REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 16 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 16 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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Digital power: Investment in Scotland\’s digital network is vital to prevent rural areas of the country becoming isolated, according to a leading think-tank. Reform Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to create a "fit for purpose" network, which it claims would cost less than a third of the Edinburgh trams scheme.  In a report released today, the organisation calls for the appointment of a dedicated minister to ensure the nation is a leader in the digital revolution. The report, entitled Digital Power, emphasises that any new strategy must cater for the whole of the country and not just the major cities. It recommends that by 2015, no villages or towns with more than 1,000 households should be more than two miles from a fibre backhaul network. Smaller communities, meanwhile, should be within 20 miles of the nearest network. (Scotsman page 6, Platform page 26, Stuart Gibson in Scotsman page 26, BBC, Douglas Fraser in BBC, Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 8, Courier page 3, Telegraph page 9) 

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Government spending: Scottish Enterprise spent £437,940 in 2008-9 on hospitality, rising to £499,078 last year, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information by the Liberal Democrats. Agency bosses say ‘hospitality’ is under review as swingeing public cut-backs loom, but insist that such events can help provide contacts for businesses. (Scotland on Sunday, Page 10, Sunday Times, Page 13, Sunday Herald, Page 17 )

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In addition, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has ordered Malcolm Wright, chief executive of NHS Education for Scotland to account for his public body spending up to £100,000 on foreign trips. (Sunday Herald, Page 17 

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David Mundell expenses: Scottish Conservative MP David Mundell is heading for court after a potential criminal error in his General Election spending was discovered. (Sunday Herald, Page 1 

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Economy

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Food prices: Consumers are paying up to 59 per cent more for basic grocery items than they were three years ago, retail watchers have claimed. The price of staples such as bread and eggs increased by 18 per cent and tea is up 30 per cent, according to figures compiled by price comparison website mySupermarket.co.uk. While some prices such as fish and chicken are down, the cost of rice has increased by 59 per cent since 2007. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 6, Daily Mail page 7, Sun page 2)  

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Justice

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Double jeopardy: The Scottish Government will reportedly bring forward a bill in late September to scrap the law preventing a person standing trial twice for the same crime. The bill to be brought forward by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will go much further than the limited changes in the law recommended following a review by the Scottish Law Commission (SLC). The bill will mirror the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which ended the 800-year rule of double jeopardy barring retrials in England and Wales when new evidence came to light. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 5, Times page 5, Press and Journal page 11, Courier page 3) 

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Megrahi: Fresh doubts have been cast on the strength of the medical evidence that led to the release of the Lockerbie bomber a year ago this week. Four British cancer experts who had previously been involved with the bomber\’s treatment have claimed that they were not consulted before the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, pictured.
\r\nThe revelations come as another expert, Karol Sikora, claimed in an interview that he would not have been so forthright about Megrahi\’s chances of living for more than three months had he known his comments would be used by the Scottish Government to justify the bomber\’s release on compassionate grounds. (Scotsman
page 11, Herald page 2, Times page 3, Press and Journal page 12, Courier page 10, Daily Mail page 5, Telegraph page 12, Sun page 1, Scotland on Sunday Page 1, Sunday Times page 1) 

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Local Government

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Council tax: In a strongly worded letter, Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, has written to John Swinney urging him to scrap the freeze on council tax. He tells the Finance Secretary that the Scottish Government’s flagship policy is no longer sustainable as councils face making huge cuts to services in the next two years. (Herald page 1) 

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Transport

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Airport Strikes: Management and unions locked in an airport workers\’ pay dispute are preparing for talks at conciliation service Acas tomorrow in a bid to stop a strike. The Unite union workers include fire fighters and security staff, with Unite saying that BAA faces a "total shutdown" at the six airports: Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. (Scotland on Sunday Page 6)

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Health

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NHS ‘Ring fencing’: Local authorities have warned against proposed plans to ‘ring fence’ the NHS from ensuing cuts in public spending. A briefing note, written by the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), feared that politics was getting in the way of decision-making in relation to the cuts ahead of the 2011 Scottish Elections. Councillor Pat Watters, COSLA’s convener, believes that disproportionate cuts to council budgets would end up costing the NHS more in the long run and excessive cuts will come to local government. (Scotland on Sunday, Page 1 ) Watters also recommended that free personal care should be means tested. (Sunday Herald, Page 13 

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Sports facilities: In his first major interview since his appointment five years ago, Sportscotland chief executive Stewart Harris admits he is frustrated at the lack of progress in building an infrastructure for the 21st century and beyond and one which might deliver Olympic champions as well as contributing to the nation\’s overall fitness. Harris lamented the fact that despite Sportscotland moving into the health portfolio within the Scottish government and joining the anti-obesity battle, there was no statutory obligation to consult his agency during government planning on a range of matters, such as the design of new sports halls and as a result “there have been some opportunities missed”. (Scotland on Sunday Page 5)

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Lack of defibrillators: Research at Glasgow University has found that only a fifth of major public places in Scotland, such as shopping centres and train stations, are equipped with defibrillators to treat someone whose heart has stopped. Campaigners called for more defibrillators in places where large numbers of people congregate. The Scottish government said it would review progress in introducing machines later this summer. (Scotland on Sunday, Page 5) 

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MRSA: Patients due to have surgery in Scotland are being screened for the deadly superbug MRSA up to three months before admission. Experts said that while the risk was small, testing should take place as near to admission as possible – about a maximum of a month beforehand – to allow for anyone carrying the bacterium to be treated. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said pre-admission screening for MRSA was one of a range of initiatives helping to reduce infection rates in hospitals. (Scotland on Sunday Page 7 

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Education

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Cost- effective cities: Dundee is the most "cost- effective" student city in Scotland, while Edinburgh is the least, according to new research. The figures suggest Dundee students spend hundreds of pounds less a year than their counterparts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as other cities in the UK. But student leaders said that while rent might be cheaper in Dundee, the overall cost was much the same as elsewhere and that continued pressure to get part-time work could damage their studies. The RBS Student Living Index measured the most cost-effective city based on expenditure and what can be earned, with London coming top and Dundee second. Glasgow is fifth and Edinburgh is 17th in the table, published today. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 3, Times page 13, Press and Journal page 8, Courier page 9) 

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Curriculum for Excellence: Pupils across the country are back in the classroom as schools return after the summer holiday. Education secretary Michael Russell will be at the Cardinal Newman High School in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, as pupils return. The new term will see the introduction of the controversial new Curriculum for Excellence in secondary schools across Scotland and Mr Russell will also see this in action at Cardinal Newman. (Herald page 9) 

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Lottery funding: Hundreds of after-schools clubs threatened with losing National Lottery funding have been offered hope after the UK Government announced that Scottish ministers will make the final decision. Sports and other clubs, including many designed to provide long-term benefits from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, had been faced with losing their lottery grants. The Coalition Government wants to reform lottery funding and “restore” it to its original values. This includes ensuring that the Big Lottery Fund (Big), the largest distributor of lottery cash, gives all of its money to community and voluntary projects. (Herald page 6) 

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University places: A record shortage of vacancies in clearing will leave seven candidates fighting for each spare place at university this week. Tens of thousands of qualified school leavers who narrowly miss their grades will fail to get on courses because of the number of surplus places has shrunk by half compared with last year. (Times page 1, Telegraph page 1, Edd McCracken in the Sunday Herald)