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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 27 September 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 27 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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Labour Leadership: Senior MSPs believe Ed Miliband’s election as new Labour leader will boost Scottish Labour’s popularity due to his political views.  Ed Miliband is reportedly seen as the more compatible with Scottish voters compared with his brother David, and won support from Scottish Labour over his willingness to let Iain Gray’s party set its own agenda. Ed Miliband’s victory is expected to help Labour compete with the SNP for left of centre votes in Scotland, however many MPs have questioned his ability to compete with the Conservatives for votes in the Midlands and the South-East of England in the UK elections. Ed Miliband responded to critics, who labelled him “Red Ed”, by claiming he would fight for the “centre ground”, whilst still acknowledging that “the era of New Labour has passed. A new generation has taken over”. John McTernan comments in the Telegraph that Ed Miliband must break from the legacy of New Labour and construct policy based on pragmatism, with David Miliband as his Shadow Chancellor and high profile positions for Ed Balls as well as Harriet Harman. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 1)

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Income tax powers: New Labour leader Ed Miliband was last night said to be ready to back plans to give the Scottish Parliament power to raise or lower income tax by up to 10p in the pound. Mr Miliband was reported to be more willing than his predecessor to embrace proposals drawn up by the Calman Commission to strengthen Holyrood\’s powers. The policy stance of the new leader, the only one of the candidates to have visited the north and north-east of Scotland during the campaign, is crucial to healing any rift after a change in Labour\’s leadership. (Press and Journal page 5)

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Unison: Unions yesterday warned that the effects of public sector cuts on female workers would cause a “land-slide” of claims against employers. Women make up a higher proportion of public sector employees, and are more likely to be engaged in clerical, caring, catering and temporary work, and so are likely to feel the impact of public cuts to a greater degree than men. Unison threatened legal action against employers that did not take account of the human impact of cuts to jobs and services. The Equality and Human Rights Commission will meet Treasury officials today to discuss the effects of cuts on the most vulnerable. (Telegraph page 2)

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Living Wage: Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader, will today pledge to introduce a “living wage” of £7 an hour if Labour win the next Scottish election, despite impending budget cuts. The plan, which would raise the income of 20,000 of the lowest paid workers in Scotland, would be partly funded by freezing the pay of public sector staff earning over £100,000. Conservatives meanwhile questioned the Scottish Government’s ability to pay for the scheme, which would cost £20 million a year, in the face of the £1.7 billion which will be cut from Holyrood’s budget next year.

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The plan came under fire last night before it was even officially announced. The SNP, apparently alerted to the proposal, dismissed it as a recycled version of a policy trotted out by the Scottish Labour Party a year ago mirroring one the SNP Government is already putting into practice. (Scotsman page 5, Telegraph page 1, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 1)

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Delhi Commonwealth Games: The head of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games Team has criticised the Games’ organisers over the standard of the athletes’ village, saying it was “just not good enough for people who have had 7 years to prepare”. The comments came in the wake of one athlete falling through a collapsed bed, and another finding a snake in their room. With a number of the Scottish athletes still staying in hotels, Indian Government officials warned it could take up to 72 hours to complete the work on the accommodation. Although one Scottish athlete said the facilities were a “pleasant surprise”, the general opinion on the work has been critical with some rooms described as “unliveable” amidst reports of construction debris left in rooms and unsanitary conditions. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 2, Sunday Herald page 14-17, Times page 7, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 11, Telegraph page 8)

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National Trust: The biggest shake-up in the National Trust for Scotland\’s history was overwhelmingly backed by its members yesterday in a bid to reverse a financial crisis that is threatening its survival. Delegates voted by 424 to two in favour of recommendations put forward in a review by former Holyrood Presiding Officer George Reid. Mr Reid called for the Trust to concentrate on a smaller core of key properties, with management partnerships to be examined in others. Members were urged to "have the courage" to put problems behind them and "go for a fresh start". (Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald page 11)

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Glasgow Commonwealth Games: The cost of Scotland’s plan to host the Commonwealth Games is in danger of spiralling out of control, a parliamentary report will claim. MSPs are concerned that taxpayers will have to pay for a black hole in the budget for the Glasgow 2014 Games.  The report, due to be published next month, will highlight these claims. (Sunday Times page 1)

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Holyrood Candidate: A Conservative candidate in the Holyrood elections, Councillor Gill Dykes, is under pressure to stand down after a misleading leaflet claimed she was already an MSP. Ms Dykes is reportedly being wrongly promoted as the “MSP for Dumfriesshire”, a newly created seat which won’t have an MSP until May. With a notional Tory majority of 649, the new constituency is set to produce a bitter fight at the Holyrood poll. Ms Dykes claims that because the card’s flip-side says “Gill Dykes for MSP” it is clear she is only a candidate. However, her opponents say the material, which was published on her behalf by the local Conservative Association, is deeply misleading. The matter has been reported to election watchdogs. For nine years, Ms Dykes has been an assistant to Alex Fergusson, the former Tory MSP who is now the Parliament’s Presiding Officer. (Sunday Herald page 12)

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Economy

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Economic Growth: Donald MacRae, Chief Economist at Lloyds TSB Scotland, has warned that growth in Scotland is still “weak and muted”, though signs are that firms are continuing to steadily emerge from recession. 30 per cent of firms reported increased turn-over in the three months up to 31 August, with 33 per cent reporting static turn-over and 37 per cent reporting a drop. Profits were higher in the service sector compared to production, with export figures still low. The warning comes amidst fears of a double-dip recession caused by public sector cuts. (Scotsman page 35)

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E-Clear Debts: Creditors are demanding £127 million in unpaid debts from collapsed processing firm E-Clear, which owes FlyGlobespan alone £35 million. E-clear provided online credit card transaction services for Globespan, but went into administration in January. It now has assets of just £170,000. (Herald page 9)

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Transport 

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Ferry Price Hikes: David Timms, Chairman of David MacBrayne, has warned that without new funding Scotland’s ferry services will need to be cut, or see a prices increase, after decades of under-investment. Mr Timms said “the urgency of the task cannot be overstated” with the services providing a life-line for many communities. (Herald page 9, Scotsman page 18)

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Local Government

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COSLA: Council leaders are preparing to mount an unprecedented campaign against the Scottish Government unless it comes clean about the scale of cuts facing local government. Exasperated by what it sees as months of delay and inaction, Cosla, the umbrella group for Scotland’s 32 local authorities, will this week warn ministers that relations with local government are heading for collapse.  If there is more delay over discussing cuts when the two sides meet on Wednesday, Cosla intends to campaign directly against Government decisions in the run-up to the Scottish elections. (Sunday Herald page 8)

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Health

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Obesity Beds: 7 of Scotland’s 14 health boards have spent more than £154,000 on specialist beds for obese patients since 2008, due to rising numbers of obese patients. The health boards pointed out that these beds were used for a range of conditions other than solely obesity. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 8)

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Swine Flu: Fears over a new swine flu outbreak this coming winter have prompted the NHS to launch a new campaign of vaccinations against the virus, which killed 60 people in Scotland last year. The vaccinations will target those most vulnerable to infection, in light of a possible return of a more virulent, mutated form of the virus. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 7)

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Tuck Shops: Teachers and parents have reacted angrily to the news that schools in Glasgow will allow tuck shops to sell food at break-time, claiming that it will weaken the incentive to buy healthier food. The tuck shop profits will go to Cordia, a private company which provides catering for Glasgow City Council’s schools, leading to criticism that schools funding should benefit from sales, not Cordia. Cordia responded by pointing out that all food sold meets government healthy eating guidelines. (Herald page 3 )  

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Alzheimer’s Test: A new early warning system for Alzheimer’s is being developed, with trials being offered to people concerned about their memory. The tests analyse spinal fluid and could allow those at risk to take a vaccine which staves off the disease’s emergence. The Glasgow Memory Centre, which is conducting the research, underlined the importance of early diagnosis for the possibility of effective intervention, with 71,000 people currently living with dementia in Scotland. (Herald page 7) 

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Education

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Scottish Baccalaureate: Edinburgh University will become the first institution to accept the new Scottish Baccalaureate as a formal entrance requirement, which will allow talented students to skip their first year of university. The qualification, which is only available in language and science subjects, is part of an SNP election pledge to make higher education more flexible and to encourage more students to take up language and science subjects. The move is likely to prove a relief for Education Secretary Michael Russell, who has been in talks with Scottish universities to convince them of the new qualification\’s merit. (Scotland on Sunday page 8 Herald page 10)

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Teaching vacancies: Every teaching vacancy in Scotland is being chased by an average of 17 applicants. Councils have revealed the competition for jobs, which varied from 49 applications for each post in Stirling to three per job in Shetland. The Liberal Democrat Party, which obtained the details through Freedom of Information requests, said teachers\’ talents are "being wasted" and Education Secretary Michael Russell has admitted numbers are "a concern". (Scotland on Sunday page 12, Daily Express page 23)

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