REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 1 OCTOBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 1 October 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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Trident: The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has been attempting to limit the budget cuts imposed on the defence budget. He has insisted that money should be saved by cutting manpower, particularly for the Army, rather than from the Trident renewal. However, there now seems to be a possibility that only one aircraft carrier will be built at the Clyde shipyards, which may jeopardise up to 5,000 jobs. This statistic was put to the Defence review by a joint submission from all four Holyrood parties. A delegation, led by Alex Salmond, is due to meet with Doctor Fox in Whitehall in a bid to avoid job losses at both the shipyard and at two other RAF bases in Kinloss and Lossiemouth. Vince Cable has also weighed in to support Dr Fox, attending a key meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday at which David Cameron demanded fresh work on options to cut one or both new carriers. Mr Cable pressed for the case for protecting the engineering skills base of Britain’s shipbuilding industry. Carrier supporters said his intervention had been “very helpful”’. (Times page 6, Telegraph page 1, FT page 2, Guardian page 12, Daily Record page 4) ) 

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The Gathering: Alex Salmond is to face a Holyrood committee over why public money was used to bail out the showpiece clan gathering event during Scotland\’s Year of Homecoming. The First Minister last week refused the public audit committee\’s request that he appear as part of an inquiry over the use of taxpayers\’ money to support last year\’s gathering of the clans in Edinburgh. Committee convener Hugh Henry later said he could use his powers to force witnesses to attend. Yesterday, however, Mr Salmond said he would be "delighted" to appear in front of the committee, which is set to question him about his role in propping up the Gathering event, which ran up losses of about £516,000 and debts of £675,500. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 9, Daily Express page 4, Daily Mail page 6, Times page 25, Telegraph pages 1 & 15)

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BBC strike: BBC heavyweights have told unions to call off a ‘partisan’ strike intended to black out David Cameron’s speech at the Conservative conference. Many of the corporation’s most respected presenters and reporters said the action would make viewers think the BBC was biased against the Conservative Party and put the corporation’s political impartiality at risk. (Guardian page 3, Daily Mail page 1) 

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Forced marriages: Scotland will lead the UK in eradicating forced marriages, it was claimed yesterday, as new legislation to outlaw the practice was published. A law that should be passed early next year with cross-party support will go further than legislation in England and Wales by making the arrangement of a forced marriage potentially a criminal offence carrying a punishment of up to two years in prison and a fine. Laws against forced marriage were introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2008. In Scotland, the Forced Marriage Bill will allow people facing a marriage to which they do not consent, or support groups assisting them, to seek a protection order forbidding the marriage under civil law. (Herald page 1, Courier page 7) 

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AV Polling Clash: MSPs joined forces yesterday against the planned referendum on voting reform, which is due to be held on the same day as the Holyrood elections. The Scottish politicians made their views known to the MPs on the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, who were in Edinburgh ‘as part of an investigation into the voting reform plans’. MSPs are keen to avoid the unclear nature of the last combined Scottish Parliament and Council elections in 2007, where more than 14,000 ballots were spoiled. The Scottish government agreed to stop combining several of their elections on one day, but may be forced to do so with regard to the AV vote. Duncan McNeill, the convener of the local government committee, stated “It would seem a measure that was supposedly to extend democracy would be at the expense of Scottish democracy. That is not the right starting point”. However, Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, had said that the holding the referendum on the same day would save the taxpayer £17,000,000. (Telegraph page 15)  

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Economy

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House prices: Experts have warned of a prolonged slump in the Scottish housing market after new figures showed that house prices are falling at a faster rate in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. There was a 3.4 per cent slip in the average house price in Scotland in the three months to the end of September, according to the latest Nationwide quarterly house price index. Prices have fallen in areas with the highest unemployment, most notably in Lothian and Falkirk and Dundee and Angus. (Scotsman page 17) 

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Fuel Tax: Drivers’ groups and haulage operators have stepped up pressure on the Government to revise a 1p fuel duty increase due to take effect today. The Automobile Association and Freight Transport Association (FTA) attacked the increased tax on petrol and diesel as an unjustified windfall for the Treasury, claiming it will damage businesses and force up the cost of everyday shopping items. After falling from a peak of 121p for a litre of unleaded petrol in May, prices rose gradually over the last month to stand at 115p. However, the cost of filling up a car is significantly higher in remote parts of the Highlands. (Herald page 8, Daily Record page 19) 

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Ireland’s bail-out: The cost of bailing out the Republic of Ireland\’s banks has risen to €45 billion exposing the massive hole in the Irish Government\’s finances. Irish Government bonds and the Irish stock market rose, while EU officials expressed confidence in what Ireland had done. The cost includes a bill of up to €34bn to rescue the worst-hit lender, Anglo Irish Bank.  The government said it would now have to rewrite its budget to cut borrowing more quickly in the coming years. Irish finance minister, Brian Lenihan, defended the action, saying Anglo Irish Bank was too big to fail. (Scotsman page 6, Press and Journal page 17, FT page 1, Guardian page 6, Daily Express page 2, Daily Mail page 10, Daily Record page 6)

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Following news of the bail-out, there were angry exchanges at Holyrood yesterday over the implications for Scotland of the meltdown in the Irish economy. Labour leader Iain Gray ridiculed Alex Salmond’s past claims about the arc of prosperity and claimed that, in an independent Scotland, our two biggest banks would have gone and the economy would have collapsed. (Herald page 6, Telegraph page 16) 

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Health

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Cancer lottery: Scottish cancer sufferers could be denied access to drugs available to English patients, in what has been described by campaigners as an “unacceptable lottery” of treatments in the UK. The Rarer Cancers Foundation (RCF) claims patients south of the border will soon have access to 18 treatments that have been rejected for use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium, Scotland’s drugs regulator. According to the RCF, the drugs would benefit an estimated 260 Scots and would cost about £5 million to administer over a six-month period. In a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, RCF chief executive Andrew Wilson said: “Your chances of getting the treatment should not depend on which side of the border you live on.” (Herald page 4, Press and Journal page 11, Daily Express page 5) 

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Education

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Universities: Scotland must find a financial solution for funding its universities within a year, Education Secretary Michael Russell told the Scottish Parliament. Mr Russell said he agreed with Glasgow University principal Anton Muscatelli who, earlier this month, said a new system of funding had to be in place within a year or universities would suffer. Mr Russell said: "We will publish our green paper later in the year, and I agree with Anton Muscatelli on the timescale for finding a solution.” (Scotsman page 11)

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Nursery teachers: The number of nursery teachers in Scotland has declined for the third year in a row, despite the SNP\’s pledge to stem the flow of teachers out of pre-school education. There were 1,613 whole-time equivalent nursery teachers registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland in January this year, 25 fewer than last year and 73 fewer than in 2007. However, 74 per cent of children had access to a nursery teacher, a 4 per cent increase on last year, the Scottish Government stated, after the latest pre-school and childcare statistics were published this week. (TESS page 3) 

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Specialist schools: Scotland\’s national centres for children with additional support needs are facing a struggle for survival, as they experience reductions in their rolls. The seven specialist schools are suffering from the trend towards educating more disabled children in mainstream schools and the reluctance of cash-strapped councils to take up the schools\’ expensive places. The Craighalbert Centre, which supports children with motor impairments, has only filled a quarter of places; Scotland\’s national school for the deaf, Donaldson\’s, is only half-full; Corseford and Stanmore House schools, which cater for children with very complex needs, have seen their rolls halved in five years; and the Royal Blind School has 79 pupils but could take 120. The grant-aided schools receive half their funding from the Scottish Government – £10.7 million annually – and the other half from local authorities. Places, although subsidised, are costly: Donaldson\’s annual fee for a day pupil is £25,801. (TESS page 1)