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Daily Political Media Summary: 9 February 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 9 February 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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Quangos: Think-tank Reform Scotland has proposed that the ‘quango culture’ in Scotland should be ended where so many government functions are carried out by the 115 quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations in Scotland.  This power should either be exercised directly by government or through organisations that are genuinely independent of government.  This would open up the political system and would make it much easier for people to tell if power was being exercised in the public interest. (Scotsman page 4, Christopher Mackie Analysis page 5, Scotsman Opinion page 30, Herald page 5, Times, Daily Telegraph page  8, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 9 Daily Mail page 10, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 4)

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Reform Scotland director Geoff Mawdsley writes in The Scotsman that past attempts to reform quangos have tackled the symptoms rather than the root of the problem which is the lack of openness and accountability in the political process.  The idea is that quangos would cease to exist in their current form and their functions transferred to either a governmental body or to an autonomous body. (Scotsman page 30)

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Recession: The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reports that 2010 opened with the worst January high street sales since comparable records began 15 years ago. The VAT increase and the blizzards have been named as sources of poor sales. (Daily Telegraph Business page 1, Guardian page 28, FT page 4, Press and Journal page 16)

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Crime

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Sex Trafficking: The Equality and Human Rights Commissions is set to launch a national inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland. The investigation will be headed by Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, and will focus on commercial sexual exploitation. The investigation follows reports that there were up to 700 victims of trafficking living in Scotland at any one time. There have been no successful prosecutions. (Herald page 10, BBC)

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Transport 

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GARL: Finance Secretary John Swinney reportedly rejected an offer by Network Rail to save the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) immediately after the idea was scrapped last September. (Herald page 1)

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Forth Road Bridge: Documents showing the objections to the Forth road bridge project have included concerns about swamping neighbouring villages with traffic, a rise in accident numbers and an “unacceptable” rise in greenhouse gases. (Herald page 6)

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Flying Scotsman: Questions have been raised to the viability of introducing a Flying Scotsman express train service between Edinburgh and London, due to possible clashes with other operations. (Herald page 7)

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Health

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Abortion: Figures have shown that the abortion rate in Scotland is higher for over-35s than for the under-16s.  “The Conceivable?” campaign, launched by the Family Planning Association, says reports citing age as a leading cause of infertility is encouraging older women to abandon contraception. (Scotsman page 9, Times)

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Morning After Pill: A new morning after pill that can be used up to five days after having intercourse has been approved by NHS Scotland. (Scotsman page 9)

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GP Rewards:  The Quality and Outcomes Framework, which rewards extra funding for running additional services such as checks on patients with long-term conditions, has been reported as successful. The British Medical Association Scotland said the system had helped reduced hospital admissions and saved lives. (Scotsman page 10)

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Education

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Teacher Training Cuts: The Scottish Funding Council has announced that the number of teacher training places is to be cut by 40% in an effort to curb the growing number of graduates unable to find work in schools.  The move, authorised by the Scottish Government, will reduce the number of trainee places by 1550, with primary teaching bearing the brunt. The decision may also have an effect on universities, which may have to close departments and lose key staff. Last year, only one in seven trainee teachers in Scotland found a permanent post, leaving the number of unemployed teachers at a three-year high. (Scotsman page 1, Rod Grant Analysis page 2, Herald page 4, Times page 14, Daily Telegraph page 2, Press and Journal page 11, Courier page 1, BBC) 

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University Applications: UCAS says that the number of people aged 25 and over applying to university this year soared by 108%. However, many of these applicants reportedly face rejection because of the reduced number of places available. Overall, the number of applications from Scots rose by 31% this year. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 1, Herald Opinion page 14, Times page 14, Daily Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 1, BBC)

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The number of single parent students receiving grants from the government fell by 10% this year. In total, 290 less single parents will be receiving the grant. (Scotsman page 15)

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Politics

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Expenses Scandal: David Cameron has criticised Gordon Brown for being the “roadblock” to political reform and public service reform. Mr Cameron called for further expenses reform and demanded that any “loophole” on parliamentary privilege should be closed. He said the next big scandal to envelop Westminster will be corporate lobbying. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 6, Daily Telegraph page 12)

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It was announced that the “golden goodbye” payments for the three Labour MPs expecting to stand trial over their expenses will be suspended until after their hearings. (Scotsman page 6, Daily Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 8)

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Social Poll: A poll of British citizens reveals that 64% believe that Britain is going in the wrong direction. Seventy percent of people said they believe that society is broken, while 40% said they would emigrate if they could. Women, working-class people and Tory voters were the most likely to express that they “hardly recognise their own country”. (Times page 1, Times Comment page 2)

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Assisted Suicide: Edward Turner, a right-to-die campaigner of Dignity in Dying, has criticised Margo MacDonald’s assisted suicide Bill as being “morally ambiguous” and that it would encourage suicide tourism to Scotland. (Times page 5)

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Beauly-Denny Line: A petition lodged more than five years ago concerning the health issues of high-voltage power lines is to be reconsidered by MSPs today. The move follows last month’s approval of the Beauly-Denny pylons. (Herald page 6)

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Lunches Scandal: Further coverage of the implications of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s “Lunchgate” scandal. (Herald page 6)

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Royal High School: Alan Massie suggests in The Scotsman that the building should be made into a sorely-needed sixth form college for intelligent youths from underprivileged backgrounds. (Scotsman page 29)