter to the Electoral Commission for investigation.

The Green party believes that the intervention from Mr Trump will backfire and alienate many people, but they have also expressed anger at what they see as a blatant overseas attempt to manipulate the Scottish election for a sectional interest, a large part of which is outside the country.

Leader of the Greens Patrick Harvie MSP commented:

“It’s bad enough that Mr Trump has thrown a hissy fit about the chance that he might be able to see turbines from his golf resort, and has threatened to abuse the planning and legal systems to undermine Scotland’s energy industry.  But the possibility that a foreign billionaire will seek to use his wealth to influence the local elections is outrageous.  This is not America, and our political process is not for sale at any price.”

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has said that the British economy shrank by 0.1% in the first three months of this year. The contraction in the economy in the first quarter of 2012 follows a slightly larger 0.3% contraction in the economy in the final three months of 2011.  After shrinking for two successive quarters, an economy is deemed to be officially in recession.   

Commenting on the OECD’s figures, the SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, said:

“George Osborne’s Budget failed to deliver the key measures needed to help economic recovery, and this OECD forecast for a UK recession is further evidence of why we need an urgent change in direction by the UK Government.

“The SNP have argued right from the start of the economic downturn that capital investment is the best way to keep the economy moving and keep people in work. Unfortunately, the UK Government is not listening – which once again shows why Scotland needs to secure real economic powers with independence.

“Last week’s budget showed that the UK Government remain wedded to the austerity cuts that they have introduced and now want them to last longer and cut deeper than originally planned.

“The UK Government has its priorities all wrong. While hard-working households and businesses feel the impact of these cuts, the Tories want to give tax breaks to the rich – and incredibly Labour didn’t even vote against it!

“The SNP have argued right from the start of the economic crisis that capital investment is the best way to keep the economy moving and keep people in work.

“Unfortunately, the UK Government is not listening – and that, once again, shows why Scotland needs to secure real economic powers.”

The report of the inquiry into the death of Alison Hume, the Ayrshire mother of two who fell into an open mineshaft in Galston in 2008 and died after being left for hours while rescue services debated what action to take, has found that her death could have been avoided.

The report damns the senior management of the fire services, saying that Mrs Hume’s injuries were “survivable”, but that she died after senior fire officers showed “rigid compliance” with health and safety procedures.  As a result of the inaction of the rescue services, Mrs Hume was left for 8 hours before being rescued during which time she developed hypothermia and suffered a heart attack.  She died later in hospital.  

The report found that Mrs Hume’s death could have been avoided if fire chiefs had taken certain “reasonable precautions”.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley MSP Willie Coffey said:

“I welcome the publication of this report. But it simply confirms what Alison’s family have felt since day one – that their daughter died as a result of incompetence at senior levels in the service, and red tape which held back the professionals on the ground from doing their job.

“I know that Alison’s family felt that previous inquiries into this tragedy had fallen far short of providing an explanation – this report hopefully goes at least some way in addressing that.

“But there are still many serious questions that Strathclyde Fire and Rescue have to answer. They must explain why their policy on improvised line rescue remained ‘fundamentally unchanged’ until just a couple of weeks ago – almost four years after this tragic incident occurred. What would have happened if something like this had happened in the meantime?

“Mr Torrie’s comment that – in relation to this tragic incident – Strathclyde Fire and Rescue is ‘not a learning organisation’ is extremely worrying.  It is a damning indictment of the senior management of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, and those involved should be considering their positions.”