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Daily Political Media Summary: 16 November 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 16 November 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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Scottish Banking: Alex Salmond is to address key European finance leaders regarding Scotland’s banking reputation. In today’s keynote speech, Mr Salmond will ask financiers to look beyond the “recent negative headlines and see that Scotland is still a force to be reckoned with”. Mr Salmond will use recent examples of positive investment in Scotland as an attempt to usher in a new wave of confidence. (Scotsman page 1, Opinion page 26, Press and Journal page 17)

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Housing Prices: The housing market in Scotland has seen a rise in the average house price of 0.7 per cent in the last quarter, up from £152,561 to £153,561. The biggest rise came in Aberdeen, with housing prices going up 13.4 per cent. The cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are still behind with prices falling by 11.8 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively. Professor Donald MacRae, chief economist at Lloyds Banking Group Scotland, has said the numbers show that the Scottish housing market is beginning to recover. (Scotsman page 10)

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Tax-Free Status: The head of the London Stock Exchange has called for Scotland to become a tax-free zone for investors wanting to fund start-up companies. Xavier Rolet, who took over as chief executive of the LSE in the summer, has also suggested the creation of an innovation fund of up to £300 million, financed by the banks. (Scotland on Sunday page B1, Terry Murden comments in Scotland on Sunday page B2)

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Flyglobespan: Scotland’s largest airline, Flyglobespan, has denied reports that it is at risk of collapse, and claims to have secured investment to continue its growth.  (Herald page 1)

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Scottish Hotels: Scottish luxury hotels have lost millions in revenue as US tourism has dropped 17 per cent from last year. Hoteliers have blamed the economic downturn and said they had counted on programmes like Homecoming Scotland to deliver tourists. (Herald page 9)

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2014 Commonwealth Games: Alex Salmond will announce today that the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will receive a bailout of £80million, after it failed to receive expected television deals due to the recession. Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has said he is concerned that costs are out of control.  (Times page 12, Daily Telegraph page 8)

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Cash Seizure: A provision in the Scottish Government’s reform of bankruptcy law allows sheriffs’ officers to enter a business and seize cash and cheques in the till. The law, which goes into effect on Monday, brings Scotland in line with the rest of the UK in removing an “exemption for cash” in the seizure of assets. Pubs, small clubs, corner shops, and bookmakers are expected to be typical targets. (Herald page 24)

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Lloyds TSB Foundation: Lloyds Banking Group has admitted that Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland is entitled to around £2million from its first rights issue in May. The Foundation is now seeking clarification that it will be entitled to further monies from the bank’s pending £13.5 billion rights issue. This figure could be in the region of a further £6m. (Sunday Herald page 50)

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Energy Policy: The Institute of Shipbuilding and Engineering (IESIS) has accused the Scottish Government of promoting “meaningless figures … divorced from reality” related to  Scotland’s energy policy. The group has also charged the Scottish Government and its civil service advisers of being “plain wrong” in its projections of the capabilities of renewable power. They have demanded that future policy be free from political influence and instead based on the projections of qualified technicians. (Daily Mail page 14, Daily Mirror page 24, Daily Express page 2, Sunday Herald page 52)

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Coal-Fired Power Stations: Attempts by Scottish ministers to clean up coal so it can replace nuclear power will lead to massive amounts of pollution and wreck the government’s targets to combat climate change, it has been claimed. A new study predicts that the £2 billion “clean” coal plant proposed for Hunterston in North Ayrshire would end up belching out over 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere over its lifetime. Last week, the UK Government gave the go-ahead to 10 new nuclear power stations across England and Wales. There were none proposed for Scotland because of opposition from the SNP. (Sunday Herald page 4)

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Transport 

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New Roads: Engineers are working on a "forever open" design involving a new generation of road surfaces that clean and repair themselves. Construction materials that bond together when cracks appear – already in use in some paints – are being developed to minimise the time when roads have to be shut down for costly maintenance. New, smoother surfaces that retain anti-skid properties will allow water and detritus to drain away naturally. The new road\’s green credentials are high, with a surface which collects the power of the sun\’s rays to re-use as solar energy. Underground heat exchangers will use the power to keep the road at a constant temperature, preventing cracks caused by water freezing and expanding. It could also supply street lights and signs with cheap energy. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

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Local Government

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Trump Golf Resort: Dr Christine Gore, director of planning for Aberdeenshire Council, is to be investigated for allegations of breaching her professional code of conduct by colluding with Donald Trump. The council has defended Dr Gore and accused Mr Trump’s critics of promoting “misinformation” to win publicity for their cause. (Herald page 5)

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Health

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Thalidomide: The survivors of the thalidomide tragedy are set to benefit from a multi-million pound settlement from the UK government. Campaigners believe they are close to reaching a deal for the 460 remaining people whose mothers were prescribed the drug by the NHS. It is thought that the victims will receive an average of £18,000 per year compensation. It is also thought that the British state may issue an apology. (Scotsman page 2)

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Alcohol Pricing: Dr Emilia Crighton, the convener of the Faculty of Public Health in Scotland, is insisting that raising the minimum price of alcohol to 60p a unit would save 900 lives per year. The Scottish Government’s consultation document suggests a minimum price of 40p per unit. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said that she is open to making the minimum price higher. (Scotsman page 8, Press and Journal page 8, Courier page 9, BBC)

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Elderly Care: Lord Sutherland, who chaired the Royal Commission a decade ago that conceived free personal care for the elderly, has accused the SNP of ignoring his concerns for the programme. Lord Sutherland has called for a 10-year care strategy and the merger of health and social care budgets, as the number of elderly is set to increase in the next decade. He claims that the SNP have ignored his concerns, saying it has long-term plans for children and young people, but nothing for older people. (Herald page 1, Opinion page 12)

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Education

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Education Reform: Only one in eight pupils feels challenged at school in Scotland, compared with one in four in England, according to an international study that adds further weight to claims that educational standards are declining. The study, by Edinburgh University and the World Health Organisation, also reveals that Scottish teenagers spend more time socialising with friends and playing computer games, rather than studying, compared with their counterparts south of the border. (Sunday Times page 8)

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Teaching Graduates: Labour claims a schools “crisis” is looming after figures showed a 15 per cent drop in the number of teaching graduates moving on to practical training. The party has blamed the drop in numbers on the SNP, claiming that the numbers have dropped since it came into power in 2007. The SNP have counterclaimed that the results are due to decisions made by the previous Labour government. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 8)

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Trust School Model: Education secretary Fiona Hyslop has branded the English Trust School model as having “serious flaws”. Ms Hyslop also indicated her support for community empowerment, saying that she supported the idea of headteachers working with other area schools. (Scotland on Sunday page 1,Scotsman page 9, Opinion page 26, Times page 12, Daily Telegraph page 16, BBC)

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Free School Meals: Free school meals for all primary pupils could be introduced in Scotland as part of plans to tackle obesity levels in children. The Scottish Government is already planning to extend free meals provision to children in primary one, two and three from next August despite complaints from cash-strapped councils about costs. But an expert panel commissioned by the SNP administration is now recommending that the policy is further extended to the last four years of junior school. (Scotland on Sunday page 2)

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Politics

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Childcare Vouchers: Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said that the Government is “listening” to concerns over its plans to scrap tax relief on childcare vouchers. The move has angered middle class parents and former government ministers warned Gordon Brown last week that the move could cost Labour votes. Mr Balls said a decision would be announced in the pre-Budget report on December 9. (Herald page 8, Sunday Times page 1)

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Child Migrants Programme: Gordon Brown is set to apologise for the Child Migrants Programme, which lasted from the early 19th century to 1967. The programme sent an estimated 150,000 poor children overseas to avoid being a burden on the state. Although the children had been promised better lives, many ended up in institutions or treated as slave labourers on farms. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 4, Daily Telegraph page 12)

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Glasgow North East By-Election: Iain MacWhirter of The Herald writes that the SNP had the ability to win the Glasgow North East by-election, and that their loss should jumpstart new policies, including ditching the idea of an independence referendum. (Herald page 13)

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Former party leader Gordon Wilson has accused the SNP hierarchy of being out of touch with voters. Mr Wilson said that the Glasgow North East by-election loss showed that the SNP need to “get out more” and that leaders are too concerned with Holyrood and less concerned with meeting voters. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Herald page 8)

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Analysis of how Labour won and how the SNP lost (Sunday Herald page 18) and further reaction. (Sunday Times page 20)

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Tax Cuts: Alex Salmond is seeking to boost support for his independence referendum by offering wholesale tax cuts in a separate Scotland. He is proposing cuts in six areas including income tax, fuel tax and corporation tax, which could fall from 28 per cent to 20 per cent to attract more capital to the country and help the financial services sector. (Sunday Times page 5, Courier page 10)

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Independence Referendum: Alex Salmond is reportedly holding high-level talks with civil servants about rewriting his plan for an independence referendum, it has emerged. Days after Labour routed the SNP in the Glasgow North East by-election, the Sunday Herald claims that the First Minister is ready to drop the key question on independence he intended to put to voters. The rethink on the key policy was triggered when it became clear the opposition parties would not accept the SNP’s intended wording for the planned independence referendum. (Sunday Herald page 1,Times page 12)

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British-Irish Council: A major row has erupted between Westminster and Holyrood after the UK Government vetoed the proposed new HQ of the British-Irish Council in Edinburgh. Representatives of Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey all voted for the permanent secretariat to be based in the Scottish capital. However, the move was vetoed by Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who was representing the UK, at a meeting of the BIC on Friday in Jersey. (Sunday Post page 1)

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The Gathering: Lord Jamie Sempill, the organiser of the Gathering, has called for more taxpayers\’ money to be ploughed into the controversial event, even though it made a loss of £600,000 under his stewardship. Sempill said the level of public funding had to be "much higher" than the £500,000 invested in this year\’s event if the celebration was to be an economic success in the future. His remarks angered politicians, who are calling for a full investigation into the key attraction of the 2009 Year of Homecoming on 25 July after a series of embarrassing disclosures about its finances. (Scotland on Sunday page 4)

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Infrastructure: Professor Paul Jowitt, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, calls for investment in existing infrastructure and new projects. (Scotsman page 26)