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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 23 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 23 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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SNP-Labour coalition: A row has erupted over an extraordinary claim that a senior SNP figure has approached the Scottish Labour Party about the prospect of forming a coalition after next year\’s Holyrood election. A source close to Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said a tentative approach has been made to one of his aides over whether he would be willing to strike a deal in a "post-Alex Salmond era". But the SNP last night flatly denied the claim, pointing to new opinion polls that have put Scotland\’s two biggest parties "neck and neck". An Ipsos Mori survey yesterday showed the SNP on 34 per cent and Labour on 37, while a YouGov poll commissioned by the Nationalists puts them on 35 per cent with Labour just one percentage point ahead on 36. (Scotsman page 1, Courier page 9)
\r\nMegrahi: US senators investigating the release of the Lockerbie bomber have accused Britain of trying to return him to Libya in exchange for lucrative arms deals with the former rogue state. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly helped secure defence contracts worth £350m and the promise of more during talks with Colonel Gaddafi to allow Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to leave Scottish custody. The deals were signed during a meeting between the pair in May 2007, when Blair agreed to a prisoner-transfer agreement between the two countries. (Sunday Times page 2)

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RBS: The Royal Bank of Scotland has provided nearly £13 billion-worth of funding to many of the companies blamed for causing global warming since it was bailed out by the taxpayer two years ago. The figures are the first authoritative and detailed account of the bank’s controversial financing of the world’s ‘dirty’ oil and gas industries. According to figures from the financial information company Bloomberg, RBS has directly loaned nearly £3.6 billion to fossil fuel companies since the bailout on October 13, 2008. At the same time, the bank has helped raise equity finance worth £9.3 billion. RBS is facing its biggest protest in a long history of activist action. A group of green campaigners has set up camp outside its headquarters at Gogarburn, just outside Edinburgh. The protesters are expected to remain at the Gogarburn camp until Tuesday. (Sunday Herald page 1) 

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Economy

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Double-dip recession: New figures showing deteriorating household finances and growing job insecurity are signs that Britain could be moving towards a double-dip recession, economists and opposition politicians have warned. The YouGov/Markit Household Finance Index (HFI) tracks consumer behaviour across 2000 UK households each month. Its snapshot for August, published this morning, shows that falling incomes, job insecurity and fears of a higher cost of living are adding to the gloomy outlook. The report highlights the sharpest drop in private-sector job security for 13 months, and says the UK Government’s spending cuts have had an impact beyond the public sector. (Herald page 1) 

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Rural broadband: A report by think tank Reform Scotland calling for more investment in rural broadband has been warmly welcomed by campaigners in Perthshire and Angus. The new Digital Power report analyses Scotland’s electronic communications infrastructure and where it is fit for purpose on the modern world. (Courier page 9) 

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Justice

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Miners’ solicitor: UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is coming under pressure to hold an inquiry into how millions of pounds were handed over to a Glasgow lawyer in compensation for former miners; with no checks made that he was passing the money on to his clients.

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Glenrothes Labour MP Lindsay Roy is pushing for a probe into cases handled by Paul McConville, a personal injuries specialist who is being investigated by the Law Society of Scotland. He wants to know what happened to more than £2 million given to Mr McConville by the Coal Liabilities Unit, linked to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), for 1,704 cases represented by the lawyer. (Scotsman page 12, Scotland on Sunday page 1) 

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Trial transcript: A man jailed for a bank raid he did not commit has been asked to pay £6600 for a transcript of his trial. Billy Mills, 43, was sentenced to nine years for robbing a branch of the RBS near his home in Partick, Glasgow, but released after a year when DNA evidence linked the crime to a jailed South African thief. Mr Mills does not require the documents to support his already-lodged claim for compensation.  But Paul McLaughlin, of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, said the transcripts were needed “as we believe there were a number of discrepancies that were allowed to pass by”. He said Mr Mills lived on benefits and could not afford the fee demanded. The case has been taken up by Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris, who said the demand ran contrary to natural justice and the costs were “exorbitant”. (Herald page 8) 

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Transport 

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Road accidents: Four people died in separate accidents on Scotland\’s roads over the weekend. Two fatal crashes happened just a few hours apart on Sunday morning on the A92 in Fife and the A82 at Loch Lomond. The A82 was also the scene of an earlier accident on Saturday night, which claimed the life of a pedestrian. Several hours earlier on Saturday, another pedestrian died after being hit by a lorry in Dundee. In the most recent incident, a motorcyclist died following a crash on the A82 at Firkin Point north of Inverbeg beside Loch Lomond at about 10am yesterday morning. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 5, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 1) 

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Local Government

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Elected mayors: The head of a leading think tank has called for Edinburgh to have its own directly elected mayor to give the capital focus and direction for the future. Former merchant banker Ben Thomson, now the chairman of the think tank Reform Scotland and the National Galleries, said that Edinburgh lacked any vision or strong leadership making its future development uncertain. His comments have given weight to the argument that a new localist agenda in Scotland should see the four leading cities and large towns north of the Border all have their directly elected mayor or provost. Mr Thomson was reflecting on a Scotsman conference six months ago held on the future of Edinburgh. He said: "I still don\’t have any great sense of a vision for Edinburgh. What we really need is leadership – someone who will really stand up and be counted." (Scotsman page 4) 

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Council tax: Councils will set put the full extent of cuts to public services at a meeting this week with the Scottish Finance Secretary where they will demand an end to the freeze on council tax. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) will tell John Swinney that free personal care and home helps for the elderly are under serious threat as a result of a £4 billion reduction in council budgets over the next five years. (Times page 5, Sunday Herald page 5)  

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Health

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Heart-treatment equipment: An action plan by the Scottish Government asking the NHS to investigate putting life-saving, heart-treatment equipment in public places has led to only one machine being introduced. In June 2009, ministers outlined evidence backing the placing of defibrillators in busy public places such as stations and shopping centres to treat people in cardiac arrest. The report asked health boards to investigate whether such equipment could be used in their areas and, if so, to introduce it by the end of March this year. (Scotsman page 11) 

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Alzheimer’s: A protein found in patients with arthritis could be used to reverse the mental decline suffered by people with Alzheimer\’s, new research suggests. The scientists found that people with rheumatoid arthritis may be protected against dementia because of their condition. The findings could lead to new treatments for Alzheimer\’s, which may arrive quicker than usual because a drug already exists to mimic a special protein found in the arthritis patients. (Scotsman page 12, Telegraph page 1)

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Nurses: The Scottish Government faced calls to protect frontline services yesterday as unions warned newly-qualified nurses and midwives are struggling to find jobs in the NHS. (Courier page 9, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

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Education

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Colleges’ merger: More than half the staff at a Glasgow college have signed an open letter opposing the city’s proposed £300 million super college. More than 160 academics and support staff from Glasgow College of Nautical Studies (GCNS) said the move – which involves it merging with Central College and Metropolitan College – was no longer in the best interests of staff or students. The letter, to the college’s board of management, states: “We are of the opinion that a merger would severely impact on our international reputation, partly by removal of the GCNS brand and partly by a diminution of the specialised maritime and engineering roles within a much larger merged institution. (Herald)