REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 31 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 31 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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Digital Scotland: Since the publication of Digital Power, Reform Scotland’s conclusions have received unwitting support from an Ofcom Scotland report, which shows that Scotland – while no broadband backwater – compares poorly to the rest of the UK by various measures. Even making allowances for differences in physical and human geography, these findings pose urgent questions, Colin Donald writes in the Sunday Herald. (Sunday Herald page 9

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Papal visit: The public is being urged to back a campaign to scrap a 300-year-old law which prohibits Catholics ascending the throne, ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain next month. The Coalition Government is currently asking voters to nominate laws which they think restrict civil liberties and should be abolished or amended. The suggestions will form the basis of the so-called Freedom Bill, announced with much fanfare by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, earlier this year. At the same time, however, ministers have said that they have no plans to change the Act of Settlement, which also bars members of the Royal family marrying Catholics. Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for the Western Isles, has called for a mass online vote for a change in the law, which he denounced as “state sectarianism”, ahead of the Pope’s visit. (Herald page 6, Scotland on Sunday page 1) 

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Economy

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Banks collapse: Scotland has yet to feel the full impact of the banking crisis and must brace itself for a migration of top earners to London, senior business figures have warned. The loss of scores of high earners will have a knock-on effect on the housing market and professions such as law, accounting and insurance, and will ultimately hit every part of the Scottish economy, it is predicted. (Scotsman page 1) 

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Edinburgh Festival: Ticket sales at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have soared by more than 95,000 to a record new level – despite claims that the event has hit an audience limit. Organisers of the 64th Festival last night revealed that overall sales had risen 5.2 per cent this year – to 1,955,913. The addition of several major new venues and a 17 per cent rise in the number of individual productions are thought to have been major factors behind the box office boom. (Scotsman page 8, Times page 13, Herald page 1) 

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Wind power: Power from wind turbines has met the demand for electricity across the north and north-east for the first time. Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) said the 700MW (megawatts) of energy generated by renewables at one point during the weekend powered every home and business in Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. Energy Minister Jim Mather said: “This is an exciting development, demonstrating the huge opportunities that exist for developing renewables in Scotland. “Nearly a quarter of Scotland’s electricity demand is met by renewables, which resulted in Scotland exporting 18% of the electricity generated here in 2008. (Press and Journal page 7) 

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Justice

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Budget cuts: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said that “no area is sacrosanct” in the light of the budget reductions about to be imposed by Westminster, as he faces intense pressure from police and the prison service over the looming spending cuts. Mr MacAskill was speaking to The Herald after threats from the Scottish Police Federation that politicians would “have blood on their hands” if they allowed officer numbers to fall and a claim by Bill McKinlay, the governor of Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, that the days of jail riots would return. His comments came as Finance Secretary John Swinney prepares to meet his political opponents today ahead of the beginning of the budget process at Holyrood. (Herald page 6, Sunday Herald page 6) 

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Transport 

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Road accidents: Tributes have been paid to six people killed in a series of road accidents across Scotland during the weekend. The victim of a horrific crash on the A92 in Fife between the Forgan and Five Roads roundabout on Sunday evening was named as school teacher Lorna Grant from Dundee. Ms Grant, who taught at the Dundee\’s Fintry Primary School, was driving her Renault Clio at about 1pm when it collided with a Volvo 4×4 people carrier. (Herald page 7) 

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Local Government

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Job losses: Council bosses fear they may have to cut up to 22,000 jobs across Scotland as the expected budget squeeze takes hold, a survey of local authority managers has revealed. The study found that more than half (51 per cent) of the council bosses believed the looming public sector cutbacks could lead to redundancies affecting between 6 and 10 per cent of their workforce – or 13,000 to 22,000 employees. (Scotsman page 3, Press and Journal page 5, Courier page 7, Daily Record page 10) 

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Council tax freeze: Ministers are poised to ditch next year\’s planned council tax freeze because of the looming crisis in public spending. Finance secretary John Swinney is expected to signal his willingness to do a U-turn over council tax when he holds his first budget talks with opposition parties this week. Swinney is preparing for the Scottish Government\’s budget to be cut by as much as £3.7 billion over the next four years and he needs to trim spending accordingly. (Scotland on Sunday page 1) 

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Health

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Alcohol misuse: Health Secretary and Deputy First Minister urges politicians and businesses to put health before politics and implement the Scottish Government’s minimum alcohol pricing policy. (Scotland on Sunday page 12) 

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Elderly malnutrition: Elderly patients are at risk of malnutrition in hospital because they are being left to go hungry on NHS wards, a new report warns. Those who enter hospital malnourished can get worse during their stay or become malnourished under the care of NHS staff. The report from the charity Age UK found almost one in three nurses believes their own relative could enter hospital with nobody noticing they were malnourished. The charity found instances of food trays left out of reach of patients while those at risk of choking were not given puréed food. (Scotsman Monday page 1) 

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Education

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Longer teaching hours: Teachers have slammed calls to increase the time they spend in the classroom. The warnings come after the leader of Glasgow council said preparation time should be cut. Currently, under the teachers’ agreement, also known as the McCrone deal, the profession only teaches 22.5 hours a week with the remainder for lesson preparation and marking. Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow, said if teachers spent an extra 30 minutes a week with pupils, it could save the authority £15 million a year. (Herald page 6)