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Daily Political Media Summary: 19 April 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 19 April 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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General Election

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Lib Dems: Two new polls show the Liberal Democrats leading both Labour and the Conservatives in the general election race.  The party’s recent buoyant performance following last Thursday’s leader’s debate has forced the two main parties to sharpen their criticism of the Lib Dems. Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable has said the party is happy with its recent performance but that the campaign team’s feet were “firmly on the ground”. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 1, Andrew McKie in The Herald, P&J page 13, Boris Johnson in The Telegraph, Times page 4, Guardian page 10, Jackie Ashley in The Guardian, Sun page 6, Sunday Post page 8, Sunday Post page 5, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Chitra Ramaswamy comments on Nick Clegg in Scotland on Sunday page 11, Iain McWhirter in Sunday Herald page 7, Sunday Herald page 16, Sunday Times page 15)

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Labour: On the Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning, Gordon Brown admitted that he may have “lost” the leader’s debate on style but that substance would shine through in the end.  He added that the election isn’t a “talent show” and that Lib Dem policies would be exposed.  Though at times conciliatory towards the party, the Labour leader attacked their plans to cut tax credits and the child trust fund.  (P&J page 13, Courier page 1, Telegraph page 6, Sunday Post page 5)

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Alistair Darling: A Tory victory on 6 May risks plunging Britain into another recession, according to Alistair Darling. (Sunday Post page 9)

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Conservatives: Tory leader David Cameron said yesterday that he wanted to “accentuate the positive” in order to stave off a threat from the Liberal Democrats.  Mr Cameron said the only real change would come with a “decisive” Tory government willing to “get the job done”.  He also asserted that a vote for Nick Clegg was a vote for Gordon Brown and warned that a hung parliament would cripple hopes for true change.  (Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 1, FT page 4, Mail page 10, Mirror page 10, Express page 4, Sunday Post page 5, Duncan Hamilton comments in Scotland on Sunday page 17)

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Ken Clarke: The former chancellor offered scathing criticisms of Gordon Brown, reportedly saying the Prime Minister is handing the next government a “train crash” of an economy.  In a grave national crisis, he believes a strong majority government at Westminster is required.  (Scotland on Sunday page 4)

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SNP manifesto: The SNP is set to release its manifesto tomorrow, with promises likely to include a linking of the national minimum wage to earnings, a guarantee of free personal care, concessionary travel for pensioners, an extension of paternity leave, and increased support for veterans.  (Herald page 7)

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TV debate appeal: The BBC is preparing to hear the SNP\’s appeal against the decision to exclude the Nationalist party from the General Election leaders\’ debate. Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive, said there were strong indications that there will be a hearing with the BBC Trust, the corporation\’s governing body. (Scotland on Sunday page 2, Jenny Hjul comments in Sunday Times page 22, Sunday Times page 19)

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BNP: The BNP are facing embarrassing questions over the authenticity of a D-Day ­veteran featured on their website pledging his support and acting as a ­recruiting sergeant. Bob Head, 85, who describes himself as a hero and Normandy veteran, issued a statement last week calling on his “fellow patriots” to “fight against the destruction of our beloved Britain”. But since then apparent inaccuracies in Mr Head’s account of his involvement in the Second World War have come to light. (Sunday Herald page 11)

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Defence jobs warning: The UNITE union has warned that thousands of jobs in the Scottish defence industry would be put at risk by a Conservative victory.  (Herald page 7)

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Hung parliament fears: Investors are worried about the effects a hung parliament will have on efforts to address the UK’s £167 billion deficit.  (FT page 1)

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Economy

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Volcanic ash: Flights in and out of UK airports have been further suspended until at least 7pm tonight despite criticism from airlines that the ban, now into its fifth day, is excessive.  With no clear end to the flight embargo in sight, the government has said it may use the Navy to ferry travellers back to Britain. In Scotland, business leaders have said the Scottish economy is vulnerable as Britain’s closed airspace has cut the country off from Europe and America.  (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, P&J page 1, Courier page 1, Telegraph page 1, George Pitcher in The Telegraph, Times page 1, Guardian page 1, Mail page 1, Record page 5, Mirror page 6, Express page 1, Sun page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 1, Sunday Herald page 52, Sunday Times page 1)

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Goldman Sachs: Gordon Brown has labelled Goldman Sachs as “morally bankrupt” and called for an investigation into its UK business practices as it faces fraud charges in the United States.  The Royal Bank of Scotland has remained tight-lipped over whether it would launch legal action after it emerged that the bank was the biggest victim of the alleged $1 billion (£651 million) fraud.  America\’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has accused the Wall Street giant of defrauding investors over mortgage investments it sold as the US housing market was faltering. (Scotsman page 2, Telegraph B1, Times page 5, FT page 1, Mail page 8)

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Recovery: Economists believe it is “touch and go” as to whether Scotland has exited recession amid fears that figures due out this week will show the Scottish economy at least three months behind the rest of the UK. Most economists expect Scottish GDP data for the fourth quarter of 2009 to show that the country remained in recession while the UK as a whole recorded 0.4 per cent growth during the same period. (Scotland on Sunday page B1)

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Manifestos for business: Despite the polished performances in Thursday’s televised debate, the main party leaders have still failed to adequately explain to the electorate the magnitude of the UK’s economic problems.  The pundits are still demanding to know how Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Alex Salmond will be able tackle the UK’s debt burden.  (Sunday Herald page 46)

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UK economic outlook: Bill Jamieson comments in Scotland on Sunday that while tough tax and spending decisions are still to come, the UK’s latest economic picture has a positive outlook. (Scotland on Sunday page B5)

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Scottish jobs market: According to a report published by the Bank of Scotland, the Scottish job market enjoyed its best performance in March in over two years.  However, the Scottish Trades Union Congress has called for further investment in Scotland’s “fragile” labour market.  (Scotsman page 31, Herald page 25, Scotsman page 2, Herald page 1, P&J page 11, Courier page 10, Mail page 2)

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Public spending: Professor David Bell, advisor to Holyrood’s Finance Committee, has warned that the Scottish public sector could face spending cuts of up to 20% if the economy doesn’t improve.  It comes after an Audit Scotland urged ministers to use the upcoming public sector spending squeeze to reform the way in which frontline services are delivered.  (Herald page 2, Courier page 9, Sunday Herald page 1)

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Scotland’s share of public spending has become a key election issue in the wake of a new poll revealing that two-thirds of English voters want the next Prime Minister to slash funding north of the border.  A YouGov survey for The Sunday Times has exposed mounting English resentment over the level of Treasury funding Scotland receives — currently 20% higher than that south of the border. (Sunday Times page 1)

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Third Sector: Erikka Askeland writes in Scotland on Sunday that while the “third sector” now represents a £3 billion industry, for the most part the organisations are heavily reliant on local authority grants. With the public sector facing a funding crisis as the UK struggles under record levels of debt, many will find themselves struggling for finance. (Scotland on Sunday page B6)

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PPP/PFI: One of the UK’s leading experts on accounting standards has added to calls for HM Treasury to impose “full transparency” on the reporting of the UK’s private finance initiative (PFI) and public private partnership (PPP) liabilities before a new government imposes widely trailed cuts in public expenditure. With the UK’s indebtedness at record levels, concern for disclosure of the full liabilities of the UK taxpayer has become acutely political, amidst a backlash against perceived disguising of liabilities by the Labour Government. Experts are concerned that lack of openness over the PFI component of UK debt will blur the full picture of the nation’s finances and encourage poor investment choices in future. (Sunday Herald page 51)

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Water crisis warning: A report released today warns that a rising world population, growing demand for water, and the impact of climate change may create a water crisis that could last for decades.  Such a crisis would pose a “serious threat to the UK” as it could push up food prices, affect economic growth, and spark conflict.  (Scotsman page 12)

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Crime

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DNA database changes: Scottish Labour has launched a bid to allow police to keep DNA profiles from crime suspects on record for six years.  Should the law pass, it would bring Scottish policy in line with the rest of the UK.  (Scotsman page 9)

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Local Government

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Donor scandal: Scotland’s public spending watchdog has been urged to investigate a Labour-led local authority that allegedly paid a donor £5m for a housing development at the height of the recession, partly financing the deal by hiking council rents. The deal between South Lanarkshire council and James Kean, who funded the party in East Kilbride, was supported by councillors including Michael McCann Labour’s candidate to succeed Adam Ingram, the former armed forces minister and outgoing MP. Opposition politicians are now calling on Audit Scotland, the Accounts Commission’s investigatory body, to investigate Mr Kean’s financial dealings with the council. (Sunday Times page 6)

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Steven Purcell:  A senior Labour councillor and close ally of Steven Purcell has been questioned by police as part of an investigation into alleged drug-taking and corruption involving the former leader of Glasgow city council. Euan McLeod, who represents the Shettleston area of the city, was interviewed on Thursday by detectives investigating Mr Purcell’s use of cocaine and “other matters”. (Sunday Times page 6)

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Health

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Health board elections: Nominations for Scotland’s first health board elections begin today in Fife and Dumfries and Galloway.  The pilot programme is meant to give patients more say in how the NHS operates.  (Herald page 5)

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Education

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David Lee comments in The Scotsman on the slow pace of change in Scottish education and the need for plans to devolve control of schools to local communities to begin to happen now or else they risk not happening at all.

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Politics

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Banker’s dinner: Alex Salmond has been accused of hypocrisy after reportedly using taxpayers’ money to host a private dinner for bank bosses in January despite attacking them in public. The First Minister hosted a group of leading banking executives at Bute House, his official residence in Edinburgh.  (Sunday Herald page 12)

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Alcohol minimum pricing: Nicola Sturgeon stood by the SNP’s plans to introduce a minimum price on alcohol despite concerns by MSPs over the lack of information being provided by the Government.  (P&J page 7)