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Daily Political Media Summary: 5 October 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 5 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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Recession: One of the few economists who correctly predicted the current economic crisis has warned a Conservative victory at the next election could trigger a second deeper recession. Roger Bootle, one of the City\’s top economists, issued his warning ahead of the Conservative Party conference. He also predicted economic difficulties for Scotland if it became independent because of voters\’ preference for centre left politics. He said that, while there was a need to bring the national debt down, a high level of public spending was needed to get Britain out of the recession and he foresaw problems with a Tory Government. Bill Jamieson comments on the recession in Scotland on Sunday.  (Scotsman page 5, Bill Jamieson )

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Minimum Alcohol Pricing: The Scottish Government is said to be risking its carefully cultivated pro-business image by pressing ahead with plans to set a minimum price for alcohol in an attempt to tackle an entrenched problem of drink abuse. The SNP administration\’s intention has drawn criticism from drinks companies, the Scotch whisky industry, and retailers. (FT page 20)

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Welfare: David Cameron is to unveil a plan to get Britain back to work by forcing millions of welfare claimants into training. The assault on the dependency culture is similar to programmes in America. Private firms that prepare people for employment and place them in jobs would be paid by results. Most people who have been unemployed for more than six months, including the disabled and single mothers, would be required to join the new privatised schemes or see their payments cut. The Work Programme is to be unveiled at the party’s conference in Manchester. (Sunday Times page 1)

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Scottish Business: Terry Murden comments in Scotland on Sunday on the dearth of Scots listed companies and the effect this has on the Scottish economy. (Scotland on Sunday page B2)

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European Funding: Scotland’s councils are looking to apply for substantial European funding to make more micro-credit available for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The move is part of an increasingly urgent drive by the public sector, including Scottish Enterprise (SE) and cash-strapped local councils, to fill the lending gap left by the near-collapse of the UK banking sector, and the drying up of bank credit.  (Sunday Herald page 52) 

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Crime

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Security Companies: Scotland\’s largest police force has launched an aggressive new crackdown on serious organised criminals running security firms and taxi companies. Officers raided almost 200 private security sites across the west of Scotland in one night as part of Strathclyde Police’s new strategy to stamp out the growing threat of rogue firms using legitimate fronts to launder the proceeds of crime, much of it from drug dealing.

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The force is now committed to confronting the gangsters at every possible level of law-breaking, including licensing issues, benefit fraud and the employment of illegal immigrants. (Herald page 1)

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Health

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Health Clinics: Sexual health clinics are to be provided for every secondary school, offering pupils free condoms, pregnancy tests and checks for sexually-transmitted diseases. Under the plan the services will be available to under 16s without their parents being notified, as long as nurses are sure they are not being abused or exploited. The plan is revealed in a new Scottish Government report, Do The Right Thing, which sets out plans to curb unplanned pregnancies among under 18s. (Sunday Times page 6)

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Retired Nurses: The Scottish Government is reportedly set to waive registration fees for retired nurses recalled to help with swine flu. The move could potentially cost the Government nearly £1 million. (Sunday Post page 9) 

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Education

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Bursaries: Pressure is mounting on Scottish ministers to intervene after it emerged that almost 20,000 young Scots have been left without vital cash by the body that gives bursaries to vulnerable students. A record number of applicants and postal strikes have prevented Young Student Bursaries reaching those they are intended to assist. (Sunday Herald page 1)

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Teachers’ Pay Freeze: Staff at Fettes private school have had their pay frozen to keep down fees in an effort to help parents hit by the recession. The Edinburgh independent school is thought to be the only school in Scotland to impose a pay freeze on its staff, including the headmaster. The average fee rise, revealed by the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) last week, was 3.8 per cent for private secondary schools this year. Fettes will raise its annual rates by 1.5 per cent. (Scotsman page 9)

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Politics

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Lisbon Treaty: Conservative leader David Cameron struggled to keep a lid on a rift in his party over the Lisbon Treaty yesterday after he rejected demands by senior Tory Euro sceptics to commit the UK to a referendum. In a move seen as an attempt to appease the critics in his own party, Mr Cameron\’s office revealed that he had written to the president of the Czech Republic to restate his opposition to the treaty. However, the admission came just hours after Mr Cameron had insisted he did not want to make a firm commitment to holding a referendum on the treaty in the UK for fear of prejudicing the decision yet to be taken in the Czech Republic and Poland. (Scotsman page 1, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 11, FT page 1, Guardian page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Sunday Times page 2, Sunday Post page 14) 

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Ireland: Ireland paved the way for a more powerful European Union last night after it backed the Lisbon Treaty by a margin of two to one. The result raised the growing prospect of Tony Blair being named as the first "European president", a post which will be created by the treaty. (Scotsman on Sunday page 1, Sunday Post page 2) 

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David Cameron: Tory leader David Cameron has vowed not to ignore Scotland if he wins the next general election. He conceded he was unlikely to win a majority of seats in Scotland but would govern "with respect" and work with Alex Salmond\’s SNP administration. Mr Cameron said: "If we win the election, one of the first things I\’d do is go to Scotland, have a meeting with the First Minister and talk about how we are going to govern Scotland with respect, talk about how we are going to keep the United Kingdom together. (Herald page 2)

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Draft Bills: Backbenchers in Holyrood have been warned that the unit responsible for helping them draft member’s bills cannot take on any more work. While ministers have thousands of civil servants to help them draft legislation, backbenchers have to rely on the small Non-Executive Bills Unit (NEBU) in parliament. A memo was sent to MSPs from the Scottish Parliament\’s Corporate Body (SPCB) warning that NEBU was at full capacity. (Scotsman page 12) 

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Council Tax: Alex Salmond has reportedly been accused of "hypocrisy" over his failure to pay council tax on Bute House, the First Minister\’s official residence in Edinburgh. The First Minister has not paid any council tax since he moved into the listed four-storey Georgian townhouse, even though he criticised his predecessor Jack McConnell for failing to pay the levy when the former Labour leader lived there. If Bute House was classified as a domestic property, it would fall into the H band of council tax for homes worth more than £212,000, making occupants liable for £2,338 per year. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Post page 1)

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Leaders’ Debates: The SNP Government was accused of using bully-boy tactics yesterday after threatening legal action against broadcasters in an attempt to ensure that Alex Salmond takes part in televised leaders\’ debates ahead of the general election. (Times page 6, Telegraph page 3, Alan Cochrane in Telegraph, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Sunday Herald page 1, Sunday Post page 2)

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Annabel Goldie: Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Conservative leader, is to unveil plans for fast-track courts and a £10 million business start-up fund while accusing Labour of running out of ideas. (Telegraph page 12, Courier page 10, Press and Journal page 11, Sunday Times page 4, Sunday Herald page 24)

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SNP: The SNP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year in good spirits, according to Gerry Hassan in the Sunday Times. The party has spent two-and-a-half years in office since winning the 2007 Scottish parliament elections. The forthcoming week sees the publication of the first ever study of the contemporary SNP; The Modern SNP: from Protest to Power, addressing who the nationalists are, where the party’s support comes from, looking at its ideals and policies and examining its thinking on independence. (Sunday Times page 7)

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Tory Government: Iain Macwhirter comments on the likelihood of a Conservative Government in the UK in the Sunday Herald and the consequences for the Union as do Eddie Barnes and Mark Smith in Scotland on Sunday. Jenny Hjul comments on the ‘ghost of Thatcher’ still haunting the Tories in Scotland. (Sunday Herald page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 11, Jenny Hjul in Sunday Times page 24) 

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Scottish Labour: Lorraine Davidson comments on Iain Gray and the Labour conference in the Sunday Post. (Sunday Post page 15)