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Daily Political Media Summary: 8 March 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 8 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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UK debt: The Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors have both called for the UK Government to deliver a specific plan to balance Britain’s books by 2016.  Both groups would like the Government to lower the level of debt through public sector reform and not through tax increases. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 6, P&J page 1, Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 24, Express page 6)

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Iceland bank repayment: Icelanders have rejected a plan to repay the £2.3 billion that is owed to the UK due to the collapse of the savings bank Icesave.  Chancellor Alistair Darling has said Britain is committed to getting its money back, but would be flexible over the terms of repayment.  (Scotsman page 6, Courier page 11)

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VAT: Both Labour and the Conservatives are denying that they will either raise the rate of VAT or introduce VAT on food despite newspaper reports that Whitehall officials were informally discussing such measures to help tackle the UK’s budget deficit.  (Scotsman page 8, Express page 6)

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Scottish private sector: Activity in Scotland’s private sector increased for the eighth month in a row, but still trails the UK as a whole.  The main gains were registered in manufacturing as well as in the business and financial services sectors.  (Scotsman page 33, Herald page 26, P&J page 15)

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Budget: Bill Jamieson comments in Scotland on Sunday on the prospect of two Budgets and two elections potentially pushing fiscal stability further away. (Scotland on Sunday Business page 4, Sunday Times page B1)

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Lloyds TSB Scotland: Plans to reinvent Lloyds TSB Scotland as an independent Scottish bank have been dashed due to revelations over the level of its debt.  Former RBS chairman Sir George Mathewson had been just one of a number of Scottish financiers reportedly interested in making a bid for the bank, but it is believed private investors would face difficulty raising the billions of pounds needed to plug its vast funding gaps. (Scotsman page 2)

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Crime

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Jon Venables: It is alleged that Jon Venables has been sent back to prison on suspicion of child pornography and drugs offences.  Justice Secretary Jack Straw has refused to disclose the reason for Venables’ recall stating it was not in the public interest. (Scotsman page 4, Herald page 2, Courier page 13, P&J page 5)

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Transport 

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High-speed rail: Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has stated high-speed trains will operate between London and Scotland years before high-speed rail lines are actually constructed.  Current plans have a high-speed line opening between London and Birmingham by 2025, although talks have stalled with the Scottish Government over funding for an extension of the line from Birmingham to Glasgow and Edinburgh.  (Herald page 12)

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Local Government

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Steven Purcell: Glasgow East SNP MP John Mason has called for a review of Steven Purcell’s past decisions, something the Glasgow City Council has refused to do.  Mr Mason also called for an investigation into whether the Labour party knew of Mr Purcell’s alleged drugs habit.  (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 7, Courier page 13, P&J page 7, Telegraph page 8, Times page 3, Express page 2, Record page 7, Sun page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 1, Sunday Times page 1)

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Health

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Healthcare technology: Scottish healthcare is being compromised by slow progress in the introduction of new computing systems for the NHS according to the Scottish Parliament’s health committee.  (Scotsman page 17)

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Education

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Curriculum for excellence: Scotland’s second largest teaching union has demanded the new school curriculum be delayed amid concerns that most secondary teachers are unprepared for the upcoming reforms. It now leaves the Scottish Government with the task of attempting to implement the Curriculum for Excellence without the support of many in the secondary sector after the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) voted in favour of lobbying the Scottish Government for a delay at an emergency meeting of its council on Saturday. (Sunday Herald page 14)

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Education debate: The Scottish Government has called for a wide-ranging debate on the future of higher education funding but ruled out the introduction of top-up tuition fees. In his first major speech on higher education, Education Secretary Michael Russell said the SNP had “re-established the principle of free education” and would, therefore, not introduce tuition fees. (Sunday Herald page 14)

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Politics

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Lib Dem conference: Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has pledged hundreds of millions of pounds of extra cash for Scotland and thousands of jobs. Speaking in Perth at the Liberal Democrats’ conference, Mr Scott vowed that Lib Dem success in the forthcoming general election would result in an emergency budget in June, and said that in it Scotland would get an extra £300 million. He also put education at the forefront, saying his party would protect spending and give more power to teachers to help pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.  (Scotland on Sunday page 2, Sunday Herald page 17)

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Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg stated that universal child benefit should not be scrapped.  This reportedly differs from previous views expressed by Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable in September.  (Scotsman page 12)

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Finally, Lib Dem Scottish president Malcolm Bruce warned that an independent Scotland would be an ‘unpardonable folly’.  He argued the UK’s economic difficulties meant Scotland needed the union now more than ever.  (Herald page 6, Courier page 10, P&J page 8)

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Tory poll boost: Two new polls indicate the Tories are again opening a gap between themselves and Labour.  ICM gives the Conservatives a nine point lead, while YouGov points to a five point lead.  (Scotsman page 8)

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Public sector walkouts: More than 30,000 Scottish public sector workers will begin a 48-hour walkout today to protest at new redundancy measures.  Across the UK, 270,000 public sector workers are set to strike.  (Scotsman page 2, Herald page 1, Courier page 1, Telegraph page 12)

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Expenses: Sir Ian Byatt, chairman of the Water Industry Commission, has been criticised over expense claims.  They included £19,000 for travel between his home in Birmingham and Scotland, £36,000 to rent a flat whilst in Scotland, and an £830-a-day advisor.  (Herald page 4)

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SNP election campaign: Alex Salmond has revealed he will make widespread anger at Westminster sleaze and banking bail-outs a key plank of the SNP\’s general election campaign as he warned Labour and the Tories yesterday of a growing "rage against the system". (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 25)

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General election: Opposition parties increasingly think that the election may take place on 15 April. (Sunday Post page 2)