Reform Scotland News: 23 January 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



English support for Independence: Research carried out by the Institute of Public Policy Research (PPR) and Cardiff and Edinburgh universities has warned that English support for Independence is rising. The study entitled “The Dog that finally barked,” found that 45% of people in England surveyed felt that Scotland received more that its fair share of the budget. Whilst support for Scottish Independence south of the border remains low at 22%, a similarly low figure of 25% favour maintaining the current arrangements. As English identity apparently reaches an all time high, there are reports of a backbench push for a UK-wide vote on Independence. (Herald page 1, Scotsman page 1, Daily Mail page 4, Guardian page 5)


English Parliament: Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes called for the setting-up of an “English Parliament”, citing the current situation as “unjust” to those south of the border. This has been backed by Alex Salmond who complimented the proposal as a step towards “a grown-up relationship of equals.” (The Times page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 1).


Future of British Army: Alex Salmond has come under criticism after his proposal for the Scottish regiments to form a Scottish Defence Force, separate from the rest of the British Army. Former commanding officers condemned the idea as ludicrous, likening the prospect to a “Third World militia”. Without membership of NATO, the Defence Force’s career opportunities could be very limited compared with the current situation and led the former head of the British Army, Lord Dannatt, to claim that it would struggle for recruits because it would be “boring and unfulfilling”. (Daily Mail page 4, Scotsman page 5, Telegraph page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 15)


RBS bonus outrage: With a rumoured £2.5 billion bonus fund to share among the RBS Investment Bankers, calls have been made to block the chief executive Stephen Hester’s share. With tax payers still owning a share of the bank, Ed Miliband has challenged David Cameron to block Mr Hester’s share in a demonstration of disapproval. (Telegraph B1, Express page 4).


Benefits debate continues:  Ian Duncan Smith has denied claims that the proposed benefit cap of £26,000 on single households will cause an increase in child poverty. The former Lib Dem leader, Lord Ashdown, however has stated that he will not back the government on this issue without “greater measures to ensure children living in poverty were protected.” The proposal is set to be voted on in the House of Lords today. (Daily Mail page 13, Financial times page 2, Guardian page 4, )


Sean Connery: In an article in the Sunday Times, Sean Connery states “For me there is no question that Scotland should be a fully independent and sovereign nation with the same rights as any other country.” He also cautioned David Cameron not to become involved in the decision, declaring it to be “…up to the Scots, and the Scots alone.” (Sunday Times page 7).



Widening economic gaps: The differences between cities’ prospects are on the rise. The outlook published by the Centre for Cities detailed employment rates, populations, private sector jobs, skills and even innovation. The wide variations show cities in the North of England fairing particularly badly whilst Aberdeen and Edinburgh buck the trend with higher rates of start up businesses and lower rates of projected public sector job losses. New investment in Edinburgh is thought to be a determining factor in its recent resilience to the economic climate. (Scotsman page 14, Financial times page 3, Herald page 3).



Bursary cash crisis: Holyrood announced an £11 m cut in support funding for Scottish colleges earlier this month, but a new report shows that many colleges have already run out of money. NUS Scotland found that half of the colleges do not have sufficient funds to meet their students support needs. (Herald page 8).


Deportation of lecturer: A University lecturer will appear before an immigration tribunal in Glasgow today faced with deportation. Dr Muhammed Idrees Ahmed’s bank balance slipped below £800, which with stringent application of immigration law may see the Pakistani national deported after 7 years’ living and working in Britain. (Scotland on Sunday page 11).


Literacy and numeracy: Basic literacy and numeracy education in Scottish schools has been brought into question after a damning study. It found that 24% of the ten and twelve year olds tested were unable to add £2.36 and £1.49. A further 36% could not spell secretaries. Yet the study has been disregarded by educational consultant David Cameron who says that other studies portray the situation to be much less extreme. (Scotsman page 6).


School for disadvantaged teenagers: Businessman Jim McColl has set out plans to open a technical college offering vocational skills to disenfranchised young people. Glasgow city Council has expressed concern about Mr. McColl’s plans, claiming the £500,000 apparently needed in each of the first two years of the start up is outwith their £100,000 budget. Mr McColl stated that funding would “not be an issue” as he has plans for a private public partnership. (Scotland on Sunday page 11).



Illness and loneliness: Despite the average young person in Scotland having 255 Facebook friends, a poll by Macmillian Cancer Support found this counts for very little in times of need. 14% of young Scots polled felt they had no-one to turn to if diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer. Cancer Talk Week commencing today aims to encourage young people to talk openly about their difficulties and seek help. (Herald page 5, Scotsman page 7)



Scots Police force slated: A transcript from a private meeting between Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and The Scottish Police Federation has been leaked. It details Mr MacAskill’s strong views on a sensitive police force. He claims many members of the SPSA which oversees and regulates a special force which investigates organised crime are not security vetted. This comes after the SNP Administration delivered its plan for a single police force. (Sunday Herald page 4).


Knife Crime: Despite claims from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill that The SNP’s knife crackdown is giving longer sentences than ever to youths found carrying knives, statistics reportedly show otherwise. A policy of reducing jail sentences of less than 3 months is thought to be partly to blame for many offenders being spared imprisonment and given community service as an alternative. One fifth were only given a fine. (Daily Mail page 1).