Daily Political Media Summary: 16 September 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 16 September 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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Inflation: Low fuel and food prices triggered a fall in inflation to its lowest level for five years at 1.6 per cent, official figures showed yesterday, as the Governor of the Bank of England said there were signs the economy had returned to growth. As the official figures were published, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said that inflation was likely to remain "volatile". (Scotsman page 7, FT page 1)

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Recovery: The Scottish economy is on track to exit deep recession by the end of this year, Lloyds TSB Scotland reports in its latest quarterly business monitor. This assertion is based largely on service companies’ expectations that turnover will rise in the next six months, even though survey respondents as a whole predicted a further marginal decline in sales over this period. (Herald page 30, Telegraph page 4, STV)

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Unemployment: British unemployment hit 2.47 million in July, its highest level since 1994, as 210,000 more people lost their jobs. The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance rose by 24,400 to 1.61 million in August according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The recession’s impact on young people was also underlined by jobless totals among those aged 16 to 24 reaching 947,000, the highest level since ONS records began in 1992. (Times page 5, Telegraph page 12, FT page 1, BBC, STV)

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Lloyds Banking Group: The European Commission has warned Lloyds Banking Group that it may have to split off Halifax as punishment for the billions of pounds of state aid that it has received. Neelie Kroes, the Competition Commissioner, has yet to make a final decision, but banking sources say it is clear that she is planning to impose penalties on Lloyds. Ms Kroes is understood to have rejected Lloyds’ attempt to limit the remedial action it must take to selling Cheltenham & Gloucester and making limited disposals in Scotland. (Times page 24)

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Crime

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Violence Reduction: Reading books could prevent children growing up to become violent gang members, according to a senior police officer. Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, of the Violence Reduction Unit, said parents could help their children to make good decisions by spending "quality time" with them from an early age. "If parents spend quality time with their children at an early age it has a significant impact, and reading is a very positive way of doing that," he said. "Children will grow up able to make good decisions about themselves, and it is not just in relation to violence or about drugs education." (Scotsman page 24)

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Seized Assets: Police forces will use money seized from criminals as part of a £1m effort to help tackle organised crime under a new incentive plan. Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, revealed yesterday that Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders and Tayside forces are to share £250,000 for each of the next two years and will match that figure with funds from their own coffers. (Herald page 2)

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Transport 

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Forth Road Bridge: Doubts about whether a new Forth crossing will be built have emerged after the Scottish Government said it wants to introduce a cash back scheme for companies who bid to build the bridge. In evidence to Holyrood\’s finance committee yesterday, civil servants asked MSPs to agree to an unprecedented money-back guarantee for businesses in the event that the £2 billion project does not go ahead. MSPs on the committee have now demanded that transport minister Stewart Stevenson appear in person to explain why a financial parachute for bridge companies would be required. The Forth Bridge is the first project in the ten-year history of devolution in Scotland where such "contingency liability" has been requested. (Scotsman page 1, Telegraph page 12, Press and Journal page 6)

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Trains: Officials masterminding Scotland\’s biggest-ever rail project yesterday confidently predicted the £1.1 billion scheme would be completed under budget – even though it won\’t be finished for seven years. The Edinburgh Glasgow Improvements Programme will see more and faster trains on the main line between the two cities. The Scottish Government\’s Transport Scotland agency plans to cut the fastest journeys from 48 to 35 minutes, with trains stepped up from four to six an hour. (Scotsman page 30)

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Health

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Obesity: The NHS in Scotland is spending millions of pounds on special equipment to treat obese patients. In the past two to five years, health boards have spent almost £4.4 million on items such as extra-wide beds, wider bedside chairs and wider wheelchairs, according to figures revealed under freedom of information. (Scotsman page 24, Herald page 12, Daily Mail page 12)

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Politics

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Scotland’s Banking Reputation: Scotland’s reputation as a global financial centre has “undoubtedly been damaged” by the banking crisis, MSPs will hear today. Holyrood’s Economy Committee will this morning launch an inquiry into the future for the financial sector. And a “slow recovery” lies ahead, according to building society chiefs who say “greed and arrogance” among institutions played a key role in the crisis. The UK Government forked out billions of pounds to bail out a number of banks and building societies after the credit crunch began to bite two years ago. Scotland’s standing has not gone untarnished in the fallout, according a submission to the committee by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA). (Scotsman page 6)