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Daily Political Media Summary: 4 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 4 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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Budget deficit:  Alistair Darling has outlined proposals to reduce the UK budget deficit of £175 billion by increasing taxes of high earners and restricting spending.  Front line services – teaching, policing and care – will be protected however other “non essential” spending will be reduced.  (Financial Times page 1)

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Banks:  British citizens are paying approximately £14,000 each to support the UK banking system. The National Audit Office has outlined the massive liabilities – total cost of approximately £850 billion which includes buying shares in RBS and Lloyds – amid the revised row over banking bonuses.  Although the NAO has supported the government’s decision to support the banking system, it has criticised the states ability to impose improvements in bank lending and bonus culture.  (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Guardian, Sun page 6, Daily Mail page 1, Telegraph page 1)

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Bonuses:  Executive staff at the Royal of Scotland have been criticised for threats of walk outs if bonuses are not paid.  The government has warned that it will restrict or “veto” bonuses has been supported by a broad political “chorus” which has criticized those within the banking system who continue to act as though they are operating privately.  Currently the projected bonus pool is estimated at £2 billion. (Herald page 5, Guardian page 1, Times page 1, Daily Mirror page 1, Financial Times page 1, Press and Journal page 8)

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Barclay’s jobs: Scotland economy has been dealt another blow as Barclays’ bank has announced its plans to remove its presence in Glasgow and relocate to Wales. The closure of its call centre in Glasgow will see 50 jobs cut and the remaining 300 staff given the opportunity to move into other areas of the business. (Scotsman page 19, Herald page 5, Daly Express page 7)

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Bible charity jobs: Stores operated by a leading bible charity Wesley Owen are to be sold, threatening almost 500 jobs in six shops across Scotland.  The company is the latest books outlet which has experienced financial difficulty and will be closed due to the economic downturn. (Herald page 10)

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Crime

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Child grooming law:  Legislation to protect children from sexual exploitation has allowed prosecution of only four people, calling for a review of the law.  Green MSP Robin Harper called for the Scottish Government to investigate the law which was set out in 2005 to allow easier prosecution of paedophiles.  (Scotsman page 2, Daily Express page 11, Courier page 9) 

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Transport 

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Driving laws:  The Office for Rail Regulation has proposed greater penalties for drivers who run red lights at level crossings. The current penalty of 3 points and £60 fine may increase to 9 penalty points and higher fines to discourage drivers crossing illegally.  The action plan follows a series of accidents and deaths caused by dangerous driving at crossings.  The report has also called for greater safety measures such as improved lighting and more barriers at level crossings.  (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 9)

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Train safety: The Edinburgh-Glasgow rail link has been delayed as dispute has arisen over replacing ticket examiners with conductors who also control train doors.  Scot-Rail has stated that drivers will have this function however this has led to fears that on some routes only the driver will be present on the train as some operate without ticket examiners.  The new route has been stalled as debate continues over the cost of employing conductors.  (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 9)

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Bus routes: Funding to the value of £27 million, awarded by the previous Labour Party / Liberal Democrat administration to establish new bus routes has been “wound down” after being passed to councils.  The reduction of the funds has been blamed on mounting costs of operating bus services for councils in the current economic crisis.  Only four new routes have been established. (Herald page 12)

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Local Government

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Refuse dispute:  Private firms have been employed to clear the backlog of refuse which has built up in Glasgow for the duration of the current “work to rule” strike action carried out by council refuse collectors.  The dispute over proposed work patterns has been in place for the last three weeks leading to complaints from residents and councillors.  (Herald page 11)

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Health

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Swine flu:  Scotland’s death toll from swine flu-related deaths has risen by a further three, and more than 12,000 people contracted the disease in the last week.  However this 42% decline in people getting the virus has been viewed as encouraging by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.  The news has raised hopes that the second wave of the pandemic is over, however the World Health Organization has warned of a potential third phase of swine flu that may take place in 2010.  (Scotsman page 2, Press and Journal page 13)

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Assisted suicide:  Pro life groups are expected to come out in opposition of a proposed bill to legalise assisted suicide. The bill is due to be laid down in Holyrood today by Independent Lothian’s MSP Margo MacDonald.  The Care Not Killing Alliance has warned that any legislation on the matter may lead pressure on people with illness to end their lives and should be replaced with better palliative care.  (Scotsman page 11)

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Scots mortality rates:  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has reported that Scottish people are more likely to die before the age of 65 than those who reside south of the border.  The report cites higher rates of poverty as well as poorer general health as the cause of premature deaths. (Daily Mail page 51)

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Education

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Poor literacy:  The Literacy Commission founded by the Scottish Labour party has stated that almost one million Scots have literacy issues. It has also found that approximately 13,000 pupils leave school without being “functionally literate”. The news follows criticism of the SNP government for its failure to deliver education promises. It has suggested a “zero tolerance” approach in tackling issues of social inequality and its relationship to illiteracy. Additionally new Education Secretary Mike Russell faced criticism for denying any crisis in Scottish education existed.  (Herald page 8, Daily Mail page 5, Times page 15, Daily Express page 1, TESS page 1, BBC)

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Politics

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Alex Salmond:  First Minister Alex Salmond has been accused of using the demotion of Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop to “mislead” opponents in the SNP pledge to reduce class sizes.  Labour Leader Iain Gray produced a 2007 document at yesterdays First Ministers Questions in Mr Salmond pledged to reduce class sizes by the end of parliament. He then used minutes of a previous meeting in July 2007 in which Mr Salmond had stated that the reduction would take 8-10 years to meet.  Mr Gray has accused Mr Salmond of breeching “ministerial code” and of using Ms Hyslop as a “scapegoat”.  (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 8, Daily Mail page 4, Telegraph page 10, Times page 3, Daily Record page 2, Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 1)

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Anti-Israeli sentiment:  According to Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor, Scotland’s campaigning against the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza in January of this year, has been viewed as misunderstood and “anti-Israeli”.  He stated that although the problem was UK wide it seemed to be more concentrated in Scotland.  (Scotsman page 14)

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Minimum pricing:  Supermarket chain Morrison’s has snubbed the SNP’s attempt to introduce minimum pricing selling bottles of beer for 25p.  The move has led to concerns over an alcohol price war in the lead up to Christmas and has been described by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon as “worrying.”  However Morrison’s has defended the sale stating that it is targeting those on budget and is acting “responsibly” by restricting sales per customer. (Scotsman page 23)

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Drink limits:  Westminster has indicated that it will support demands from Scottish Ministers and road safety groups to lower the drink–drive limits.  Additionally proposals to target drug driving will also be considered.  Scottish Ministers have welcomed the move and are also pushing for reserved powers over the issue to be devolved to the Scottish Government greater control over the issue.  (Herald page 1, Telegraph page 9, Times page 11)

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Referendum:  Alex Salmond publicly stated yesterday that there was still a possibility of a Labour “u-turn” over support for Scottish independence as the party had changed its mind twice already on the issue. However any proposed bill faces additional opposition from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.  (Daily Mail page 18)