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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 30 JUNE 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 30 June 2010

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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.

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

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Politics

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Scottish Secretary Chief advisor: The Scottish Secretary\’s chief advisor has resigned just six weeks after taking the job to pursue a career as an MSP. Willie Rennie was appointed a special advisor to the Scottish Office shortly after losing his Dunfermline and West Fife seat in the general election. However, Mr Rennie never took any pay for his new job, insisting that his pay-off of more than £30,000 for losing his seat was sufficient. (Scotsman page 2, Press and Journal page 6, Courier page 7) 

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Fiscal responsibility: Peter Jones comments in the Scotsman on the SNP and how the First Minister’s vision of gradual independence has been undermined by the recession. (Scotsman page 33)

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The Gathering: Lord Sempill was the controversial figurehead of the centrepiece event of Scotland\’s Year of Homecoming which racked up a £600,000 loss. Tory peer Lord Sempill persuaded public funders to cough up more than £500,000 to support his failed clan gathering in Edinburgh last summer – and left the taxpayer out of pocket to the tune of another £300,000. His current plans are to travel to the United States and Canada to promote his new tourism venture – with the help of public money. He is seeking help to raise £12,000 to promote his new online ancestral portal, Panalba, However, the Scottish Government confirmed last night that it had already turned down Lord Sempill\’s plea for fresh financial help. (Scotsman page 6) 

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Russian espionage: A transatlantic investigation was under way last night into claims that a member of an alleged Russian spy ring held a fake British passport. Tracey Lee Ann Foley was one of ten people arrested in the United States by the FBI for allegedly serving for years as secret agents of Russia\’s intelligence service, the SVR, with the goal of penetrating US government policymaking circles. The alleged spy ring was involved in long term "deep cover" assignments, the US government has said. (Scotsman page 10, Times page 1, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 13, Guardian page 10 

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Economy

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Danny Alexander: Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was accused of "inflicting pain" on Scotland with the UK Lib Dem-Tory coalition government\’s budget during a Holyrood hearing. The Lib Dem MP was also forced to defend the budget as "progressive" after he was labelled as the "Tories man" in Scotland by Labour MSP David Whitton during yesterday\’s finance committee hearing on the measures. Mr Alexander was quizzed about Chancellor George Osborne\’s budget, which included £11 billion cuts in welfare spending by 2014/15 such as a three year freeze in child benefit and a 10 per cent cut to housing benefit for those on Jobseekers Allowance for more than 12 months. Mr Alexander has also  announced that a high-powered group will be created to drive forward the Calman Commission’s recommendations on Scottish devolution. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 6, Times page 17, Telegraph page 2, Press and Journal page 1, Sun page 2) 

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Work scheme: Hundreds of Incapacity Benefit claimants in Scotland will be the first to undergo the stringent new tests to see if they are capable of work as part of the UK Government’s drive to cut the annual £169 billion welfare bill. Aberdeen, along with Burnley in Lancashire, has been chosen for trials because of its rural and urban population, which will give the Department for Work and Pensions a “good cross-section of customers”. The new Work Capability Assessment will involve medical tests from a nurse or doctor to determine whether Incapacity Benefit claimants are fit to work. In the past, a note from a GP would do. (Herald page 1) 

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Justice

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Short term prison sentences: Sending people to jail for sentences of three months or less will end if MSPs support the proposal today in the Scottish Parliament. Although opposed by Labour and the Tories, the Government is on course to get its way after dropping its plan to scrap sentences of six months and agree to a compromise tabled by the LibDems. The measure is the most controversial in a raft of measures which have survived to the final stage of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill. With support from the LibDems, Greens and possibly independent MSP Margo MacDonald, the Government will get the majority it needs. MSPs will also debate a proposal which would establish a mandatory sentence of six months for an adult caught carrying a knife in a public place. (Herald page 6, Telegraph page 1) 

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Transport 

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Scottish roads: Scotland’s main roads are the most dangerous in Britain, a new survey shows today. The Road Safety Foundation reported that one in eight A roads north of the Border – 12 per cent – have an "unacceptably high risk" compared to one in ten across Britain. They included 3 per cent of Scottish A roads being ranked in the highest risk category, compared to 2 per cent in Britain. (Scotsman page 21, Herald page 8, Press and Journal page 1) 

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Health

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Temporary doctors: Many wards rely on locums, temporary workers often trained overseas and supplied by agencies, to cover gaps in their rotas caused by staff shortages, sickness and other absences. Professor Chris Isles, based at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, has expressed concern about the quality of staff being sent to hospitals and the misleading information supplied about their experience, a problem he believes is occurring across the UK. In an article in the British Medical Journal today, Prof Isles recounts his attempt to fill his medical staff rota using locums who were trained overseas and referred by agencies. (Scotsman page 1) 

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NHS: NHS managers have been criticised for the way they spend the billions of pounds of public money with which they are entrusted, and concerns have been raised about the ability of health boards to manage savings. A report published by Holyrood\’s health and sport committee claims fundamental weaknesses are influencing NHS boards\’ decisions on spending and budgeting. The NHS budget is about one-third of the Scottish Government\’s £30 billion budget and individual boards are responsible for spending about 75 per cent of the £10 billion total given to the NHS. (Scotsman page 21)

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Alcohol: Supermarkets should be prevented by law from awarding loyalty points for purchases of alcohol, the professional body for Scotland’s doctors has claimed. The British Medical Association in Scotland said the big grocery retail chains should not reward customers who take advantage of cut-price offers and bulk-buy alcohol, because of the need to send the right message on drinking behaviour. Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, told the body’s annual conference in Brighton that supermarkets encouraged bulk buying of cheap alcohol with special offers. (Herald page 9)

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Doctor’s bonuses: Scotland’s Health Secretary has called on the UK Government to scrap lucrative bonuses for doctors. Nicola Sturgeon has written to her UK counterpart Andrew Lansley to urge him to scrap the “outdated” distinction awards scheme for consultants. The system pays out £30 million of taxpayers’ money to about 500 hospital doctors every year. Consultants already earning up to £100,000 can receive an annual £75,889 boost for landing an A+ award, £55,924 for an A award, or £31,959 for a B. The bonuses also contribute towards the final-salary pension scheme, on which the Scottish Government says it cannot put a price. (Herald page 10)

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Education

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Curriculum for Excellence: A bid by the Scottish Government to claim celebrity backing for the new school curriculum ended last night after leading Scots insisted they had nothing to do with it. Despite being named as one of those supporting the Curriculum for Excellence in a government press release yesterday, Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton said that her schedule was too busy for her to be involved. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 1, Daily Mail page 13)

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