Daily Political Media Summary: 27 October 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 27 October 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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Standard Life: Standard Life has sold its banking operation to Barclays for £226million. Standard Life has withdrawn its mortgage business, but will continue to provide pension products. Barclays will take on 78,000 mortgages and £8.8billion of outstanding balances. An expected 270 workers will be kept on and will move to Exchange Crescent, Edinburgh. (Scotsman page B1, Herald page 1, Times page 5, Commentary page 39, Courier page 15, Financial Times page 17, Press and Journal page 18)

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Scottish Water: The Water Industry Commission for Scotland has announced that consumers may pay less for their water over the next six years, thanks to efficiency savings by Scottish Water. The firm’s regulator has forecast that bills may fall from the current £312 average to about £290 by 2014-2015. Consumer watchdogs have warned that the decrease may not be enough, as prices have been too high for a long time and that many families will continue to struggle. (Scotsman page 23, Herald page 2)

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Crime

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Sex Offenders: A report by the Scottish Government has suggested that the number of registered sex offenders committing new crimes has increased fivefold, from nine in 2007-8 to 44 in 2008-9. Ministers have insisted the increase is only 60 per cent – from nine to 15 – because earlier figures only included more serious sex offenders. Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill says that the rate of reoffending is at a low with just one in 68 of the known 3,765 sex offenders re-offending. He also said that the figures show that the system is working. The government has been criticised as “complacent” and accused of not doing enough to tackle the problem. (Scotsman page 6, Analysis page 6, Herald page 2, Press and Journal page 1)

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Children’s Welfare: Children’s welfare campaigners are applauding a £30million plan that will aim to tackle child neglect in Glasgow. Dr. Linda de Caestecker, Glasgow’s director of public health, is aiming to create a pool of 800 workers trained to offer families help with parenting and to identify children suffering neglect at an earlier stage. Statistics have shown that there are approximately 10,000 children in Glasgow known to social workers, only 300 of whom are in care or other support services (Herald page 10)

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Transport 

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BA Christmas Strike: British Airways cabin crew members have increased pressure on the company not to impose “unacceptable contractual changes”. The union Unite will ballot 14,000 cabin crew members on whether or not to impose a Christmas strike, citing “no alternative”. BA has said it is “extremely disappointed” with the move, insisting it has no plans to change the conditions of the current crew. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 2, Financial Times page 2, Guardian page 25)

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New Road: Scottish infrastructure business Morrison Construction, owned by Galliford Try, has won a £32million construction contract in northern Scotland. Transport Scotland has awarded the construction company the contract to build a 5km section of the A96, which will link Aberdeen and Inverness and reduce congestion along the route. (Herald page 26, Press and Journal page 3)

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Local Government

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Hogmanay: A slump in demand for tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street celebration has led planners to consider dropping required ticket sales which have been in place for the past 12 years. Councillor Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh City Council’s festival and events champion, announced yesterday that the authority was considering removing both the barriers and the ticketing system, after admitting that overcrowding was unlikely in the future. (Scotsman page 7, Times page 10, BBC)

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Trump Golf Resort: Aberdeenshire council members have been threatened with legal action should they put Donald Trump’s golf resort on their agenda. Council members are expected to rule today on a planning application for Mr Trump’s £1billion golf resort. Lawyers for the campaign Tripping Up Trump and David Milne, a homeowner facing compulsory purchase of his home on the development site, have sent a letter to the council demanding that the application be removed from their agenda. The letter accuses council members of “breaking the rules” and giving Mr Trump “favourable treatment”. (Scotsman page 10, STV)

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VAT Payback: Some cash-strapped councils are receiving cash back from HM Revenue and Customs, after paying too much in VAT. HMRC has found that some councils have paid too much VAT up to 35 years ago, and is working on paying back £5billion in overpaid tax. The paybacks follow a ruling in the House of Lords last year against the 1996 decision by the Paymaster General that the existing six-year time limit for the making of claims for overpaid VAT was to be shortened with immediate effect to three years. (Herald page 1)

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Politics

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Royal Mail: The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the mediator between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU), has expressed optimism in working toward an agreement. Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC has said there were “useful discussions” and that talks will be reconvening today. (Scotsman page 1, Courier page 11, Financial Times page 2, Press and Journal page 11)

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The Gathering: A major inquiry is to be carried out into the clan gathering which used £500,000 of taxpayers’ money but ended with a debt of £300,000. Senior figures planning the next clan gathering will be asked to justify the event after its marketing body secured £300,000 in public funds. (Scotsman page 11)

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Anti-Social Behaviour Row: SNP minister Fergus Ewing has been criticised by Labour for visiting a project which aims to reduce alcohol and drug-related anti-social behaviour. Mr Ewing, who visited the Fife Equally Well “Clued Up” project, said that the SNP have put early intervention, education, and support at the centre of their approach to curbing anti-social behaviour. Labour have claimed that the SNP have failed to make full use of anti-social behaviour legislation. (Scotsman page 17, Courier page 4)

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Scottish Independence: Bertie Ahern, the former Irish Taoiseach, has denied saying that Scotland would fail as an independent country. In a letter to Alex Salmond, Ahern said he believes Scotland would be in a better position to prosper than Ireland was when it became independent. He commented that he does have some concern with the economic costs of independence, and that Scotland’s best experts should analyse this area. (Herald page 6)

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Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has warned that Scottish Labour may lose Holyrood for “a generation” if it does not offer an alternative to independence. Mr McLeish has said that Scottish Labour has made a lack of progress in the past two years and advised party members that Alex Salmond may succeed in wooing voters. (Times page 4, BBC)

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Scottish Elections: The Electoral Commission has found that there are yet to be permanent voting structures put in place that would improve Scotland’s election system. The Commission has asked that Holyrood move “as quickly as possible” to decide what structures are to be put in place for elections in 2011 and 2012. (BBC, STV)