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: Arrangements for Alex Salmond and David Cameron to meet to discuss a Scottish Independence referendum will be made “in coming days”. Mr Salmond is still expected to meet with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore on Thursday after delivering his proposal for a referendum to Holyrood on Wednesday. This comes after Mr Salmond publicly accused Mr Cameron of refusing six requests to meet. Yet the former SNP deputy leader, Jim Sillars, has warned Mr Salmond to work with Westminster in order to have court approval as Mr Salmond himself holds “none of the legal cards”. Public support still appears varied with a poll in The Mail on Sunday showing that only 26 per cent of voters in Scotland support independence compared to 46 per cent who do not. Whilst south of the border, 29 per cent actually supported an independent Scotland compared with 40 per cent against. (The Scotsman page 1, The Press and Journal page 1, The Sunday Times page 20, The Herald page 1.)
Currency debate continues: There is further coverage of the discussions on the future of Scottish currency should Scotland become Independent. Scottish Secretary Michael Moore stated that if Scotland were to become Independent, the legal right to retain the pound “cannot be in dispute”. At the same time he cautioned that Scotland would, in his opinion, be worse off than in a union. He reasoned that as a separate country, Scotland would have less influence over interest rates than at present. Alistair Darling berated the idea claiming it would “plunge Scotland into economic uncertainty”. (The Press and Journal page 5, The Scotsman page 8, The Courier page 7, Scotland on Sunday page 1, The Times page 6, Daily Express page 4)
Sir Jack Harvie: The Scottish Conservative fundraiser, Sir Jack Harvie, has announced he is stepping down. Sir Jack, who is a successful businessman, has raised over £16 million for the party, so it has reportedly come as a disappointment to Ruth Davidson that he is leaving his role after 2 months under her leadership. The 75 year-old’s spokesman stated that Sir Jack would “not be playing any role in the party whatsoever.” (Sunday Herald page 5, The Scotsman page 12, The Daily Mail page 22)
Third option: In an article in Scotland on Sunday, John Downie of SCVO urges people to consider more thoroughly a third option. He argues that polls show two thirds of the Scottish people favour more devolved powers and that these devolved powers would put Scotland in a better position for making changes to public services, the economy and distribution of wealth in society. (Scotland on Sunday page 13).
Tom Harris: Labour’s new media advisor, Tom Harris MP, quit yesterday hours after apologising for a controversial online video which portrayed Alex Salmond as Hitler. Mr Harris apologised whilst saying that the content was a “well-worn joke,” yet it promptly sparked online outrage and was berated by the Jewish community. Jewish community leader Esra Golombok said “People who remember the Nazis don’t think it’s a joke.”(The Sun page 1 )
RBS ownership question: An article in Scotland on Sunday poses the question of which government would be entitled to the 83 per cent stake in The Royal Bank of Scotland should Scotland break away from the Union. During such uncertain economic times, it could reportedly be such ownership rights which determine whether an independent government’s debt is manageable or all consuming. Although RBS is registered in Scotland, with its head office located in Scotland, the bank is undoubtedly intertwined with the rest of Britain in many ways. (Scotland on Sunday page 22)
Britain and recession: The Ernst and Young Item club and the Centre for Economics have both announced that GDP declined in the last quarter of 2011, also projecting it to decline for the next 3 months. If this does indeed occur then Britain will be officially in a recession once more. Experts report that the fate of the UK economy will be very much affected by that of the eurozone. With France’s credit rating recently downgraded from AAA, Foreign Secretary William Hague has urged Britain to “redouble efforts” to decrease the deficit. (The Scotsman page 10,
Cruise Liner disaster: The cruise Liner Costa Concordia crashed into rocks off the coast of the Italian Island of Giglio carrying 23 British passengers and 12 British crew members. The Captain Francesco Schettino has been accused of steering recklessly close to the shore in order to send a greetings message to a friend on the Island. The death toll is currently 5 with rescue efforts continuing as a further 15 people remain missing. (Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 1, The Scotsman page 4, The Sun page 6 & 7, The Press and Journal page 16)
NHS overspend: The Scottish NHS has revealed a budget deficit of £16.1 million, citing government cost-cutting, drug prices and staff overtime pay as the causes. Eight out of Scotland’s 11 mainland health boards have overspent with the financial year coming to a close. The Scottish Patients’ Association has called for more funding in order to prevent patient care being compromised, claiming Scottish health boards were being “starved of money by the Westminster government.” (Scotland on Sunday page 8).
Organised crime expanding: The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) warned that organised crime gangs from Albania have joined the Scottish drug trade and are expanding operations. There are apparently 25 of these types of gang operating in Scotland from many different origins such as South East Asia, The Caribbean and other Eastern European states. (Daily Mail page 9).
SNP launch Glasgow campaign: With just over 100 days to go until the local government elections, the SNP have launched their campaign for Glasgow city council-Scotland’s largest council. Glasgow has traditionally been a Labour stronghold but recently Nicola Sturgeon accused the Labour party of taking their council positions in Glasgow for granted. (The Herald page 6, The Scotsman page 7).
Housing cheapest in Scotland: A report released by the Bank of Scotland today revealed that housing in Scotland is the most affordable in the whole of the UK. The study looked at the level of mortgage payments in proportion to peoples’ wages and found that for a new borrower the proportions are at their lowest level in nine years. The long-term average payments are well below the average of 30 per cent seen elsewhere. The most affordable local authority was found to be East Ayrshire, where mortgage payments average out at 15.7 per cent. Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire and the Highlands were labelled as most expensive, each accounting for over 25 per cent of a person’s earnings on average. (The Press and Journal page 14, The Scotsman page 16, The Herald page 10, The Courier page 7).