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REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 24 AUGUST 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 24 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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RBS protestors: Police and politicians last night condemned a minority of climate-change protesters as "reckless" and "utterly irresponsible" after a day of demonstrations caused disruption across Edinburgh and brought the Royal Bank of Scotland\’s operations to a near standstill. The company was subjected to protests at its headquarters and at city branches, with several other banks and energy firms targeted.  Twelve people were arrested throughout the capital, with Lothian and Borders Police deploying a "significant" number of officers, including staff from other forces and British Transport Police. (Scotsman page 4, page 26, Herald page 3, Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane page 12, Press and Journal page 3, Courier page 6, Daily Record page 10, Daily Express page 1) 

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Scots optimism: Scots are becoming more optimistic about money and happier with their local neighbourhood, public services and healthcare, according to a wide ranging study of attitudes. The 2009 Scottish Household Survey suggested worries over the financial crisis and fears about anti-social behaviour are receding in Scotland, with fewer people concerned about their personal finances and the vast majority rating their neighbourhood as a good place to stay. But the survey, which provides a comprehensive view of the way Scots live their lives, showed the most deprived areas of Scotland still face significant challenges, with worklessness, poor health and crime more prevalent among the poorest neighbourhoods. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 8, Times page 11)

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Labour leadership: David Miliband\’s campaign to become Labour leader gained some momentum after he won the Edinburgh East primary. The vote organised by Edinburgh East Labour MP Sheila Gilmore put Mr Miliband\’s brother Ed as a close second with the other three candidates as distant also-rans. The primary was seen in the party as a significant development in British politics and was only the second one held for the Labour leadership. (Scotsman page 12, FT page 2) 

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Labour’s Debt: Labour’s debts rose during the General Election despite the party raking in more than £10 million from donors in just three months, according to new figures. Just days after a senior Labour figure warned the party was on the verge of bankruptcy, the statistics show that Labour’s debts of nearly £10m far outstrip the Tories, Liberal Democrats and the SNP. The rising debts come amid record levels of donations to political parties. Opponents said that they raised questions about Labour’s campaigning ability in the run up to next year’s Holyrood elections. Last week John Prescott, the former Labour deputy prime minister, warned that the party faced bankruptcy unless it cut back on its spending. (Herald page 6) 

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Economy

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Housing market: The quarterly Lloyds TSB Scottish House Price Monitor shows that the average house dropped in price by almost 3 per cent in the three months to 31 July, at £159,217.  An impressive 6 per cent leap in the average house price in the three months up to January had led to hopes that a revitalised property market could help lead Scotland out of the economic downturn. However, experts now fear that the property market is again stagnating, with house prices increasing by less than one per cent in the last year according to Lloyds. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 2) 

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North Sea oil and gas: Britain’s oil and gas industry was today ordered to "up its game" on safety following revelations that the number of potentially catastrophic gas releases on offshore installations has risen by more than a third in the past year. The number of "major and significant" releases of hydrocarbons – gas and oil – from North Sea platforms operating in British waters has increased from 61 to 85 in the past 12 months, taking the total to its highest level since 2003.  And the rate for fatal and major injuries in the industry has also almost doubled in the space of a year, according to a new report published by the government\’s health and safety watchdog. (Scotsman page 6, Press and Journal page 1) 

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Edinburgh’s economy: Bill Jamieson comments in the Scotsman on how Edinburgh has managed to dodge the worst of the recession and if recent trends in its economy hold up, it looks set to dodge the relapse or double-dip recession. (Scotsman page 30) 

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Family-owned businesses: Nearly half of the owners of small and medium-sized family businesses in Scotland are making personal sacrifices to keep their firms afloat and more than one-quarter have had to change their succession plans. The survey of 75 Scottish family-owned firms, by Glasgow-based business consultant Craig Corporate, also shows more than three-quarters of these firms have not seen any significant improvement in their bottom line since the recession ended late last year. It highlights the continuing pressures on family businesses, which are vital contributors to Scotland’s overall economic prosperity. (Herald page 28) 

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Justice

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Strathclyde police: Scotland’s biggest police force has drawn up plans to lose 400 officers by the end of the financial year.  Strathclyde Police aims to shed the posts due to the budget deficit that officials believe will top £130 million within four years. Chief Constable Steve House has already warned staff of dramatic cutbacks to come over the next few months – and to be put before his ruling board on Thursday. (Herald page 1) 

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Transport 

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Commuting: Scottish ministers were criticised yesterday for failing to cut the number of people driving to work despite spending millions of pounds boosting public transport. Commuting by car or van increased by 1 per cent to 67 per cent last year, according to new government figures. The number of vehicles licensed also increased by 0.5 per cent to a record 2.71 million. By contrast, total bus passengers, who account for the vast majority of public transport users, were down by 0.8 per cent to 493 million. However, ScotRail, the country\’s main train operator, recorded a 0.7 per cent increase in passengers to nearly 77 million. (Scotsman page 20) 

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Local Government

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Council freeze: The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged ministers to maintain the council tax freeze amid calls to scrap the policy. CBI said the freeze is helping bring about ‘fairer’ levels of tax across Scotland’s 32 local authorities. (Courier page 3) 

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Health

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Vitamin D: Taking vitamin D during pregnancy and in the first few years of life could help reduce the risk of a wide range of illness, researchers have revealed, after finding new genetic links between diseases and the compound. The latest study mapped how the "sunshine vitamin" interacted with human DNA, finding more than 200 genes where it had a direct influence. The results suggest that taking supplements in early life could help reduce the risk of several illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, Crohn\’s disease and some types of cancer. It is estimated that one billion people worldwide do not have enough vitamin D, the main source of which comes through exposure to sunlight. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 5, Daily Mail page 6) 

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Education

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Baccalaureate: Universities are under pressure from the education secretary to recognise the new Scottish Baccalaureate in entry requirements for a degree.  Education Secretary Michael Russell revealed he had discussions last week with university leaders, whom he described as very positive. However, no university has made the baccalaureates, introduced last year, an entry requirement for any applicant so far. University insiders warned it could take years for the new certificates to be become a standard part of applications. (Scotsman) 

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University redundancies: Scottish universities are cutting staff despite a record intake of students. Hundreds of jobs, including those of lecturers, are expected to go over the next few years as the higher education sector struggles to deal with cuts to funding. (Times page 1)

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Edinburgh University: A record 40 companies have been created from academic research at the University of Edinburgh in 2009-10, the most generated by a Scottish university in a single year. (Times page 6)