REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 18 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 18 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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The recovery: Chancellor George Osborne has echoed Mervyn King’s statement that the UK faces a ‘choppy recovery’ in a keynote speech in the City of London and raised the prospect about cuts to winter fuel payments and a range of other benefits. Also, figures published yesterday showed that inflation dropped just 0.1 per cent in July to 3.1 per cent and is still well above the two per cent target set by the Bank and the Treasury. Meanwhile, consumer confidence in Scotland was behind the rest of the UK with sales down 1.4 per cent lower than in July last year, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium. (Scotsman Page 4, Herald Page 8, Daily Telegraph Page 1, Times Page 1, Financial Times Page 1, Press & Journal  Page 5, Daily Record, Page 6, Daily Mail Page 2, Daily Express Page 1, Daily Mirror Page 6)

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Al-Megrahi: SNP backbencher Christine Grahame has written to Senator Robert Menendez, the man leading a Senate inquiry into the release of the Lockerbie bomber, asking him to question the role American oil firms such as Exxon Mobil played in lobbying the government. (The Herald page 3) Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm Rifkind has criticised the government’s decision to release Megrahi. (Daily Telegraph Page 6, Press & Journal Page 8, Courier Page 3) 

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Digital power: Tavish Scott MSP has urged the Scottish and UK governments to ensure that remote parts of the country are given access to high-speed broadband. Mr Scott backed a report published earlier this week by think tank Reform Scotland, which claimed that a £200 million investment is needed to improve existing broadband infrastructure north of the border. The organisation argued that broadband is just as important today as canals and railways were to the Industrial Revolution. Responding to the report, Mr Scott stated that Scotland\’s digital divide is "large and growing fast", and warned that the implications for remote areas – such as Shetland – being left behind are "serious". (Cable online) 

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Economy

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Computer gaming company collapses: The Dundee-based firm Realtime Worlds, which employs 250 people, has become a victim of the economic crisis after it went into administration putting hundreds of jobs at risk. The company is internationally renowned in the computer gaming sector. (Scotsman Page 1, Herald Page 5, Times Page 11, Press & Journal Page 1, Courier & Advertiser Page 11)  

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Tidal power deal reached: The ‘The Sound of Islay’ plan would provide electricity for Islay’s 3500 inhabitants 23 hours a day and the surplus electricity would be sold. Norwegian energy giant Hammerfest Strom, which is part-owned by ScottishPower Renewables (SPR), announced yesterday that it is to develop its first HS1000 tidal turbine in Scottish waters. The contract is thought to be worth up to £4m. (Herald, Page 10, Courier & Advertiser, Page 1, Daily Record, Page 6, Daily Mail, Page 8)  

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Scottish fishermen blockade: Scottish fishermen yesterday staged their second blockade of a Faroese fishing vessel in two weeks in a dispute over imports of foreign mackerel landing into British harbours. The blockade comes in response to the Icelandic and Faroese governments’ announcement of autonomous quotas above current levels for mackerel; Scottish skippers believe this will endanger the future of the country’s most valuable catch, worth £135 million last year to the pelagic fleet. (Scotsman Page 7, Herald Page 2, Telegraph page 12, Press & Journal Page 1, Scottish Daily Mail, Page 1)

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Caledonian MacBrayne ferry operation: Ownership of Caledonian MacBrayne\’s ferry fleet could be transferred to a private company to help pay for £600 million of new ships required over the next 12 years. Transferring the 29 vessels from government-owned Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMal) to a not-for-profit company could unlock commercial borrowing to fund their replacements. A Scottish Government consultation also includes options for harbours owned by CMal, which will require a further £180m of upgrading work.  The Scottish Government\’s Transport Scotland agency stressed there were no similar plans to restructure ferry operator CalMac, which ministers also own. (Scotsman Page 22, Times Page 15)  

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Dundee energy project: Plans to build a biomass plant in Dundee have been lodged with the Scottish Government. Forth Energy wants to build a renewable energy plant, which includes a 300ft chimney, at the Port of Dundee. The company claims the plant will generate enough power to provide 86% of Dundee with electricity while reducing the city’s carbon footprint and putting it at the forefront of the renewable technology revolution. If approved, the development could generate about 300 jobs during the construction phase, with about 60 permanent jobs once it is completed. (Press & Journal Page 3 

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Justice

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Police cuts: Scotland’s largest police force, Strathclyde Police, is to cut nearly one-quarter of its support staff according to The Herald newspaper, with a programme of voluntary redundancies to being next month. Sources at the police force itself and Strathclyde Police Authority yesterday made it clear they did not know exactly how much they would be asked to cut. (Herald Page 1 

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Health

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Methadone: Calls have been made for a rethink on the use of methadone after official figures revealed the number of deaths in which it was implicated reached a ten year high last year. The drug treatment was found to be at least partly responsible for at least 32% of all 545 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year. Peter McCann, the chairman of the Castle Craig Hospital for alcoholism and drug addiction, said “there must now be a total rethink in Scotland.” Additionally, figures show that drug-related deaths remain high, with record levels in the Grampian region. (Scotsman Page 8-9, Herald Page 12, Daily Telegraph Page 7, Times page 8, Press & Journal, Page 7, Daily Express Page 4)  

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Depression study: Patients who quit employment and claim benefits as a result of mental illness could be identified as long as three years before they stop working and helped to keep their jobs, research suggests. A study led by Glasgow University said people suffering psychological distress visited their family doctor much more frequently in the run-up to giving up work. Experts welcomed the study yesterday, saying that acting early could prevent costs to the nation, as well as distress to patients. (Scotsman Page 14)

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Education

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University of West of Scotland: Scotland’s newest university has a £250m plan to revamp all of its campuses to attract more students and boost its international reputation. Some of the projects within the plan include a £13.6m student residence complex and a new £70m campus at Ayr. (Scotsman Page 12 

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Scottish graduates: The number of Scottish graduates who are unemployed rose last year as a result of the recession. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show there were 1380 unemployed graduates in 08-09, compared to 1155 the previous year. (Herald Page 8) 

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Transport 

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Airport pay offer: Staff who threatened to close Scotland\’s three largest airports by striking have been offered a 2 per cent pay increase plus £500 under a deal averting the action. Thousands of workers such as security staff, fire-fighters and engineers at BAA\’s six airports, which include Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, will be recommended to accept the offer. They will be balloted over the next three weeks. (Scotsman Page 15, Press & Journal Page 8, Daily Record Page 4  

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Holiday firm collapse:  Travel firm Kiss Flights collapsed last night, forcing more than 60,000 British tourists, including hundreds of Scots holidaymakers, to make rearrangements. The British-based company folded after its owner Flight Options ceased trading at 5pm yesterday, the Civil Aviation Authority said. (Scotsman Page 16, Herald Page 1, Times Page 11, Daily Record, Page 1, Daily Mail, Page 10)