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Daily Political Media Summary: 16 October 2009

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Media Summary: 16 October 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

Power to Build:  Reform Scotland’s latest report “Power to Build” has proposed a replacement for PFI in the form of Scottish Capital Partnership (SCP) which would provide an improved way of financing and managing new infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals, roads and railways and will refine the role of the SNP’s Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). Ben Thomson, Chairman of Reform Scotland, has stated that an overhaul of the existing system is needed to reinvigorate public projects. (Scotsman page 7, page 29, Herald page 7, Times page 13, Telegraph page 14, Press and Journal page 6, Courier page 11, Daily Record page 8, BBC)

 Postal Strike:  A national Royal Mail postal strike to take place in Scotland’s 4 mail centres next week will affect consumers and businesses as potentially 8 million items of mail will not be moved.  Estimates of £1.5 billion in costs to the UK have been stated by retailers.  The Communication Workers Union (CWU) have defended the move following recent offers were rejected by Royal Mail. The UK Government have backed Royal Mail in imposing changes without CWU support according to an internal document.   (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 2, Times page 11, Financial Times page 2, Guardian page 17, Daily Express page 8, Telegraph page 2, Daily Mirror page 6, Daily Mail page 10)

Scottish Homecoming:  The Scottish Homecoming celebrations have partially been paid for by taxpayers’ money to the value of £300,000.  Although a success, ticket sales were less than expected and the event has left costs which have had to be written off as the company behind the event has gone into liquidation. Despite this, Edinburgh City Council’s private-public organisation Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (Dema) are making plans for Gathering 2012 confident that it can be repeated without a further loss.  (Scotsman page 17 Herald page 13 Times page 29)

Aberdeen House Prices:  For the second consecutive quarter, house prices in Aberdeen have increased, whilst prices in the rest of Scotland and the UK have fallen.  This brings hope that Aberdeen may lead Scotland out of the current housing slump.  (Scotsman page 17)

Oil and Gas: Chancellor Alistair Darling will today tell oil company chiefs that he is as keen as they are to extract every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea. However, Mr Darling set his face firmly against tax concessions to help consumers in Scotland cope with higher fuel prices than the rest of the UK, with the threat that electricity bills are poised to soar as well, suggesting a further inquiry into the cause of the problem. (Press and Journal page 8)

Education

Class Sizes:  Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has admitted that plans to reduce class sizes have been abandoned having been restricted by the recession.  She also added reducing class sizes was difficult following Labour’s legacy of “some of the largest class sizes in Europe”.  (Scotsman page 6 Times page 8 Telegraph page 6, Daily Mail page 4)

Student Places: The SNP have announced that 3,000 additional student places – a 10 per cent rise – will be created despite the academic year having started. More places will be created and funding will be directed to science, technology, engineering and maths.  (Herald page 7 Press and Journal page 9) 

Declining Attainment: Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has stated that the Scottish education system must be reviewed to tackle declining educational attainment levels in Scotland compared to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.   The comments are in response to a report by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions (CPPR) which highlights increased spending on Scottish pupils.  (TESS page 1)

Health

Swine Flu: A 17 year old pregnant woman has brought Scotland’s death total from the disease to fifteen. The news of the death, the 5th in Scotland in less than a week, has led to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon stating that there is no evidence to suggest that the disease is growing more serious; however at-risk groups which now include pregnant women should be vaccinated as early as possible. The UK Government has released a national vaccination programme to start next week which will vaccinate at-risk groups and front line health workers. (Scotsman page 1 Herald page 1 Times page 9 Guardian page 4)

Elderly Patient Care: Charities Age Concern and Help the Aged have created a new report which states that almost one fifth of patients in hospital are not receiving adequate nourishment and in some cases food and water is being left out of their reach.  More than half of elderly patients who needed assistance at meal times did not receive it.  (Herald page 4)

Local Government

Fire Services Merger: Central, Fife and Tayside fire boards have voted in favour of sharing a number of functions in a bid to streamline fire services such as responses to major incidents as well as some back office functions.  The move is an attempt to create a more cost effective public service; however union leaders have warned that frontline services must not be compromised.  (Herald page 1) 

Trump Land Row:  It is hoped agreement can be reached over Donald Trump’s development on the Menie estate near Aberdeen. Planning permission has been granted, however plans are being delayed as four residents are refusing to sell their houses. Aberdeen council has not ruled out Compulsory Purchase Orders and Donald Trump has stated that he hopes to resolve the issue “amicably”.  (Herald page 4, STV)

Politics

Scottish Charity Funding:  A cross party group of MSPs is asking Lloyds TSB’s Banking Group Chief to reconsider its decision to suspend funding to the Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland charities. The group has recently announced that potentially millions of pounds will be cut from charities due to the financial crisis.  (Scotsman page 5 Herald page 3)

SNP Conference:  At his speech to the SNP conference in Inverness, Alex Salmond yesterday pledged that the SNP will win at least 20 seats at the next election in 2010, achieving an SNP seat in every Scottish city.  The statement has led to calls that Scotland is closer than ever to independence.  (Scotsman page 8, Times page 1, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 2, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 8, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Record page 8, Telegraph page 6, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph page 6)

MPs’ Expenses:  Scottish MPs are being advised to pay back overpaid expenses which collectively equates to thousands of pounds, following the enquiry by Sir Thomas Legg.  The largest single amount so far comes from Gordon Brown. (Herald page 6, Daily Express page 7)

Glasgow North East By-Election:  The Conservative candidate for Glasgow North East, Ruth Davidson, has announced that if she wins she will publish online all expenses claimed by her in a bid to create an open relationship with the electorate. (Times page 13)