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Daily Political Media Summary: 7 December 2009

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 7 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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Public Spending: Gordon Brown is planning to announce £12 billion in cuts from UK public spending – 25 per cent more than previously planned. The announcement comes ahead of Wednesday’s Pre-Budget report, in which Alistair Darling is expected to report that annual borrowing will top £175 billion. The savings are expected to lead to a £1.2 billion cut in the Scottish government’s grant. A Scottish government spokesman said this only strengthens the case for fiscal autonomy for the Scottish Parliament. (Scotsman page 1, Opinion page 28, Times page 18, Daily Telegraph page 4, BBC)

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Pre-Budget Report: Alistair Darling will announce a three-year cash freeze on spending, which will mean public sector pay freezes and job cuts. The cash freeze may mean a cut of nearly £40 billion over three years. Mr Darling is said to believe that public sector workers will have to match sacrifices made by private sector employees during the recession in which government jobs and pay have continued to grow. Alistair Darling is also considering a tax on high bonuses paid to City bankers. (Sunday Times page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 5, FT page 1, Guardian page 7)

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Gaming Industry: Scotland’s Dundee-based gaming industry is receiving a £2.5 million investment from the UK government. It is hoped that the funding will allow companies to exploit the potential of the growing computer games industry. (Scotsman page 11, STV)

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Crime

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Hoax Calls: Four men have been jailed since 2008 for making false 999 calls. A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said the prison sentences underlined the “robust” line being taken with those who endangered lives by making false claims about emergency situations. However, a member of the Fire Brigades Union said that jail time is the wrong course of action and that more money should be invested in education programmes targeted at young people and local communities. (Scotsman page 10, STV)

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Security Contractors: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has announced that, from today, any contract involving the supply of private security for the Scottish government will require those providing the service to belong to the Security Industry Authority’s approved contractor scheme. The move is announced ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce. (Herald page 11)

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Transport 

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Forth Road Bridge: Alex Salmond’s Council of Economic Advisors have recommended that he use private finance to pay for the £2 billion replacement Forth road bridge. The Scottish government’s current preference is to use public funding to pay for the project. A few of the advisors cited distaste for having to use private financing, but that it may be necessary and that the government will have to “take advantage of opportunities”. (Times page 5)

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High Speed Rail: Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy and one of the country’s foremost business leaders, has criticised the Scottish government and the business community for not doing enough to attract high-speed rail (HSR) north of the Border. While Westminster waits for the recommendations this month from the company set up by the UK government to plan HSR, Mr Marchant said it was vital for both economic and environmental reasons that any line does not terminate in the north of England. (Sunday Herald page 51)

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Health

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Drugs Funding: The Scottish government will today announce that £28.6 million will be used for drugs funding. The Government had been criticised for failing to meet a pledged manifesto commitment to increase funding for drugs rehabilitation services. The funding will be ring-fenced, partly to ensure that the money can be spent more efficiently. (Herald page 1, Comment by Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety page 6)

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Education

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Scotland’s Education System: A report by the London School of Economics suggests that Scotland’s economy is behind those of other nations because of the large proportion of Scots lacking formal qualifications. Researchers estimated this deficiency is costing the Scottish economy up to £2billion a year. (Sunday Times page 6)

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There is a profile of Michael Russell and what his appointment as Education Secretary may mean for Scotland’s education system (Scotland on Sunday page 14)

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Reactions to reported low teaching standards, misused funding, and violence in Scotland’s schools. (Scotland on Sunday, Elizabeth Smith MSP page 18, Sunday Times page 18, Sunday Times page 19)

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Lesley Riddoch of The Scotsman suggests using the Scandinavian model of pre-school education as a means of improving children’s wellbeing in Scotland. (Scotsman page 27)

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Brian Monteith of ThinkScotland.org argues in favour of education vouchers, citing successes in the United States, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. (Scotsman page 29)

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Politics

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Political Donation: SNP opponents and the Scottish Conservatives are calling for an independent audit into a donation accepted by Labour leader Iain Gray. The £800 donation came from Prestonpans Labour Party, which had used some council resources for its annual fundraisers. Critics are accusing the Labour leader of abusing taxpayers’ money and are demanding the money be returned. (Scotsman page 6, Herald page 10, Times page 23, Daily Telegraph page 12, Courier page 3, Sunday Post page 1, Sunday Herald page 1)

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National Trust for Scotland: Board members of The National Trust for Scotland are receiving criticism and increased pressure to resign after it was revealed that there was a £3.3 million loss on the sale of the organisation’s headquarters. Campaigners have alleged the loss was due to the Trust’s “bankrupt management style”. (Herald page 11)

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Climate Change: There is widespread coverage of the Copenhagen conference on climate change (FT page 1, Guardian page 1) as well as Scotland’s role. (Courier page 14, Press and Journal page 9)

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John Sturrock, chief executive of Core Solutions Group, suggests Scotland’s role in the climate change debate could be one of a third-party mediator between disputing nations. (Scotsman page 28)

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Although the number of wind farms in Scotland is set to triple, it has been reported that the Scottish government cannot meet its climate change goals unless there is more growth in the renewable energy sector, which may lead to possible disagreements between developers, residents and conservation groups. (Herald page 1)

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An independent poll has revealed that 63 per cent of Scots believe climate change is an “immediate and urgent problem”. (BBC)

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Scottish Independence: Polls are showing a two-year low in support for Scottish independence. Although polls since August 2007 appeared to show that support for independence was closing the gap on its opponents, pollsters now claim that there is a 15-point gap similar to when polling began. Nicola Sturgeon pointed out that the most recent poll was carried out before the release of the Scottish government’s White Paper on independence and pointed to another poll which said support for independence is at its highest point since May. (Herald page 1, STV)

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Lord Forsyth, the last Conservative Scottish Secretary, has said that UK-backed plans to give Holyrood more fiscal autonomy are “crazy”. Lord Forsyth also recommended that Gordon Brown propose an independence referendum to be put on the ballot paper during the May general election, which Lord Forsyth believed would settle the question “for the next generation”. (BBC)

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Jenny Hjul comments in the Sunday Times page 24

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Climate Change Protest: An estimated 8,000 people marched through Glasgow yesterday in by far the biggest climate change protest Scotland has ever seen. A further 20,000 took to the streets of London to demand action on the eve of the crucial world summit in Copenhagen. Political and religious leaders, trades unions, students, church groups, community organisations and environmentalists came together in an unprecedented coalition to demand “climate justice” for the world’s poor, who are already suffering due to changing weather patterns. (Sunday Herald page 10, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

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Council Pensions: The Scottish government wants to use £20 billion from council pension funds to pay for public building projects such as schools, roads and hospitals according to the Sunday Herald. Finance Secretary John Swinney is examining how some of the funds could be put into projects in return for a steady rate of interest, in the same way most council and private pension funds already invest in UK government bonds. (Sunday Herald page 13)