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Daily Political Media Summary: 17 November 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 17 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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Commonwealth Games: Organisers of the 2014 Commonwealth Games are defending the event as critics complain about overspending.  Lord Smith, the Games chairman, insisted that the Games is a good investment that will “generate enormous sporting, social and economic benefits for the whole of Scotland”. The budget for the Games, originally set at £373million, has risen to £454million. (Scotsman page 8, Lord Smith Commentary page 9, Opinion page 32, Herald Opinion page 12, Daily Telegraph page 6, Courier page 3, Financial Times page 3)

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Alex Salmond has blamed the BBC for the shortage of funding for the Games. Mr Salmond said that the BBC has not “stepped up to the plate” and offered the same amount of funding that it did for the 2002 Manchester Games. He claims that the bulk of the £81million shortage in funding will cover the lack of commitment by the BBC. A BBC spokesperson has said that it had been warning organisers over the past three years not to expect a large bid because “it’s a very different world than it was in 2006” and “either organisers have forgotten discussions… or have chosen to ignore them”. (Herald page 1, Times page 9)

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Stamp Duty: Surveyors in Scotland, the West Midlands, East Midlands, and Wales are said to be concerned about the housing markets in their areas once the stamp duty holiday ends. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said that the end of the stamp duty holiday could have a “detrimental effect” on the areas that were lagging behind the rest of the country. These areas are likely to take the hardest hit, whereas surveyors in London and southeast England are not worried as their average house price is already above the temporary threshold. (Scotsman page 2)

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Tramworks: Businesses affected by the “double whammy” of the economic recession and the Edinburgh Tramworks have been given a business rate cut of 20 per cent. Eighty-five businesses along Princes Street lodged an appeal after they were denied cuts which had been given to firms based on Leith Walk, Shandwick Place and Haymarket. (Scotsman page 7)

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RBS: Former chairman of RBS Sir George Mathewson has expressed concern that RBS headquarters may not remain in Scotland once the UK government’s 84 per cent stake in the institution is unwound. (Herald page 1)

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Recession: Strathclyde University has predicted that Scotland will have “almost no growth” in 2010 because of its large public sector. It has predicted that Scotland will have one or two quarterly contractions, which would indicate a return to recession. The Fraser of Allander Institute has also estimated peak unemployment at 234,000 – 40,000 more than the most recent figure. (BBC)

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Fuel Poverty: National Energy Action has predicted 750,000 homes will face fuel poverty this winter as they struggle to pay heating bills. The charity has estimated that 810,000 homes in Scotland will have to pay one-tenth of their income on fuel this year. (STV)

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Crime

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Child Runaways: Barnardo’s Scotland has found that of the 9,000 children that run away every year, about 750 are abused. The group also found that child protection services are not adequately prepared to deal with children who are sexually abused. (Herald page 4, Opinion page 12, Press and Journal page 9, BBC, STV)

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Transport 

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ScotRail: Seventy per cent of ScotRail fares are due to be frozen or decreased from January. These changes are due to affect off-peak returns, standard class season tickets, and all fares within the Strathclyde area. Some unregulated fares will be going up three per cent, including some fares outside Strathclyde, first class fares, anytime returns, and off-peak day returns. Overall there will be an increase of 0.26 per cent, below the UK average of 1.1 per cent. (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 7, Daily Telegraph page 1, Times page 8, Daily Record page 5)

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Terry Murden of the Scotsman comments that lowering rail fares is not enough, because prices are already too high. (Scotsman Business page 6)

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East Coast: Chief executive of East Coast, Elaine Holt, indicated that she might consider selling East Cost rail services between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Ms Holt has said that there are six services a day along the line, which are “lightly loaded”.  The company has plans to raise off-peak fares by five per cent, which she says will give Scottish customers cleaner toilets, better food in First Class, and the removal of the £2.50 reservation charge. She has also pledged £500,000 to upgrade Waverley Station in Edinburgh. (Scotsman page 20)

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Health

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Swine Flu: It emerged yesterday that the first cases of swine flu becoming resistant to drugs have been reported in Scotland.  Two patients in Scotland have shown resistance to Tamiflu, the drug used to treat swine flu. Experts said there would be cause for concern if the strains resistant to drugs began to spread, but there has been no evidence of that occurring. However, microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington has warned that the drugs should only be given to those who are at risk of complications to avoid further spread of resistance. The results come after a second child in three days has died from swine flu. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 5, Press and Journal page 9, Daily Record page 4)

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Elderly Care: Opposition parties have weighed in after Lord Sutherland’s comments that the SNP were ignoring his recommendations on elderly care. Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie MSP said it was “disappointing” that the SNP are not listening to Lord Sutherland’s recommendations, and that early intervention is “in the best interests of the public purse and, most importantly, in the best interests of older people”. LibDem health spokesman Ross Finnie MSP said that “Lord Sutherland’s call to merge health and social care budgets is worth examining further”. (Herald page 6)

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Minimum Alcohol Price: Allan Massie of the Scotsman opines that minimum pricing will not curb drinking in Scotland. Rather, it’s the cultural attitude toward drinking that needs to be examined. (Scotsman page 32)

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Politics

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Devolution: The Queen’s Speech tomorrow is to include a reference to “taking forward legislation” on the Calman Commission’s proposals to give the Scottish Parliament more tax-raising and other powers. Within the next two to three weeks, there is due to be a White Paper which will outline which parts of the Calman report the UK Government has decided to implement. (Times page 5)