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Reform Scotland News: 27 March 2012

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 27 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.

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

Conservative fundraising: Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to reveal the names of 15 wealthy donors who dined at Downing Street following continued calls for an investigation into fundraising practices. The Labour opposition called for an independent inquiry into the scandal. The budget combined with the cash-for-access controversy saw the party fall in the polls, with Ed Miliband’s Labour up three points at 43 per cent with the Tories down four at 33 per cent. First Minister Alex Salmond called on the Prime Minister to release details of discussions after it emerged that Mr. Cruddas claimed that he held discussions with the Prime Minister regarding the referendum and referred to Mr. Salmond as the “mad Scotsman.” The First Minister used the revelations as evidence that Westminster could not be allowed to run the referendum on independence and should instead delegate the authority to the Scottish Parliament. (The Scotsman page 6, The Herald page 6, The Press and Journal page 14, The Scottish Sun page 1, Daily Express page 5, Daily Mail page 8, Daily Record page 2, Financial Times page 1, The Guardian page 1, The Times page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Telegraph page 5, The Times page 9)

Tanker drivers strike: Tanker drivers in the Unite union voted in favour of industrial action in a row over their terms and conditions. While the strike is not yet scheduled, walkouts could start as early as next Monday, just before the Easter weekend where demand for fuel will increase. Fuel prices are expected to increase 10 pence a litre in the case of a walkout. The union is required to give seven days’ notice of walkouts. The UK government has drafted in the army to aid supplies. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Scottish Sun page 2, Daily Express page 1, Daily Mail page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 1)

Trump campaign: Donald Trump has launched a campaign against wind farms which targets every candidate for a council seat in Scotland and seeks to raise awareness of the wind farms issue. The lobbying organisation, called Communities Against Turbines Scotland, will be assisted by two Trump interns and will use advertisements, leafleting, and a march at Holyrood in April to build support. Alex Salmond had complained to the Electoral Commission about the funding. However, the Electoral Commission has dismissed his call for investigation, saying the Commission did not have the powers to regulate non-party campaigning at the local level. (The Herald page 4, The Press and Journal page 17, The Times page 3)

Independence referendum: Writing in the Scotsman, Peter Jones analyses Alex Salmond’s Catch-22 in which the more he pushes for change, the more uncertainty is perceived to exist by businesses and the voters. However, a more conservative approach to independence would be pointless. The First Minister has set up a fiscal-commission of distinguished economists and scholars in an attempt to dispel concerns about the fiscal viability of Scotland. (The Scotsman page 25)

MSP Afghanistan visit: The Ministry of Defence rejected a request for MSP Keith Brown to visit Afghanistan. Mr. Brown, a former Royal Marine, requested permission to visit Afghanistan last year as part of his work in supporting returning veterans last year. Although defence is an area reserved to Westminster, many areas affecting returning veterans are devolved to the Scottish government. (The Scotsman page 3, The Herald page 6)

Economy

RBS buyout: The UK government is reportedly in talks with Middle Eastern investors to sell a stake in RBS before the end of the year. However, taxpayers, who own 82% of the Edinburgh-based bank, would lose almost half of their investment on any sale at current prices as shares are currently trading at half of the UK government’s average purchase price. Westminster sources downplayed concerns. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1)

Education

Foreign student ban: Colleges have urged the Scottish Secretary to take action to prevent legitimate institutions from facing a ban on their recruitment of foreign students. The UK Border Agency recently changed rules that would restrict overseas recruitment to colleges with “highly trusted” status. Some students at downgraded institutions will have to find new courses or face deportation. The new rules come on the heels of a report that shows up to 50,000 migrants may have used flaws in the student visa system to come to the UK to work last year. Scottish colleges fear that this ban will have a disproportionate impact on smaller colleges. (The Herald page 9)

Childhood literacy recommendations: Scottish government adviser Marc Lambert said that children should not be taught to read until the age of eight. He said that children’s brains were not up to the task when they start school at age five. His comments reflect concerns that children, particularly boys, are failing to develop an interest in reading at an early age. (Daily Mail page 6)

Transport

Fuel prices: Figures released by FairfuelUK indicate that the price of fuel has doubled in only five years. Scotland is especially hard hit because its towns and rural communities are spread out and lack viable public transportation options. There are also fewer competitors to keep prices low. (Daily Mail page 2)

Glasgow tube renovations: The Scottish Government will pay £236 million for the massive redevelopment of Glasgow’s 115 year old subway system. All 15 stations in the six-mile route will be upgraded and driverless trains will be introduced. (Daily Express page 4)

Local Government

Princes Mall Sale: The £50 million shopping mall could be sold for only 40p under the Long Leases (Scotland) bill. The property, currently under long-term lease by Premier Property Group, is leased for only 1p a year in rent. (The Scotsman page 19)