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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 25 October 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 25 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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Annabel Goldie: The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Annabel Goldie, has responded to increasing pressure over her leadership by warning that there is “no vacancy” at the head of her party. After speculation over a possible leadership challenge, Ms Goldie has denied that she will step down after next year’s Scottish elections, claiming she is “robust and popular”, and instead wishes to concentrate on improving Scotland’s economy, saying she is aiming to “negotiate through Labour’s mess”. (Scotsman page 2)

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Scottish Party Leaders: Forty-one per cent of Scots believe Alex Salmond would make a better First Minister than his main rival Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader. The SNP leader remains ahead of Mr Gray in the popularity stakes, according to Scotland on Sunday\’s exclusive YouGov poll. When the sample of 1,405 Scottish adults was asked which of the two men would make the "better" First Minister, 41 per cent replied Mr Salmond, 24 per cent said Mr Gray and 35 per cent said they did not know. (Scotland on Sunday page 8)

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Independence: Support for Scottish independence has risen markedly since the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government took power at Westminster, a new poll has revealed. The poll findings suggest that the cuts package proposed by the coalition is politically unpopular, and as the poll was largely taken before the details were announced last week, it is thought the UK Government will face a growing backlash. While more people still oppose independence than are in favour, the YouGov survey finds that backing for separation has gone up from 28 per cent to 34 per cent since May\’s general election. At the same time, those who say they would oppose the forming of an independent country have dropped from 58 per cent to 50 per cent, according to YouGov. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Kenny Farquharson page 15)

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Once of Britain’s top City economists has backed Scottish independence, claiming it could boost Scotland’s economy and make life easier for David Cameron. Savvas Savouri, chief economist at Toscafund Asset Management, a leading hedge fund, said Scotland could benefit from gaining full control over North Sea oil revenues. He added that it would be sensible to allow Scotland to apply its own rate of income tax, VAT, corporation tax and stamp duty. He said independence made sense as long as Scotland did not opt for a separate currency.  (Sunday Times page 17)

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Public Sector Redundancies: Alex Salmond has refused to rule-out compulsory public sector job-losses after the Westminster Comprehensive Spending Review slashed the Scottish Government budget. In meetings with union leaders, Mr Salmond will discuss ways to save the £3 billion which is being cut from the budget over the next 4 years, including considering the possibility of job losses or pay freezes.   Finance Secretary John Swinney will make an announcement next month, in which he is expected to urge restraint in public sector pay demands in order to avoid large-scale redundancies and sustain key SNP policies. However, despite committing himself to avoiding lay-offs, Mr Salmond refused to rule them out in union negotiations. The First Minister would not guarantee the future of 6 key-SNP promises either, with free university tuition fees, free personal care for the elderly and free school meals all facing uncertainty. Meanwhile Iain Gray, leader of the Scottish Labour party, warned that the council tax freeze would come at the expense of public services, specifically in funding schools. (Herald page 1, Telegraph page 1, Scotsman page 10 Times page 1, page B45, Daily Mail page 1, page 5)

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Scottish Budget: First Minister Alex Salmond has rejected calls to reveal details of the deepest budget cuts in living memory amid fears it will be the poorest in Scotland who are affected the worst. The SNP leader dismissed Labour Party demands last night for an urgent Holyrood debate on how services will be slashed as part of savings of up to £1.3 billion. Mr Salmond insisted it would take time to properly respond to the implications of the huge cuts revealed by Chancellor George Osborne in the UK comprehensive spending review. The Scottish Government will lose £900,000 from its next budget and about £3 billion in total over the four years to 2014-15, according to the Treasury’s figures. The SNP says the reduction in spending, which includes cuts deferred from this year, will be closer to £1.3 billion next year. (Press and Journal page 1)

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Protest: Thousands of protesters, including SNP and Labour politicians, took to the streets of Edinburgh to demonstrate against George Osborne\’s cuts, which will see £3 billion slashed from the Scottish budget over the next four years. Teachers and lecturers from across Scotland joined thousands of public sector workers in a rally to express their anger over last week\’s comprehensive spending review, which they claim will damage public services and put the economic recovery at risk. The march was led by trade union officials, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader. Organisers were hoping for a turnout of 20,000, although police said the number was around 6,500. (Scotland on Sunday page 3, Sunday Herald page 2-3)

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Scottish Tories: The Scottish Tories needs to stress their ‘made in Scotland’ credentials and end confusion over who is in charge, an internal review is expected to recommend next month. Senior party sources say that the review commission, chaired by Lord Sanderson, will call for reforms that would distance them from the Conservatives in England. (Sunday Times page 15)

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The leader of the Scottish Tories is reportedly privately backing a coalition with the SNP next year in a bid to get the party into government. Annabel Goldie believes a pact with the Nationalists, who remain deeply hostile to a deal, may be the only way to transform Conservative fortunes north of the border. (Sunday Herald page 5, Daily Mail page 2,)

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Donald Trump: The US billionaire Donald Trump is demanding tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs from an 86-year-old Aberdeenshire pensioner who has been trying to protect her home from his luxury golf development. Molly Forbes, who is worried about paying her next electricity bill, is being pursued in court this week by the New York property tycoon in an effort to recover his legal bills. Mrs Forbes, a widow, is one of several residents who have been resisting eviction to make way for Mr Trump’s controversial £750 million resort at Menie on the Aberdeenshire coast. She has been threatened with the compulsory purchase of her home. Last year she made headlines by launching a legal challenge against Mr Trump and Aberdeenshire Council, asking for a judicial review of the decision to give the development the go-ahead but was denied legal aid. Forbes’ failure to win legal aid showed how difficult it was for ordinary people to take on powerful, vested interests, contended Mike Dailly, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Access to Justice Committee. “It’s symptomatic of the need to reform the Scottish legal aid system that an 86-year-old trying to protect her home should find herself threatened by a billionaire for crippling costs,” he said. “The possibility of Mrs Forbes losing her home through sequestration for legal expenses will not be seen as fair by most Scots”. (Sunday Herald page 7)

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Barnett Formula: Leading economist John Kay writes in the Sunday Herald on the need to restructure the way in which Scotland’s expenditure is allocated. Professor Kay said “ it’s now time to shift from pocket money to wage-earning, from spending a generous allowance to taking real budgetary responsibility…and that shift also means that the Scottish Government should raise most of its own funds, and pay for the UK services it needs, rather than spend a block allocation for Scottish services from the UK Government. Since the election of the Coalition, there is considerably more willingness at Westminster to contemplate that option, but why it’s easier to recommend in principle than to implement it in practice is a whole different subject.” (Sunday Herald page B9)

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Wikileaks: Nick Clegg has refused to rule out the possibility of an inquiry into the part British forces may have had in the torture, killing and abuse suffered by Iraqi civilians demonstrated in the 400,000 classified US military documents released by Wikileaks. The documents provide evidence that US forces regularly overlooked examples of torture and abuse of detainees by Iraqi forces, and have led the Deputy Prime Minister to describe the allegations as “extraordinarily serious”, and to pledge that any evidence that UK forces were involved will be investigated. (Herald page 2, Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 1, Scotsman page 14, Courier page 14)

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Nuclear Submarine: The nuclear submarine HMS Astute, which ran aground off Skye for around 10 hours on Friday, will head back to its base in Faslane for further tests after reports that its charts were inaccurate. The submarine is thought to have strayed several hundred yards away from the safe sea-lane area it was aiming for, and after having checks performed on it already, it will travel to Faslane unaided for further examination. The Ministry of Defence has launched an inquiry into why Britain’s most advanced attack submarine ran aground, and will examine whether the crew should be held responsible. (Scotsman page 12, Telegraph page 17, Courier page 9)

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Economy

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Recovery: George Osborne\’s claim that the UK economy can withstand spending cuts will be thrown into serious doubt this week when new figures show a dramatic slowdown in growth. The Chancellor will face more tough questions over the £81 billion of cuts laid out in last week\’s spending review as GDP is expected to have slowed to around 0.4 per cent in the third quarter from 1.2 per cent in the previous three months. The figures are likely to trigger further fear over a double dip recession as the UK economy staged a significant slowdown even before the effects of the spending reductions kick in. (Scotland on Sunday page B1, Bryan Johnston page B10, Sunday Times page 20-21, FT page 2, Press and Journal page 5)

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Cameron Promises Dynamism: Prime Minister David Cameron will today announce the creation of a £200 million network of technological innovation centres in an attempt to replace the jobs lost through the UK Government’s spending cuts. In a speech at the CBI conference in London, the Prime Minister will place his emphasis on job creation and economic growth in the private sector, which must grow to make up for the £490,000 lost in public sector employment. While the Conservatives are attempting to portray the move as a new opportunity for Britain, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, will accuse them of lacking a plan for rebuilding growth and of risking the possibility of a double-dip recession. (Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 4, Scotsman page 11, Herald page 2) 

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Unemployment: Iain Duncan Smith has faced fresh criticism over his remarks that the unemployed should “get on a bus”, after it emerged that there are nine times more job-seekers than there are jobs in Cardiff, where his comments were directed. The Work and Pensions Secretary said that people in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales had become “static” and should take the one-hour bus ride to Cardiff to seek work, however research by the Public and Commercial Services Union has shown that there are 15,000 unemployed people in Cardiff, competing for 1,700 jobs. Unions have responded with criticism, accusing the minister of “insulting” the unemployed. (Scotsman page 6)

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Households Save: Scots are expected to cut their spending by £1.3 billion over the next 6 months in response to the government’s impending austerity measures, according to a study carried out by YouGov. The average Scot is expected to reduce their spending by £319 over the next six months, with Scots expecting to make bigger savings than the UK as an average, due to greater fears over the effects of government cuts. (Herald page 7)  

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Disabled Employment: More than 20,000 severely disabled people will receive help in finding work each year as part of a new UK Government scheme. The programme, called Work Choice, aims to help people with disabilities to find work which suits their physical capabilities, as well as to help those already in employment advance in their own career. The move is part of a UK Government plan to reduce the number of disabled people who receive benefits. (Telegraph page 2)

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Scottish Fisheries: Scottish fisheries will receive £11 million in European funding from the European Fisheries Fund, protecting and creating 3,500 jobs, according to the Scottish Government. Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead said “the European Fisheries Fund will help the industry invest in vital, new equipment, increase production, and bolster employment.” The industry is worth over £1 billion to the Scottish economy. (Scotsman page 5)

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Sainsbury’s Investment: Sainsbury’s is set to announce £40 million in investment in its rural supply chain, spending the money over the next 3 years with a view towards improving farming efficiency through better infrastructure. Sainsbury’s is the UK’s third biggest grocery chain, and has already invested £21 million in its farming development groups since their creation. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 2)

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Justice

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Child Protection: New child protection rules have been described as an “identity scheme by another name” by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, which claims the laws are simply a “box ticking exercise”, and has written to the children’s minister to register their concerns. They claim that the checks, which are performed through the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act, amount to an identity card scheme since the disclosures are unnecessary and the records are held on file permanently. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 1) 

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Cannabis: A record number of cannabis farms have been found by police in Fife and Tayside, prompting fears over increased finance available for organised crime. 110 cannabis cultivations were detected in Fife between 2009 and 2010, meaning there has been an increase of 9 times the number of such farms in the last 10 years. A spokesperson for the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency said “The commercial cultivation of cannabis represents a highly profitable business for serious organised crime groups and is one which they believe is low risk.” (Courier page 1)

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Police contracts: Chief police officers are being put on three-year contracts because Scotland\’s eight forces will be merged into one or three as early as April 2013. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has written to forces instructing them not to give new chief officers contracts of more than three years – two years shorter than previously. The move will be challenged by Northern Constabulary, which is looking to appoint a new chief constable next month and a new deputy early next year and wants to be able to offer five-year deals. Both the Scottish Government and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) deny the shorter-term contracts reflect a timetable for restructuring. But sources say civil servants have pencilled in 1 April 2013 as the earliest possible date for the merger, which was announced by First Minister Alex Salmond at the SNP party conference last week. (Scotland on Sunday page 5)

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Transport 

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Airport Tax: Edinburgh airport will see the introduction of the new “kiss and fly” charge this week, despite opposition from MSPs. 68 MSPs, all of those who responded, told The Scotsman they were opposed to the £1 fee, which will be charged against those dropping passengers off at the terminal. Edinburgh airport said that the charge was needed to fund a new drop-off area beside the terminal, but has faced criticism from political parties, who have predicted a back-lash from passengers. (Scotsman page 7) 

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Health

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Diabetes: Junk food has been blamed for the rising numbers of people suffering from diabetes in Scotland, with 14,000 new cases diagnosed in the last 12 months. Scotland’s problems with obesity are cited as the main factor behind the rise in cases, and statistics indicate that one in ten Scots are likely to have diabetes by 2030. Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said “Unless we change our food culture, it’s going to be hard to change these trajectories.” (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 9, Guardian page 7)

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Treatment Roadtrip: Patients in Ayrshire suffering from back problems have had to travel 200 miles to Middlesbrough for treatment due to a lack of specialised surgeons available locally. The news has prompted a review by the Scottish Government after a number of other health boards reported similar problems in sourcing treatment. Cathy Jamieson, Labour MSP for Kilmarnock, described the news as “astonishing” and said that the travel for treatment could disrupt patient’s recovery. (Herald page 4)

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Cancer cure: Salmonella, the bacteria best known for causing food poisoning, could be used to cure people of cancer, Scottish research suggests. Scientists at Glasgow University have discovered how a protein in the bug manipulates what happens in the body\’s cells, causing them to die off. This ability could be directed to kill cancerous cells, potentially curing the disease. In future it is hoped that special forms of salmonella could be injected into patients to destroy their cancer, before they are treated with antibiotics to rid them of any remaining bacteria. Cancer experts have welcomed the research, which could, after extensive testing, lead to new treatments in the next five to ten years. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

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Education

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More competitive universities: The Scottish university sector needs to adopt a more competitive and independent, American-style outlook if it is to thrive, Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of Glasgow University, argues today. Professor Muscatelli says that there has to be more competition between Scotland’s universities, both in terms of research funding and in terms of teaching. He also calls for the university sector to be as independent as possible from the government, claiming that the best performing universities are often those that are most autonomous from any government control. (Times page 17, Opinion page 22)

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Ice Lollies: Glasgow primary schools could move to stop the sale of ice lollies after complaints from parents, teachers and local councillors. The sale of items such as ice lollies, muffins and fairy cakes is thought to undermine efforts by parents and teachers to encourage healthy eating. (Herald page 3)