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 defence plans: First Minister Alex Salmond has outlined the nature of Scotland’s defence forces should it be independent. On the surface they would remain almost identical with key differences focusing mainly on the removal of Trident from its naval base in Faslane and the general capability of sovereign decision making. Labour MP Thomas Docherty has denounced the plans saying they betray SNP promises to fight to keep certain military bases such as that of Leuchars in Fife. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has also reportedly described the plans as “laughable”. (The Scotsman page 1, The Times page 11, The Guardian, The Telegraph page 1, The Courier page 1, The Herald, The Press and Journal page 12, Daily Express page 10).
Referendum legality: A court challenge against a Scottish independence referendum which occurred without Westminster backing would most probably be successful the UK’s top law adviser will say today. In addition, an expert on referendums and someone who has been asked by Alex Salmond to oversee a future vote, Dr Matt Qvortrup claims that a multi-option referendum risks causing lasting disagreement within the country following his studies on other referendum votes. (Financial Times, The Courier page 9, The Scotsman, The Press and Journal page 13).
Win-win referendum: A referendum on Scottish independence is not necessarily a win or lose scenario for the Conservatives as William Rees-Mogg explains in The Times Opinion. He explains that David Cameron and the Tory party may be inherently Unionist, yet the removal of Scottish Labour’s seats would mean that in any future election the Conservatives chances would be highly boosted. Indeed, had it not been for those seats, there would have been a Conservative majority government. (William Rees-Mogg in The Times page 26).
Goodwin knighthood review: A Westminster committee is considering stripping Sir Fred Goodwin of his knighthood for his part in the near collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland. David Cameron and Alex Salmond welcomed the move while Labour’s Ed Balls said the party “would not object” should it happen. (The Scotsman page 1, The Guardian page 8, The Press and Journal page 14, The Telegraph, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Record, The Mirror, Daily Express page 2, The Sun).
Job fears: Labour leader Johann Lamont has urged Scotland to spend more than £500 million towards the creation of new jobs in the wake of recent rises in unemployment. The unemployment figure in Scotland currently at 231,000 was described by Alex Salmond as “extremely serious” but, blamed the lack of fiscal powers the Scottish government possesses. (The Courier page 9, The Herald, Daily Mail page 19, Daily Record).
Subsidy threat: Scottish Conservatives have raised fears that should Scotland be independent the transition could be particularly disastrous to the country’s farmers. The debate centres on an independent Scotland having to re-apply for membership of the European Union. Currently farmers rely heavily on European Union subsidies which if removed during any transition, warned Tory leader Ruth Davidson, would put the industry in jeopardy. Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, however, has accused the Tories of “scaremongering” saying that Scotland would actually benefit from a massive boost to subsidies in the wake of its new status in the EU. Mr Salmond also countered by saying that currently the only threat to Scotland’s EU membership came from the desire of Tories in Westminster to withdraw from the EU. (The Press and Journal page 12).
Drilling slowdown: Offshore UK oil drilling has slowed to its lowest level in eight years figures show. Business experts have blamed a turbulent economic environment where £2 billion fuel stabilisation taxes introduced by the Government have had a palpable effect. (Daily Mail page 19).
Early release: Since the SNP’s promise of abolishing the automatic early release of prisoners in 2007, it has reportedly emerged that about 35,000 were freed unconditionally after serving half their sentences. Sandy Cameron, chairman of the Scottish Parole Board, has called for an investigation and Scottish Labour justice spokesman Lewis McDonald has criticised the SNP’s control of the situation as ”simply not good enough”. (The Telegraph page 15, Daily Mail page 6, Daily Record, Daily Express page 2, The Sun page 2)
Life sentences: Murdo Fraser MSP has proposed a change to Scottish legislation which could pave the way for life sentences being passed in Scotland which is currently not offered under Scots Law. This follows a European Court of Human Rights ruling which stated that such an order was not in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Mr. Fraser believes that this is the right move to give courts the same powers available in the rest of the UK. (The Courier page 9, The Telegraph, Daily Star).
C Diff outbreak: An outbreak of clostridium difficile (C. diff) yesterday at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness has caused the closure of a ward and the cancellation of appointments. The infection, which causes severe diarrhoea, afflicted a higher than normal number of patients in January than are usually affected by the bug. It is considered a serious problem for hospitals as it can spread through patients, particularly those who are already weak. The health board, in the wake of an emergency meeting, has said the risk was now minimal and that necessary precautions were being taken. (The Press and Journal page 3, Daily Record).