Reform Scotland News: 13 February 2012

Reform Scotland

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 13 February 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

Referendum talks: Prime Minister David Cameron is in Scotland this week and will meet with Alex Salmond, although the Prime Minister insists that his meeting with Alex Salmond is a courtesy and that Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore will represent the government in negotiations. The SNP has urged David Cameron to participate in talks and downplayed Mr. Moore’s influence in the process although Mr. Moore and Alex Salmond will meet today to discuss referendum issues, including the inclusion of a devo-max option and extending the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 4, The Daily Telegraph page 4, The Press and Journal page 12, Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian page 27, The Times page 3, Daily Record page 8, The Courier page 1, Daily Express page 2, Sunday Herald page 12)

Devolution plans: David Mundell, the Conservative Scotland Office Minister, has indicated that the Conservative party will offer a new plan for devolution in their 2015 campaign should the independence referendum result in a no vote. However, he stopped short of endorsing comments made by Michael Moore offering sweeping tax powers in exchange for a no vote in the referendum. The SNP took these statements as an opportunity to criticise the Conservative party for its lack of cohesion on the eve of a meeting between First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore. (The Times page 3)

NATO membership: Alex Salmond’s assertion that an independent Scotland would withdraw from NATO has reportedly highlighted divisions within the SNP membership. The survey, conducted by James Mitchell of Strathclyde University, also found significant disparities on education policies as well as the role of the Queen after independence. (The Scotsman page 4, The Herald page 1, The Times page 3, Kenny Farquharson in Scotland on Sunday page 14, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

BBC row: John McLellan writes in The Scotsman about the ongoing dispute between the BBC and Alex Salmond, arguing that Alex Salmond has spun the situation to his advantage by calling into question the BBC’s commitment to neutrality. The Sunday Times also reports that Fiona Hyslop, SNP culture and external affairs secretary, has accused the BBC of using biased language in its reporting, citing the use of the words “break up” and “divorce” in its reporting. (The Scotsman page 22, The Sunday Times page 2)

SNP voters: A report by James Mitchell at the University of Strathclyde indicates that the average SNP voter is 63 years old, born in Scotland, and male, challenging the image of the SNP as a young party. The study was conducted by mail between November 2007 and March 2008.  (The Scotsman on Sunday page 4)

Women and independence: Lesley Riddoch, writing in The Scotsman, explains that women are more sceptical about the possibilities of Scottish independence. She points to the fact that the SNP has not done enough to appeal to women voters and cites Labour support for healthcare, kindergarten, and parity in political representation, as important factors that the SNP must overcome to attract women voters. (The Scotsman page 21)

Labour in Glasgow: The Labour party in Glasgow has been thrown into disarray by a split in the Glasgow City Council group, further challenging city leader Gordon Matheson. An application to register a new, rival party, provisionally named Glasgow Labour, has reportedly been submitted to the electoral commission. The party is expected to face a significant challenge from the SNP in May’s local elections. (Sunday Herald page 22)

Economy

Budget projections: An analysis by Douglas McWilliams of the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that projections for the economy of an independent Scotland would indicate a deficit of 10% of GDP, when oil revenues are included. However, the figures do not include the costs of banking bailouts for RBS and Lloyds HBOS.  The figures do indicate that English subsidy of Scotland is ‘a myth’. This indicates that Scotland is no worse off than the rest of the UK. The numbers are contested by Finance Secretary John Swinney who says that the figures indicate a small budget surplus. (The Scotsman page 5, The Sunday Times page1)

Scottish growth: A report published today by the Bank of Scotland suggests that the Scottish private sector saw small but positive growth in the manufacturing and service sectors. Although the growth is modest, the economy has not slid back into recession. (The Scotsman page 31, The Herald page 24)

Jobs figures: A survey of employers conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that a third of private sector firms plan redundancies in the coming months. The survey found that while employment is expected to increase in London and the southeast, figures remain bleak in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and the north of England. Some projections indicate that unemployment could reach 2.85m by the end of the year. (The Scotsman page 10, The Guardian page 23, Financial Times page 4, The Times page 37)

Defence industry: A committee of MPs is embarking on an investigation into the effect Scottish independence would have on defence jobs and contracts as well as the UK’s military forces. The committee is to produce a report on the implications of independence and is expected to tackle questions surrounding nuclear weapons, NATO membership, and provisions for military facilities. (The Scotsman page 4, The Herald online)

Business risks: CBI Scotland, the country’s largest business organisation, has warned that independence would put thousands of jobs at risk in a report to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee. The report indicated the huge cost of splitting with the UK, falling oil and gas revenues, and the likelihood of businesses relocating south of the border as factors in their assessment. The SNP and Finance Secretary John Swinney contested the assessment, citing low corporation tax as a lure to investors. (Daily Mail page 2)

Whisky industry: A report in the Sunday Herald challenges assumptions about the Scotch Whisky industry, which is often heralded as one of Scotland’s economic success stories. However, the figures reportedly show a different story, indicated sluggish sales and challenging global markets. (Sunday Herald page 40)

Listed companies: A report by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre revealed that the number of Scottish companies listed on the UK stock exchange has declined by one third since 2007. One third of these companies have been acquired by overseas companies. (Sunday Herald page 42)

Scotland and the Euro: Should a successful vote on independence take place, the SNP will reportedly shelve plans for a Euro vote for at least a decade. This comes on the heels of a Panelbase poll that 75% of Scots believe that the adoption of the Euro would be bad for Scotland. (Sunday Herald page 2)

Local Government

Edinburgh tourism: The departing head of Edinburgh World Heritage has said that the capital’s visitor experience is one of the worst in Europe. Charles McKean cites roadworks in key areas, cleanliness, and unwelcoming closes in his assessment. (The Scotsman page 1)

Street parade bans: A survey found that 73% of Scots want to ban Orange and Irish Republican-themed parades and 94% believe that the groups behind the marches should be responsible for the cost of policing. (The Herald page 7, The Sunday Times page 7)

Health

Prenatal scans: Despite millions of pounds from the Scottish government, pregnant women served by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have not had access to scans which would indicate a foetus’s risk of being born with Down’s Syndrome. Originally planned for rollout at the end of 2011, the programme has been delayed until September. (The Herald page 1)

Vulnerable groups: A new report published by the Mental Welfare Commission indicates that thousands of Scotland’s most vulnerable people are being left unprotected because of a failure to examine power of attorney provisions. The Commission urged lawyers and doctors to assess whether vulnerable people are capable of granting control over their finances and personal affairs to a relative and guardians and be cognisant of cases of intimidation. (The Herald page 10)

Education

Education concerns: Scottish Conservatives have urged Education Secretary Michael Russell to act quickly in response to concerns about the new Curriculum for Excellence. The party indicated that the changes, which will be rolled out for the incoming S2 year group, are causing concerns amongst parents and teachers. (The Scotsman page 16, The Courier and Advertiser page 11)

Religion in schools: Professor Robert Davis of Glasgow University has warned that the rise of popular atheism is threatening the place of religion as a legitimate area of study in Scottish schools. The academic says that schools have an obligation to educate pupils in the ideas of their surrounding culture, including debates about religion. (The Herald page 5, Andrew McKie in The Herald page 13)

Justice

Gun control: The fathers of two Scottish children killed by firearms have urged PM David Cameron to take a leading role in gun control. Talks begin today at the United Nations on arms control.  (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 6)

Police reforms: Les Gray, the outgoing head of the Scottish Police Federation which represents frontline police officers, has warned that the lengthy process to appoint a new chief constable of Scotland’s new single police force will delay the pace of reforms. (The Herald page 8)