REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 26 NOVEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 26 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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Sheridan Trial: Accusations relating to an alleged sex party at the Moat House Hotel in Glasgow in June 2002 have been undermined in court after a key witness was forced to admit he lied in his testimony. Matthew McColl, 50, had been called to speak on the ‘sex party’ accusation, but after QC Paul McBride pressured him under cross examination he made the admission resulting in a total of eight subsections of the indictment being deleted at the High Court in Glasgow. (Scotsman page 1-2 & Daily Record page 2 & Press and Journal page 1 & Daily Telegraph page 2 & Times page 27). The Sheridans still face 19 allegations as the perjury trial continues at the High Court (Herald page 1, 5).

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Scottish Conservatives: A Major internal review of the Scottish Conservative Party, led by Lord Sanderson, has labelled the party leadership as “weak” and “confused”. The report places doubt over the future of the party’s Scottish parliamentary leader, Annabel Goldie, saying there should be a new post of Scottish ‘party leader’ and that this post need not be filled from the ranks of Tory MSPs. The review says an internal debate is required if the Tories are to do better in future elections; it goes on to reveal that the party membership in Scotland has shrunk from 40,000 Scots in 1992 to only 10,000 this year. (Scotsman page 4 & Courier page 9 & Press and Journal page 11 & Daily Telegraph page 1 & The Times page 7). The report further suggests that a leadership election should take place directly after the Scottish Parliament elections in May, and a leadership challenge could be triggered if called for by 1,000 members. (Herald page 7)

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Happiness Index: As PM David Cameron launched a £2 million scheme to measure ‘happiness’ levels across the UK, Scottish Academics released their own study which shows that Scots are now more optimistic than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK. Professor David Bell of Stirling University used similar methodology to that which will be used in the upcoming national study, the Average Subjective Wellbeing Score, and found that over the past ten years Scots have overtaken the English and the Welsh. From 1998 to 2003 the Scottish participants in Professor Bell’s study improved from a mark of 4.57 to 4.85 on the happiness scale, overtaking both Wales (4.81) and England (4.72). (Scotsman page 8-9)

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Tax Powers in Scotland: Alex Salmond has made his first apology to the Scottish Parliament as First Minister of Scotland, a week after it emerged that Holyrood could not use the 3p single variable rate (SVR) tax powers for at least the next three years. However, Mr Salmond has added that the decisions taken by Finance Minister John Swinney had been correct after he inherited a flawed system; he argues it would have been irrational to spend millions of pounds to repair a tax power the government had no intention of using. (Herald page 6 & Scottish Daily Mail page 19 & Press and Journal page 13 & Daily Express page 3).

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In a related story, Mr Salmond is seeking an urgent meeting with PM David Cameron ahead of next Tuesday’s publication of the Scotland Bill, which if passed would give Holyrood enhanced tax-raising powers. The First Minister, who has seen the upcoming bill, says it falls short of what Scotland requires. (Herald page 6)

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The loss of the 3p single variable tax rate compounds an already difficult week for the SNP, as the government had already lost a vote over last week’s Budget proposals amid opposition concern that they were only for one year. (Scotsman page 10 & Herald page 6)

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Holyrood Elections: A recent Ipsos-Mori poll for The Times newspaper shows that Labour has maintained its advance at the expense of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, whose support has gone down with Scottish voters appearing to punish them for their part in the Westminster coalition’s public spending cuts. The poll shows that of those certain to vote next May, 41% would vote Labour, ten points clear of the SNP on 31%. (The Times page 1, 6-7)

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Defence Cuts: First Minister Alex Salmond insisted yesterday that both the Fife base and RAF Lossiemouth should be kept open after questioned on the issue at Holyrood. It has also emerged this week that the MoD has not ruled out closing RAF Leuchars, despite recently spending millions of pounds upgrading the runway for the new Euro-fighter squadron. RAF Kinloss in Morayshire has also been earmarked for closure, and it is understood two other air force bases will be closed as a result of this month’s strategic defence review. (Courier page 3). In a related story, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has lent support to campaigners fighting to protect RAF Lossiemouth, saying the UK Government was determined not to make any decisions that would have a “disproportionate impact on localised hotspots”. (Press and Journal page 10)

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Immigration: Official figures show that the number of people living in Scotland who were born abroad has increased by 57% since 2001, from 204,000 to 321,000. A significant proportion of the number appears to be arriving from Eastern Europe, with the number of Polish immigrants increasing 17-fold in the same years. (Scottish Daily Mail page 12)

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Justice

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Scottish Police Force: The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) has backed a single Scottish police force, but has warned that savings must be put back into frontline and community policing. They have urged First Minister Alex Salmond to create an all-Scotland police body instead of cutting the number of forces from eight to four. In support of their argument, they have pointed to successful models of Scottish policing that work on a national level, such as the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency and the Anti-Violence Task Force. A working group consisting of police and local authority representatives is currently looking at force structures and will report to the Scottish Policing Board, chaired by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, on 6 December. (Scotsman page 21)

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Transport

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Snowfall Accidents: As a result of the snowfall across northern parts of Scotland, there were several minor accidents yesterday as motorists in Aberdeen travelled to work yesterday after 12cm of snow. (Scotsman page 6)

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A9 Safety: A new stretch of road aimed at improving safety on the A9 south of Inverness has been closed just months after opening amid claims that it is hazardous. The 0.6 mile stretch of road cost £2.9 million, but local residents say the new section is too short to allow safe overtaking and there have been a number of near misses with southbound cars. (Scotsman page 11 & Herald page 10 & Courier page 9)

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Local Government

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Argyll and Bute School Closures: Education Secretary Michael Russell has said that he will not be involved in any decision on school closures in his home’s area in Argyll and Bute. Questions were raised in the press around the involvement of Mr Russell in local cuts given that he is a candidate in the area and his wife is a local head teacher. (Scotsman page 9). The Argyll and Bute council has voted to press ahead with its plans to close one third of its rural primary schools despite the governing coalition breaking up over the row. Council leader Dick Walsh insisted nothing had been decided other than on opening the proposed cuts up to consultation (Herald page 8).

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Health

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Obesity and Heart risks: Researchers from Glasgow University have found evidence that children who are overweight are likely to exhibit the early signs of heart trouble by the time they are teenagers. The academic study says high blood pressure; cholesterol and insulin levels are more likely to be found in adolescents who were overweight between the ages of nine and twelve, increasing their risk of heart disease in the future. (Scotsman page 23)

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Scottish Flu: Chief Medical Officer Dr Harry Burns has said that fewer Scots are expected to catch the flu this winter because of the mass immunisation program for the H1N1 (swine flu) strain of the virus last year. There were 457 deaths linked to swine flu in the UK, 69 of which were in Scotland, but the high frequency of vaccinations last winter means that the Scottish public is less susceptible to the virus this year. (Herald page 3)

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Unemployed Nurses: Hundreds of newly qualified nurses in Scotland are facing an uncertain future as the scheme guaranteeing them work for a year has become overwhelmed. The number of nursing and midwifery graduates who have been unable to secure a job and have therefore asked the Scottish Government to fulfil its promise to give them a 12-month contract has nearly quadrupled since last year and is still on the rise. Training a nurse in Scotland costs the public purse between £45,000 and £51,000 and unions fear the staff expertise will be lost forever unless the job shortage is resolved. (Herald page 14)

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Education

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University Wages: Professor John Field, director of the Division of Academic Innovation and Continuing Education at Stirling University, says more than 400 university bosses in Scotland earn more than £100,000 a year. He has gone on to reveal that 250 more bosses earn more than the chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, which distributes university finance. Education Secretary Michael Russell has already said teachers cannot be exempt from a public sector pay freeze policy, but that “as autonomous institutions, universities are not likely to be tied to this policy” stressing the opportunity for voluntary commitment. (Scotsman page 16). Professor Field has suggested that the savings made through voluntary wage cuts could be put toward hardship funds for struggling students and avoiding upcoming job losses on campuses. (Herald page 1)