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Reform Scotland News: 27 February 2012

 

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 27 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 date: The media and public responded to a Scottish Sun on Sunday report that the referendum on independence was being “lined up” for 18 October 2014. First Minister Alex Salmond had previously indicated that he had ruled out August and September and had expressed a preference for a Saturday vote to allow people to get to the polls. Alongside the date, which has not been confirmed by the First Minister, there was an article by the First Minister welcoming the new paper. However, political opponents expressed dismay about the date, which falls during the autumn school holiday, leaving many Scots unable to vote. This announcement comes on the heels of a statement by Scotland and Southern Electric which said that uncertainty over the future of Scotland was detrimental to the Scottish economy. In addition, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore continues to press for a 2013 vote. (The Scotsman page 1, John Curtice in the Scotsman, The Guardian page 2, The Times page 5, Daily Record page 8, Daily Express page 5, Scottish Daily Mail page 1, Daily Telegraph page 1)

Conservative election fears: Senior Tories have expressed concern that a vote for Scottish independence in 2014 could cost the Conservative Party the 2015 election as there would not be enough time to get rid of Scottish MPs from the House of Commons. Should the referendum pass, there would be 50 MPs in the House of Commons, most of whom would probably be Labour. The Prime Minister is coming under pressure to secure an earlier poll to ensure this wouldn’t be the case. The Scottish Conservatives have also been under pressure as members of the party have considered joining the Devo Plus group. (The Herald page 6)

Devo Plus: Senior cross-party figures will advocate the transfer of powers to Scotland under a Devo Plus model. This would transfer taxation powers to the Scottish government, enabling it to broadly raise what it spends and so creating a direct link between raising and spending money. VAT and national insurance would remain in the hands of The Treasury to ensure that Westminster was also accountable for its spending in Scotland. This proposal will be launched this week by former Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis and Chairman of Reform Scotland Ben Thomson. (Scotland on Sunday page 7, Jeremy Purvis in Scotland on Sunday, The Sunday Times page 2)

Scotland Bill: Senior SNP sources indicate that the First Minister will withdraw his threat to veto a coalition bill in which Scotland will lose up to 35% of its annual grant. The Scottish Parliament will then be given the power to levy taxes, including a share of income tax. Holyrood will also be given increased borrowing powers as well as powers over speed limits, drink driving, and air weapons. The First Minister has also argued for the inclusion of corporation tax, broadcasting, and excise duty in the bill. (The Sunday Times 2)

Labour MP: Following a drunken row in the bar at the House of Commons, Labour colleagues are calling for the resignation of Eric Joyce, MP for Falkirk. His resignation would be followed by a by-election. However, the party does not have the power to remove officials without their consent. (Lesley Riddoch in The Scotsman page 25, The Herald page 2, Daily Record page 4, Scotland on Sunday page 4, Sunday Herald page 20)

Spanish input: Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo has indicated that its government would not be affected by a vote for Scottish independence. The remarks were welcomed by the SNP which has faced concerns that Spain would block Scottish entry into the EU should the independence referendum pass. (The Scotsman page 5)

Civil servant row: Scotland’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden, has reportedly sparked controversy when a video emerged of him deriding the UK government’s NHS reforms as “enormously risky.” Civil servants are expected to be politically neutral. (The Sunday Herald page 5)

SNP strategy: Brian Monteith, writing in The Scotsman, compares First Minister Alex Salmond’s campaign tactics to a performer with too many kites and criticises the SNP’s tactics of throwing ideas out without a solid basis in reality. (The Scotsman page 27)

Economy

Personal debt: A report by the Consumer Credit Counselling service found that Scottish families pay an average of £200 a month in interest for debts. This is a result of increased property prices and rising borrowing. (The Scotsman page 12)

Newspaper sales: Media tycoon and owner of the new Sun on Sunday Rupert Murdoch announced that sales of the new edition hit 3 million. The paper pledged “trust” and “decency” following scandals at other News International papers. (The Scotsman page 13)

Wind farm conflict: US tycoon Donald Trump has threatened to sue the Scottish government over wind farms which the businessman says will destroy Scotland. The proposed wind farm is located 2.7 miles from Mr Trump’s luxury leisure resort in Aberdeenshire. Work on the estate has been put on hold pending a decision on the installation of wind farms with Mr Trump threatening to pull his investments should the farm go forward. Trump has offered to give evidence before the Scottish Parliament’s energy committee on the proposed wind farm. (The Scotsman page 19, The Herald page 1, The Times page 9, Duncan Hamilton in Scotland on Sunday, The Sunday Times page 3)

Rangers finance: Craig Whyte admitted using £20 million of supporters’ season ticket money to help complete his takeover of Rangers. The transaction has been called into question but Mr. Whyte has pledged to retain his position as preferred creditor with first claim. (The Herald page 1, The Sunday Herald page 1)

Job vacancies: A report compiled by think tank IPPR North found that up to 35 applicants compete for every Scottish vacancy. The organisation called for decisive government action on employment in response to the finding, including the extension of “youth contracts” or job guarantees to the long-term unemployed. (The Herald page 7)

Scottish oil: Economic forecasters have weighed in on Scottish independence, explaining that the viability of an independent Scotland will be loosely linked to the price of oil remaining high in the foreseeable future. The division of oil revenues as well as debt taken on as part of the bank bailouts will be important issues in the Scottish economy. (The Times page 34)

Education

Childcare costs: Scottish parents pay higher childcare costs than their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom according to a report by the Daycare Trust and Children in Scotland charities. Working parents who require 25 hours of out-of-school care per week may pay up to £12,000. In addition, some local authorities do not have the capacity to provide childcare for working parents. The Scottish government has expressed its commitment to lowering costs but charities have called for free universal childcare. (The Scotsman page 3, The Herald page 3, Daily Record page 16, Daily Mail page 27)

Justice

Police VAT: Concerns have been raised about the financial implications of the merger of the eight police and fire forces. Under the current structures, police forces are treated like local authorities and are exempt from VAT. However, when they merge, they may be subject to the tax. The Scottish government is currently in talks with the Treasury to eliminate or minimise financial liability. (The Scotsman page 9)

Transport

Tram projections: Secret forecasts drawn up by Edinburgh City Council predict that 5.4 million people a year will use the trams between the airport and St Andrew Square. This compares to a previous forecast indicating that 12 million passengers will use the route. The tram project is expected to lose £5 million for the first three years of operation before breaking even in the fourth year. (The Herald page 10)

Local Government

Historic towns: The Scottish government announced plans to use £10 million to restore historic high streets and town centres. The plan, administered by Historic Scotland, will be spent on everyday surroundings rather than historic sites. (The Herald page 9)