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Daily Political Media Summary: 19 November 2009

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Media Summary: 19 November 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

Economic growth: The Prime Minister has put economic revival at the heart of his general election strategy, promising to ‘go for growth’ as he ploughs windfall savings from lower-than-expected unemployment into a scheme to help young people find work. Fear of youth unemployment rising above 1 million in the New Year prompted Gordon Brown to use the last Queen\’s speech of the parliament to promise more money to ease the impact of the recession on the young. Ministers are keen to ensure that unemployment for those aged under 24, currently at 943,000, does not rise above the politically sensitive 1 million mark, denting Labour\’s claims about economic recovery in the build up to the election. (Guardian page 1, FT page 1) 

Commonwealth Games: Contractors have fallen behind schedule in the race to get Glasgow ready for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The Holyrood spending watchdog has revealed the delayed projects include the new national indoor sports arena and the revamp of the national swimming centre in Glasgow. The announcement comes just days after the budget for the Games increased by £81 million, from £373m to £454m, and has prompted the opposition in Holyrood to call for a parliamentary statement. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 13, Times page 13, Telegraph page 11, Courier page 9, Sun page 2, Daily Mail page 13, Daily Express page 2, STV) 

Homecoming: The Scottish Government is set to be asked to provide a further bailout in the wake of the financial failure of this summer\’s huge clan gathering in Edinburgh. Senior councillors have revealed the city is unlikely to be able to settle the £300,000 debts run up by the centrepiece event of the Year of Homecoming. They are expected to ask the Government, which has already written off £180,000 of debts from the event. (Scotsman page 19)

Hotels:  Glasgow and Edinburgh are the only two cities in Europe where hotel bookings are up despite the recession. The cities have beaten destinations including London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Dublin and Paris by attracting more visitors to its hotels this year than last. (Herald page 11)

Crime

Police budget cuts: Hundreds of police staff are set to lose their jobs after Scotland’s largest force announced sweeping budget cuts. Strathclyde Police said that multi-million-pound holes in its budget left it with no choice but to tighten the purse strings across all operations, prompting warnings that frontline services would suffer. Chief Constable Steve House said he expected “stark” budget deficits of £16 million next year and £30m the year after, with the shortfall “continuing to grow in the years ahead”. (Herald page 1, Times page 14)

Online crime: Police in Scotland have identified more than 200 men who were preying on children online and grooming them for sexual activity, it was revealed yesterday. In the operation by Central Scotland Police, which so far has led to 15 arrests with other prosecutions pending, detectives uncovered thousands of explicit exchanges between the men and their young victims on social networking sites. (Times page 10, Courier page 9, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Express page 10, Daily Record page 7) 

Bigotry: The Scottish Government plans to crack down on bigotry by using football banning orders for every case of sectarian abuse at games. Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing wants the measure to be used much more widely.  Former First Minister Jack McConnell reportedly said yesterday Alex Salmond would be ‘exposed as a coward’ unless the SNP Government clamped down on bigots. (Sun page 2, Daily Record page 4)

Transport 

Forth Bridge: Scrapping the Trident nuclear missile system could pay for almost the entire cost of the proposed new Forth bridge, the Scottish Government has said. Scotland would in theory stand to gain up to £1.7bn if the money saved from scrapping Trident was shared out across the UK on a population basis, it said. The claim came in the Scottish Government’s response to a report prepared by a working group on nuclear weapons in Scotland. The Government said the £1.7bn would in theory be available between 2012 and 2027. (Herald page 7, Daily Mail page 24, Daily Express page 15)

Health

Social care: Vulnerable adults are set to lose home support workers they have relied on for years as Scottish local authorities switch their care providers in an attempt to cut costs during the recession. A full meeting of Edinburgh City Council today is expected to agree a reallocation of services, to the dismay of those who use them. (Times page 25) 

Education

New schools: Claims by SNP ministers that they are responsible for building 236 schools since coming to power have been met with the response from Labour that almost 70 per cent of them were started before they came to power. A written answer has shown that the first bricks at 157 of the schools which the SNP have claimed as their own were laid in May 2007 or earlier, before Alex Salmond\’s government was sworn into office. (Scotsman page 22)

Curriculum for Excellence: The biggest curriculum reform in Scottish education is impractical and will create a nightmare for teachers and pupils, a leading expert will warn today. Carole Ford, the outgoing president of School Leaders Scotland, will launch a scathing attack on parts of the Curriculum for Excellence. She is set to claim that serious errors are being made because head teachers’ views are not being taken into account in the development of the replacement for the existing 5-14 curriculum. (Times page 22, Courier page 11, BBC)

Politics

Fiscal powers: The Conservatives were last night under pressure to outline their position on devolution, after Labour used the Queen\’s Speech to pledge greater powers for Holyrood ahead of the next Scottish Parliament elections. The UK government committed to "take forward" as many of the Calman Commission proposals as possible before 2011, saying its plans would be published in a white paper over the next two weeks. The Conservatives have refused to declare which Calman proposals they would adopt and which they would reject. But with the Tories favourites to take power after next year\’s general election, Labour\’s announcement puts pressure on them to declare whether the Calman proposals would be a priority for an incoming Conservative government. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Times page 20, Telegraph page 7, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph page 7, Courier page 10, Press and Journal page 1, Sun page 7, Daily Mail page 8, STV)

Lockerbie: Calls for the documents, which cast doubt on the Lockerbie bomber\’s conviction, to be made public intensified yesterday, three months after his release. The Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown MSP demanded full details of an investigation carried out by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. It was the SCCRC that recommended that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi should appeal his conviction for a second time. (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 11, Telegraph page 11, Press and Journal page 8, Daily Record page 2) 

Queen’s Speech: Gordon Brown set out Labour\’s battle lines for the general election, but his legislative programme outlined in the Queen\’s Speech has been denounced by the opposition as lightweight – and much of it has little chance of being implemented. The Prime Minister put forward 13 bills, but at most, he has only 70 days of parliamentary time left to get them passed. He insisted the Queen\’s Speech, with its emphasis on fiscal reform, had drawn the dividing lines between Labour and the Conservatives ahead of the election. The Tories reject that claim, saying they shared many of the priorities, such as tackling poverty, but did not believe legislation was the solution. (Scotsman page 4, Bill Jamieson in the Scotsman page 7, George Kerevan in the Scotsman page 29, FT page 2, Courier page 10, Sun page 7, Daily Express page 6) 

Nuclear Power: A survey has revealed that more than half of Scots support the use of nuclear power stations to provide Scotland\’s energy. The YouGov poll showed that 61 per cent of those surveyed here thought nuclear power should be part of the energy mix. The Scottish sample of the poll was 431 out of 1,000 people surveyed across the UK. (Scotsman page 16) 

Quangos: An investigation into the salaries paid in Scotland’s quangos has shown that NHS chiefs dominate the public-sector pay chart with salaries dwarfing those of the Prime Minister, First Minister Alex Salmond and also the leaders of other major public bodies.

The leading earners in 59 non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) were surveyed by online magazine the Scottish Review, revealing that six public-sector executive board members are paid more than Gordon Brown. (Herald page 5, Daily Express page 15)

Taxes: The Prime Minister has been careful not to risk a backlash by stating that new tax rises are inevitable – something many commentators believe is necessary if the country’s finances are to be put back in order. But Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary, said that "there will be changes in tax and public spending".  (Telegraph page 1) 

MPs’ expenses: Six MPs and peers are facing criminal charges of fraud following investigations by Scotland Yard into the abuse of the parliamentary expenses system. Detectives will pass files imminently on the Labour MPs Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine, and peers Baroness Uddin, Lord Hanningfield and Lord Clarke of Hampstead to the Crown Prosecution Service, Westminster sources have reportedly said. (Telegraph page 1) 

Expenses reform: David Cameron put the lack of proposed legislation to clean up MPs’ expenses at the heart of the Tory attack on the Queen’s Speech, as he renewed his call for an immediate general election. (FT page 2)