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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 20 SEPTEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 20 September 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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Benefits Cut: Deputy PM Nick Clegg yesterday issued a warning to middle income families over reducing their access to benefits. Clegg said it was fair that those who were “not so much in need” should play a part in reducing the deficit, with welfare expenditure accounting for 30% of UK government spending and costing around £200 billion a year. This statement follows Danny Alexander’s pledge to crack down on tax cheats, which is expected to raise £7 billion a year. Alexander announced that private debt collection agencies will be employed to recover some of the £19 billion lost annually due to tax evasion, with millionaires to be targeted. Mr Clegg likened wealthy tax evaders to benefits cheats, claiming both “come down to stealing from your neighbours”. (The Herald page 1 and page 8, The Scotsman page 5)

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Liberal Democrats: Nick Clegg is expected to confront criticism from party members over the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition today, claiming the public would not have been able to take them seriously if they had refused the chance to take power after 65 years in opposition. In his key-note speech Mr Clegg will address feeling from within the party that they should have stayed out of the coalition and avoided association with the large-scale cuts the involvement entailed. Mr Clegg yesterday reassured members that the Liberal Democrats would compete in all constituencies in the 2015 election, and asked for more time to allow the coalition to work. (The Scotsman page 4, Sunday Herald page 14, Iain Macwhirter page 7, Scotland on Sunday page 14, Sunday Times page 21, Times page 1, page 12-13, Guardian page 1, FT page 1, Daily Express page 4)

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Public Sector Salary Controversy: The news that 1,000 public sector workers earn more than the Prime Minister has sparked cross-party criticism, with senior Scottish officials found to be the best paid in the UK according to a new study, earning on average £130,533 a year. The study, by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for the BBC’s Panorama programme, is the first to put an overall total on the number of state employees earning more than the Prime Minister. High public sector pay, in the context of job losses and government cuts, was described as “scandalous” by Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. The Scottish Labour party issued similar criticism, stating that the pay levels were “hard to justify”, while the Scottish Conservatives called for pay restraint on all but the lowest earners. (Scotsman page 1, Telegraph page 1, Times page 5, FT page 3, Press and Journal page 6)       

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Papal Visit: Pope Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican yesterday after a 4 day visit in which he challenged British secularism, beatified Cardinal Newman and confronted the child abuse allegations lodged against the Catholic Church. In what has been the Pope’s most direct apology for the sex abuse cases, Benedict XVI voiced his “deep sorrow and shame” at the scandal, which he admitted undermined the “moral credibility of Church leaders”. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 10, Sunday Herald page 1, 2-11, Scotland on Sunday page 1, page 13, Sunday Times page 1, Times page 6, Press and Journal page 5, Sun page 1, Daily Mirror page 8)

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Games’ Team Threat: The Scottish Commonwealth Games Team has demanded talks to discuss its athletes safety after Islamist terror fears in Delhi stepped up. The move comes after two gunmen attacked a tourist bus in the Indian capital, shortly followed by a threatening email sent to the BBC which targeted the Games for an attack. The Scottish team will meet with the Games’ organisers, as well as representatives of the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to assess the security situation and to decide whether greater protection is necessary. (Herald page 9, The Scotsman p24)

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End of Life Assistance Bill: Religious leaders will this week mount a concerted attack on proposals to help the terminally ill die with dignity, warning MSPs they would devalue human life, pervert the doctor-patient relationship and become a “cover for murder”. The assault by church and faith groups is aimed at sinking the most contentious legislation ever brought before Holyrood – Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill. The Independent MSP for Lothians, who has the serious degenerative disorder Parkinson’s disease, wants terminally ill people over 16 to be able to die at a time of their own choosing. (Sunday Herald page 9, Sunday Times page 9)

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Roma racism: Human rights organisation Amnesty International yesterday condemned the racism that the travelling community suffers on a daily basis throughout Scotland. The condemnation comes as the “gypsy” community in mainland Europe battles increasing levels of discrimination and after EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding compared France’s expulsion of the Roma people to the Nazis’ deportation of the Jews. Members of a travelling community said that Scottish society still refused to tolerate their lifestyle, amid continued attempts to force them into the mainstream. The community said there could be as many as 15,000 travellers in Scotland – including some Roma.  Amnesty researched each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities’ performance on delivering basic services and wrote to the councils challenging their record and highlighting areas where there could be improvement. (Sunday Herald page 13)

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Scottish emissions: Scottish emissions of the most powerful greenhouse gas have increased dramatically over the last 15 years, dwarfing the reductions in carbon dioxide achieved over the same period. Found in many industrial products, sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is 24,000 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. A new UK Government report shows that Scotland’s production of SF6 has increased by two-thirds since 1995. (Sunday Herald page 17)

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David Cameron: Scotland is "not even remotely" on David Cameron\’s "radar screen" and the Prime Minister appears content to leave the running of the country to the coalition government\’s junior partners, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Tavish Scott has claimed. In what would appear to be an attempt to distance the Scottish Lib Dems from a Tory Party that is still deeply unpopular north of the Border, Scott said he suspected that Cameron "didn\’t even think about Scotland". Scott added: The opportunity for us in that sense is for Michael Moore to be absolutely Scotland\’s man in the UK Cabinet… He then plays a very constructive role on Scotland\’s behalf in making sure the UK government is absolutely alive to Scotland\’s needs." (Scotland on Sunday page 1

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Megrahi: The father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing has been to Libya to visit the only man convicted of the bombing, it emerged yesterday. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi invited Dr Jim Swire to meet him and the two men spent around an hour together in Megrahi’s hospital ward in Tripoli last Tuesday. Dr Swire, whose daughter 23-year-old daughter Flora was one of the 270 victims of the atrocity, has long believed Mr Megrahi is innocent and has spearheaded a campaign for a full inquiry into the atrocity. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 3, Press and Journal page 11, Daily Mail page 8, Daily Record page 1)

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Economy

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Economic Policy Criticised: David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, has described the UK government’s claim that the Scottish private sector will grow to replace lost public sector employment as “laughable”. Mr Blanchflower said the cuts are the “greatest macro-economic mistake in 100 years”, and warned they could lead to up to 1.5 million job losses across the UK public and private sectors. Scotland is expected to suffer more from spending cuts because it is more heavily reliant on the public sector than the rest of the UK. (Herald page 1, page 7)

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Scottish Job Opportunities: The Scottish job market is more competitive than the rest of the UK, according to a leading financial expert. Donald MacRae, the Bank of Scotland’s chief economist, claims that demand for permanent staff in Scotland has fallen, for the first time in 9 months, with market conditions still “challenging”. David Lonsdale, assistant director of CBI, put this down to businesses remaining uncertain about how economic circumstances could change, and being unwilling to take on new staff as a result. The Scotsman editorial warns that the impact of government spending cuts has yet to be felt in full, but argues that the government still has policy options which should help avoid a double-dip recession, such as Quantitative Easing as well as maintaining low interest rates. (Scotsman page 9)

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Unite: Unite, the country’s biggest trade union, is suing airline BMI in London’s High Court on behalf of 3,000 workers who it claims are due millions in a reneged pay increase. The union had agreed to defer a 4.75% pay rise from April 2009 to March 2010, due to economic constraints affecting the industry, but claims that the March increase, worth up to £6 million, has not been honoured. A BMI spokesperson said talks with the union were ongoing and described them as “constructive”. Meanwhile aviation consultant Laurie Price suggested Unite had a “death wish” for the airline industry and urged the union to recognise the challenges” facing BMI. (Scotsman page 16)

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Marine energy: Scotland’s bid to be at the forefront of the marine energy revolution could be thwarted by other countries, including Ireland and Portugal, which are fast catching up, a report warns today. Both the Scottish and UK governments need to come up with swift answers to problems such as how to connect large projects in remote waters to the grid if they want to hold on to Britain\’s competitive edge, the report says. (Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Justice

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Justice Secretary: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has increased security in his constituency office after a member of staff was assaulted and there were two attempted thefts. Parliament bosses agreed to pay the £2200 cost of installing alarms, and will meet further running costs of £550 a year. A report to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) three weeks ago reveals Mr MacAskill had a police audit carried out at the office, which recommended greater security, and Lothian & Borders Police installed CCTV cameras outside. (Sunday Herald page 8)

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Health

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Rehabilitation: A report, written by Dr David Best, lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland, and commissioned by the Scottish Government, has suggested that former drug addicts should be housed together in special communities in order to aid their recovery. Dr Best acknowledged ghettoising former users was “a risk” but pointed to the success of the scheme in its implementation in parts of Edinburgh, where former addicts can share experiences and offer mutual support. David Liddell, the director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said trials in Glasgow had demonstrated success and suggested they could be replicated elsewhere, but pointed out that such schemes are “resource intensive”. (Herald page 2)     

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Contraceptive Warning: One in four young people in the UK fail to use any form of contraceptive with a new sexual partner, according to a study carried out by Marie Stopes International. The study, part of a global survey, also found that more than half of young people have had sex before the age of 18, prompting the vice-president of Marie Stopes International, Tracey McNeill, to call for the government to “put sex and relationships education back on the agenda”. (Herald page 4, Scotsman page 18)   

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Education

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Training Scheme: Glasgow City Council is cancelling a flagship head teacher training scheme due to budgetary constraints. The Scottish Qualification for Headship, a master’s diploma taught at six Scottish universities, will be scrapped, saving the council £150,000 a year but prompting fears for the future of school leadership. The decision has been criticised by Greg Dempster, general secretary of Association of Head teachers and Deputes Scotland (AHDS), who described the move as “disappointing” after a Government-backed assessment in 2003 found the scheme to be playing a key role in developing leadership in education. Glasgow City Council stressed that an alternative programme would be implemented. (Herald, page 5)