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Daily Political Media Summary: 5 March 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 5 March 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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ScottishPower:  A Scottish power station is expected to be given a share of tens of millions of pounds of government funding next week to develop technology for catching and storing carbon dioxide emissions. ScottishPower is one of two companies left in a competition for a government prize, expected to be worth about £1 billion, to be spent building one of the world\’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities. (Scotsman page 24)

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Scottish and Southern Energy: Consumer groups have accused one of the big six energy companies of short-changing households after it cut its standard gas bills by just 4%, or an average of 62p a week. Experts said the reduction announced by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) would still leave the average bill a third higher than two years ago and accused the company of failing to pass on the slump in wholesale energy prices to customers. (Herald page 1, STV)

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Crime

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Prisons: Female inmates will be sent to male-only jails closer to their homes following damning criticism of Scotland’s only prison for women. The radical move, to be announced today, follows a highly critical report earlier this year by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons that claimed the prison was “in crisis”, with most inmates ­living in unacceptable conditions. (Herald page 6)

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Transport 

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Edinburgh trams: Edinburgh’s tram developers were yesterday criticised for their "absurd" revelation that they are planning a fourth route even as problems mount with the half-built first line. (Scotsman page 13)

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Health

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Minimum alcohol pricing: Scottish Government plans to put a minimum price on alcohol suffered another blow yesterday after a judgment by the European Court of Justice. The court in Luxembourg ruled that similar measures on tobacco in Ireland, France and Austria were illegal and went against European directives. (Press and Journal page 9, Courier page 12

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Education

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Robert Gordon University: Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen contributes more than £300 million a year to the Scottish economy, according to an independent report yesterday.

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The university injects £227.5 million every year into the economy of the North-east alone, while the total national contribution is calculated at £302.2 million. (Scotsman page 16) 

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Class sizes: Councils say they will have to raise primary-one class sizes to 30 this year after the government admitted it was too late to legislate a lower limit. The Scottish Government earlier this week said it would not be able to introduce a new law limiting primary-one class sizes to 25. (Scotsman page 19, Daily Mail page 19, Daily Express page 2, STV) 

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Politics

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TV licence fee: The SNP has become the latest party to question the role of the BBC and its continued position as the national state broadcaster as part of the fallout over the exclusion of the Nationalist parties from the general election leaders\’ debates. Along with Plaid Cymru in Wales, the party has announced that it is to review is entire broadcasting policy, including whether people in Wales and Scotland should have to pay the licence fee. (Scotsman page 2, Telegraph page 1, Daily Mail page 11, BBC) 

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Stephen Purcell: Senior Labour figures have urged former Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell to issue a full statement laying out why he quit his post, warning he will not be able to move on until the full facts behind his departure are made clear. (Scotsman page 1, Bill Jamieson in Scotsman page 23, Herald page 4, Times page 11, Press and Journal page 9, Sun page 9, Daily Mail page 5, Daily Express page 7, BBC, STV) 

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Lord Ashcroft: Conservative Party staff were not interviewed as part of an inquiry into donations from its "non-dom" deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, it was revealed yesterday.  The Tories strongly denied the claim that they had stopped staff from participating in the inquiry, but the Electoral Commission maintained that its "protracted" attempts to interview key party figures during its investigation had been fruitless. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6, Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 1, FT page 1, Daily Mail page 4) 

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Liberal Democrats: The Scottish Liberal Democrat Spring Conference begins today in Perth. Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott said: “The spring conference will be the launch pad for the General Election we expect to take place in May. We’re at a time in politics when we have the most unpopular Prime Minister in polling history and yet a Tory Party who simply have not closed the deal with the British and Scottish people.” (Herald page 6, BBC, STV) 

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General Election: Labour Party sources have said they believe that the Prime Minister is preparing for a mid-April election as part of an attempt to maximise Conservative embarrassment over Lord Ashcroft and to avoid the announcement of potentially damaging economic data later in the month. The reports circulating about a 15 April date were fuelled yesterday when Leader of the House Harriet Harman announced a curtailed business agenda. (Scotsman page 3, Press and Journal page 12) 

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Hypnotist row: There were clashes at Holyrood yesterday over plans to spend £20,000 of taxpayers’ money to bring in TV hypnotist Paul McKenna to give a “pep talk” to jobless youngsters. At First Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Iain Gray taunted Alex Salmond with the revelation that the illusionist has been hired by Skills Development Scotland, which was set up by the Scottish Government, to talk to 260 youngsters at Hampden Park. (Courier page 16, Sun page 1, BBC)