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6 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 6 August 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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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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Politics

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Spending: The TaxPayers\’ Alliance has criticised the government for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers\’ money on "dubious" projects, including a £200,000 grant for the BBC (Scotsman page 6).

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Welfare reform and the Union: John McTernan argues that Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals for welfare reform will be especially hard on Scots and may increase the desire for a separate Scotland (John McTernan in the Scotsman).

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New MSPs: Due to the gap left by the fifteen MSPs standing down, there will be an influx of fresh candidates for the Holyrood election next year (Times page 15).

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Economy

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Interest rates: Bank of England\’s Monetary Policy Committee decided to hold interest rates at their record low of 0.5 per cent due to doubts about the strength of a recovery and a desire to keep mortgage payments down and the cost of borrowing low.  However, business groups and politicians have condemned the decision due to concern over the threat of inflation as well as the fact that businesses are not receiving interest on accounts (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 6, P&J page 13, Telegraph page B1).

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Rate bill rises: Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron has criticised this year’s non-domestic rates revaluation for increasing the rates of firms by 50%, 100% and in some cases over 200%, which could damage an economy struggling to sustain growth (P&J page 9, Courier page 3).

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Fringe: The biggest arts festival in the world begins in Edinburgh today, with hopes that it could be another record-breaking year. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is already selling more tickets for its 2500 shows than at this time last year. Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Festival Fringe Society, said that although it might be unrealistic to expect a final total higher than 2009’s record- breaking 1.9 million sales, the early signs going into the first official weekend of the festival were encouraging (Herald page 7, Times page 7).

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Retail: Retail sales in Scotland showed a slight increase in the last three months, according to figures from the Scottish Government. The Scottish figures, however, were lower than those in the rest of the UK, supporting the view of the Scottish Retail Consortium industry body that consumer confidence has been hit harder north of the Border, ahead of swinging public sector spending and job cuts (Herald page 29, Express page 10).

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Justice

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Virtual courts: Suspects will be able to give evidence in procedural hearings via video link to virtual courts under proposals being considered by the police, courts and Crown Office.

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The aim is to save time and money by reducing the need for police, prison and escort staff to transfer convicted criminals and those on remand between court and custody (Herald page 8). 

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Transport 

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Lothian Buses: Ken Houston argues that Lothian Buses has been one of the most profitable of municipally owned bus companies in the UK and should not be sold to support the new tram project (Ken Houston in the Scotsman).

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Health

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Pregnancy: A new study by researchers at Aberdeen University has found that women who have suffered a miscarriage do not need to wait a few months before trying for another baby.

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The researchers examined the experiences of almost 31,000 women in Scottish hospitals between 1981 and 2000 and found that those who conceived within six months of an initial recorded miscarriage had the lowest rates of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and termination in a subsequent pregnancy than those who conceived later. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, challenges the current belief that women who have miscarried should delay pregnancy, with many NHS doctors currently advising women to wait at least three months and the World Health Organisation advising a delay of six months (Scotsman page 19, Herald page 12, P&J page 12, Guardian page 8, Record page 32).

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Education

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University admission: Students who did not achieve expected grades in their school exams face a scramble for fewer places this year. UCAS, the higher education admissions service, revealed that soaring applications, combined with record results in Higher exams, mean this will be the hardest year ever for those who did not get the necessary grades. UCAS figures show that 20,651 Scottish applicants have already confirmed places at colleges and universities, compared to 19,944 last year – an increase of 3.5% (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 2, Courier page 10, Telegraph page 11, TESS page 3).