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Daily Political Media Summary: 15 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 15 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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Scottish house prices: House prices in Scotland crept up over the past three months, but only marginally, a report said today. Chartered surveyors said they expected the trend to continue but they were less certain than they were three months ago. The findings came in the latest housing market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This found that 21 per cent of those questioned thought prices had risen, 73 per cent said they had remained stable and just 6 per cent said they had fallen. Of those reporting a rise, nearly all said the increase was between 0 per cent and 2 per cent, and none reported a rise of more than 5 per cent. (Scotsman page 16, Courier page 3, BBC, STV) 

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High street rentals: Less expensive rental deals have encouraged retailers to fill gaps on the Scottish high street, despite the collapse of shops such as Woolworths and Zavvi in the past year. The number of empty shops in Scottish cities is now below the UK average – a major turnaround from February, when there were more empty sites in Scotland than anywhere in the UK. (Scotsman page 24)
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RBS: The European Union yesterday approved the £20 billion bail-out of Royal Bank of Scotland but repeated a warning that it would force further asset sell-offs if RBS does not shrink its operations by 2013. The EU delivered its verdict ahead of a crucial meeting in Edinburgh today where RBS shareholders will vote on entry to the government\’s Asset Protection Scheme (APS). The EU gave its backing to the APS, saying it was necessary to remedy a serious disturbance in the British economy. (Scotsman page B2, Press and Journal page 16)
\r\nBank headquarters: Scotland’s future as a banking centre is in the balance but must be retained for the health of its economy, leading experts have said. The failure of the country’s two giant banks – Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS – has undoubtedly shaken confidence in the sector. Ben Thomson, chairman of Noble Group and of Reform Scotland, said: “It’s vital for the Scottish financial sector and the economy that, five years from now, we have two or three banking institutions headquartered in Scotland. It would enable Edinburgh to continue as a financial centre but also give rise to a healthy advisory community, sport and arts sponsorship and tax revenues. “It would give a real election boost to whichever party committed itself to it.” (Herald page 10)

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British Airways strike: British Airways cabin crew called a strike on Monday, hours after the airline revealed a 3.7 billion pound hole in its pension fund that will require deft handling if a proposed merger with Iberia is to stay on track. "The strike will take place over 12 days from December 22 but we have taken the decision, which will disrupt the travel plans of thousands of people, with a heavy heart," a Unite spokesman told reporters. "Of the staff balloted 92.5 percent voted in favour of industrial action." (STV, BBC, Scotsman, Herald, Times , Telegraph)

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Crime

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Knife crime: The Labour party has stepped up its calls for tougher sentences for knife crime. It followed a meeting in Glasgow, which the party said showed overwhelming public demand for action. Labour staged the event as part of its campaign for mandatory jail terms for anyone caught carrying a knife. Glasgow Labour MSPs Margaret Curran, Frank McAveety and Paul Martin said they had heard "powerful and moving" testimonies from those who lived with the reality of knife crime. (Scotsman page 16, Daily Express page 2) 

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Health

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NHS pay cuts: One of Scotland’s top public sector earners today calls on all doctors, including herself, to take a pay cut and help create a fairer society. Dr Linda de Caestecker, the NHS director of public health on a salary of £142,000-a-year, says society would benefit if the medical profession – which enjoyed substantial pay increases when new working conditions were introduced five years ago – was paid less. (Herald page 1) 

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Education

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School closures: The ruling coalition on Edinburgh City Council has been hit by a split over school closures. A leaked minute from a private SNP group meeting shows that its councillors had serious concerns over the closure programme expected to be decided later this week. They also raised concern about Liberal Democrat education leader Marilyn McLaren\’s plan to scrap the Parents Forum which campaigned against the closure plans, according to the leaked minute. (Scotsman page 16)

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Head teacher: A school inspector told yesterday how a head teacher was visibly upset after her leadership was verbally criticised. Jacqueline Horsburgh described how Irene Hogg wiped a tear from her eye during a feedback session at the end of the week-long inspection at Glendinning Terrace Primary School in Galashiels, Selkirkshire. The 54-year-old was found dead in a remote part of the Cheviot Hills five days later after failing to return to work at the end of the Easter break. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 2, Times page 21) 

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Politics

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Climate change: As the First Minister visited Copenhagen yesterday for the summit to discuss ways to deal with the problem, opposition politicians questioned his mission and what it would achieve. Last night, Mr Salmond told delegates from self-governing nations and regions including Catalonia and Quebec that Scotland has the natural resources and technological expertise to make a substantial contribution to global climate change goals. Today, he is due to address a session with other speakers, expected to include California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Helen Clark from the United Nations development programme. (Herald page 6, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph page 4)

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First Minister Alex Salmond writes in the Scotsman on climate change and the big role Scotland can play in the fight to stop climate change. (Scotsman page 30)

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General Election: Gerry Hassan comments in the Scotsman how campaigns north and south of the Border are certain to be different when the election is called, and that ‘Scotland remains immune to Cameron’s charm’. (Scotsman page 31)

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Scottish fishing fleet: Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, has pledged “to strike the best deal possible” for Scotland’s fishing fleet. Mr Lochhead is in Brussels for talks that will conclude without any hope of final decisions being made on North Sea stocks, after separate discussions with Norway broke down. The EU talks will set quotas for prawns and west coast haddock and cod but will not lead to decisions on North Sea haddock and cod, mackerel and herring. (Herald page 6, Press and Journal page 7, STV)

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