REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 7 JULY 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 7 July 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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Lord Laidlaw: Scottish Tory peer Lord Laidlaw yesterday quit the House of Lords in order to avoid paying full tax in Britain. Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay has been dubbed the "Scottish Lord Ashcroft" after bankrolling the party\’s election campaign north of the Border.  Like the billionaire Lord Ashcroft, he had also given a commitment to change his tax status after joining the Lords. (Scotsman page 2, Times page 15, Daily Record page 2) 

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Devolution: The impact of devolution on education, health and justice is to come under the spotlight in an audit carried out by three powerful Westminster committees to find out whether it has delivered for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The select committees for the three Celtic nations will gather results in these devolved areas to see how they rate. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 2)

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AV referendum: First Minister Alex Salmond has accused the UK government of effectively admitting its plan to stage a referendum on the same day as next year\’s Scottish Parliament elections was a bad move. Mr Salmond made the claim after he received a letter from Scottish Secretary Michael Moore saying he wanted to "engage" with the SNP administration over its concerns about the general election date clash in 2015. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 6, Times page 3, Daily Record page 2, Daily Mail page 12) 

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The Gathering: Scotland\’s former top civil servant is being called back to Holyrood to face questions over a loan given to prop up a loss-making firm behind the world\’s biggest Highland gathering. Sir John Elvidge, who retired last month, was invited to appear as part of a probe into a Government decision to write off the £180,000 loan for private firm The Gathering. The company was behind a show-piece event as part of the Homecoming celebrations of Scottish culture last year. It was credited with bringing about £10 million to the economy but the firm collapsed with debts of around £516,000, while owing creditors £675,000. (Herald page 12, Press and Journal page 6, Daily Mail page 2) 

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BBC: The BBC has been told by a watchdog it must make it easier for people in Scotland to access its services. There are significant shortfalls in universal reception of network radio according to the BBC Audience Council for Scotland’s annual review for 2009-10. Some people also cannot access broadband and digital radio services. The council welcomed a significant increase in production of network television from Scotland during the year, including the transfer of major programmes like The Review Show and The Weakest Link to Pacific Quay in Glasgow. However, it said that while the amount of BBC television made in Scotland had increased, the proportion of it that was recognisably Scottish had not. (Herald page 7) 

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Economy

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Budget: Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander has denied that the coalition government\’s emergency Budget would disproportionately affect women and the poor.

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Challenged by opposition MPs yesterday, Mr Alexander insisted that the Budget "hits those on the highest incomes hardest". The package, including rises in VAT and capital gains tax, to cut the burgeoning budget deficit, was "fair" and "progressive", he said. (Scotsman page 4) 

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Public sector pensions: Public sector pensions cost twice as much taxpayers\’ money to provide than previously calculated and must be reformed if they are to be affordable during the economic crisis, a report published today has claimed. The study by the Public Sector Pension Commission (PSPC) provides evidence of the disparity between the pensions on offer in the public sector and those on offer in much of the private sector. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 1, Daily Express page 1)

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Urban regeneration: Tens of millions of pounds will be spent on transforming rundown areas in Scotland\’s cities and towns, it was announced yesterday. A £50 million package is intended to fund major projects including new business parks and the refurbishment of derelict sites and crumbling buildings. Other projects could include environmentally friendly energy-to-heat systems, social housing and improving public transport. The Scottish Government will give loans to urban regeneration companies that present plans for schemes to improve large urban areas. The Scottish Government is providing a total of £26m of the cash, with £24m coming from the European Commission towards the fund called Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment In City Areas. (Scotsman page 22, Herald page 6) 

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Oil and Gas: Industry body Oil & Gas UK is predicting a rebound in investment and drilling activity as it sees the energy industry leading the UK’s drive out of recession. It also played down fears that the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster would lead to greater restrictions in the North Sea, noting that any changes are likely to see the US regulations move closer to the UK model. Oil & Gas UK’s annual economic report highlighted a 6% drop in capital expenditure on the UK continental shelf last year to £4.7bn as the industry was hit by the economic downturn. It predicted investment will rise from £5bn to £6bn this year and between £5.5bn and £6.5bn the year after. (Herald page 28, Press and Journal page 8) 

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Justice

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Community service: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill yesterday visited an award-winning Glasgow project to help offenders turn their backs on crime. Low-level offenders working for The Coach House Trust are transforming derelict areas of Glasgow while learning new skills that can help get them back on the job ladder. Local communities across Glasgow are reaping the benefits with numerous derelict sites being cleaned up and renovated for use by the community. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 7)

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Transport

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Aberdeen by-pass:  One of Scotland’s leading economists predicted yesterday that council tax was likely to rise in the north-east to help pay for the Aberdeen bypass. Professor David Bell, who advises Holyrood’s finance committee, claimed Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City councils would be left with no option in the current climate but to opt out of the SNP’s tax freeze to pay their share of the costs. The Stirling University academic said the move would be avoided only if the Scottish Government increased the funding it provided to the local authorities, which are making millions of pounds of budget cuts. (Press and Journal page 6) 

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Health

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Budget cuts: The National Health Service in Scotland must make cuts of at least £250 million this year to break even, nursing leaders warned as they launched a campaign to protect front-line services. The Royal College of Nursing said health boards had revealed the true extent of savings that must be made might be even higher, after some indicated additional cuts may be necessary. The £250m is on top of the 2 per cent efficiency savings that the NHS has to achieve to re-invest in other services. (Scotsman page 10, Peter Jones comments in the Scotsman page 27, Herald page 10) 

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Education

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Vetting teachers: Newly qualified teachers face having to pay hundreds of pounds for background checks in order to work in Scotland\’s schools, it was claimed last night. While all trainee teachers are vetted by Disclosure Scotland before they are allowed into the classroom on placements, some local authorities require them to repeat the process before applying for a job. And with the current shortage of jobs, teachers could face having to pay for separate checks at several of Scotland\’s 32 local authorities to maximise their chances of finding work. (Scotsman page 1) 

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University target figures: Target figures for the number of students entering university are artificial and should be scrapped, following claims that nearly 70 graduates are chasing every job. The aim of encouraging up to 60 per cent of the population to pursue a university degree is unsustainable, the Scottish Conservatives said last night. (Scotsman page 12)

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