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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 3 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 3 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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Al Megrahi: The row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber has increased after Alex Salmond accused US senator Robert Menendez of trying to insinuate a false link between Megrahi’s release and the lobbying campaign by BP. Salmond also commented that the Scottish Government had not passed responsibility over to anyone else, pointing out that the decision had followed the process of the Scots law. (The Scotsman page 2 and page 30, The Herald page 12, The Press and Journal page 1, The Times page 9, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 1, Daily Record page 8, The Sun page 2) 

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Public services: Emergency services, health boards and councils are discussing radical proposals to see how Scotland’s public sector could be reorganised by themes such as child protection, rather than on traditional service models strictly based on health, social work or policing. The public sector is expecting budget cuts with up to 25 per cent over the next four years and is therefore looking at different ways of decreasing the costs. (The Herald page 2 

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Economy

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Scottish Water: SNP ministers are poised to end the government\’s ownership of Scottish Water to raise more than £1 billion pounds for other major projects. The utility is currently fully owned by the government. But under the new model – which stops short of outright privatisation – ownership would be transferred to a "public interest" board with powers to borrow money from banks rather than rely on taxpayer funding.  The proposal, recommended last week by an independent review on Scotland\’s budget, would free up the £140 million a year currently earmarked for the utility. Ministers would also get back more than £1bn already given in loans to Scottish Water, helping them to pay for the new infrastructure projects such as the new £2bn Forth crossing and £500m Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Herald page 1, The Scotsman page 8) 

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Rent deposits: The Scottish Government will consult on proposals to set up a mandatory deposit scheme after research has suggested that a significant minority of private tenants had retained money after the end of a lease without good reason. (The Scotsman page 13 

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Public private funding: The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) was set up by the Scottish Government to find an alternative to public-private partnerships. However, the body’s chief executive Barry White told the Herald that if partnership would provide the best value for the money, the controversial funding mechanism could still be used. (The Herald page 10)   

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Public sector pay: In a move that opens the way for a winter of possible industrial action, local authorities in Scotland have rejected an offer for a 1.5 per cent pay increase over three years. (The Times page 3, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 1, The Courier page 8, The Daily Express page 2) 

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Right-to-buy: An increasing number of Scots, who can no longer afford their former homes bought under the right-to-buy scheme, are selling them back to local authorities. In the Scotsman Brian Monteith is commenting that before the right-to-buy policy is marked as a failure, one should look beyond the headlines. In fact, the mobility of purchasers under the scheme was greater than those who remained in social housing. (The Scotsman page 11 and page 29 

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Transport 

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Road maintaining: After the worst winter in 30 years, the Scottish roads are in danger of increased deterioration and may need repair within the next two or three years. The council roads chief report came before the “big freeze”, and it is estimated that the amount of potholes has increased by a third. The Royal Automobile Club Foundation warns that any cuts in funding or delay in action will only increase the maintenance load. (The Scotsman page 1      

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Bus services: First Glasgow, Arriva West and the smaller company S&A Coaches have been found guilty of breaching regulations in Glasgow that aim to prevent firms from blocking bus stops and creating congestion. The firms have now been banned of operating any new services in Glasgow during the next six months. (The Herald page 7) 

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Health

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Budget cuts:  Finance Secretary John Swinney is under pressure to include the NHS in budget cuts after the medical profession said it was ‘naïve’ to think health could be exempt. (Sunday Herald page 1, page 8)  

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Eddie Barnes analyses the tough decisions Finance Secretary John Swinney will have to make regarding budget cuts. (Scotland on Sunday page 11)

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Eye and Dental check-ups: Alex Salmond will consider axing free eyes tests and dental checks for all Scots and scrapping the phasing out of prescription charges, sources close to the First Minister have confirmed. Despite having previously opposed reviewing university funding, the SNP administration at Holyrood has also decided that reintroducing tuition fees should not ruled out to help balance the books. Mr Salmond and his ministerial team have identified three “sacred cows” that will not be touched as they battle to prepare for £1.7 billion of public spending cuts next year and £4.3 billion over the next four years. These are universal free care and bus travel for the elderly, regardless of the wealth of the OAP benefiting, and the Scottish NHS. They have decided that everything else, including other health-related ‘free’ benefits, should be considered for cuts. (Daily Telegraph page 1) 

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EU rules: The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) reports that the European laws limiting the working hours for doctors have failed in UK due to the limit they impose on the training of junior doctors. (The Scotsman page 1) 

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NHS inform: A new health service is being launched in Scotland. NHS inform will initially feature a phone line and a website providing non-urgent health information for the public. (The Scotsman page 2) 

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Smoking ban: NHS Grampian is today expected to make a second attempt to introduce a smoking ban in every hospital in its area. Last year a similar attempt was abandoned after overwhelming opposition from health service unions. (The Scotsman page 7, The Herald page 8, The Times page 9, The Scottish Daily Mail page 25, The Courier page 5) 

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New hospital: The Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert has opened its doors. It is the largest NHS construction in Scotland and with a bill of £300 million it is one of the most modern hospitals in Europe. (The Scotsman page 9 

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Education

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University principals: University principals have been accused of living a luxury lifestyle at the taxpayers\’ expense after hundreds of thousands of pounds of public cash was spent on chauffeur-driven cars and entertainment. Documents released under Freedom of Information legislation reveals vice-principals being ferried around in official cars and spending on entertainment and travel. The bill for chauffeur-driven vehicles included more than £138,000 during a three-year period for a car and driver for the University of Aberdeen, which, the institution said, was "used mainly" by former principal Sir Duncan Rice. (Scotland on Sunday page 5) 

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Primary school closure: Parents fighting to save East Ayrshire’s Crossroads Primary have been given fresh hope after securing a meeting with Education Secretary Michael Russell. (The Herald page 1)