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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 19 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 19 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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Proposed cuts: The Coalition government has announced it is to examine several universal benefits in a bid to reduce the deficit. Of the proposed changes, plans to increase the qualifying age for annual fuel payments from 60 to 66 were “on the table” according to government sources as well as the possibility of increased fuel bills. In Scotland ministers are also known to be examining the cost of Scottish-only benefits, although they have ruled out cuts to free personal care and the free bus travel scheme. Concern has been voiced from a range of sources, particularly from charities representing the elderly. (The Scotsman Page 1, 4-5, Herald, Page 6, Daily Telegraph Page 6, Press & Journal Page 5, Courier Page, 11, Daily Mail, Page 2, Daily Express, Page 2)  

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Al-Megrahi: First Minister Alex Salmond has defended Scotland\’s "compassionate" system of justice saying he would rather live in a country which showed too much compassion, rather than too little. With the first anniversary of the release of the Lockerbie bomber falling tomorrow, the First Minister used an interview last night to defend the decision. (The Scotsman, Page 2, Times Page 1, Daily Telegraph, Page 1) Labour candidate hopeful Diane Abbott also backed the decision. (Herald, Page 2) There are said to be celebrations planned in Libya to mark the one year anniversary since the bomber’s release. (Daily Mail, Page 1)   

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Scottish Enterprise accounts: The outgoing chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, Jack Perry, picked up a taxpayer-funded pay package of £271,000 in 2009-10, that included a payment of £115,219 for a notice period which he did not work. Other senior executives received similar pay packages. Several politicians, including Conservative MSP Gavin Brown, Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott and Labour MSP John Park, spoke out at the findings. (The Scotsman Page 13, Herald Page 1, Daily Express Page 4) 

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Local Government

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Edinburgh Council job cuts: 300 job losses have been announced without consultation by Edinburgh Council in a move which is expected to save the local authority £16 million over the next three years. It has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies as part of the cost-cutting drive, although other measures will include reducing temporary staff, leaving vacancies unfilled and early retirement. Staff were given no warning of the cuts before an official announcement was made and public sector union Unison claims it was kept in the dark by senior councillors. (The Scotsman Page 2, Herald Page 4 

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Health

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Rise in e-coli cases: The number of cases of the potentially deadly infection E coli 0157 has increased by 25 per cent this year, Scottish figures reveal. Statistics from Health Protection Scotland (HPS) showed there were 146 reports of the bug in the first 32 weeks of 2010, up a quarter from 117 during the same period last year. The figures also showed a rise in other stomach infections, with the vomiting bug norovirus up 160 per cent following a rise in cases during the winter. (The Scotsman Page 8)  

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Alcohol brain damage warning: Experts have warned that thousands of Scots are suffering from alcohol-related brain damage but are not being correctly diagnosed. A new report, conducted by the Mental Welfare Commission and the Scottish Association for Mental Health, warns that the numbers are increasing and those affected are getting younger because of increasing problems with alcohol and binge drinking. (Herald, Page 8 

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Economy

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Poundland: Poundland, the discount chain set up two decades ago by a group of former market traders, has posted record annual results. The group, which has 36 stores in Scotland, saw its profits nearly double over the past 12 months, with turnover now exceeding £500 million. The past 12 months has seen the opening of 56 new stores, with plans for 50 new outlets in the next year – including one in Leith, due to open this month – creating 2,000 jobs. (The Scotsman, Page 8)

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Scottish fishermen blockade:  The Faroese foreign minister, Jørgen Niclasen, has called on First Minister Alex Salmond to personally intervene in the "Mackerel War" which has seen Scots fishermen prevent Faroese boats from landing their cargo in Scotland, losing out on around £400,000 of mackerel. The row has been sparked by the decision of both the Faroese and Icelandic governments to set autonomous quotas for mackerel landings by their own fleets, setting high new limits which contravene scientific advice. Mr Salmond has said that “we will not allow the anarchic actions of Iceland and Faroes to hold the rest of us to ransom”. Norway has supported the stance taken by the Scottish fishermen. (The Scotsman, Page 10-11, Herald, Page 10, Daily Telegraph Page 1 & 4, Press & Journal, Page 9 ) 

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Realtime Worlds: Administrators called in to sell-off collapsed Dundee based computer games firm Realtime Worlds have confirmed that 185 workers had lost their jobs. (Herald, page 3) Meanwhile, Activision, a multinational computer games company, is rumoured to have expressed an interest in the firm. It is thought that the company has six weeks to find a buyer. (The Times, page 6, Press & Journal Page 1, Courier Page 1 

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Transport 

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Drop-off charges: There has been opposition to proposed drop-off charges at Edinburgh airport, scheduled to come into effect in October. Chairman of the Midlothian Tourism Forum, forum Quintin Young said: "The proposals are as likely to cause the congestion which they are designed to eliminate and are equally likely to cost more to administer than they raise in revenue." Conservative MSP Gavin Brown has led a campaign against the charge which has gained support from every MSP in the Lothians. (The Scotsman, Page 12 

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Holiday warning: The Scottish Passenger Agents Association has warned holidaymakers that more travel firms were likely to collapse this year because of weak demand after Kiss Flights became the third operator to cease trading in five weeks. Scottish travel agents said passengers were being put off booking trips by the state of the economy and disruption caused by the Icelandic ash cloud, strikes and threatened stoppages. Meanwhile, it is thought that the holidays of up to 5000 Scots will be disrupted due to the collapse of budget tour operator Kiss Flights. (The Scotsman, Page 14, Herald, Page 5, Press & Journal Page 13  

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Education

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School closures: Glasgow City Council officials responded to a decision by Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, to “call in” the planned closure of two special schools and a primary school in the city. Mr Russell acted after a report by HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) voiced concerns about moves to shut Stonedyke Primary, in Drumchapel, and special schools St Joan of Arc, near Possilpark, and St Aidan’s, in Carntyne. However, the council has stated that the concerns of HMIE had already been addressed in full. (Herald, Page 6)