Scottish News – Extra

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SCOTTISH NEWS EXTRA

It’s an important day for news in Scotland, and when necessary on such days, newsnetscotland.com will update you whenever resources make it possible.

WEBSTER IS ‘NOTORIOUS’ MURDERER

As predicted  by prosecutor Derek Ogg QC, Malcolm Webster will now be forever known as one of the most notorious murders in recent Scottish history. The jury at the High Court in Glasgow took less than four hours to find Webster, 52, guilty of killing his first wife and attempting to murder his second wife.

Webster, a former  killed his first wife Claire Morris, 34, in Aberdeenshire in 1994 by drugging her and crashing and setting fire to their car to cover up the crime. He was paid £200,000 by insurance companies.

In New Zealand five years later, he attempted to murder his second wife, again in a staged car accident. She survived, and he was foiled in his bid to gain a £750,000 payout.

Webster, from Guildford in Surrey, then came back to Scotland and attempted to bigamously marry Simone Bannerjee of Oban. He pretended to her that he had leukaemia.

The broadcast media and printed press in Scotland will be full of the case tonight and tomorrow, and the details already known are lurid.

Two angles which should not be missed are that the case – now in its 16th week – has set a record as the longest involving a single accused, and that Scottish police led the investigation in Scotland and joined with colleagues in New Zealand to gain the evidence for the convictions.

Crucially, the bringing of the New Zealand-based case in a Scottish Court proved that Scots Law’s principles on jurisdiction for such an offence are robust and fair in international law. There is sure to be further discussion on such ‘universal jurisdiction’ but the result is undoubtedly a very good one Frank Mulholland QC, solicitor-general, whose appointment as Lord Advocate is imminent.

FIRST DIVIDEND?

Could the reduction in the Coalition Government’s plans to close coastguard stations be the first dividend from the overwhelming victory of the SNP at the Holyrood elections?

Scotland was going to see coastguard coverage reduced from five stations to just one 24-hour station in Aberdeen plus one daylight- only station. The Forth and Clyde stations plus either of Stornoway or Shetland station were to be axed.

It was reported this morning that the Coalition Government was having a re-think on the very day that MPs visited one of the stations under threat at Stornoway to take local views on the importance of the station to safety around out coasts.

In total around the UK, the 18 full-time stations were to be reduced to just two full-time stations plus up to seven sub-centres operating only in daylight hours.

SNP policy is to have the activities of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Scotland controlled by the Scottish Government. Perhaps that is another devolved power which could be looked at in the context of the Scotland Bill, though MPs rejected the idea at an earlier stage of the Bill.

Phil Hammond, UK transport minister, said this morning: “We have had some very strong feedback. We have listened to the thoughts that have been put forward including lots from working coastguards themselves.”

Mr Hammond promised that a final decision would be announced before the summer recess in Westminster.

TRAMS HIT ANOTHER BUFFER

The likelihood of the Scottish Government stepping in to take control of the failing Edinburgh trams project is now greater than ever, following the resignation of the chief executive of Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), the company in charge of the project.

Richard Jeffrey lasted two years in the job, the same time as his predecessor Willie Gallagher, and undoubtedly had a fraught relationship with main contractors Bilfinger Berger.

The SNP group on Edinburgh Council has already asked searching questions about the costs of continuing the project which is already very truncated and is only going ahead following mediation between TIE, Edinburgh Council and the Bilfinger Berger-led BSC earlier this year.

With £500 million of Government grant going towards the £545 million cost – it will cost at least £700 million to complete the present works – speculation is growing that Transport Scotland, the national agency for transport, may step in, especially as £440 million has already been spent and Princes Street is to be closed for repairs to damage caused by the tramworks.

Interestingly, TIE’s chairman Vic Emery, who is also understood to have lost confidence in Mr Jeffery said this morning:  “The organisation will continue as before for the current time. (our italics). We are working closely with the City of Edinburgh Council and there is a great deal of work ongoing in terms of moving forward the different work streams agreed from the mediation in March.”

With the SNP group on the Council demanding answers and seeking an end to the trams if those replies aren’t good enough, surely Transport Scotland must do what it can to ensure the project is robust and as cost-effective as possible despite the sums spent already. Or else close it all down.