Daily Political Media Summary: 23 November 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 23 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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Lloyds banking group: Susan Rice is to step down as Chairman and Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland. Her decision was announced to the board at a meeting of Lloyds TSB Scotland last Thursday, although she will remain as managing director of the Lloyds Banking Group in Scotland, (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 24, Press and Journal page 15, Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Floods: Damage caused by flooding in southern Scotland and Cumbria could cost up to £100 million to repair, insurers said yesterday. The news came as another severe weather warning was issued for tomorrow, with forecasts of a further 30mm of rain and 60mph winds. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said up to 1,000 claims had already been received, with the total bill estimated at £50-100 million. (Scotsman page 8, Times page 7, Telegraph page 12, Courier page 9, Press and Journal page 5)

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Scottish generator: A radical new design of electrical generator that solves an engineering quandary and promises to be cheaper, lighter and more reliable than anything currently available has been unveiled by scientists at the University of Edinburgh. The work by Markus Mueller and Alasdair McDonald at the university’s Institute of Energy Systems has solved one of the fundamental engineering problems faced by builders of offshore wind turbines. A new company, NGenTech, was formed ten days ago to exploit the new design. It is chaired by Derek Shepherd, a former managing director of Aggreko International, a Glasgow-based supplier of mainly diesel-fuelled generators. (Times page 13)

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Scottish Investment Bank: The Scottish Government’s plans for a Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) have been hit by internal warnings that the move will be more complex and expensive than expected and funding will not reach the planned £150million. (Sunday Herald page 54)

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Life sciences: Organisers of the £50 million Translational Medicine Research Collaboration (TMRC) – a partnership between Scottish universities, health boards, Scottish Enterprise and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer – were last week insisting the project was still on track despite the fact it will take perhaps three or four years longer than expected to produce a return. Scottish Enterprise has agreed to more than double its financial risk to ensure the viability of the TMRC, which was launched in 2006 and is using unprecedented biological techniques to find cures for diseases in areas such as cardiology, women’s health and oncology. (Sunday Herald page 54) 

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Crime

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Domestic violence: Only 10 per cent of people convicted of crimes linked to domestic violence are ending up in jail in Scotland, according to latest figures. Of the 5,029 convicted of domestic violence crimes between April 2007 and March 2008, just 579 were given custodial sentences by Scottish courts. Sheriff courts across the country are instead handing out fines, community service orders and, in mor e than a quarter of cases, admonishing the perpetrators of domestic violence. (Scotsman page 13, Press and Journal page 12, Sunday Post page 5)

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Double jeopardy: Changes that would allow people to be tried twice for the same offence have been welcomed, amid reports that a new prosecution could be brought in a notorious murder case. Prosecutors are understood to be preparing fresh charges against convicted serial killer Angus Sinclair for the World\’s End pub killings in Edinburgh in 1977. The case will be brought in the wake of expected changes to the law that will see the double jeopardy rule abolished in Scots courts. At present, no-one can be tried more than once for the same offence, and it is thought the Scottish Law Commission is set to recommend that the rule be scrapped, as it has been in England. (Scotsman page 3, Telegraph page 1)

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Transport 

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Edinburgh Trams: Lesley Riddoch comments in the Scotsman on the Edinburgh trams and the need for a clear plan for buses and cyclists when the trams are completed. (Scotsman page 25)

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Local Government

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Restructuring councils: Sir John Arbuthnott’s long-awaited report on restructuring services for eight councils in the west of Scotland says action is vital, with budgets likely to be cut by up to 15 per cent over the next four years and the impact of the recession felt for up to another two decades. He calls for joint transport, waste management and property ownership to be introduced, and some education services ­provided across council boundaries. Scottish Government ministers have been briefed on the report and are expected to respond to its recommendations in the ­coming days. Sir John insists his proposals cannot be ­implemented without the backing of Holyrood and Westminster. (Herald page 1) 

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Health

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Unfit children: Scottish parents are unaware how little physical activity their children are getting each day, medical experts have warned. The British Heart Foundation found that 72 per cent of parents believe their children are "active enough" when in fact little more than one in ten is actually doing the recommended 60 minutes of exercise a day. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 3, Times page 15) 

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Midwives: New midwives and staff wanting to return to work are struggling to find jobs in Scotland, it was claimed yesterday. A one-year guarantee of a job in the NHS currently operates for newly qualified nurses and midwives in Scotland.  The Scottish Labour Party said some new midwives were already travelling long distances to keep up their skills while they looked for jobs. (Scotsman page 19) 

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Minimum Alcohol Pricing: On the eve of the SNP government’s bill on minimum prices for alcohol, the author of the drug and drink-fuelled excesses of Trainspotting and The Acid House called for an end to the nation’s “cheap bevvy” culture. Irvine Welsh urged politicians to “stand up and be counted” on tackling the problem of alcohol abuse which costs Scotland an estimated £2.25 billion a year in healthcare, crime, the fall-out from social problems and days lost at work.

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There has been further controversy on minimum alcohol pricing after the chairman of NHS Highland, Garry Coutts, wrote to Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon, begging her to support the SNP\’s controversial minimum price for alcohol proposals. But Ms Scanlon, who is the Conservatives\’ spokeswoman on health and a list MSP for the Highlands, said the intervention, which was copied to health secretary Nicola Sturgeon and Labour\’s Shona Robison, was concerning and amounted to "campaigning on behalf of the SNP". 

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MSPs at Holyrood are to be told at what level the Scottish Government intends to set the minimum price for alcohol but only during the Parliamentary passage of the legislation. The Scottish Government has made clear that it will not set the minimum price when it publishes its Bill on Alcohol Misuse on Thursday. However, sources have emphasised that MSPs will be told as the legislation makes its way through Parliament. (Scotsman page 19, Sunday Herald page 7, Times page 11, Telegraph page 12, Courier page 11, Sunday Post page 2, Sunday Times page 9, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

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Patient dignity: Scotland\’s official NHS watchdog has castigated health boards for failing to treat a growing number of patients with the dignity they deserve. Jim Martin, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, said he was speaking out because he was seeing "too many" cases in which patients, many of them elderly and vulnerable, were not receiving adequate care. (Scotland on Sunday page 5, Sunday Post page 7) 

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Education

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Primary schools: As many as one in five primary schools need to be rebuilt or replaced, it emerged yesterday. A report for Scottish council leaders found that 400 of the country’s 2,000 primaries need to be rebuilt. Ministers are expected to prioritise around 20 primary schools for urgent work. But that is just 5 per cent of the number of schools the report says should be replaced. (Press and Journal page 9, Scotland on Sunday page 1) 

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Passive parents: Joan McAlpine comments in the Sunday Times that parents need to get more involved in the debate about standards, the curriculum, what should be taught and who should run the show in the education system. (Sunday Times page 25) 

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Politics

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Scottish Powers: Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, is lobbying to persuade his UK cabinet colleagues to back new powers for the Scottish parliament. Mr Murphy has until Tuesday to persuade senior ministers to hand control of reserved legislation, including driving and airgun laws, to Holyrood. He believes the recommendations of the Calman commission should be adopted in full. The commission was set up by the three main Unionist parties to neutralise demands for independence by giving Holyrood more powers.

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Graeme Blackett and James Aitken of Reform Scotland comment in the Sunday Times on the shortcomings of the Calman Report and argue that Holyrood must be allowed to raise all the money it spends to be truly accountable. (Sunday Times page 2, Sunday Times page 5, Sunday Post page 15)

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Scottish budget: Labour’s Scottish leader Iain Gray has laid out the conditions under which his party will support the SNP government\’s forthcoming budget. Mr Gray suggests the government would have to, at the least, reinstate the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) project it cancelled earlier this year as well as reverse cuts in the housing budget. Finance Secretary John Swinney removed Garl from his £30 billion draft budget for 2010-11 in September in an attempt to save £100 million. He also announced that £173m would be cut from the housing programme. (Scotland on Sunday page 2, Iain Gray in Scotland on Sunday page 18)

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Independence referendum: Scotland is now reaching a watershed moment in its constitutional future. The nation\’s fate will be determined by two white papers, to be published shortly, which will provide the framework for complex manoeuvring, shady deals and political fireworks, and possibly – eventually – a new way of governing Scotland. Tom Peterkin comments in Scotland on Sunday. (Scotland on Sunday page 11, Duncan Hamilton in Scotland on Sunday page 19)

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General election: David Cameron has revived SNP hopes of wielding more power at Westminster by admitting that a hung parliament would be better for the UK than another five years of a Labour government. The Conservative leader insisted yesterday he hoped to win an outright victory in next year\’s general election, but claimed that any outcome other than a victory for Gordon Brown would be good for Britain. Mr Cameron\’s comments came after an Ipsos MORI poll put the Tories just six points ahead of Labour, which would make next year\’s election the closest for more than three decades. (Scotsman page 1, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 8)

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Jack McConnell: Former First Minister Jack McConnell has denied reports he is set to launch a bid for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party, after it was confirmed he is to stand for election to Holyrood again in 2011. Mr McConnell told Labour officials in his Motherwell and Wishaw constituency he is ready to fight the 2011 election. He had been expected to stand down as an MSP and take up a post as the UK\’s High Commissioner in Malawi, but the job is unlikely to continue if the Conservatives win next year\’s general election. (Scotsman page 6, Sunday Herald page 10, Sunday Times page 1, Courier page 10, Daily Express page 2, Daily Mail page 6, Sunday Herald page 10)

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Home ownership: A trial scheme to help people get onto the housing market and boost house builders through the recession was unveiled by the Scottish Government yesterday. Developers are being asked to take equity stakes jointly with the government in unsold or partially built private stock. A buyer\’s stake will be 60 per cent to 80 per cent with the remainder of the purchase price split equally between the government and the developer. The scheme aims to help more buyers, who could not afford to purchase their own home. (Scotsman page 6, Courier page 8, Press and Journal page 10) 

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One Scotland campaign: Scottish Government’s has launched a new anti-racism campaign, based on the new slogan “No Us. No Them. Just We. No place for racism”. The campaign seeks to tackle racist attitudes, emphasising the negative impact of racism and the need for all communities to pull together in these challenging economic times. The poster features a collage of real Scottish faces representing the diversity of the population. (Herald page 2, Sunday Herald page 10) 

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National Housing Trust: It is reported that Ministers plan to create a massive quango to buy unsold new homes in Scotland and help families and house builders through the recession. The proposed National Housing Trust would rent out the properties to middle or low income families who don’t qualify for help from a conventional housing association and can’t afford to rent in the private sector. A “cautious” estimate suggests the new landlord could buy 2,000 homes using almost £200million borrowed by local government. (Sunday Herald page 4)

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Remembrance photo op: Gordon Brown and David Cameron apologised after suggestions they competed for photo opportunities at a Remembrance Day service attended by the Queen, it was revealed today. The leaders said sorry after the Dean of Westminster Abbey rebuked them for their behaviour at the service to mark the passing of Britain’s last First World War troops. (Herald page 8, Courier page 3, Daily Express page 6)

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Airgun ban powers: The power to ban airguns in Scotland is expected to be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood when the Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy announces his response to the Calman Commission’s report on enhancing the powers of the Scottish Parliament in the next few days. Firearms legislation is currently reserved to Westminster, but the Scottish Government has long argued that Scotland has a distinct problem with air weapons. (Herald page 6, Times page 10, Scotsman page 5, Press and Journal page 1)

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Scottish broadcasting: Almost half of all voters back SNP plans to replace the BBC with a state-funded Scottish broadcaster in an independent Scotland, according to a poll for The Sunday Times. Of the 1,040 people surveyed, 47 per cent said they supported the creation of a Scottish broadcasting service, compared to 18 per cent who were opposed and 35 per cent who were undecided. (Sunday Times page 7) 

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Scottish Futures Trust: Rosemary Gallagher writes in Scotland on Sunday on the Scottish Futures Trust. Since its establishment, the overriding question has been "what exactly is the Scottish Futures Trust and what is it doing?" Last Thursday the SFT held its inaugural conference and launched its first corporate plan in an attempt to provide some answers. (Scotland on Sunday page B4)