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Daily Political Media Summary: 22 September 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 22 September

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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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Recession: The pound sank to 1.101 against the euro yesterday, a low not seen since April. The pound has also sunk against the US dollar to 1.6135. The Bank of England has attributed the economic crisis, the UK’s current account deficit, and the country’s reliance on the public sector as mitigating factors. (Scotsman page 6, Press and Journal page 5, Financial Times page 1, Scottish Daily Express page 1)

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Crime

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Games Consoles for Prisoners: It has emerged that Scottish prisons have spent taxpayer money on games consoles and games for prisoners. The Scottish Prison Service has spent just over £12,500 on 89 games systems for inmates at 13 jails. A spokesman has said these purchases were made prior to April, and since then prisoners have been paying out of their own pockets. (Press and Journal page 1)

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Transport 

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Edinburgh-Glasgow Train Line: The Edinburgh-Glasgow via Schotts train line is to double in frequency starting in December. Transport Scotland has also announced that trains will leave earlier between Ayr and Gourock, and Dumfries and Carlisle. These changes are part of a £1billion package of central belt rail improvements. (The Herald page 10)

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Local Government

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West Lothian Council: West Lothian Council made a historic move yesterday when it began to move all public sector services under one roof. This consolidation will save £1million a year by reducing the number of buildings owned and run by the authority, and £10million on repairs on older buildings that it will now not need to carry out. (The Herald page 1)

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Health

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Drug Addiction Treatment: The number of drug addicts receiving treatment in residential clinics has reached its lowest point since the SNP has been in power. Conservatives have branded it “astonishing” that “fewer than one in 50 addicts who ask for help are referred to a residential rehab clinic”. The Scottish Government has responded that there is no evidence that residential programmes provide better care than community programmes. (Scotsman page 8)

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Premature Births: Researchers have found that the number of premature births in Scotland has risen 16 per cent in the last 25 years. This means that one in 15 single births is now premature. At the same time, survival rates have dramatically improved, with the number of baby deaths halved. (Scotsman page 23, The Herald page 11, Press and Journal page 7, Scottish Daily Express page 4)

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Education

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English in the Classroom: A major report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) has shown teachers in Scotland are struggling to cope with the large number of students that do not speak English. The report stated there are at least 138 languages spoken in Scotland, and the English as an Additional Language (EAL) courses are “severely stretched”. (Scotsman page 24, The Herald page 7)

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Curriculum For Excellence: Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has defended the Curriculum for Excellence programme, which some have criticised as “vague”. Ms Hyslop argues that it is not for the government to tell teachers what to teach, and that teachers should be allowed the freedom to apply the best methods for their students. (Scotsman page 30)

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Politics

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Independence Referendum: Lib Dems are said to be discussing the possibility of supporting the SNP’s independence referendum. These debates are said to be a reaction to warnings that should there be a Conservative election victory, there may be enough momentum for secession from the UK. Senior members fear a Parliament under David Cameron may lead to cuts for Scotland, which would fuel a move for independence. Lib Dem Finance spokesman Vince Cable has said recently that he predicts a “major constitutional crisis” under a Tory government and that Scotland may find itself on a “collision course” with Westminster under Mr Cameron. (Scotsman page 1,The Herald page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 1) Nick Clegg has said neither he nor Tavish Scott will support the independence referendum. (The Courier page 1)

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Lib Dem Mansion Tax: Vince Cable has admitted that a Lib Dem-proposed “mansion tax”, which would impose a half penny on the pound for properties valued at more than £1million, may end up losing money for Scotland. As the money would be collected by local authorities, the Scottish Parliament would ultimately have to approve the measure; otherwise the money would go to the Treasury. It is estimated that this could end up losing Scotland £110million. The Lib Dems have discussed the measure in the hope of raising £1.1billion to help remove low earners from income tax. (Scotsman page 4, Analysis page 5, The Herald page 6, Daily Telegraph page 4, The Times page 18)

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Lib Dem Conference: Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie has accused the Scottish Liberal Demcrats of “flip-flopping” three times in one speech. Ms Goldie said that Tavish Scott’s address claimed he was against free bridge tolls, a council tax freeze, and free prescriptions, although he had previously supported all of these measures. The SNP have also responded, saying the Lib Dems are in “chaos” over the council tax freeze. (The Times page 19)

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Sir John Elvidge: Top civil servant Sir John Elvidge has been accused of pushing a “Nationalist agenda” after he was seen on Saltire TV appearing to support the SNP line on last week’s budget. It has been said that some MSPs are considering taking further action against Sir John after he apologised for misleading a Holyrood committee. This controversy comes after the leaked minutes of a civil servants meeting appeared to show support for furthering moves towards independence. (Scotsman page 2)

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Glasgow Bias: Political correspondent David Maddox argues that there is no anti-Glasgow bias; rather there is clear support for Glasgow on the part of Scottish politicians. He compares the funding for Glasgow versus Edinburgh and Aberdeen and finds the Scottish Government spends £300m more on Glasgow. (Scotsman page 29)

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Reductions in Public Spending: In an opinion piece, Geoff Mawdsley of Reform Scotland argues that until the Scottish Government is able to raise the money it spends, it will have to prepare for the budget cuts that Westminster doles out. (Scotsman page 31)

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Iain Gray: Political Commentator Angus Macleod has opined that Iain Gray needs clearer strategy and a harder backbone if he intends to lead Scottish Labour out of its slump. (The Times page 12)

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Council Tax  Freeze: The Scottish Government has rejected a call from the Scottish Trades Union Congress to abandon the council tax freeze. The STUC has said that it fears the freeze will cost hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. (Press and Journal page 9)