Daily Political Media Summary: 4 February 2010

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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Scottish budget: The Scottish Parliament yesterday voted in favour of the SNP’s budget proposals with the Tories, Margo MacDonald and the Greens voting with the Government while 14 Lib Dems abstained and Labour voting against. (Herald page 6, Brian Currie in the Herald, Scotsman page 2, Sun page 2, Express page 2, Mail page 2, Record page 8, P&J page 1, Courier page 6, Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph)

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Independent budget panel: The SNP government yesterday agreed to establish an independent budget review panel to identify savings in Scotland’s £30bn budget. (Scotsman page 1, Eddie Barnes in the Scotsman, Times page 9)

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Beauly to Denny power line: Work is expected to begin on the controversial Beauly to Denny power line later this year, though final costs are still unknown. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 12, Courier page 3)

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Energy crisis: Ofgem yesterday warned that unless radical steps were taken to reform the energy system and free up £200bn of investment needed, there could be power shortages after 2015. (Scotsman page 17, Herald page 12, Mail page 1, FT page 3, Telegraph page 8, David Strahan in the Telegraph)

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Local Government

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Population growth:  A report published by the Registrar General for Scotland yesterday revealed that the number of people living in Scotland will rise from 5.17 million in 1998 to 5.54million in 2033.  However there are large fluctuations between areas raising concerns that some council areas may struggle to deliver key services due to increased demand. (Herald page 10, Courier page 4)

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Royal High School: George Kerevan in the Scotsman argues that the old Royal High School building in Edinburgh should be put to better use than turning it into a boutique hotel.

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Health

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Prescription charges: MSPs voted to cut prescription charges by £1 yesterday. The fall from £4 to £3 will happen in April. (Mail page 19, Record page 4, Courier page 7)

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Legal highs: The Scottish Government has called for the Home Office to take action to stop the spread of “legal highs”. (Courier page 1)

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Education

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Horizon Fund: Lecturers’ leaders and university principles have attacked the handling of a £110m Horizon Fund to boost innovation in higher education arguing it lacked independent scrutiny. (Herald page 5)

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Politics

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MPs’ expenses: Sir Thomas Legg, who was charged with auditing MPs’ expenses, is expected to publish his report today accusing MPs of exploiting a “culture of deference”.  Over 300 MPs are expected to be asked to pay back expenses. (Times page 3, BBC, STV, Express page 1, Telegraph page 1)

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Parliament’s committee system:  The Scottish Parliament’s Business Bureau has been criticised for assigning Margo MacDonald’s right to die bill to an ad hoc committee rather than the Health Committee.  The next ad hoc committee that is established is to be chaired by the SNP and accusations have been made that the decision was based on ensuring that the Referendum Bill, which will go to an ad hoc committee, will be chaired by unionist parties and not the SNP.   Members of the Health Committee have backed Margo MacDonald in criticising the decision. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 6, Sun page 2, Times page 23, Express page 2, Record page 8, P&J page 8)

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Lunch with the First Minister: Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon have been criticised for auctioning off lunches at the Scottish Parliament to raise thousands of pounds for the SNP’s general election campaign. (Herald page 1)

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BBC: The Tories at Westminster have said that if they win the general election the BBC Trust, which monitors the BBC, will be replaced with a new licence fee payers’ trust. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 10)

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Royal Navy: Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, yesterday announced that new aircraft carriers and replacement of Trident, which are both ties to thousands of Scottish jobs, would not be affected by any spending cuts or strategic review. (Scotsman page 4, Record page 4, Courier page 1, FT page 2)

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Public sector reform: Professor James Mitchell in the Scotsman argues that target based reform in the public sector does not deliver improved services.

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Conservatives: Fraser Nelson in the Times calls on David Cameron to be bolder, arguing that the party has yet to offer any great vision for society.

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Scottish Water: Scottish Water was yesterday accused of wasting almost £50million on outside consultants over the past four years. (Express page 6)