REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 17 November 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 17 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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Royal engagement: There has been extensive coverage of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, with Prime Minister David Cameron offering his congratulations to the couple outside Downing Street yesterday afternoon. (Scotsman page 1, page 4-5, 8-9 & Daily Telegraph page 1-13 & Press and Journal page 1,10-11 & Courier page 1, 15-16 & Daily Express page 1-7 & Daily Record page 1 & Scottish Daily Mail page 12-14). 28 year old Prince William has revealed that he proposed in Kenya with his mother Diana’s engagement ring.  (Herald page 1, page 7-8 & Times page 1, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13)

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Homeowner protection: The Scottish Parliament committee has given its backing to a proposal that would give homeowners more legal protection by enforcing new standards for factors and property managers. The move would create a compulsory register of property factors, instead of the voluntary accreditation scheme for property factors previously introduced by the Scottish Government. (Scotsman page 13 & Herald page 13)

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Sustainable Population: The green group the Optimum Population Trust has won the support of the Scottish Government and is being allowed to hold a conference at the Scottish Parliament today. The group, who’s most famous proponents are Sir David Attenborough and Sir James Lovelock, believes governments should act to limit families to just two children and proposes a crackdown on immigration to slash Scotland’s population by a quarter. The group has been labelled as “eco-fascists” by critics, while its supporters say the topic of sustainable population is something we should be discussing. (Scotsman page 15)

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Staff Cuts: Holyrood’s 400 staff are expected to be hit with a two year pay freeze as part of proposals to curb running costs announced yesterday. Almost £10 million will be saved under the plans revealed by the Scottish Parliament on the eve of the SNP Government’s draft budget today. Savings in administration represent a 12% claw-back over the next four financial years. (Daily Express page 15)

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Economy

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EU Irish bail-out: The European Union could collapse over the massive debt crunch afflicting member states, the president of the EU Council warned last night, as Ireland continued to reject the offer of a Brussels bailout. Talks between EU Finance Ministers were continuing last night, amid pressure on the Irish Government to accept the offer of EU support in order to buttress its fragile economy and so allay fears of a "contagion" of debt default sweeping through the continent. (Scotsman page 10 & Scottish Daily Mail page 35). Fears have grown that this is also pushing up the borrowing costs of other nations including Spain and Portugal. The situation has come at a difficult political time for the Coalition Government in Ireland as they face a crunch by-election at the end of this month, and PM Cowen is expected to call a general election sometime next year. (Herald page 8)

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State of the Economy: Scottish Households were handed more dire news yesterday as fresh warnings were released by the Bank of England on the state of the economy. Governor Mervyn King told people to expect above-target inflation to continue for about a year after another sharp rise in the cost of living last month. The prediction comes at a time when high street retail figures are at an 18-month low. According to the Scottish Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, consumer spending in Scotland fell by 1.1% in October compared to the previous year, with large one-off purchases (e.g. Sofas and kitchens) being the hardest hit items.  Meanwhile, the Scottish Trades Union Congress claimed the number of Scots who had claimed unemployment benefits for more than a year had increased by 131% since 2008. (Herald page 2 & Daily Express page 23)

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Pre-budget warning: Trade union leaders have warned that Scotland will be scarred by "high unemployment" unless Finance Secretary John Swinney puts job creation at the heart of the Scottish Government\’s spending plans when he unveils his Budget today. Mr Swinney will outline his Budget for 2011-12 this afternoon as the latest jobless figures are expected to show unemployment rising faster in Scotland than in any other part of the UK. The Finance Secretary is expected to announce a pay freeze for public-sector workers earning more than £21,000 a year from next April, saying it will save 10,000 jobs. (Scotsman page 11)

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Finance Secretary John Swinney has also been heavily criticised today by the Tories and Labour in the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Government’s one year ‘stop-gap’ budget. The budget, which includes cuts of £1.3 billion, faces accusations of a political fix, and opposition parties have demanded the budget be laid out for four years, as is done at Westminster, to allow better planning. (Times page 25). It is thought that where the NHS and the council tax freeze will be protected, transport, rural affairs and culture would bear the brunt of the cuts next year and the SNP are being called upon to explain where the axe will fall. (Daily Telegraph page 19)

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Rok Staff Cuts: A further 1,800 redundancies at building services firm Rok have been announced by administrators, including 294 jobs in Scotland. The closure of Rok’s construction business in Scotland and the firm’s UK maintenance and improvements division in the UK have resulted in the continuing job losses from the firm. Inverness will suffer most from the latest round, with 106 staff let go in the city. The rest of the job losses come from central Scotland (88), Glasgow (78), Dundee (15) and managerial posts (11). (Scotsman page 21 & Courier page 1, 11)

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Glasgow Jobs: The Commonwealth Jobs Fund, due to be announced today by Glasgow council leader Gordon Matheson at the annual State of the City conference, will attempt to create a thousand jobs for young unemployed people in Glasgow within the next two years. The scheme, which will cost £7 million, will target 18-24 year olds unemployed for more than 6-months. Mr Matheson said funding for the scheme was available because of the private sector’s commitment to the Commonwealth Apprenticeship Initiative. (Herald page 5)

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ASDA Jobs: Retail giant ASDA said yesterday they aim to create 7,500 more jobs next year through a combination of new stores, home shopping expansion and its takeover of Danish supermarket Netto in the UK. The firm has 383 stores nationwide, employing about 175,000 people, 20,000 of which are in Scotland. (Press and Journal page 21)

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Justice

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Sheridan Trial: Former MSP Tommy Sheridan accused the editor of the Scottish News of the World of putting the life of his unborn child at risk by printing allegations that he had had an affair. The judge called for a short adjournment after Mr Sheridan became emotional while referring to his wife Gail during exchanges with Bob Bird. The politician said a story printed in November 2004, alleging he had orgies with Fiona McGuire was "tripe" but had inflicted "emotional pain" on his pregnant wife. (Scotsman page 12)

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Sex Offender Human Rights: A landmark court case involving a 31-year-old man referred to as “Mr A” has successfully altered the law with respect to the sex offenders’ registry, and won a £1,000 payment. He claimed that adding his name to the sex offenders’ registry for life, following two sex attacks carried out when he was a teenager, breached his human rights. The key to his appeal was that there was no future appeal process to get his name removed from the list. Hundreds of sex offenders could be in line for damages as a result of the hearing. (Scotsman page 6 & Herald page 12 & Daily Record page 10 & Scottish Daily Mail page 20)

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In a related story, HM Inspector of Prisons, Brigadier Hugh Monro, wants prisoners to be better prepared before being freed and says that sex criminals in a Scottish jail could pose an increased risk of reoffending because they are not receiving treatment while incapacitated. About 25% of the inmates at Peterhead Prison have been recalled after release over breaches of supervision. (Scotsman page 13 & Herald page 12 & Daily Express page 19)

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Domestic Abuse declining: Domestic Abuse cases have fallen from 54,000 in 2008/9 to 52,000 in 2009/10, official figures show. Police also recorded more of these crimes, up to 62% from 55% the previous year, and reported more of the crimes to the Procurator Fiscal, up 4% on the previous year. (Herald page 10 & Press and Journal page 7)

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Local Government

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Housing conflict: Angus Housing association has been forced to shed jobs after failing to secure a deal with Angus Council; the contract has instead been given to a consortium of Dundee and Perth firms, which will make it the first port of call for any new council housing contracts in Angus. (Press and Journal page 1)

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Health

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Stem Cell Research: Scottish doctors have injected stems cells into the brain of a stroke patient in the search for new treatments, the first time stem cells have been used in this particular way anywhere in the world. The patient, a 60-year old man in Southern General Hospital, was injected with a very low dose of the treatment to gauge its safety for further use. (Scotsman page 13 & Herald page 10 & Times page 19 & Daily Express page 17 & Scottish Daily mail page 32)

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Scottish Life Expectancy: Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, has said in his annual report that life expectancy risks falling behind other European countries unless action is taken to give people more control over their health and wellbeing. He went on to say that there has to be a gradual shift from a focus on treating diseases to putting together projects which promote health and wellbeing. Currently, Scotland’s life expectancy is the lowest in Europe, and only slightly above Eastern European countries like Slovakia and Poland. He also warned that the economic recession could have serious repercussions for health among the working-age population. (Scotsman page 26 & Herald page 4 & Times page 26 & Daily Telegraph page 19)

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NHS Consultant Bonuses: Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has claimed today that Scotland has taken tougher measures than the rest of the UK to rein in distinction awards to medical consultants. The scheme has been frozen at last year’s cost of £28 million and will be cut by £2 million next year by allowing awards to expire and not replacing them with new recipients. Ms Sturgeon cited the limited availability of government funds, and the need to redirect resources to front-line healthcare services as the reasons for the cut. (Herald page 8)

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Education

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Gaelic Schools: Pupils taught in Gaelic perform better in reading and writing in English than their English taught peers, a study has found. Academics at Edinburgh University also found Gaelic-taught pupils performed just as well in science and maths, demonstrating they were not significantly disadvantaged by learning in another language. (Scotsman page 25 & Herald page 3)