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Daily Political Media Summary: 20 November 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 20 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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Public sector earnings:  Liberal Democrats have revealed that over 1,600 executive positions in the public sector are costing the taxpayer £400 million every year due to salaries around £100,000.  Additionally almost 3,000 people in the public sector earn £80,000. The figures could be higher as 38 public bodies failed to respond to requests for information. The largest salaries were paid by NHS Lothian, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews Universities.  The information was prompted by concern about the rising cost of public bodies in Scotland and has placed pressure on Alex Salmond to review executive pay. (Scotsman page 2, Times page 2, Press and Journal page 9)

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Unemployment: Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May has accused Labour of “sleepwalking their way through a recession” as British unemployment is predicted to reach 3 million in just over a year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  Additional concerns about the growing number of youth and long term unemployed have led to calls to do more to help what is likely to become “a lost generation”. (Scotsman page 7)  

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Trump estate:  Donald Trump’s controversial £1 billion golf course has appointed a local contractor to lay the foundations of the course.  Cullen firm Moray Landscapes have won the contract, however Mr Trump has advised that other local contractors will also benefit from future development of the course. (Scotsman page 13, Press and Journal page 6)

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Public borrowing: UK public borrowing soared to £11.4bn in October, compounding Alistair Darling’s problems as the chancellor prepares next month’s pre-Budget report. (FT page 3)

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Tax rises: Gordon Brown has stated that tax increases are required to bridge the gap in the UK’s public finances following a massive budget deficit. The OECD has reported that Britain’s finances are worse than any other of its 29 members.  (Daily Mail page 1)

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Transport 

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Fuel prices:  Scotland has experienced a hike in fuel prices in the last month with an overall monthly rise in 2009.  The AA has warned of increasing food costs due to the increase in the price of petrol to an average of 108.74p and diesel at 110p. Costs are being driven up due to increased global fuel costs. (Scotsman page 1) 

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Highlands:  Drivers in the Highlands are facing major disruption as it emerged that a second bridge which carries the A9 for a mile and a half over the Cromarty Firth requires major repairs. Public delays are already anticipated with the restoration of the Kessock Bridge almost 10 miles away. (Scotsman page10)

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Health

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Swine flu:  Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has advised that approximately 260,000 healthy children under five will receive inoculation against swine flu from mid-December to bring the Scottish policy in line with the rest of the UK. The move follows advice that children under the age of 16 are more likely to contract the disease. The death toll from swine flu has reached 39 in Scotland.  (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 1, Times page 9, Guardian page 14, Sun page 37, Daily Mirror page 21, Daily Telegraph page 9, Press and Journal page 14, BBC)

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Transplant pool:  The SNP have recently reported as part of their National Conversation series that the Scottish population is not large enough to provide a sufficient pool of organs required for transplant operations. Suggestions have been made that if the union is broken up, “cross border health cooperation” should continue.  The paper adds that the supply of blood across the UK should remain to comply with EU rules. (Scotsman page 11)

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Education

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Trust schools:  Keir Bloomer, former education director of Clackmannanshire Council, has backed the concept of trust schools as proposed by East Lothian Council, stating that councils would benefit from substantial tax benefits. The scheme proposes that control of schools is removed from local authorities and given to a community-led board of directors which encourages pooling of services to save money.  (Scotsman page 13)

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Literacy and Numeracy testing: The Scottish Government has come under heavy criticism from opposition MSPs and head teachers following plans to introduce “nightmare reforms” of literacy and numeracy testing in secondary schools, stating that it would be damaging to pupils. Opposition MSPs have stated that tests should be completed before pupils enter secondary education by which time it would be too late. (Herald page 11, Daily Telegraph page 10, Daily Telegraph page 10, TESS page 3)

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Rural schools: New legislation has been welcomed by campaigners in the North and North East of Scotland which will restrict councils closing rural schools. The Schools Consultation Bill will place strict rules on providing details at the start of any process which can allow early challenges to inaccurate information.  The move is expected to create more trust between councils and communities. (Press and Journal page 12)   

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Curriculum for Excellence: The successful implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence may be threatened as the 2001 national teachers agreement has not delivered expected improvements.  Although there have been improvements, senior chief inspector of education Graham Donaldson has warned that massive variation still exists among education authorities.  (TESS page 1)

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Teacher Training: A full-scale review of the way teachers are trained has been launched by the Scottish Government today. It will cover the training of teachers at the student stage and how this continues as they move through their career. The reviews will be carried out by Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector at HM Inspectorate for Education. He will start work in January and will report to ministers by autumn next year. The move comes in the run-up to next year\’s launch of the Curriculum for Excellence, which is intended to be the most radical education reform in a generation. (STV)

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Local Government

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Flooding: Communities in the Scottish Borders have been placed on evacuation alert following river banks bursting in Hawick and Lockerbie caused by torrential rain.   Gale force winds added to the chaos and left farms and highways flooded.  The Met office has warned of more flooding whilst train services between Glasgow and Edinburgh will also be affected. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 5, Times page 18, Sun page 19, Daily Express page 7, Daily Mirror page 26, Press and Journal page 1)

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Politics

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MSP staff:  Despite the recent pressure on MSPs over expenses, new figures have reported that 20 per cent of MSPs employ family members, predominantly as researchers or personal assistants.  Salaries are not disclosed, however MSPs can pay a total of £58,700.  The Scottish Parliament is now considering banning the practice following a Westminster review of the Welsh Assembly’s expenses. (Scotsman page 1)

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MSP expenses:  MSPs have come under further criticism following an increase of almost £1 million in expenses claimed over the last 12 months taking the total to £11 million.  The increase has been attributed to an increase in the wages of MSP staff.  (Daily Express page 4, Daily Telegraph page 6, Press and Journal page 9)

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Pay freeze: Councillors across Scotland have been told not to expect pay rises until 2012. The Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee, which published its third annual report yesterday, has told the Scottish Government to implement the pay freeze from 1 April. (Courier page 9)

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EU elections:  Following the appointment of Labour peer Baroness Ashton as the European Union’s first foreign minister, Gordon Brown has insisted that Britain would “remain a powerful voice in Brussels”. Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy has been named as the EU‘s first president ahead of Tony Blair whom Mr Brown had previously supported. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 1, Times page 1, Guardian page 1, Sun page 1, Daily Express page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 1)

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BBC: Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC has claimed that viewers are more concerned about repeats than executive pay, stating that a review of executive pay is not necessary.   Mr Thompson is, therefore, refusing to consider a pay freeze. (Daily Telegraph page 9)

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Lockerbie:  The release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi has been claimed to be political rather than on compassionate grounds by a family member of one of the victims.  Megrahi was allowed to fly home in August 2009 following medical advice that he only had 3 months to live due to cancer, however he is now stated to be “ill but not close to death.” (Daily Telegraph page 17)

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Politician of the year: Finance Secretary John Swinney has been named as the Scottish Politician of the Year at a ceremony in Edinburgh.  Mr Swinney was presented with The Herald newspaper accolade for his role in dealing with the recession and delivering a "council tax freeze". (BBC, STV)