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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 03 February 2011

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 3 February 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 highlighted 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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Papal visit: Money used to fund the Pope’s visit to the UK was reportedly taken from funds reserved for international aid, MPs have revealed. As it was partly a state visit, the £10 million total cost should have been paid entirely by the Foreign Office. However, it has emerged that £1.85 million was shifted from the Department for International Development, despite David Cameron’s pledge that the international aid budget would be protected. (Scotsman page 1) 

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Tesco tax: The SNP’s proposed ‘Tesco tax’, a levy on large retailers, has been rejected by the Scottish Parliament. The proposal was voted down by 68-46 as Finance Secretary John Swinney failed to win the support of either Labour, the Tories or the Lib Dems. The failure of the vote has left a £30 million gap in SNP spending plans. (Press and Journal page 9, Herald page 13, Telegraph page 11) 

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Economy

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Fringe deal: A £500,000 deal to sponsor outdoor performances on the Royal Mile and the Mound has been struck with Virgin Money. The deal will see the money spread over three years and includes backing for the Half Price Hut for cheap ticket deals. It is thought that Virgin Money may also announce sponsorship of the annual Fireworks Concert which closes the International Festival, formerly sponsored by Bank of Scotland. (Scotsman page 3, Herald page 9) 

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Forestry commission: Up to 150 Forestry Commission jobs could be lost in Scotland as it faces a budget reduction of 26%. A Forestry Commission spokesman has said “We are talking around 300 posts in England and there will be at least 100 in the Great Britain office based in Edinburgh”. The news of these cuts comes as MPs debate the Government’s £250 million plans to sell off England’s public forests. (Herald page 11, Press and Journal page 3) 

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Justice

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Public defenders: Leading criminal lawyers last night attacked Scottish Government plans for expanding the role of Scotland’s public defenders. Under new plans, thousands of extra cases are to be handed to solicitors employed by the state. The private law lobby has argued that it is wrong for somebody who is prosecuted by the state to be represented by a state employee. It is believed that public defenders are around 50% more likely to enter an early guilty plea for their clients than their private counterparts. Public defenders first appeared in Edinburgh in 1998 and to date there are still only 15 “and a half” solicitors working for public offices. (Herald page 9) 

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Transport

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Trams: Audit Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to take a bigger role in the £545 million tram project amid fears that it will not be completed. A series of recent staff departures at the Edinburgh council owned tram developer Tie have led to concerns that the company will not have sufficient skills to finish the project. Audit Scotland’s report questioned the Scottish Government’s hands off approach and advised that the Government’s agency Transport Scotland should become more “actively involved”. The report forecasts that the project will cost more than its £545 budget, with no trams running until 2013.  (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 8, Press and Journal page 3, Telegraph page 15) 

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Fuel price measures: The UK Coalition Government will use its budget to unveil measures to help soften the impact of increasing fuel prices on motorists and hauliers. Although details of the measures have not yet been published, Scottish Secretary Michel Moore insists that the government is committed to helping motorists. However, it has been suggested that the proposals could include a “fuel duty stabiliser”, publicly favoured by David Cameron, and a halt to the 4p-a-litre increase in duty. (Press and Journal page 11) 

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Local Government

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Council chief quits: Scottish Borders Council financial chief Richard Webb has quit his post a week before a crucial meeting to vote through multi-million pound cuts. Much of his 10 months in office has been occupied with preparations for the Council’s 2011-12 budget, in which it faces a £13.5 million reduction in funding. Mr Webb insists that his resignation is for personal reasons. (Herald page 9) 

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Health

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Social workers: Unions and Cosla have criticised plans for 38,000 Scottish social work staff to be moved into the NHS. Under plans announced by Public Health Minister Shona Robinson, adult care services, such as placing pensioners in care homes, will come under the control of health boards. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has criticised the plans for putting cost cutting measures before the care of the elderly. (Herald page 9)