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Daily Political Media Summary: 6 January 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 6 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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Power line: Scottish ministers are expected to confirm today that a controversial plan to build a major new power line through the heart of Scotland will finally go ahead.

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The 137-mile line, between Beauly in the Highlands and Denny, is considered essential if Scotland is to tap into massive renewable energy resources from wind and wave power by adding extra capacity to Scotland\’s national grid. (Scotsman page 7, Herald, Press and Journal page 1, BBC, STV)

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Iceland loan repayment: Britain warned Iceland that it would be frozen out of the European Union after its President abruptly vetoed the repayment of a £3.6 billion loan. The Treasury expected Reykjavik to approve the terms of repayment for the loan extended by Britain and the Netherlands at the height of the financial crisis. The loan meant that 400,000 savers with deposits in Icesave did not lose their money. President Ólafur Grimsson stunned the world’s financial community by refusing to sign the repayment schedule into law. Instead, he said that the matter would be decided in a referendum among Iceland’s 243,000 voters. (Times page 1, Telegraph page B1, Courier page 14, Press and Journal page 14) 

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Transport

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Weather:  Britain has reportedly having the worst winter weather for nearly 30 years, with widespread disruption and warnings that temperatures are expected to plummet as low as –20C by the weekend. One in ten people stayed off work yesterday because of the conditions, sparking concern from business groups that it would cost the economy £60 million. Finance secretary John Swinney is due to make a statement on the conditions in Scotland today. Last night, he urged people to "pull together and look out for those in need". (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Guardian page 2, Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Mirror page 1, Daily Express page 1, BBC, STV) 

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Health

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Consultants’ bonus scheme: Scotland’s Health Secretary is calling for a multi-million-pound pay bonus scheme for hospital consultants to be abolished across the UK. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Gordon Brown saying the system, which costs taxpayers more than £350 million across Scotland, England and Wales, is out of date. She is seeking a UK-wide review of the practice, which can boost the salaries of Scottish consultants already earning £74,000 or more, by £74,000. Sturgeon is also suggesting it is replaced with a less expensive merit programme that rewards staff “more fairly” across the NHS. (Herald page 1) 

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Politics

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Tax powers: Lord Chancellor Jack Straw was last night accused of covering up deep divisions within the Labour leadership over the extent of devolved tax powers for the Scottish Parliament. The row erupted after Information Commissioner Christopher Graham published a report criticising Mr Straw for rushing out a veto preventing disclosure of detailed minutes of a Cabinet committee chaired by predecessor Derry Irvine in 1997 dealing with devolution plans. The minutes will include debates on the extent of tax-raising powers to be handed to Edinburgh, such as a proposal for the Scottish Government to control 50% of the proceeds of income tax, VAT and excise duties, which was watered down to a virtually unusable power to raise or lower income tax by up to 3p in the pound. (Press and Journal page 11)
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Disability benefit: The number of Glaswegians too sick to work is nearly double the national average.  A report by the Scottish Observatory for Work and Health (SOWH) found that 13.6 per cent of working-age people in the city claimed incapacity benefit, the main sickness allowance, in 2008. By contrast, only 6.9 per cent of adults in Edinburgh claimed the £80-a-week payment – now called the employment support allowance. Across the whole of the UK, the average figure was 7.1 per cent. (Scotsman page 16) 

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Labour spending: Labour was the only major party to increase spending during the campaign for last year\’s European elections, figures released yesterday by the Electoral Commission revealed. The party increased its poll fund by £600,000 to £2.3 million for the June contest – not that it did Labour much good. It was beaten into third place by the UK Independence Party (Ukip), which had its own budget cut by half to £1.3m. In Scotland, Labour had the biggest budget, spending £228,000, but still finished 90,000 votes behind the SNP. (Scotsman page 20, Courier page 3) 

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Minority Government: Peter Jones comments in the Scotsman on the possibility of Westminster following the Scottish Government’s example of a minority government after the upcoming general election. (Scotsman page 29)

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Community service: Convicted criminals have been helping to clear snow and ice from paths and pavements in Scotland. The Scottish government said offenders had been carrying out the task as part of their community sentences. The disclosure came as the First Minister called on the public to do their civic duty and clear snow from around their homes and those of their less able neighbours.  Alex Salmond, whose home is in Strichen, Aberdeenshire, said: “I would urge people to engage in self-help so that they have access to their driveways and pavements. They should do the same for their neighbours who might not be able to help themselves.” (Times page 6, Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph page 3, Daily Record page 1, BBC)