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Daily Political Media Summary: 1 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 1 December 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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Recession: British consumers have been repaying their debts at record rates, according to data from the Bank of England. Its figures have shown that the level of consumer credit fell by £579million in October – the biggest fall since records began in 1993. (Scotsman page 14)

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Property Market: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has declared the introduction of required home reports to be a success. At its induction, critics warned that the reports would be “the death of the Scottish property market”. The RICS has found that most firms blame the slowdown of the market on the recession, and that the reports have not hindered the recovery of the housing market. The RICS says that the home reports can be used as a “marketing tool” for sellers to attract buyers. (Scotsman page 21)

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North Sea Tax Breaks: Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband yesterday side-stepped the issue of whether or not the UK Government will introduce tax incentives to help the North Sea oil and gas industry. Mr Miliband was on his first official visit to Aberdeen, more than a year after his appointment. Industry leaders have made repeated calls for tax changes to encourage investment in the sector. (Press and Journal page 10)

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Crime

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Safety Alarms: Tayside Police are to begin a six-month pilot programme which will give domestic abuse victims a safety alarm equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) which can be used in an emergency to locate victims. (Scotsman page 20)

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Sick Leave: Scottish police officers have reportedly taken a total of 120,000 days off sick due to stress and anxiety. (Daily Telegraph page 12)

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Transport 

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Forth Road Bridge: Concerns have been raised about whether the two remaining groups in the bid to build a new Forth road bridge are going to remain interested. The Forthspan consortium and the Forth Road Crossing Constructors Group each contain four consultants, but in total they comprise less than half of the original 39 parties interested in the construction. Declining interest has been blamed on concerns that mounting costs may require companies to shoulder some of the financial burden, as well as doubt about the Scottish Government’s ability to pay for the bridge. (Scotsman page 17)

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Bus Service Competition: Scotland’s traffic commissioner, Joan Aitken, said she plans on using “creative regulation” to stamp out the practice of “predatory running”, which takes place when several buses arrive together, followed by large gaps in the timetable. Ms Aitken says the practice can be a deliberate attempt to poach passengers from other firms. (Herald page 1)

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Health

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A&E Visits: The Scottish Government has set NHS boards individual goals for reducing the number of accident and emergency patients in order to ease the burdens on hospitals. Figures have shown the number of people visiting the A&E is steadily increasing, with record levels being set last year. Critics have said the targets may discourage those who need treatment from going to hospital, especially the elderly. (Herald page 1, Opinion page 12)

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Swine Flu: The swine flu death toll in Scotland has risen to 48 people, seven of whom died last week. (Scotsman page 8)

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Nicola Sturgeon is being criticised for naming Leicester and Stockholm as the only options for people needing life-saving treatment for swine flu, despite a machine being located in Aberdeen. Lib Dem MSP for Aberdeen South Nicol Stephen has called this a “waste” of life-saving equipment and questioned why the technology is not being used. The Scottish Government said that Aberdeen’s treatment was not specialised enough. (Daily Telegraph page 2)

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HIV Patients: Research by the International Planned Parenthood Foundation has found that one-quarter of people with HIV in Scotland reported being denied services because of their status in the past year. The survey also found that 44 per cent of people with HIV felt that their rights had been abused in the past 12 months. (Scotsman page 14)

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Hospital Inspections: The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) found that although the “general standard of cleanliness” in Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary “was good”, there were still come concerns. Ward 16 of the hospital was cited as having dirty toilets and shower areas, as well as an overflowing waste bin. The hospital was otherwise cited as having good hygiene practice and that the infection control team was “well defined”. (Scotsman page 21)

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Education

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University Staff Cuts: Lecturers’ union the UCU fears that efforts by the Scottish Government to reduce the number of new teachers in Scotland will have a significant effect on higher education. The UCU’s report claims that universities may be forced to make up to 100 staff redundant or possibly close entire departments. Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Dundee and Stirling Universities are expected to be affected by cuts. (Scotsman page 11)

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North Ayrshire Cuts: The North Ayrshire Council has sent letters to all 7,300 of its staff, warning that it faces a budget reduction of 18 per cent (about £40million) over the next three years. Council leader David O’Neill has admitted that a “handful” of school closures will be necessary and that a “natural turnover” of 800 people will also help cut costs. (Herald page 6)

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Politics

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Independence Referendum: The SNP’s White Paper on an independence referendum has been published without citing the specific questions to be posed to the public. Alex Salmond has said “It’s time for the people to have their say on Scotland’s future.” He said that he would accept the public’s decision if they voted against the measure. Opposition leaders have criticised the paper, saying that the SNP are creating a conversation in which most people are not interested in taking part. (Herald page 1, Opinion page 12, Guest Commentary page 13, Times Opinions page 7, page 30, Guardian page 17, page 34, Courier page 1, Daily Record page 1, Daily Express page 5, Daily Mail page 1, Sun page 6, FT page 4 , Press and Journal page 1, BBC, STV)

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Alex Salmond has said he is “happy to be flexible” on the timing of the referendum, that he is willing to move it two months past the proposed date of St Andrew’s Day 2010. The SNP has also offered the Scottish Parliament the opportunity to frame the wording of a second question which would grant more powers to Holyrood, to which Labour leader Iain Gray responded, “Why would we want to write a referendum that we don’t want?” Mr Salmond has warned that if Unionist parties refuse to give Scots a vote on independence, then it will become the dominating issue in the next election. (Scotsman page 1, Opinion page 30)

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Alex Salmond claims that opposition leaders are “afraid” of giving Scots the vote on independence, saying he believes “the argument can be won”. (Daily Telegraph page 1)

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Summaries of the White Paper and the four options presented by SNP. (Scotsman page 6, Times page 6)

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Alan Massie of The Scotsman wonders why opposition parties do not defeat the SNP once and for all by allowing the referendum. (Scotsman page 29)

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Cabinet Changes: Scotland\’s under-fire education secretary, Fiona Hyslop, has been demoted.  Ms Hyslop has come under sustained opposition attack on issues including falling teacher numbers, cutting class sizes and school buildings.  Culture Minister Michael Russell has been promoted to education secretary, while Ms Hyslop will take on his previous position. First Minister Alex Salmond said education needed a "fresh look". The role of Minister for culture and external affairs has also had responsibility for the constitution taken away. Mr Salmond said he had personally taken responsibility for the forthcoming bill on an independence referendum. (BBC, STV)

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Political Blogging: The SNP are rumoured to be meeting a Scottish political blogger to discuss how the party can improve its image on the internet. The talks come following the weekend’s news that an SNP aide was found to have smeared opponents on a blog. (Scotsman  page 20)