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Daily Political Media Summary: 30 May 2008

Economy

Salmond’s “outrage” at oil prices: The First Minister branded that impact of the rising cost of fuel a “massive national outrage” where Scotland had been left in the “extraordinary position” with soaring petrol prices while ever other oil producer in the world was benefiting from increased revenue. Alex Salmond has called on the Chancellor to use some of the oil tax windfall to cushion the blow of high petrol prices. (Scotsman page 5, The Herald page 6, P&J page 6, Mail page 2, Courier page 2, Telegraph page 1).

House prices: UK house prices have suffered their biggest annual fall since the early nineties. Year on year house prices are now 4.4% below the level of May 2007, according to eth Nationwide house price index. (FT page 1, Times page 7, Guardian page 1).

Scottish GDP growth: Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman (page 24) comments on the SNP’s long term pledge to match the economic performance of other smaller northern European economies.

Tax policy: Alf Young in the Herald (page 17) comments on UK tax policy and the Conservatives.

Financial services regulation: Alistair Darling has attacked the SNP for confusion over their financial regulation plans for an independent Scotland saying that the SNP has “conceded that a separate regulatory system for Scotland would be very damaging. When you look at the consequences for Scotland and the financial services industry of separation, you start to see it is damaging. Swinney knows that full well, which is why he is busy saying at one and the same time \’I want independence but don\’t worry, the bits you don\’t like I won\’t do’.” (Scotsman page 29).

Mortgages: The Chief Executive of HBOS has warned that the mortgage market will remain difficult for 18 months and that house prices could take years to recover (The Herald page 29).

Inflation: The gap between average pay and inflation is at its highest level since last November (The Herald page 6).

FSA Chairman: Adair Turner has been appointed as the new Chairman of the Financial Services Authority. (David Wighton in the Times, Mail page 89, Alex Brummer in the Mail).

Crime

Detention without charge: The UK government is expected to introduce compromises to its proposals to extent the time limit for detention without charge from 28 days to 42 days. (Scotsman page 6).

Drugs strategy: The Scottish Government launched a new drugs’ strategy yesterday designed to make more addicts drug free, instead of prescribing methadone. (Scotsman page 10, The Herald page 5, P&J page 9, The Telegraph page 10, Express page 2, Daily Record page 2, Times page 6, Theodore Dalrymple in the Times, Daily mail page 5, Courier page 11).

Lockerbie trial: The Court of Criminal appeal ordered the UK Government to hand over two confidential documents relating to the Lockerbie bombing. Judges will decide in future closed hearings whether to reveal the documents to the lawyers representing the man convicted of the bombing (The Herald page 13).

Transport

Rosyth Ferry: The First Minister has said that the axed ferry route between Rosyth and Zeebrugge has a ‘commercial future’ (The Herald page 5, P&J page 6, Daily Express page 8, Courier page 1). However, Peter Jones in the Scotsman (page 31) comments that the low level of use of the Rosyth ferry make it hard to imagine why another shipping line would replace Superfast Ferries.

Flight costs: British Airways increased its fuel surcharges yesterday, increasing the cost of holidays abroad. (Daily Express page 1, Times page 1, Mail page 9, Telegraph page 1).

Education

Class sizes: A survey by teaching union the EIS showed that 18 councils expected a negative financial impact on education, making it more difficult to implement the SNP’s flagship policy of reducing class sizes in primary 1 to 3 to 18. (Scotsman page 13, The Herald page 7, The Sun page 2, analysis by Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph page 14, Courier page 4).

School inspections: A new, more co-operative system of school inspections will be introduced from August. Schools which perform well will have shorter inspections and schools will be able to ask inspectors to stay on to share expertise (The Herald page 1, TESS page 1).

Health

Ambulance service: Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, Kevin Doran, has taken a voluntary leave of absence while and investigation into claims of bullying and harassment are carried out (Scotsman page 18, The Herald page 1, P&J page 1, Daily Express page 4, Daily Record page 4, Courier page 13).

Donations guidelines: The Health Secretary said she was considering what guidance needed to be given to hospitals about donations of equipment from private companies in light of Royal Bank of Scotland’s recent controversial gift of a scanner (The Herald page 12).

Local Government

Local Income tax: Alistair Darling has branded the Scottish Government’s proposal of a local income tax to replace council tax a “disaster” for Scotland’s financial services industry and a “daft” idea. He said: “If we are going to attract the best to come to and remain in Scotland, to tell them that you are going to be paying more income tax would be the wrong thing to do.” (Scotsman page 4, The Herald page 30).

Aberdeen City Council: A report published by the Accounts Commission yesterday criticised Aberdeen City Council for lacking the capacity to deal with its current financial crisis and for lacking a “full appreciation of the seriousness of the circumstance”. The report follows a two day public hearing into the city’s finances after the Controller of Audit identified significant weaknesses in the council’s financial position. (Scotsman page 6, The Herald page 4, P&J page 7, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 2, Times page 4, Mail page 38).

Council workers’ strike ballot: Unison, the public sector union, announced a strike ballot after it rejected Cosla’s 2.5% pay deal (The Herald page 6, P&J page 9).

Politics

First Minister and Presiding Officer pension scheme: Yesterday the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme Committee recommended scrapping the special pension scheme for future first ministers and presiding officers which currently sees individuals receive £34,000 a year for life, regardless of length of service. (Scotsman page 16, The Herald page 6, The Telegraph page 14).

George Galloway: The Respect MP is to sue producers of The Bill over a storyline about a corrupt MP which George Galloway believes bears uncanny similarities to himself. (Daily Record page 15, Sun page 15, Daily Record page 2, Courier page 6).

Tony Blair: The former Prime Minister has announced he want to spent the rest of his life uniting the world’s religions. (Daily Record page 2, Times page 26, Mail page 3, Telegraph page 2, Sun page 4).

Margaret Thatcher: Joanna Pitman in the Times (page 27) comments on Margaret Thatcher’s appearance in Vogue.

Mark Oaten: Lib Dem former leadership challenger Mark Oaten has announced he is to stand down from Westminster before the next election, prompting a by-election (Times page 14).

Trade unions: Unions are demanding Labour introduce more left wing policies for transport, schools and hospital in return for rescuing the party from their current financial crisis where £7.5m in loans is due to be repaid in July. (Mail page 8).

Opinion Poll: A UK YouGov poll published in the Telegraph (page 1) give Labour its lowest even support since polling began. The survey put Labour on 23%, the Conservatives on 47% and the Lib Dems on 18%.