Daily Political Media Summary: 11 December 200911.12.2009

Reform Scotland


Daily Political Media Summary: 11 December 2009


All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is blue and underlined.


Economy


Population concern: Scottish couples are refraining from having children due to the recession and fears about the financial risk of having children in the current climate.  Despite an increase in 2007-2008, the number of births has declined in Scotland in the last year.  The number of marriages also fell by 5 per cent between summer 2008 and 2009.  (Scotsman page 9)


Pre-Budget Report:  Alistair Darling’s Pre Budget Report (PBR) has reportedly outlined a reduction in the Scottish budget of 1.6 per cent. The £800 million reduction led to anger at First Minister’s questions yesterday and Alex Salmond stating that Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray had been “humiliated” by Mr Darling and that a number of job creating programmes would delayed by the cuts thereby “sabotaging recovery” especially whilst North Sea Oil makes a significant contribution to the UK economy . The PBR sets out reductions to cut UK spending of approximately one fifth in the areas of defence, housing and transport. (Scotsman page 6, Daily Telegraph page 1, Financial Times page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 6, Daily Express page 7)


Mortgages:  The number of people being given mortgages is at its highest since December 2007 according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).  The number of first time buyers being given mortgages has also increased in the last year.  However, they are being asked for 25 per cent deposits for the ninth month in a row.  (Scotsman page 10)


Recession:  The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has stated following the Pre Budget Report that the cost to each person in the UK of balancing the country’s finances is approximately £2,400.  The total reconstruction costs have been estimated at £76 billion with one third from taxes and the remainder from spending cuts. (Herald page 6, Daily Mail page 21)


British debt:  Families in Britain have a strong tendency towards debt accumulation and save very little according to the Office for National Statistics.  Just less than half of the families in the UK have stated they prefer to enjoy a good standard of living rather than save for retirement.  Approximately 80 per cent have credit card and loan debt whilst only 32 per cent pay into a private pension.  The ONS has also reported that wealth in the UK is highly unbalanced. (Times page 26)


Household wealth:  Scots households are reported to have average wealth of £55,000 less than those in England and Wales. The Wealth and Assets study has taken all assets into consideration. The difference is due to large variations in house prices.  Labour has pledged to address the issue by increasing pensions, child benefit and the minimum wage.  (Sun page 8)


Crime


Police assaults: The number of assaults on police officers has increased dramatically.  The worrying trend has been blamed on declining respect for the job as well as inappropriate or insufficient punishment of offenders by the courts.  However, the increase in police on the beat has been cited.  Violence against officers is said to have led to a loss of almost a thousand days of policing in the last year which equates to £200,000. (Herald page 3)


Transport


Borders railway:  The project to build the Borders railway is already a year late and competition to receive the contract for the construction and 30 years maintenance of the service was only launched yesterday.  Construction, which was due to start in 2011, will now not reach completion until autumn 2014.  The project is centred on reopening the line between Waverley and Carlisle and is expected to generate new house building projects. (Scotsman page 22)


Education


SNP pledges:  New education secretary Michael Russell has outlined plans which will see two key SNP pledges dropped.  The new proposals could see 11,000 more pupils being taught in smaller classes; however this is only 20 per cent of primary one to three pupils. The new pledge will also give councils more flexibility over free school meals.  The offer has reportedly been made to local authority umbrella group COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities). (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Times page 14, Courier page 3, BBC, STV)


Teaching jobs: A new report by the General Teaching Council for Scotland has revealed that only one in five newly qualified teachers are actually finding jobs compared to last year when just over 30 per cent of probationers were placed in full time positions. Concerns have been raised over the number of teachers who could potentially leave the profession (Scotsman page 2, Press and Journal page 7, TESS page 1, BBC)


Vulnerable pupils: A charity which represents parents has accused councils of failing to support autistic children as teachers under Additional Support Needs (ASN) programmes have been forced back into mainstream education following budget cuts.  (TESS page 6)


Health


Flu jab:  Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has urged pregnant women to ensure that they are given the H1N1 jab which protects against swine flu, stating that currently only a third of pregnant women are receiving this.  Ms Sturgeon has stated that those who do not receive the vaccine are putting the health of their unborn baby at risk although it has now been stated that the virus is not as dangerous as previously predicted. Health boards and GP surgeries are now concentrating on ensuring that all expectant mothers receive the jab before Christmas. (Scotsman page 13, Daily Mirror page 35)


NHS:  A report by NHQ Quality Improvement for Scotland (NHS QIS) has stated that the NHS should provide more support for people with learning disabilities, following the death of two vulnerable adults. It has stated that the current 12,000 adults with learning difficulties should be given easier access to care and facilities as well as better general health screening.  (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 12)


Minimum pricing: The Church of Scotland is pressing its congregations to call for the introduction of minimum pricing by placing pressure on the largest UK drinks producers as well as MSPs in a bid to protect and improve public health.  Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed the move.  (Press and Journal page 9)


Politics


Devolution debates: UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw yesterday was accused of trying to avoid “political embarrassment” by vetoing the publication of minutes of a debate held following the 1997 Labour election victory.  The debate is thought to have details of Mr Straw’s hostility to home rule legislation and debate with Donald Dewar over the proposed Scottish Parliament. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 7, Times page 13, Press and Journal page 11, Daily Express page 2)


MPs’ Expenses:  Labour MP Eric Joyce has reportedly had his expenses frozen whilst an investigation is launched into his travel claims for trips to Africa and Japan which cost a total of £5,000.  The investigation will also look into claims for a hotel bill which included minibar drinks and a charitable donation.  The further round of expenses investigations has exposed MPs and prompted Gordon Brown to announce that he had paid further “questionable” expenses back voluntarily. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 1, Times page 1, Guardian page 4, Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 1, Daily Mirror page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 1, Sun page 1)


Human Rights Conference: Alex Salmond has welcomed the “vote of confidence” from the international community as the tenth International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions is to be held in Scotland in October 2010. The conference will be attended by delegates from more than 80 countries as well as United Nations representatives and business leaders to discuss human rights. (Scotsman page 7)