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Reform Scotland News: 12 September 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
Ed Balls:
Ed Balls was heckled yesterday as he gave a speech to the TUC Conference where he urged union members not to strike in protest at public sector pay cuts. (Sun page 2, Record page 10, Telegraph page 16, Herald page 6)

Devolution anniversary: In a speech marking the fifteenth anniversary of devolution yesterday, the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called on the Scottish electorate to ‘complete the journey’ and back independence for Scotland. (Herald page 6)

Referendum: Attempts by Alex Salmond to lower the voting franchise to 16 for the independence referendum are reportedly set to fail as UK ministers doubt whether 16 and 17 year olds would be able to be registered in time for the 2014 poll. (Times page 14)

Thatcher T-shirts: Delegates at the TUC conference in Brighton have been criticised for selling ‘party packs’ to be opened on the death of ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (Sun page 2, Express page 15)

Tennis:  Following Andy Murray’s triumph at the US Open, the First Minister has faced calls to increase the £1m the Scottish Government has given to tennis in order to capitalise on the success. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 1, Record page 4)

Strikes: Union leaders have reportedly warned that public sector strikes will not be averted even if Finance Minister John Swinney proposes a ‘modest’ pay rise for workers in next weeks’ draft Budget. The statement comes as union members at yesterday’s TUC conference voted in favour of a general strike involving millions of workers across the UK. (Times page 12, Record page 10)

Centralisation: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman suggests that the political culture of centralisation of political powers has remained in spite of devolution, as more money is handed to Edinburgh from the regions.

Focus on independence: Iain Gray in the Scotsman comments that the debate in Scottish politics is too focused on the independence referendum and should be more focused on issues such as social justice and equality.

Economy
Retail:
The Scottish Retail Consortium has released figures suggesting that like-for-like retail sales were down 2.7% last month compared to the same month last year. The drop is being blamed partly on the Olympics, which the SRC presented a ‘major distraction.’ (Scotsman page 7, Sun page 19, Express page 23)

Charities: The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has warned that Scottish charities are spending more that they are bringing in through donations and that small charities are being hit hardest.  The SCVO added that 51% of those turning over £12,500 or less and 48% of those turning over £12,500 to £25,000 are in deficit.. (Herald page 4)

Tourism: Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of Visit Scotland, has suggested that stringent visa restrictions and high taxes are putting off tourists from visiting the country. Herald page 9)

Justice
Legal fees:
Increases in legal fees charged to those accused of crimes may force people to represent themselves in court, jeopardising their chance of a fair trial, representatives from the Law Society of Scotland have said. The proposed changes come in the Scottish Civil Justice and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill, which will also force lawyers to pursue defendants for fees prior to the trials taking place. (Scotsman page 6, Times page 17)

Education
Teachers:
 According to the report ‘Education at a Glance’t published by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Scottish teachers spend an average 855 hours in the classroom, compared to a figure of 697 for their counterparts in the rest of the UK. Teaching union the EIS, has said that the report shows the dedication of Scottish teachers whilst also emphasising the need for the Scottish Government to help teachers more. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 9, Sun page 2, Express page 4, Courier page 20)

Music tuition: Fees charged in Scottish schools for music tuition are ‘undesirable’ but necessary, according to Michael Russell, the Scottish Education Secretary. Teachers’ union EIS suggests that fees are charged on an ad hoc basis, with policies differing between councils. (Times page 11, Courier page 16)

Health
Alcohol:
Problems caused by the effects of alcohol costs the Scottish taxpayer £615 per head, according to Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS). The sum was calculated from costs associated with policing and health and social care. AFS suggest the figure is unacceptable and say that they hope the report influences council’s practise with regards to licensing. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 7, Sun page 2, Record page 8)

Organ donation: New Scottish Health Minister Alex Neill is facing calls to make organ donation automatic unless patients opt out, after it emerged he voted for a change in the law when the SNP were in opposition. (Herald page 9, Record page 16, Express page 28, P&J page 13)

Local Government
Wind farms:
Scottish councils are reportedly spending large amounts of money fighting wind farm developments on unsuitable plots of land in the courts. (Telegraph page 6)