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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 22 October 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 22 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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Spending Review: The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) yesterday picked apart the Chancellor\’s claim the government\’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) would place a greater burden on the wealthy and warned the least well-off and those with families would suffer most in the battle to tackle the UK\’s £155 billion debt.
\r\nTheir economists also said the government was wrong to claim departmental cuts were less then those planned under Labour. Mr Osborne said he had kept the average reduction to 19 per cent, compared with Labour\’s proposed 20 per cent, but the IFS claimed that, in reality, Alistair Darling\’s measures amounted to only a 16 per cent cut.
\r\nThe IFS also warned that Mr Osborne might have to rethink his plans in less than two years, undermining his claim that the CSR was "for the long term". (Scotsman
page 1, 4-5, 6-7, George Kerevan page 31, Alf Young page 32, Herald page 1, page 6-7, FT page 3, Guardian page 1, page 2, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 10, Daily Mail page 2, Daily Mirror page 1, Daily Express page 4, Sun page 8)

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Defence cuts: The UK Government’s defence spending cuts announcement was branded “clear as mud” last night – as fears mounted that RAF Lossiemouth will be axed. Local MP Angus Robertson claimed leaked documents suggested the base would be shut down and its Tornado fleet transferred to Marham in Norfolk. But Scottish Secretary Michael Moore insisted during a visit to the area yesterday that no final decision had been made. Prime Minister David Cameron signalled the end of the road for Kinloss as an RAF station on Tuesday when he revealed that plans to replace its Nimrod surveillance aircraft had been scrapped. The blow to the local economy could be softened by the arrival of The Highlanders battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and other units as Britain’s Army of the Rhine returns to the UK.  (Press and Journal page 11, Telegraph page 1)

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Aircraft Carrier deal unbreakable: It has emerged that Westminster was unable to consider scrapping the second of the Trident aircraft carriers, due to an ‘unbreakable deal’ that the previous Government had signed with BAE. Labour had guaranteed a certain amount of work for the shipyards of Clyde and Portsmouth, including the £5.2 billion carrier contract, as well as agreeing to 15 years of unspecified shipbuilding work. Defence insiders say that the decision was extremely politically motivated, as it enabled Labour to safe-guard jobs in key Labour areas. The current Prime Minister expressed regret that the building of the second carrier has gone ahead, and said that the decision had been the hardest of the spending review. He blamed the “appalling legacy’ left by the Labour Government. (Times page 1, cont. page 9) 

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Scottish Lib Dems losing support: A new poll of 1,400 voters indicates that the Scottish Liberal Democrats have fallen in popularity since the beginning of the coalition government in Westminster. A Holyrood seat projection states that the party would only win nine MSP’s at the next election, compared to the sixteen they currently have. However, the reaction from senior Lib Dems was mixed, with one MSP seeing the poll as nothing to panic about, stating that “our support will come back when they see the coalition delivering on things like the aircraft carrier jobs…and on reducing fuel tax in remote areas of Scotland”. A less relaxed approach was taken by some, with another MSP commenting that the poll should act as a warning, and considering whether the results represented “a protest vote” against the party. (Times page 11)

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Economy

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Housing: While the full implications for Scotland will only be known when the Scottish Government sets its own Budget, further changes to housing benefit announced on Wednesday have caused dismay in the sector. Measures announced by Chancellor George Osborne included a change to the way housing benefit is paid to single people. Currently, under-25s claiming housing benefit only receive a “shared room” rate – equivalent to the market rent for a room in a house where other facilities are shared. Mr Osborne extended the age limit, so that all new single under-35 claimants, including those in Scotland, will now only receive this rate from 2012. Last night, Citizen’s Advice called this an extraordinary decision which it said would “lead to an explosion of homelessness and … hit single working people on low incomes as well as the single unemployed.” (Herald page 6)

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Justice

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Sheridan Trial: Katrine Trolle, a key witness at the trial of Tommy and Gail Sheridan has denied having an "inappropriate" relationship with a police officer investigating perjury allegations against them. Ms Trolle told the jury the officer never made any suggestions to her but she agreed his choice of phrase in e-mails had lacked professionalism. Under cross-examination by Sheridan at the High Court in Glasgow, she insisted that he could accuse her of being guilty of many things, but not of lying under oath. She swore that she and Mr Sheridan had had an affair and added: "There is only one liar in this court, and it is you." The trial continues. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 13, Courier page 9, Daily Record page 15, Daily Mail page 10, Sun page 19, Times page 13, Telegraph page 5)

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Local Government

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COSLA: Scotland’s local councils are facing a new cash crisis as Holyrood imposes a budget on them that will leave them with a £630 million shortfall, according to a leaked document. They have also been told the deal is non-negotiable and for one year only instead of the usual three-year-cycle, which they say makes it difficult to plan ahead.

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To match this year’s settlement, the councils required around £12.256bn next year from the Scottish Government – an increase of £270m. However, following this week’s spending cuts they are expected to get £11.626m in 2011/12 – a drop of £630m. (Herald page 6)

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North Ayrshire bottom of Scottish districts: A new survey has found that North Ayrshire is the least likely council area in Scotland to cope well with the spending cuts. The survey was conducted for all 356 UK districts, and whilst areas such as Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh and Stirling did fairly well (all coming in the top 100), North Ayrshire came 342nd. North Ayrshire has 7% of its working age population on Jobseeker’s Allowance, the highest in Scotland and life expectancy rates ranging ‘from 84.8 in the most affluent area to 72.1 in the least’. The leader of North Ayrshire Council, David O’Neill, states that the area has never fully recovered from the removal of Nobel Enterprises, a factory which employed 18,000 people in the 1950’s.The area is also perceived to be remote and hard to reach, though in reality this is not the case. In an attempt to alter the situation, the council has applied for more funding from both Westminster and Holyrood, in the hope that the area might be revived by tourism and investment in renewable energy. (Times page 10)  

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Education

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University intake: The number of students joining Scottish universities has fallen by 10 per cent this year following a reduction in the number of places available, according to new figures. Statistics published by universities admissions body Ucas reveal universities in Scotland accepted 36,592 applicants this year compared with 40,690 last year. Critics warned that the figures meant a "devastating crisis" for the thousands – many from deprived backgrounds – who missed out on a place this year, and lecturers fear the lost talent could lead to Scotland\’s universities falling behind. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 2)

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Quangos merger: The creation of a new super-agency merging HMIE and Learning and Teaching Scotland has prompted demands for the inspectorate\’s quality assurance role to be kept separate from any advisory role on policy. As reported last week, the Scottish Education Quality and Improvement Agency was announced by Education Secretary Michael Russell. He expects it to lead the drive to implement Curriculum for Excellence once it is running early next summer. Unions and political leaders have criticised Mr Russell for failing to consult them, raising doubts over whether he will get the merger approved by Parliament. (TESS page 4)

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Moray schools: RAF families are likely to leave in droves, causing sudden downward lurches in school populations and an uncertain future Schools in Moray were this week bracing themselves for unprecedented turbulence, following the announcement on defence cuts by Prime Minister David Cameron. In an authority whose entire population is only 88,000, there are 1,919 RAF children aged up to 16 – of which 1,237 children go to Moray Council\’s schools. Richard Donald, Moray Council\’s head of educational support services, made no attempt to play down the impact of the cuts on schools. Many RAF families are likely to leave en masse, he predicted, causing sudden downward lurches in school populations and uncertain futures. (TESS page 5)