Reform Scotland News: 14.3.1214.03.2012

Reform Scotland

All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is highlighted and underlined.In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News

Politics
Referendum: Lord McConnell has called for the independence referendum to be held in September next year and warned that the failure of Holyrood and Westminster to agree a deal on the vote could “delay recovery” from the economic downturn. (Scotsman page 11, Herald page 8, Times page 9, Telegraph page 2, Courier page 2)

Two questions: A number of academic experts on devolution at the University of Edinburgh comment in the Scotsman on why having more than one question on the referendum ballot would ensure clarity.

Scottish Land Fund: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman comments on the new Scottish Land Fund.

Second chamber: Allan Massie in the Scotsman argues that Holyrood needs a second chamber.

Economy
Retail sales: According to the Scottish Retail Consortium sales in Scottish stores open for more than a year dropped by 1.7 per cent last month compared with the same period last year. The fall represents the worst month since records began.  Only food sales saw any signs of growth, though growth remained below the rate of inflation. Total sales in all stores were down 0.6 per cent on last February while the figure for the whole of the UK was a rise of 2.3 per cent. (Scotsman page 1, Leigh Sparks in the Scotsman, Herald page 24, Times page 9, Daily Mail page 6, P&J page 31, Express page 19)

Unemloyment: Susan Watt in the Scotsman outlines the work ProjectScotland is doing to try and address youth unemployment.

Bank Job Cuts: Over 230 jobs will be lost at Lloyds Banking Group and RBS, two state-backed banks, in Edinburgh. Some of these jobs will be outsourced to India, inciting calls that this move is “immoral.” (Herald page 5, Daily Mail page 72, P&J page 12, F&T page 16, Express page 1, Courier page 31)

Welfare Changes: Representatives of 18 charities and organizations informed MSPs that the new changes to welfare, including cutting housing benefit, might cost the Scottish government and local authorities £400m. (Herald page 8, Courier page 19, Record page 6)

House Prices: According to new figures, house prices in Scotland have dropped by around £3,000, the lowest level in two years. (Herald page 12, Times page 9, Daily Mail page 6, P&J page 11, Express page 2, Courier page 19, Record page 28)

Education
Colleges: Education secretary Mike Russell has agreed that West Lothian’s one college and one agricultural college can stand together as the country’s 13th college region.  He had previously announced that all of Scotland’s colleges would be reorganised under 12 regional boards. (Scotsman page 10)

Western Isles: Western Isles Council has launched a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s opposition to plans to close four schools. (Scotsman page 12, P&J page 6)

Childcare: Bronwen Cohen in the Scotsman comments that the SNP’s proposals to extend entitlement to nursery education do not go far enough.

Transport
Roadworks: Major roadwork to upgrade approaches to the new Forth crossing will reportedly cause motorists delays of up to two hours from next month. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 7, Courier page 17, Record page 17)

Justice

Green Energy Policy: Today the John Muir Trust, a conservation charity, will inform MSP’s of the dangerous consequences that will face the environment in the attempt to reach the 2020 renewable target. (Herald page 7)

Health
Prostate cancer drug:  Janssen, the makers of a drug credited with keeping the Lockerbie bomber alive, are to make a fresh application for it to be available to prostate cancer sufferers in Scotland.  On Monday the Scottish Medicines Consortium rejected the £3,000-a-month drug on the grounds it was too expensive. (Scotsman page 1, Emma Cowing in the Scotsman)

Alcohol: The Labour party has suggested banning alcohol advertising in public place and English-style Drink Banning Orders as part of a series of measures which the party believes could help tackle Scotland’s alcohol problem but are not addressed in the Scottish government’s legislation on minimum pricing. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 8, P&J page 16)

Free eye tests: A report by researchers at Aberdeen University has shown that free eye tests in Scotland have helped to close the gap between Scotland and England in the number of people taking tests, but uptake of the tests still remains low in poorer households.  As a result the study says that the policy has benefited the wealthier more than the disadvantaged. (Scotsman page 23, Herald page 11, Daily Mail page 25, P&J page 23, Express page 27)