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Daily Political Media Summary: 26 April 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 26 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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Scottish leaders’ debate: Scottish secretary Jim Murphy, Conservative shadow Scottish secretary David Mundell, Liberal Democrat Scottish spokesman Alistair Carmichael, and First Minister Alex Salmond met in Edinburgh yesterday to take part in a Sky News debate on Scottish political issues.  Benefits, banking, immigration, defence and foreign policy, civil liberties, and petrol prices were among the topics discussed during the 90 minute event.  (Scotsman page 6, Christopher Mackie in The Scotsman, Lesley Riddoch in The Scotsman, Herald page 7, Alison Rowat in The Herald, Andrew McKie in The Herald, P&J page 13, Courier page 1, Alan Cochrane in The Telegraph, Times page 8, Sun page 6, Express page 4, Mail page 8)

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Liberal Democrats: Nick Clegg has said that his party will not enter into a coalition with Labour if Gordon Brown’s party comes third in the popular vote.  (Scotsman page 4, Telegraph page 6, Guardian page 10, Jackie Ashley in The Guardian, FT page 2, Sun page 6, Sunday Post page 6, page 15, Sunday Times page 17, Jenny Hjul in Sunday Times page 24)

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Boris Johnson comments in The Telegraph that Labour’s miscalculation to boost Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats through the leaders’ debates is squeezing the party out of what remains essentially a two-party political system.

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Hung Parliament: David Cameron yesterday issued his strongest warning yet about the dangers of a hung parliament, claiming it could result in Labour clinging on to power in a deal with the Liberal Democrats. In a strategic move designed to undermine a Labour-Lib Dem coalition, the Conservative leader attacked suggestions that Nick Clegg would be prepared to go into government with Labour on the condition that Gordon Brown was dropped as leader. (Sunday Post page 7, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday page 11)

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Tory seats grab:  Conservative strategists have identified 20 previously un-winnable Labour seats that they now believe have a chance of swinging to the Tories thanks to the recent rise of the Liberal Democrats.  These include two held by current cabinet ministers John Denham and Ed Balls. (Telegraph page 1)

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State of the Conservative party: James Cusick interviews former Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rifkind on the future of the Conservative party. Jason Allardyce interviews Malcolm Scott, the party’s treasurer. (Sunday Herald page 8, Sunday Times page 6)

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Labour election strategy shift:  Gordon Brown has reportedly changed Labour’s election strategy and will now concentrate on Labour’s economic record in surviving the recession, the party’s plans to continue the fragile recovery and the risk to jobs if he lost. (Sunday Herald page 1)

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Welfare warning:  Gordon Brown has warned voters that David Cameron was planning an “assault on all the pillars of the welfare state” with cuts that would start in the North-East of England and spread across the country.  (Herald page 6)

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Labour PR vow: In an effort to woo the Liberal Democrats, Home Secretary Alan Johnson yesterday said Labour would go beyond its current plans to introduce a referendum on the more limited Alternative Vote system, and consider some form of more direct proportional representation.  (Herald page 1, P&J page 12, Courier page 11)

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Green manifesto launches:  Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats launched green manifestos yesterday, with Labour targeting growth in low-carbon economic areas and the Lib Dems championing renewable energy and emissions cuts. (Guardian page 12)

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Election coverage row:  Labour has accused the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats of pulling out of a joint statement to broadcasters expressing concern that the networks have concentrated on the leaders’ debates at the expense of wider policy issues.  A Labour party spokesman said the two parties were “scared” of a proper policy debate.  (P&J page 12, Guardian page 11)

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SNP leaders’ debate block:  The SNP is set to go to court in an attempt to block this week’s third and final leaders’ debate from airing. The Nationalists have launched a £50,000 fighting fund campaign to pay for the court action, with £25,000 already having been raised.  They plan to lodge papers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Tuesday, asking for an interim interdict to prevent the TV debate on the BBC from being broadcast.  (Scotsman page 7, P&J page 1, Telegraph page 1, Times page 1, Sunday Post page 1, Margo MacDonald in Sunday Post page 16, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Duncan Hamilton in Scotland on Sunday page 19, Joan McAlpine in Sunday Times page 25)

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Independence poll:  The results of a new YouGov poll suggest more Scots would be in favour of independence if the Tories win the general election.  The survey indicates that an anti-Tory backlash in Scotland would push support for separatism from 31% to 40%.  Likewise, opposition to independence would fall from 54% to 43%. (P&J page 13, Sunday Times page 1,  page 6, Jason Allardyce in Sunday Times page 22)

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Party donor profiles: There are several articles on the three main parties and their donors. (Sunday Times Lib Dems page 2, Labour  page 2, Conservatives page 2)

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Economy

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Hung parliament fears:  Business leaders are reportedly growing increasingly worried about the prospect of a hung parliament and fear the incoming government will be too weak to take tough decisions.  (Scotsman page 5, Herald page 28)

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Public sector spending cuts:  Scotland will face significant pain when public sector spending cuts are finally introduced due to its heavy dependence on public sector spending according to the Centre for Economic and Business Research.  Northern Ireland, Wales, and the North-East of England were also identified as regions that will face “harsh withdrawal pains”.  (Telegraph page 8, FT page 1, Scotland on Sunday page B6, Sunday Times page 13)

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Digital Service: Scottish broadcaster STV is to tackle the local advertising market with the roll-out of a digital network serving nearly 300 communities across Scotland. Dubbed STV Local, the service will launch in the third quarter of this year with the aim of providing what STV chief executive Rob Woodward describes as "hyper-local" content including news, sport, reviews, jobs, entertainment and business listings.  Viewers will access this information either online or via mobile telephones and other digital devices. (Scotland on Sunday page B2)

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Scottish Investment Bank: Steven Vass analyses Alex Salmond’s announcement last week of a £50m loan fund for high-growth and export-focused companies, a scheme that has few if any rivals around the world.  (Sunday Herald page 46)

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Crime

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Small fines: Criminals are being handed fines lower than those given to drivers caught parking without a ticket.   A Scottish Government spokesman said it was up to judges to decide the level of fine to impose based on the facts of the case.  Scottish law states that a court, in determining the amount of any fine to be imposed on an offender shall take into consideration, amongst other things, the means of the offender so far as known to the court — and this has been the law since at least 1954. However, he added that ministers want to see greater consistency and transparency in decisions taken by courts. (Sunday Post page 4)

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Local Government

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Cronyism: Glasgow City council has been criticised after it helped pay a consultancy bill of more than £300,000 for a rejected Labour MEP to represent the West of Scotland in Europe. Bill Miller was an MEP for 10 years before he lost his seat in the 2004 European elections. He re-emerged on the political scene in 2006 when the local authority in Glasgow agreed to pay his costs as a Euro representative. Subsequently he has reportedly received £55,250 a year in publicly-funded fees and £17,500 a year in expenses as a Brussels lobbyist.  His contract was terminated on March 31 after watchdog Audit Scotland questioned his role and flagged up the €1,000 (£870) he benefited from every month in rent. (Sunday Herald page 5)

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Health

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Stalking:  NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde may be the first in the country to give health workers tracking devices in a bid to combat predatory behaviour.  The board’s move follows a number of incidents where staff members were stalked and harassed.  (Herald page 3)

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Nursing cuts: Nursing leaders are warning that pressures on the NHS to save up to £1 billion per year will harm staffing levels and risk damaging current standards of care.  (Herald page 8)

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Education

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University student boost:  New figures have shown that in 2008-09, the year the £2,000 graduate endowment was abolished, an extra 277 students from deprived areas took up degree courses at Scottish universities.  Though small, the number is seen as indicative of a more significant positive trend in widening university access to poorer students.  (Herald page 9)

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Curriculum for Excellence: Education Secretary Mike Russell has called on head teachers to back a controversial overhaul of the school curriculum amid threats of disruption by unions. The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is to be implemented in secondary schools across Scotland in August. The changes, already in place in primary schools, are designed to give teachers more freedom and make lessons less prescriptive. (Scotland on Sunday page 7)

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Politics

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Pope memo row:  The Pope’s visit to the UK in September has been thrown into doubt after a Foreign Office memo mocking his visit was leaked.  The memo stated that Pope Benedict could open an abortion clinic, launch a range of condoms, or sing a charity duet with the Queen.  The Foreign Office has apologised for the memo, believed to have been drawn up by junior staff.  (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 4, P&J page 5, Courier page 14, Telegraph page 1, Guardian page 3, Express page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Sunday Herald page 1)

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\r\nScottish MPs: Tory plans to cut the number of MPs in the UK could leave Scotland with fewer than 50 representatives at Westminster. David Cameron said if elected, he would reduce the overall number of MPs by 10 per cent. However, he also said every constituency should have the same number of constituents. That would see Scotland’s representation reduced even further, as Scottish constituency populations are smaller, on average, than the rest of the UK. (Sunday Post page 2)