REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 10 NOVEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 10 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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Scottish Water: SNP ministers were accused by the Lib Dems last night of shelving legislation on Scottish Water amid claims of growing problems over how an expansion of the utility’s role is to be funded. Ministers, however, said that the legislation, which would see Scottish Water become a major generator of renewable electricity, was being delayed so as to allow more ambitious plans than originally envisaged. (Times page 23)

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Festival Tax & Alcohol: Music festivals such as T in the Park could be made to pay the bill for drink-related disruption at their events under new plans to impose a “social responsibility levy” on anyone serving alcohol in Scotland. The proposed “clear up” tax would also apply to hotels, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, pubs and bars and be used to pay for the policing and health costs caused by alcohol sales. A ban on promotions, such as two-for-one deals, and tight restrictions on advertising are also set to be enacted today (Scottish Daily Mail page 1). However, a proposal to introduce a minimum price on all drinks is still opposed by the majority of all parties. (Scotsman page 4)

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Fallago Rig: Plans for Fallago Rig wind farm in Lammermuir Hills is finally set to go ahead after a seven year fight with local residents and campaigners. The opposition to the 48-turnbine project was based on the unsightliness of the structures, and the wish to protect the natural beauty of the area. The developers say that the project will power 660,000 homes, creating 600 jobs, and providing £240,000 a year to the local community for environmental improvements and sustainable development projects. (Scotsman page 9 & Herald page 12 & Times page 3 & Scottish Daily Mail page 13)

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School Power: Leading educationists and head teachers at the Managing Scotland’s Schools conference, run by Reform Scotland and Holyrood magazine, called for a “power shift” to schools. Tory and Liberal Democrats at Holyrood offered support to the idea of more power in the hands of schools. (Scotsman page 11). School Leaders Scotland (SLS), which represents secondary head teachers, said at the conference that the so-called concordat that ended ring fencing of public funds is responsible for the wide disparity between funding available to similar sized schools. This view was supported by Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Head teachers and Deputies in Scotland, which represents the primary sector, warning that the situation is only going to digress with the upcoming budget cuts. (Times page 17). An un-named spokesman for the Scottish Government is quoted in the Herald defending the education system in Scotland, saying that funding since 2006-7 has risen by 5.9% and arguing that the concordat gave more power to councils to take decisions about they spend public money. (Herald page 2)

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Scotland’s Education secretary Michael Russell, also at the conference, ruled out major reform to the institutional structure of Scotland’s education system, stating that improvement was necessary, radical change was not. Mr Russell argued for a more diverse system in which teachers would be given much greater power over policy at school level, backed up by direct funding, channelled through a new Schools Funding Council. (Herald page 2). Mr Russell further went on to say that he felt competition was not in the best interest of Scottish schools and would fail to drive up standards. However, Mr Russel was forced to admit his views contradicted those of international experts and the OECD who have concluded that competition does help drive standards. (Daily Telegraph page 4)

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Citizen’s Advice: Two offices of Scotland’s network of Citizen’s Advice bureaux face closure as a result of funding cuts, and fears are mounting that more closures are to follow. The two offices in Arran and Largs are being axed as spending cuts to the public sector are beginning to impact on the third sector. (Herald page 11)

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Economy

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Home Produce: Supermarket chain Tesco revealed that sales of locally-produced Scottish fare had soared by over 17% over the past year to more than £300million. The figure coincided with a record high increase in Scottish food and drink exports, with international trade reaching an all time high of £4.06 billion in 2009. (Press and Journal page 1)

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Justice

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Police Wages: The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) has suggested axing all payments made to officers who take on additional responsibilities or training, pointing to the £16million annual savings this would result in. However, the proposal has set Acpos against the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), the bodies representing rank-and-file and senior operational officers respectively. All three bodies are locked in negotiation with the Scottish Government, which has yet to approve the wage cuts as it plans its response to UK-wide budget cuts. (Herald page 1)

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Transport 

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Road Safety: Scottish Roads have been ranked the third safest in the world, behind only England and Sweden, in a new international league table released today. The table puts the number of road deaths per head of population at 42 per million – after figures earlier this year showed the number of people killed on the road fell by 20% over the previous 12 months. (Scotsman page 15)

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In a related story, Transport Minister Steward Stevenson today renewed the Scottish Government’s pledge to dualling the A9 road. The road has a reputation for serious accidents, and work has already started to convert a two-mile northern stretch to dual-carriageway. (Courier page 1)

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Coast-to-Coast rail: The new Airdrie-Bathgate railway line enables a journey between Scotland’s two main cities that has not been possible for more than half a century next month. The fifteen miles of track through the Central Belt countryside will mean that for the first time, regular coast-to-coast services can run in Scotland. This will give passengers in the West End of Glasgow direct services to Edinburgh from stations such as Partick and Hyndland up to four times an hour. (Scotsman page 21)

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Edinburgh’s Trams: Bilfinger Berger has backed down from legal action against former trams chairman David Mackay for calling the firm a “delinquent” contractor. The preliminary hearing was to be held at the Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday; however, behind the scenes discussions took place between the parties and their lawyers, and the court was informed that the hearing would not be going ahead. (Scotsman page 1). Despite the withdrawal of legal action, the war of words between Bilfinger Berger and Mr. Mackay continues. (Scotsman page 2)

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Local Government

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Hogmanay Edinburgh: The main organiser of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, Pete Irvine, has urged the Scottish Government to keep the dedicated fund for Edinburgh’s festivals running after it ploughed almost £200,000 into a programme of new events on 1 January. He pointed to the record high ticket sales, despite higher prices, and the “tangible” economic benefits the festival brings to the city. (Scotsman page 12)

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Biomass Plans: Forth Energy has released the first images of its proposed biomass plant to be built on the Leith waterfront in Edinburgh. The structure will have a chimney stack twice as tall as the Scott Monument, and has sparked high-profile protest against its construction from campaigners and MSPs across political parties. The firm claims that 72% of the people in the area are backing the project. The plant would generate up to 200 megawatts of electricity and 60 megawatts of heat for the local network. (Scotsman page 22)

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Council Budget talks: The unity of councils\’ umbrella group, Cosla, disintegrated last night after Labour pulled out of talks with senior government ministers over next week’s Budget. The claim that Labour councils “will not be bound” by any deal makes it more likely that they will press ahead with plans for council tax hikes, although should the SNP go on to win the Holyrood election next May there will still be penalties in place to force their hand against this. (Herald page 5)

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Health

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Smoking Costs: A new report by anti-smoking group ASH Scotland, “Up in the Air”, has estimated that smoking costs Scotland almost £1.1 billion a year. The report focuses on factors such as the cost to the NHS and the loss of production caused by workers on smoke breaks, illness and premature deaths caused by smoking. The report goes on to compare this cost to the £940 million received in tobacco duty in Scotland. (Scotsman page 11 & Courier page 13)