Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 5 March 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.
Independence campaign: First Minister Alex Salmond revealed that campaigning for independence would begin following the local government elections on 3 May and the conclusion of the Scottish government’s consultation on the referendum. The First Minister promised a positive campaign in which the case for the benefits of independence would be made. In his remarks, Mr. Salmond addressed the retention of the sterling currency as well as the phrasing of the question. (The Scotsman page 1, John Curtice in the Scotsman, The Herald page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 10, The Times page 9, The Daily Mail page 4, The Press & Journal page 16, Daily Express page 1)
Unionist response: Lesley Riddoch explains that the multitude of proposals, including Devo Plus and Devo Max, put forth by parties and civic organisations are part of the natural process of brainstorming and encourages participants to think of the referendum as a marathon rather than a sprint. Duncan Hamilton in Scotland on Sunday reflected on the failure of unionist parties to outline their visions for constitutional change in Scotland, writing that “Unionists agree on only one thing – that independence is bad.” He urges party leads to consider Devo Plus as a viable alternative and as something worthy for inclusion on the ballot. In the Daily Telegraph, Alan Cochrane is encouraged by the “coalition of enemies,” representatives from the Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties who will come together to oppose independence but criticises Labour’s reluctance to align themselves too closely to the Tories, saying that they are “proving that party means more to them than country.” (The Scotsman page 23, Scotland on Sunday page 15, The Daily Telegraph page 16).
Labour Conference: Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran told her party members that they had “nothing to fear” from the debate over Scotland’s future at the party conference in Dundee. She framed the referendum as an opportunity to “restate our fundamental values” and attacked both the SNP for its “separatist agenda” and the Tory-led coalition at Westminster for recent cuts in benefits. Reflecting on Labour Leader Johann Lamont’s speech, Kenny Farquharson praised her assertive speech and encouraged her to embrace more powers for Scotland. (The Scotsman page 7, The Herald page 1, The Press & Journal page 12, The Courier page 10, Scotland on Sunday page 14, Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday, Scotland on Sunday page 1, Iain Macwhirter in the Sunday Herald, Sunday Herald page 10)
Lib Dem conference: Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie criticised Alex Salmond for his relationships with powerful figures, like media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, at the party conference in Inverness. Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, will serve as the point person for the Lib Dem campaign against independence. He also pledged to work on more powers for Scotland should the referendum fail, positioning his party as the “guarantors of change.” However, there was dissent amongst the party. Fringe events taking place alongside the official conference argued for a second question, a move which party president Malcom Bruce described as “a naive response.” (The Scotsman page 6, The Herald page 7, The Courier page 11)
Paul McBride: Paul McBride, one of Scotland’s most high-profile lawyers, passed away at the age of 47,while travelling in Pakistan. Mr. McBride had a distinguished legal career and became Scotland’s youngest QC at the age of 35. The legal and political community responded to his death, with First Minister Alex Salmond describing it as “sad and shocking news.” (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Guadian page 7, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 1, The Daily Mail page 5, Daily Record page 1, The Press & Journal page 14, Daily Express page 1, The Courier page 3)
SNP suspension: Bill Walker, Dunfermline MSP, was suspended from the SNP and the parliamentary group after allegations of domestic abuse from the 1960s to 1980s came to light. The story was broken by the Sunday Herald which presented the SNP with evidence. The allegations were not reported during Mr. Walker’s candidate process. The move for suspension was supported by the First Minister who explained that the SNP’s “strongly held position is zero tolerance of violence against women.” (The Scotsman page 11, The Daily Telegraph page 9, The Daily Mail page 8, Scottish Sun page 1, The Press & Journal page 14, The Courier page 12, The Sunday Herald page 6)
Wind farms: Brian Monteith notes widespread concern about wind farms despite the lack of a party supporting their efforts. He argues that this is an opportunity for Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to mobilise around the issue, seizing the opportunity to show her independence from David Cameron and luring new voters to the polls. (The Scotsman page 25)
Panda controversy: A complaint brought by animal welfare campaigners has been accepted by the Advertising Standards Authority which has condemned a campaign which described the pandas as a gift in “celebration of links between Scotland and China” when in fact the Edinburgh Zoo will pay the Chinese government £600,000 a year for the next ten years for the right to house the pandas. (The Herald page 8)
Economic uncertainty: The business community has expressed concerns about the economic effects that the referendum on independence will have on Scotland’s economy. Leaders of Weir Group, a FTSE 100 company and Scotland’s largest engineering firm, as well as Scottish and Southern Energy have all expressed concerns that the referendum posed a threat to Scottish business and investments. The CBI as well as many businesses have urged politicians to bring the timetable forward. The article goes on to discuss the business response to Devo Plus which calls for the transfer of income tax and corporation tax. (The Sunday Times page 22)
Budget cuts: Finance Secretary John Swinney issued a warning that front-line services faces cuts of tens of billions of pounds in coming years. Figures from the Scottish Government indicate that the SNP administration’s budget would be cut by nearly a fifth by cuts from Westminster. However, his remarks were contested by the UK Treasury and Mr. Swinney was accused by Senior Tory MSP Alex Johnstone of attempting to mislead the public to garner support for independence. (The Scotsman page 8).
Mortgage costs: In response to mortgage rate hikes by Halifax and RBS, the Scottish Government has accused Westminster of failing to use its position as a major stakeholder to protect people. The rates will increase for more than a million customers in eight weeks’ time despite record low rates set by the Bank of England. The changes will lead to increases of about £300 a year on £100,000 mortgages. (The Sunday Herald page 2)
Minimum Wage hike: Following a poll which showed that independence would leave them economically worse off, the SNP has pledged a minimum wage hike should the referendum on independence pass. Wages for workers making the lowest wages could increase from £4.98 for workers 18 to 20 and £6.08 for adults to a flat rate of £7.20 per hour, which is shown to be the minimum “living wage.” (The Sunday Times page 1)
Forth Bridge: Community union chief Michael Leahy spoke out against the decision to use Chinese, Polish, and Spanish steel providers for the new Forth crossing. His remarks came as Labour activists at the Scottish conference backed an emergency resolution to look into the procurement process. (The Scotsman page 12, The Herald page 6, Daily Record page 6)
Green energy: Scottish Secretary Michael Moore warned that the green energy agenda is in jeopardy should Scotland become independent. Speaking that the Liberal Democrat Scottish Conference, he said that continued debate over independence is deterring investment. At the same time, he urged the SNP to bring forward the referendum. (Scotland on Sunday page 4, The Sunday Herald page 12)
Climate change measures: The Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, praised Scotland’s approach to climate change, saying that Scotland has “shown the way forward” with its legislation on green house gas reduction. (The Herald page 5)
Scottish tourism: The Scottish Tourism Forum is attempting to revitalise the industry in the run-up to the London Olympics. However, industry leaders have warned that standards for B&Bs and hotels have declined in the economic downturn and may put off visitors. (The Scotsman page 5, Sunday Herald page 42)
Curriculum delay: Labour called for a delay in the implementation of the “Curriculum for Excellence,” arguing that teachers cannot guarantee that new exams and text books would be ready in time. Pupils now in the second year of secondary school are to be the first cohort to sit the new national exams, which replace Standard Grades and Intermediates. The new curriculum has been criticised for being too vague and requiring additional training for teachers. (Scotland on Sunday page 4)
Glasgow Council: The leader of Glasgow City Council remained defiant, insisting that Labour would retain its position in the face of SNP opposition in May. He highlighted the Council’s accomplishments at the Labour conference in Dundee this weekend and outlined his plans to create jobs, build homes, and expand free childcare. (Scotland on Sunday page 5)
Homophobia campaign: Scotland’s biggest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, has launch a campaign against homophobia and discrimination. The initiative is the first of its kind in the UK NHS. (The Herald page 4)