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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 07 FEBRUARY 2011

Politics

Supermarket tax: First Minister Alex Salmond has launched an attack on supermarket chains, calling them the “barons of politics.” The retail giants are being criticised after MSPs voted down plans to introduce what has been called the “Tesco Tax” and indicated that the policy could return in the SNP’s election manifesto.  (Scotsman page 9, the Herald page 6) 

Scotland Bill: The SNP Government has announced that it plans to publish confidential correspondence between Edinburgh and London over the past six months, when SNP ministers were pressing for all tax powers to be handed over to MSPs. It comes as a group of economists have written to the papers claiming that The Scotland Bill does not contain the levers necessary to foster economic growth. (Scotsman page 8, Brian Monteith in The Scotsman page 27, Herald page 1, Courier page 8, Sunday Herald page 4, the Press Association, Press and Journal)

Scottish budget: Senior Labour sources have reportedly indicated that they plan to vote down the SNP Government’s budget on Tuesday. If the budget fails on Tuesday, the Scottish Parliament could vote to dissolve, which would bring the election forward to March instead of May. (Sunday Times page 2, Sunday Herald page 4)

Polling machines:  New machines that will count the votes at next year`s local council elections are due to be tested. They will replace the machines which caused delays and led to votes going uncounted in the joint council and Holyrood elections in 2007. This year\\\’s Holyrood vote will still be counted manually, but the local elections in 2012 will again use electronic counting systems. (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 2)

Justice

Lockerbie: The Scottish Government will today release new documents detailing discussions with Westminster over the release of the Lockerbie bomber in an effort to quash speculation that a deal was made behind the scenes. The move comes as the Scottish Government denied reported claims in The Scotsman that ministers in Edinburgh tried to win concessions on powers over firearms and slopping out compensation in return for agreeing to the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 6, Daily Express page 4, Times page 17, Daily Telegraph page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 4)

Policing principles: Police have revealed six key principles which will underpin the revamped Scottish force and shifted their focus from saving money to providing a better service.  Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson has pinpointed community services, fighting crime, counter-terrorism, road safety, specialist operation and the work of support staff, as the pillars on which the new force will be built. (Scotsman page 14)

Terrorism: Police are urging people to report suspicious activity which they think may be linked to terrorism as part of a new campaign to avert a major attack in Scotland. Assistant Chief Constable Colin McCashey, head of counter-terrorism in Scotland, has asked members of the public to go with their "gut instinct" if they notice something out of the ordinary. He admits Scotland is at risk from a range of threats, from al-Qaeda groups to right-wing extremists. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 11, Daily Express page 6)

Education

4 day week: A Scottish council is examining the introduction of a four-day week for all primary and secondary schools as it struggles to balance budgets in the face of unprecedented spending cuts. North Ayrshire Council said it was considering the plan in the medium term and claimed it was not alone in looking at the radical solution to delivering its education commitments from scarce resources. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 11, Courier page 10, Daily Express page 7, Times page 8, Scottish Daily Mail page 10, Sunday Herald page 6)

Health

Flu vaccine: Scientists at Oxford University have successfully tested a universal flu vaccine that could work against all known strains of the illness, taking a significant step in the fight against a disease that affects billions of people each year. The treatment – using a new technique and tested for the first time on humans infected with flu – targets a different part of the flu virus to traditional vaccines, meaning it does not need expensive reformulation every year to match the most prevalent virus that is circulating the world. (Guardian page 1)

 Peanut allergy: Young boys from affluent backgrounds are more likely to suffer from a peanut allergy than other children; a study by researchers in Scotland has shown.

The research, by a team at the University of Edinburgh, found that young boys have higher rates of the condition than young girls, and children from well-off homes are more likely to be affected than those from poorer backgrounds. So far it remains unclear why nut allergies are common in boys and the better off, leading the scientists to call for more research to explain the trends. (Scotsman page 20, Daily Express page 13, Times page 17, Scottish Daily Mail page 29)