REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 21 January 2011

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 21 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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Alan Johnson: Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson has resigned from front-line politics, citing personal family reasons. Labour party leader Ed Miliband, heading to Scotland today for a campaigning visit, is likely to face questions about the resignation of Mr Johnson. Ed Balls has been appointed new Shadow Chancellor. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Opinion page 16, Press and Journal page 1, FT page 1, Guardian page 1, Courier page 15, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 8, Daily Mirror page 7, Times page 1, Telegraph page 1.) 

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Anti-Muslim prejudice: Prejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner table test" and become socially acceptable, Baroness Warsi, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, has claimed. In a script for a talk due to be delivered last night, Lady Warsi – the first Muslim woman to attend Cabinet – said faith was discussed in a "patronising, superficial" way, making Britain a less tolerant place for believers. She said she believed prejudice against Muslims was now seen by many people as normal and uncontroversial, and that expressions of disdain for Britain\’s nearly two million-strong Muslim minority were becoming acceptable in polite society. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 2) 

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Scottish Lib Dems: During a visit to the Highlands yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted the Scottish electorate will see through Labour and the SNP by May’s Holyrood elections, despite his party’s recent dire opinion poll ratings. He said: “My response is the same as every prediction of the demise of the Liberal Democrats delivered by polls, articles and by commentators pretty well every single week since the Liberal Democrats were formed.” (Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 10, Daily Mail page 42, Daily Express page 4)

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Tartan tax: Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has rebuffed an accusation that he was ‘cavalier’ in releasing correspondence with the First Minister over the way the Tartan Tax power had come to lapse. He told MSPs he had no regrets about the decision to make his letter public in November which made it seem as though Finance Secretary John Swinney had taken a political decision not to use the 3p Scottish Variable Rate, when it could no longer be used as the power had been allowed to lapse. (Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 3 

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The Scotland Bill: The dispute surrounding the Scotland Bill committee continues as Professors Andrew Hughes Hallett and Drew Scott write an article in The Times defending their views. Alan Cochrane comments on the behaviour and political tactics used by Wendy Alexander in The Scotland Bill committee. (Times page 1, Business page 48, Telegraph page 8,) 

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Mock manifesto: Sam Ghibaldan has produced a mock manifesto for the Scottish Labour Party ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections. (Scotsman page 30) 

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Economy

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Supermarket tax: Finance Secretary John Swinney’s plans to impose an additional tax on large retailers have run into more opposition after they were rejected by Holyrood’s Finance Committee. However, the committee came out in support of the continued council tax freeze. (Herald page 9)

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SNP budget: The SNP’s budget sacrifices economic growth in favour of protecting public services according to Holyrood’s Finance Committee. (Times page 22, Courier page 3, Daily Express page 4, Telegraph page 6)

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Rural broadband:  Ofcom wants BT to reduce the price of its wholesale broadband products on order to improve internet access in rural areas. Ofcom is aiming to ensure that broadband prices fall for consumers in rural areas and, potentially, to increase download speeds available to them. To achieve this, it is proposing that BT should cut the price of wholesale broadband in parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (FT page 15)

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Wind farm: Up to 300 jobs are set to be created in Scotland after Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa unveiled plans to make a major investment north of the Border. An offshore wind technology centre is to be created in Glasgow, while Gamesa, which is part-owned by ScottishPower parent company Iberdrola, signed an initial contract to set up a manufacturing base in Dundee. The news, announced by First Minister Alex Salmond at Holyrood yesterday, comes as a welcome boost for Scotland\’s burgeoning offshore wind technology industry. (Scotsman page 4, Times page 15, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 1, Telegraph page 10.)

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Petrol prices: Filling up an average family car with petrol could cost almost £70 by April drivers were warned today, after fuel prices increased at their fastest rate for a decade.The Automobile Association reported the biggest monthly leap in the UK average petrol price since 2000, of 6.13p since mid-December to a new record of 128.27p a litre on Monday. It rose to 128.38p on Wednesday. In Scotland, average prices went up by 6.1p to 127.7p. (Scotsman page 7, Analysis page 7, Letter page 28, Press and Journal page 10, Courier page 1, Daily Record page 6, Daily Mirror page 21)

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Scottish Enterprise: The Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise (SE) has told MSPs that the agency has created 40,000 jobs over the past 10 years and is expected to create 68,000 more over the next decade. Lena Wilson dismissed the claim of one of her predecessors, Robert Crawford, who asserted last week: “Grants don’t work.” She told Holyrood’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, which is conducting a review of enterprise agencies: “I want to refute strongly the claim grants don’t work. Free-for-all grants don’t work. Targeted grants absolutely do, as last week’s announcement of 950 jobs by Amazon showed.” Ms Wilson said the agency now had the strongest evidence base in the world. “From Northern Ireland to New Zealand we have countries coming to see how we do it,” she added. She said a single year’s work by SE generated growth worth £2 billion by 10 years later, generating £8 for every pound spent. (Herald page 11)

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Justice

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The Sheridans: Gail Sheridan has issued a formal complaint against the police alleging she was persecuted by them because of her religion. Both Mrs Sheridan and her husband, Tommy, are threatening legal action against the police and the prosecution service and have also demanded an investigation into how tapes of them being interviewed by the police were handed to the BBC. High on an extensive list of questions submitted to the police and Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini is a complaint by Mrs Sheridan about the confiscation of her Rosary beads during the police interrogation before their recent trial and the suggestion she had adopted a terrorist-style attitude to avoid answering questions. (Herald page 8, and Journal page 7, Daily Mail page 39, Telegraph page 9)

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Transport

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A9 trunk road: There are currently 8,700 signatures on a petition started by Mid Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, who led a Members’ Debate on the subject of dualling the dangerous road at Holyrood last night. He said: “A road that was adequate in the 1970s and 1980s is no longer sufficient to cope with the level of traffic and number of HGVs that use this road today. “There were 14 fatalities in 2010. Sadly, I am sure that this will again make the A9 have one of the highest, if not the highest, fatal accident rates in Scotland for 2010. I understand that dualling the A9 is a massive financial commitment. I also recognise that finances are under severe pressure and that most of the Scottish Government’s capital budget is swallowed up with the new Forth Road Bridge crossing. But it is for Government to set out its priorities and tell us where the A9 stands.” The SNP has pointed out that public money diverted to the Edinburgh trams at the insistence of other parties could have been used to improve the A9. (Herald page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 10)

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Health

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Flu hotspots: Details of flu hotspots in Scotland should be made public to keep people informed of what is happening in their area, an expert said yesterday as it emerged 13 more patients had died from the virus. Professor Hugh Pennington, an Aberdeen-based bacteriologist, said more local data on cases and deaths may encourage more people to get vaccinated, which in turn could save lives. Yesterday, Health Protection Scotland revealed that 13 more people had died from flu in the past week, bringing the total number of deaths in Scotland to 40, and 254 across the UK. The agency also revealed that 29 more people needed intensive care due to flu last week, bringing the total this winter to 145. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 3, Press and Journal page 12, Daily Record page 2)
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Cancer research centre: A new cancer research centre which aims to improve collaboration between scientists and doctors to help them develop new treatments has been launched. Cancer Research UK said the Glasgow centre would enable researchers who were not usually able to work together to exchange ideas and information more easily. It will help provide people in the west of Scotland with the latest treatments, as well as help to train the next generation of leaders in cancer research and cancer care. (Scotsman page 22, Herald page 11)