Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 2 April 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.
Referendum consultation dispute: The Scottish government came under pressure to abandon its independence referendum consultation after it emerged that submissions could be made anonymously. The loophole would allow people to make multiple submissions which could skew the outcome of the consultation. Constitutional experts, the business organisation CBI and the Labour party all expressed concerns about the integrity of the process but the SNP argues that the system is the same one employed for parliamentary bills. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Times page 9, The Daily Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 6, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Express page 2, The Courier page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 2)
Political donations: Former Conservative Party treasurer Peter Cruddas was caught on tape saying that the party “must be seen” to be staunchly Unionist to get a better break-up deal for England should the referendum succeed. The accusation was denied by a Scottish Tory spokesman who said that Mr. Cameron had always been clear that “he wants to keep the Union together.” In the wake of initial reports, Peter Cruddas was dismissed as a minor player but newly released documents and footage reveal that Mr. Cruddas’ access to the Prime Minister was closer than the party claimed. (The Scotsman page 5, Andrew McKie in the Herald, The Daily Telegraph page 6, The Sunday Times page 1. Scotland on Sunday page 1, The Sunday Herald page 5)
SNP donors: First Minister Alex Salmond’s meetings with donors were reportedly called into question, with allegations made that the First Minister was using his office to raise money for the SNP. Freedom of Information Act requests for correspondence between the SNP and Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter have been denied on the grounds of it being too expensive to release the correspondence. In light of events in London, new legislation being drawn up at Holyrood would require lobbyists to sign a register indicating who they are meeting and why they are meeting. The bill, brought forward by Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay, comes in light of recent lobbying scandals at Westminster. (The Scotman page 5, Scotland on Sunday page 4, The Daily Telegraph page 6 and page 12, The Sunday Herald page 7).
Government surveillance: Legislation expected in next month’s Queen’s Speech will require internet companies to install hardware enabling GCHQ, the government’s electronic listening agency, to examine phone calls, texts, e-mail, and web history. A warrant would be required to do so. A previous attempt to enact similar legislation failed in 2006 in face of fierce opposition. (The Scotsman page 6, The Herald page 6, The Guardian page 4, Daily Mail page 2, Daily Express page 1, The Sunday Times page 1)
Fuel crisis: The Government retracted advice to motorists to top up their tanks in preparation for a strike by fuel tanker drivers. The statement was followed by panic buying and massive queues at the pump. Unite, the union which represents 2,000 fuel tanker drivers, ruled out an Easter strike. Labour accused the government of deliberately causing the panic as a means of distracting the public from recent donation and budget controversies. (Scotland on Sunday page 1, Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday)
Literacy skills: Writing in the Sunday Herald, Marc Lambert recommends delaying the formal teaching of literacy skills until the second or third year of primary school. He cites the case of Finland, which leads in educational achievement, where students learn to read and write when they are seven. According to the author, the Curriculum for Excellence will help ensure that educational techniques match the child’s level of development. (The Sunday Herald page 34)
Knife crime: New rules will increase mandatory sentencing for anyone caught carrying a knife in Scotland’s town and city centres. The new minimum sentences followed the success of the pilot scheme over the festive period that saw an 18% fall in knife crime and revealed that crimes were concentrated in town and city centres. (The Herald page 1, Daily Record page 2, Scottish Sun page 12)
Policing body: Labour MSP and former head of Scotland’s crime fighting agency, Graeme Pearson, is drafting amendments to the legislation that will merge eight police areas. He has expressed concerns that this will consolidate too much power under one person. His amendments would create a commission to scrutinise Scotland’s new police force, adding a layer of accountability to the system. (Scotland on Sunday page 3)
Dementia diagnosis and treatment: According to data released by the NHS, Scottish healthcare providers have diagnosed 64% of suspected dementia cases, compared with 41% in the rest of the UK. Despite these successes, Alzheimer’s Scotland raised concerns about the availability of treatment following diagnosis. (The Scotsman page 13, The Daily Telegraph page 2)
St. Andrews Campaign: Penelope Uprichard, a campaigner working to protect the town of St. Andrews from developers, has had her legal liability limited by the Supreme Court. Ms. Uprichard faced legal bills of £173,000 following failed challenges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. She will now only be forced to pay £6,000 if she loses. (The Scotsman page 9)