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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 01 November 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 01 November 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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Bomb Suspect: Saudi-born Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri was last night named by US officials as the prime suspect in the alleged al-Qaeda bomb plot, in which two explosive packages were sent via passenger jets from Yemen to Dubai and the East Midlands. The plan is thought to have been made by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and, had it not been foiled by a tip-off in Dubai, could have brought down the aircraft at any time. The bombs, made of PETN, were virtually undetectable using standard security measures and could not have been found either by scanners or sniffer dogs. Home Secretary Theresa May has launched a review of airport security in response. (Herald page 1, Time page 1, Scotsman page 8, Press and Journal page 5, Daily Record page 1, Sun page 1, Daily Mirror page 1, Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 1, Sunday Times page 1, FT page 1)

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Holyrood Powers: Holyrood could be given control over areas such as speed limits, drink-driving laws, and anti-illegal drug measures as early as next year, in the biggest changes to Scotland’s powers since devolution. Tax powers could be transferred before the expected date of 2015, in a move which is part of the Calman Commission’s plan to enhance Scottish devolution. The SNP have described the plans as “unworkable”, following the UK coalition government’s first budget in June, arguing that the Scottish government needed full tax powers rather than the limited ones laid out in the Calman Commission’s proposal. (Times page 3)

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Quango Bonuses: Over a third of Scotland’s Quango chiefs have agreed to waive bonus payments in response to a plea by the Finance Secretary John Swinney. John Swinney has welcomed the news and thanked those who made the decision for setting an example. Meanwhile Lib Dem spokesperson Jeremy Purvis accused Mr Swinney of being “pathetically grateful” and demanded greater control over bonus payments. (Scotsman page 6)

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Defence Bid Criticised: Politicians and anti-nuclear campaigners have become united in their criticism of an attempt by a group of contractors, led by controversial US defence firm Lockheed Martin, to take over the running of the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport on the Clyde. The proposed move, which is intended to save money in the face of cuts to defence spending, was described as “irresponsible” by Labour MSP for Dumbarton, Jackie Bailie. The Coulport base houses the UK’s Trident nuclear system and the prospect of privatising control over such an important facility has led SNP spokesperson Angus Robertson to pledge the SNP’s support in resisting any such move. (Scotsman page 12)  

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Defence Cooperation: Prime Minister David Cameron will tomorrow sign an historic defence treaty with French President Sarkozy, which will mean UK and French forces training and potentially fighting together. Under the expected agreement British and French forces will share transport planes, aircraft carrier capabilities and will acquire equipment together. Critics have questioned the extent to which Britain can rely on France to support its national interest and have pointed out that differences in language, operational procedure and logistics may hamper cooperation. (Times page 9)  

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Emissions: An environmental group has warned that political in-fighting could derail Scotland’s attempts to meet its ambitious carbon emission reduction targets. Scotland has committed itself to reducing carbon emissions by 42% by 2010, however Friends of the Earth Scotland’s chief executive Duncan McLaren has said that unless political leaders can agree on a strategy to reduce emissions, and agree to take difficult and potentially unpopular decisions, then the nation would not be able to keep to its commitments. He said- “there should be no crude efforts to gain political advantage by resisting policies that will benefit Scotland as well as ensuring the country meets its targets”. Friends of the Earth Scotland has recommended road tolls and congestion charges as a means of encouraging environmental sustainability. (Herald page 2)

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Labour Spending Pledges: Scottish Labour is facing questions over its spending plans after pledging £100 million in new policies at its conference, months before £1 billion is due to be cut from the Scottish budget. A series of expensive Labour election manifesto promises would be paid for with a radical overall of Scotland’s public sector, Labour finance spokesperson Andy Kerr said at the party conference yesterday. Whilst Scottish Labour insisted its plans would “add up”, opposition parties questioned whether the plans were cost-effective, and asked where the necessary cuts would come from. The SNP claim the plans amount to £1.7 billion in increased spending, leading Angus Robertson, SNP election coordinator, to describe the pledges as “another case of head-in-the-sand economics from Labour and Iain Gray.” The Scotsman’s editorial argues that Scottish Labour must find a way to balance the need for budgetary cuts with an agenda of “fairness”. The editorial suggests public sector reform- for example the creation of a single national police force- are the best solution, and urges politicians to be honest in recognising the need for cuts when making election pledges. (Scotsman page 1 Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane comments page 7, Sunday Herald page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

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Cuts Criticism: Shadow Scottish Secretary Anne McKechin has told the Scottish Labour conference in Oban that the cuts administered by the UK Government victimise women and children. In a speech in which she also attacked the “unjust and draconian” cuts to housing benefits, Ms McKechin said the cuts in July’s emergency budget would affect women 3 times more than men, and that 72% of the £9 billion in net personal tax increases and benefit decreases will be paid for by women. She said “a government that chooses to hit women and children hardest is a government without a heart.” (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 5, Press and Journal page 9)

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Economy

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Andy Kerr: Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Andy Kerr has said he intends to “declare war” on youth unemployment if Labour win power in May’s Holyrood elections, and has pledged to create 10,000 new jobs or training places for young people. Mr Kerr will put £40 million into the new Scottish Future Jobs Fund, as well as seeking investment from Scottish businesses and the UK Government. The move comes in response to the news that the number of young Scots not engaged in work, training or education programmes has risen from 31,000 to 36,000 in the past year, the biggest increase since devolution. (Herald page 1)

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Energy sector: Alex Salmond will this week announce a major training initiative to solve a looming skills crisis in Scotland\’s renewable energy sector. The First Minister is expected to unveil a scheme, believed to involve Siemens, at trade body Renewables UK\’s conference in Glasgow, held between Tuesday and Friday. (Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Graduate Unemployment: Graduate unemployment is at its highest in nearly 20 years, according to a study carried out by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit. Around 21,000 students left university last year and had still not found a job six months later, due to the effects of the financial crisis and the ensuing recession, meaning graduate employment rates are at their lowest since 1992-1993. The research demonstrates that the public sector has been one of the few areas to continue to recruit graduates, however cuts to this sector are likely to reverse this trend in line with the rest of the economy, spelling bad news for graduates. (Scotsman page 18)   

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Oil-Windfarm Clash: Oil and Gas UK has warned that planned off-shore wind farm projects will encroach on areas that are licensed for oil exploration, and could lead to a major clash. The industry body claims that off-shore wind farms could disrupt mobile drilling rigs, helicopter flights and interfere with underwater equipment and pipelines. While Oil and Gas UK threatened that the conflict of interests could lead to legal action against wind farm companies, Greenpeace accused the oil industry of attempting to scupper the UK’s chances of meeting its carbon reduction targets. WWF director Richard Dixon said that while the two industries should be able to work together, “if anyone is going to sue anyone to make sure their project goes ahead, it should probably be the other way round”. (Scotsman page 10   

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Justice

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Strathclyde Police: Strathclyde police have been forced to axe one of its most senior posts in response to cuts in its budget. The number of assistant chief constables will be reduced from 4 to 3, as part of a move towards making large scale redundancies which could also see a quarter of the force’s civilian staff lose their jobs. (Herald page 2) 

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Adoption Myth: Parents who are potentially eligible to adopt children are being put-off from doing so by myths held about adoption, according to new research by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering. People often wrongly think that they would not qualify for adoption, leading to children in Scotland missing out on finding a permanent family. Misconceptions include the idea that smokers, single men and anyone over 40 cannot adopt a child, and have led Barbara Hudson, director of the association, to be concerned that “people may disqualify themselves needlessly, which could mean a child misses out on a family.” (Herald page 10)

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Transport 

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Bus Initiative Postponed: A scheme by Renfrewshire Council to reduce the number of high-polluting buses on its roads has been delayed by 2 years over fears that it would bankrupt small firms. The move was intended to improve both bus services and air quality, and the delay has been criticised by the two biggest bus companies, McGill’s and Arriva, which have both already made moves to upgrade their fleets to meet the targets. (Herald page 8)

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High-Speed Rail: A campaign to have Edinburgh and Glasgow included in the up-coming high-speed rail network will be launched this week in response to meetings between Holyrood and Westminster over the planned route. Scotland has not been included in the plan, which will see the creation of high-speed trains between London and Birmingham, with further links to Manchester and the east coast. The links, if they were extended to Scotland, could reduce travel time to London to just over two hours, and have been described as a “matter of national importance” by the leaders of both Glasgow and Edinburgh Councils. (Scotsman page 13) 

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Local Government

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Highlands and Islands: Professor Jim Hunter, ex-chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, has said that Scotland’s two enterprise networks should be scrapped rather than merged, and suggests the creation of Highlands and Islands regional government. Professor Hunter believes that such a regional government could take responsibility for emergency services, health provision as well as taking on the current duties of local authorities. (Herald page 4)

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Health

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Hip Procedure Flawed: Doctors at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital have been told to investigate the high proportion of failed hip replacements, after medical experts questioned the use of a particular metal hip prosthesis. The figures are part of an audit carried out as part of the Scottish Arthroplasty Project, and show that more than 2 in every 100 patients in south Glasgow had to return for repairs to hip replacements within a year, which is more than double the rate for northern Glasgow. A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said they would examine the report’s findings. (Herald page 5)   

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Home Accidents: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has announced that accidents in the home cost the UK £45.6 billion a year in hospital bills, time of work and benefits. Research by the charity shows that the cost of accidents has nearly doubled since 1996, though the figure does not include the cost to the economy of deaths caused by accidents in the home, which come to around £1.16 million. (Herald page 5, Scotsman page 12, Press and Journal page 8)

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Education

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Philosophy Classes: In an attempt to boost children’s listening, critical thinking and questioning skills, schools in Inverclyde will test a pilot scheme based on teaching philosophy. The Thinking and Creating Project, which already operates in 4 primary schools, covers topics such as the importance of rules in society, identity, and belief, and may be expanded to other areas so as to cover more children. Michael Russell, Education secretary, said “by using philosophical and creative activity young people are encouraged to be resourceful, flexible, confident and responsible.” (Herald page 7)