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Reform Scotland News: 17 August 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 17 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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Alistair Darling: The former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling will use the Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture to set out a staunch defence of his handling of the economic crisis, while at the same time criticising the failure of his party colleagues to tackle the question of how to cut the UK\’s vast budget deficit. (Scotsman Page 1 

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Council mergers: The former head of the Accounts Commission for Scotland, Alastair MacNish, has said Scotland could save £1 billion in a decade by a mass merger of local authorities. He said that councils sharing services was not enough in the current economic climate. (Scotsman Page 6)

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Al-Megrahi:  A prostate cancer specialist said last night that advances in treatment for the disease mean the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing could remain alive for years. Consultant urologist Professor Roger Kirby said last night that new treatments and chemotherapy has been known to extend the lives of patients by up to three years. (Scotsman, Page 8 The Herald, Page 3, Press and Journal page 11, Courier page 11) 

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Education

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New School curriculum: Thousands of school children returned to class yesterday for the first time under the Curriculum for Excellence. The CfE seeks to introduce new methods of teaching into the classroom, described by Education Secretary Michael Russell as “fantastic” and “imaginative”. There are fears, however, that budget cuts by cash-strapped councils could make the arrival of the new school curriculum very difficult. Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish of the Scottish Secondary Teachers\’ Association (SSTA), said problems would crop up further along the line because teachers will be forced to work longer hours to create new courses from scratch. (Scotsman Page 4, Herald Page 7, Times page 10) 

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School closure proposals: Plans to close three schools in Glasgow have been called in for consideration by the Scottish Government. Glasgow City Council wants to shut Stonedyke Primary, and two special schools, St Joan of Arc School and St Aiden\’s. However, concerns by the school inspectorate HMIe have forced the plans to be halted and referred to ministers. (Scotsman Page 11, Herald, Page 7 

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Economy

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Floating Wind Farm: The First Minister yesterday moved to establish the world\’s first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland. Alex Salmond discussed the idea with Norwegian oil company Statoil, which has identified two potential sites off the coast of Lewis and Aberdeenshire. Mr Salmond met Statoil during an official visit to Stavanger and Oslo to promote economic links and consider how to tackle climate change (Scotsman Page 6, Herald Page 6 Times page 3)  

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Work placement boost: More than 2,500 new work-experience placements will be made available to higher education students.  The £4.7 million Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) project will place students with employers in a range of industries including energy and finance and the charity and voluntary sector over the next four years. (Scotsman Page 20)

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RAF bases: Two under-threat Royal Air Force bases bring in almost £160 million a year to the local economy, a new report has found. The study, by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), found that RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth also support the equivalent of 5710 jobs between them – 16% of all full-time employment in the area. The report insists: “It is clear that the economy and population of Moray is heavily dependent on the RAF, probably more so than any other region of the UK.” (The Herald, Page 9, Times page 3) 

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Caledonian MacBrayne ferry operation: The SNP government is considering a move to turn the state-owned ferry operation Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited into a partly-privatised, not-for-profit company. It is thought £1bn could be saved. (Times page 3)

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Transport 

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Rail fares: ScotRail commuters may be protected from any additional increase in fare rises expected to increase heavily next year across the rest of the UK. Scottish ministers will decide to make this a priority with the Holyrood election looming next year. The Scottish Government\’s Transport Scotland agency said there were no plans to raise ScotRail fares beyond the current cap. However, the organisation declined to commit to keeping the cap. (The Scotsman Page 11, The Herald Page 5, Press and Journal page 9 

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Airport strikes: Strike plans that would have closed six of Britain\’s major airports were averted last night after nine hours of talks to resolve a bitter pay dispute. Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports would have been affected by the action, which was announced last week. (The Scotsman Page 15, The Herald Page 2, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 1, Daily Mail page 1)  

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Health

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Maternity ward: The maternity unit at a Scottish hospital has been criticised after inspectors found dirty equipment and out-of-date medical supplies. The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) ordered improvements at Caithness General Hospital after concerns were raised over standards of cleanliness on the ward for mothers and babies. (Scotsman Page 15, Herald Page 2, Times page 12) 

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Heroin: NHS Grampian has cast doubt over proposals to prescribe heroin after it emerged that treating just 5% of the region’s users would cost an extra £8million per year. Dr Maria Rossi, a consultant in public health, presented NHS Grampian’s position at a meeting of the Aberdeen Alcohol and Drugs Partnership (ADP) yesterday. The report, which was commissioned following a trial in England, said that as the treatment was only appropriate as a last-resort therapy for a small group of deeply- addicted users, it would be disproportionately expensive. (Press and Journal page 4) 

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Local Government

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Shetland Islands Council: Councillors on Scotland\’s most northerly local authority were yesterday urged to address the serious shortcomings facing the council.

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A report, published by the Accounts Commission on Shetland Islands Council, has ruled that the authority has "serious problems" with leadership, vision and strategic direction, as well as financial management, accountability and its handling of several specific incidents. (The Scotsman Page 16, Herald Page 4 ) 

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Cost of road accidents: Scotland’s councils have spent more than £10m repairing damage and settling compensation claims caused by road crashes involving rubbish lorries, gritters, snow ploughs and other council vehicles over the past three years, figures released under Freedom of Information laws show. (Herald page 11) 

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Council tax freeze: A call to end the council tax freeze in Scotland has received a mixed response in the north and north-east. The Labour leader of Glasgow City Council has urged the SNP government to drop its flagship policy to help avoid “brutal” spending cuts in the years ahead. Finance chiefs at councils in Angus, Highland and Moray welcomed Gordon Matheson’s remarks. However, in Dundee and Aberdeen there was a less enthusiastic response. (Press and Journal page 11, Daily Mail page 1)

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Local authority leaders and unions backed the call. However, in supporting the demand from Glasgow City Council they have also told the SNP they want to keep £70 million given to them by Holyrood in return for the freeze. Public service union Unison added that ending the freeze would help reduce the scale of damaging cuts to services around the country. (Herald, Page 11, Scotsman Page 6  )