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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 17 January 2011

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 17 January 2011

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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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Paternity leave: Nick Clegg will today announce new reforms to paternity leave which will allow men to take up to ten months off with pay, citing a report which demonstrates the harm caused to families by parents with long stressful working patterns. The reforms will allow parents to divide up the time they take off work, and have been met with praise from parents’ interest groups. However, businesses are less enthusiastic with David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, claiming that the changes show “a complete lack of understanding” of the workings of small businesses. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 3, Times page 9, Guardian page 2, daily express page 9, daily mail page 1, daily record page 6)  

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Lib Dem support: Support for the Liberal Democrats in Scotland is down considerably compared with the levels the party enjoyed at the last Holyrood elections. The drop in popularity is reportedly due to the party’s involvement in UK Government austerity measures, with the Scottish Conservatives also experiencing a drop in support. The issues which are thought to have alienated support most are the increase in VAT as well as the U-turn on tuition fees in England and Wales. (Herald page 1)

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Academic ambush: Two academics have requested an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Alex Fergusson, after being “ambushed” by MSPs over their views on fiscal autonomy for Scotland whilst appearing before the Scotland Bill Committee. The academics, Professors Andrew Hughes Hallett and Drew Scott, were invited to talk about the Scotland Bill but were instead questioned about fiscal autonomy, and feel that they were treated discourteously, warning that this sort of treatment could deter experts from giving evidence. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 2 and opinion page 16)  

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Fiscal powers: The debate on fiscal autonomy continues as Professors David Bell and David Ulph write jointly that the impact of greater financial powers for a country like Scotland is impossible to call. "The existing evidence base is too weak to support any reliable conclusions about the impact of greater fiscal powers on economic growth," they conclude. (Scotland on Sunday page 9, David Bell and David Ulph Opinion) 

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Ed Miliband: Ed Miliband has criticised Gordon Brown’s record as Prime Minister, arguing that he did not do enough to regulate the banks and that he should never have claimed to have abolished boom and bust. In an attempt to distance himself from the former Prime Minister, for whom he was a special adviser, Mr Miliband outlined where he thought Mr Brown had gone wrong, specifically in not acknowledging the need for public spending cuts and in relying too heavily on the City as a source of economic growth. Mr Miliband also attempted to strike a conciliatory note with disaffected Lib Dems, encouraging them to help create opposition policy. (Scotsman page 4, Times page 11, guardian page 4, FT page 2)

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George Galloway: George Galloway has launched an attack on First Minister Alex Salmond and Labour leader Iain Gray, branding them the “political equivalent of the Krankies”,  whilst also criticising the standard of MSPs in general, saying there were too many “non-entities” and that Scotland needed a “heavyweight parliamentarian”.

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Mr Galloway launched his campaign to become an MSP with a call to "real" Labour voters.  Mr Galloway will kick off his bid to become a list MSP for Glasgow with pledges to scrap Scottish Enterprise, merge Scotland\’s police forces and bring jobs and investment from his contacts in the Middle East. It has emerged that Tommy Sheridan\’s party Solidarity had written to Respect to ask for a discussion on a joint Galloway-Sheridan ticket. The move has been rejected out of hand by Mr Galloway, amid claims that the Sheridans have tried to "bounce" him into a deal by putting up Gail as a candidate. (Scotland on Sunday page 7, Sunday Herald page 2, Scotsman page 9, Herald page 7, Times page 6, Telegraph page 4, press and journal page 9, courier page 10, daily express page 6, daily mail page 9)

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Tartan Tax: The Scottish Government could not have implemented the Tartan Tax even if it wanted to because the revenue authorities were unable to collect it, new documents have revealed. The power to vary income tax by up to 3p in the pound was granted to the Scottish Parliament in the devolution referendum in 1997. But the documents show that, after the 2007 election, the incoming SNP administration would not have been able to implement it because of major problems and delays in a new computerised collection system being introduced by Her Majesty\’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).  The documents, released under Freedom of Information legislation, throw new light on the controversy over the Tartan Tax that threatened John Swinney\’s position as Finance Secretary in November. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Times page 16)

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Alex Salmond: In a personal interview with Desert Island Discs, the First Minister pays tribute to his mother and also praises his wife Moira, who has remained in the background throughout their 30-year marriage. Mr Salmond also discusses the decisions on the Lockerbie release. (Scotland on Sunday page 8, Sunday Herald page 4)

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Spy plane bill: The Ministry of Defence will spend another £200 million on the fleet of Nimrod spy planes despite the project being cancelled, putting the total cost of the 9 aircraft up to £4.1 billion. The decision to cancel the projects was made in October, but the MoD still has spending commitments in areas such as procurement, angering campaigners against the closure of RAF Kinloss, Lossiemouth and Leuchars. (Times page 1)

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Housing benefit: The UK Coalition Government has been warned that its plans to cut housing benefit would cause an “absolutely horrific crisis” by Ed Miliband, with thousands facing the possibility of losing support if cuts go ahead. Mr Miliband also announced he was working with Liberal Democrats to oppose the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance in England. The changes to housing benefit will force people to seek shared accommodation rather than one bedroom flats. However, Labour claim that a short-fall in available accommodation will force many out onto the street. (Herald page 6)

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Ben Thomson: Reform Scotland Chairman Ben Thomson is interviewed in The Scotsman. (Scotsman page 36 Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Economy

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Bank of England: The Bank of England has been warned by Ernst and Young that it must “hold its nerve” and keep interest rates low, despite the prospect of inflation rising to nearly 4%, or it will risk endangering the UK’s economic recovery. Presenting a pretty gloomy picture for the next year, Ernst and Young predict below trend economic growth, of around 2.3%, as the Government’s austerity measures take effect. (Scotsman page 4, FT page 4, press and journal page 11)

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Recovery doubts: Serious doubts have been raised over the speed of Scotland’s economic recovery, after the release of figures demonstrating that the private sector performed worse in the final 3 months of last year than at any point during the recession. The report, published by Bank of Scotland, show that the output in the last quarter of 2010 was the lowest since the start of 2009, partly due to the adverse effects of disruption caused by weather. (Scotsman page 32, Herald Business page 26)

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Household debt: With the expected increase by 2 or 3% in interest rates on credit cards and loans, households will need to find an extra £1,800 a year by 2015, according to findings from Pricewaterhouse-Coopers. The increase in interest rates is likely, prompted by the prediction that the Bank of England will need to raise rates later in the year due to high rates of inflation. (Telegraph page 1) 

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Inverleith Capital: Two former employees of merchant bank Noble Group are to set up a rival operation in Edinburgh. David Ovens and Rory Boyd will launch Inverleith Capital, which is backed by former Noble Group Chief Executive and Chairman Ben Thomson. The new bank will largely focus on rejuvenating Scotland\’s moribund listed company sector.  Mr Ovens said: "One of the issues in Scotland is the lack of publicly quoted companies, and the advisory community is to blame. Not many have done IPOs and instead they push M&A products or go down the trade sale route.” (Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Scottish Enterprise: Scottish Enterprise has been accused of reneging on promises to help fund a large scale regeneration project, with the group behind the development of the east end of Glasgow and South Lanarkshire claiming that they had been promised £7.5 million but would now have to split that figure with 5 other groups. Critics have claimed that the reduction in funding will jeopardise the 2014 Commonwealth Games. (Herald page 6)

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Transport

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Flooding: Heavy rain and melting snow have caused flooding across Scotland, with roads closed and families having to be evacuated. After a sudden rise in temperatures and then heavy rainfall rivers burst their banks, with problems particularly severe in Perthshire. The problems led to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency issuing 5 severe flood warnings. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 1, Times page 12, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Press and Journal page 6, Courier page 1, sun page 19, daily express page 5, daily mail page 5 daily record page 7) 

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Justice

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Police protests: Police have warned that they may resort to mass demonstrations over their pay and working conditions after rejecting Scottish Government proposals. Although they emphasised that talks were still ongoing, the Scottish Police Federation have made it clear they will reject any move beyond a pay freeze, prompting fears over talks breaking down and the possibility of the first ever protest by police officers in Scotland. (Scotsman page 12) 

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Police Tweeting: Police in Tayside are launching a 3-month pilot scheme involving tweeting on police issues, in an attempt to improve communication with the public. The information is likely to include updates on police surgeries, traffic conditions and education campaigns. (Scotsman page 19, press and journal page 4)

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Local Government

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North Lanarkshire Council bonuses: North Lanarkshire Council has been met with criticism after it emerged that it was awarding executives around £200,000 in bonuses whilst 600 people lose their jobs. Combined with the redundancies were public spending cuts, such as the decision to scrap free transport for secondary pupils living within three miles of school, leading to outrage at the news that officials were receiving performance related bonuses. (Herald page 3) 

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Health

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PMT pill: Scientists claim to have developed a supplement, made up of a mix of fatty acids, which can reduce the physical and emotional effects of PMT, after women taking the pill over 6 months reported an improvement in their symptoms. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 8, telegraph page 6, daily express page 11)

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Education

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Teachers: The General Teaching Council has reported that the number of new teachers securing permanent jobs is at an all time low, with many forced to move to England to find work. The figures show that only 16% of 1,400 new teachers found permanent posts in 2009/10, compared to 65% in 2005, and that over 25% found no work at all. (Herald page 5)