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Daily Political Media Summary: 29 September 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 29 September 2009

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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 blue and underlined.

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Economy

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Sterling: The pound tumbled further against the euro and dollar yesterday, as the UK’s relative economic outlook and comments by Bank of England Governor Mervyn King about a weaker currency being “helpful” continued to have an effect. The euro hit 93p yesterday for the first time since March, up more than one penny on its pre-weekend close in London of 91.875p. Sterling meanwhile dropped as far as $1.5772; its weakest against the US currency since May and down about two cents from its pre-weekend close. (Herald page 28) 

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Tourist industry: Scotland’s tourism industry is set to withstand the impact of the recession. A successful summer for hundreds of hotels, guesthouses, caravan parks and self-catering cottages has helped the industry beat the threat of the downturn. The number of trips booked by UK visitors is said to be up 3.7 per cent on last year, with many holidaymakers shunning overseas trips due to poor exchange rates and worries over the security of airline companies. (Scotsman page 19, Press and Journal page 6)

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Crime

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Crime assets: Almost £10 million of assets from criminals in and around Scotland\’s capital are set to be seized following a six-month crackdown on the activities of major players. Details of a string of big-money raids were unveiled yesterday as police chiefs revealed they were making progress in cracking more than 35 gangs of serious criminals. Some 24 people have been arrested since the beginning of September, with the discovery of £1 million worth of heroin, £220,000 worth of cannabis and £50,000 worth of cocaine in separate raids during the last week alone. The force had already seized some £1.6 million of class-A drugs between the beginning of April and mid-September. (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 11) 

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Crime rate: Recorded crime in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level in almost 30 years, official statistics have revealed. The figures showed there were a total of 377,433 crimes reported to Scotland\’s police forces in 2008-09, a drop of 2 per cent on the previous year. The report from Scotland\’s chief statistician showed that the overall crime rate was the lowest since 1980. All eight police forces recorded a drop, ranging from a marginal fall in the Northern area and Lothian and Borders to an 11 per cent decrease in Dumfries and Galloway. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed the statistics but said it was important there was no complacency over crime. (BBC)

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Transport 

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Train review: A review has been ordered into how to utilise major upgrades to railway infrastructure that were originally intended to be part of the abandoned Glasgow Airport Rail Link. The option appraisal is being carried out by Network Rail. It may also see costs rising for the remaining £182m package of works that survived the budget last week, with Network Rail proposing to install an additional turning loop outside Paisley in order to allow additional trains to run to Glasgow. (Herald page 5)

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Health

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Children’s healthy habits: A new study has claimed that women with jobs raise unhealthier children than those who stay at home. Female parents who keep their careers are more likely to drive their kids to school, give them fizzy drinks and let them watch too much TV, researchers have found. Scientists from the Institute of Child Health called for working families to be given more support, and said governments should introduce better policies to cope with parents returning to employment. The study of more than 12,000 families established a direct relationship between the amount of time a mother worked and the health of her children, even after socio-economic factors had been taken into account. (Herald page 21, Times page 20)

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Doctors’ salaries: NHS Tayside paid out nearly £3 million last year in bonuses to leading doctors, many of whom were already earning a basic salary of around £100,000 a year. Doctors can nominate themselves for the controversial “distinction award”, a performance-related top-up that adds more than £74,000 to a top-rated consultant’s salary. Last year two consultants based at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee moved up to the A+ category and there are currently five NHS Tayside consultants picking up the A+ bonus. (Courier page 1) 

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Obesity: The British Heart Foundation has warned Scotland is heading for an obesity epidemic. A study by the charity has found just one in eight kids get the recommended amount of exercise each day. If trends continue, more than two thirds of all children will be overweight or obese by 2050. A survey of more than a thousand children across Britain revealed that more than 10 per cent of youngsters are getting less than 30 minutes of exercise each day. Experts say at least an hour is needed to keep kids healthy, but that target is being reached by just one in eight children. (STV)

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Education

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Research grant: Scottish scientists have been awarded a grant of almost £500,000 to discover whether climate change could have an impact on carbon dioxide being released from Europe\’s soils. The researchers at Aberdeen University\’s Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences and the city\’s Macaulay Land Use Research Institute will be testing the theory that soils are likely to release more into the atmosphere if Europe\’s climate warms up or becomes wetter. (Scotsman page 21)

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School building programme: The transformation of Scotland’s crumbling school estate is creating a two-tier system, according to a government report. The Scottish Government’s new strategy on future school building, published yesterday, said one emerging concern was that some primaries and secondaries were still in a very poor condition, while others were brand new. The warning came as Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, announced the first group of schools to benefit from a £1.25bn funding package. Although the funding for 14 new secondaries has been welcomed, it falls far short of the estimated £5bn required to bring the entire school estate up to an acceptable standard by 2020. (Herald page 1, Times page 30, Telegraph page 6, BBC) 

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Politics

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Labour party: Labour has been pushed into third place for the first time in a generation according to a new poll that heaps pressure on Gordon Brown ahead of his fight back speech to his party conference today. Labour is now behind the Liberal Democrats, according to an Ipsos Mori poll. The Prime Minister will reportedly make a last-ditch bid to save his embattled leadership by highlighting his actions to rescue the economy from a major banking collapse. He is also expected to unveil new policies on antisocial behaviour, including the rolling out of family intervention projects, modelled on a scheme in Dundee. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 4)

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Referendum: A referendum on Scottish independence could be considered by Labour “at some point in the future.” Scots Secretary Jim Murphy said yesterday. But now was not the time, as a referendum in the middle of a recession would be “ludicrous”, he insisted. Mr Murphy`s comments came after Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray told the Labour conference “the day may well come” when Scots wanted to settle the constitutional question in a referendum…but not now, in the midst of a recession. And not on a question rigged by the SNP.” (Herald page 6, Times page 10, Press and Journal page 11)

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Lord Mandelson: Lord Mandelson spoke at the Labour conference yesterday where he told his flagging party that if he could make a comeback it could do the same. He took Labour delegates, MPs and ministers by surprise with a highly personal speech in which he said that the next election was far from lost if they showed voters that they had not lost the fighting spirit and appetite for change. The choice facing voters was between the “experience and change” of Gordon Brown’s leadership and the “shallowness of David Cameron”, he said. Earlier in the day he dismissed the Tory leader as a “flibbertigibbet” who had not convinced the voters. (Times page 3, Telegraph page 10, Courier page, Press and Journal page 1, Guardian page 1) 

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British Army: Plans to remove the British Army’s ‘footprint’ from Scotland and move its command structure entirely to England show that Jim Murphy and Iain Gray have failed to recognise the Army\’s presence as one of Labour’s ‘dividends of Union’, Alan Cochrane comments in the Telegraph. (Telegraph page 11) 

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Oil: Newly released records from 1975 show Government officials admitted that the discovery of oil had transformed the economic case for separation. They calculated that Scots’ average income would increase by up to 30 per cent per head and it could be “credibly argued” that repealing the Act of Union was to Scotland’s advantage. England would have faced “difficult years” of adjustment following the break-up, complete with higher taxes and unemployment, but would have bounced back relatively quickly. Civil servants also warned that an independent Scotland risked “disaster” if the oil price collapsed and concluded there was a “good case” for the retention of the Union. (Telegraph page 13, Press and Journal page 3)

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