ScotGov:  Could sustainable energy sources replace oil revenues without disputes over ‘ownership’?‘An independent Scotland with full fiscal autonomy would be better able to achieve its full economic potential’.  Finance Secretary John Swinney made the claim last week as the Scottish Government published Fiscal Autonomy in Scotland: the case for change and options for reform as part of the ongoing National Conversation on Scotland's future.

The publication contains a detailed assessment of all options for reform of Scotland's financial framework and is designed to help inform & spark debate on the best way forward.  It concludes that full fiscal autonomy through independence would both help Scotland deal with short term issues like the global downturn and put the country on the best path for a more successful future - unlike other options short of independence.

The publication takes five potential options for reform:
* Independence
* devolution max
* enhanced devolution
* assigned revenues
* current framework
Press release ~ Fiscal Autonomy in Scotland: The case for change and options for reform ~ Choosing Scotland’s Future ~ Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields

CLGBut will it address the growing problem of ‘unemployed & disadvantaged whites’? - A consultation on improving opportunities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people has been announced.  A new report is claimed to demonstrate that the Government has made significant progress in tackling race equality in everything from the job market & health services, to education, housing and criminal justice.

The third & final report on the Government's race equality strategy - Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society - claims that further progress depends on recognising that different ethnic groups are experiencing disadvantage in different ways.  The Government is consulting on how best to move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to targeted help addressing the different needs of particular groups.

The consultation will also take account of the additional challenge posed by the economic downturn.  Past evidence shows that Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, as well as disadvantaged White people, are hit harder than others because of the type of job they have or because they live in deprived areas.

To kick-start the debate a discussion document - Tackling Race Equalities - is also being published.  It invites views (by 18 May 2009) on what the Government's future approach to promoting race equality should be, asking as well as rights, what responsibilities are there for people from all communities in Britain to others and themselves.
Press release ~ Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: A third progress report ~ Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society ~ Tackling race inequalities: A discussion document

WAGWill prevailing ‘Westerlies’ blow away Welsh dependence on fossil fuels? - A new plan to lessen Wales’ reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewable, low-carbon energy sources has been published for consultation (closes on 22 May 2009) by Welsh Environment Minister, Jane Davidson.  The Bioenergy Action Plan for Wales aims to generate at least 5 terawatt hours of electricity (about 20% of current needs) from renewable biomass by 2020.  It also aims to have biomass provide 2.5 terawatt hours of usable heat energy (about 3% of current needs).

This will result in a reduction of about 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year in comparison with generation based on fossil fuels and will hopefully also create new jobs.  Biomass is ‘carbon neutral’, in that the amount of carbon it absorbs while growing is the same as the amount it produces when burned.
Press release ~ Consultation on a Bioenergy Action Plan for Wales ~ Funding to support the development of a Biosciences and Environment Alliance ~ Bio-energy Capital Grants scheme ~ UK Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF) ~ UK Biomass Strategy ~ Environmental Transformation Fund - Anaerobic Digestion ~ FoE Briefing document ~ The European Anaerobic Digestion Network ~ UK Biomass Strategy 2007: Working paper 3. Anaerobic Digestion ~ Renewable Energy Route Map for Wales

CO:  With Public Borrowing soaring can the public sector  afford proprietary software? - The Cabinet Office has published a new policy on Open Source software that is intended to ‘ensure maximum value for money for taxpayers’. Minister for Digital Engagement, Tom Watson, said "the new policy reflects changes to both the Open Source market and the Government's approach to IT.  It sets out ten actions that will make sure of a level playing field for Open Source Software, and encourage the use of Open Standards".

There are three aspects to the new policy:
* Open Source software: the policy includes 10 actions that will actively help make sure the best possible, best value for money software solutions are put forward for tenders, be they Open Source or propriety products
* Open Standards: the policy contains an explicit reference to Open Standards, ensuring systems are inter-operable and avoiding getting locked into a particular product where possible
* Re-use: the Government will look to re-use what it has already bought, with successful solutions being made available across Government.
Press release ~ Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use: Government Action Plan ~ OSS Watch ~ Open Source Testing ~ Open Source Academy project ~ Socitm Open Source Software Group  (SOSS) ~ FLOSSPOLS from the University of Maastricht ~ IDABC Open Source Observatory ~ Star Office User Portal ~ OGC guiudance

HASomething to help parents sleep better at night - The Highways Agency is following up on its highly successful Driver Information Programme for motorcyclists - Great Roads Great Rides - with a new interactive DVD-ROM‘Great Roads Great Rides 2’ is a new resource to help riders 'read the road' successfully and stay safe while enjoying their biking experience.

The package includes a DVD film and interactive package. With clever filming techniques, it puts the viewer on the bike, inside the helmet & close to the road, and features a 14-minute ride-out from motorway on to urban and countryside roads.

Riders can then use the second section offering an interactive challenge when the disc is used with a computer.  Here the ride-out section freezes at specific points so the viewer can have a go at identifying the clues that they would use when reading the road ahead.  Motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than car occupants.  One in four accidents involved no other vehicle and almost half of the accidents involving a motorcycle occurred at a junction.

The Highways Agency will be giving away copies of the 'Great Rides Great Roads 2' DVD at the 'Ally Pally Motorcycle Show' at Alexandra Palace (Stand G46) from Friday 27 February until Sunday 1 March 2009.  In addition, the Agency will also be exhibiting a new bikers survival pack.  The kit has been specially designed to fit neatly under a motor bike seat and includes a light-weight high visibility jacket, a visor wiper and a light weight survival blanket.
Press release ~ Great Roads Great Rides2 ~ eSUM (European Safer Urban Motorcycling) Project ~ TfL - Motorcycle safety ~ 'Enhanced Rider Scheme' (ERS) ~ Driving Standards Agency (DSA) - Motorcyclists ~ Motorcycle Industry Association ~ Government Motorcycling Strategy ~ National Motorcycle Council ~ SHARP - the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme ~ Bikesafe - Motorcycle Rider Safety ~ Motorcycle Rider Training Association (MRTA) ~ ACEM

NAOHow best to not keep re-inventing the wheel - To obtain value for money from public spending, lessons must be learnt from both success and failure.  Although there is some effective learning within departments, learning is still not as prioritised as much as it should be, according to a new National Audit Office report.

Much learning in government occurs after large projects, initiatives or crises, but important learning should also take place routinely on a day-to-day basis, as teams and individuals carry out their work, or as a result of research and evaluations.  Feedback from outside the organisation, particularly from service users, is also vital for improving service delivery.

The main barriers to learning within departments are ineffective tools to capture and share learning, keeping insights and information within the team rather than sharing them across the organisation, high turnover within the workforce leading to a loss of knowledge, and a lack of time given to capturing lessons from experience.
Press release ~ NAO: Helping Government Learn ~ National School of Government ~ Virtual School ~ Good practice.net

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