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Daily Political Media Summary: 10 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 10 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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Pre-Budget Report: There is much comment on the Chancellor Alistair Darling’s Pre-Budget Report (PBR) yesterday which, amongst other things, included £7 billion of new taxes on the middle classes and the better off as well as corporation tax help for small business. The Pre-Budget Report also adjusted the forecast for this year\’s budget deficit from £175 billion to £178bn. (Scotsman Page 1, Herald Page 1, Press & Journal Page 1, Daily Telegraph Page 1, Guardian Page 1, Times Page 1, Financial Times Page 1, Daily Express Page 1, Daily Mail Page 1)

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SNP: The SNP claimed last night that Scotland’s economic recovery is in jeopardy after the Chancellor Alistair Darling failed to allow future spending to be brought forward. SNP finance secretary John Swinney said 5,000 jobs are at risk because of the omission from the Pre-Budget Report of accelerated capital spending. This would have allowed the Scottish Government to use money from future years to finance projects early and boost the economy. (Scotsman Page 7, Courier Page 12, Times Page 8, Daily Mail Page 6)

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Diageo: The dispute over Diageo\’s decision to end Johnnie Walker whisky\’s historic link with Kilmarnock is over after workers voted overwhelmingly to accept a redundancy package. The ballot result of Unite union members draws to an end the highest-profile industrial controversy in Scotland in 2009, but means that 900 jobs in Kilmarnock and Glasgow will be lost. (Scotsman Page 12, Herald Page 1, Courier Page 8)

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Crime

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Parking Fines: One of Scotland’s biggest shopping centres has joined the crackdown on motorists who wrongly park in disabled spaces. Managers at Silverburn, on the outskirts of Glasgow, have enrolled a private parking firm to issue drivers with a fixed £60 penalty if they are caught without a blue badge in a disabled bay. It will start fining shoppers in January. Legislation to make parking in public disabled bays enforceable by fines was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February. Implementation started in October, but local authorities have a year to put arrangements in place. (Herald Page 4)

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Transport 

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Concessionary travel: Thousands of elderly rail and ferry passengers in the west of Scotland who are eligible for discounted tickets will see fares go up under proposals to curtail the rising costs of concessionary travel. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport has proposed increasing fares by up to 50 per cent for journeys on ScotRail services and Glasgow’s Subway. It warned that, with the number of pensioners in Scotland rising and a squeeze on public spending, the age threshold may eventually have to be raised to match the retirement age to ensure it remains sustainable in the long term, and that more fare increases may be necessary in the future. (Herald Page 6)

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Local Government

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Bin battle: The bitter bins dispute responsible for a month’s backlog of rubbish in Glasgow was declared over yesterday. Union leaders and Glasgow City Council officials agreed to discuss the health and safety concerns of hundreds of refuse collection workers in exchange for a return to normal conditions. (Herald Page 3)

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Dundee Council: Outdoor activities operated by council-run organisations came under fresh scrutiny last night after a teenage girl plunged 90 feet down a gorge into the River Tay in an accident during a mountain biking trip. She is understood to have internal injuries which were not immediately life-threatening. The Health & Safety Executive are to make initial inquiries before deciding whether it will launch a formal investigation. (Herald Page 5, Courier Page 1, Press & Journal Page 1, Daily Mail Page 24, Daily Express Page 25)

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Funding: The rift between The Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council has widened amid claims that public services are being cut as a result of an ‘east coast bias.’ Steven Purcell, Glasgow Council leader said, “Perhaps they (The Scottish Government) can explain why SNP-run Perth and Kinross Council has received a generous 5 per cent uplift, while our increase is less that 1.5 per cent.” (Herald Page 12)

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Health

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NHS Finance: The NHS is facing significant financial pressures and will have to make £200 million in savings this year, according to a report published today. Audit Scotland said health boards had met all their financial targets in 2008-9, with most pledges to improve patient care also achieved. But their report warned that, with budgets set to be squeezed in future years, the NHS would be under pressure to improve services with less money. Robert Black, Auditor General for Scotland, said Scotland\’s "deep-seated health-related issues" such as drug and alcohol abuse, were something the NHS could not deal with alone. He said other parts of the public sector, such as education and social services, needed to help in dealing with these issues. (Scotsman Page 13, Herald Page 5, Courier Page 3, Press & Journal Page 9)

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Swine Flu: A young Scots mother who caught the swine flu virus just days after giving birth to her second child has died. Marianne Johnston, 20, from Faifley, Clydebank, contracted the H1N1 virus after her son Leon was born on October 27 and died on November 29. Health officials linked Marianne’s death to underlying health problems but her family said the only factors involved were the normal stresses of childbirth and that Ms Johnston had been otherwise fit and healthy. (Herald Page 1, Scotsman Page 17, Daily Express Page 21)

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Politics

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Afghanistan: The number of new recruits enlisting to join the army in Scotland has risen by 25 per cent in the past year, despite the rising death toll in Afghanistan. Since 1 April 2009 1,000 men and women have enlisted, boosting numbers in all units recruiting from north of the Border. Yesterday, the army admitted the tough job market played a part in boosting numbers but said national pride and recruits making "positive and informed" decisions were also major factors. (Herald Page 2, Scotsman Page 9, Courier Page 6, Press & Journal Page 5, Daily Telegraph Page 16, Times page 5, Daily Mail Page 2, Daily Express Page 20)

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Devolution: The UK Government is under fresh pressure to devolve additional powers to the Scottish Parliament before the general election next year. The SNP and Liberal Democrats teamed up yesterday to vote narrowly in favour of the early transfer of powers as outlined by the Calman Commission, which would make Scotland more accountable for its own affairs. Labour and the Conservatives joined forces to try to block the move but lost the vote 63-61. Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said the party did not support new External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop’s motion because the SNP is trying to achieve independence by “stealth". (Press & Journal Page 14, Times Page 5)

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Climate change: Scotland has such ideal conditions for renewables it could play a key role in enabling Europe to meet green energy targets, according to a new report. With perfect conditions for wind farms, hydro schemes, wave and tidal schemes, Scotland has an opportunity to be a European leader in the sector, according to the report by Wood Mackenzie, commissioned by the Scottish Government. The Wood Mackenzie report said: "Scotland\’s comparative advantage will help diversify and decarbonise indigenous energy supply over the coming years. However, a far larger prize for the country is how its comparative advantage of low-carbon energy opportunities could be utilised in an EU-wide context.” (Scotsman Page 10, Press & Journal Page 7)