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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 06 December 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 06 December 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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Russian researcher arrested: Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock has spoken out in support of his research assistant, Katia Zatuliveter, after she was arrested under suspicion of being a Russian spy. After her arrest last week, Mr Hancock challenged the security services to produce evidence against Ms Zatuliveter, describing her as “bright and intelligent” and saying she had done nothing but “act honourably”. Mr Hancock is a member of the House of Commons defence select committee, but has stressed that his assistant could not access any information that was not already publicly available. The Russian media have claimed the decision, and the publicity with which it was greeted, was revenge for England losing out to Russia in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 6, Times page 9, Telegraph page 1)

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Clegg’s position ‘messy’: A close ally of Nick Clegg has described the Liberal Democrats’ position on the vote to increase tuition fees as ‘messy’, with the party’s stance still unclear. Nick Clegg’s chief political adviser, Norman Lamb, stated that both he and Mr Clegg would like to increase fees, but would have to consult the party before making a decision. Pressure on the Liberal Democrats to vote against an increase in fees, in line with their election manifesto pledge, has been mounting, with another wave of protests planned this week. (Scotsman page 10, Telegraph page 16)

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Wikileaks: Wikileaks has released a list of all industries and interests across the world which the US deems to be of critical importance, leading Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former defence and foreign secretary, to accuse Wikileaks of behaving irresponsibly and of aiding terrorist groups. The release of the cables, which include details of pipelines, factories and undersea cables, has been condemned by Downing Street which labelled them a security threat. (Times page 1)

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Megrahi release: The UK ambassador to Libya said that if Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi had not been released then British business interests would have been “cut off at the knees”, according to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. The cables indicate that the UK Government was supportive of the decision to release Mr al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds due to the economic repercussions of holding him, despite the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown claiming that Westminster had played “no role” in the release. (Scotsman page 11   

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Climate change warning: A consortium of scientists led by the Met Office have warned that climate change must be taken more seriously, after it emerged that sea levels could rise higher than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) previously predicted. The report has been published as UN talks on global warming continue in Cancun. (Herald page 9, Scotsman page 12)

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Childhood poverty: The number of children living in working households but suffering from poverty has reached its highest ever level, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Whilst the overall number of children suffering from deprivation fell, the number in poverty with parents that work has risen. Tom MacInnes, co-author of the report, said- “This is due to a number of factors- wages being frozen, the cost of housing increasing, money spent on travelling to work and child minding costs all on the rise.” (Scotsman page 21   

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Gordon Brown: Labour MPs are urging Gordon Brown to take a fuller role at Westminster following his move to the back-benches after the party’s defeat in the General Election. While Mr Brown is thought to be keen to concentrate on constituency issues, as well as to avoid over-shadowing Ed Miliband the new Labour leader, he is still popular within the Labour party and is thought to have more to offer. (Herald page 6)

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Broadband: Superfast broadband will be available to every house in Britain by 2015 through ‘fibre’ upgrades, which will increase the speed of broadband from its current speed of 5 megabits per second to 100. (Telegraph page 2)

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Economy

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Snow deters shoppers: The number of consumers out on Scotland’s high streets has dropped by a third due to the adverse weather deterring shoppers and disrupting transport, according to research by Synovate Retail Performance. The reluctance of shoppers to face the weather has been compounded by shops having trouble maintaining the delivery of stock, with the freezing conditions estimated to have cost the Scottish economy £53 million per working day. Online shopping could be put under strain due to the difficulty of delivering goods on time, and a rise in online buying has meant today is likely to see the highest number of online orders so far this year. However, the slight thaw over the weekend saw a slight rise in shoppers, largely due to improved transport services. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 7, Telegraph page 9 Sunday Herald page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 2, Guardian page 9, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Express page 7, Sun page 9)

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Mortgages: Half of all first-time house buyers could be unable to get a mortgage due to new rules introduced by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which will force buyers to go through an “affordability assessment” to prove they can afford loans. With lenders already demanding large deposits, the new rules have led ministers to fear regulation may now have gone too far. (Times page 3)

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Fishing: Scots fisherman have warned that the future of the whitefish fleet is “grim” after the quota set on acceptable fishing levels was lowered. Cod quotas have been lowered by 20%, and haddock by 5%, leading Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation, to call for government support in mitigating the effects on the industry and to fight to maintain quota levels. (Herald page 2, Telegraph page 12)

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Transport

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Kintyre ferry axed: Public spending cuts have dashed hopes of the ferry between Kintyre and Northern Ireland to be restored. The ferry service, which last ran in 1999, has been moved down the list of government priorities in light of the recent cuts to public spending. (Herald page 4)  

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Local Government

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Costly rubbish collection: Special seven day rubbish collection services for some of Edinburgh’s most expensive homes have cost the tax payer almost £500,000, with the service costing the council around £20,000 a month. The news that Edinburgh council is spending money on extra collections in city centre residential areas, under the justification of easing traffic flow, has sparked controversy in light of budget cuts adding up to £90 million. (Herald page 5)

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Health

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MS breakthrough: Scientists have offered hope to thousands suffering from multiple sclerosis after reaching a breakthrough in a treatment intended to halt or reverse the condition. Scientists have found stem cells which, when stimulated, could work to repair damage to the brain, with new drugs designed to reverse the condition potentially available within a decade. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 1, times page 19)

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Learning disabilities: Around 900 people suffering from learning difficulties are living in elderly persons’ care homes in order to save councils money, according to research by the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland (LDAS). The LDAS says that once placed in such homes few will leave and described the council practice as one of “benign neglect”. In its editorial, The Herald argues that though higher numbers of people suffering from learning disabilities may explain the problem, more must be done to assess and solve it, with those in the elderly care homes given better representation. (Herald page 9 and editorial page 14)

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Consultants’ bonuses: Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has launched an attack on the best-paid doctors in the NHS by calling for consultants to share their pay bonuses with other staff. In a submission to a UK-wide review on distinction awards for consultants, the Deputy First Minister has demanded that their £75,000-a-year top-ups should be scrapped. However, the British Medical Association has warned that Ms Sturgeon’s assaults on the scheme may already be leading to a medical brain drain from Scotland. (Sunday Herald page 2, Times page 12)

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Education

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School closures: Thousands of pupils will return to school today after parents struggled to cope with a week of closures. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned councils against a blanket closure of schools in future and insisted the option must be a “last resort” due to the strain it puts on parents. 9 out of 10 schools in Scotland are due to reopen today, however more snow is forecast for this week. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1)