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Reform Scotland News: 01/02/2012

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. 

Politics

Devo-plus: Ben Thomson debates the issues surrounding devolving more financial powers to the Scottish Parliament with his sister and Times Columnist Alice Thomson in the Times. (Times page 22)

Swing voters in referendum: An Ipsos/Mori poll carried out last week has suggested that one third of Scots are unsure which way they will vote in the independence referendum. The poll also suggests a high percentage (80%) of Scots plan to cast their vote. This would be a far higher percentage than the turnout for the 1997 devolution referendum. The poll found that support for independence continued to remain at 39% however it found that support for keeping in the UK had fallen seven points to 50%. (Scotsman page 8, Times page 15, Courier page 2, Daily Mail page 2)

Cameron EU veto: David Cameron has insisted that he has not backed down over his veto of the EU treaty after it emerged that EU institutions could be used to enforce the new fiscal agreement. Labour leader Ed Miliband has criticised the Prime Minister for failing to ensure any protection for Britain whilst senior Liberal Democrats had welcomed the Prime Minister’s change in direction. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6, Guardian page 12, Daily Record page 11, Courier page 11, Daily Mirror page 11, Daily Mail page 12, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 2, Telegraph page 4)  

Minimum alcohol price too low: Ministers are under pressure to raise the minimum alcohol price after research suggested that the current proposed price of 45p was too low to have an impact. Researchers at Sheffield University have suggested that were the government to raise the minimum floor price to 70p it would have thrice the impact on alcohol related hospital admissions, deaths and crime. The report has been criticised by the Scottish Grocer’s Federation for revising figures previously said to be unassailable and by the Labour party who feel that the move would increase retail profits. SNP Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has stated that alcohol misuse remains a serious problem in Scotland and that raising the price of alcohol is key in tackling this. (Scotsman page 9, Herald page 6, Times page 15, Daily Record page 10, Courier page 2, Press and Journal page 14, Daily Express page 4, Telegraph page 1)

Parties united over gay marriage: Holyrood’s opposition leaders have signed a declaration saying that they would ‘campaign to beat a ban on same sex marriage’.   Johann Lamont, Ruth Davison, Willie Rennie and Patrick Harvie have all expressed their support for same-sex legislation. SNP Ministers have not signed the declaration as they are waiting for the results of their consultation process however the Scottish government has indicated that it will support same-sex marriage. The event was met with dismay by the Catholic Church who stated that they are disappointed by the move. (Scotsman page 17, Daily Express page 2, Sun page 6)

Youth unemployment drive: A new bid to tackle youth unemployment in Scotland has been launched. The Scottish government will work with employers to create more jobs for young people. A new ‘Opportunities for All’ programme aimed at providing work or training for all 16-19 year olds has also been launched. Angela Constance the Minister for Youth Unemployment has stated that she believes that the issue of youth unemployment can be successfully tackled. (Herald page 2, Courier page 8)

Children’s Commissioners: The UK’s four Children’s Commissioners have called for changes to the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill claiming that the proposed changes will harm young people. (Herald page 2)

Official residence: The official residence of the First Minister is to move from Charlotte Square to the Governor’s House on Calton Hill. (Scotsman page 1)

Economics

Fred Goodwin: The former RBS Chief Executive has been publically stripped of his knighthood after his case was referred to the House of Commons Forfeiture Committee. Goodwin’s knighthood was removed as he was deemed to have received professional censure from the Financial Services Authority and for bringing the honours system into disrepute.  However, Alisdair Darling has criticised the focus placed on one figure. (Scotsman page 1, Terry Murden in the Scotsman,  Herald page 1, Times page 1, Guardian page 1, Daily Record page 1, Financial Times page 1, Sharlene Goff in the Financial Times,Courier page 1, Daily Mirror page 7, Press and Journal page 12, Daily Mail page 1, Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail, Daily Express page 1, The Sun page 1, Telegraph page 1)

Detached homes in demand: A quarterly report from the Registers of Scotland has shown that sales of detached homes are on the rise while sales of other types of property have fallen. All major Scottish cities except Glasgow have experienced a rise in property prices. Mortgage approvals have also hit a two year high however industry experts have warned that the housing market remains weak. (Scotsman page 14, Herald page 11, Daily Mail page 13, Daily Express page 6)

Superfast broadband: Consumer Focus Scotland have said that if the commitments laid out in the Government’s blueprint for digital services are realised, broadband speeds in Scotland could be up to five times faster by 2015. (Scotsman page 3, Press and Journal page 18)

A9 go-ahead: It has been announced that the long-awaited upgrade of the A9 to a full dual carriageway will begin in 2017. (Scotsman page 13, Daily Record page 24, Courier page 9)

Barnett plan: Finance Secretary John Swinney has announced plans for more than £30million in additional cash flowing from Scotland’s share of Westminster announcements. (Herald page 6)

Justice

Lord Advocate in Supreme Court row: The Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland has entered the debate into the role of the UK Supreme Court. Mulholland has stated that judges in Scotland should decide which cases are referred to the Supreme Court and warned that Supreme Court decisions are not always right or final. He called for Scottish Courts to have direct access to the European court in Strasbourg rather than through the Supreme Court. The remarks follow heated debate about the role of the Supreme Court in Scottish cases. (Herald page 8)

Education

State schools delay new exams: The convenor of the EIS teacher’s union has raised concerns about the Curriculum for Excellence after it emerged that East Renfrewshire Council will wait until 2013-14 before introducing the successor to Standard Grades. (Scotsman page 13, Herald page 1, Times page 17)

Health

Stillbirths and infant deaths drop: The infant mortality rate in Scotland has fallen to a new record low to 3.7 per 1000, significantly lower than in other parts of the UK. The stillbirth rate has dropped below the UK average of 4.9 per 1000 for the first time. The Scottish Government and the charity Sands have stated that the figures relate to an increase in awareness amongst the public and medical health professionals about risk factors.  However there were substantial differences recorded between the numbers of deaths in more or less affluent areas. The results have led to an investigation to be launched. (Scotsman page 21, Herald page 3, Daily Record page 2)

Cancer benefit cuts: Over 30 charities and health professionals have urged MPs to reject plans to cut benefits for thousands of cancer sufferers as they believe that a reduction in benefits would push sufferers into poverty and impede their recovery. (Herald page 7)

Local Government

Fife wind-farm: Samsung Heavy Industries is to establish its first European offshore wind-farm in Scotland off the Fife Coast. The wind-farm is likely to generate 500 jobs in the area and lead to substantial investment. The project was announced by Alex Salmond at the opening of the Scottish Offshore Wind Conference in Aberdeen. (Scotsman page 16, Herald page 10, Times page 9, Daily Record page 26, Courier page 1, Daily Mail page 17, Daily Express page 10, Sun page 6)

Radioactive beach clean-up: Ministry of Defence officials have agreed to monitor radiation levels at Dalgety Bay over the next three years while the beach is cleaned up. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency and local MP Gordon Brown had called for immediate action to be taken to reduce the levels of contamination and prevent any public health risks. The two agencies have yet to fully reach an agreement on a long-term plan to deal with the area. (Scotsman page 19, Herald page 7, Daily Record page 6, Courier page 1)