Reform Scotland News: 19 March 201219.03.2012

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 19 March 2012

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

Responsibility rather than independence: Malcom Fraser, a member of Devo Plus, writes in The Scotsman urging Scots to take more responsibility for themselves and their economy. He urges them to reject independence and “stay and argue for a more just and loving international Britain,” in which Scotland looks after its own affairs. (The Scotsman page 23)

Osborne on devolution: According to senior Conservative sources, Chancellor George Osborne is open to the idea of devolving more financial powers to the Scottish Parliament in an effort to prevent independence. (Sunday Times page 2)

Scottish Labour: Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Duncan Hamilton outlines the decline of the Labour party in Scotland, which has lost voters to the SNP. He cites the collapse of Labour in Glasgow City Council, a historic base for the party, support by the STUC for many of the Scottish governments proposals, including votes for 16- and 17-year olds, the timing of the referendum and the possibility of an additional question. (Scotland on Sunday page 15)

Conservative Friends of the Union: The Scottish Conservative party will reportedly launch the Conservative Friends of the Union campaign group to counter the SNP’s independence goals. The initiative will be headed by Tory party leader Ruth Davidson. (The Herald page 6)

SNP culture change: Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Kenny Farquharson explores the SNP’s evolution from fiercely anti-British to the adoption of an ‘independence-lite’ platform in which many traditional features of the British state, from the Queen, currency, and foreign policy, would be retained. He attributes this to the process of evolution which has led to Scottish identity becoming “far less paranoid, far less insecure.” A country “confident in our Scottishness” is more open to continued collaboration with the United Kingdom. (Scotland on Sunday page 14)

Voting initiative: Shelter Scotland has launched a campaign to encourage the homeless to vote in this year’s council elections. They will also conduct voter outreach to people living in temporary accommodation and renters. Only 56% of renters are registered to vote, compared to 88% of owner occupiers. (The Scotsman page 16)

Shetland and Orkney:  MSPs in Orkney and Shetland have called for more powers, including control of the Crown Estate and a greater share of oil and gas revenue. The Liberal Democrat MSPs lodged their request as part of the UK consultation on the independence referendum. According to the papers submitted, the Islands might remain part of the UK should the referendum succeed or become independent themselves. (The Herald page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Press and Journal page 11)

Independence and immigration: Irish experts at Trinity College have warned that England would demand a major say over an independent Scotland’s immigration system to ensure that the border did not become a “back door” for immigrants seeking entry into the rest of the United Kingdom. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Scottish bases plan: Plans to build a £400 million army super-barracks on the outskirts of Edinburgh have reportedly been cancelled less than a year after they were announced. The new installation was to be funded by the sale of three historical bases but was controversial given the expense and impact on military families. (Scotland on Sunday page 5)

Wind farm debate: Donald Trump is expected to spend £10 million fighting proposed wind farms and recently threw his support behind 11 groups across Fife who are opposing the proposed wind turbines. (The Courier page 3)

Economy

UK Budget: Chancellor George Osborne has announced his plans for the forthcoming budget, pledging that changes will help working families and close loopholes which allow the wealthy to avoid the stamp tax.  In addition, the fuel tax rise, planned for August, may be delayed as the price of fuel increases. In addition, national pay rates for certain public sector workers would be scrapped, a move that has come under intense criticism from the Scottish government. The initiative would translate into higher wages for London workers while workers in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and areas of Northern England would be paid less.  Finance Secretary John Swinney has pledged to vigorously oppose attempts to scrap national pay rates for public sector workers. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has criticised tax cuts for people making £150,000 a year while youth unemployment and prices for fuel rise. (The Herald page 1, Andrew McKie in the Herald, The Scotsman page 1, The Guardian page 6, The Times page 7, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Express page 2, The Press and Journal page 12, Daily Record page 10, The Sunday Herald page 15, Scotland on Sunday page 4)

Tycoon taxes: Liberal Democrats promised that they’ll secure a “Robin Hood” budget this week, which will offer more support to the lower and middle classes and tax the wealthy who have enjoyed loopholes in the tax system.  However, a reduction on the 50p tax rate (to 45p) on earnings over £150,000 is also expected.  (Scotland on Sunday page 4)

Dell independence response: Computer giant Dell has said that its investments in Scotland would not be altered by the prospect of independence. Global president Steve Felice met with Alex Salmond during his visit to the Edinburgh and Glasgow operations last week. (Scotland on Sunday page 2)

Economics of independence: Professor John Kay of LSE claimed that should Scotland become independent and remain within the monetary union, it would be unable to set its own interest rates and would face tight controls over spending and borrowing. Labour leader Johann Lamont argued that this was yet another reason why independence was not a solution for Scotland. In the Sunday Herald, Iain Macwhirter explored the idea of whether an independent Scotland would tax the rich or slash taxes in order to attract investment. (The Sunday Times page 2, The Sunday Herald page 11)

Household debt: Research conducted by Halifax Home Insurance indicates that Scots were dangerously unaware of their spending and debts. Household spending has increased despite falling incomes. Households are increasingly dipping into savings and using credit to pay for household expenses. (The Scotsman page 12)

FSA resignation: The abrupt resignation of the FSA’s chief executive Hector Sants has led to calls for chairman Adair Turner to follow suit. Financial expert Alan Steel has criticised the management of FSA. (The Sunday Herald page 36)

Scottish business priorities: The Federation of Small Businesses called for Chancellor George Osborne to improve access to credit for businesses, cut air passenger duty and fuel  prices, and prioritise capital investment. (The Herald page 6)

Rangers takeover: Investors from the Middle East, Singapore, and America have expressed interest in taking over the beleaguered club. (The Herald page 2)

Education

Scottish studies: Leading academics and artists have led calls against the politicisation of Scottish studies in secondary schools. The subject was introduced last year and covers the country’s history, literature, language and culture. The way the subject is taught has been called into question by Scottish Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats who fear that it is being used to promote a nationalist agenda. (The Herald page 5)

University research funding: Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative Spokesman on Education, criticised the SNP’s policy of charging RUK students tuition fees while Scottish students attend for free. She expressed concerns that this will jeopardise Scottish universities’ record of success in securing research funding. (The Times page 18)

Justice

Lockerbie trial: Former MP Tam Dalyell has called for an explanation from the Crown Office about the handling of the trial. Mr Dalyell continues to believe that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is innocent. (The Herald page 4)

Health

Advertising restrictions: The Scottish Government has called on Westminster to ban TV advertising of fatty foods in a bid to tackle soaring childhood obesity rates. The initiative would introduce a pre-9pm watershed for ads from fast food producers. However, the Coalition Government appears lukewarm about the plan. (Sunday Herald page 5, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

NHS Scotland pensions: Scotland’s GPs are increasing pressure on Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon for a decision on how it plans to reform NHS pensions. This is in response to NHS reforms carried out by the Department of Health at Westminster. (The Herald page 8)

Alcohol pricing: The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that minimum pricing for alcohol would cost Scottish consumers an extra £121 million a year, hitting poor people hardest. They contest a report published by the University of Sheffield which found that the measure would reduce costs on the NHS, business, and the criminal justice system, saying that it failed to consider the positive impact that alcohol has on the economy. (The Sunday Times page 7)

Transport

ScotRail payout: First ScotRail will be paid more than £2 million in compensation for train delays encountered during two years of heavy winter storms that caused severe disruption to Scotland’s rail network. The payout will come from Network Rail which owns and operates track and signals. However, the move has been criticised by passenger advocacy groups as the funds would not help those negatively affected by the delays. (The Herald page 10)