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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 03 NOVEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 3 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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50 year defence treaty: Yesterday, President Nicholas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron committed their countries to the closest military relationship in their history. As well as an integrated carrier group, the new treaties will see the creation of a joint rapid reaction brigade, the sharing of nuclear technology, and closer cooperation on cyber terrorism. Questions have been raised on where refitting and maintenance would take place: Brest in Normandy or Rosyth. Officials briefed that there “should be an assumption” that these activities would take place at the Fife dockyard. (Scotsman page 8 & Herald page 8 & Guardian page 10).

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Proponents see the deal as the beginning of a new chapter in Franco-British relations, although critics warn that the two nations have divergent strategic interests. (Press and Journal page 10 & Times page 16 & Daily Express page 4 & Daily Mirror page 12-13). The deal also means that Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines will be developed jointly with France. This will no doubt fuel speculation of a future merging of the two countries’ nuclear deterrents. (Daily Telegraph page 10)

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Immigration Cap: MPs warned today that the Westminster Government’s planned immigration cap will make “little difference” and still allow more than 400,000 migrants into the UK every year. (Daily Telegraph page 8). If the permanent cap reduces the flow of skilled workers by the same rate – 5% – as the temporary cap currently in place it would only cut the overall level of net migration by 1%. The same MPs’ report points out that the cap will adversely affect students and separate families. (Guardian page 14)

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Fishing Ban: The Isle of Man has decided to ban the bulk of Scotland’s fishing trawlers from Manx waters. The bye-law has effectively prevented large Scottish fishing boats from fishing in their traditional scallop grounds around the island. (Scotsman page 2)

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Economy

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House Prices: Average property prices in Scotland have soared to an all-time high despite the economic downturn. The last quarter from July to September saw the average residential property price jump by 5.8% to £163,360, compared to the same period last year. The official figures from the Registers of Scotland (RoS) show that 28 of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas saw an increase in the average price. (Scotsman page 8-9). Eight local authority areas, Inverclyde, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and West Lothian returned their highest ever price. (Herald page 1 & page 6-7).

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The increase in house price comes despite plummeting sales, which are half the number compared to the height of the property boom in 2007. (Daily Express page 5)

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Renewables: First Minister Alex Salmond has announced the £70 million National Renewables Infrastructure Fund at the annual conference of RenewableUK, the industry body for green energy firms. RenewableUK confirmed that Scotland’s planning rate for new on shore farms a dropped to 63% from 95% last year, as campaign groups blocked development. However, the organisation attempted to counter this opposition, pointing to the average £7.9 million that communities take in on average for every wind farm development. (Scotsman page 21 & Courier page 13 & Herald page 8)

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Laser Industry: A new study has found that the laser industry is worth more than £600 million a year to the Scottish economy, employing more than 3,000 people with 82 firms working on the technology. (Courier page 11)

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Food Prices: Sharp increases in global wheat and corn prices are putting pressure on tight family budgets as the index for food price has increased 4.4% since October 2009. Experts warn of even higher increases in the New Year as VAT goes up again in January from 17.5% to 20%. (Daily Telegraph page 2 & Herald page 4 & Daily Mail page 1 & page 4)

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Dunfermline Renewables: A Tyneside renewables firm, fronted by Freddy Shepherd, have taken over the former mothballed Hyundai factory in Dunfermline in a multi-million pound deal set to create hundreds of jobs. The deal will be a relief for the area, as just two weeks ago the US firm Zoom Diversified had pulled out of buying the facility. (Courier page 1)

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Justice

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Crime Stats: A survey of 16,000 Scots by the Scottish Government has suggested housebreaking and theft are rising in Scotland. The figures show 13% more homes broken into and 19% more people reporting stolen valuables. However, the overall trend of crime has been a 10% fall since last year. Susan McVie, professor of quantative criminology at Edinburgh University, points to the temporary nature of such spikes saying “it’s not as if as the economy gets worse you get more and more [crime]– rather there’s a plateau”. (Scotsman page 6-7 & Daily Telegraph page 9 & Herald page 12)

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In a related story, a Scottish Government study has found that fewer Scots are reporting crime to police amid a crisis in public confidence in the service. Almost half of Scots admit they lack the confidence in the ability of police to capture criminals. (Scottish Daily Mail page 2)

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Prison Votes: Prime Minister David Cameron has conceded that there is nothing the UK Government could do to stop a European court ruling demanding prisoners have the right to vote. The alternative involves being faced with tens of millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money being used to fund compensation claims filed by prisoners. Depending on how quickly UK ministers are forced to act, there is a slim possibility that next year’s Scottish elections could be the first in which prisoners are entitled to vote. (Scotsman page 12 & Courier page 12 & Daily Telegraph page 1 & Times page 20).

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The SNP, Labour and the Conservatives all declared it was wrong for the UK Government to throw in the towel in the long-running wrangle with the European Court of Human Rights, while the Lib Dems expressed concern over serious criminals being allowed to vote. (Herald page 4)

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Transport 

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Edinburgh Trams: David Mackay, chairman of Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses is stepping down from both roles with immediate effect. He cited uncovering underground chambers on Princes Street, and misplaced cables as being behind some of the project delays. His decision to go follows a series of setbacks and arguments with Bilfinger Berger over completion of the tram line. The projects current spending is expected to exceed the £545million. (Scotsman page 1 & page 4-5)

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Local Government

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Intercontinental: Hotel giant Intercontinental is the front runner to buy the A-Listed former home of Donaldson’s School for the Deaf in Edinburgh. However, the hotel chain is also looking at venues on the sea front and near the airport. Cala, the previous developer of the Donaldson site, had planned to spend £80 million transforming the school but shelved the scheme due to the economic downturn. (Scotsman page 17)

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Aberdeen City Scandal: A new study has found that cash-strapped Aberdeen City Council had the highest sickness absence rates during 2009-10 at the same time as it spent taxpayers’ money on overseas trips. They had an average of 15.97 days lost per employee in the same year as they spent £43,077 on 63 trips – two of which were visits to Mexico and Lafayette in the USA. (Scotsman page 24)

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Health

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A&E bottlenecks: Dr Bill Morrison, Scotland’s top emergency doctor, warns that thousands of patients are abandoning their GPs and demanding treatment at hard pressed A&E departments ever year. He further suggested that “obstacles” put in the way of accessing GPs meant patients were turning instead to the “open door” of the A&E departments. (Scotsman page 11 & Daily Express page 10)