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Daily Political Media Summary: 14 July 2008

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions.

Economy
Fears for Scottish economy: The Scottish private sector is experiencing some of the worst conditions ever recorded according to figures published by RBS. The figures show that manufacturing and service industries were particularly badly hit, with redundancies highest in the leisure, travel and tourism sectors. (Herald Business page 1, Scotsman page 13, P&J page 16, Sunday Herald Business page 1)

UK close to recession: Former Prime Minister John Major yesterday claimed Britain was edging closer to a recession and expressed concerns that the actual level of inflation was not the official 3.3 per cent but closer to 10 per cent. John Major’s own Premiership was dominated by economic problems and a party split over Europe, however his opinion echoes that of the British Chamber of Commerce, who last week claimed Britain was at “serious risk” of recession. Also, in a rare show of support for Gordon Brown, Major urged the Prime Minister’s critics to realise that he was “doing an extremely difficult job in extremely difficult circumstances.” The reassurance from the former Conservative leader came as the Sunday Times published the latest YouGov poll which put the Conservatives 22 points ahead of Labour (Herald page 11, Guardian page 4, Ashley Seager in the Guardian page 24, Anatole Kalesky in the Times page 37, FT page 2, Telegraph page 10, Ian Fraser in the Sunday Times Business page 2)

Interest rates: The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee must avoid “interest rate overkill” in its battle against inflation, according to Kate Barker, the longest serving external member of the committee. This has dampened speculation in the City that the committee will soon move to raise interest rates in order to combat rising inflation. (Times page 41)

HBOS: Banking group HBOS yesterday ‘shrugged off’ concerns that a significant proportion of shares from its recent £4 billion rights issue will be left unsold when the deadline passes on Friday. The news comes after it emerged that stockbrokers have been advising the banks retail shareholders to “ignore the call.” (Scotsman page 25)

North Sea the ‘Gulf of the future’: The North Sea could become the ‘Gulf of the future’ for the development of wind power and offshore wind farms, according to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The PM, who was speaking at the Union for the Mediterranean summit in Paris, also called for a drive to develop green energy sources in order to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. (Scotsman page 7, P&J page 15)

Nuclear plants to go ahead: Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to approve the construction of 8 new nuclear power stations to be built across the UK. The figure is said to be the minimum figure needed to achieve Britain’s energy needs for the next 50 years. The announcement was met with criticism by environmental and climate change campaigners. (Daily Mirror page 16, Sun page 2, Guardian page 2, Times page 8, FT page 2, Telegraph page 1-2, Daily Record page 6, Daily Mail page 10)

Opposition to planning bill ‘would damage UK’: The Confederation of British Industry yesterday warned the Conservatives that opposition to the government’s planning reforms would put £100 billion of investment in jeopardy and risks causing power cuts, due to the level of energy projects relying on the reforms being implemented. (FT page 1)

SNP ‘could do better’ on economy: The perception of the SNP’s grip of the economy after 14 months in office is generally good, however it could better, business groups have said. (Sunday Times page 10)

Crime
Knife crime:
The recent swathe of knife crimes came to Scotland yesterday when a 22 year old man was stabbed at the T in the Park music festival. The man is now in a serious condition after he was found with ‘multiple stab wounds.’ Police are searching for two men in connection with the ‘horrific’ incident. This came as the UK Home Secretary unveiled plans to tackle knife crime through a scheme which makes offenders meet stab victims and prison inmates convicted of knife offences. The plans however drew criticism from opposition parties and support groups. The recent spate of knife crimes has called into question the SNP’s plan for an early release scheme, which according to Labour would see 847 people convicted of carrying an offensive weapon released early. (Herald page 1, 6, Scotsman pages 1, 4-5, Courier pages 1, 10, P&J pages 1, 5, Daily Mirror page 4, Daily Express pages 1, 4-5, Sun pages 1, 5-6, Times page 6-7, Daily Record pages 1, 4-5, Daily Mail pages 6-7, Daily Mail page 2)

Race hate teenager wins right to appeal: The leader of a gang of teenagers which murdered a 15 year old in Glasgow in 2004 has won the right to appeal against his conviction. Imran Shahid was convicted of the murder of Kriss Donald in November 2006, along with his brother Zeeshan and another man, and sentenced to at least 25 years. (Daily Mail page 1-4)

Transport
Hopes for ferry link: Scotland’s only ferry link to the continent has been given a lifeline after the European Commission revealed that any new operator of the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route would be eligible for a 30 per cent subsidy. Four ferry operators have expressed interest in operating the route, of which one is Scottish. Hopes have also been raised that the new service will not just go to Belgium but also Norway, with a stop off at Shetland. The Norwegians have also expressed interest in providing a service from Fife. (Herald page 5, Courier page 7, P&J page 15, Sunday Post page 2)

Education
Electronic exam results: Students expecting exam results can now sign up to a new service which allows them to receive the results by text or email. So far approximately 25,000 pupils, approximately one sixth of the total waiting to receive results, have signed up to the service. (Herald page 5)

Health
Call for Hospital review after superbug deaths: The deaths of 24 people from the hospital superbug clostridium difficile (C Diff) have led to demands for a ‘detailed breakdown of hospital acquired infections across the country.’ The demands came on the same day as the UK government’s chief medical officer announced that vaccines against superbugs such as C Diff and MRSA would be available within the next decade. (Herald page 8, Scotsman page 6, P&J page 11, Daily Mail page 4)

New breastfeeding guidelines ‘dictatorial’: New breastfeeding guidelines due to be published by NHS Health Scotland have been branded dictatorial by critics who believe it is yet another case of the ‘nanny state’ interfering and heightening anxiety amongst mothers who cannot breastfeed. The new guidelines state a mother should breastfeed until the child is two years old. (Herald page 10)

Bed shortages: Half of Scotland’s health boards have “no idea” how many patients are transferred to other areas because of bed shortages. Recent concerns were highlighted, amidst reports that expectant mothers were being sent to units in England to give birth. Despite this only seven NHS authorities keep records on overcrowding. (Sunday Post page 12)

Politics
Glasgow East: Abortion has become one of the key issues of the Glasgow East by-election after the Catholic Church raised the issue of the UK Government’s plan for more embryo research. The matter has become one of the key ‘dividing lines’ between the Labour and SNP candidates. Labour candidate Margaret Curran, whilst recognising the sensitive nature of the issue, pledged to back the government on maintaining the abortion limit at 24 weeks, whereas the SNP candidate John Mason supported a lowering of the limit. The issue was aired as the candidates from the four main parties took part in a television debate on the BBC’s Politics Show. The SNP are continuing to maintain that they can win the seat, despite a recent poll giving Labour a 14 point lead. (Herald pages 1, 6, Scotsman page 11, 12, Courier page 6, P&J page 9, Sun page 2, Times page 5, Hardeep Singh Kholi in the Guardian page 27, Telegraph page 1, 10, Allan Brown in the Sunday Times, Daily Record pages 8-9, Daily Mail page 10, Jenny Hjul in the Sunday Times page 16, Sunday Times page 1-2, Various stories and comments on the upcoming by-election in the Sunday Post pages 14-18, Sunday Herald pages 2, 12-13, Sunday Herald Editorial page 36, Ian MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald page 29)

Local income tax is ‘unworkable’: A leading group of accountants has branded plans to introduce a local income tax in Scotland as “unworkable.” The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland claimed the introduction of such a tax would also “place a huge costly burden on employers and create cross border tensions.” (Herald page 6, Scotsman page 7, Scotland on Sunday Business page 1)

Independence: Two of the three Scottish Liberal Democrat leadership candidates have said they are open to a possible future coalition with the SNP and may even back a referendum on independence. The admissions from Mile Rumbles and Ross Finnie could see the SNP achieve their target of a referendum in 2010. However, Tavish Scott, the frontrunner for the post opposes this position. (Sunday Times page 2)

Cash for cronies: Alex Salmond has been accused of ‘blatant cronyism’ by Muslim groups after hundreds of thousands of pounds of public funds were given to an Islamic group run by an SNP activist. The money, approximately £215,000, was given by the Scottish Government to the Scottish Islamic Foundation, run by Osama Saeed, an SNP member who is due to contest the Glasgow Central seat for the party at the next SNP election. (Scotland on Sunday pages 1-2, Scotland on Sunday Insight page 18)