Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 7 November 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.
Independence Referendum: The SNP are under renewed pressure to explain the ‘devo-max’ option for its independence referendum after a new poll has shown that 33% of Scots favour giving Scotland control over tax and benefits while remaining part of the UK (The Scotsman, page 1, Daily Express, page 2, Daily Record, page 2). The new poll by TNS-BMRM for the BBC Politics Show also showed that support for breaking up the UK is only slightly higher in Scotland than in England: there is 28% support for independence in Scotland and 24% in England (The Times, page 6) The SNP has also received a boost after receiving a massive windfall donation from the winners of a £161million lottery fortune. (Daily Mail, page 10, The Sun, page 19)
Greek coalition government: Greek leaders have agreed to form a new coalition government after the resignation of George Papandreau. The announcement follows a week of turmoil over the country’s debt crisis. The unity government will be formed to break the deadlock threatening to push Greece closer to bankruptcy and enact a bail-out agreed last month. (The Scotsman, page 1, 8 and , the Herald, page 2. The Press and Journal, page 10 The Courier and Advertiser, page 13)
Pension reform: Public services are set to be hit by fresh strikes at the end of the month after union bosses declared last week that a more generous offer on pensions reform was not enough to call off planned industrial action. The Cabinet Minister Danny Alexander has accused some trade unions of being ‘hell-bent’ on strike action with little regard for the interests of their members. Mr Alexander said that the coalition government would be contacting 2.5 million public sector workers to explain directly the latest pension offer. (The Scotsman, page 2, The Herald, page 1)
Scottish Conservative leadership: Newly-elected Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has reportedly moved to make peace with her closest rival in the election Murdo Fraser. Ms Davidson reportedly said that there would be a ‘very big role’ for Murdo Fraser as she prepared to announce her frontbench team at Holyrood. (The Scotsman, page 6, The Courier and Advertiser, page 10. The Daily Telegraph page 1. Daily Express, page 4) Several of Ms Davidson’s MSPs are reportedly unhappy with the decision to reinstate Ramsay Jones as the party’s head of communications after his conduct and alleged bias towards Ms Davidson in the leadership protest (The Times, page 6). One of the Scottish Tory Party’s leading supporters, Paul McBride has resigned after a denunciation of the party, dealing an early blow to Ruth Davidson’s leadership (Sunday Herald, page 9). The new leader has also reportedly backed away from supporting Westminster intervention in the timing of referendum proceedings, making it clear that this should only happen if Alex Salmond seeks to ‘rig’ the proceedings. (The Herald, page 6)
Europe: David Cameron is expected to face pressure today from senior cabinet ministers and backbench MPs to take a tougher stance on Europe. There is growing unhappiness about his willingness to put more taxpayers’ cash at the disposal of the IMF as the eurozone economic crisis continues. (Daily Express, page 4, Daily Mail, page 2)
Graduate unemployment: About 8.5% of those who graduated in 2010, 19,785 in total, were still without a job six months later. This figure is down from 8.9% in 2009, but graduate unemployment is still higher than before the economic crisis began. In 2007, before the recession, the figure stood at 5.5%. Charlie Ball of the Higher Education Careers Service Unit has said that graduates still face stiff competition. (The Scotsman, page 11, The Herald, page 7).
Fossil fuel controversy: A controversial method of drilling for gas, blamed for causing an earthquake south of the Border, is to be used in Scotland. Hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ is to be used by Greenpark Energy in Dumfries and Galloway near the mining village of Canonbie. The process, which involves tapping trapped gas by blasting fissures in rock beds with water, sand and chemicals has reportedly caused tremors and water contamination elsewhere and has raised fears among campaigners. (The Herald, page 1, 5).
Olympic tourist hope: Scotland’s tourist chiefs are planning to cash in on a predicted big slump in the English tourist industry because of next summer’s London Olympics. Visit Scotland announced it would tactically target those looking to get away from the south-east of England, where crowds and over-inflated prices are likely to put people off visiting the UK capital. (The Herald, page 11)
Youth Funding: The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust is doubling the amount of loan funding it provides for growing businesses in response to signs that young entrepreneurs are being held back by the continuing shortage of bank finance. (The Herald, page 23)
Commercial property: Scotland’s commercial property market has reportedly suffered a 16% drop in sales values in the past 3 months. A joint letter has been sent from CBI Scotland and the Scottish Property Federation to Finance Secretary John Swinney to reconsider his policy to scrap empty property rates relief. (Scotland on Sunday, page 5)
University fees: Labour’s Jim McGovern reportedly provoked fury during a public meeting at Abertay University by branding the SNP university tuition fee policy ‘racist’. The SNP government is to charge fees of up to £9,000 a year for students coming to Scotland from the rest of the UK. This move is said to be required to secure the financial future of the university sector and maintain free education for students from Scotland. Mr McGovern, however, told the meeting that he fears that the policy is inspired by a Scottish hatred of England. (The Courier and Advertiser, page 1)
Child crime: According to new figures, children as young as three have caused shoplifting and vandalism offences. 249 crimes were reportedly committed by children last year by children under eight in Scotland, ranging from minor offences to fire-raising and assaults. Police say that they are coming up with new ways to help divert children away from situations that lead them to break the law. (The Herald, page 1)
Court system: Newly retired sheriff Douglas Cusine has claimed that a backlog in court hearings means that criminals are walking free. He has said that because some cases were coming before the court three years after the alleged offence, witnesses were unable to provide accurate evidence to secure a conviction. He has also blamed a lack of resources for the slow and inefficient court system. (The Press and Journal, page 5)
Dental health: Experts have claimed that Scots could be putting their dental health at risk by cancelling or delaying check-ups and treatment because of the financial downturn. New figures show that dentists working in Scotland have seen their pay fall by 7% in the space of a year. The drop is thought to be a sign that people are delaying expensive dental treatment as they struggle to balance finances. (The Scotsman, page 13)
Lifeline: An old phonebox in Argyll has become the first in Scotland to be fitted with life-saving equipment to treat heart-attack victims. It is one of five in the UK, created by BT’s adopt a kiosk scheme. Kiosks fitted with defibrillator machines are reportedly said to be genuine assets to the community and could be real lifesavers. (The Herald, page 5. The Press and Journal, page 14, The Courier and Advertiser, page 3)