Daily Political Media Summary: 6 August 2009

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Media Summary: 6 August 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

Lloyds: Lloyds Banking Group, which is 43 per cent owned by the taxpayer, reported a more than fivefold rise in bad debts to £13.4bn. About 80 per cent of this loss was accounted for by HBOS loans that turned sour, Lloyds chief executive Eric Daniels said. Write-downs on bad debts at HBOS have now hit more than £20bn over the past 18 months. Bill Jamieson comments in the Scotsman. (Scotsman page 1, page 6, Herald page 30, Times page 6, Telegraph page B1, FT page 1, Guardian page 2, Press and Journal page 5, BBC, STV)

Manufacturing & Service Sectors: More green shoots sprouted in both the manufacturing and service sectors yesterday, igniting hopes that the UK economy may have started growing again in the third quarter. Economists judged that manufacturers were over the worst of the downturn, as official figures showed output from the sector rose at the fastest pace since January 2008. Meanwhile, a separate report showed Britain\’s crucial service sector, accounting for almost three-quarters of the economy, expanding at its sharpest rate in 17 months. (Scotsman page 38, Times page 1, FT page 2, Guardian page 1, Press and Journal page 17)

Housing Market: More than £2bn has been wiped off the Scottish housing market in the past year, according to the latest quarterly figures released by the Registers of Scotland. They reveal the total value of residential property sales between April and June this year was £2.3bn – a 51.2 per cent fall from the same period last year. (Herald page 1, STV)

BBC/STV: Spending by the BBC and STV on programmes for viewers in Scotland fell by £13m last year, a report by the broadcasting industry regulator Ofcom has found. The 20 per cent fall in total spend occurred despite an increase in the percentage of money that the BBC is spending in Scotland for programmes that will be broadcast across the entire network, up from 3.3 per cent to 3.7 per cent of their total UK budget. Culture Minister Michael Russell said he was "extremely disappointed" by the low level of expenditure on programmes for viewers in Scotland, and also by the low share of network programming made in Scotland. (Herald page 9, Press and Journal page 12, Daily Mail page 24, BBC)

Whisky Industry: Scotch whisky makes still have a bright future despite the double blow of up to 1,000 job cuts, the industry insisted yesterday. The mood at many firms was upbeat as they looked beyond the current economic turmoil to the longer tem prospects. (Press and Journal page 17, STV)

Crime

Lockerbie: Kenny MacAskill faced a barrage of criticism after listening to a plea for freedom from Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi in the prison where the Libyan is serving a life sentence for the murder of the 270 people who died when Pan Am flight 103 exploded above Lockerbie. In the next three weeks, Mr MacAskill will decide if Mr Megrahi should go back to Libya or if he should spend what remains of his life in a Scottish jail. (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 1, Times page 2, Telegraph page 9, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 8, STV)

Transport 

High Speed Rail: Running down domestic air travel has been signalled as an ultimate aim by the UK Government after a high-speed rail network is built. UK Ministers have pointed to the environmental benefits of replacing planes with 200mph trains, the first of which are at least a decade away. However, green campaigners said premium fares must not be levied on high-speed routes to maximise the shift to rail. Transport experts also warned that less than half of UK flights could be replaced by rail. (Scotsman page 13, Telegraph page 8)

Health

Swine Flu: The start of Scotland\’s swine flu vaccination programme seems to have slipped back, with the first jabs perhaps not now being given until the autumn. (Scotsman page 8)

Alcohol: More than a million Scots drink alcohol in amounts that might damage their health, a report revealed yesterday, amid calls for better services for people with addiction problems. The Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams said that more than 1.17 million people in Scotland were drinking at hazardous or harmful levels. Their report also said that around 206,000 people were dependant on alcohol. (Scotsman page 15)

Education

Highers: Radical changes to the Higher English exam will be introduced next year after widespread concerns over the content of the qualification. Scotland\’s exam body is pressing ahead with reform of what is seen by many as the country\’s most important exam following complaints from teachers and head teachers that Higher English does not test the full range of pupils\’ skills and ignores creative writing. (Herald page 1)

Politics

Scottish Parliament: Holyrood\’s Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson has come under fire from one of his predecessors for allowing the conduct in the main chamber to deteriorate. The criticism of Mr Fergusson was strongly implied in a report by Lord David Steel, the Scottish Parliament\’s first presiding officer, in a report on whether First Minister Alex Salmond had misled parliament. Former Holyrood presiding officers David Steel and George Reid ruled the First Minister did not breach the ministerial code by not disclosing to MSPs a second man was on the run from Castle Huntly open jail at Dundee during First Minister’s Questions on May 28. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 6, Times page 8, Telegraph page 4, Alan Cochrane, Courier page 7, Press and Journal page 13, STV)

Gay-Row Councillor: The SNP has been condemned for failing to take action against one of its councillors over comments he made on radio about homosexuals. Councillor Kenneth Gunn, who is also a party constituency convener, sparked outrage during a live interview on BBC Radio Scotland last month. He said: "We\’ve got so-called gays, who are really very sad people, and we have non-believers and heathens running the country." However, his party has refused to take action against the councillor following the comments late last month. (Scotsman page 14)