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Daily Political Media Summary: 24 April 2008

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions

Economy

Grangemouth refinery: Last night talks between the Unions and Ineos, owners of the Grangemouth oil refinery, over changes to workers’ pension schemes broke down. As a result the planned 48 hour walkout by 1,200 workers is expected to go ahead on Sunday, threatening fuel supplies to Scotland and the North of England. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 1, Courier page 1, Daily Express page 9, The Times page 2, Daily Mail page 4, P&J page 1, Daily Record page 10, Sun page 1, Daily Telegraph page 11)

Scottish GDP: The Scottish Government unveiled GDP figures for the last quarter of 2007 yesterday. GDP was reported to have grown by 2.2% over 2007 and 0.9% in the final quarter. The UK figures were 2.9% for the year and 0.6% for the last quarter. (Scotsman page 38, Courier page 7, Alf Young in the Herald)

10p tax: The Conservative party has called Gordon Brown weak for caving into Labour rebels over the removal of the 10p tax rate. The Prime Minister has insisted that he had not been “pushed about” by his backbenchers. (Daily Telegraph page 1 & 4, Herald page 1 & 6, Daily Mail page 8 and 9, Scotsman page 6, The Times page 1 and leader, Camilla Cavendish in The Times, Courier page 1, P&J page 5, Sun page 2, Daily Express page 6, Daily Record page 2, Guardian page 4, Financial Times page 1 & 3)

Interest rates: The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee is reportedly increasingly divided over what do with interest rates in the face of the global economic slowdown. (Herald page 33, Financial Times page 2)

Mortgages: The number of mortgages approved for people buying a home fell by 46% in the past year. (Herald page 10, Daily Express page 15, Daily Telegraph page 4, Guardian page 28, Financial Times page 2)

High street sales: According to the Scottish Retail Consortium like for like sales in March were just 1.6% higher than the same period in 2007. However March 2007 had been 4.6% higher than March 2006. (Daily Express page 4 & 5)

Crime

Lawyers to strike: The Glasgow Bar Association, the largest group of court lawyers in Scotland, voted last night to take industrial action over the Scottish Government’s plans to reform legal aid. (Scotsman page 13)

Inverness Prison: Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dr Andrew Walker, has criticised the situation at Inverness prison where overcrowding has led to many prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor. (Herald page 11, P&J page 6)

Transport

Boost to rail travel: In the wake of increased investment and the £150m upgrade of Waverley station, Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish Transport Minister has urged more people to use the trains. (Herald page 11)

Car tax: According to figures from the Treasury released yesterday, the green levy on motorists announced in March’s budget will double car tax revenue to £4billion but reduce vehicle emissions by less than one percent (Daily Telegraph page 1)

Health

Shortage of GPs: BMA Scotland has said that one in five GPs are planning to retire in the next five years and there are too few doctors being trained to replace them. The warning came on the back of comments that GPs’ workload had increased in recent years and half of family doctors are reporting low morale. (Scotsman page 19, P&J page 7, Courier page 1, Daily Mail page 6, Daily Express page 8, Daily Telegraph page 14)

Hep C inquiry: The Scottish Government announced yesterday that there will be an independent inquiry into how people in Scotland were infected with hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood (Scotsman page 16, Courier page 3, Daily Telegraph page 12, Herald page 2, P&J page 8, Sun page 2)

Cancer screening: Hundreds of cervical cancer screening tests have had to be repeated due to problems with the new system of running checks. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the National Services Division blamed the use of out of date labels. The labels identify samples and are being destroyed in transit by leaking pots. (Herald page 7)

Tanning booths: Under 18s will be banned from using tanning salons under new legsislation to be passed in the Scottish Parliament. (Daily Record page 1)

Education

Scottish colleges lose out: Yesterday Audit Scotland warned that many of Scotland’s colleges were facing deficits in coming years as EU funding drops from £22.3m in 2006/07 to £13.6m this year and is expected to drop further. The EU funding is being diverted to newer, poorer member states. (P&J page 10, Herald page 12, Scotsman page 25, Courier page 9)

Student drop outs: Nearly a third of students have considered dropping out due to financial hardship according to a survey by the student body NUS Scotland. (P&J page 8, Courier page 9, Herald page 12)

Cost of school policies: Moira Niven of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland told MSPs yesterday that key Scottish Government education pledges, such as increasing PE time and reducing class sizes to 18 could require huge increases in investment. (Courier page 9)

Local Government

Wave power: A planning application for a wave power station on Lewis has been lodged. The pilot project would be capable of generating enough electricity to power 1,500 homes on Lewis and Harris. (Herald page 10 )

Historic Scotland: Historic Scotland may lose its veto over alterations to listed buildings. A pilot in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth and Kinross will allow local councils to take up cases which do not have national significance. (Herald page 7)

Politics

Committee of the Regions: Downing Street has blocked the SNP’s nomination of Councillor Roger Knox to sit on the European body, the Committee of the Regions. The failure to nominate an SNP councillor was said to be an administrative error by a UK Government spokesman. (Herald page 6)

Jack McConnell: The former First Minister has said that his appointment as High Commissioner to Malawi may slip to next year, prompting accusations that Labour are running scared of a by-election in Jack McConnell’s constituency. (Herald page 6, Daily Mail page 30, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 4, Daily Telegraph page 11)

Opinion Poll: A poll in the Daily Mail (page 2 and leader) shows the SNP up from 33% on the constituency vote at the Scottish elections last year to 40% – giving them a 7% lead over Labour.

Coast guard walkout: Staff at Scotland’s five coast guard rescue centres went on strike last night for 24hours over a pay dispute. (Herald page 8, P&J page 5)

MSP allowances: MSPs have been given above inflation increases in their allowances to help cover the increasing cost of living. (Daily Telegraph page 11)

SNP ‘foreign policy: Whitehall has reportedly criticised Alex Salmond for using a trip to Brussels to advocate Scotland developing a separate foreign policy to the rest of the UK. (Daily Telegraph page 8)