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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 11 October 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 11 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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Linda Norgrove: Questions have been raised over the death of aid worker Linda Norgrove after it emerged that she was seconds away from rescue by US special forces when an explosive vest nearby was detonated. The controversy comes after reports that Afghan police officials had wanted to negotiate her release rather than attempt a rescue, but were overruled by NATO commanders who feared she would have been smuggled to Pakistan. Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the rescue attempt “was her best chance of safe release”, while an Afghan official said the opposite, claiming they were “100% sure” that negotiation would have led to her release. The Norgrove family are calling for more information. (Herald page 1, Scotsman page 4, Daily Record page 1, Times page 3, Guardian page 3, Courier page 11, Daily Express page 7, Mirror page 1 Daily Mail page 1, Sun page 9, Sunday Herald page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Times page 1, 22-23)    

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David Mundell: David Mundell, Scotland’s only Conservative MP, has been reported to the head of the prosecution service for breaking electoral law. The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, last week received a fiscal’s report on the MP, and is now considering whether he should be charged. Mr Mundell, 48, a Scotland Office minister, has admitted breaking the law by overspending on the last leg of his General Election campaign – a potential criminal offence punishable by a £5,000 fine and expulsion from Parliament. (Sunday Herald page 14)

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Oil drilling: Scotland’s politicians in the European Parliament have been accused of environmental hypocrisy because of their lobbying for the oil industry. Scottish Nationalist, Labour, LibDem and Conservative MEPs are all fighting to stop the European Commission introducing a ban on drilling for deep-sea oil. The commission wants to prevent another disaster such as the one that happened at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. But the Scots MEPs argue a ban could cost oil companies billions of pounds, and is not necessary because UK safety standards are better than in America. (Sunday Herald page 18)

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Inequality: There is still a persistent pay gap between men and women in Scotland, as well as higher high school exclusion rates in poorer parts of the country, according to a UK Equality and Human Rights Commission report. The report found women working full time earn 12% less than men and that over 40% of permanent exclusions came from the poorest 20% of Scotland. The gap between rich and poor is widening, with the top 10% of earners 100 times richer than the bottom 10%. These figures were combined with statistics showing low rape conviction rate, and led Kaliani Lyle, Scotland Commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, to say that though Scots have become less tolerant of discrimination, there is “still some distance to go”. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 10, Daily Record page 4, Times page 15)   

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Sickness Benefit: Nearly 500,000 people will either have to find work or see a reduction in their sickness benefit by a third, due to cuts in welfare spending. The move will save the government around £4 billion in welfare spending on around 2.1 million people, but has faced criticism from mental health and disability campaigners who described the potential results as “catastrophic”. (Times page 1)

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Independence: Former leader of the SNP Gordon Wilson will use a lecture at this week\’s SNP Conference in Perth to argue that Alex Salmond has not done enough to promote independence as the solution to the financial crisis which is now gripping the country. While supporting the SNP leadership\’s strategy in government, he says the crisis – which saw both the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland turn to the United Kingdom taxpayer for support – has made Scots look to British solutions.  Mr Wilson, who led the SNP throughout the 1980s and was succeeded by Alex Salmond in 1990, has now retired from frontline politics but will argue in the lecture that an independent Scotland would have the natural resources to recover from the hit it took over the banking crisis. (Scotland on Sunday page 2)

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Devolution: Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has called for devolution to move into a ‘third phase’ in order to tackle changes to the Scottish economy. Due to changes in Scotland’s economic and political context, Mr Gray wants to see the parliament break with the past and move from its previous focus on expanding public services in a time of growth to attempting to continue to provide services during spending cuts. The focus, according to Mr Gray, should be on creating and sustaining jobs to protect people from the effects of cuts to services. (Scotsman page 2, Times page 23)

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Scott Acclaims Coalition: Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has pinpointed the Lib Dem-Conservative Westminster coalition as the cause of an increase in support for the Lib Dems, with membership going up by 18% this year. He argued a vote for the Lib Dems is seen as a vote for responsibility and fairness. The Herald editorial suggests that the reason support for the Liberal Democrats may have been affected differently in Scotland than in England could be due a greater willingness on the part of Scots to accept a coalition government, though this may change when the effects of the spending review are felt north of the border. (Herald page 6, editorial page 14)

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Rail Land Sold: Ministers have been criticised for selling off land which was designated for Glasgow Airport’s rail link, after researchers at the parliament questioned the decision. Transport Scotland is in negotiations geared towards selling the land after claiming it is legally obliged to do so. However, criticism arose after a briefing from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre which suggested the government was entitled to hold onto the land for a further two years. Alan Rehfisch, a researcher at the centre, said that the decision was due to government policy, not due to a legislative requirement. Former Labour leader Wendy Alexander put the move down to an “attempt to sabotage the project in advance of next May’s elections”. (Herald page 2)

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Labour Shadow Team: New Scottish MPs Tom Greatrex, Gemma Doyle and Margaret Curran have been added to the list of Scottish MPs in Ed Miliband’s shadow ministerial team. Mr Greatrex will become the shadow Scottish Office minister, Ms Curran will become spokesperson for work and pensions and Ms Doyle will become spokesperson for defence. Mr Miliband described the new shadow team as part of his “new generation” of MPs. In total 21 of the new team only recently became MPs. (Scotsman page 8, Times page 21, Guardian page 8, Courier page 14) 

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Bribery Act: Oil companies operating out of the North Sea have been warned their practice of sending “Christmas Boxes” to key personnel may lead them into trouble through Britain’s new Bribery Act. Extravagant gifts could be seen as an attempt to gain an advantage through bribery, according to a leading expert in business law, and could lead to the companies themselves, rather than individuals, facing prosecution. (Scotsman page 14)  

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Alex Salmond: A new biography of Alex Salmond entitled, ‘Salmond: Against the Odds’ by David Torrance, gives an insight into a leadership style that has led to comparisons with Gordon Brown, but which also inspires great loyalty and is characterised by acts of great "humanity". (Scotland on Sunday page 2, Sunday Times page 10)

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Economy

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Public Spending: The UK Government’s planned reductions in spending over the next 4 years will go ahead regardless of whatever short-term shocks they may cause, according to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond. His comments follow a row in which Alan Johnson characterised the cuts as “fundamentally” worse than Margaret Thatcher’s cuts in the 1980s. First Minister Alex Salmond got involved in the debate, describing the cuts as “far too quick and far too deep”. The news comes in the context of fears over a possible double-dip recession, with George Osborn due to announce a his spending plans for the next 4 years on 20 October. (Scotsman page 8) 

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Business ties with India: An Asian-Scots businessman has called for a formal business and economic growth strategy with India to ensure Scotland capitalises on Prime Minister David Cameron\’s "special relationship". Arvind Salwan, managing director of New Media Corp, is launching the India Scotland Business Collaboration (ISBC) as a public-private sector partnership to help accelerate investment between the two countries. Mr Salwan, a second-generation Asian Scot, said: "Unless a clear and ambitious strategy is adopted, our companies will continue to lose out on opportunities that other cities within the UK will benefit from.” (Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Hogmanay Celebrations: Spending cuts combined with low ticket sales will see Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations scaled back to their lowest in years. Oban, Aberdeen, Dundee, Aviemore and Perth will not organise public celebrations, while Glasgow will lower its crowd capacity in George Square from 10,000 to 5,000 with Edinburgh taking similar action, with its party going from 100,000 to 80,000 people. (Scotsman page 12)

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Justice

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Red Caps: The two Iraqi men accused of murdering 6 British military policemen in Majar al-Kabir, southern Iraq, have had the charges laid against them dropped due to a lack of evidence. John Hyde, the father of one of the murdered personnel, questioned the decision, saying “these people haven’t been in court long enough to be able to prove their innocence, which obviously asks the question, why did the judge decide to bring it to court then dismiss it so quickly?” The Ministry of Defence said it was doing all it could to bring those responsible for the murders to justice. (Herald page 4, Telegraph page 1, Courier page 13, Daily Mail page 8) 

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Transport 

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Trams: Concerns have been raised after it emerged that work has continued on cancelled parts of Edinburgh’s tram route as well as on 10 vehicles, which will not be used. Though only 17 will be used, Tie, the company charged with tram construction, will still build 27 trams. The news comes after fears that the company cannot finish the tram project after it emerged it had spent £380 million out of the £500 million in Scottish Government funding. (Scotsman page 13)

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Education

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Graduate fees: Sir Andrew Cubie, author of the report which led to the scrapping of tuition fees in Scotland, has warned that Scottish students will have to make significant contributions to university courses.  Suggesting that richer students should make a greater contribution to funding, Sir Andrew has recommended that a graduate fee should be implemented to help make Scottish education free “at the point of consumption”. The suggestion has been backed by some university heads and could include students paying more depending on their university or course choice. The comments have faced criticism by those who argue the move will discourage worse-off students from applying for expensive courses and will lead to increased inequality. The comments come as a reaction to publication of Lord Brown’s review into university funding down south, which it is feared could lead to a funding gap emerging in Scotland. Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, has called for a summit of those connected to higher education to discuss possible Scottish solutions. (Scotsman page 1 Herald 2, Telegraph page 15, Courier page 14, Daily Mail page 4, Sunday Herald page 4, Iain Macwhirter in Sunday Herald Opinion page 1, Sunday Times page 1) 

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Immigration Cap: Plans to tighten controls on those entering the UK have led Michael Russell, the Scottish Education Secretary, to warn that Scotland will have trouble attracting overseas students to study here and may suffer financially as a result. A number of university principals have written to Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, in protest. (Herald page 1)