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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 9 DECEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 9 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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Transport Minister: Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson is facing calls to quit after it emerged he failed to react to the Met Office escalating its severe weather warning ahead of the winter storms that brought gridlock to Scotland\’s road network. The revelation came after Mr Stevenson gave a statement to Holyrood in which he insisted the weather had been more severe than forecast. After apologising for the Scottish Government\’s handling of the chaos, Mr Stevenson reportedly failed to mention he had received a severe "flash" heavy snow warning at 20:41 on Sunday night, nine hours before blizzards engulfed Scotland bringing gridlock to major roads and stranding hundreds of motorists in their cars. The Scottish Government later reportedly admitted Mr Stevenson had been aware of the flash weather warning but judged it to be no more serious than earlier forecasts. But the Met Office last night insisted the 20:41 warning was issued after they detected an escalation in the severity of the looming snowstorms. (Scotsman page 1, Bill Jamieson comments page 29, Herald page 6, Times page 6, Telegraph page 1, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Record page 1, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 4) 

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Scottish Budget: Finance Secretary John Swinney has bowed to opposition pressure to publish spending plans beyond the one-year budget he announced last month. He revealed his U-turn in a statement to MSPs yesterday after weeks of pressure from opposition parties, local authorities and other organisations which wanted him to stick to the normal cycle of outlining funding figures for three years. Mr Swinney said: “This Government has listened to and accepts the clear message delivered by the Parliament.” He said he would have talks with the opposition parties and publish illustrative figures up to 2014-16 after the Christmas parliamentary recess. Westminster’s spending review requires cuts of £3 billion to the Scottish budget over the next four years and Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems said the SNP Government should be able to set out plans up to 2015 in line with that timetable. Mr Swinney said he respected the opposition’s call for longer-term spending plans. (Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 15) 

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Justice

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Sheridan trial: A former MSP claimed yesterday that Tommy Sheridan did not admit to visiting a sex club at a meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party. Rosemary Byrne, 62, told the High Court in Glasgow that Mr Sheridan denied the “rumour” at an executive committee of the party on November 9, 2004, and confessed only to having an affair with journalist Anvar Khan before he was married. She said evidence from other party members that Mr Sheridan confessed to visiting a sex club must be wrong. She is the second person after SSP member John Penman to testify that the former MSP did not confess to the allegations carried in a Sunday newspaper. The trial has heard from 15 other people that he did. Ms Byrne, a retired teacher who served as an SSP MSP between 2003 and 2007, was asked by Mr Sheridan to recollect the meeting. The meeting was called following publication of a story in the News of the World about an unnamed MSP and his alleged visits to swingers’ clubs, the court heard. The minutes shown to the court record Mr Sheridan confessing to visiting a sex club on two occasions. Yesterday, Ms Byrne said she did not recognise them as a record of the meeting, claiming she had not been aware of the document until 2006. (Herald page 7, Times page 28, Telegraph page 14, Courier page 7, Press and Journal page 15, Daily Record page 11, Daily Mail page 8) 

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Transport

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Driving conditions: Treacherous driving conditions will continue today, forecasters warned, as temperatures were expected to plunge to -12C overnight across central Scotland. The alert came after travellers continued to struggle as a spate of crashes and breakdowns caused further disruption yesterday. The Met Office reported an "ongoing risk of widespread icy roads due to lying snow". There was continued chaos on roads yesterday, including an ambulance transferring a patient between hospitals in Stirling and Edinburgh that crashed on the M9 after skidding on black ice. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 10, Courier page 6, Press and Journal page 1, Sun page 1) 

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Health

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NHS: The NHS could reach "breaking point" within the next few years due to increasing demands on services, senior doctors have warned. The UK\’s Royal College of Physicians said that financial pressures may mean junior doctors are not given training posts within the NHS, while the overall number of places at medical school could also drop. At the same time, their report said that medical services across the UK were facing extra burdens including limits on how many hours doctors can work, more hospital admissions and people living longer than ever before. The doctors warned that services dedicated to looking after very ill people were facing particular strain. About 3,800 NHS jobs are set to go this year across Scotland, but unions have warned that relying on staff turnover to reduce numbers means some vital staff risk not being replaced. The latest warnings came in the annual census of members by the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (RCP) of the UK, which includes the organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh. (Scotsman page 2, Daily Mirror page 29) 

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Scotland’s care services: Severe cuts facing care services for pensioners and vulnerable children around Scotland are exposed today in a leaked internal document. The survey of social work chiefs across the country reveals closing care homes and day centres, removing wardens from sheltered housing at weekends and creating waiting lists for homecare services are among the measures being taken to save cash. Six councils say preventative work intended to stop children and the elderly reaching a crisis situation is likely to suffer. Scotland’s local authorities are facing budget cuts at a time when demand for care services is rising. Glasgow City Council has recently published proposals to save £26.5 million on social work spending over the next two years. The Association of Directors of Social Work in Scotland (ADSW) surveyed heads of social work departments to discover how they are balancing the books and the findings were intended to form discussions with the Scottish Government. Out of 32 councils, 25 took part. (Herald page 1) 

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Education

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New teachers: Less than one in six newly qualified teachers has a full-time permanent job, according to shocking figures published yesterday into the continuing crisis in classroom employment. Nearly a third of new teachers is out of work, the study also found – slightly down on last year, but still five times the figure from 2004-5. Ministers claimed they were "turning a corner" with teacher unemployment, but unions and education experts warned of employers using the flooded market to put new teachers on temporary and part-time contracts, reducing the quality of children\’s education. The figures were revealed in a survey by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) which showed that by mid-October just 16.1 per cent of respondents had a full-time, permanent post. That compares with 63.3 per cent of all new teachers five years ago. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 11, Courier page 7, Press and Journal page 8, Daily Mail page 19, Daily Express page 10)

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Tuition fees: David Cameron made a last-ditch attempt to win over critics of the UK Government’s plans to treble university tuition fees in England yesterday, as MPs and protesters geared up for a crunch vote on the issue. The Prime Minister called the proposals “sustainable, competitive and fair”. As tension over the vote grew yesterday, Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband traded verbal blows in the Commons, and ministers announced new concessions aimed at heading off a back-bench rebellion. (Press and Journal page 5)

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Student protests: Scottish students stormed a Royal Bank of Scotland branch yesterday as a second wave of protests against the raising of tuition fees took place across the country.

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The incident took place as students staged protest marches across Scotland against the UK government\’s proposal to hike the cost of fees in English and Welsh universities. In Edinburgh, hundreds of angry students took to the streets to protest against the tuition fees and education cuts. They marched from Bristo Square outside Edinburgh University\’s Student Union building to the Scottish Parliament. The protests came on the eve of the Westminster vote on tuition fees, which the students claim will also have a detrimental effect on education in Scotland. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 8, page 9, Times page 8, Courier page 11)