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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 28 JUNE 2010

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.

In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News.

Politics

Referendum plans: Alex Salmond has postponed the plans to hold an independence referendum this year. The referendum was expected to be held on St Andrew’s Day – November 30 – but is now likely to be held in the spring, at the same time as the anticipated Welsh referendum. This has, however, raised new doubts over the Scottish Government\’s pledge to hold the vote before next year\’s election. Ministers have missed a key deadline for the Referendum Bill, meaning that it is now almost impossible for the SNP government to hold an independence vote on St Andrew\’s Day this year as they said they would, and difficult even before next May\’s election. (The Times page 3, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Sun page 2, The Scottish Daily Mail page 6, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

MSPs second homes: The Scottish Parliament will no longer refund the cost of mortgage interest payments for MSPs second homes, expecting the MSPs to rent accommodation, or stay at hotels. The move is designed to stop MSPs playing the property market and keeping the ­profits from their state-subsidised properties. Alex Neil, the SNP minister in charge of affordable housing and homelessness, sold his house ahead of the new rules, making a profit of £100,000; Neil’s gain represents a return of more than 2,100% on a deposit of £4,720. The rest of his mortgage costs and household bills were picked up by the taxpayer. Neil’s profit is the largest of any MSP in the Scottish ­Parliament’s history and 50% more than the second largest. Most of the 26 MSPs still claiming for homes they bought are expected to follow suit; selling rather than paying their own mortgage interest. (The Times page 3, The Sun page 9, The Scottish Daily Mail page 7, Sunday Herald page 1)

Minimum alcohol prices: Opposition leaders have joined forces to find alternatives to the SNPs alcohol policy on minimum unit price plan for alcohol, which was voted against two weeks ago. The Alcohol Bill is still intact as the vote was non-binding, but the opposition parties urge the government to find a new approach, with Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon invited to "focus on the common ground." Labour, Tories, Liberal Democrats and Greens have signed a letter to Sturgeon calling for a fresh approach. (The Press and Journal page 8, The Times page 3, Scotland on Sunday page 9.)

Coalition Pact: The Conservatives are considering a plan to freeze Labour out of power in Scotland by forming a grand coalition with the SNP and Liberal Democrats. Senior party figures believe the power- sharing deal would deal Labour a blow in one of its heartlands. (Sunday Times page 2) 

Economy

Higher rate tax: The number of higher-rate taxpayers could nearly double to more than 6m- one on five of all taxpayers- by the end of this parliament if the government presses ahead with its plans to reduce the basic-rate band. (Sunday Times page B1)

Cuts: The Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland warned that that their force face budget cuts. Reorganisation is needed to move officers from ‘back-office’ operations to front line operations, in a move to save the later. (The Press and Journal page 1, The Courier page 8, The Scottish Daily Mail page 5)

Transport 

Forth Bridge: John Swinney, the Finance Secretary, is to renew appeals to the UK Government for help in funding the new £2 billion replacement Forth Road Bridge. Swinney has written to George Osborne, the Chancellor, to ask for permission to extend the payment schedule for the bridge over 20 years so that other major projects can be funded as well. The Finance Secretary approached the Treasury with exactly the same request two years ago but was turned down by the then Labour government. However, now that a new Westminster government is in place which has promised to adopt an attitude of "respect" towards the devolved administrations, Swinney hopes his request will be treated more favourably. (Scotland on Sunday page 5)

Local Government

Budget: The spending cuts expected in the Scottish draft budget due to be published in November may strain the relationship between the Scottish Government and the councils, as it could lead to an end to the council tax freeze and free school meals. Council leaders are threatening to rip up their agreement with the SNP Government if ministers exempt the NHS from cuts and force councils to bear an unfair burden.  Local authority bosses will deliver the stark warning to Finance Secretary John Swinney in a meeting this week, amid signs of division in the public sector over how to cope with the impact of the Chancellor’s emergency Budget. (The Scotsman page 13, The Herald page 6, Sunday Herald page 1)

Purcell: Former leader of Glasgow City Council Steven Purcell will not face criminal charges, it has emerged. The decision not to prosecute has angered politicians, who said it send out the wrong message. Under Scottish Law, possession of cocaine is punishable with a maximum seven year prison sentence. (Sunday Times page 1)

Health

NHS: A survey made by the British Medical Association in Scotland (BMA) shows that the extent of staff cut backs in the NHS in Scotland could be greater than first expected. The cuts are also likely to mainly hit ‘fringe’ treatments, such as helping the infertility help. (The Scotsman page 2, The Courier page 1)

Antidepressants: NHS figures show that one in 10 Scots take anti-depressives at one time or another, with Glaswegians 50 percent more likely to use antidepressants than people in Edinburgh. (The Herald page 1, The Daily Express page 10.)

Psychiatric crisis line: A review of the crisis service for patients with mental health problems is being made, amid the search for spending cuts. The out-of-hour support service in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been confirmed to be under reassessing. Carers have expressed concern since this might stop people from going into a hospital to seek help. (Herald page 10)

Education

School curriculum: The new school curriculum has been critiqued for deepening the divide between the most able children and everyone else. (Scotsman page 14.)

University link: One of Scotland\’s most prestigious private schools has agreed a formal link-up with a university, in what is thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland. Loretto pupils will attend business lectures at Edinburgh Napier University next year as part of a scheme to give senior school students an edge in the fight for a university place. (Scotsman page 20)

Private school fees: Due to the financial situation, the increase of private school fees has been kept at a minimum for the next academic year. (Herald page 5)