Reform Scotland News: 6 February 2012

 

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 6 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

Independence polls: A new opinion poll from Panelbase found that 47% of the 1,000 polled favoured independence while 53% favoured remaining part of the United Kingdom. The poll also found that more Scots than not believed that separation would be better for the nation’s health, education, culture, and environment. SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pointed to the poll as evidence of increased support for the SNP and independence. In another poll, TNS-BMRB shows that support for the status quo and increasing devolved powers have increased while support for independence has fallen. In addition, those polled also expressed concern about the negative effect that independence would have on their tax bills as well as the adoption of the Euro. (The Scotsman page 10, The Herald page 1, Chris Eynon in The Herald page 2, The Courier page 2, The Times page 12, Daily Record page 2, Scottish Daily Mail page 4, Scotland on Sunday page 4, The Sunday Times page 2)

Salmond controversy: Alex Salmond has reportedly come under criticism for his remarks which linked a BBC official to an official of Nazi Germany. The controversial remark followed the cancellation of Alex Salmond’s appearance on a sport show ahead of the Six Nations match between Scotland and England. The appearance was cancelled because of “heightened tensions” over the independence referendum. Mr Salmond made the remark as part of his criticism of the ban, which he considered politically motivated and indicative of issues of impartiality at the BBC. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 6, The Press and Journal page 18, The Times page 6, The Telegraph page 1, Alan Cochrane in The Telegraph page 7, The Daily Express page 4, The Sunday Herald page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 3)

Referendum votes: Finance Secretary John Swinney has defended plans to allow 60,000 EU nationals living in Scotland to vote in an independence referendum. He explained that many of these voters have been living in Scotland for decades and are active participants in Scottish society. The opinion led to renewed calls for a decision on whether the franchise would be extended to the estimated 750,000 Scots living south of the Border. (The Scotsman page 11, The Herald page 6, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Civil Servants: Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Margaret Curran, the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, stresses the importance of the neutrality of civil servants in the debate over independence. She cites the publication of statistics and reports with unclear links to the SNP and calls for a distinction between the SNP’s campaign for independence and the Scottish Government and their professional civil servants. (Scotland on Sunday page 15)

Border Controls: Leaked UK government papers suggest that Scotland would be forced to join the Euro and participate in the Schengen zone should Scotland become independent. This would require border checks for transit between Scotland and the rest of the UK. The Scottish government has dismissed the report as scare tactics. (The Herald page 2)

House of Lords rules: The SNP has called for a review of rules relating to peers convicted and imprisoned for serious offences. This follows the decision to strip former RBS Chief Executive Fred Goodwin of his knighthood last week. (The Press and Journal page 14)

Economy

Scotland rating: Three credit rating agencies have indicated that an independent Scotland would not automatically inherit the UK’s triple A credit rating, a situation would could potentially lead to higher borrowing costs. However, the agencies did not offer an assessment of what rating an independent Scotland would receive, saying that they did not provide unsolicited assessments. This comes on the heels of a report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which highlighted weaknesses in the economy of an independent Scotland. (Financial Times page 1, The Telegraph online)

Scottish contracts: A new report issued by the Jimmy Reid Foundation indicates that contracts for major infrastructure and building projects are increasingly going to firms beyond the borders of Scotland. The report urged the Scottish government to seek out exemptions to EU rules which prevent preference for domestic firms.  (The Scotsman page 1, Scottish Daily Mail page 1)

Wind farm subsidy: The Scottish government has launched a defence of its green energy policies in face of Tory opposition to the cost of onshore wind farms. 100 Tory MPs expressed their concern about the cost and reliability of the projects in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. (The Scotsman page 4, The Herald page 6, The Press and Journal page 18, Daily Record page 4)

Taxation plans: The Business Centre Association has criticised Scottish government plans to increase rates on empty commercial property. The national trade body claims that this will undermine Scotland’s competitive advantage with the rest of the UK and discourage investment in business infrastructure. The government proposals will allow property developers three months after completion to secure income-generating tenants but will impose a 90% of normal rates should they fail to secure tenants. (Sunday Herald page 42)

Education

College cuts: Opposition parties, including Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have called on Finance Secretary John Swinney to rethink cuts for college funding. This comes after the Scottish government announced extra cash for housing, job programmes, and roads. (The Scotsman page 17, The Herald page 4, The Courier page 1)

Exam delays: East Renfrewshire has decided to delay the introduction of new school exams, part of the Curriculum for Excellence programme, arguing schools need more time to prepare. School Leaders Scotland which represents secondary head teachers have criticised this move, saying that it undermines confidence in the system. However, the new curriculum is not without controversy, with Dr John Halliday of the High School of Dundee criticising the curriculum as a threat to the competitiveness of Scottish students. (The Herald page 4, The Courier page 10)

Health

Ritalin use: More than 2 million daily doses of Ritalin were prescribed to children in Scotland despite calls for doctors to reduce the use of the drug which is used to treat ADHD. Around 6,000 children between the ages of 6 and 12 are now believed to be taking the drugs, which has led to concern amongst experts that the drug is being abused. (Scotland on Sunday page 1)