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Daily Political Media Summary: 25 January 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 25 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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Public Sector Pay: The Scottish Government has confirmed it will be enforcing freezes on top public sector earners’ pay. All top doctors, quango chiefs and NHS board members will have no salary increase from April. The move comes as quango chiefs have been dismissing calls from ministers for pay restraint on their bonuses. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 1, Sunday Times page 9, Times page 14, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 3, Daily Express page 2)

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Lena Wilson, chief executive of economic development agency Scottish Enterprise, has said in an interview that she doesn’t set her £220,000 per year salary, but that she aims “to be humbly worth every penny and to be judged by what (she) achieve(s).” (Scotland on Sunday Interview page 4)

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Chancellor Alistair Darling has warned that top earners in the public sector must follow the example of the private sector and take pay cuts. Mr Darling said that pay and bonus packages would have to be reduced to preserve jobs. (Herald page 6, Sunday Times page 1)

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Iain MacWhirter surprises himself by agreeing with the Chancellor that public sector workers are getting too comfortable with the public purse. (Herald page 13)

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Scottish Water: The Scottish Futures Trust is reportedly in talks about the future of Scottish Water. The talks have included the possibility of outright privatisation and also mutualisation, with a view to the SFT feeding back proposals to the Scottish Government. Although SFT’s corporate plan refers to looking for ways to improve Scottish Water’s funding efficiency while retaining its public ownership status, insiders say that discussions have moved beyond these limitations. (Sunday Herald page 60)

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The Scottish Government has denied reports that it is thinking of privatising Scottish Water. (Scotsman page 22)

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Scottish Futures Trust: Top economists Jim and Margaret Cuthbert have said the SNP government has made a “disastrous mistake” with the Scottish Futures Trust and claim the country is no better off than it was with the old system of using the Private Finance Initiative. The economists claim the government has “needlessly” ensured that “some of the worst features of the old PFI would be carried on”. They warned that the new system is just as bad as the old one, without making key changes to improve Scotland’s economy. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Opinion page 18)

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Crime

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Reoffenders: The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) has written to a Holyrood committee, warning that “too high a percentage” of those convicted under summary justice – 96 per cent of criminal cases – reoffend within two years. In the letter, ASPS says “insufficient attention has been paid to the rights of communities” and raises concerns that emphasis is put on “targets and timescales” rather than the safekeeping of communities. (Herald page 1, Sunday Times page 12)

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Child Violence: One in ten calls to ParentLine Scotland involved aggression toward a parent by his or her children. An expert said that the numbers are just “the tip of the iceberg” and that “domestic violence from teenagers is becoming more common” but that parents do not want to admit there is a problem until it is too late. (Scotsman page 17)

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Fraud: Fraud cases in Scotland have reportedly amounted to more than £20 million in scammed money. Eighteen cases in the last year have amounted to £20.7 million, part of the £1.3 billion cost for the whole of the UK. The head of KPMG Forensic, which produced the report, applauded the Scottish Government for efforts to curb this crime, but that more cooperation is needed to cut the figures further. (STV)

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Tasers: Strathclyde Police are considering giving beat officers taser guns, after reports have shown that 4,000 police officers have been assaulted since 2005. (Scotsman page 6, Sunday Times page 19, STV)

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Drink-Driving: A poll has revealed that four out of five Scots would support a cut in the drink-drive limit, reducing it from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg. (Herald page 4, Press and Journal page 8, BBC)

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Health

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Self-Harm: More than 7,000 children in Scotland have been admitted to hospital after harming themselves over the past decade. Figures reveal that more than 160,000 people over the age of 16 have been hospitalised after harming themselves since 1999. Ross Finnie, the Lib Dem health spokesperson, described the figures as a “desperate cry for help” and demanded that ministers take action. (Scotland on Sunday page 5)

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Minimum Pricing for Alcohol: The managing director of Tennent’s Caledonian, Scotland’s biggest selling lager, has said the company supports proposals for minimum pricing on alcohol. Critics have responded that the support shows that alcohol companies know they have nothing to fear because the minimum pricing will not curb binge drinking. (BBC, STV)

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Leukaemia Drug: NHS Scotland has approved the addition of the drug rituximab for leukaemia sufferers. It reportedly nearly doubles the chances of remission when added to chemotherapy treatments. (Sunday Herald page 5)

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Politics

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Devolution: A controversial report commissioned by Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy’s office says that Scotland has gained a £76 billion “devolution dividend” since the creation of the Scottish Parliament. The report says public spending has outstripped tax generated in Scotland by as much as 45 per cent since 1981, with spending last year £11 billion more than taxes raised in the country. The report also dismissed oil and gas revenues from Scotland, stating that even if all tax receipts from the North Sea went to the country there would still be a gap of £3.7 billion between spending and income last year. John Swinney has said that the oil and gas revenues keep the UK Treasury afloat. The SNP government has called the report a “dodgy dossier”. (Scotsman page 1, Bill Jamieson’s Analysis page 5, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 1)

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Deselected MP: Anne Moffat has reportedly been deselected by her Labour Party as candidate for East Lothian at the next General Election. Ms Moffat has been criticised for several issues, including £45,000 of travel expenses and the sacking of three staff members. (Scotland on Sunday page 11, Sunday Herald page 6)

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Travel Expenses Row: Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie has been accused of hypocrisy amid reports of a £10,000 travel expenses bill. Ms Goldie had lectured MSPs on cutting “non-essential” spending and calling on low-income workers to take a pay freeze. She has since promised to end her first-class rail travel habit. (Sunday Herald page 2, Herald page 6)

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General Election: Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth appears to have confirmed that the date of the next general election will be 6 May. In a television interview yesterday, Mr Ainsworth said voters “will wake up and rue the day if they wind up with a Conservative government in charge of this country after 6 May.” (Scotsman page 2)

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Civil Servants: The Lib Dems have obtained figures that show the number of civil servants in Scotland is up to 47,407 – 1,357 more than last year. Jeremy Purvis, the Lib Dem Finance spokesman, said the rise is “simply not sustainable”. (Scotsman page 11)

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The Gathering: A deal is reportedly in the works to repay the £300,000 owed to creditors from The Gathering. Government and council officials have been rumoured to be in talks to take over the brand rights to the event and allow the private firm which organised it to pay off the debts. Creditors of The Gathering 2009 have been told to expect an announcement on Tuesday. (Scotland on Sunday page 6)

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Lobbying Group Debt: The SNP is being criticised for withholding information that it had been chasing lobbying group the Scottish-Islamic Foundation for over £130,000 for about 3 months in 2008. The chief executive of the group, Osama Saeed, was an SNP candidate in the Glasgow Central constituency. Labour MSP Des McNulty asked SNP MSP Alex Neil last month what correspondence there had been between SIF and ministers regarding repayment and Mr Neil responded that a cheque had been written, but the effort was more convoluted than the response indicated. (Sunday Herald page 13)

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Begging: Ivan Artolli, general manager of the five-star Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, has complained that begging in the capital has become commonplace and is making tourists uncomfortable. He has said that of the 15 European cities he has worked in, he has never seen “such a tolerance of beggars” and has called for the council to rethink its policy. (Scotsman page 3)

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Homeowners’ Rights: Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson will today formally table legislation that would give homeowners more rights, require all factors in Scotland to be registered and accredited by an official body, and provide a legal right to a mediation service to give an alternative to court action. (Herald page 1)

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Unpaid Internships: The Sunday Herald investigates the unpaid internships at Holyrood, revealing that politicians have been undermining the Scottish education system by using thousands of hours of unpaid student labour during an economic crisis. (Sunday Herald page 20)

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Assisted Suicide Bill: Most MSPs oppose plans that would allow terminally ill people to seek help to die at their own choosing, it was claimed yesterday. A survey of two thirds of MSPs found that 53 were against the bill. (Telegraph page 6, BBC)

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Former MSP Duncan Hamilton argues in favour of Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill and says that, either way, it’s worth a discussion. (Scotland on Sunday page 19)

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Joan McAlpine discusses the points of Margo MacDonald’s bill and finds that, despite her initial scepticism, she supports the cause. (Sunday Times page 25)

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Scottish Labour: Jason Allardyce comments in the Sunday Times on Iain Gray’s leadership and concludes that, despite the criticism of him, he’s the best person to lead the Scottish Labour Party. (Sunday Times page 21)

\r\nScottish NHS: Jenny Hjul of the Sunday Times comments that the Nuffield study should provoke consideration of the chronic problems in the Scottish NHS. (Sunday Times page 24)