Daily Political Media Summary: 23 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 23 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 and savings: The British economy declined by 0.2 per cent in the third quarter of the year, according to upwardly revised figures published by the Office for National Statistics. The City had been expecting improved construction and consumer spending figures to have pushed the figures up from the -0.3 per cent level published last month to -0.1 per cent. Families are repaying debts instead of spending in the shops, amid concern over the uncertain economic outlook. The savings ratio soared to 8.6 per cent between July and September, the highest level since 1998. Analysts fear that consumer spending, which rose by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter, its first growth since the start of the recession, will remain muted as households continue to repay debts and save. (Herald page 24, Times page 1, Telegraph page 1, FT page 2, Guardian page 12, Press and Journal page 5, STV, BBC) 

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Bank charges: The Office of Fair Trading yesterday pledged to continue its fight with banks despite giving up its legal battle on unauthorised overdraft charges. The trading watchdog said it would not be taking any further legal action against the banks over the charges after the Supreme Court ruled against it last month. But it still had "significant concerns" about the personal current account market, and planned to discuss a range of options, from voluntary measures to legislative change, with banks and consumer groups. (Scotsman page 13, Times page 43, Telegraph page 6, FT page 4, Guardian page 8, Press and Journal page 5, Daily Mail page 13, Daily Express page 5, STV) 

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Borders bookstore: Scotland’s biggest bookstore has closed for good. Borders, which went into administration last month, ceased trading yesterday across the whole of Britain, with the loss of about 1,550 jobs. The bookseller, which had 45 stores across Britain, including two in Glasgow and one each in Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness, faced heavy competition from internet booksellers and supermarkets. (Times page 21, Guardian, Courier page 11, Press and Journal page 5, BBC)

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Renewables conference:  Next year\’s annual showcase conference for Scotland\’s renewable energy industry is set to be the largest in the history of the event. Yesterday, the organisers of the All-Energy exhibition in Aberdeen in May revealed that almost 90 per cent of the available exhibition space has been booked. Jamie Thompson, the director of the event, said: "Our booking statistics see interest from several countries new to All-Energy eager to host pavilions at the 2010 show, including France, Latvia, Lithuania, and Italy, as well as group pavilions from Austria, Canada, Denmark, Flanders, and Norway, Scottish regions and Northern Ireland, and individual companies from home and overseas." (Scotsman page 8)

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Transport 

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Snow: The most severe festive weather for 14 years has brought massive disruption to Scotland\’s transport network.  Drivers were caught in gridlock on major roads while delayed rail passengers swamping Scotland\’s largest railway station forced its closure during the evening rush hour. Airports were also badly affected. Aberdeen\’s runway was closed for several hours, and dozens of flights at airports including Edinburgh and Glasgow were cancelled because of weather problems in London and across Europe. Edinburgh airport said 12 departures and 11 arrivals had been cancelled yesterday. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Times page 6, Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 1, Courier page 3, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Record page 7, Daily Express page 9, Daily Mirror page 4, Sun page 6, BBC, STV)

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Health

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NHS Health Scotland: NHS Health Scotland is set to spend up to £300,000 of taxpayers\’ money on public relations experts in an attempt to boost its image among MSPs.

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Politicians last night condemned the move by the quango at a time when the public sector faces huge cuts. The government agency already employs 13 people in its communications department. NHS Health Scotland was set up to improve Scotland\’s lamentable health record by increasing the public\’s awareness of the importance of living healthily. (Scotsman page 2, Daily Mail page 2)

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Heart disease: The risk of dying from heart disease due to being overweight may be much higher than previously thought, research suggested yesterday. A study published in the British Medical Journal found the negative effects caused by obesity are even greater than has been estimated in the past. The researchers called for increased efforts to reduce people\’s weight to prevent them dying from cardiovascular diseases. Scotland has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, with about a quarter of adults obese. (Scotsman page 21)
\r\nSwine flu: Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the number of cases of H1N1 could rise again in the first few months of 2010. Ms Sturgeon said a second wave of the illness was "now in decline". However, despite the drop in new cases in late 2009, she warned the country should remain vigilant. The virus has already claimed 56 lives across the country. Health chiefs are hoping that the vaccination of a "significant number of people" will help curb the spread of swine flu. (STV) 

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Education

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Music: One of Scotland\’s leading musicians has called for every child in the country to be given music tuition, and pleaded with councils not to cut teaching further. World-renowned solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie was speaking in support of a charter due to be published today by Scotland\’s biggest teaching union the EIS. The Charter for Instrumental Music calls for every school-aged child to receive either instrumental tuition or singing lessons. It states all children should be able to fulfil their musical potential, regardless of where they live – even if they are in remote areas. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 8, BBC) 

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Politics

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TV debates: As the SNP considers legal moves to stop the debates involving the three UK Party leaders from being broadcast in Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott indicated that he too would be prepared to seek judicial intervention to ensure the events were aired across the UK.  Under the broadcasters\’ proposals, separate debates would be aired in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but Mr Scott said Scottish voters were entitled to hear the UK-wide debate. The absence of any place for the SNP was immediately branded "unacceptable" by Alex Salmond\’s party, which says it must be involved in any debate in Scotland where it is the party of Government. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6, Times page 16, Telegraph page 6, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph page 6, Courier page 8, Daily Mail page 12, Daily Record page 4, Daily Express page 20, BBC, STV) 

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John Hutton: Labour MP John Hutton has admitted that he was the Cabinet minister responsible for saying that Gordon Brown would be a "disaster" as Prime Minister. The Barrow and Furness MP initially tried to distance himself from the quotes, but under repeated questioning during an interview he said, "There’s no point me denying that I didn\’t have very serious concerns." But he insisted his views on Mr Brown, who appointed him as defence secretary, had now changed. He said: "My opinion has changed of Gordon. I think he has, and certainly all of his dealings with me, has shown nothing but a great deal of support and help during my time as a minister. I personally have no criticisms of Gordon\’s performance as Prime Minister at all.” (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 8) 

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Waterways: A plan to improve the estimated 35 per cent of Scottish waterways not in good condition has been put forward by the Scottish Government and Sepa. The first wide-ranging assessment of the condition of Scotland\’s waters found 607 of 3,095 bodies were in a poor or bad state, with sewage disposal and agricultural emissions chiefly to blame. The study of rivers, lochs, reservoirs, canals and coastal waters recorded that 1,999 bodies were of a high or good standard, with 489 found to be moderate. (Scotsman page 2) 

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Mervyn King: Peter Jones comments in the Scotsman on the governor of the Bank of England and his response to the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ query on independence and interest rates. (Scotsman page 29) 

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Clan territory: The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee now has to determine whether an ancient Gaelic law should be invoked to return a sizeable chunk of the Highlands to a clan chief.  Ranald MacDonald, 79, who recently won a lengthy legal battle to take his rightful place at the head of the MacDonalds of Keppoch, is now fighting to reclaim the entire area of Lochaber for his extended family. Mr MacDonald has lodged a petition asking MSPs to investigate Scottish land ownership under “the authentic and ancient laws of Ur Duthchas”. The Gaelic roughly translates as clan territory. (Times page 20)

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