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Daily Political Media Summary: 8 January 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 8 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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Wind turbines: The UK government will today give the green light for up to 1,000 offshore wind turbines to be built in two locations off the Scottish coast. Rights are expected to be granted for developers to build huge projects in nine locations around the British coast. Two of the spots earmarked are in the Firth of Forth and the Moray Firth. In total, the offshore wind development is expected to generate up to 32 GW of electricity – the equivalent of 18 new coal-fired power stations – by about 2020. This is the equivalent to about a quarter of UK demand. It will be the biggest expansion of offshore wind ever seen in the UK and the first major development in Scotland. (Scotsman page 8, Times page 18, Press and Journal page 5, Courier page 6, BBC 

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Beauly-Denny power line: Bill Jamieson comments in the Scotsman on the Beauly-Denny power line and how the Scottish Government would be allowing it to ‘sacrifice the unique grandeur of the Highlands’. (Scotsman page 31, Press and Journal page 4) 

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National Grid: New charges proposed by the National Grid could jeopardize Scotland’s alternative energy industry. The proposals could double or even treble the cost of putting power in the grid and thereby make many renewable projects, including planned wind farms, uneconomic. The charges have been devised as a response by National Grid to the big spending required for new transmission lines to transport power from the growing number of renewable generators in the north of Scotland. (Times page 1) 

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Transport

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Cold weather: Scotland went into deep freeze last night, with predictions of a ten-day period of temperatures as low as –20C and fresh concerns about gas supplies and road conditions. After nearly three weeks of regular snowfalls, forecasters warned that the country was entering a new phase of sub-zero conditions that would last until at least the middle of January. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 1, Times page 1, Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 4, Daily Mail page 4, BBC, STV) 

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Local Government

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Coalitions: Edinburgh City Councillor Jenny Dawe comments in the Scotsman on how coalitions can work quite well, and a prime example of that is the Lib Dem/SNP coalition in Edinburgh. (Scotsman page 32) 

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Health

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Alcohol: The UK Government is being urged to follow the Scottish Government’s example on minimum alcohol pricing. The influential all-party Commons health committee has issued a report which also calls for an increase in the duty on spirits, tighter and totally independent regulation of alcohol promotion and vastly improved treatment for alcohol abuse. The report strengthens the attempt by the Scottish Government to impose minimum prices in the teeth of opposition from Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat MSPs. (Scotsman page 15, Press and Journal page 11, BBC) 

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Superbug infections: Levels of the superbugs MRSA and Clostridium difficile in Scottish hospitals have hit a record low. Cases of C difficile in patients over 65 between July and September last year were down almost a fifth on the previous three months. The Scottish Government said the figures showed that efforts to tackle superbugs were working. (Scotsman page 20, Daily Mail page 19, Daily Express page 2)

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Education

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School entry policy: The way Scotland’s top-performing education authority controls entry to one of its flagship schools was yesterday described as “a little odd” by a leading judge. Lord Uist made the comment during a judicial review of East Renfrewshire’s catchment area policy for St Ninian’s High School, in Giffnock – the country’s top-performing Catholic secondary school. East Renfrewshire has always argued that automatic admission to St Ninian’s can only be given to families living in specified streets – despite the fact documentation setting out the catchment area repeatedly refers to a “delineated area”. (Herald page 15) 

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Politics

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MP expenses: MPs could keep employing their spouses and continue flipping their second homes as expenses watchdog Sir Ian Kennedy yesterday set out a consultation document that appeared to defy previous pledges of a new regime. The new head of the parliamentary expenses system, the Independent Parliamentary Scrutiny Authority (IPSA), denied proposals had been "watered down", but the IPSA recommendations differ from the tougher proposals put forward in November by Commons standards watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 6, Times, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 13, FT page 2, Daily Express page 1)  

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FMQs: Lord Foulkes has called for FMQs to be moved from their noon slot on Thursdays to the afternoon. The Lothians MSP has written to the standards and procedures committee and asked for more opportunity for spontaneous supplementary questions. He is also demanding that the Presiding Officer curtails long questions and ensures that answers are relevant. (Scotsman page 14, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph page 7) 

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Quangos: Finance Minister John Swinney wants sweeping powers under the Public Services Reform Bill to undertake what has been dubbed a “bonfire of the quangos” but the Liberal Democrats, backed initially by Labour, wanted to force him to water down his proposals. An amendment by the Lib Dems calling on the Government to drop this section of the Bill fell by 62 votes to 58. Labour had condemned the section as a “ministerial power grab” but MSPs then voted by 104 votes to 16 to approve the Bill at stage 1, which means the battle will begin again at the committee stage. (Herald page 6, Telegraph page 7) 

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Labour leadership: Gordon Brown has brushed aside the third attempt to oust him from the Labour leadership as a “storm in a teacup”, while Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy dismissed an SNP call for his own resignation as childish nonsense. Mr Murphy was named as one of six Cabinet ministers who had given support to the failed putsch by former colleagues Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt. This has prompted Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, to call for his resignation. (Herald page 6, Times page 6, Press and Journal page 12, FT page 2, Guardian page 1, Daily Record page 2)