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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 12 November 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 12 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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Cultural attractions: The Scottish Government is arguing against any introduction of admission fees for important cultural attractions, such as the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Museums. These organisations, together with the Royal Botanic Gardens, will have to find other ways of making savings, as their budgets are due to be cut in the next spending plan. Trustees will have the final say, but it is thought that the SNP will try to shield galleries and museums from the majority of the cuts, providing that entrance fees are not brought in. However, cuts for agencies such as Historic Scotland may see prices increased at attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Linlithgow Palace. (The Scotsman, pages 1 & 4)

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Moray RAF base: Defence Secretary Liam Fox confirmed last night that no decision would be made on the future of RAF Lossiemouth until next year. His comments came during talks with Moray SNP MP Angus Robertson yesterday. Mr Robertson pressed the case for retaining Lossiemouth because it would be the best place to base new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft due to be purchased from the United States, while he also raised concerns over the economic and social impact of the withdrawal of the RAF from Kinloss. He said Dr Fox had told him that no decision would be taken until the New Year — prolonging the uncertainty for families of service personnel. (Press and Journal page 15, Telegraph page 3)

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Welfare Reforms: The new reforms to the welfare system introduced by the UK Coalition Government have been met with anger by Scottish charities, churches and anti-poverty groups. The proposals include a 10% reduction in housing benefit for those unemployed for one year and forced manual labour for some of the unemployed. The UK Government has said it wants to help those “trapped” in the benefits system and estimates that the alterations could lift 85,000 Scots out of poverty. (Herald, page 5)

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BBC journalist strike: A planned strike by BBC journalists which would have disrupted TV and radio programmes next week was called off last night to allow fresh talks to be held in a row over pensions. Members of the National Union of Journalists staged a 48-hour walkout last Friday and Saturday and were due to strike again next Monday and Tuesday. But the union said last night the corporation had agreed to hold fresh talks about planned changes to the pension scheme and had also dropped disciplinary action taken against a handful of employees who took part in last week’s strike. (Press and Journal page 5, Guardian page 7, Courier page 12)

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Economy

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Construction industry: The Scottish Government plans to re-route money from departmental budgets into capital projects in a bid to increase construction work and maintain economic growth. The money would go towards the building of schools, ongoing maintenance work and the new Forth crossing, which alone is said to cost £1.7 billion. The Finance Secretary John Swinney is promoting the idea, on the understanding that a more robust economy would help Scotland to cope with the public sector cuts due to begin in April next year. However, critics argue that the ring-fencing of such projects will only lead to deeper cuts in the “resource” budget, used to pay for health and education. (The Scotsman, page 4)

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Consultant fees: More than £21 million was spent on consultants and contract workers by Scottish Enterprise last year, with Scottish Futures Trust and Skills Development Scotland also registering high bills. The findings were criticised by the Scottish Labour Leader, Iain Gray, who contrasted the amount of money spent with the amount of jobs being cut across the country. (The Scotsman, page 5, Telegraph page 16, Alan Cochrane comments page 15)

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Fishing quotas: Brussels has called for more fishing quota cuts and said conservation measures were not protecting cod stocks. European Commission proposals for catching opportunities next year delivered grim prospects for the fleet – and skippers warned that many of them would not survive another year of belt-tightening. On the west coast, they are facing a 50% cut in the annual cod quota, a 25% cut for haddock and 15% cuts for prawns and monkfish. (Press and Journal page 1, The Herald page 1)

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STV production bid blocked: STV has failed in a bid to become an “independent producer” of programmes rather than just a broadcaster. The change would have enabled the Scottish company to provide some programmes for the BBC and Channel 4, and would have allowed for a new ‘creative hub’ of TV production in Scotland. However, the UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated that such a move would damage the commercial prospects of smaller Scottish production companies. (Herald, page 7)

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Justice

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Short-term sentencing: The SNP’s flagship policy of scrapping short-term prison sentences will fail unless Finance Secretary John Swinney finds the extra money to pay for it when his budget plans are unveiled next week, former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has warned. He said it would be a ‘tragedy’ if the Scottish Government failed to find the money. (Times page 30, Press and Journal page 12)

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New personal injuries court: A new court is to be set up in Edinburgh to deal with all accident compensation claims, in a bid to free up the rest of Scotland’s court system from such cases. The proposals have been introduced by Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk. Amongst his 206 recommendations were the introduction of specialist sheriffs to focus on commerce law and a new Sheriff Appeal Court. The plans have been formally supported by the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. (Herald, page 8)

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Classification of legal drugs: The British system of classifying illegal drugs is no longer effective and should be scrapped altogether, leaving the courts to deal with offenders on a case-by-case basis, Scotland’s foremost expert argues today. Neil McKeganey, founding director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow has said he believes the current system, which seeks to distinguish between hard and soft drugs by ranking them from A to C, has become so debased by political wrangling and disagreement amongst scientists that it is no longer fit for purpose. (Times page 1, page 3)

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Health

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The Glasgow Effect: A study carried out by the Scottish Government has found that those living in Glasgow and the Clyde area are more likely to suffer from anxiety and heart attacks than those in the rest of Scotland. The report discovered that, even after removing biological, behavioural and socio-economic factors, people in Glasgow were still “one and a half times as likely to have had a doctor diagnosed heart attack”. The Labour MSP for Glasgow Anniesland stated that the findings should be “a wake-up call to politicians”. (The Scotsman, page 12, Herald, page 4)

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Education

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Education Powers: The First Minister Alex Salmond suggested he was open to the prospect of powers being removed from councils and handed to schools. One option under consideration is letting charitable trusts run schools which is being examined by East Lothian Council. Another is to create regional ‘clusters’ of schools that share resources and experience. (Telegraph page 1, TESS page 4)

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New Scottish Curriculum: The Professor of Education Policy at Edinburgh University has called for a reassessment of the government’s newly introduced Curriculum for Excellence, effective in both secondary and primary schools. Professor Lindsay Paterson stated that there was a need for “sound data, rigorously analysed by researchers” as this would be the only way of measuring “the success of the reforms”. His comments came after the Education Secretary, Michael Russell, said that a catastrophe in teaching had been avoided, and that standards were now “better than ever” thanks to the alterations. However, a small survey of teachers, carried out by the Educational Institute of Scotland, revealed that just over half of those questioned “do not feel confident in their own personal state of readiness” with regards to the new curriculum. (The Scotsman, page 15, Herald page 3)

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University budgets: The Government and Scottish Funding Council (SFC) are coming under increasing pressure from colleges and universities to allow them to set their budgets for more than one year. Finance Secretary John Swinney will announce his financial settlement next Wednesday, and it will provide details of what the public sector can expect for just the one financial year, 2011-12. That will be "incredibly problematic," according to Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland. The funding council fixes its grants for further and higher education on the basis of the academic year from August, rather than the financial year which starts in April. (TESS page 18)

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