Daily Political Media Summary: 25 August 2008

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions.


Economy

Business group attacks government: A leading business group has attacked the UK Government for “unacceptable levels of company taxation” and “failing to grapple with the big issues.” Miles Templeman of the Institute of Directors also argues that this does not just relate to economics claiming the UK is now “lagging behind” on transport and energy decisions. (FT page 1, 3)

British Energy: The government is still hoping its “preferred option” of selling British Energy to French rival EDF will go ahead. Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks described the potential deal as the “most sensible option.” However conflicting reports suggest British Energy is about to merge with British Gas owner Centrica. (FT page 1)

State of the economy: Larry Elliott in the Guardian (page 24) comments on the current state of the economy and looks back on previous economic crises. Anatole Kaletsky in the Times (page 35) argues that despite the current climate, Britain is in no danger of reacquiring its famous “sick man of Europe” label from the 1970s. (Also see Ian MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald page 33)

North Sea oil: Lewis Macdonald MSP writing in the Daily Express (page 12) argues that “there is an unreality to much of what Alex Salmond says about Scottish independence and the fantasy of bottomless reservoirs of North Sea oil.”

Crime

Glasgow prostitution: Council officials and police chiefs in Glasgow are working with counterparts in Sweden to tackle the issue of prostitution in the city. Swedish representatives have already visited Glasgow this year and are scheduled to visit again within the next few months. Glasgow City Council is due to lobby the Scottish Government for a zero tolerance approach to buying sex. (Herald page 9, Daily Express page 7, Sun page 10, Scotland on Sunday page 9)

Police retirement: Police forces in Scotland could face a staffing crisis in the coming year as the number of officers reaching retirement soars by as much as 80 per cent. This emerged at the same time as a Sunday Mail investigation which found that 420 police officers are off sick everyday costing the service approximately £23 million a year. The figure is a blow to the Scottish Government and its manifesto pledge to put an extra 1,000 officers on Scotland’s streets. (Daily Mail page 10, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 2, Sunday Mail page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Young offenders: One third of young offenders given community service in Scotland are ignoring their sentence according to new figures. In the past 3 years 5,346 have either failed to complete their punishment, failed to do a good enough job or not turned up at all. (Sun page 27)

Legal aid: The Glasgow Bar Association has allegedly paid an influential PR firm to mount a campaign against a range of Criminal Justice reforms which will cut the current £122 million legal aid subsidy. (Sunday Herald page 4)

Transport

Crossrail in doubt: The Glasgow crossrail project which has been dubbed the “missing piece in Scotland’s rail jigsaw” is now in doubt after concerns were raised about its affordability. The concerns come as Transport Scotland prepares to announce its priorities in the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR). (Sunday Herald page 78, 79)

Education

Outdoor week: A Conservative proposal which aims to get so called ‘stay at home teenagers’ to take part in more outdoor activities is to be presented to the Scottish Government this week. The £10 million a year scheme dubbed ‘outdoor week’ will see children from 11-15 one free week of outdoor activity every year. The plan, which is part of a ‘shopping list’ of policy ideas from the Conservatives, is expected to be backed by the SNP. (P&J page 9, Sunday Herald)

Universities Scotland: Anton Muscatelli is due to take over as convenor of Universities Scotland, with tensions over the issue of university funding still high on the agenda. In an interview with The Herald, Mr Muscatelli also called for Higher Education to be radically expanded by the Scottish Government to allow up to 66 per cent of school leavers to go to university or college by 2028. (Herald page 1, 2, Herald opinion page 14)

Health

NHS funding: Labour has accused the SNP of planning to cut millions of pounds from the budgets of Scotland’s health boards. Tayside is expected to have its budget cut by up to £6 million, the equivalent of three days health services spending. The SNP has called Labour’s claims “absurd and inaccurate.” (Courier page 10, Daily Express page 11, Scotland on Sunday page 6)

Local Government

Council tax benefit: An incoming Conservative Government would negotiate with the SNP over the £400 million council tax benefit the Scottish Government receives from Westminster. The SNP’s hopes of introducing a controversial local income tax depend on receiving the money, something which Chancellor Alistair Darling has ruled out. (Sunday Herald page 17)

Politics

Glenrothes by-election: Further coverage of the Glenrothes by-election. The Scottish Socialist Party has announced Morag Balfour as their candidate for the poll which, as yet, does not have a scheduled date. It emerged over the weekend that former MP for Glenrothes John MacDougall was suing the Ministry of Defence for £300,000 compensation for the asbestos related cancer that killed him. (Herald page 6, P&J page 9, Courier page 11, Telegraph page 7, Daily Express page 9, Sun page 2)

Scottish Olympic Team: Scottish cyclist and gold medal winner Chris Hoy has branded Alex Salmond’s call for a Scottish Olympic team as “ridiculous”. Hoy, who won three gold medals in Beijing said that he wouldn’t have “three gold medals hanging round my neck” if he had not been part of the Great Britain team. The First Minister’s comments come as the debate over a British football team at London 2012 refuses to die down, with many in Scotland opposed to the plan. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is said to be ‘determined’ for the plan to go ahead. (Scotsman page 1, 4, Courier page 1, 2, Times page 5, Sunday Herald page 2, Sunday Herald page 2)

Jeremy Paxman: BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman has suggested that white middle-class men are overlooked in favour of women at the BBC. Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, the Newsnight presenter cited five examples of women in top positions in television and said “Do I think it’s a man’s world in television? That is the most ridiculous question I have been asked all week.” Mr Paxman’s comments come as the BBC was heavily criticised for ‘duping viewers’ by showing Olympic coverage in the wrong order. The footage concerned coverage of Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang. (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 3, P&J page 5, Courier page 9, Telegraph page 5, Times page 13, Daily Mail page 11, Daily Express page 9, Daily Record page 11, Sun page 13)

ComRes poll: A new UK wide opinion poll has put Labour 21 points behind the Conservatives. The ComRes poll put Labour on 21 per cent, with the Conservatives on 42 per cent and the Lib Dems on 16 per cent. The poll comes as pressure was stepped up on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to impose a windfall tax on energy companies. The proposal is due to be a flashpoint at next month’s Labour Party Conference. Oil and Gas UK has claimed such a levy would do “enormous damage” to investors’ confidence and could drive them to relocate. (Scotsman page 8, P&J page 1, 5, Courier page 9, Telegraph page 11, Times page 8, Guardian page 12, Daily Record page 2, Sun page 2)

Liberal Democrat leadership: The new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be announced tomorrow with Tavish Scott expected to be announced as the winner. The former transport minister has been favourite to win the contest from the outset but has faced a stronger than expected challenge from rivals Mike Rumbles and Ross Finnie. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6)

Conservative tax cuts: Senior Conservatives Lord Michael Forsyth and John Redwood yesterday urged David Cameron to promise big tax and spending cuts to revive the economy. The Conservative leader has consistently ruled out promising upfront tax cuts and has pledged to match Labour spending plans in the first term of a Conservative government. (Herald page 6, P&J page 5, Madeline Bunting in the Guardian page 25, Daily Mail page 26, Sun page 2)

Gordon Brown a liability: Gordon Brown has had his authority undermined further by former Cabinet colleague Baroness Jay who described the Prime Minister as “dire.” The peer also took issue with a claim made by Labour historian Brian Brivati, who compared the beleaguered premier to her father and former Prime Minister James Callaghan. (Telegraph page 6)

Miliband to keep job: David Miliband will keep his job in the anticipated Cabinet reshuffle next month despite his controversial article in the Guardian. Reports suggest the Prime Minister was forced to reject advice from leading supporters when the Foreign Secretary indicated that he would not accept any other position. (Telegraph page 1, Daily Mail page 14)