Daily Political Media Summary: 29 October 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 29 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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Ferry subsidies: The hundreds of millions of pounds used to subsidise lifeline ferry services around Scotland do not constitute illegal state aid, the European Commission confirmed yesterday. SNP MEP Alyn Smith, who has campaigned to secure the island ferry services, said: “After decades of jumping through EU legal hoops this is a positive decision for Scotland’s remote and island communities. (Herald Page 9)

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Clydesdale Bank: Clydesdale bank has pledged to make £5bn of extra business and mortgage funding available to Scottish customers over the next two years. Clydesdale chief executive Lynne Peacock said, “it will help to ensure customers continue to have real choice in a consolidating market and are supported when they need it most.” (Press & Journal Page 9)

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Crime

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Crime gang: A crime gang behind a £9m drugs empire was jailed yesterday for a total of 29 years following Scotland’s biggest-ever undercover police sting. (Herald Page 11, Sun Page 1, Press & Journal Page 11, Courier Page 6, Daily Mirror Page 15, Daily Telegraph Page 13)

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Domestic violence: An innovative programme to tackle domestic violence is to be rolled out across Scotland. Known as the Caledonian System, the scheme aims to help convicted abusers address their behaviour while offering additional support for victims. (Press & Journal Page 7)

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Prison service: The Scottish Prison Service has rejected claims that it will have to pay more than £50m in compensation for breaches of the human rights of over 2,000 inmates. (Press & Journal Page 13)

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Transport 

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Network Rail: Transport Scotland has expressed misgivings about the borrowing mechanism it used to fund a £1bn package of rail enhancements in the central belt, questioning whether it represented value for money to the taxpayer. (Herald Page 9)

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Travel and health care plan: An action plan is being drawn up by consultants JMP, aimed at improving links between transport and health in Tayside and Central. The consultants were commissioned by the Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) to produce the plan, hoping to promote active travel, improved health care access and to reduce the adverse impacts of travel on public health. (Courier Page 5)

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Health

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Awards scheme: Health Secretary Nicola Surgeon yesterday defended an awards scheme for senior health officials which cost taxpayers £28m last year. After facing pressure from MSPs to limit the ‘distinction award’ Ms Surgeon said while she is not “unsympathetic to the criticism,” cutting the awards scheme may undermine the NHS in Scotland. (Courier Page 7)

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Alcohol and drugs: Professor David Nutt, chairman of the UK Government’s advisory committee on the misuse of drugs has criticised politicians for ‘distorting’ and ‘devaluing’ the research evidence in the debate over illicit drugs after a paper from a drugs expert revealed that alcohol and tobacco are in fact more harmful that many illegal drugs including LSD, ecstasy and cannabis. (Guardian Page 2, Daily Telegraph Page 8, Times Page 28)

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Swine flu: The death toll from Swine Flu has risen to 25 in Scotland with the death of two more people. Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Surgeon said, “our thoughts are with the families at this very sad time. The recent increase in H1N1 related deaths is a stark reminder of the importance of being vigilant during the pandemic.” (Press & Journal Page 9, Courier Page 1, Herald Page 3)

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Education

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Students: Around 75,000 students will benefit from a £30m grant boost from the Scottish Government. Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the cash injection was aimed at helping the poorest students get through the recession. Under the plans, announced to the Scottish Parliament, the maximum amount available to students through Government-backed loans will be increased by £442 to offset hardship and reduce the growing reliance on commercial loans. The current maximum is £4,625. (Herald Page 10, Courier Page 7)

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Nurseries: Nursery managers throughout the North East yesterday claimed they had neither the resources nor the time to fulfil new Scottish training requirements which come into force next year. Many warned the change could force smaller companies out of business and fees paid by parents could rise. The complaints were rejected by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) which insisted there was widespread support for the plans. (Press & Journal Page 12)

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Politics

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Nimrod: The families of men killed in a Nimrod plane crash have demanded resignations "at the very top" after a report found that MOD cost-cutting led directly to the death of 14 British service personnel. The men were killed when an RAF Nimrod spy plane crashed in Afghanistan three years ago. An independent review published yesterday by the aviation lawyer Charles Haddon-Cave, QC, found the fireball that consumed the Nimrod MR2 – call sign XV230 – in September 2006 had been entirely avoidable. (Herald Page 1, Daily Mirror Page 8, Financial Times Page 4, Daily Telegraph Page 1, Times Page 1, Scotsman Page 1, Daily Mail Page 1)

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Postal strike: The Postal crisis deepened last night after Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union failed to reach an agreement to call off three further days of industrial action starting today. Both sides blamed each other as three days of talks mediated by the TUC collapsed without a deal being reached. (Guardian Page 6, Press & Journal Page 1, Courier Page 11, Herald Page 3, Financial Times Page 2, Daily Telegraph Page 2, Daily Mail Page 2, Scotsman Page 2)

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MPs’ expenses: Senior MPs last night threatened to defy Gordon Brown’s plan to impose wholesale reforms to their expenses unless they are given five years to adjust to the radical new regime. North and North East MPs, however, said they would comply with any new rules designed to crack down on Westminster expenses stating the move was the, “the price of restoring public confidence.” No. 10 insisted that MPs will have no right to vote on the new expenses system. (Guardian Page 2, Press & Journal Page 5, Courier Page 12, Herald Page 8, Daily Mirror Page 6, Daily Telegraph Page 1, Times Page 32)

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Glasgow by-election: Thirteen candidates are to stand in what may be the last by-election before the general election. The Glasgow North East contest is being fought not only by mainstream parties but also by fringe candidates such as Glasgow airport terrorist attack hero John Smeaton.  The by-election, to be held on 12th November, was brought about after the resignation of Michael Martin over his handling of the MPs’ expenses scandal. (Guardian Page 11, Press & Journal Page 9, Herald Page 8)

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BNP: The British National Party could be invited on Question time up to once a year if their current levels of support are sustained, the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson stated yesterday. Mr. Thompson said, “there will be occasions where it will feel right to invite them [on the]programme.” (Guardian Page 18, Press & Journal Page 13, Courier Page 8, Times Page 5)

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SNP and MoD: The SNP has attacked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) ‘confusion’ following reports that the Royal Navy is to ditch half of the carrier strike aircraft planned, all of which would have been based in Moray. The move could shave $600m from future costs, but the SNP argues the MoD is already spending £4.3bn less than its proportionate share of defence expenditure in Scotland. (Press & Journal Page 5)