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Daily Political Media Summary: 9 May 2008

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions.

Economy

Interest rates: The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee yesterday chose to keep interest rates frozen at 5%. The decision was criticised by business groups who said a small cut would have helped business confidence without posing a risk to inflation. However mortgage rates are continuing to climb despite the freeze. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 31, FT page 4, Guardian page 29, Courier page 11, P&J page 19, Times page 59, Daily Mail page 2, Daily Record page 2)

PPP: The First Minister was forced to admit yesterday that the Scottish Government’s plans for paying for major projects would be similar to Public-Private Partnerships, which the SNP had previously criticised. The SNP’s original concept of a Scottish futures trust which was able to sell bonds to raise cheap loans was ruled outwith the powers of Holyrood. (Scotsman page 2)

Scottish economy: Peter Jones in the Scotsman (page 35) comments on recent job losses and the outlook for the Scottish economy.

Royal Mail: It was announced yesterday that the Royal Mail’s profits have fallen by almost a third to £162m, the lowest figure for 5 years. (Herald page 9, Courier page 16, Times page 54, Daily Mail page 19, FT page 5, Telegraph page 2, Jeff Randall in the Telegraph, Guardian page 30)

Tourism: VisitScotland reported yesterday that the number of people visiting Scotland’s tourist attractions grew by 1.7% last year to 45.7million – a record level. (Herald page 5, Daily Record page 8)

Bank charges: RBS and Lloyds TSB are amongst a number of banks increasing their fees ahead of the ruling on “unfair” overdraft charges. (Telegraph page 6, Daily Express page 1)

Crime

Forensic lab: The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, confirmed yesterday that a new forensics laboratory is to be built in Dundee. Mr MacAskill has also asked the Scottish Police Services Authority to look again at their decision to close the laboratory in Aberdeen. (Courier page 1, P&J page 7)

Education

Fiona Hyslop: The Education Secretary writes in the Times Educational Supplement Scotland (TESS) (page 24) on the Scottish Government educational achievements over the past year.

Class sizes: The TESS (page 4&5) outlines the plans in each local authority for implementing reductions in class sizes.

FE colleges: The TESS (page 20) reports on changes to the way further education colleges are inspected.

Health

Cigarettes and alcohol: Government statistics published yesterday show that Scots households spend £3 per week more than the rest of the UK on cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. (Scotsman page 8)

Local Government

Second homes: Council tax on second homes in the Highlands has been increased to 90%, raising an additional £2.4million a year which is reinvested in affordable housing. However a number of second homeowners are reclassifying the home as a self-catering unit, exempting them from the charge and increasing the pressure on housing in the area. (Scotsman page 17)

Aberdeen City Council: Aberdeen City Council which is facing major service cuts to meet its budget is currently paying back loans dating back to 1982 totalling £440m. (P&J page 6)

Angus Council: Angus Council could save up to £2m through measures to cut its energy costs. (P&J page 3)

Transport

Bus services: UK figures published yesterday show that while services have improved, bus passengers in Scotland are getting the poorest bus service within the UK. In 2007 75% of buses on non-frequent routes were on time in England compared to 73% in Scotland. (Herald page 13, Daily Express page 2)

Fuel duty: Alex Salmond has called for the introduction of a fuel duty regulator to soften the impact of increases in the cost of fuel. (Courier page 9)

A9: Government statistics show that the number of fatal accidents on single carriageway stretches of the A9 are almost 4 times higher than on dual carriageway sections. (Courier page 3)

Alcohol on public transport: Yesterday the Home Secretary unveiled proposals to ban alcohol consumption on public transport, but they would only apply in England and Wales and therefore have the effect of travellers being ordered to drink up as they cross from Scotland into England. (Daily Mail page 8)

Politics

Labour party stance on independence referendum: Wendy Alexander pushed ahead with her new policy of calling for a referendum on independence sooner rather than later and raised the matter with Alex Salmond at First Minister’s questions yesterday, despite Gordon Brown appearing to distance himself from the policy. As a result the Prime Minister has been accused of losing control of Scotland. (Scotsman page 1, Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman, Herald page 6, Courier page 1, P&J page 1 and 12, Times page 4, Magnus Linklater in the Times, Daily Mail page 1, Philip Stephens in the FT, Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph, Guardian page 14, Daily Record page 2, Mackenna in the Mirror, Sun page 1, Daily Express page 4)

Salmond and Cameron: Alex Salmond has said that SNP MPs at Westminster could vote with a Conservative Government after the next general election if it was in the interests of Scotland. (Herald page 1)

Gordon Brown: The Prime Minister appeared on This Morning yesterday, speaking about his personal life including his hopes for his younger son who has cystic fibrosis. (P&J page 15, Daily Mail page 39)

What next for the Prime Minister: The Guardian (page 15) interviews a number of different people asking what Gordon Brown should do next.

Labour and the Unions: The GMB trade union is urging Labour to tax wealthier people more by increasing the national insurance ceiling. (FT page 2)

Opinion poll: A UK YouGov survey published yesterday put the Conservatives 26 points ahead of Labour on 49% to Labour’s 23% – the lowest level Labour is ever thought to have registered. The Lib Dems were on 17%. (Telegraph page 1)