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Reform Scotland News: 10 April 2012

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.  In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News

Politics
Bill Walker MSP: MSP Bill Walker, who has been expelled from the SNP over allegations of domestic abuse, has said he will continue at Holyrood as an independent nationalist and commented that his expulsion was “harsh in the extreme” and referred to the accusations as “unproven allegations.”  However, MSPs across the different parties have called on Mr Walker to resign. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 1, Record page 23, Mail page 16, Express page 8)

Total’s Elgin platform: Results from tests on the first samples of fish taken from the vicinity of Total’s Elgin platform could be made public today and give an indication of the extent of toxins leaked from the platform. (Scotsman page 18, P&J page 9, Sunday Herald page 8)

Monarchy: Peter Jones in the Scotsman looks at the relationship between the SNP and the monarchy.

Defence: Jennifer Dempsie in the Scotsman comments that Scotland’s military capabilities would be strengthened by independence, while Jim Murphy in Monday’s Scotsman argues that independence would lead to isolation abroad and weakened forces at home.

David Mundell: Scottish Tory MP David Mundell is expected to make a speech today arguing that being part of the UK opens doors to business and trade for Scotland across the world. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 6, P&J page 13)

Rendition: There are allegations that Tony Blair’s government approved the rendition of terror suspect, Abdul Hakim Belhaj to the Gaddafi regime in Libya. The individual is now a leading military commander in the new Libyan regime. (Herald page 1)

Scotland Office files: According to files released by the Scotland Office, senior Conservatives in the last Tory government were warned by officials that a report into Monklands District Council by Professor Robert Black of Edinburgh claiming that there was a spending bias in favour of largely Catholic Coatbridge contained no prima facie evidence and an inquiry was unlikely to achieve anything.  (Herald page 8)

Olympics: Hamish Macdonell in Monday’s Mail comments on the impact the Olympics will have on the independence debate in Scotland.

Economy
Housing market: According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors house prices have fallen over the past quarter and buyer inquiries and sales in Scotland fell last month.  Although there has been a rise in the number of people looking to sell their homes, a shortage of buyers is reportedly stalling the market. (Scotsman page 1, Anthony Perriam in the Scotsman, Mail page 17, P&J page 13, Courier page 15)

Scottish Enterprise: Lena Wilson, chief executive at Scottish Enterprise, is interviewed in the Scotsman and comments on how to improve Scotland’s position in the global market place. The interview is part of a series in the Scotsman looking at Scotland’s economic future. (Scotsman page 1, Eddie Barnes in the Scotsman, David Bell in the Scotsman)

Wind power: Professor Jane Bower has criticised the Scottish government’s focus on wind power in a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s economy, energy and tourism committee’s renewable energy inquiry.  She said that Scotland should rethink its “headlong dash for antiquated and inefficient wind turbines” and focus on emerging sources such as shale gas. (Scotsman page 14, Richard Dixon in the Scotsman)

University graduate employment: The first survey of Scottish university graduates looking at employment has been launched by Citizens Advice Scotland. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 7)

Event tourism: Professors Philip Riddle and Joe Goldblatt comment on event tourism in Scotland in the Scotsman.

Local Government
Lib Dem councillor: Former East Dunbartonshire Lib Dem councillor, Duncan Cumming, has accused the party of abandoning it “core, fundamental values” and is standing as an independent candidate in May’s local elections. (Scotsman page 10)

Mayors and local taxes: Reform Scotland’s chairman Ben Thomson in the Sunday Times comments that the introduction of mayors in Scotland could help rejuvenate local government along with devolving powers on taxes, including business rates.  Dani Garavelli in the Scotland on Sunday also considers the impact mayors could have in Scotland.

Local power: Lesley Riddoch in Monday’s Scotsman comments that Scottish councils are too large, too distant from the electorate and too dependent on Monday from Holyrood.

Justice
Police VAT: The Lib Dems have urged the Scottish government to drop their plans for a single police force over concerns that the force will face an annual £22m VAT bill. The eight existing forces are currently exempt from the tax due to their ties to local authorities. (Scotsman page 17, Times page 16, P&J page 13)

Tracking prisoners: A Scottish government pilot in Airdrie is to use new technology to track the location of prisoners due in court. Research has indicated that in around 3 per cent of court hearings the accused was not present as he was in prison on another offence and no-one in the court new, wasting £3.5million a year. (Herald page 4)

Education
Strike action: Delegates from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers’ (NASUWT) have backed calls to oppose recommendations in the McCormac report which look to make working arrangements in Scotland more flexible, without changing teachers’ 35-hour week or their pay. (Scotsman page 21)

School link officers: Hugh Reilly in the Scotsman comments on Edinburgh council’s decision to extend an initiative where 23 secondary schools are linked up with 11 police officers.

Technical schools: Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has suggested that Scotland follow England and introduce ‘technical schools’ to allow pupils from age 14 to quit mainstream school and study at specialist centres which focus more on practical skills. (Mail page 2)

Additional support for learning: Julie Belgutay in the TESS examines whether the latest legislation is helping children who require additional support.

Health
Air ambulances: Safety checks have been ordered on Eurocopter EC135 helicopters used as air ambulances after the discovery of a crack in a rotor blade on one helicopter. (Times page 8, Record page 22, Mail page 4, Courier page 15, Express page 10, Telegraph page 7)