Daily Political Media Summary: 18 January 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 18 January 2010

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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: Edinburgh has been named as one of five UK cities that could lead the nation out of recession. The Centre for Cities think tank report also highlighted some underlying differences between cities in Scotland. It lists Edinburgh and Aberdeen as being in a strong position to move forward, whilst Glasgow has a “mixed” outlook and Dundee is described as “tough”. (Scotsman page 1, Opinion page 28)

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Tourism: Figures have shown tourism in Scotland rose significantly from last year. Tourists in Scotland spent about £540million last summer, an increase of £38million from the same period in 2008. Visits from North America increased 25 per cent and visits from outside Europe and North America increased 43 per cent from last summer. Tourists spent about 7 per cent more, an increase of about £38million. The increase in numbers has been largely credited to the Homecoming Scotland campaign. (Scotsman page 3)

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Scottish Investment Bank: Alex Salmond is said to be in talks with banks and private investment funds to back a revamped £300 million Scottish Investment Bank. Mr Salmond and his investors are said to be “optimistic” about plans for the bank. (Sunday Herald page 56)

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Company Tax: Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is facing intensifying business lobbying over how the Tory pledge to cut the headline rates of corporation tax will be funded. Mr Osborne said he remained committed to cutting the main rate of corporation tax by 3p to 25p and the smaller companies’ rate to 20p as part of a fiscally-neutral package. The FT has included an analysis of possible pitfalls of the Conservatives’ policies (in print only). (FT page 3)

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Crime

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Police Force: The chief constable of Scotland’s largest police force area expressed concern that a single police force in Scotland could mean a “rise in rural crime”.  Northern Constabulary chief Ian Latimer warned that areas of high crime could be targeted with more police officers, moving policemen from more rural areas and so leaving them open to crime. (Scotsman page 12)

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Local Government

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Regeneration Project: Edinburgh is set to be the “guinea pig” for a regeneration project. The city council is said to be in the final stages of securing a £70m piece of a £700m plan which will see Ocean Terminal double in size to create thousands of extra feet of retail space. The city council is using a variation of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund the project. Edinburgh city council will borrow from state council lender the Public Works Loan Board and use future business rates instead of council tax as security. (Sunday Herald page 54)

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Edinburgh School Budgets: Edinburgh city councillors are being pressured by head teachers to close under-occupied nurseries and schools rather than cutting the budgets of individual schools. (BBC)

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Health

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Excessive Drinking: Scots reportedly drink 25 per cent more alcohol than people living in England and Wales. Average sales per adult last year amounted to 12.2 litres of pure alcohol – the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka, 537 pints of beer or 130 bottles of wine. Chronic alcohol abuse in Scotland costs the economy £2.25 billion a year in crime, days lost from work, and health and social problems. (Sunday Herald page 12, Sunday Times page 7, Scotland on Sunday page 8, Times page 16, Sunday Post page 1, Courier page 3)

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Scotland’s police are criticising the consumption of the high-alcohol volume drink Buckfast tonic wine. Police figures have shown that Buckfast was mentioned in 5000 crime reports in the last three years and that one in ten of these were violent incidents. The drink contains the amount of caffeine contained in eight cola drinks. Labour MSP Richard Baker said that there needs to be legislative action on the amount of caffeine in alcoholic beverages. (Scotsman page 2, Opinion page 28, Sunday Post page 17, Daily Telegraph page 11, Courier page 3, BBC)

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Brian Monteith of ThinkScotland.org argues that the alcohol consumption debate in Scotland has been led by misleading reports and statistics. He suggests the way forward is to change social and cultural attitudes toward drinking rather than punishing those who are moderate consumers. (Scotsman page 29)

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NHS Pay Increases: One hundred NHS board members had their salaries increased, which is an overall rise of 6 per cent. Board members’ salaries averaged £111,000 to £114,000. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Herald page 7, Times page 19, Press and Journal page 6)

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Drugs: Scotland’s NHS has allocated £4.5m over the next three years for drug paraphernalia needed by drug users. The Scottish Government has conceded the money in hopes that it will discourage drug addicts from sharing needles therefore reducing the risk of diseases such as hepatitis C. (Daily Scottish Mail page 1)

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Education

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Curriculum For Excellence: Education secretary Mike Russell has been criticised for taking action that is “too little, too late” in training teachers for the upcoming Curriculum For Excellence strategy. Mr Russell has sent a letter to every teacher in the country promising an extra training day during the summer which will prepare teachers for the new curriculum. Teachers unions have complained that a “one size fits all” training day is insufficient and that specific subjects must be addressed. (Scotsman page 8,)

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Class Sizes: Mike Russell has admitted that the SNP’s promise of reducing class sizes to 18 in the first three years of primary by the next parliament may not be realistic. Currently, only 13 per cent of P1 to P3 children are taught in class sizes of 18 or fewer. Mr Russell said “Getting to 20 per cent by August 2010 is a realistic aim”. (Scotsman page 9, Sunday Herald page 1, Sunday Times page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 11, Times page 19, Daily Telegraph page 11, Sunday Post page 5, Daily Express page 2)

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Politics

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Scottish Budget: The annual review of the Scottish Budget is underway, with the three stages of the debate set to be 20 January, 26 January, and 3 February. (Sunday Post page 15)

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SNP Finance secretary John Swinney, Labour leader Iain Gray, Greens Co-Convener Patrick Harvie, Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott, and Conservatives leader Annabel Goldie outline what their respective parties want in the Scottish Budget. (Sunday Herald page 16)

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Scottish Independence: A UK Government report claims that independence would cost every household an extra £2,700 a year to maintain current welfare spending. The Scotland Office study said the money would be needed to fill a “black hole” in the finances of a separate or fiscally autonomous Scotland. The report, Expenditure and Revenue, is to be published this week ahead of Alex Salmond’s independence referendum bill. (Sunday Times page 4, Scotland on Sunday page 2)

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Nuclear Waste: A major consultation has been launched to find solutions for Scotland’s radioactive waste disposal. Environment secretary Richard Lochhead claimed the Scottish Government had been left to manage the nuclear industry’s legacy of high-level radioactive waste at great expense. (Sunday Post page 15)

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Illegal Immigrant Lobby: Alex Salmond has been criticised for allegedly lobbying on behalf of an illegal worker who was later arrested for failing to appear in court following drugs charges. It is claimed that Mr Salmond lobbied on behalf of the restaurant owner by sending a letter to the Home Secretary, asking for the man to be granted indefinite leave to remain in the country last month. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 6, Courier page 3, Daily Express page 2, Daily Scottish Mail page 1, Daily Record page 2)

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Scottish National Trust: Former SNP MSP George Reid said a merger between National Trust for Scotland and its English counterpart could save the organisation £8 million. Mr Reid said despite the savings, he does not endorse the merger because “At the end of the day, it’s not a National Trust issue, it’s a Scottish issue” and that losing the charity would mean a cultural loss for Scotland. (Scotsman page 18, BBC)

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Beauly-Denny: Scotland’s Energy Minister Jim Mather has defended his decision to go ahead with the Beauly-Denny pylons, saying that it is essential to the transformation of Scotland’s economy. He is interviewed in the Herald on page 2.

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Spin Doctor Row: The Conservatives have criticised Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy for allowing his spin doctor, John McTernan, to speak at an event organised by Reform Scotland which they claim is a breach of the civil service code. (Herald page 6)