REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 19 NOVEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 19 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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Tax Powers: Scottish Secretary Michael Moore revealed that arrangements which allow Scottish ministers to raise or lower income tax by up to 3p in the pound were "allowed to lapse" in 2007, just after the SNP came to power. SNP ministers had opted to do so because, under a deal with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), keeping the option of using the tax would have cost millions of pounds in administration fees. They decided that, as neither they nor any of the other major parties had plans to use the power, there was no point in spending money on it. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 1, Times page 1, Peter Jones page 13, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 8, Courier page 10) 

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Council agreement: A funding deal between the Scottish Government and councils is on shaky ground within 24 hours of being signed after the country\’s biggest local authority described it as "undeliverable" and two others revealed they would be axing 2,400 jobs. Glasgow City Council put the first cracks in the £11 billion settlement signed off by Finance Secretary John Swinney on Wednesday by warning it would be impossible to meet a list of demands he has set in the face of his cutbacks. They said they now faced a choice between agreeing to a deal they believe to be unrealistic or, by knocking it back, having to raise council tax by as much as 20 per cent next year. A third option, the council says, would be to sack 2,000 frontline staff, including social workers, teachers and bin men. (Scotsman page 4, George Kerevan comments page 33, Times page 20, Press and Journal page 2, Finance Secretary John Swinney in the Daily Express page 12, TESS page 3) 

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Public sector: Ministers will today sanction the drawing up of plans for the most radical shake-up of Scotland’s public sector in history. A commission, headed by former STUC chief Campbell Christie, will look to reform local government, the NHS and police and other emergency services. The outcome of the review, launched by First Minister Alex Salmond, could set the template for the future of public services for the next few decades, taking it way beyond the belt-tightening of the next 12 months as laid out in Wednesday’s Budget. (Herald page 6, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph page 11) 

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Independence expenditure: More than £1 million of taxpayers\’ cash has been spent on paying for civil servants to work on the SNP Government\’s campaign to promote independence, new figures have revealed. A total of 13 civil servants were still being paid to work in the Scottish Government\’s National Conversation, Referendum and Elections Division, even though the SNP has dumped its plans for a referendum this parliament. Labour, which obtained the figures up to the end of September 2010 in a reply to a parliamentary question, said wages, pensions and other costs associated with employing the staff totalled £1.2m over two years. (Scotsman page 4, Times page 13, Press and Journal page 11) 

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Constituency map: Scotland’s capital could lose two of its five Westminster seats as a result of the UK Coalition Government\’s plans to redraw the constituency boundaries in Britain, new research suggests. The proposal to reduce UK constituencies by 50 to 600 in 2015 and even out their size to about 75,000 voters per seat is set to hit cities across the UK. As well as Edinburgh losing seats, the Labour Party research suggests that Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow may lose some seats and see others extended beyond the cities\’ boundaries. (Scotsman page 11) 

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Scottish Politician of the Year Awards: The Scottish Politician of the Year Awards took place last night at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, with the top prize going to back bencher Hugh Henry, who saw off his own party leader, Iain Gray, LibDem leader Tavish Scott and Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon to win the award at the ceremony. (Herald page 1) 

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Assisted suicide bill: Margo Macdonald has accused fellow MSPs who rejected her Assisted Suicide Bill of ignoring the evidence because of their “known hostility” to the concept.  The Independent MSP for the Lothians, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, spoke out yesterday after a Scottish Parliament committee recommended that her End of Life Assistance Bill to change the law should be rejected.  The committee said it found no case for changing the law to give terminally ill people over the age of 16 the right to die.  (Herald page 6, Times page 21, Press and Journal page 6, Courier page 11, Daily Record page 2, Sun page 7) 

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Civil servant bonuses: Millions of pounds of bonuses will continue to be paid to civil servants next year despite Scotland’s Finance Minister insisting he has implemented a pay freeze. A document on pay policy reportedly makes clear this does not “interfere” with the payment of “progression” bonuses.  In addition, those civil servants earning slightly more than £21,000 can be handed a salary increase to ensure there is no “leapfrogging” by those earning slightly less than the threshold. (Telegraph page 6)

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Scottish museums: Grant cuts mean the National Museums of Scotland is now worse off than its counterparts in London, the institution said last night. Scotland’s national collections of artefacts and art have both warned of the damaging effects of cuts to their Government grants. Last night, the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) did not rule out introducing admission charges following a cut to its budget and said it could only hope to avoid them. National Museums Scotland (NMS) said its cut meant it was significantly worse off than its counterparts in London. Neither institution wants to levy admission charges to their main sites in Edinburgh, but may be forced to following 4% cuts to their grants this week. The NGS money was reduced from £12.5 million this year to £11.9m in 2011/12, while the NMS sees its income fall from £21.27m to £20.385m. (Herald page 7, Times page 20) 

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David Mundell: Scotland Office minister David Mundell will not be prosecuted over allegations he breached the rules with his election expenses, it was confirmed yesterday.

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Mr Mundell, Scotland’s only Tory MP, was interviewed by police in September. But no proceedings will be taken against him or his election agent Joe Dawson. A spokeswoman confirmed: “The Crown Office received a report concerning two men, aged 25 and 48, in relation to an alleged incident in June 2010. “After careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances, Crown counsel has instructed there should be no proceedings. The case is now closed.” (Press and Journal page 11) 

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Economy

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UK growth: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) yesterday cast doubt on the growth forecasts on which Chancellor George Osborne is relying by slashing its prediction of UK expansion next year from 2.5% to 1.7%.

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This sharp cut in the forecast means that it is now much gloomier about the prospects for UK growth than the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which was set up by Mr Osborne to provide independent figures on the economy. (Herald page 38, Telegraph page B1)

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Justice

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Potential terrorist threat: A counter-terror operation was under way last night after an explosion in Scottish woodland. Anti-terrorism and bomb disposal experts from the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Navy have been called in after a walker heard what sounded like a bomb going off in Garadhban Forest, Loch Lomond. Police have promised to continue intensive patrols in the area for the next three days, and a spokesman for the Scottish Government said ministers were being kept informed. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 2, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Record page 1, Daily Express page 1) 

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Sheridan trial: A woman has admitted that she met Tommy Sheridan at Cupid’s swingers’ club in Manchester and invited him to dinner. Pamela Tucker, 39, told the High Court in Glasgow yesterday she had known Mr Sheridan from his involvement in politics and spoke to him at Cupid\’s swingers\’ club in Manchester when he was collecting friends. The group went to her home, and she and Mr Sheridan had gone out for pizzas, Ms Tucker claimed at the High Court in Glasgow. Tommy Sheridan insisted he had never met her, but she stated: "I am not telling lies." The trial continues. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 9, Telegraph page 16, Press and Journal page 17, Courier page 12, Daily Record page 11, Daily Mail page 5, Daily Express page 19, Sun page 19) 

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Transport

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Edinburgh Airport: Edinburgh Airport has ridden out a two-year global recession in aviation to become the fifth-biggest hub in the UK, new passenger figures show. Figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show that, since July, it trails only behind London’s three airports and Manchester. (Herald page 12)

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Edinburgh Trams: Edinburgh’s councillors have ordered last-ditch peace talks in an effort to kick-start the capital’s tram project – days after such a move was rejected by the arm’s-length company overseeing it. Council leader Jenny Dawe said she would take “all appropriate steps” to resolve a simmering dispute between council-owned tram developer Tie and lead contractor Bilfinger Berger, which has seen progress on Scotland’s biggest transport infrastructure project grind to a halt. (Herald page 12, Times page 23) 

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Education

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International Baccalaureate: George Watson\’s College in Edinburgh will become the first school in Scotland to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification alongside Highers.  It will be one of a handful of schools selected to provide the qualification which is accepted around the world. No local authority-run school in Scotland offers the qualification, though Motherwell\’s further education college does provide it in the state sector. The two-year diploma is an internationally recognised alternative to Highers or A-levels, and is also offered by the International School in Aberdeen, which mostly serves the children of overseas oil workers. (Scotsman page 17) 

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University funding: Reform of university funding, in the wake of John Swinney’s budget on Wednesday, is something that will need to be addressed urgently according to an article by Tom Mier in The Scotsman. Ben Reilly, a one time student representative at St Andrews University has created a system of “University Bonds”, which is based on an idea of funding schools devised by Milton Friedman. Instead of paying a set fee, graduates would pay a proportion of their income on graduation. (Scotsman page 34)
\r\nFair education: Jim Thewliss, incoming president of secondary head teachers\’ union School Leaders Scotland, will today claim the number of local authorities and their varying sizes has "created and perpetuated unfairness". Speaking at the union\’s annual conference in St Andrews, Mr Thewliss will warn that some authorities can afford to allocate more money to schools because of economies of scale compared with others. (Scotsman
page 17)