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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 24 SEPTEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 24 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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Commonwealth Games: Team Scotland officials say they expect to announce this morning that the first wave of athletes will fly out from Glasgow for Delhi tomorrow. The team has accepted the state of the athletes\’ village has improved, raising hopes that the Commonwealth Games will go ahead as planned. "We feel a lot more positive than we did 24 hours ago," Commonwealth Games Scotland Chairman Michael Cavanagh said. "Right now, we\’re very hopeful that the first flights due to leave on Saturday and Sunday will leave on time, and we\’ll make a final decision on that tomorrow morning.” (Scotsman page 1, 4-5, comment page 33, Herald page 5, Telegraph page 2, Times page 6, Courier page 1) 

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Michael Russell: One of the SNP\’s most senior cabinet ministers, Michael Russell, is reportedly facing a battle to get a winnable ranking on the party\’s list for next year\’s Holyrood elections. With the SNP set to announce the order of its list candidates for next year\’s poll within days, Education Secretary Mr Russell is under pressure to get a high ranking on a "crowded list" in the Highlands and Islands. Mr Russell has already been selected as the party\’s first-past-the-post constituency candidate for the Argyll and Bute seat, which the SNP\’s Jim Mather took from the Lib Dems in 2007. However, as Mr Mather, who is stepping down as an MSP, won by just 815 votes Mr Russell needs a ranking near the top of the SNP Highlands and Islands list to ensure that he returns to Holyrood. (Scotsman page 6) 

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Defence cuts: Scotland’s four political parties have shown an unprecedented united front as they warned UK ministers that the cancellation of plans to build two new aircraft carriers would return shipbuilding in Scotland to a "boom and bust" industry. The SNP, Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems joined forces to present a 24-page document to Defence Secretary Liam Fox which argues defence cuts north of the Border could kill off the country\’s manufacturing base. (Scotsman page 8-9, Herald page 7, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph page 11, Times page 8, Courier page 3, Daily Mail page 2, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 3) 

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VisitScotland: Scotland\’s tourism quango was drawn into fresh controversy last night after it emerged that the ousted Chief Executive had received a £240,000 pay-off. VisitScotland has promoted its head of marketing, Malcolm Roughead, to lead the organisation, five months after Philip Riddle was effectively removed from the job. Mr Riddle, who had held his post for nine years, agreed to stand down in early June, several weeks after being told at a board meeting that he was no longer wanted. The quango has been forced to award Mr Riddle a lump sum of £127,000 and has made an additional payment of £113,000 to his pension pot as he is effectively retiring early. Opposition politicians condemned the "massive" pay-off and said the Scottish Government had "serious questions to answer." (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Mail page 4,Daily Express page 4) 

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Labour leadership: The Miliband brothers’ aides reportedly met in secret to thrash out a deal over potential roles ahead of the announcement of the result. Senior advisers to the two Miliband camps held a secret planning meeting at which they discussed what role each might play in the other\’s shadow cabinet when one of them loses the contest to become Labour leader. It is understood that Jim Murphy, one of David Miliband\’s two campaign managers, attended the meeting with members of the Ed Milband camp to map out how they would handle Saturday\’s leadership result. (Guardian page 1, 6-7, Times page 14-15, Press and Journal page 12) 

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Economy

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Green energy: Scotland must generate 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, First Minister Alex Salmond has announced, raising the target to a new high from the previous level of 50 per cent. Experts have claimed existing projects in the pipeline to create wave, tidal, wind, hydro or biomass plants north of the Border will be sufficient to meet the new targets – and generate surplus power to be exported overseas. Mr Salmond made the announcement ahead of an international conference in Edinburgh next week to boost investment in a low-carbon economy. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 6, Times page 24, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 1) 

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Architecture firm: One of Britain\’s leading architecture firms has gone into administration less than two years after it was formed by a merger involving some of Scotland\’s top design firms. Half the 400 jobs at risk after the collapse of Archial Architects are Scottish-based.
\r\nThe company was established in January last year following the merger of the established Scottish practices Davis Duncan Architects, Hugh Martin Partnership, Jenkins and Marr Architects and Parr Architects and employs around 200 staff in Scotland, operating from offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. (Scotsman
page 23, Herald page 12)

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Housing: Housing Minister Alex Neil has unveiled a scheme to provide 1,000 new homes for rent across Scotland. Twelve local authorities have signed up for the project, which will see the purchase of newly-built houses by councils with loans underwritten by the Scottish Government. Glasgow, Highland and Stirling are among the councils that have signed up for the National Housing Trust (NHT) initiative and 600 NHT homes are being sought in Edinburgh. Mr Neil said: "The scheme has been designed to ensure that homes delivered through the National Housing Trust are affordable and offer good value for taxpayers\’ money." (Scotsman page 24) 

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Local Government

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South Lanarkshire council fraud: Officials at the council have lost the authority more than £100,000 after being duped by an African crime gang. Police have been called in to investigate after staff at South Lanarkshire Council were lured into paying the money into a bogus bank account. The local authority’s finance department received forged documents from fraudsters claiming to be a supplier who needed their bank details changed. An employee at the council’s headquarters in Hamilton approved the new details, allowing the money to be stolen by the West African crooks. It is understood £102,000 had to be paid to the genuine supplier and the council was not insured against the theft as it was an external fraud. Other councils in the UK have fallen victim to the scam and police forces across the country are working together to trace the gang. (Herald page 4, Times page 13, Daily Mail page 5, Daily Express page 5, 12) 

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Health

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NHS staff: More than 520 public sector workers in Scotland earn more than £150,000, First Minister Alex Salmond said yesterday. He was responding to Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis during First Minister’s questions, saying: “We have statistics for the numbers in Scotland paid more than £150,000 across the public sector. There were 529 people in that position – but 500 of them were clinical staff in the NHS.” Mr Purvis said the pay bill for the highest earners is “too high”, and called on the First Minister to support measures allowing the Scottish Parliament to approve the biggest state sector salaries. (Press and Journal page 17, Daily Mail page 1) 

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Education

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Art school merger: The merger of the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) with the University of Edinburgh came a step closer this week, as the board at ECA backed the move. Edinburgh University\’s ruling court is to decide at its meeting on Monday whether it, too, will support the joining of the college and the university. The move, which emerged in light of feared financial cuts, could happen by 2012. However, Dr Barbara Rae, chairwoman of the ECA Alumni Association\’s council, said it was ill-advised to rush into a decision before the full extent of cuts was known. She said: "We believe it imperative to safeguard the Edinburgh College of Art in the same way the Glasgow School of Art is respected and revered, both founded long ago to explore and promote originality in the arts." The organisation fears the independence of the college; its name and reputation will be lost or diluted by the move. (Scotsman page 13)
\r\nGraduate contribution: First Minister Alex Salmond has refused to be drawn on calls for graduates to contribute to university finances.  Mr Salmond was asked by Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie to accept the "growing consensus" for the proposal during an exchange at First Minister\’s Questions in Holyrood. (Scotsman
page 23) 

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First year of university: Conservatives have called for Advanced Higher shortcuts and greater variation in degree course length. Pupils with "a group of top-class Advanced Highers" should be able to skip the first year of university and there should be greater flexibility in the length of degrees, according to the Scottish Conservatives. Four-year degrees might even be economically unsustainable, according to John McTernan, a political strategist and former adviser to the Blair government. The comments were made at a conference this week in Edinburgh organised by the Scottish Conservatives. Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservatives\’ education spokeswoman, said: "Why should we assume that pupils with a group of top-class Advanced Highers necessarily must begin a university course in the first year, rather than go into the second year, and why should we not allow greater variation in the length of degree courses in Scotland? "Not only is flexibility educationally the right thing to do, but it could, we believe, also be more financially efficient." (TESS page 6)