Daily Political Media Summary: 14 September 2009

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Media Summary: 14 September 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

Unemployment: Figures released this week will show UK unemployment continuing to rise sharply. On Wednesday, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency, is expected to show unemployment has risen by more than 200,000 in the three months to July. In the previous quarter it jumped by 220,000. Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said this would take the ILO\’s unemployment measure to 2.5 million, or a rate of 8 per cent, its highest since 1996. (Scotland on Sunday page B1)

Budget Cuts: Experts are warning that the SNP may have to abandon some election promises if it wants to avoid the need for public spending cuts. These policies include the elimination of prescription charges, freezing council tax, and boosting police numbers. Finance secretary John Swinney has insisted he will not have to introduce a 5 per cent cut, which had been discussed in April, but has not stated where savings will come from. (Scotsman page 1, David Maddox’s Analysis page 5, Comment page 24, Herald page 4, The Times page 5, Press and Journal page 1)

Bank of Scotland: The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has called for the Bank of Scotland to be given back its independence. Clegg said the identity of the once proud Scottish financial institution was in danger of being lost following the controversial takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB last year. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Private-Sector: The Markit Scotland purchasing managers index (PMI) shows that although activity across the private-sector rose for the second successive month in August, the rate of growth has slowed. Private-sector output in Scotland has also shown to be lower than that of the rest of the UK. Further, Scottish unemployment levels have dropped for the 17th successive month in August. These figures suggest that Scotland may be on a slower path to recovery than had been hoped. (Scotsman page 32, Herald page 28, Press and Journal page 15)

Road tax: A road tax on cyclists is being considered by Scottish Government civil servants. The prospect of cyclists paying a charge, like motorists, to use roads comes in a document outlining the Scottish Government\’s vision for cycling. The draft Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS), which has been released for public consultation, aims to ensure that, by 2020, 10 per cent of all journeys in Scotland are by bike. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Diageo: Former Scottish secretary Des Brown has warned Westminster to “prepare for the worst” after Diageo confirmed it will close its doors in Kilmarnock. The MP also placed blame on the Scottish Government for “fail(ing) to convince Diageo to do the right thing”. (Press and Journal page 4)

Royal Botanic Garden: The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is debating a £4 entrance fee to cover its losses. The RBGE had invested £1.9 million of its funds in Icelandic Bank Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, which went into administration last October. (Scotsman page 13)

Crime

Child Protection: The number of child protection referrals in Scotland has dramatically increased. Of the 16 councils contacted by The Scotsman, all but three have reported an increase in calls about at-risk children. Harriet Dempster, president of the Association of Directors of Social Work, has stated her concern for possible budget cuts which would impede social workers’ ability to do their job. (Scotsman page 2, Comment page 24, Herald page 5)

Crime Figures: Half of Scotland’s communities have seen a rise in crime, despite the decrease in national figures. Data provided by Scotland’s eight police forces reveal that of the country’s 1,130 beats, 546 experienced an increase in offences. The top locations of offences are Aberdeen and Edinburgh’s New Town. Crimes of dishonesty, public disorder and anti-social behaviour were among the increases. Opposition parties have reacted by claiming the SNP are soft on crime, while the administration has pointed out figures are at a 25-year low. (Scotsman page 16, Sunday Times page 1, Press and Journal page 3)

Transport 

Road Signs: A Lib Dem MSP has complained that a £10million project to place more road signs in Scotland is a waste of funds. Alison McInnes, the Lib Dem transport spokesperson, has said that there is no process in place to establish the need for these signs, nor consideration for their appropriate placement. (Press and Journal page 10)

Education

Free University Education: Iain MacWhirter, rector of Edinburgh University, has argued in favour of free university education as a matter of principle, and has said he will step down as rector should Scotland begin to charge its residents to attend university. (Herald page17)

Class sizes: The Scottish Government is considering plans to prevent parents from taking legal action to send their children to primary schools outside their catchment areas. The move is being discussed following a landmark court case that enabled a mother to send her daughter to the school of her choice, despite the fact that her local authority had previously blocked the move on the grounds that the class was already full. The government is looking at reducing the legal maximum from 30 to 25 in an attempt to reduce the number of court cases, a move that has led to claims that ministers have abandoned their pledge to a maximum total of 18. A Scottish Government spokesman confirmed that a reduction to 25 was being considered. He said: "There have been all these legal challenges to councils where they\’ve turned down a placement because they\’ve been trying to reduce their class sizes. (Scotland on Sunday page 5)

Politics

Homecoming 2014: Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes has called proposals for a Homecoming 2014 as “Nationalist brainwashing” to drum up support for Scottish independence. The second Homecoming would mark the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn. (Scotsman page 13)

Tobacco Laws: MSPs are proposing tobacco laws that they believe would curb the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to children. The proposed laws include banning shops from displaying cigarettes and other tobacco products, outlawing cigarette vending machines, and the introduction of a registration system for tobacco retailers. MSPs are also hoping to make it a criminal act for adults to buy tobacco products for children. (Herald page 12, Press and Journal page 10, The Courier page 9)