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Daily Political Media Summary: 23 April 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 23 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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Second debate: The General Election contest remained deadlocked last night, as the second TV debate saw the three party leaders fight themselves into a virtual tie. Liberal Democrat aides breathed a sigh of relief as a post-debate poll showed leader Nick Clegg had been judged the narrow winner by 33 per cent of voters, as against 30 per cent to Gordon Brown and David Cameron. While a smaller poll had Mr Cameron as the winner, the 90-minute debate appeared not to have burst the Lib Dem bubble. Analysis of five polls taken together put Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron tied on 33 per cent, with Mr Brown on 27 per cent. (Scotsman page 1, Tom Peterkin page 7, Bill Jamieson page 29, Herald page 1, page 7, Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, Guardian page 1, page 6, Press and Journal page 1, Sun page 7, Daily Express page 1, Daily Mirror page 1, Daily Record page 1, BBC, STV) 

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Westminster seats: If the SNP can achieve a 7 per cent swing and win the Dundee West seat from Labour, the city would become the first in Scotland to be Nationalist at every level of government – Westminster, Holyrood and local council. (Times page 35) 

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Economy

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Public borrowing: Annual public borrowing has soared to £163.4 billion, the worst deficit since records began. Despite the record debt, the figures published yesterday were lower than Chancellor Alistair Darling\’s forecast at the budget earlier this year. The total for the year to the end of March – excluding the temporary effects of government intervention – fell short of Darling\’s £167bn Budget forecast and was below his original £178bn estimate. The figures were still the worst since at least the Second World War, confirming the size of the task ahead for whoever wins the election. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 8, Courier page 11, Press and Journal page 12) 

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Scottish cuts: Public services in Scotland face a spending squeeze of up to £35 billion over the next 15 years, a report by Scotland\’s most senior economist in the civil service has warned. Andrew Goudie, chief economic adviser to the Scottish Government, predicted five consecutive years of real-term cuts and a further two years before growth returns as a result of UK finance plans. Average cuts to expenditure will be 3 per cent a year until 2014-15 and it could take between 12 and 15 years before spending returns to levels in the last financial year 2009-10. During that period, Scottish expenditure could lose between £25bn and £35bn in real terms, the report stated. (Scotsman page 2, Times page 17, Courier page 8, Press and  Journal page 12, Sun page 2, Daily Record page 2, BBC) 

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Tourism: Scotland will lose £2 million in tourism revenue from events cancelled because of the volcanic ash cloud disruption, finance secretary John Swinney told MSPs yesterday. He also said 3,500 teachers were among those stranded abroad – one in 15 – which is significantly higher than the previously estimated 2,000. However, 200 teachers had returned to work and the number absent "will now start to fall as the travel situation improves". (Scotsman page 15) 

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Manufacturing sector: Scottish manufacturers are continuing to win new business thanks to strengthening domestic and overseas demand although cost pressures are turning the screw on investment plans, according to the CBI. The business group\’s latest industrial trends snapshot, published yesterday, shows the volume of new orders gathered pace in the three months to April, with the balance hitting its highest since April 2006. Output volumes also grew for the third consecutive quarter, touching a near-four-year high. (Scotsman page B2) 

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Ryan air: Ryanair has agreed to reimburse stranded passengers for their accommodation and food costs, after facing criticism that its refusal to do so left it in breach of EU regulations. The Irish airline backed down yesterday after initially defying what chief executive Michael O’Leary described as “grossly unfair” rules. He had vowed to reimburse passengers only for the original price of their fares. However, yesterday the airline said it would comply with regulations under which EU airlines are required to pay the “reasonable receipted expenses of disrupted passengers”. (Herald page 12, Times page 20, FT page 9, Press and Journal page 4) 

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Health

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Minimum alcohol pricing: New forecasts on the impact of minimum pricing show the legislation would be less effective than previously thought. The latest Scottish Government report shows the anticipated lower threshold of 40p per unit, combined with a ban on discount offers at off- licences, would cut drinking by 5.1 per cent. It would also lead to 59 fewer deaths, 1,500 fewer hospital admissions and cut the cost of crime by £2.7 million each year. The new report is based on "the Sheffield study", which has been the cornerstone of the Scottish Government\’s case for minimum pricing. It has been updated with newly available 2008 figures instead of ones from 2003. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 2, Press and Journal page 12) 

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Education

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Diverse schools pilot scheme: Schools could become subject specialists under a controversial plan to devolve control of education away from local authorities, claimed a council leader. East Lothian\’s proposal to give more power to schools would hand over major spending decisions to head teachers and governing boards. The move could also save the authority £2.2 million in rates, if its schools become charitable trusts. Dave Berry, East Lothian Council leader, yesterday said individual secondaries could focus on languages, sport or even vocational qualifications under the plans. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 4) 

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Curriculum for Excellence: The Scottish Government has decided to press ahead with the introduction of a new curriculum and exams for secondary schools, despite widespread concern from the profession and threats of industrial action. Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, said there would be no delay in plans to roll out the Curriculum for Excellence to secondary schools this August. He also said planning for new qualifications, set to be introduced in 2013-14, will continue. (Herald page 4, Times page 20, Press and Journal page 9) 

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Politics

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Climate change targets: Alex Salmond and Labour leader Iain Gray have clashed over climate change targets after Government figures showed this year’s aim for cutting emissions is zero. Scotland has set a target of reducing emission by 42% by 2020 but Gray said tables published by the Government revealed this year’s figure was so low that it was registered at ‘zero’ but by 2013 it jumped to 9% in a year. (Herald page 9) 

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Debates: The BBC Trust has rejected a complaint by Scottish and Welsh nationalists over a decision which excludes them from taking part in a national TV leadership debate. SNP and Plaid Cymru politicians had lobbied for their leaders to take the podium alongside Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg in the third debate next Thursday. They argued that, because the BBC is a public service broadcaster and funded by the licence fee, the leaders of the devolved nations should also have their say. But the BBC Trust rejected the appeal yesterday. (Press and Journal page 7) 

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Dogs Asbo: MSPs have passed new legislation which will introduce "dog Asbos". The vote came after a Scottish Parliament debate on the Control of Dogs Bill, which has been put forward by MSP Christine Grahame. The new law gives councils greater powers to impose penalties, with a focus on the "deed and not the breed" of the dog. (BBC)