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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 11 August 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 11 August 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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Referendum: The taxpayer is to spend up to £1.2 million fighting both sides of next year’s referendum on electoral reform. The ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns will each be eligible for up to £600,000 of public money, the Electoral Commission has announced.  Each camp will also be allowed to raise another £5 million privately, meaning more than £11m could be spent around the poll. Last night the SNP said the amount of public funding was “enormous”. The referendum, on a system called the Alternative Vote (AV), was a key demand when the Liberal Democrats entered coalition with the Conservatives earlier this year. (Herald page 6) 

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BBC: BBC director-general Mark Thompson is cutting his pay packet by almost 20% in a bid to curb anger over proposals to cap staff pensions. Mr Thompson is expected to reduce his pay, and that of around 30 of the most senior people at the BBC, by cutting the extra pension payments that go to the corporation’s top executives. The payments, which last year totalled £646,000 to members of the BBC’s executive board, have been in place since 1989. Mr Thompson said the top-up pension payments known as Funded Unapproved Retirement Benefit Schemes (Furbs), were being reviewed as he faced angry staff at a meeting to discuss proposals to cut their staff pensions yesterday. (Herald page 6) 

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Integration: Muslims in Scotland find it is easier to integrate into society than in England, a new report has claimed. A poll taken for the British Council Scotland also suggests that more than six out of ten Scots believe Muslims are integrated well into everyday Scottish life while only 21 per cent thought they had not. But the same report also suggests that positive public perceptions of Islam in Scotland still lags behind other religions with one of the biggest barriers being Scotland\’s drinking culture. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 6) 

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BAE chief: The man in charge of warship building on the Clyde has quit after being suspended amid allegations he made sexist comments about female workers. Mark Cooper, who was operations director at BAE Systems, Europe’s biggest defence contractor, and had direct responsibility for the 4000 workers at yards at Scotstoun and Govan, had faced an internal misconduct inquiry in June into claims he made an extremely derogatory term about women. (Herald page 1) 

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Megrahi: The Holyrood Ministerial road show received a boost in Stirling when unexpected visitor and former Labour foe Dennis Canavan received applause for backing the SNP-administration’s approach on the Megrahi case. The former Labour MP turned independent MSP received the first applause of a public meeting in the city’s Albert Halls to coincide with a cabinet meeting convened by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the absence of Alex Salmond who is on holiday. (Herald page 11, Magnus Linklater in the Times page 9)

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Cabinet Secretary: Downing Street and the Cabinet Office have dismissed claims made by Channel 4 News that cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell is about to resign. (Guardian page 5) 

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US arms lobbyists: It has been revealed that the British taxpayer are giving £6,354 a month to a US arms lobbyist so that American politicians award defence contracts to British firms, work which a spokesperson for the TaxPayers’ Alliance said the British Embassy ‘should be doing themselves’ (Telegraph page 11)

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Liberal Democrats: Nuclear power has created a split between the Scottish and English Lib Dems with Lib Dem MP and Energy and Climate Change minister, Chris Huhne announcing new Nuclear Power stations will be running by 2018, while his Scottish counterparts remain opposed to the idea. (Telegraph page 8)

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Gold Mine: A proposal to re-open the Cononish mine in Perthshire may not go ahead after the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park stated their opposition on the grounds of conservation. Other conservation bodies have already objected to the gold mining proposals, although the re-opening is claimed would create many economic benefits and boost the Scottish jewellery industry. (Telegraph page 10, Press and Journal page 3) 

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Economy

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Economic recovery: Peter Jones comments in the Scotsman on the turbulent economic recovery ahead and urges consumers to ignore the scaremongering and concentrate on the long-term view to avoid financial anxiety. (Scotsman page 27)

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Justice

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Fire services: A Scottish fire chief has said that a merger of the country\’s fire and rescue services is "inevitable" as the public spending squeeze continues. The new chief of the Lothian and Borders fire brigade Jimmy Campbell warned that Scotland\’s eight fire services could be merged into three. Mr Campbell said the move was needed because of cuts of up to 25 per cent set to hit frontline services, including fire and rescue operations. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 12 

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Crime rate: There has been a major drop in offences committed in the centre of Aberdeen after a police crackdown, less than a year after it was called the worse crime area in Scotland. (Press and Journal page 2) 

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Transport 

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Edinburgh Airport: Scotland’s busiest airport handled its most passengers ever last month, defying the downward trend among the country’s other main terminals. A total of 961,200 people travelled through Edinburgh Airport in July; 0.6 per cent more than last year. (Scotsman page 21, Herald page 6)

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Health

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Cancer: A breath test could one day be used to detect four of the most common types of cancer, according to scientists. Researchers have developed sensors that can spot chemical signs of lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancer in a person\’s breath. They believe further work could lead to a cheap, portable "electronic nose" that can help doctors diagnose cancer at an early stage. (Scotsman page 6, Daily Express page 1) 

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Heart Attacks: In a study by the British Medical Journal it has been shown that a slight drop in temperature leads to an increase in the number of heart attacks. (Guardian page 6) 

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NHS Dentistry: An urgent review of the Scottish dental register has found many surgeries across Scotland are being paid to treat patients who are being treated elsewhere or are deceased. (Press and Journal page 1) 

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Education

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University entries: Pupils who failed to get their expected grades are facing an "unprecedented scramble" to enter higher education with more than half of Scotland\’s universities already full and the rest reporting far fewer spare places than usual. Eight of the country\’s 15 universities have made no offers this year through clearing, the system which matches up remaining places with those without the necessary grades for their first-choice course. All of the remaining institutions have reported far fewer places than in previous years with most expecting to be full by early next week. Higher education chiefs said those who did not get their required grades would find it one of the "toughest years ever" to get into university, while student leaders warned those who were denied a place could be left on the scrapheap. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 2) 

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Graduate tax: A graduate tax could lead to students paying "far more" than the cost of their university courses, according to the head of a prominent think-tank. The debate about free tuition fees in Scotland continues amid a squeeze on public spending. Vince Cable, the UK Business Secretary, has floated the idea of a graduate tax in England and Wales. The Director of Reform Scotland yesterday argued the move would be unfair because people could end up paying the tax for the rest of their life. Geoff Mawdsley said he backed a deferred fee scheme where the cost of a course would be calculated, with students paying a proportion of the fee when they reach a certain income level. "Deferred fees would be a better option in our view, as the contribution paid by the student would be directly linked to the cost of tuition.”We should start by saying how much courses actually cost…and then look at how much of that cost should be paid by the student when they start earning a sum like £23,000 or above." The Scottish Government said education secretary Michael Russell was open to all "sensible ideas". (Scotsman page 7, Editorial page 28)