REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 28 FEBRUARY 2011

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 28 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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Murray Backs Salmond:  Business leaders have been accused of trying to swing the outcome of the Scottish elections, after Sir David Murray became the latest businessman to back the SNP. The committed Unionist and owner of Rangers FC said he believed the SNP leader was "the best man for the job" ahead of May\\\’s poll and the "best choice" to lead the Scottish Government in the economic crisis. (Scotsman page 14, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Herald page 6, Daily Express page 4, Daily Telegraph page 1, Times page 3, Press and Journal page 8)

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Lockerbie: Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi threatened to reveal the role of senior regime members in the attack unless he secured his release from prison, two former members of Colonle Gaddafi’s inner circle have claimed. Libya\\\’s former Justice Minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, claimed that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi warned Col Gaddafi he would carry out his threat if he was not returned to his family, prompting the dictator to spend £50,000 a month on lobbying and legal fees.  (Scotsman page 8-9, Herald page 5, Sunday Times page 1)

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Scotland Bill: The Scottish Government has expressed concern after Advocate General Lord Wallace tabled clauses to the Scotland Bill to move appeals for Scottish criminal cases to the UK Supreme Court. The move could end centuries of tradition of appeals being held in Edinburgh. Members of Labour MSP Wendy Alexander’s Scotland Bill committee were reportedly told they couldn’t disclose the changes, which could leave a key plank of the country’s legal system under threat. (Herald page 1)

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Opinion Poll: Labour is on course for a resounding victory in May’s Holyrood election as voters turn away from the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, according to the latest opinion poll. The YouGov survey of more than 1,200 people gives Iain Gray’s party a commanding lead over the SNP. (Herald page 6, Sunday Times page 6)

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Holyrood Reform: The Scottish Parliament has been accused of lacking seriousness and of resembling a tourist attraction rather than a debating chamber by the longest-serving First Minister. In a critique of the way Holyrood goes about its business, the newly-ennobled life peer, Lord McConnell of Glencorrosdale, declared that some of Holyrood\\\’s rules are "ludicrous" with ministers who should be pinned down by MSPs on policy receiving little or no scrutiny in question sessions that are "rarely lively or interesting". (Scotland on Sunday page 10, Times page 15, Daily Telegraph page 13)

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Fisheries: Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has accused the EU of snubbing Scotland over talks about the rules that force marketable fish to be thrown back into the sea.  European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki will hold a meeting on the issue of “discards” tomorrow and it has been reported that she will unveil a proposal to ban the controversial practice that sets a limit for the amount of fish skippers are allowed to land, resulting in dead fish being thrown overboard. (Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 7, Courier page 3)

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Scottish Conservatives: The Scottish Tories have been "detoxified" by David Cameron\\\’s government and can make significant gains at the polls in May, the leader of the party\\\’s Holyrood election campaign has claimed. David McLetchie told The Scotsman that a "major part" of the party\\\’s election campaign strategy would focus on a "robust defence of the UK government". (Scotsman page 1)

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Economy

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Wage Stagnation: The average UK wage in 2015 will be less in real terms than it was in 2003, according to a new analysis by a think-tank. Published ahead of the launch of a commission on living standards in the UK, the figures from the Resolution Foundation underline the extent of the squeeze on families on middle incomes as inflation continues to outpace wage rises. The figures show that after taking account of inflation, the median wage of a full-time employee will be the equivalent of £25,559 in 2015, less than the £25,570 earned in 2003. Scottish economists described the figures as "too pessimistic" but warned that 2011 will be the toughest year since the banking collapse. (Scotsman page 4, Daily Telegraph page 12)

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VisitScotland:  VisitScotland has insisted it will not have to cut back on its worldwide marketing initiatives despite having to shave £4 million from its budget. Scotland\\\’s tourism agency has avoided the kind of cuts imposed by VisitBritain by embarking on a cost-cutting drive, including a voluntary redundancy programme. (Scotsman page 3)

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Transport

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Snow Ploughs: A new fleet of snow ploughs is being drafted in by Scotland\\\’s airports to avert the closures that caused transport chaos for passengers and airlines during the severe winter weather. Nearly £3 million is being spent by Edinburgh and Glasgow airports on 15 extra vehicles so runways and taxiways can be cleared faster. (Scotland on Sunday page 7)

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Airline Tax: Aviation bosses have criticised the coalition government for slow progress in reforming the controversial Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is set to cost the Scottish economy £77 million over the next three years. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

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Justice

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Prison Literacy: Almost 60% of inmates attending prison learning centres last year were illiterate, new figures have revealed. Labour branded the statistics "shocking" and called for action to address the problem. Figures obtained in response to a parliamentary question showed that, in 2009/10, 57% of prisoners in Scotland on average were "lacking functional literacy" – below Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) intermediate level one. (Herald page 3, Press and Journal page 11, Courier page 3)

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Health

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Vitamin D: Higher doses of vitamin D than previously thought are needed to protect against cancer and other diseases according to doctors in the United States. Vitamin D is obtained largely by exposure of skin to the sun and so most people in the UK have relatively low levels because of the cloudy climate. Scotland’s poor health record may be linked to low doses of the vitamin due to lack of sunlight. (Times page 18)

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Skin Cancer: A genetic fault which causes a rare skin cancer to spontaneously heal instead of grow has been uncovered by Scottish scientists. Cancer researchers from the University of Dundee were part of an international effort to unlock the mechanism behind multiple self-healing squamous epithelioma (MSSE) cancer. They found faults in a gene called TGFBR1 sent two different messages to surrounding cells depending on the type of cancer and maturity of the tumour. (Scotsman page 18)

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Poorer Patients: A report from the Royal College of GPs Scotland this week claims medics working in deprived areas are being “overwhelmed” and are often unable to deal with patients many issues within a ten minute consultation.  They now want patients in these areas to be given appointments of up to 20 minutes, hoping to reduce the health gap between the poor and well off. (Scotland on Sunday page 6)