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Daily Political Media Summary: 20 July 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 20 July 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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Economy

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Recovery: Official figures this week for Britain’s second-quarter gross domestic product will confirm that the worst of the recession is over. However, a new report from the Ernst and Young Item club, using the Treasury’s economic model, will warn of a slow, fragile recovery, with the threat of a ‘double dip’ back into recession. (Sunday Times page B2, Scotland on Sunday page B1, Scotsman page 7)

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Lloyds Banking Group: John Swinney, the finance secretary, has accused Lloyds Banking Group of abusing their dominant position in the Scottish banking market and of starving small and medium-sized businesses of access to finance.  Mr Swinney has written to Alistair Darling urging him to introduce measures to ensure greater competition in the Scottish banking sector. Failure to do so risks harming Scotland’s chances of economic recovery, John Swinney warned. (Sunday Times page B1, Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Tesco Personal Finance: Tesco is considering seeking a separate credit rating for its financial services arm. It is planning to launch a current account within the next 18 months and a mortgage within the next two years. Andrew Higgins, who said that Tesco Personal Finance was moving to become a standalone bank, has stated that the financial services arm could apply for a separate rating from credit agencies to allow it to borrow directly from the market, rather than through its parent company Tesco. (FT page 19)

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Trade Links: Finance Secretary John Swinney starts a week-long visit to Japan today aimed at strengthening Scottish business links. His trip includes meetings with Japanese businesses in Tokyo and Osaka involved in life sciences, manufacturing, electronics and food and drink. He will also be making a speech at Tokyo University in which he will say Scotland is leading the world on climate change. (Herald page 6)

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Food Shortages: Food shortages could hit Scotland because it relies so heavily on imports, according to a new report. It warns that Scotland must grow more of its own produce and develop a resilient food supply chain or risk being vulnerable to global emergencies disrupting supplies – including the flu pandemic. Richard Lochhead, the Rural Affairs and Environment Secretary, warned "a plentiful food supply can\’t be taken for granted". (Herald page 6)

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Royal Bank of Scotland: Royal Bank of Scotland is set to return to the black a year after posting the first loss since it became a listed company. Analysts have claimed that the bank, which is 70 per cent owned by the taxpayer, could be on track to report a first-half pre-tax profit as high as £1.5bn due to the recovery in global markets and the disposal of some assets. (Scotsman page 26)

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Postal Strikes: Up to 30,000 postal workers across the UK could soon be going on strike in a worsening dispute over jobs, pay and services, threatening to disrupt deliveries, a postal union warned yesterday. (Press and Journal online, Courier page 3)

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Crime

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Prison Figures: The safe and legal limit for prisoner numbers was exceeded more than 700 times last year, according to dramatic new figures. The Scottish Prison Service admitted its Assessed Operating Limit was breached 705 times for individual prisons, meaning governors were unable to guarantee the safety of staff or inmates or that jails met legal requirements. (Sunday Herald page 4)

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Health

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Swine Flu: As the pandemic grows, pregnant women get conflicting messages over the safety of flu jabs and women are advised by some to consider delaying conception until after the pandemic is over. Airlines will also begin to refuse to allow passengers with flu-like symptoms onto flights unless they can prove that their symptoms are unrelated to swine flu. (Times page 1, Guardian page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 1, FT online)

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Education

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Private Schools: Claims that social mobility will be improved if disadvantaged children have better access to private education have been supported in Scotland. A report by former Labour Cabinet minister Alan Milburn states that opening up private schools will help end the "closed middle-class shops" in some professions, including medicine and the senior civil service. (Scotsman page 2, Guardian page 1)

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Politics

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SNP Candidate: The SNP candidate in the Glasgow North East by-election hit back yesterday at Labour and Tory MSPs for making his religious views an issue during the campaign. Former BBC TV reporter David Kerr said his faith was “a personal matter\’\’ and religion had no part to play in the election. Mr Kerr spoke out after Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker and the Scottish Tories\’ deputy leader Murdo Fraser both raised questions about his membership of the Catholic group Opus Dei. (Herald page 6)

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National Conversation and Calman Commission: The cost of two exercises to gauge opinion on how Scotland should be governed has passed the £1 million mark, as figures emerge showing the cost of the Calman Commission to be £613,400 and the cost of the Scottish Government’s own “national conversation” on the future of Scottish governance to be £464,000. (Scotland on Sunday page 9, Press and Journal page 10, Courier page 11)

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Quangos: Publicly funded agencies have been accused of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on external consultants. Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives reveal that Scottish Enterprise, the national economic development agency, spent £26million in the past four years buying advice from private companies. (Sunday Times page 7, Scotland on Sunday page 9, Sunday Post page 16, Daily Express page 14)