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Flags at half mast outside Scottish Government HQ

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“The death of Nelson Mandela marks the passing of a great statesman and a global icon, so it is only appropriate that we here in Scotland, a land Mr Mandela had great affinity with, mark his passing appropriately.

“That is why I have today instructed that the South African national flag should fly at half-mast alongside the Saltire outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh.

“The whole world is marking the loss of a great leader – all of Scotland feels that loss, and we join the people of South Africa in particular in marking Mr Mandela’s passing.”


Politicians concerned about broadband in D&G

Politicians in Dumfries and Galloway are worried about the "worryingly low" registration rate for fibre-optic broadband.

The Scottish Government has asked people in south-west Scotland to register their interest for the services.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown is warning people that unless they make their voices heard, the region will be one of the last areas to receive the upgrade.

New campaign for people struggling with debt

A new television and advert campaign aimed at highlighting the help available for people struggling with debt, has been launched by the Scottish Government.

The Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) is an initiative which helps people to pay back their debts over a reasonable period of time, based on the amount they owe and their current financial position.

DAS stops creditors using debt enforcement action and safeguards people's homes- as long as they keep up mortgage repayments.

Recent changes to the scheme means it also now freezes interest, fees and charges to prevent debts mounting up.

"The Scottish Government continues to take action, where it can, to address these problems and introduce measures to help those people in Scotland who are struggling under the burden of debt.

"The Debt Arrangement Scheme is the only government-backed scheme to help people pay back their debts in a dignified way, protecting them from the threat of action by their creditors.

"Our aim with this campaign is to raise awareness of DAS which helps people faced with the difficulties of debt to take control of their finances and get help out of the hole."

– Fergus Ewing, Enterprise Minister for Scotland

Scottish shoppers to pay 5p for carrier bags

From October next year shoppers in Scotland will have to pay 5p for carrier bags, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has announced.

The charge will be applied to all forms of carrier bags- not just plastic ones.

Mr Lochhead said that Scots use around 750 million bags every year and says the new scheme will show that the Scottish Government is taking "decision action" to cut down on the amount of bags being thrown out.

The proceeds from the bag charges will go to charity, with good causes expected to receive up to £5 million as a result of the scheme.

"Discarded carrier bags highlight our throwaway society. We use more carrier bags per head in Scotland than any other part of the UK and this is unsustainable.

"Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter and we are taking decisive action to decrease their number. By reducing the amount being carelessly discarded we can cut litter and its impact on our environment and economy.

"A small charge should also encourage us all to stop and think about what we discard and what can be re-used.

"We have seen elsewhere that carrier bag charging has been effective in encouraging people to reuse bags.

"This charge is not a tax but will see retailers donating the proceeds to charity - this could be up to £5 million per year after retailers have covered their costs.

"Thousands of Scottish people already use bags for life and some retailers already charge. It is now time, however, for a national effort."

– Richard Lochhead, Rural Affairs Secretary


South West Scotland to get new hospital

The Scottish Government have approved a business plan for a £200 million hospital to be built near to the A75 in Dumfries.

It will provide 350 beds and is due be completed in five years.

The Scottish health secretary, Alex Neil, said it would provide high quality health care services for the people of Dumfries and Galloway.

Full report: Independence campaign receives £1.7m donation

The campaign aimed at getting Scots to say yes to independence has revealed it has received over £1.7 million in donations.

£1,000,000 came from a couple who won the lottery.

The news comes on the same day a House of Lords committee criticised politicians on both sides of the debate, for failing to spell out the full consequences of the vote, whatever the outcome.

Kathryn Samson has this report:

"Scotland is financially stronger than UK" says Swinney

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney, has been commenting on the latest report from Westminster on Scottish Independence:

"It will be no surprise to people across Scotland that out of touch unelected Lords think Scotland is too small and too poor.

“All the evidence, including in this report, shows Scotland is in a far stronger financial position than the UK as a whole.

"What the Lords fail to mention is that a No vote would see Scots, within the UK, responsible for over two trillion pounds of debt and liabilities worth 145% of GDP, significantly more than an independent Scotland would face under any calculation."

– John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance
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