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Daily Political Media Summary: 9 April 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Media Summary: 9 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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Hung parliament: The SNP\’s hopes of using a hung parliament to win a string of lucrative concessions from Westminster have been swept aside by the Conservatives. Shadow foreign secretary William Hague dismissed the prospect of a deal between the Tories and the SNP under which the Conservatives would grant a list of Nationalist demands in return for the SNP\’s parliamentary backing. Current polls suggest that, while the Conservatives are set to be the biggest party, they may fall short of a majority, meaning they will have to seek support from other parties to win the confidence of the House of Commons. (Scotsman page 1)

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Conservative support in Scotland: The inexperience of David Cameron and George Osborne is being seized on by Labour. The aim of all the recent expense and energy of the Conservative Party is to show that the Scots Tories are up for the fight in Scotland. That pace will be kept up today when David Cameron heads to Aberdeen, but whether this will actually make any impact on notoriously Tory-phobic Scottish voters is still unknown. (Scotsman page 4, David Maddox in Scotsman page 5, Courier page 11, Fraser Nelson comments in Telegraph page 20)

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Tax row: Labour mounted a concerted fight back on tax yesterday with Gordon Brown dismissing Conservative plans as incredible while David Cameron, buoyed by growing support from business leaders for his economic policy, accused the Prime Minister of being “rattled”. Flanked by Lord Mandelson and Alistair Darling, Mr Brown at Labour’s first campaign press conference in London dismissed the Tory proposal to scrap the bulk of next year’s planned National Insurance rise, saying it was based on flimsy, “back-of-envelope” calculations which could not be delivered. (Herald page 6, Times page 1, Telegraph page 4, Courier page 11, Guardian page 8, Daily Mail page 2, BBC) 

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Youth plan: Alex Salmond has been accused of indulging in petty party politics after he torpedoed David Cameron’s big General Election plan to create an army of young community volunteers in Scotland. A  row broke out on the eve of the Conservative leader’s expected visit to Aberdeen today after Mr Cameron launched the National ­Citizen Service – a scheme meant to inspire teenagers – with the support of the Oscar-winning actor Sir Michael Caine. However, for it to take place in Scotland, the Scottish Government has to agree to funding. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We listen to ideas. However, our view is volunteers of all ages form a valuable national resource, vital to the success of Scotland, and young people in Scotland already have the opportunity, through a number of channels supported by the Scottish Government, to receive recognised awards for volunteering.” (Herald page 1, Press and Journal page 9, Guardian page 10, Daily Express page 5)

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Conservatives efficiency plan: David Cameron’s efficiency chief has told him to cut the public payroll by up to £2bn within a year of the general election, a saving that could lead to the loss of up to 40,000 jobs across the public sector.  Public sector chiefs earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year would have their salaries cut back by a Conservative government under a radical scheme to link their earnings to the lowest-paid workers in their organisation, David Cameron will announce today. (FT page 1, Guardian page 1, BBC, STV) 

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Liberal Democrats: Questions were being asked yesterday about the true position of the Liberal Democrats on key election issues, after the party\’s leader, Nick Clegg, appeared to contradict his Treasury spokesman on tax on his first campaign trip to Scotland. Meeting Scottish candidates in Glasgow, Mr Clegg said the Tories would have to raise the rate of VAT to pay for their pledge to reverse Labour\’s increases in National Insurance contributions. But in the recent chancellors\’ debate, his Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable refused to rule out an increase in VAT. (Scotsman page 6, Telegraph page 11)

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Liberal Democrats and SNP: Liberal Democrat strategy in Scotland to target Labour and the Tories was undermined by Nick Clegg making a fleeting visit to the party’s campaign launch and attacking Alex Salmond as “a two-bit politician”. (Herald page 6, Times page 8, Telegraph page 7, Daily Mail page 6, Daily Express page 4) 

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Scottish constituencies: If Alex Salmond is to achieve his objective of winning 20 Westminster seats, then the first of the many he must win is Ochil and South Perthshire, Alan Cochrane writes in the Telegraph. (Telegraph page 6) 

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Economy

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Petrol prices: Petrol prices have hit a new all-time record high of 120p a litre, sparking concerns of a knock-on effect on the fragile economy. Motoring groups warned the cost of fuel has reached a \’\’watershed\’\’, and consumers will have to choose to cut back at the pump or the shops. (Scotsman page 2, Telegraph page 1, Press and Journal page 6, Daily Express page 1) 

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Financial services reform: New laws to reform and strengthen the financial services industry look set to become law after two key planks were removed by the government. MPs yesterday accepted changes made in the Lords to the Financial Services Bill, withdrawing plans to set up a statutory high-powered committee aimed at improving financial stability. (Scotsman page 2)

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Recession: The British economy avoided a double-dip recession and grew by 0.4pc in the first quarter, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (Niesr) has estimated. The official estimate of first quarter gross domestic product will be published on April 23 by the Office for National Statistics. Economists widely agree that it is likely to report growth in the region of 0.5pc, a view reinforced yesterday by ONS data which showed manufacturing output grew by 1.3pc in February, more sharply than economists had expected. (Telegraph page B1)

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Crime

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Open prison: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was under fire again last night after another violent criminal went on the run from an open jail in Tayside. Gary McGeown had been due to return to Castle Huntly, near Dundee, on Tuesday after being allowed home leave. He is the third prisoner in four months to abscond from the prison. (Press and Journal page 1, Courier page 10)

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Local Government

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Edinburgh conferences: Edinburgh’s tourism industry has received a boost after new figures revealed a hike in the number of conferences and exhibitions secured for the capital in the face of the economic downturn. Some 257 events, worth £74.2million, were secured in the year to the end of March, an increase of 57 compared with the previous 12 months.  And the overall value of new business secured rose by £700,000 year on year. The Edinburgh Convention Bureau – which oversees efforts to secure new business tourism bookings for the city – believes its reputation for offering value for money, and as a world-leader in academic research and development, has helped it withstand the credit crunch. (Scotsman page 12) 

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Education

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Education reform:  Key pledges on class sizes and tuition fees should be reassessed, says Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). “Sacred cows”, such as smaller classes and the abolition of university tuition fees, should be put out to grass during the recession – and perhaps even afterwards. It is the latest contribution to the debate on the future of public services, arguing that the “unprecedented” scale of cuts required to reduce the public debt means that “a radical re-think is needed about what services the public sector should provide and how best to provide them”. (TESS page 1) 

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Scot-trained teachers: Education Secretary Michael Russell has refuted claims that Scots-trained teachers are flocking south of the border to circumvent jobs shortage. Figures from the General Teaching Council for England indicate that more than 1,000 teachers from Scotland have been approved to work south of the border during the past four years. There was a 25 per cent rise last year alone, from 248 to 307. Education Secretary Michael Russell quickly released figures which revealed that even more teachers from England have been registered to teach in Scotland in the past four years – 1,585 from 2006 to 2009. (TESS page 3)

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