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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 22 SEPTEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 22 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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Liberal Democrat Conference: The Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary warned that defence cuts north of the border would undermine Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. Much of the focus of the debate so far has been targeted at the £5.2 billion aircraft carrier project which generates 10,000 jobs on the Clyde and in Rosyth. However, also under threat are three RAF bases, the Black Watch base at Fort George, the Royal Marines base in Arbroath and the Queen Victoria Army School in Dunblane. (Scotsman page 2)

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The Lib Dem conference delegates remained uneasy yesterday, voting overwhelmingly to reject reductions to universal child benefits with the knowledge that the motion would probably be ignored by the coalition. The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, promised in his keynote address that he would protect the values of the party. (Times page 15)

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Homecoming spending: First Minister Alex Salmond has been asked to appear before a Holyrood committee investigating the way public money was spent on a major part of the Homecoming celebrations. The firm behind the venture initially received a loan of £180,000 from the Scottish Government when it faced financial trouble; it later collapsed with debts of £516,000 which were written off. Audit Scotland, a public spending watchdog, warns that lessons should be learned from this experience. (Scotsman page 6)

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Scottish election date: MSPs are set to be handed a special power to decide the timing of the 2015 Scottish parliamentary elections that could potentially avoid a clash with the next UK General Election. (Herald page 6).

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Megrahi enquiry: Lord Foulkes has accused fellow MSPs of being afraid to back a move to hold fresh enquiries into the release of the Lockerbie bomber. The Justice Committee released the findings of its inquiry into the release of Abdelbaset al Megrahi in February and Lord Foulkes had called for a second enquiry to focus on the medical basis for that decision. (Scotsman page 14 & Herald page 6)

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Gallantry medals controversy: A Senior Kirk Minister, Rev Ian Galloway, caused fury yesterday after telling MSPs that gallantry medals for soldiers who killed their enemies should be abolished. (Herald page 2)

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Commonwealth Games crisis: The Delhi Commonwealth Games is in crisis today after reports emerged of excrement in accommodation blocks, security concerns, and a variety of other health and safety concerns. There are concerns that if the Delhi games are boycotted it may devalue the games for future hosts as sponsorship and TV-rights will be damaged. As such Glasgow, as the 2014 hosts, could suffer as a consequence. (Guardian page 3, Courier page 10, Press and Journal page 5, FT page 10, Daily Express page 7, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Record page 5, Sun page 1). 

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Campaigners: Greenpeace activists prevented an oil drilling ship from heading out into the Atlantic Ocean off Shetland by attaching themselves to the anchor of the vessel. (Scotsman page 2)

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Economy

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Banking reform: Vince Cable has suggested that the Coalition Government is looking to raise more taxes over and above the proposed bank levy if banks continue to pay big bonuses. (Scotsman page 2)

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Furthermore, the Business Secretary wants to give shareholders more power to hold directors to account as part of a drive against the City’s myopic culture. (Times page 3)

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Vince Cable will claim today that bankers present more of a threat to Britain than trade unions. Mr Cable will also allege that the corporate world is "murky", that the capitalist system is tainted and "kills competition", and that markets are "often irrational or rigged". He is preparing to intervene to stop bankers receiving bonuses he regards as unjustified. He will use his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference to attack state-backed banks for ensuring their top employees are well rewarded but failing to lend more to customers. Liberal Democrat ministers, including Nick Clegg, are understood to favour the reintroduction of the bonus tax on bankers. The 50 per cent tax was supposed to be a "one-off" measure when levied by Labour earlier this year. George Osborne, the Chancellor, is thought to be wary about taxing individuals and would prefer to introduce a levy on banks directly. Yesterday, the UK Government announced that the bonus tax introduced by Labour had raised more than £3 billion – much more than the £550 million it was expected to bring in. Last year, many banks said the tax was acceptable only as a unique, extraordinary measure in the wake of the global credit crisis. (Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 1, FT page 1, Daily Express page 2, Daily Mail page 2)

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Economic recovery: The CBI stated yesterday that Britain’s economy looks set to grow more quickly than previously forecast this year, but will hit the wall in 2011 when the UK Government’s moves to narrow the budget deficit are expected to bite. The CBI stated the economy will expand by 1.8 per cent in 2010, up from 1.3 per cent the previous year; the better than expected recovery is attributed to stronger performance in the second quarter of 2010 as companies begin to rebuild their stock levels. (Scotsman/Business section page 5)

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Worst place in Europe: The British Isles are the worst place to live in Europe, according to a new survey that claims residents endure higher prices, work harder and receive poorer public services than their counterparts on the continent. (Telegraph page 6)

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Poverty: Unemployment and poverty levels are increasing at a higher rate in Scotland than in England, according to a new report. The report points to child poverty in particular, which has increased at double the rate in England during the last year of the recession. Official figures show that Scotland’s unemployment level was already at a 14 year high of 7.7 per cent in the first half of 2010, but increased further to 8.9 per cent in the latter half of the year. (Scotsman page 8 & Herald page 8)

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Child poverty also rose by 2 per cent in the past year in Scotland during the recession, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The recession’s impact was also greater on men than women. (Press and Journal page 5)

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Pension gap: According to new research, the UK has the largest pension gap in Europe, further suggesting that people need to put an additional £10,300 a year more on average into their pension pot if they wish to keep their current standard of living in retirement. (Herald page 4).

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Baby boomer generation: More than 800,000 people in the UK will hit 65 in 2012 as the baby boomer generation comes of state pension age. Scottish cities are ranked at the top of the list of concern, with Aberdeen and Edinburgh seeing a 33 per cent and 25 per cent increase in the number entering retirement age. This has encouraged government to attempt to bring forward plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 68 between 2024 and 2046 to an earlier date. (Herald page 4)

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Outsourcing employment opportunities: CapGemini is to invest more than £10 million in Scotland creating jobs displaced in the public sector cutbacks, doubling its current 650-strong workforce over three years. (Scotsman/Business Section page 1)

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Cairn energy: Cairn Energy, based in Edinburgh, has struck oil for the first time off the coast of Greenland. Shares in the group led the FTSE-100 leaders’ board for much of the day as a result. (Scotsman/Business Section page 1)

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The wider industry has been watching Cairn’s exploits in the icy Arctic waters with interest, but yesterday’s announcement of an oil strike is not expected to prompt a rush of other energy firms to Greenland. Edinburgh-based Cairn said further analysis was needed for the gas and two types of oil it encountered in drilling operations in the untapped Baffin Bay basin. (Press and Journal page 9)

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Justice

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Police force mergers: The Chief Constable of Scotland’s largest police beat has suggested his area is being excluded from the debate on restructuring police forces, and has claimed the discussions thus far have been “centralist” and lacking consultation. The reform of the existing eight-force structure is gathering pace with the service facing cuts of up to 25 per cent over the next four years. (Scotsman page 10)

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Transport 

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Polluter-pays for parking: Councillors have voted to introduce plans to double the cost of parking permits for the biggest gas guzzling cars in Edinburgh by the end of the year. The scheme is being promoted to persuade motorists to shun larger vehicles in favour of less-polluting cars. (Scotsman page 11 & Herald page 4).

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Speed limit zones: Edinburgh is set to have Scotland’s first compulsory 20mph zone. The £100,000 pilot project will cover parts of the south side of the city. (Scotsman page 11)

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Maritime Union strike: Maritime Union bosses last night warned the Scottish Government away from intervening in lifeline ferry services, threatening strike action. Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT called on the Scottish Government to end speculation that the Caledonian MacBrayne’s Hebridean and Clyde ferry services could pass into private ownership. (Scotsman page 23)

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Education

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Higher education funding: The Principal of Glasgow University, Prof Anton Muscatelli, gave his support yesterday to proposals for Scottish graduates to pay more towards the cost of their education as part of a move to tackle the current funding crisis in higher education. His comments were made at a conference on education organised by the Scottish Conservatives on Tuesday. President of NUS Scotland, Liam Burns, stated the union would be willing to discuss the proposals as long as certain conditions were met. (Herald page 7 & Times page 11). 0

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Professor Muscatelli said Scottish ministers must implement a “paradigm shift” in higher education funding within a year. He argued it was only fair students make a contribution after they graduate as on average they earn about £133,000 more over their lifetimes than those who do not attend university. The professor argued the fees should depend on ability to pay, or they would be akin to the Poll Tax, with students who become social workers paying less than doctors and bankers. Alex Salmond, the First Minister, has repeatedly boasted of restoring ‘free’ education to Scotland by transferring graduate fees to the taxpayer shortly after he took power. He is planning to issue a Green Paper on university funding later this year but Prof Muscatelli’s comments will heap pressure on him to reinstate student charges urgently. (Telegraph page 11, FT page 2, Daily Express page 10)

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Prestige degrees: In a major policy announcement, Liz Smith, the Conservative party’s education spokesman, will argue standards will suffer unless students contribute towards the cost of their tuition after they have graduated and started earning a salary. Universities should each be handed the power to decide how much they charge, she will say, with those degrees that attract the most applications and generate the highest earning power costing the most. (Telegraph page 13)