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Reform Scotland News: 03/02/2012


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

SNP ‘spin’: Professor Arthur Midwinter, in his submission to the UK government’s consultation on the independence referendum, has claimed Scottish government reports are not to be trusted due to manipulation and spin, although the Government rejects these claims. Professor Midwinter, who for five years was advisor to Holyrood’s finance committee, has especially scrutinised economic figures such as those for growth, expenditure and revenue, and unemployment. These figures are of course especially salient as the SNP government have begun their referendum campaign by focusing on the economic argument. (The Scotsman page 1)

‘Anti-Scottish’ remark:  There have been calls for Education Secretary Michael Russell to apologise for calling an opposition member “anti-Scottish”, which follows a similar recent situation involving SNP MSP Joan McAlpine. The comment by Mr Russell came after a heated debate yesterday at the Scottish parliament led to the accusation being made of Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith. (The Scotsman page 1, Daily Express page 2, Press and Journal page 13, Daily Telegraph page 8, The Times page21, Daily Telegraph page 2, The Herald)

Chris Huhne decision: Today’s papers report the possibility that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne may face charges following allegations that he had avoided a speeding penalty.(The Guardian page 1, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Record page 2) He has since been charged and has now resigned. (The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Financial Times)

Independence questions: According to a recent poll on independence carried out by YouGov, there appears to be a significant drop in favour of independence when people are asked whether Scotland should “remain in the UK” rather than when asked if the country “should become independent”. The latter of the two, favoured by Alex Salmond, means a rise in support of about 8 per cent in favour of independence. In a very different poll conducted by Ipsos Mori on the state of public opinion, it was revealed that the SNP are reported to be on 49 per cent of support, with Labour at 23. If facing an election on those figures, to put things into perspective, it would leave Labour with just one constituency. The poll also suggests that Alex Salmond is still, by a very large margin, the most popular political figure in the country. (The Scotsman page 6, The Sun page 2)

Fishing leader fears: Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, raised questions about the “assumption” that fishing interests would be looked after better in an independent Scotland. It follows the speculation which currently surrounds an independent Scotland and its potential future role in the EU. Though Mr Armstrong is currently not arguing that an independent Scotland would necessarily be bad for the industry, he reportedly believes that representation is better made by combining UK interests on the international scene, particularly with regards to EU voting power. (Daily Express, Press and Journal page 13)

Economy

Double-dip warning: The National Institute of Economic and Social Research have warned of the extremely likely event of a double-dip recession in the early part of this year, with the economy shrinking by 0.1 per cent. Unemployment is also forecast to rise in 2012 from 8.4 to 9 per cent and remain high in the long-term. The influential think tank has also criticised the economy and use of the pound in a newly independent Scotland and more generally has advised a reduction in current spending cuts, instead advising that an increase in sound economic investment was necessary. A Treasury spokesman has responded to the report by defending the reductions, stating that deficit easing and reduction are crucial to re-establishing market confidence and re-gaining international investment. (The Scotsman page 5, The Financial Times page 4,The Times page 12, The Guardian, The Herald page 6, The Daily Mail page 2, Daily Telegraph page 8)

SNP and steel jobs: One of Scotland’s last remaining steel plants has criticised the SNP government after a £790 million contract was awarded to metal firms in China, Spain and Poland for the new Forth road bridge project. Of the 37,000 tonnes of steel to be used in the project 8,500 tonnes of it, for example, will be imported from Shanghai instead of sites such as Scunthorpe and Motherwell. The steel workers union, Community, has demanded a halt to work on the bridge till the dispute has been settled. (The Scotsman page 19, The Courier page 10, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 2, Daily Telegraph page 1)

Rail boss bonuses: Controversy has been sparked over a bonus package of £20 million which is to be paid out to Network Rail’s top six executives. It comes amid company failings and a yearly £4 billion in public subsidies. This is part of the wider dispute concerning bonuses, particularly when relating to failing or publicly-owned or subsidised companies, in today’s economy. (Financial Times page 2, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Record page 2, The Telegraph)

Education

College probe: Alex Salmond has ordered an investigation into accusations of bullying and financial mismanagement at a Fife college. Adam Smith College is reportedly accused of not properly disciplining two members of staff and financial irregularity. (The Scotsman, The Courier page 9)

Health

Tobacco giant loses challenge: Legislation to reduce smoking by banning tobacco displays in shops came a step closer when one of the largest companies, Imperial Tobacco, lost a court challenge. The Tobacco and Primary Medical (Scotland) Act 2010 was initially criticised on the grounds that the matter was reserved to Westminster and out of the remit of powers for Holyrood. The Court of Appeals in Edinburgh upheld an earlier appeal that had rejected the claims by Imperial Tobacco which could now take the matter to the Supreme Court in London. (The Scotsman page 15, The Herald page 9, Daily Record)

Implant enquiry: Women who received faulty breast implants have demanded that the Scottish government intervene. The PIP Implants Scotland Campaign Group, who are the first group to represent the estimated 4,000 women who received faulty implants, are demanding more answers. They have also accused private clinics of ignoring previous warnings concerning the use of implants. The Scottish Parliament has already agreed to meet with the group and a Government spokeswoman said that a UK-wide enquiry was under way. (The Scotsman page 21, The Herald page 2, Daily Express)

Scottish lifestyle choices: Figures have revealed that more than 130,000 Scots had been seen by nurses with symptoms associated with malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. Poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption have increased those seeking treatment for diseases more commonly seen in malnourished people living in developing countries. Malnourishment is now one of the top ten problems most commonly being seen by nurses. (Daily Mail page 1)