Daily Political Media Summary: 16 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 16 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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Wave farm: A joint venture to develop the first wave-power project off Shetland was announced today. Edinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power and the Swedish energy company Vattenfall have teamed up for the project. The venture, Aegir, aims to identify a site where Pelamis Wave Power’s second-generation wave-energy convertor can be used. The project may end up generating 20 megawatts of electricity. If successful, the project off Shetland\’s west coast will become the largest wave-power scheme in Scotland. The project would provide enough power for about 13,000 homes a year. (Scotsman page 25, Courier page 9, Press and Journal page 17, STV) 

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Gaming sector: A Scottish Enterprise-funded report into the nation’s digital economy has recommended that the Scottish Government launch a pilot programme of tax breaks and fiscal benefits to support the Dundee games sector next year to boost its global competitiveness. Digital Media Industry Advisory Group, the Scottish Enterprise-supported body that produced the report, also calls for Holyrood to recognise and act on the opportunity it has. Last month, Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and influential New York Times columnist, said Dundee’s video games development cluster is an “innovation hotspot”, and should be a model for a UK-wide export-led revival. (Herald page 26) 

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Crime

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Scottish police force: Steve House, chief constable of Strathclyde Police, has called for specialist units within individual forces to cover the entire country, a new model for police funding and a single Scottish force. Mr House is one of the most senior officers to have called for a reduction in the number of police forces. Paddy Tomkins, the former HM chief inspector of constabulary, called for a single force to be considered in 2004 and earlier this year his successor, Bill Skelly, said it was inevitable. Speaking to police officers, officials, and ministers at the Holyrood conference on the Future of Scottish Policing in Edinburgh, Mr House said there are “clear drivers for a reduction in the number of forces” and that the operational impetus had been strengthened by a “financial imperative”. (Herald page 1) 

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Health

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Hyperactive children: More children than ever in Scotland are being prescribed drugs to treat hyperactivity. New statistics have revealed that prescriptions for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) increased by 4,000 in the past year to 72,000 in Scotland, at an estimated cost of £2.5 million to the NHS. In 1996, just 4,000 prescriptions for the condition were handed out by doctors. Judith Gillespie, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "Just ten years ago, we had a few thousand of these prescriptions for ADHD being made every year; now it\’s up to 72,000. That is just staggering, and surely indicates we need to be more careful in dishing out powerful drugs to children.” (Scotsman page 8) 

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NHS staff: The rise in the number of NHS bureaucrats has outstripped increases in front-line staff in Scotland, new figures reveal. The statistics show that almost half of new staff recruited in the 12 months from September 2008 were administrators. Overall staff rose by 2.1 per cent to 168,976. However, in that same period, the number of backroom staff increased by 4.2 percent. In comparison, the number of nurses, including midwives, rose just 1.1 per cent, while the total of GPs went up a mere 0.4 per cent. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 2) 

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Depression: Official figures estimate 9.7 per cent of people aged 15 and over take medication for depression, with the total number of prescriptions rising to more than four million for the first time. This equates to more than 153 million daily doses per year, an increase of more than seven million compared to the total in 2007-08. The proportion of the Scottish population taking antidepressants has more than quadrupled over the last 15 years. (Telegraph page 15, Press and Journal page 7, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 2) 

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Obesity: Nearly 20 per cent of Scotland\’s primary one pupils are overweight, according to new statistics. Figures for last year showed that 19.8 per cent of primary ones weighed too much, although the figure is down slightly from the previous year when 20 per cent were overweight, and the proportion of primary ones classed as overweight is the lowest since 2000-01.  Across Scotland, 8 per cent of primary one pupils were classed as obese and 3.9 per cent as severely obese, NHS statistics for 2008-09 showed. (Telegraph page 11, Courier page 11, Press and Journal page 9, Daily Mail page 20, STV, BBC) 

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Education

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Exam performance: The only state-funded school in Scotland that is outwith council control has again emerged as the best for exam performance. Jordanhill in Glasgow, which is run by an independent board of governors, has topped the state school league tables for the sixth year in succession. This year, 68 per cent of its pupils in S5 passed three Highers, and 39 per cent were awarded five Highers. The result marks a one percentage point drop from last year, although the school was still several percentage points ahead of the rest of Scotland\’s state sector. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 8, Press and Journal page 12)

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Politics

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Defence cuts: RAF Kinloss in Morayshire, which supports 2,400 military personnel and civilian staff, is to suffer a "significant" reduction in its activities as the government grapples with a mammoth budget shortfall. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will see its budget cut by £1.5 billion in the short term. It says £900 million of that sum will be diverted to front-line operations in Afghanistan. Some of this money will be spent on 22 new Chinook helicopters. RAF Kinloss is set to be one of the big losers, where a new fleet of nine Nimrod MRA4 spy planes will be phased in a year later than planned to save money. (Scotsman page 1 , Herald page 4, Times page 5, Telegraph page 1, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Mail page 18, Daily Express page 4, STV, BBC) 

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Employing relatives: Members of the Scottish Parliament are to be banned from employing relatives and will be liable for capital gains tax when they sell second homes that have been funded by expenses. A review said that MSPs should be forbidden from employing any more close family members immediately. But the 26 MSPs who currently use taxpayers\’ money to provide jobs for their relatives have until May 2015 to remove them. Under the new expenses regime, MSPs will still be allowed to employ family members of another MSP provided that the arrangement is registered with the parliamentary authorities and made public. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 5, Times page 1, Telegraph page 13, Courier page 6, Press and Journal page 6, Daily Record page 10, Daily Mail page 4, STV, BBC) 

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Asylum seekers: Closing Dungavel detention centre to families and children would "end up with dead bodies in lorries in Calais" by boosting the human trafficking trade, immigration minister Phil Woolas claimed yesterday. Mr Woolas was speaking in the wake of the controversy over the case of Precious Mhango, aged ten, a Malawian girl who has lived in Scotland most of her life, but is now detained after being presented with removal papers. Last night, the Scottish Government, which opposes the detention of children, said Mr Woolas should stop "lecturing" them about their plans to try to increase immigration into Scotland. (Scotsman page 7) 

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Copenhagen: There is further coverage of Alex Salmond’s meetings in Copenhagen and his address to an international audience in Copenhagen. The First Minister signed a joint statement with the president of the Maldives at a fringe event yesterday, as world leaders gathered in the Danish capital to create a global deal to beat climate change. (Scotsman page 12, Telegraph page 1, Times page 19, Courier page 11, Press and Journal page 16, Daily Record page 2, Daily Mail page 6, Daily Express page 7, BBC)

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Scottish fish quota: Fisheries ministers finally agreed late last night on the amount of fish that may be caught in EU waters next year, scaling back some of the drastic cuts that the European Commission had been seeking in Scottish waters. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said that “some good progress had been made”, especially for prawn fishermen and on EU approval of the catch quota trials project with on-board observers or cameras. But he also warned there were “still challenges on the West Coast”. Instead of the 30 per cent cut in prawn catches that the Commission had sought, ministers agreed on 9 per cent. Similarly, they halved the 54 per cent originally demanded for West Coast haddock. (Times page 8, Press and Journal page 7, BBC) 

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Lockerbie: Under the terms of his release from jail, Mr Al-Megrahi cannot change his address or leave Tripoli and must also keep in regular communication with East Renfrewshire Council. However, the 57 year-old could neither be found at his Tripoli home nor the local hospital and there have now been calls for an immediate investigation into how he went missing. (Telegraph page 5, Times page 3)

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