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Daily Political Media Summary: 12 May 2008

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions.

Economy

Tax burden: According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the UK’s tax bill has increased by more than 50% over the past ten years and the total tax burden now stands at £517billion a year – equivalent to £20,7000 per household. (Scotsman page 5)

Tax exodus: Pearl Assurance is the latest company to consider moving its headquarters away from the UK for tax purposes. However Government officials are reported to be considering revising corporation tax rules to head off any exodus of companies. (Times page 34, Guardian page 21)

Tax loophole: The Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg will use a speech today to accuse the Treasury of devising a tax system for the City of London that encourages tax avoidance behaviour. (FT page 2)

Scottish economic growth: The Survey index for the overall Scottish private sector output fell to 48.3 last month, down from 51.4 in March. A reading above 50 denotes expansion, whereas a reading below 50, as was the case in April, marks contraction, the first time this has happened in 5 years (Heraldpage 1)

Credit crunch: Commentary on the economic slowdown. (Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman, Gary Duncan page 35, FT page 1 and 4, Larry Elliott in the Guardian)

Royal Mail: Business customers are deserting Royal Mail as they do not find it to be an efficient organisation to work with according to the British Chambers of Commerce. (Times page 34)

Foreign worker shortage for soft fruit: A fifth of Scotland’s fruit crop, worth an estimated £5.2m, is expected to be left to rot due to a shortage of foreign workers to pick the fruit. (Daily Mail page 25)

Multinationals dodging tax: Christian Aid has argued that clamping down on tax dodges by multinationals in developing countries could save the lives of a thousand children a day. In a report published today the charity says that multinationals are denying poor countries billions of dollars which they need to fight poverty. (FT page 4, Guardian page 21)

Crime

Child centred legal service: The first specialist legal service for children who need advice and representation has been launched in Edinburgh. (Scotsman page 34)

Education

Army visits to schools: Army recruitment team visits to Scottish schools went up by more than 180% in the past three years. (Herald page 1)

UN report: leaked extracts from a report to the UN have criticised Scotland for failing to improve child welfare and tackle teenage pregnancies five years after Scotland was warned it needed to make improvements. (Scotsman page 8)

Age of consent: Kathleen Marshall, Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, has suggested that the age of consent for sex be lowered to 13. She said “It is right to recognise the general vulnerability of 13 to 16 year olds by maintaining the general prohibition on sexual activity backed by the weight of the law”. (Sun page 1)

Health

Abortion: Coverage in a number of papers regarding amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which call for the abortion time limit to be cut. (Times page 25, Courier page 12, Herald page 7, Guardianpage 1)

Ambulance: The number of paramedics on night time emergency helicopter flights is to be reduced from 2 to 1, meaning that members of the public could be asked to help lift badly injured victims into air ambulances. (Herald page 2, Daily Record page 2)

Transport

First ScotRail locomotives: Record passenger numbers have forced First ScotRail to advertise for old-style locomotives after being unable to find trains matching those in its existing fleet. The additional trains are to ease crowding on the Fife-Edinburgh commuter route. (Scotsman page 15)

Rail fares: According to the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, train companies are deliberately misleading passengers about the availability of cheaper rail fares during busy seasons. (Daily Mail page 26)

Politics

Scottish independence referendum: Wendy Alexander has said she will not block the SNP referendum bill’s process through Holyrood, making a referendum in 2010 almost inevitable. The move is seen as widening the gap between Labour at Holyrood and the Prime Minister, with a close colleague of Ms Alexander referring to her as a “busted flush” (Herald page 1, Scotsman page 1, Lesley Riddoch in the Scotsman, Sun page 2, P&J page 1, Daily Mail page 2, Daily Express page 6, Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 6, George Galloway in the Daily Record, Guardian page 8)

Social union with England: Kerry Gill in the Express (page 4) interviews Alex Salmond. In the interview the First Minister sets out his desire for a social union with England.

MacAskill & Tennent’s: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has had to apologise after referring to Tennent’s lager as “cooking lager” during an interview. (Scotsman page 3)

Parliament bans non-pc language: The Scottish Parliament spent £144,000 on a project to ban parliamentary workers from using non-politically correct language such as “pensioner” or “girl”. (Sun page 22, Daily Record page 24)

Cherie Blair: Coverage in the papers commenting on the publication of Cherie Blair’s autobiography. (Sun page 1, Times page 2)

Gordon Brown: A number of the Prime Minister’s former colleagues have been briefing against him, including John Prescott who revealed in his autobiography that he tried to get Tony Blair to sack Gordon Brown as Chancellor, and Lord Levy who said he thought it was “inconceivable” that Gordon Brown did not know about the dodgy loans that caused Labour problems last year. (Sun page 2, P&J page 2, Herald page 6, Daily Express page 6, Telegraph page 1, FT page 2, Guardian page 8)

Crewe & Nantwich by-election: Comment on the forthcoming by-election in England. (Times page 12, Peter Riddell in the Times)

Beijing embassy: Scotland is poised to open an embassy in Beijing, expanding Scotland’s presence in the East. (P&J page 7)

Promoting independence abroad: Former First Minister Jack McConnell has accused Alex Salmond of misusing his position by promoting Scottish independence during foreign visits. (Courier page 12, Herald page 6)

STV & BBC: STV is pushing for a change in the commercial broadcaster’s status which would allow it to sell programmes to the BBC. (Herald page 7)