Reform Scotland News: 26.10.11


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. 



EU: David Cameron has attempted to play down the unrest caused by the rebellion of 79 backbenchers who voted in favour of a referendum on British membership of the EU. However, members of the government appear to have very different views on the topic with Education Secretary Mr Gove stating that gaining more powers from Brussels would be desirable and Deputy Leader Nick Clegg stating that the debate is a ‘monumental distraction’.  The SNP has been called ‘hypocritical’ as its MPs abstained from the vote about an EU referendum while they are in support of a referendum on membership of the UK. (Scotsman  page 2, Press and Journal page 11, Sun page 2, Financial Times page 2, Daily Mail page 9)


SNP MP ‘threatened’: An official complaint to the Commons Speaker has been made by SNP MSP Dr Eilidh Whiteford over a threat allegedly made by veteran Labour MP and Committee Chairman Ian Davidson. It is alleged that Mr Davidson told Dr Whiteford that she would be ‘getting a doing’ at a private meeting in Westminster last week, but later approached Dr Whiteford to clarify that the remark was not intended to be viewed as a sexual threat. Dr Whiteford has withdrawn from the Scottish Select Affairs Committee due to the intimidation and is seeking the resignation of Mr Davidson. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Sun page 9, Daily Mail page 5, Daily Record page 4, The Times page 4)


Devo-max: Former First Minister Henry McLeish has called for the Labour Party to embrace and ‘take ownership’ of ‘devo-max’ to ensure that the party does not get left behind in political debates about independence and the future of Scotland.  Alex Salmond’s proposal for a second question to be put to the Scottish electorate had met resistance from opposition parties who were concerned about the legality of the option and the impact it might have upon the outcome of an independence referendum.  Reform Scotland has backed plans for a second question to be put to Scottish voters in any referendum on the future of Scotland. Reform Scotland’s chairman Ben Thomson has stated that he is willing to meet with ministers to discuss ‘devo-plus’. (Daily Record page 4, Scotsman page 2)


Joining EU post-independence: SNP ministers disagreed yesterday with UK government lawyers who stated that an independent Scotland would have to wait up to three years to join the EU and would be expected to join the euro. The SNP have argued that Scotland would automatically become an EU member and that the Scottish electorate could vote upon their preferred currency.  However, reportedly under current EU legislation ‘new entrants have to put in place plans to join the euro’. (The Times page 16, Daily Mail page 2, The Daily Telegraph page 7)


Same-sex marriage: The Catholic Church has warned that plans to legalise gay marriage in Scotland would damage ‘religious freedom’ and could lead to legal risks. Archbishop Mario Conti has argued that those who morally oppose such marriages could find themselves in legal difficulties if same-sex marriage became legal in Scotland. Deputy First Minister Nichola Sturgeon met with church leaders yesterday as part of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue. She made clear yesterday that ‘all views will be listened to’. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 3)


Wind farms: The SNP government has been urged to consider the voices of local communities when making decisions approving the creation of wind farms. A report has shown that Ministers are more likely to approve applications for wind farms than local authorities. This contrasts with the level of public support for wind farms according to the state-of-the-industry report which shows that approval rates in Scotland have fallen from 58% to 39% in the past three years. This concern comes at the same time as MP and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is set to make a speech to the RenewableUK conference about the economic benefits of green energy for the UK. (Scotsman page 9, Financial Times page 2, See Commentary by Alan Cochrane)



Gold-mine-loch at Loch Lomond: Plans to open the first commercial goldmine in Scotland for 500 years have been approved unanimously by the board of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The agreement will see the company Scotgold set up work in Cononish. The development is forecast to create 52 new jobs and to bring ‘more than £80m in direct or indirect economic benefits’ to the Scottish economy. However, concerns have been raised by a number of organisations about the impact which the mine might have upon the local environment and the use of the park. Bill McDermott of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks stated that conservation and sustainable development issues have not been fully thought out and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland has also raised concerns.  The plans that have been agreed are conditional on a number of factors including extraction, traffic and blasting limits and ‘financial guarantees for restoration if the mine is abandoned’. (Scotsman page 7, Herald page 3)


Eurozone: The Eurozone talks have not reached a conclusion after talks broke down last night due to objections raised by German ministers to proposals regarding rescuing indebted countries and a deadlock in Italy over austerity measures. This has caused concern in the markets who had been anticipating the promised plan on turning around the debt crisis. The FTSE 100 index dropped from 5548 to 5466 after the finance ministers’ meeting failed to go ahead. EU finance ministers will now meet this weekend. (Scotsman page 2, The Times page 1, Daily Mail page 1)



Courts and prison sentences: The head of the Scottish Prison Service, John Ewing, has proposed that offenders who are given a jail term of less than one year should serve that sentence in the community rather than in prison. Mr Ewing was speaking to MSPs on the Justice Committee at Holyrood. The proposal would be an extension of a previous ‘presumption’ introduced by the SNP government that those sentenced to less than three months would not spend their sentences in custody. The proposal could reduce the overcrowded prison population in Scotland. The new proposal has met with opposition from both the Labour and Conservative parties who have raised concerns about public support for such an initiative and about whether such a measure would fail to deter potential criminals. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 4, Daily Express page 2, The Times page 2)


Crime rates: Figures released have shown that gun crime has fallen to a 32 year low in Scotland. The SNP government has claimed that its policy of an additional 1,000 officers on the streets has contributed to this drop. (Daily Express page 2)



Obesity figures: New figures released by the Scottish Government show that more than a quarter of Scots are now classed as obese and that they ‘cost the NHS £1.2million per day to treat’. The report also predicted that obesity could rise to 40% by 2030. The government launched an action plan to tackle obesity in March focusing upon healthy eating. The statistics are of great concern as obesity increases the risk of a number of health conditions and problems.  (Daily Mail page 12)