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Reform Scotland News: 8-2-12

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
Civil service:
The head of the UK’s civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake, has insisted that government officials must act with integrity and openness following concerns about the impartiality of Scotland’s Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden and rumours that he was being frozen out by Westminster civil servants when they discussed independence. Sir Bob denied Sir Peter had been frozen out. (Scotsman page 5, Eddie Barnes in the Scotsman, Herald page 6, Express page 7, Record page 8)

 Publicity bill: The Scottish government’s strategic communications budget is reportedly three times bigger than initially thought.  Figures show that the figure has risen from an initial £4.3m for 2011-12 to £11.8m to cover the same period. (Scotsman page 6)

BBC row: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman comments on the recent row between the BBC and Alex Salmond.

Sterling: Brian Ashcroft in the Scotsman comments on the possibility of a sterling union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK. John Kay in the FT comments on the use of Scottish bank notes.

Independence: Allan Massie in the Scotsman and Tristan Garel-Jones in the Scotsman comment on the independence debate.

 Two-question referendum: Nigel Smith, who chaired the cross party campaign on devolution, has warned the First Minister that including a devo-max option in his planned independence referendum could be anti-democratic and produce a unclear result.  (Times page 13

Tory MPs urged to fight to save Union: Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, has reportedly had talks with English Tory MPs who are sympathetic to maintaining the Union.  It is reportedly part of a campaign to tell their constituents of the benefits of Scotland remaining in the UK in order to address antagonism over apparent higher public spending in Scotland. (Telegraph page 1)

House of Lords: Benedict Brogan in the Telegraph comments on Nick Clegg’s attempts to reform the House of Lords.

 Economy
Clydesdale Bank:
Trade union Unite has voiced concerns that the review into the Clydesdale Bank by its owner National Australia Bank could lead to job cuts. (Herald page 1, Sun page 2, Mail page 1, Times page 1, Express page 9)

Bonuses: George Osborne has vowed to stop “anti-business” critics of the bonus culture who he believes could cost the UK jobs.  He defended the bonus culture in a speech to the Federation of Small Business last night. Stephen Hester, the chief executive at RBS, has said the best way to hit back at the bank’s critics was to prove them wrong. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 5, Sun page 2, Mirror page 4, Record page 8, FT page 3, Telegraph page 2

 Inflation on the high street: According to the British Retail Consortium, inflation on non-food goods has dropped to zero.  Overall shop price inflation fell to 1.4 per cent in January, the lowest in almost two years.  Food inflation was at 3.7 per cent in January, the lowest level since July 2010. (Scotsman page 10)

 Wind farms:  Donald Trump has claimed that Scotland will become the “laughing stock of the world” if it builds hundreds of “hideous” new off-shore wind farms.  He has reportedly threatened to walk away from his golf resort if ministers approve plans for turbines within sight of the course. (Mail page 13, Times page 15, Press and Journal page 14, Courier page 3, Telegraph page 9, Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph)

 Gas prices: Gas prices have reportedly risen to their highest level in six years prompting fears that energy bills could rise. (Express page 1)

 Scottish seabed: The seabed off the cost of northern Scotland could hold key reserves of a valuable new fuel (methane hydrates), energy chiefs have revealed. (Press and Journal page 1)

 Health
Minimum pricing: Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said that senior EU officials have told the Scottish government that its proposals to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland are, in principle, “entirely compatible” with EU law. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 6)

 Education
College cuts:
It is reported that more than 80,000 students, lecturers and members of the public have emailed MSPs calling for a change in Scottish government plans to cut the budget for Scotland’s colleges by £74m.  (Record page 1, Times page 13, The Press and Journal page 17)

Justice
Knife crime:
Crimes involving offensive weapons have reportedly fallen by almost 40 per cent in the past five years.  Scotland’s “get tough” stance on knife crime has also seen more knife wielding criminals in jail and for longer than the rest of the UK. (Herald page 1)

Sectarian incidents on trains: The number of sectarian incidents reported on Scotland’s trains has more than doubled this year following a “zero tolerance” approach by British Transport Police.  (Herald page 11)