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Daily Political Media Summary: 28 July 2008

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions.

Economy

Pub trade: Traditional pubs are facing an “unprecedented threat” from soaring costs and ‘stay at home drinkers,’ a new report has warned. Figures published by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) show beer sales in UK pubs fell 10.6 per cent in the past year and 107 million fewer pints were sold between April and June this year when compared with the same period last year, a fall of 1.2 million pints a day. In Scotland it is estimated that approximately 350 pubs have closed in the past two years (Scotsman page 1, 4-5)

Hotel downturn: Hotel occupancy in Scotland has fallen by more than anywhere else in Britain. The UK as a whole showed a downturn of 0.3 per, whereas Glasgow hotels were down 12.3 per cent 5.6 per cent. This comes as VisitScotland has reportedly reallocated £1.5 million from its US marketing budget to try and entice visitors from the UK, Europe and Canada to come to Scotland over the summer. (Scotsman page 13)

Energy market: An influential Westminster committee has called for the urgent reform of the UK energy market as millions of households face unprecedented rises in their energy bills. The Business and Enterprise Select Committee also urged the Government to undertake a “fundamental rethink” of its fuel-poverty policy. (Herald page 9, Daily Mirror page 8, Sun page 2, Times page 3, Guardian page 2, FT page 4)

Job Cuts: Over half of Scottish companies are planning to cut jobs in order to survive the current economic climate. A study of top executives found 53 per cent plan to reduce staff compared to just 29 per cent in March. (Sun page 2, Sunday Herald Business)

Tax write off: Chancellor Alistair Darling is planning to write off £2.8 billion following the overpayment of tax credits. The move in an embarrassment for the Chancellor after initially writing to those affected asking for the money to be repaid; however, many claimants used data protection laws to discover the overpayment was due to errors within HM Revenue and Customs (Sun page 2, Sunday Times page 1, 4).

Migration: Ireland is attracting twice as many Eastern European immigrants as Scotland and fewer are returning home according to a Sunday Herald report. (Sunday Herald page 90)

Crime

ASBOs: A Scottish Government advisor has claimed Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) have failed to cut overall levels of anti-social behaviour in Scotland. John Flint, who is currently overseeing review of the Scottish Government’s anti-social behaviour polices said he believes the way ASBOS have been implemented is “seriously flawed.” (Scotsman page 7, Burning Issue page 19)

Transport

A9: A fatal accident on the A9 road between Inverness and Perth which killed 4 people has led to calls for the road to be immediately upgraded. The deaths took the total killed on the road to 10 within the last 7 weeks. (Herald page 4, P&J page 1, 8, Courier page 3, 10, Daily Mail page 8, Daily Mirror page 14, Sun page 24)

Education

More choice in schools: A Scottish Government consultation which proposed to give parents with children who need more help in the classroom more choice over where their children go to school has received overwhelming support. 100 of the 115 responses to the consultation were positive. (Herald page 5)

Bogus colleges: Three Glasgow based colleges have been removed from the official government register after they were found to be “little more than recruitment agencies” for overseas students. It is feared that such colleges are acting as fronts for bringing illegal immigrants to the UK on student visas. (Herald page 1, 2)

Nurses in schools: The number of nurses in Scottish schools has dropped by almost one third, despite the SNP pledging to double the figure in its Holyrood election manifesto. Official figures have shown the number dropped from 305 to 221 between September 2005 and September 2007. (Herald page 3, Courier page 3)

Student debt: More than £20 million will be wiped off Scottish student debt next month due to a cut in interest rates. The Student Loan Company is expected to announce a 1 per cent drop in the interest rate for the next 12 months. (P&J page 1, 7)

Health

Social workers: Social workers at Edinburgh City Council will tonight consider strike action over that of job cuts will put youngsters at “greater risk than ever before.” The council has previously been heavily criticised over child protection failures. (Herald page 11)

Neonatal care: Scotland’s maternity hospitals are allegedly turning away scores of women every year due to a “desperate shortage” of nurses to provide neonatal care. A report by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland found 86 people were transferred between maternity units in a six month period because neonatal intensive care cots were either full or understaffed. (Herald page 8, Courier page 9, Sun page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 5)

Local Government

Local income tax: The Scottish Government yesterday denied reports it was about to abandon its flagship policy of replacing the council tax with a local income tax. The UK Government is maintaining its stance that should such a levy be introduced Scotland would not receive the £400 million it receives under the current system. The proposal has also faced severe criticism from a number of business and financial sectors. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 6, Sun page 2, Times page 5, Sunday Times page 8, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Politics

Conservative-SNP discussions: An exclusive report in the Daily Mail has suggested that the Conservatives and SNP have been holding ‘extraordinary’ talks on the constitutional future of Britain. It is understood that both sides have been drawing up plans to massively increase the powers of the Scottish Government in return for Scotland staying in the Union. The deal could see Holyrood taking control of taxation, public spending and total control of economic policy. Westminster would retain control of foreign policy and the armed forces. One of Scotland’s most successful businessmen has called for the Scottish Government to be given more control over the economy. There was also speculation yesterday that the Scottish civil service is seeking to break ties with the UK machine, in a move similar to that seen in Northern Ireland. (Daily Mail page 1-2, Katie Grant in the Daily Mail page 12, Daily Record page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 2)

Gordon Brown: A number of prominent cabinet members have come out in defence of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is under continued pressure following the Glasgow East by-election defeat. The defence was led by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who claimed Mr Brown was the only person able to lead the country through the current economic downturn. This came amongst speculation that some within the party were urging Justice Secretary Jack Straw to mount a leadership challenge. (Scotsman page 10-11, Herald page 1, 2, 6, P&J page 5, Courier page 3, Janet Daley in the Telegraph page 20, Telegraph page 4, Daily Mail page 6-7, Dorothy Grace-Elder in the Daily Express page 12, Daily Express page 5, Daily Mirror page 9, Daily Record page 4, Sun page 2, William Rees-Mogg in the Times page 23, Times page 1, Jackie Ashley in the Guardian page 27, Guardian page 4, Vernon Bogdanor in the FT page 13, FT page 1, Sunday Herald page 1, 2, Iain MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald page 43, Sunday Times page 1, 3, Sunday Times page 14-15, Sunday Post page 1, Professor John Curtice in the Sunday Post page 14, Scotland on Sunday page 1, 2, Scotland on Sunday page 2, Eddie Barnes in the Scotland on Sunday page 11-12, 13, Kenny Farquarson in the Scotland on Sunday page 16)

Scottish Labour leadership: The contest for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party begins today with at least 5 people expected to stand. Those reportedly interested in standing are, former health minister Andy Kerr, former justice minister Cathy Jamieson, Iain Gray, Charlie Gordon and current education spokesman Ken Macintosh. Margaret Curran was thought to be considering a bid; however this is thought to be less likely following her defeat in Glasgow East. Reports have suggested she may instead stand for the deputy leader position. Following the contest the party is widely expected to drop its support for an independence referendum, an ill-fated policy of former leader Wendy Alexander. (Scotsman page 11, David Maddox in the Scotsman page 9, Herald page 6, Iain MacWhirter in the Herald page 15, P& J page 9, Courier page 3, Telegraph page 7, Daily Express page 4, Times page 5, Sunday Herald page 1, 2, Eccosse page 8)

New Labour in Scotland: A special focus by Iain MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald (page 4-10) analyses the fallout from the Glasgow East by-election and what it means for New Labour in Scotland.

Sir Russell Johnston: Former Liberal leader and Inverness MP Sir Russell Johnston died in Paris yesterday, just one day short of his 76th birthday. (Herald page 3, P& J page 7, Courier page 2, Sun page 2)

Labour manifesto: Labour’s next manifesto will propose lowering the voting age to 16 and support a wholly elected second chamber, following the meeting the national policy forum at Warwick University last week. (Guardian page 4)