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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 5 NOVEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 5 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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Council tax freeze: According to Cosla, up to 1,500 teaching jobs could be axed to cover the cost of the council tax freeze policy for just one year. A confidential paper drafted by local government body Cosla warns teaching posts could go to pay for the council tax freeze for 2011-12, a policy the SNP wants to extend for a further two years if it wins power next year. The paper, due to be discussed by Scotland\’s council leaders in Edinburgh today, outlines what local authorities may have to deliver "in return for the benefits" of the council tax freeze. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 11) 

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Scottish Ballet: The man who rescued Scotland\’s largest dance company from despair and transformed it into a leading player on the world stage is to leave his post. Ashley Page, artistic director of Scottish Ballet for the past ten years, has declined an offer from the company\’s board of directors to renew his contract which runs out in August 2012. A brief statement from the company yesterday gave no reason for his decision to quit other than stating that Mr Page "felt he was unable to accept the extension." He declined to comment on his decision. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 3) 

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BBC Journalist Strike: BBC television and radio broadcasts are expected to face severe disruption today as thousands of journalists begin a 48-hour walkout over pensions reform. Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) will strike today and tomorrow across the UK, including around 250 staff at the BBC Scotland base at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. The move followed a 70% rejection of the BBC’s “final” offer on pensions, which the union described as making journalists “pay more, work longer and receive lower pensions”.  Striking staff at Pacific Quay will hold a rally for an hour outside BBC Scotland from 11.30am today, but a spokeswoman for BBC Scotland declined to comment on how the strike action would affect Scottish broadcasts. (Herald page 6, Guardian page 1, Telegraph page 1, Courier page 11, Daily Express page 5) 

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Scottish Parliament security system: Liz Smith, the Tory education spokesman, has been left with about £12,000 of damage to her car after guards mistakenly waved her through the entrance to the parliament’s car park.  A security ramp that was meant to remain retracted while she drove over it suddenly sprang up, shearing off the year-old vehicle’s licence plate and grill and wrecking its undercarriage. Shards of the car became jammed under the ramp, and the £263,000 security system, installed only two years ago, is now out of action. Scottish Parliament chiefs have apologised to a shaken Miss Smith and confirmed they would cover the cost of repairs or a new car. (Telegraph) 

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Economy

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Budget cuts: George Osborne yesterday rejected claims that he exaggerated the scale of the financial crisis facing Britain to justify massive public spending cuts. Giving evidence to the Commons Treasury committee, the Chancellor insisted that he had been forced to take drastic action to take the country out of the “financial danger zone”. But he was upbraided by the committee chairman, Conservative Andrew Tyrie, who said his claim that Britain had been “on the brink of bankruptcy” was “a bit over the top”. (Press and Journal page 11) 

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Transport

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High speed rail:  The emergency renationalisation of one of Britain’s most famous railway routes last year will lead to UK Government losses of £333 million by 2012, new figures show. East Coast, the state-owned company that took over passenger services on the East Coast Main Line between London and Scotland last November, is due to pay £433m to the UK Government as a “premium” payment between 2009 and 2012, according to financial data it released yesterday. However, this is short of the £766.3m that would have been due from previous incumbent National Express before it walked away from the lucrative franchise amid an extraordinary row with then Transport Minister Lord Adonis and a crisis in passenger numbers. (Herald page 7) 

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Health

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Minimum alcohol pricing: First Minister Alex Salmond challenged MSPs yesterday to back the SNP’s proposed minimum price for alcohol when it comes to a final vote next week. He appealed to critics to “show leadership” by ditching their opposition to the key element of the controversial Bill. Mr Salmond said: “We are all agreed that the cost of alcohol is key in terms of consumption levels. Yet, to date, no credible alternative proposals for tackling the low cost of alcohol have been put forward.” The costs associated with alcohol abuse total £3.56 billion a year in Scotland, he said, equal to £900 for every adult. (Press and Journal page 15)

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Education

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University fees: Students preparing to go to university in 2012 may have to apply without knowing how much they will have to pay. First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed during First Minister\’s Questions that the Scottish Government intends to stick to the same timetable on funding reform as in England, where fees of up to £9,000 a year will be introduced from the year after next. (Scotsman page 11, Brian McNair comments page 34, Herald page 8, Times page 3,  Telegraph page 6, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph page 16, Daily Express page 15)

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Budget cuts: Education could be hardest hit under planned budget cuts of £38million approved by Perth and Kinross Council yesterday. As part of a programme to save £38million by 2014, the council agreed to begin consultations with unions, the public and local groups on the first round of savings – which could result in the loss of 140 jobs. The closure of 10 after-school clubs for primary pupils across the area is one of the cuts that the council is recommending. Another is that some primary school teachers may have to take art and PE classes instead of visiting specialist teachers. According to the council, the PE and art teaching proposals could result in 14 teachers becoming surplus to those roles, but it has stated it plans to redeploy the teachers elsewhere. Although more than half of the £9.4million savings proposals for 2011-12 are in education services, the council has outlined no job losses in schools. (Press and Journal page 10) 

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Entry requirements: Secondary heads have expressed anger and concern that universities are raising their minimum entry requirements to unprecedented levels, potentially excluding pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Brian Cooklin, former president of School Leaders Scotland, said he spoke for a number of colleagues who were "extremely angry" that the goalposts were being moved. He picked out Glasgow University for particular criticism, saying it had changed its entry requirements mid-cycle last year and then again at the beginning of this year. "At least this year, Glasgow has issued its statement that it will require four A passes in one sitting for most subjects at the beginning of the cycle," he said. "That is going to exclude a large number of children from being considered by Glasgow. Mr Cooklin is head of Stonelaw High in Rutherglen and a member of the UCAS standing group in Scotland. But Glasgow University\’s vice-principal for learning and teaching, Frank Coton, defended his institution\’s actions, saying he had received very positive feedback from heads. (TESS page 4)