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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 7 JUNE 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 7 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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Fiscal powers: Scotland’s new Secretary of State has defied growing calls for Holyrood to be given greater tax raising powers. In his first major interview, Michael Moore said the Scottish Government would not get any new abilities to raise money other than those already agreed by the Calman Commission. Mr Moore\’s stance signals a major rift between Westminster and the SNP administration at Holyrood. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Jenny Hjul comments in Sunday Times page 22, Joan McAlpine comments on page 23) 

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A group of leading economists and academics has claimed that proposals from the Calman Commission, which looked at more powers for Holyrood, are "dangerously flawed" because of what they claim is a failure to back a greater say over tax and borrowing for the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Government consultants Professors Andrew Hughes Hallett, Sheila Dow and Rod Cross and economists Dr Jim and Margaret Cuthbert and Marc Coleman have claimed that the proposals from the commission would be harmful to the Scottish economy. The comments were made in a consultation on the SNP government\’s plans for a referendum on independence. The demand for greater fiscal powers for Holyrood follows a similar call by Dan Macdonald of Macdonald Estates, Ben Thomson – the financier who set up the Reform Scotland think-tank – and Jim McColl of the industrial company Clyde Blowers. (Scotsman page 10, Saturday’s Herald, Herald page 6, Times page 1) 

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Gillian Bowditch interviews Jim McColl, one of Scotland’s wealthiest businessmen, about his role in the high profile campaign for fiscal responsibility. (Sunday Times page 9)

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First Minister Alex Salmond will this week press the Prime Minister and Scottish Secretary for more powers over tax and more cash to help Scotland emerge from recession. Mr Salmond will set out his case to David Cameron and Michael Moore at a meeting between the UK and devolved governments in London on Tuesday, as the coalition prepares its emergency budget for June 22. (Herald page 12) 

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Scottish Conservatives review: A review of the way the Scottish Conservatives operate, including the role played by leader Annabel Goldie, was launched yesterday, in the wake of the party\’s poor general election performance north of the Border. (Scotland on Sunday page 2, Sunday Times page 2, Scotsman page 18, Brian Monteith in Scotsman page 29) 

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Bonuses: Tens of millions of pounds were paid out in bonuses to civil servants in Scotland in just one year, it has been revealed. Nearly £37 million in bonus payments were handed to senior public sector employees during 2008-09, with a large chunk of the cash spent within Scotland\’s NHS. The pay-outs were revealed in Freedom of Information requests to the country\’s public sector bodies. A total of £26m of "distinction awards" were paid by the health service to senior doctors and managers. Other big payers included Scottish Water, with £4.2m handed over from the publicly-owned company\’s bonus fund. Scottish Government officials racked up £1.8m in bonuses, the packages described as "core" payments and including £89,000 in bonuses for seven top grade civil servants. (Scotland on Sunday page 7, Daily Express page 11, Daily Record page 6) 

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Voting reform: David Cameron will take a back seat in the drive to save the first-past-the-post system during a proposed referendum on voting reform. The prime minister admitted that he and Nick Clegg, his Liberal Democrat deputy, had yet to decide the date for the nationwide ballot. However, he revealed that he might agree to the Lib Dem demand that the referendum — a key part of the coalition agreement — should be held as early as next May. “I see the case for getting on with this in relatively reasonable order,” said Cameron. “This is one of the issues where we are going to have a healthy debate.” Asked whether he would rule out a 2011 referendum, he replied: “No, of course not.” (Sunday Times page 4) 

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Poll: The first poll since the General Election shows the SNP falling behind Labour and no sign of a Cameron-Clegg bounce for the Conservatives or the Lib Dems in Scotland. The poll, by TNS-BMRB, shows Labour ahead of the SNP on both the first-past-the-post and regional list votes for the Scottish parliament. The research, carried out between May 26 and June 1, puts Labour on 45%, a rise of eight points since a corresponding poll in January, and the SNP on 29% – a drop from 35%, on the first-past-the-post vote. (Herald page 1)

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Jim Mather: Jim Mather, the Enterprise Minister, is to stand down as a member of the Scottish Parliament at the next Holyrood election. The popular Nationalist is to have talks with his local party members, but it is understood he has decided to quit after seven years as an MSP. Mather was first elected as an SNP List member for the Highlands and Islands in 2003, before winning the Argyll and Bute seat from the Liberal Democrats three years ago. His departure is likely to lead to a scramble for the nomination in Argyll and Bute. Although the SNP has a slender 815-strong majority in the seat, party insiders expect sitting MSPs and senior activists to consider a bid for the constituency. As well as Mr Mather, Nationalist MSP Ian McKee will also stand down next year. (Herald page 6) 

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Economy

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David Cameron speech: David Cameron has warned that the economy is in a far worse state than previously thought and signalled that Britain faces years of “pain” as the spending axe falls.  The Prime Minister indicated a sharp downgrade in official growth forecasts and revealed that welfare and public sector pay would bear the brunt of budget cuts. (Sunday Times page 1, Scotsman page 2, Times page 2, Telegraph page 2, Press and Journal page 11, FT page 1, Guardian page 1) 

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Public sector: Scotland will lose at least 30,000 public sector jobs over the next four years because of the effects of severe budget cuts, a group of economists has warned. The Ernst & Young Scottish Item Club said the Scottish Government will have no choice but to wield an axe over tens of thousands of posts as it faces up to some of the toughest spending reductions for decades. (Scotland on Sunday page 2, Sunday Times page B1, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 3, Courier page 8,  Daily Express page 2) 

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Justice

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Forensic science: Scotland’s latest high-tech weapon in the fight to catch criminals and secure convictions officially opens today. Rushton Court in Dundee is the first purpose-built forensic science laboratory in Scotland in almost 15 years, built at a cost of £23.3 million. More than 100 forensic science experts and 30 information and communications technology specialists from the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) will work at the facility. (Scotsman page 21, Herald page 4, Press and Journal page 1) 

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Transport 

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Train accident: Crash investigators were today beginning their inquiry into what caused a Highland-bound passenger train to catch fire and derail. The incident happened just before 9pm last night near the Falls of Cruachan Power Station in Argyll. Passengers on the 6.20pm service from Glasgow to Oban spoke of a "ball of flame" inside a carriage. The derailed train ended hanging on the edge of a 50 foot embankment. Members of emergency services successfully evacuated all 60 staff and passengers from the train. Eight people were injured in the crash but none of the injuries was understood to be life-threatening. A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said today: "Network Rail engineers are just going on site to make the train secure“. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Sun page 1) 

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British Airways: Strike pay was increased yesterday to British Airways cabin crew members as they launched their latest wave of five-day walkouts in their bitter row with the airline. Unite said that it would pay its members £45 a day, up from £30 in previous strikes, and was considering offering interest-free loans of £1,000 for hardship cases. BA said that more crew than expected had turned up for work at Heathrow Airport, meaning it could operate additional flights. But cabin crew staged their 18th day of action since March and will stay out until Wednesday, raising the cost of the industrial action to BA. (Scotland on Sunday page 5, Courier page 13) 

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SPT: Alex Salmond has warned that Scotland’s biggest transport quango faces being scrapped after a critical independent audit of its finances. The First Minister is said to be appalled at what he regards as an “abuse of public money” by the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT). He has reportedly told colleagues he is considering abolishing the Labour-led quango or forcing it to become more representative of Scottish political opinion. Earlier this year, four of the quango’s senior executives resigned after it was revealed that officials ran up expenses worth £117,573 between 2006 and 2009. (Sunday Times page 7, Herald page 12) 

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GARL: The decision to scrap the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) has cost the taxpayer £40 million. Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has admitted that the bill for winding up the project has jumped from a previous estimate of around £25m. The information was uncovered by Paisley North MSP Wendy Alexander who asked Mr Stevenson to provide a breakdown of how much the cancellation had already cost the taxpayer and what was still due to be paid. Much of the money has gone on terminating contracts and paying out compensation for the cancellation of the £212m link between Paisley and the airport. (Herald page 7)

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Edinburgh trams: Senior council officials are understood to be at odds with the arm’s-length company overseeing development of  the Edinburgh trams, Scotland’s biggest transport infrastructure project, over proposals to borrow in excess of its £545 million budget to ensure that it is completed. The move could see Edinburgh residents lumbered with debts estimated at more than £100m. But it is thought likely that, without additional funds, part of the 11.5-mile route will be axed. (Herald page 10)

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Education

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Teacher recruitment: Scotland is facing a teaching recruitment crisis with up to 400 teachers applying for the same job, new figures reveal. A survey of local authorities found new teachers had virtually no chance of landing permanent posts, in many cases due to the level of competition. A separate study by the General Teaching Council for Scotland reported last week that only 30% of teachers were able to find a job this year, compared with 39% the previous year. An advert for a teaching position in Stirling attracted 411 applications, while 258 people applied for a single job in West Dunbartonshire. (Sunday Times page 5)

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Early retirement scheme: A Scottish Government scheme to encourage up to 500 teachers to retire early to help solve the country’s growing school recruitment crisis has made almost no impact. Last November, the SNP announced proposals to provide councils with a £10 million borrowing facility over two years to support the costs of early retirement packages for senior staff. However, more than six months after the scheme was launched, it has been revealed that only two of Scotland’s 32 local authorities – Falkirk and West Dunbartonshire – intend to use it this year. (Herald page 1, page 4) 

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Curriculum for Excellence: Scotland’s Education Secretary was accused by opposition politicians of making a "mess" of the Scottish Government\’s Curriculum for Excellence plans to improve standards in schools. A series of parliamentary answers from Michael Russell to questions from opposition MSPs included responses that "detailed preparations are still under way" even though the new curriculum is due to come into force at the start of this year\’s August school term. (Scotsman page 12)