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Daily Political Media Summary: 26 June 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 26 June 2009

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All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is blue and underlined.

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Transport 

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Power to Connect: Reform Scotland released “Power to Connect,” a report which sets out how the transport system in Scotland could be transformed by creating a truly integrated network of road, rail and air links feeding into a central hub around Edinburgh Airport.  With high speed rail links to Scotland’s main cities and south to the rest of the UK this would be a genuine investment in Scotland’s future prosperity bringing a return in terms of faster economic growth as seen in other countries which have introduced such revolutionary change. (Scotsman page 22, Herald page 10, Times page 11, Daily Telegraph page 8, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 11, STV online, BBC, Daily Mail page 42) Chairman Ben Thomson comments. (Scotsman page 30)

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High Speed Rail: Scottish ministers have elevated the status of a high speed rail connection to London, adding it to a list of projects deemed to be in the national interest. The move is strongly supported by Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson and coincides with a warning from business groups that Scotland could be “left behind” in UK plans for a new high speed rail line. (Herald page 10)

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Forth Road Bridge: Plans for the new Forth Road Bridge have been revised after community protests that approach roads would have a devastating impact on them. Transport Scotland said that it had changed its plans for connecting roads and this would reduce the impact of the bridge. (Herald page 10)

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Car-Friendly Cities: Edinburgh and Glasgow have been ranked among the top five least car friendly cities in the UK, according to a survey to be published today. The rankings are based on factors such as fuel prices, parking costs and car crimes. (Scotsman page 24)

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Economy

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Energy Prices: Energy providers who do not pass on falling wholesale gas and electricity prices to consumers could be forced to reduce consumer prices through government action. Consumer Focus has claimed that energy companies had saved around £1.6 billion by keeping prices artificially high. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 11)

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Tax Increment Financing: Edinburgh may become the first city in the UK to try a tax increment funding (TIF) scheme whereby a loan is made to property developers based on the extra taxes that could be raised by developing a certain geographical area. TIFs are common in the United States. The aim is to try a 1km TIF district in the Leith Docks area. (Scotsman page 36)

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Tesco Finance: Tesco Personal Finance announced last night that it is to transfer its general insurance business to Fortis, prompting the Scottish Government to renew efforts to secure the 1,500 potential new jobs the deal could create. (Scotsman page 35, Herald page 32, Times page 53)

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North Ayrshire Job Cuts: Concerns are growing that a Scots council could be poised for a round of redundancies after its incoming chief executive, Elma Murray, warned of “unprecedented financial pressure.” (Herald page 9)

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Crime

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Prison Reform: A report released yesterday by the Scottish Government recommended changes to the Scottish open prison system after an armed robber was allowed to escape for the third time. Between 2002 and 2009 there have been 397 escapes from Huntly and Noranside prisons. The reform may see high risk prisoners fitted with GPS tracking devices. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 7, Times page 12, Daily Telegraph page 15)

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Local Government

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Minimum wage: Plans to introduce a £7 minimum wage for council workers in West Dunbartonshire have been scrapped. The plans were originally made in response to a move by Glasgow City Council, which became the first local council in Scotland to pay its workers a minimum of £7. (Scotsman page 10)

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Education

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Student Loans: More than £2.2 billion of student loans still have to be repaid in Scotland, a record high. The outstanding student loan balance at the end of 2008-09 was £2,227.4 million, 9 per cent more than the previous year. (Herald page 5, Scotsman page 25)

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Student Debt: The recession will save thousands of debt-laden Scots more than £80 million over the next year as the interest rate on students’ loans falls to 0% for the first time. (Press and Journal page 1)

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Class Size Pledge: The Scottish Government’s commitment to reduce class sizes has been questioned after a paper was leaked which showed that ministers and local authorities plan not to implement the policy universally. (Herald page 1)

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Politics

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Calman Commission: The SNP urged its political rivals to back key proposals from the Calman Commission in order to quickly push through greater powers for the Scottish Parliament. The main source of contention between the parties on the commission is over taxation powers. The other three main parties argue that the Commission should be considered as a single package. (Scotsman page 20, Times page 11, Daily Telegraph page 9)

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BBC Expenses: Top executives of the BBC will have to reveal how they have used claims for public money. (Herald page 1, Scotsman page 4, Times page 6, Daily Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 6, Press and Journal page 5, Courier page 1, Daily Express page 3)