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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 3 DECEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 3 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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MP expenses: MPs have claimed a total of £3.1 million in the first few months of the financial year, which works out at £26,495 per day and is just a fraction of the figure from a year ago. The last financial year of the old parliament saw MPs claim £96m, but the figures published yesterday indicated they would end up with less than £10m for the whole of this year. The figures were seen as an endorsement of the work of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which has come under fire in recent months from some MPs. However, some MPs pointed out that Ipsa can only be judged after a year, when all the claims are in and validated. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 4, Telegraph page 1, Daily Express page 7) 

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General Election campaigning: The Conservatives out-spent every other political party in Scotland at the General Election, the Electoral Commission has revealed. Details of party spending showed the Tories committed £1.27 million to their campaign north of the Border. The total compares with £967,904 by Labour, which saw 41 candidates elected, and £470,619 by the Liberal Democrats, who successfully contested 11 seats. The SNP spent £315,776 on its campaign, holding on to the six seats it won in 2005. (Herald page 1, Telegraph page 6) 

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Economy

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RBS: Sir Fred Goodwin and other former Royal Bank of Scotland bosses were yesterday cleared of any involvement in fraud or dishonest activity when they led the institution to the verge of collapse. An investigation by the UK\’s financial watchdog found that RBS\’s downfall did not result from "a lack of integrity by any individual". However, the 19-month probe by the Financial Services Authority found that RBS had made a "series of bad decisions", in particular the acquisition of the Dutch bank ABN Amro and RBS\’s decision to aggressively expand its investment banking business. After RBS acquired NatWest in 1999, Sir Fred, then RBS chief executive, led a series of takeovers, including a $10.5 billion (£6.7bn) deal for US bank Charter One in 2004. RBS also led the consortium that bought ABN Amro for €70bn (£59bn) in October 2007. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 31, FT page 2, Press and Journal page 13, Daily Mail page 1) 

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Positive discrimination: Employers will be able to reject male job applicants in favour of women who are no better qualified under new laws to promote equality at work. Companies will be able to take "positive action" to choose a more balanced mix of staff, giving jobs to candidates from under-represented groups, including ethnic minorities, homosexuals and people with disabilities. Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, said companies that failed to promote a fairer deal for women could be named and shamed. Trade unions welcomed the action to close the gender gap. However, business leaders said the new rules would lead to a rise in the number of companies being sued by potential employees. (Telegraph page 1)

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Justice

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Megrahi: Colonel Gaddafi has revealed that the family of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is preparing a compensation claim over neglect in his Scottish prison cell. The compensation claim was reportedly branded offensive by MSPs last night as the Scottish Government defended its care of the bomber, who was released on compassionate grounds by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill due to advanced prostate cancer. However, he remains alive more than a year after his release, following intensive therapy in his homeland. Colonel Gaddafi said last night: "He was released because he was considered dead, and yet he is still alive. His health was not looked after during his time in prison. He didn\’t have any periodic examination. After he passes away his family will demand compensation because he was deliberately neglected in prison." (Scotsman page 10, Telegraph page 6, Daily Record page 1) 

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Frontline police numbers: David Strang, one of Scotland’s most respected chief constables, has described the Scottish Government’s commitment to maintain frontline police numbers as ‘unsustainable’ and unlikely to survive beyond the next financial year. Mr Strang was speaking after the agreement made by the SNP government and COSLA, which held budget cuts at 2.6 per cent, but only if local authorities agreed to conditions, one of which included maintaining the nation’s total police numbers at 17,234. (Times page 1) 

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Sheridan trial: Former MSP Tommy Sheridan was acquitted yesterday of trying to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before his defamation case, after prosecutors dropped the charge. Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC withdrew the charge at the close of the Crown case yesterday. The Crown also dropped several allegations against Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, who are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow. The couple, both 46, deny lying under oath during his successful defamation action against the News of the World newspaper in 2006. (Press and Journal page 12, Daily Mail page 1, Sun page 13) 

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Transport

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Snow: The road conditions have meant that council care services have been reduced in some areas, while many elderly people are unable to obtain supplies of fresh food or keep their homes warm. Now local councils and neighbours have been urged by campaigners to do all they can to help OAPs cope or Scotland could face a death toll among old people this winter that is much higher than last year\’s total of 3,000. Experts warned the problems will only get worse if forecasts are proved correct and the severe cold spell continues into next week. The heavy snows which have caused school and road closures throughout the country were forecast to subside today, but attempts to get Scotland moving again are likely to be thwarted by freezing temperatures. (Scotsman page 1, George Kerevan comments in Scotsman page 33, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 3, FT page 4, Times page 1, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 3, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 1) 

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Education

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Aberdeen music tuition: Campaigners have won their battle to save Aberdeen’s threatened music tuition service from falling victim to local authority cuts. Senior city councillors revealed yesterday that the team of 39 instrument instructors would not be completely removed or privatised as part of plans to save £120 million over the next five years. More than 3,260 people signed a petition against the proposal to withdraw the service, which is used by 14% of school pupils in the city – a level that is among the highest in the UK. Hundreds of people took part in a protest outside Aberdeen Town House on Tuesday, after it was organised by school pupils on the internet. (Press and Journal page 9) 

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Curriculum for Excellence: The first evidence of a parent revolt over Curriculum for Excellence has emerged. An Aberdeenshire parent council has launched a local and national campaign to highlight concerns over plans to restrict the current S1 cohort of pupils to a maximum of five subjects when they reach S4 in 2013 and become the first pupils to sit the new qualifications. Banchory Academy parent council is calling for urgent action to extend S4 subject choice to the current eight or nine before the qualifications system is finalised. Eileen Prior, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council’s (SPTC) executive director, suggests Banchory parents are ahead of the game, simply because their school’s head teacher has been good at communicating with S1 parents. “Parents are justifiably concerned about the notion of children’s opportunities being constricted by the new examination framework.” (TESS page 1)

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