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Reform Scotland News 6 January 2011

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 6 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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School closures row: Education Secretary Michael Russell has been reported to Holyrood’s standards watchdog over allegations that he interfered in a school closure programme in the constituency in which he is standing. Yesterday, David Graham, who fought the seat for the Scottish Labour Party at the 2010 General Election, wrote to the Standards Commissioner to outline his concerns. A review in the Argyll and Bute constituency indicated that the closure of the 25 primary schools would save the council £1.9 million, in the face of a grant settlement reduction of 4.94 per cent. In a leaked email reportedly sent from Mr Russell’s parliamentary email account, he warned SNP councillors that the closures could be “very destructive to our reputations and our prospects”. However, it has come to light that there were inaccuracies in the original information on which the consultation was based. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 2, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph page 11, Courier page 12)

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Economy

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Defence reduction: The Commons Defence Select Committee has given its support to SNP calls for an investigation into the reduction of military spending in Scotland. Since 1997, Scotland has lost more than 10,500 defence jobs, a trend which the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which has already led to the closure of an RAF base at Kinloss, looks set to continue. SNP Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson wrote: “All the evidence surrounding the SDSR suggests that the Ministry of Defence is set to continue the trend of concentrating defence manpower, basing and spending in the south of England. At present there are only 12,190 UK Service personnel in Scotland.” (Scotsman, page 2) 

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Scottish jobs: Cuts in public spending could wipe out up to 125,000 jobs in Scotland within the next financial year, union leaders have warned. Scotland’s biggest public-sector trade union, Unison, said 60,000 public-sector and 65,000 private-sector jobs could be lost because of spending cuts. According to the union’s submission to the Scottish Parliament on next year’s plans for a 3% “efficiency savings” target to be imposed across public services, this would add “to the annual deficit and almost entirely cancel out any saving to the public-sector pay-bill”. Within local government alone, Unison believes 120,000 jobs will go by March 2013 and fears the pace is accelerating. (Herald page 4, Courier page 6) 

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Loan sharks: Around 85,000 people borrow money from over 150 illegal money lenders in Scotland each year, it has been revealed. Such lenders can give loans at enormous rates of interest, some at the equivalent of 10,000,000% APR. The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit is urging people who may have overspent at Christmas not to resort to borrowing from illegal lenders. Evidence gathered by the unit suggests at least 150 illegal lenders operate in Scotland and that around 85,000 people have used such lenders. A spokesman said the common lending model can see charges of around £2.50, or more, for every £10 borrowed each week and because the interest is accumulative, the amount due can quickly spiral upwards. (Herald page 11)

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Fred Goodwin: Former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin has stepped back from his role at RMJM, the architecture firm responsible for such building projects as the Scottish Parliament and the Falkirk wheel. This is the latest in a series of high profile staff departures for the company, which has admitted that cash flow problems and late payment of wages has led to an exodus of workers from offices in Hong Kong. After his high-profile hiring 12 months ago, Sir Fred Goodwin had taken increasing control of the company’s finances. (Scotsman, page 10)

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Transport

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Chaos on Scotland’s roads: Winter weather has caused a series of crashes on Scotland’s main roads, which has resulted in five deaths and several hours of closures. The A9 in Perthshire was closed for 20 hours yesterday after a 16-year old girl was killed, and parts of both the M8 and M9 were shut down for several hours during rush hour. Businesses and politicians have condemned Transport Minister Keith Brown for failing to avert the gridlock. (Scotsman, page 1, Press and Journal page 1)

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Education

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Childminders: Thousands of Scottish children are being put at risk by nurseries and childminders that are allowed to remain in business despite repeatedly failing to meet basic standards of childcare. Reports show 224 nurseries and 111 childminders were ranked as weak or unsatisfactory in at least one category during their most recent inspection by the Care Commission. Two nurseries and two childminders were given the lowest ranking of unsatisfactory in each of the four categories rated by the regulator. It has emerged for the first time that no nurseries have been closed down directly because of Care Commission enforcement action since the organisation was established as the industry regulator in 2002.  (Herald page 1)