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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 30 JULY 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 30 July 10

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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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In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News.

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Reform Scotland will be observing the bank holiday on Monday 2 August and the media summary will resume on 3 August.

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Economy

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Spending: The Independent Budget Review (IBR) group, set up by the Scottish Government to review possible ways of dealing with an anticipated £42 billion budget cut over the next 16 years, has warned that ministers should be prepared to cut one in 10 public sector jobs.  Public services such as free personal and nursing care for the elderly, concessionary travel and free eye tests may need to be cut and the council tax freeze abandoned as well (Scotsman page 1, John McTernan in the Scotsman, Herald page 1, Guardian page 10, Courier page 1, Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, Financial Time page 2, Express page 2, P&J page 9, Sun page 1, Record page 1, Mail page 1).

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Benefits:  Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is to announce a series of reforms today that are intended to ensure that low earners will be better off in employment than on benefits.  Proposals include combining income support and housing benefit with the tax credit system to cut the welfare budget and save around £11 billion in spending over the next four years. The effects are expected to be felt keenly in Scotland, which has a number of areas with traditionally high rates of unemployment (Herald page 6, Guardian page 2, Telegraph page 1, Times page 10, Mail page 2).

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Retirement age:  The UK Government announced yesterday that it would make it illegal for workers to be pushed out of their jobs because of their age. By October 2011, firms will no longer be able to sack employees just because they turn 65. The change will allow staff the right to work for longer if they wish. However, business leaders warned the changes could lead to more workers making undignified exits from jobs and trigger thousands of employment tribunals (Herald page 6, Guardian page 11, Courier page 13, Telegraph page 8, Jill Kirby in the Times, Record page 2).
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Housing: Recent figures revealed a sharper than expected drop in mortgage approvals and a fall in residential property prices, renewing fears of a weak UK housing market (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 32, Mail page 13).

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Tourism: The number of Britons visiting Scotland has leapt by more than 10%, with as many as 3.6 million Brits holidaying in Scotland during the first four months of this year alone. New VisitScotland figures show that UK visitors spent £687 million in Scotland during this time, encouraging the hope that the tourism industry, which supports more than 200,000 jobs in Scotland, might be the key to boosting the economy in 2010 (Herald page 9).

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Calman proposals: Scottish businesses are concerned that further fiscal devolution could lead to reduced investment and activity. A PwC and Fraser of Allander report, Conversations with Scottish Business, shows that 57% of businesses believe that Calman Commission proposals resulting in differing income tax levels between Scotland and the UK will have a major impact on them in terms of administration, time and cost (Courier page 8, Herald page 32, P&J page 7).

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Recession fears:  Consumer confidence for July was at its lowest reading since August 2009, when the British economy was still contracting.  Consumer confidence measures are often used as predictors for the general well-being of the economy, so falls in the index make the possibility of a double-dip recession seem more likely, according to Nick Moon, managing director of GfK NOP social research. (Telegraph page B1).

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Drink licenses: The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has stated that one in seven alcohol licenses has been lost since the introduction of new alcohol legislation last autumn (P&J page 4).

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Health

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Blood pressure: 58% of Scots tested showed signs of high blood pressure, which becomes more prevalent with age, and experts said it was particularly worrying that one-third of people under the age of 34 also had raised levels. High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors leading to heart attacks and strokes (Herald page 7).

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Heart attack pill: The world’s first human trials toward a drug specifically designed to interrupt cardiac arrest and heal damaged tissue at the same time are due to begin in Scotland next year (Herald page 3).

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Population boom: According to the Population Reference Bureau, a US group which supplies data to governments and institutions around the world, Britain will be the biggest country in Europe by 2050. The population is expected to swell from today\’s 62.2 million to 77 million, an increase of 24 per cent, making it larger than France, projected to be 70 million and Germany, predicted to be 71.5 million (Telegraph page 1).