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Daily Political Media Summary: 2 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 2 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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House Prices:  House prices have risen for the seventh consecutive month but economists warn that the pace of growth is slowing. House prices have risen an average of 0.5 per cent in November, which is 2.7 per cent higher than a year earlier but still 13 per cent lower than their peak in October. (Scotsman page 25, Herald, Press and Journal page 13, Financial Times page 3)

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 Small and Medium Enterprise: One in three small Scots firms increased profits and sales against the odds this year according to research from the Federation of Small Businesses. The companies that account for 99 per cent of businesses in Scotland also weathered the crisis better than their southern neighbours where just one in four SMEs managed to raise profitability. (Scotsman page B2, Press and Journal page 13)

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 Bank Bonuses: The Treasury has called for more control of Royal Bank of Scotland’s bonus pot, as part of the terms of its deal to insure bad debts. The Government wants to dictate both the “quantum and shape” of the payouts at the bank for 2009. (Herald)

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 Crime

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Double Jeopardy: The 800 year-old law preventing someone acquitted of a crime from being tried again in a Scottish court could be abolished. However, the review of the rule by the Scottish Law Commission advises the rule should be kept and clarified but if there is any change in the law it should not be imposed on cases retrospectively. (Herald, BBC)

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 Police numbers: The number of police officers employed in Scotland has dropped by 61 in the last quarter, raising doubts about the Scottish Government’s delivery of its manifesto pledge to increase force numbers by 1,000. However, the total of police officers has increased by 983 since the SNP came into power in 2007. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 5, Courier page 8, Press and Journal page 7, Daily Mail page 10)

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 Transport 

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Climate change targets:  The Sustainable Development Commission Scotland has called for radical changes in the Scottish Government’s transport and home-energy efficiency policies in order to meet climate change targets. It argues that while the SNP intentions are good action is lacking and calls for care-free zones, fuel taxes, parking fees and congestion charging to encourage people out of their cars. (Scotsman page 8)

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 Train Fares: Fares on London to Scotland rail services could fall in order to fill up thousands of seats left empty on struggling East Coast Main Line services. This step by Transport Secretary Lord Adonis suggests that the Government is set to take a “hands-on” approach to the recently nationalised route. (Herald page 2)

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 OAP Travel Concessions:  Bus companies are promoting “OAP special” excursions to take advantage of a loophole in the Government’s concessionary travel scheme amid concerns that the scheme is rapidly becoming unaffordable, with warnings that costs for taxpayers of free bus travel is likely to reach £200 million this year. (Herald page 1)

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 Health

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Accident and Emergency:  The Scottish Government has insisted that patients would not be turned away from A&E departments to try and reduce numbers using emergency services. The target for NHS boards to achieve reductions in the rate of attendance at A&E to cut inappropriate use of the service has been in place for several years and features again in aims for 2010-11, but has been criticised by opposition MSPs who argue capacity should increase with rising demand. Doctors are calling for a special group of all frontline medical services to be launched in Scotland to help the NHS deal with the surge in demand. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 9)

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 Afghanistan assignment: A squadron from the 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital (volunteers) based in Glasgow are temporarily leaving their NHS posts to serve in Afghanistan for three months. (Scotsman page 13, Herald 4)

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 Skin Cancer: A nationwide campaign warning of the clear link between using sun beds and skin cancer has been launched by Cancer Research UK and the Scottish Government. Skin cancer claimed the lives of more that 170 Scots last year and is now the most common cancer in young adults aged between 15 and 34. (Scotsman page 23, Press and Journal page 9, STV)

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 Education

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Voucher System: The new education secretary Mike Russell has been urged to initiate a radical agenda for Scotland’s schools after it emerged he promoted the introduction of vouchers and competition only three years ago. Arguing for the voucher system that is promoted by those in favour of more private sector involvement, he decried the “ideological prejudice” that prevented such ideas being discussed. His opinions have been welcomed by business leaders, think tank Reform Scotland and the Conservatives. (Scotsman page 6)

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 College Fees:  Colleges are to be given an extra £11.9 million to cope with increased demand for hardship funds from students struggling in the recession. However, the Scottish Funding Council has admitted that the money will only meet around 56 per cent of the extra £21.3 million colleges say they need. (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 12, Courier page 9)

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 Local Government

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Happy Town:  Plans have been unveiled for an £85 million development for a new town in the central belt that will see about 1,000 houses built over the next ten to fifteen years to create “a happy and sustainable” community to “heal” the industrial wasteland site. (Scotsman page 11, BBC)

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 Politics

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SNP Cabinet: First Minister Alex Salmond bowed to pressure from opposition yesterday and sacked his education secretary, Fiona Hyslop, in one of the biggest setbacks so far for the SNP government. Fiona Hyslop was demoted to the post of minister responsible for external affairs and culture after it became clear she would lose a vote of no confidence from MSPs. She has been replaced by Mike Russell. Alex Salmond had warned that all SNP ministers would step down if the vote was passed but opposition parties called his bluff by backing the motion for a vote. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Express page 4, Daily Mail page 1, BBC, STV)