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Daily Political Media Summary: 24 July 2009

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Media Summary: 24 July 2009

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.

Economy

Scottish Government Spending: The money the Scottish Government has to spend on core services, including health, education and transport, will fall by almost £300 million next year, the first drop since devolution. The SNP last night seized on Treasury data, claiming it exposed "Labour\’s savage spending cuts" for next year, which makes it all the more urgent to bring forward more planned expenditure to help Scotland pull itself out of the recession. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6)

Spending cuts: Alex Salmond has been accused of misleading the Scottish public after it emerged that spending will be cut by £205million less than he has alleged.  Last night the First Minister refused to revise his claim that that Scotland’s budget was being cut by £500 million despite Treasury projections indicating that the real figure was £295 million. (Telegraph page 1)

Economic Recovery: Some new hopes of economic recovery emerged yesterday with figures showing that the number of new mortgages had hit the highest level for 16 months. (Scotsman page 6, Press and Journal page 5)

VAT: The temporary VAT cut, which will save an average of £475 for every household, must be extended beyond the end of the year, business leaders and MPs said last night. An extension would give a lifeline not only to struggling retailers bit also to the poorest families, who would be hit hardest by the tax returning to its higher level, economists said. (Telegraph page 1)

Wind Farm: The first offshore wind farm in Scotland will start generating electricity in the next few days. The first of 60 turbines that make up E.On\’s Robin Rigg wind farm in the Solway Firth will be connected to the national grid within days. (Scotsman page 22)

Bail-outs: Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group were facing further pressure to offload assets yesterday after European competition officials issued tough new rules on gaining approval for their multibillion-pound bail-outs. The two banks have submitted plans to Brussels on how to slash their businesses, in an attempt to avoid draconian measures being imposed by the European Commission. (Scotsman page 33, Times page 49, BBC)

National Debt: Peter Jones in The Scotsman comments on the high level of national debt, which has become the “curse of our times”. (Scotsman page 34)

Scotland & Southern Energy: SSE has blamed network transmission charges for its shelving of a plan to upgrade a gas station in Aberdeenshire. The utility investigated installing a new turbine at its Peterhead Gas Station to boost its capacity by 340 megawatts, but said yesterday that the cost of transporting the energy south made it uneconomic. However, the energy giant claimed to be on course to grow annual profits despite the recession. (Scotsman page 38, Herald page 35, Courier page 16)

Food Output: There have been reports that Scotland appears to be some distance ahead of England in its attitude to the food and drinks industries, judging by comments by Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet secretary for rural affairs. (Scotsman page 42)

Sterling: Warm summer weather and deep discounts on the high street gave UK retail sales a bigger boost than expected last month, according to the latest government data. Retail sales leapt four times fats than expected last month, according to official statistics which lend weight to hopes that the economy has started to turn the corner. (Herald page 36, Scotsman page 35, The Times page 48, Press and Journal page 5, Telegraph page B1, Guardian page 28)

Transport

Road Improvements: Scotland’s transport minister yesterday clashed with an MP over claims the government\’s plans for major road improvements in the Highlands have fallen badly behind schedule. Upgrades to around 30 of Scotland\’s major roads are being delayed by up to three years with official figures showing scheduled upgrading on major routes such as the M8, M74, M80 and A9 and many other trunk roads running late. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 1, Press and Journal page 1)

Transport Awards: Scotrail and Stagecoach Bluebird have been named the UK\’s best rail and bus operators. Scotland\’s main passenger rail firm and the North-east bus company won the public transport operator of the year accolade at the National Transport Awards in London. (Scotsman page 16, Courier page 3)

Local Government

Uncollected Bins: Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to sort out Edinburgh\’s uncollected bins crisis, as the latest attempt to break the deadlock between council officials and union leaders failed. It is claimed the bins row could pose a growing health hazard, including the threat of rat infestation. There is also a danger of disruption during the city’s peak tourist season. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 5, Times page 20, BBC)

Health

Swine Flu: A north-south divide in swine flu diagnosis is revealed today, with different advice being given to patients suffering from symptoms of the condition, depending on where they live. There have been claims that Scotland may already be over the worst of the current phase of the swine flu pandemic. (Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 1, Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 1, FT page 4, Daily Mail page 10)

Drug Deaths: Drug overdose kits are to be given to addicts in Inverness in an attempt to cut the number of deaths in the Highland capital. (Scotsman page 10)

Education

Private Schools: Leading Scottish private schools have cut their fee increases for the next academic year as the current recession hits parents. (Scotsman page 1)

Child Care: The cost of child care is spiralling “almost out of control” and must be made a government priority, according to the leading children’s campaigning group. “This has got to be as important a priority for government as continuing to extend free places for pre-school education,” Bronwen Cohen, chief executive of Children in Scotland, warned this week. (TESS page 1)