Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 31 October 2011
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.
Scottish Independence: The SNP government is facing pressure to ditch a multi-option referendum on independence. Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie and former Liberal Democrat leader David Steel have reportedly raised concerns over the growing number of voices questioning Alex Salmond’s proposals and warned that the current plan will cause chaos and confusion. (The Scotsman, page 10, Daily Express, page 10, The Times, page 1) An opinion poll shows support for independence has risen to 34%, however, this is still behind the percentage who support remaining within the UK. (The Herald, page 6, The Courier and Advertiser, page 10, The Press and Journal ,page 15, Daily Mail, page 12, Scotland on Sunday, page 1)
Pension crisis: A crisis fund to boost Britain’s crippling state pension deficit is being considered by the UK government. The plan would see the creation of a State-backed investment agency that would bankroll vast building projects, and create jobs and economic growth. Crucially, the projects are to be owned by the country’s pensioners. (Daily Express, page 1)
Data Protection: Holyrood officials have reportedly refused to provide a breakdown of more than a quarter of a million pounds in unexplained bonuses paid out to the staff of MSPs and potentially, family members, due to data protection legislation. Over the last session of Parliament, when such payments totalled £268, 995, more than a fifth of MSPs had a wife, husband, child or in-law on the public payroll. Although the Scottish government prides itself on transparency and accountability, payments to MSP staff remain secret (The Herald, page 1)
Scottish Labour: The outgoing Labour leader Ian Gray has delivered an attack on the tactics employed by Alex Salmond and his followers (Scotland on Sunday, page 5). The three candidates vying for the leadership of the Scottish Labour party have indicated that they will continue to oppose the SNP’s flagship policy on alcohol pricing, but they admitted that they could do little to stop it being approved by the Scottish Parliament (The Herald, page 6). Further, they have indicated plans to campaign alongside workers striking against changes to their pension (The Sunday Herald, page 26)
Scottish Time-zone: A leading Tory MP has claimed that Scotland should have its own time-zone if it rejects Westminster’s plans to permanently move the clocks forward one hour. Most Scots are worried about proposals that would introduce British Summer Time throughout the year because they worry about their children travelling to school in darker mornings (Daily Express, page 4, The Daily Telegraph, page 4).
EU speculation: According to MP Mark Reckless, twice as many Conservative MPs want Britain to leave the EU than voted for the referendum last week. Tensions within the Coalition were stoked by warnings from Nick Clegg that it would be ‘economic suicide’ for Britain to retreat to the margins. (The Daily Telegraph, page 1)
Scotland and the Euro: According to leading constitutional experts, an independent Scotland could be forced to join the Euro. The First Minister has repeatedly pledged that a separate Scotland would be allowed to keep the pound, but some believe that Scotland alone would not qualify for the opt-out that allows Britain to retain sterling (The Sunday Times, page 1).
Council of Economic Advisers: Former Scottish Enterprise chief executive Crawford Beveridge has been appointed as the new chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. The new slimmed down council will unite some of the best minds to try to increase Scotland’s competitiveness and economic growth (Sunday Herald, page 42).
Levy on retailers: Finance Secretary John Swinney is set to face questioning from the Scottish Parliament’s economy committee over the decision not to have an official assessment into the economic impact of its proposed levy on large retailers of alcohol and tobacco. (Sunday Herald, page 42)
Charity cuts: Scotland’s charities and voluntary sector are under pressure due to spending cuts. Many organisations are having to lay off staff and use reserve money despite growing demands and reliance on their services in the community. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations expects that this economic situation will worsen in the coming year. (The Scotsman, page 1, 4)
Research development: The Scottish government has urged universities to share cutting-edge research with businesses and entrepreneurs, free of charge, as part of an effort to boost the economy. This effort has the potential to ensure that all Scots are able to benefit from research development at institutions funded by the taxpayer. (The Herald, page 10)
Small businesses: Figures show a 33% rise in the number of small Scottish businesses going into liquidation in the third quarter of 2011. A KPMG spokesman said that there is a severe lack of confidence in this sector due to inflation, unemployment and the lack of available finance. (Daily Record, page 2)
Slower services: Train journeys between Glasgow and the popular commuter town of Cumbernauld will take longer following a £1 billion rail investment programme as services are diverted to make way for faster trains to Edinburgh. This has reportedly angered rail campaigners, who say it will increase car traffic as people opt to drive on the upgraded M8. (The Herald, page 8)
University application system: After a review stating that the current university application process is too complex, the admissions service, Ucas, have proposed to stop making offers to students based on their predicted grades. The new system, which is likely to begin in 2016 at the earliest, gives final school year pupils extra time to apply. The marking period of exams will be reduced to four weeks instead of eight and University courses would start in mid-October. (The Scotsman, page 2. The Herald, page 10)
Alzheimer’s research: A team at Edinburgh University have found that genes known as retrotransposons were responsible for DNA changes in brain tissue. Such findings could help scientists look for the causes of brain diseases like dementia and brain tumours. (The Scotsman, page 20, The Herald, page 11)
Barnardo’s relaunch: The leading children’s charity Barnardo’s Scotland, which closed its adoption agency over 15 years ago, have re-launched services due to an increasing number of young people who cannot be cared for by their own parents. (The Herald, page 11)
Scots councils ‘smarter’: Scottish councils are reportedly ‘smarter’ than those elsewhere in the UK, due to their use of innovative technology and modernisation of local services. The use of smartcards – which enable public access to council services – are used for twice as many services in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK. (The Scotsman, page 19, The Herald, page 9)