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Daily Political Media Summary: 21 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 21 December 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: The Confederation of British Industry has predicted that the British economy is unlikely to see GDP reach pre-recession levels by the end of 2011. The CBI has predicted 0.5 per cent growth in the fourth quarter of 2009 followed by “weak” growth of 0.3 per cent in the first half of 2010. After that, it forecasts that quarterly growth will be in the range of 0.5 to 0.7 per cent until the end of 2011. (Scotsman page 33)

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Scottish Government Spending: Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy has warned that Alex Salmond’s Government will “have to go on a bit of a diet” with regard to its spending. He claimed there was a “vast, vast, vast amount of waste” inside Scotland’s public sector bodies and that a “transformation” in service provision was needed. Mr Murphy also accepted that there would be a referendum on Scottish independence in the “next however many years”. (Herald page 1, Jim Murphy interview: Herald page 6, Opinion page 12)

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Crime

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Detention Centres: Home Secretary Alan Johnson has been urged to end the “cruel and unnecessary” practice of holding children in detention centres, after it was revealed that nearly 1,000 children have been detained for a month or more in recent years. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne wrote to Mr Johnson yesterday, urging him to stop the practice immediately, noting that it is “profoundly unBritish to lock up innocent children at any time, but particularly poignant at Christmas”. (Scotsman page 2)

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Prison Drugs Testing: Nine out of ten people want to see prisoners tested for drugs while they are in jail, the Scottish Conservatives have reported. An opinion poll for the Tories, carried out by YouGov, found 91 per cent of people questioned agreed inmates should undergo mandatory drug-testing. The Scottish Conservatives have repeatedly called for action to tackle the drugs problem inside Scotland\’s jails, including mandatory drug tests. Recent figures showed that drugs were found in prisons 1,705 times between 1 January and 23 November. (Sunday Herald page 19, STV)

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Transport 

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Eurostar: Thousands of passengers are stranded today as Eurostar cancelled all Channel Tunnel services for a third day. The operator said that a problem with the trains’ snow screens and snow shields has caused the disruption, which caused passengers to be delayed by up to 16 hours on Friday night and Saturday. More than 55,000 other bookings over the weekend have been cancelled by the disruption, and ticket sales have been suspended until after Christmas. (Scotsman page 5, Times page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1)

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Conservative MEP Nirj Deva has called for the resignation of the chief of Eurostar. Mr Deva said the company’s offer of a full refund, £150 compensation, and a free return ticket were a “paltry” consolation for stranded passengers. (Herald page 3)

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Globespan: Officials handling the collapse of Flyglobespan are due to meet with E-Clear, the credit card processing firm which failed to pass on at least £30million to the airline. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is attempting to figure out why the money from passenger bookings was held for three months, rather than the previous five days. Reports yesterday said that E-Clear had financial difficulties among the card firm’s associated companies. First Minister Alex Salmond and Finance secretary John Swinney called for an investigation into the collapse of Globespan and the role of E-Clear in its demise. (Scotsman page 13, Times page 3, Business page 43, Daily Telegraph page 2, Sunday Herald page 1, page 12, John Swinney comments in Sunday Herald page 13,  Sunday Post page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Times page 5, page 20, Daily Record page 10, FT page 3, Press and Journal)

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Transport Scotland: Dr Malcolm Reed, who retired from his £125,000-a-year job as Chief Executive of Transport Scotland was reportedly given a £30,000 payout for leaving his job early. (Herald page 1)

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Health

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Thalidomide Victims: The UK Government is expected to announce a payout of £20million to 450 Thalidomide victims, as well as issuing a formal apology. (Herald page 2)

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Exercise: New figures show that more than a million men and women did not participate in any sporting activity over a year, including walking. A quarter of all adult women in the country told a survey they had been completely inactive over the last year. A slightly smaller percentage of men, 19 per cent, said they too had done no physical exercise either. It comes amid warnings from Scotland\’s leading health officials that improvements in the country\’s health record in recent years could be reversed by a growing obesity crisis, and chronic ill health. The figures also show that the most inactive people in the country are also the poorest, with nearly 40 per cent of those in the most deprived parts of Scotland saying they had done no exercise in the year 2008. (Scotland on Sunday page 9)

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Education

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Academic Success: Jenny Hjul comments in the Sunday Times on Scotland’s new Education Minister Mike Russell and points out that deprivation continues to have a major impact on attainment and the correlation between failure and a disadvantaged background is glaring. (Sunday Times page 24)

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Scottish Education System: Keir Bloomer, former education director and chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council, comments on the performance of Scotland’s education system. (Scotsman page 27)

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Politics

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Lockerbie: There have been reports that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi held almost £2 million in a Swiss bank account during his trial. Last night the Crown Office confirmed that a “substantial sum” had come to light in 2000, with one source estimating the figure at £1.8 million. Evidence of al-Megrahi’s riches was passed to prosecutors by the Swiss authorities in 2000, but was deemed inadmissible because legal proceedings had already begun. (Sunday Times page 1, Times page 5, Daily Record page 2, Daily Mail page 5, Daily Express page 7, Press and Journal, BBC, STV)

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It has been made known that the health of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the only convicted Lockerbie bomber, is deteriorating. A report from the Tripoli Health Centre in Libya stated that al-Megrahi was admitted to hospital on Saturday, suffering from vomiting and coughing, and it was discovered that his prostate cancer has spread to other parts of his body. It has been estimated that al-Megrahi may only have weeks to live. Today is the 21st anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing. (Scotsman page 1, Opinion page 26, Herald page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1)

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Treasury: The Treasury is under pressure to explain why rules that stymied plans for a £138 million Scottish Investment Bank appear to have been applied less rigorously in Wales. With business leaders calling for politicians in Edinburgh and London to overcome their differences and focus on business investment in Scotland, it remained unclear how officials of the Welsh Assembly Government bypassed Brussels regulation that deterred Finance Secretary John Swinney from a £69m loan application for European funding. If obtained, the sum would have doubled the investment capacity of a business-supporting Scottish Investment Bank (SIB). Mr Swinney last week criticised the Treasury for effectively killing off Scotland’s plans to apply to the Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) fund at the European Investment Bank (EIB) by insisting that the loan would be subtracted from the Scottish budget unless a private company was established to administer it.  (Sunday Herald page 42)

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Blogging Row: Mark MacLachlan, who left Michael Russell MSP’s constituency office after being exposed as the author of a blog, began proceedings for unfair dismissal against his former boss on Friday. Mr Russell vehemently denies knowing Mr MacLachlan ran a website, The Universality of Cheese, which reportedly anonymously smeared rival politicians. Mr MacLachlan has maintained Mr Russell did know about the blog and even suggested items, a claim Mr Russell says is “totally false”. Mr MacLachlan, 47, also claims he did not resign, as the Government said, but was effectively sacked and that his ‘resignation letter’ was drafted by Kevin Pringle, Alex Salmond’s most senior adviser. (Scotsman page 10, Sunday Herald page 3, Sunday Times page 1, page 5, Magnus Linklater in the Sunday Times page 20)

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Alasdair Morgan, the SNP deputy presiding officer, has been reported to Holyrood\’s standards watchdog after his parliamentary aide was dragged into the blogging controversy. The Labour Party reported Morgan after it emerged that his assistant, Rob Davidson, had falsely denied his involvement with a pro-independence blog that smeared political rivals. The complaint has been made on the basis that the MSPs\’ code of conduct states that Holyrood members should be responsible for the behaviour of their staff. Davidson, who is also the leader of the SNP group on Dumfries and Galloway Council, is facing SNP disciplinary proceedings for suggesting topics that could be posted on an "attack blog" run by Mark MacLachlan.(Scotland on Sunday page 9)

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Nuclear Power: The Council of Economic Advisers, led by Sir George Mathewson will consider building new nuclear power stations as part of Scotland’s future energy generation mix, despite the SNP government’s opposition to the energy source it has branded “dangerous” and “expensive”. Sir George, a former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, insisted that nuclear power would be discussed in the council’s annual report next year. A report by consultants Wood Mackenzie, commissioned by the committee and published last week, failed to include nuclear power as a potential option for Scotland. (Sunday Times page 3)

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Labour MPs: Cathy Jamieson, the former Labour justice minister, is to seek her party\’s candidacy for the Westminster seat of Kilmarnock and Loudoun, left vacant by the ex-Defence Secretary Des Browne. If she wins the seat, she would continue as an MSP for a year, before resigning from Holyrood ahead of the 2011 Scottish elections. Holyrood colleague Margaret Curran has already announced her plans to contest Glasgow East at next year\’s UK general election. If both succeed, it would mean Labour\’s Scottish Parliament team would lose two prominent female members to Westminster. (Scotland on Sunday page 9, Sunday Herald page 8, Daily Record page 2, STV)

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Copenhagen: Climate Change secretary Ed Miliband has said the climate change summit was “disappointing”, but insisted that important commitments were made regarding emissions and finances. Mr Miliband said the real challenge was making these commitments legally binding, but that there was some “impossible resistance” from a number of developing countries, including China, which was unwilling to commit. (Scotsman page 11, Opinion page 26)

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Iain MacWhirter of the Herald writes that climate change is up to China and the United States. (Herald page 11)

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Expenses: More than 100 peers in the House of Lords each claimed more than £50,000 in expenses for their second home in 2008-9, significantly above the maximum £24,000 allocation. Overall, the peers claimed a total of £19million, a seven per cent increase on the year before. (Daily Telegraph page 1)

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Beauly-Denny Power Line: Charlene Sweeney of the Times reports on the dilemma facing Scottish Ministers regarding the construction of pylons in the Highlands. (Times page 13)