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Daily Political Media Summary: 12 January 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 12 January 2010

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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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Jobs Summit: First Minister Alex Salmond has said that the next general election will focus on Scotland’s economic recovery rather than its constitutional future. Mr Salmond made the comment at a jobs summit yesterday alongside Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy. The two leaders promised the creation of 500 jobs. (Scotsman page 2, Opinion page 32, Herald page 6, Courier page 9, STV)

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Retailers: The British Retailers Consortium has published data which shows the best December retail growth figures for eight years. The BRC said the figures were “stronger than (they) dared hope for” and warned that the growth was not likely to last as consumers are expected to rein in their spending in the New Year. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 30, Guardian page 24)

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Recession: The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has released a report from the last three months which indicates that export sales are booming but domestic sales remain weak, leaving companies uncertain about the future. (Herald page 30)

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Winter Weather: Effects of the winter freeze are starting to be understood as reports of pipes bursting have been numbered in the thousands. Repairs on domestic premises are expected to cost at least £5 million, with more than 700 firms also being hit. Scottish Water reported that it received 31,000 calls from residents since New Year, about three-quarters of which have been about burst pipes. (Scotsman page 6)

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The cost of heating a home rose 52 per cent, leaving families to find an extra £70 in January on top of their monthly bill. It has been estimated that if the cold snap continues another week, families will pay an extra £1.9billion in energy charges, with the average gas bill for the month reaching £227. (Daily Telegraph page 7)

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Business in Scotland: The role of Scottish Development International (SDI) in bringing business to Scotland will come under scrutiny. Holyrood’s economy, energy and tourism committee is to examine how the public sector can help Scottish companies make the most of trading with foreign countries to help them beat the recession. SDI had been accused of not doing enough to boost the “visibility” of Scotland in China, despite having an office there. (Scotsman page 15, Press and Journal page 11)

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Banking: Nick Clegg announced that a Lib Dem government would oversee the breakup of Britain’s largest banks to “avoid this catastrophe happening again”. Mr Clegg’s statement is the clearest yet on plans to rid the financial system of built-in risk. (Daily Telegraph page B5)

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Housing: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland said Scotland was the only part of the UK where housing prices did not fall last month. RICS Scotland said this is the first time since April 2007 that surveyors had not reported a drop, and indicated that “things are picking up”. (BBC, STV)

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Hotels: The number of hotel rooms in Edinburgh sold last month rose by 10 per cent from the previous year. On average, 68 per cent of hotel rooms were full last month. Figures also revealed that on Hogmanay, 97 per cent of hotel rooms in Edinburgh were occupied, up by one per cent from last year. (Scotsman page 23)

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Health

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Alcohol Abuse: It has been estimated that alcohol abusers cost every adult in Scotland £900 a year. Researchers at York University estimate that alcohol abuse costs Scottish taxpayers £3.56 billion a year – one tenth of the Scottish Government’s budget. It claims that one in five of Scots drink more than the recommended daily limit. (BBC, STV)

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Nurses: The Royal College of Nursing is concerned about a possible shortage of nurses in the near future. Figures have shown that almost one in three nursing students drop out of programmes before qualifying. (Daily Scottish Mail page 1)

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Education

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Nursery: Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray has suggested that children from the most socially deprived backgrounds should be given a nursery place from age two to ensure they are up to speed when they start school. Under the current laws, children are not given the provision for a free term until age three. Mr Gray said that was too late if Scotland is to tackle its illiteracy problem. (Scotsman page 25)

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University Cuts: Leaders of the top 20 British universities have written to Gordon Brown, complaining that £2.5 billion in education cuts will jeopardise 800 years of higher education. (Guardian page 1, BBC)

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Politics

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UK Election: The Populus Poll for The Times shows Labour has fallen two more percentage points to 28 per cent and is now 13 points behind the Conservatives. In Scotland, Labour stands at 36 per cent, SNP at 25 per cent, Conservatives at 17 per cent, and Lib Dems at 15 per cent. (Scotsman page 4, Times page 1)

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Nick Clegg announced his party would have to give up £18 billion worth of spending pledges because they are not currently affordable. Abandoned pledges included free childcare for two year olds (costing £3.5 bn annually), a citizen’s pension (costing £10 bn a year over two parliaments) and free personal care for the elderly (costing £2.8 bn annually). (Guardian page 12)

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Constitution: In a letter to Alex Salmond, Jim Murphy said he would ignore a vote by MSPs calling for devolution from Westminster. Mr Murphy also called on the Scottish Government to drop its referendum bill. (Scotsman page 2, Press and Journal page 1)

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James McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation argues that although Scotland has made headway toward tackling poverty, it is not due to the devolution process. (Scotsman page 32)