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Daily Political Media Summary: 12 November 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 12 November 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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Financial services in Edinburgh: Edinburgh is losing its status as a major hub for financial services with the "centre of gravity" shifting to London, MSPs were told yesterday. Former RBS chief economist Jeremy Peat said the city had already lost many of the benefits of having two major banks headquartered in the capital; he told members of Holyrood\’s economy, energy and tourism committee, "Come what may, we\’re likely to have lost a great deal of the benefit of having two major head offices, I worry about that." (Scotsman Page 5, Herald Page 1, Daily Telegraph Page 8)

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Drink price plan: Whisky giant Whyte & Mackay could be forced to close its main Scottish bottling plant and shed 300 jobs if the SNP government goes ahead with plans for minimum alcohol pricing. Minimum pricing is part of a raft of measures by the SNP government aimed at tackling Scotland\’s terrible record on alcohol-linked health problems. The company has warned MSPs that it would be badly affected by proposals to introduce minimum drinks prices of 40p per unit of alcohol. (Scotsman Page 21)

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Unemployment: The recession has left one in five 16-to-24 year olds in Britain without a job, according to new unemployment figures. The UK government was accused of failing young people after it was disclosed that the number stood at a record high of 943,000. (Scotsman Page 4, Herald Page 4, Press & Journal Page 8, Courier Page 1, Daily Express Page 4)

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Energy bills: One of the UK\’s leading energy suppliers Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) which owns Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro Electric, warned it may have to hike prices next year, despite announcing a sharp increase in profits yesterday. Last night, campaigners and politicians said vulnerable people would be put at risk by a price increase. (Scotsman Page 13, Herald Page 3, Daily Mail Page 2)

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Festivals: Edinburgh’s money-spinning festivals attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and pump £200 million into the nation\’s economy every year. But the flagship events are facing a mounting funding crisis over the next few years – due to cuts in public funding, dwindling sponsorship and the impact of the economic downturn on donations. Senior festival figures are warning of severe implications for future years if projected funding gaps are not filled. (Scotsman Page 18)

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Crime

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Short jail terms: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill suffered an embarrassing defeat with an influential Holyrood committee rejecting his plans to scrap short-term sentences. Mr MacAskill wants to replace shorter sentences, which are six months or less, with community work.  However, in its report the Justice Committee rejected the idea over concerns of a funding gap for community sentences which could be as high as £55 million. The prison service has previously claimed that the move would not bring it substantial savings, while councils have warned of massive increases in costs for social services with a requirement to deal with thousands of extra offenders doing community sentences. (Scotsman Page 12, Herald Page 2, Courier Page 7, Daily Telegraph Page 8)

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Transport 

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Superfast trains: The first stage of a new high-speed rail line will produce only a fraction of the expected reduction in journey times for Scottish passengers, its developers admitted yesterday. New superfast trains continuing north to Scotland on existing lines would shave just 15 minutes from journeys, rather than the 30-45 minutes claimed by ministers earlier this year. But Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has said Scottish passengers would benefit immediately from the first stage of the line, still some 15 years away, when journeys could be cut to three and a half hours. Extending the high-speed line to Edinburgh and Glasgow is expected to cut a further hour. (Scotsman Page 20)

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Electric cars: Greater use of electric cars may not cut carbon emissions because of higher demands for electricity, European green lobby Transport & Environment (T&E) said yesterday. It said the significant environmental benefits of electric cars depended on greener power generation, tax changes and tighter emissions controls. A Scottish Government spokesman said; “We are committed to delivering a massive increase in clean, green energy, which will help us drastically cut emissions by 2050. (Scotsman Page 11, Herald Page 3)

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Local Government

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Debt: Almost half the Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) debt clients have gone without food or fuel to pay off what they owe, the organisation said today. CAS stated too many people in Scotland are drowning in debt and MSPs must do something to help. (Press & Journal Page 1, Courier Page 9)

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Catchment area: Paul McBride, a senior QC and adviser to the Scottish Conservative Party on justice has called for a public inquiry into the policies and actions of a local authority at the centre of a row over a disputed catchment area. Mr McBride spoke out after the local Conservative Party was contacted by residents whose homes could be removed from the catchment area for St Ninian’s High School, the country’s top-performing state-run Catholic secondary in order to reduce pupil numbers at the school. (Herald Page 9)

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Health

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C diff: The Scottish Government was accused last night of covering up a hospital bug outbreak in which five patients died. The Clostridium difficile infection killed two patients and contributed to the deaths of three others in a ward at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Jackie Baillie, Labour\’s health spokeswoman, said that families should have been told earlier about the outbreak; "Patients and their families have an absolute right to know if there is an outbreak at their local hospital," she said. "Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has known about this outbreak for some three weeks now, but chose not to inform the public. (Scotsman Page 7, Herald Page 4, Press & Journal Page 1, Daily Telegraph Page 9)

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Swine Flu: The elderly are more likely to die of swine flu this winter than younger people, according to a new study of patients in Mexico. The news came as officials announced another swine flu-related fatality in Scotland, bringing the death toll to 33. The virus has continued to hit school rolls across the Highlands, with more than 250 pupils at three schools absent with flu-like symptoms, it was confirmed yesterday. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon urged those on the priority list for vaccination to show patience and wait to be called for it. (Scotsman Page 15)

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Education

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Class sizes: Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop came under fire yesterday for failing to acknowledge the failings of the Scottish Government in achieving class sizes of 18 for the first 3 years of primary school. Under questioning from Holyrood\’s education committee, Ms Hyslop was criticised for blaming the recession, councils and the SNP\’s status as a minority government for the failings while not accepting her own responsibility in the matter. (Scotsman Page 9, Daily Telegraph Page 2)

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Politics

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Glasgow North East by-election; Labour is the overwhelming favourite to keep hold of a seat which it has held for more than 70 years. But Glasgow North East still has some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, confirmed by yesterday\’s jobless figures. Only six UK constituencies have more on benefits. In a community whose spirit has been worn down by years of post-industrial decline, few think that one by-election will improve matters overnight. Consequently, there is widespread expectation of a record low turn-out for a Scottish by-election, with figures of as low as 25 per cent being mentioned. (Scotsman Page 6, Herald Page 6, Press & Journal Page 9, Daily Telegraph Page 9, Guardian Page 18, Daily Express Page 2, Daily Mail Page 11)

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MoD bonus; A £47 million bonus pot shared by Ministry of Defence civil servants was condemned last night by military families who have lost loved ones in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The performance bonuses were paid out to 50,000 MoD office staff and will range from less than £1,000 to £8,000. (Scotsman Page 1, Daily Telegraph Page 1)

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Childcare rebellion; Gordon Brown has issued an assurance that no parents currently receiving tax relief for nursery care will be affected by proposals to cut childcare vouchers.

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In an attempt to head off a Labour rebellion on the issue, which he has been warned would cost Labour support in marginal seats, Mr Brown told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions that no government “had done more” for childcare and no-one getting support now would lose out. Former ministers including Patricia Hewitt, Estelle Morris, Hilary Armstrong, Beverley Hughes and Caroline Flint say the plans to cut childcare vouchers for more than 340,000 parents are “greatly unfair” and “mark the undoing of one of Labour’s landmark achievements”. (Herald Page 6)

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Homecoming; The climax to the Scottish Government’s controversial year-long celebration of the nation’s culture has been reduced due to a lack of interest. A programme of headline concerts to end the Year of Homecoming is reportedly being moved to smaller venues following poor ticket sales. (Herald Page 1)

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Farmers; Scottish farmers and food producers have renewed calls for ministers to appoint a watchdog to oversee the UK’s supermarkets. They fear the Westminster Government will not act on the Competition Commission’s recommendation to install an ombudsman with tough new powers to protect suppliers from abuses by retailers. (Herald Page 10)