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Reform Scotland News: 16 May 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 referendum date: David Cameron said last night that he was ‘not too fussy’ about the timing of the Scottish independence referendum. This reportedly paves the way for Alex Salmond to push for his preferred date in autumn 2014. The Prime Minister’s comments came at a reception at the Scotland Office in London to mark the passing of the Scotland Act, with gives Holyrood extra tax powers. (Herald page 1, Scotsman page 13, Times page 15, Express page 5, Sun page 4, P&J page 13, Mail page 4, Courier page 23)

Independence campaign language: The word ‘Union’ will not feature in the title of the cross-party campaign against Scottish independence. The public research conducted by the organising committee showed that the word ‘has certain connotations in the west of Scotland, which are not necessarily positive.’ (Herald page 2)

Independence funding: Nigel Smith, a businessman who chaired the cross-party yes campaign in the 1997 devolution referendum, has said that Alex Salmond’s proposals for the 2014 referendum would give him a £1 million spending advantage over pro-Union opponents. The ‘illegal’ proposals would apparently also deprive the no campaign of up to £600,000 of public money that it would be entitled to receive under existing legislation. Sources in the pro-UK campaign have made it clear that spending would match, if not exceed, that of the SNP’s pro-independence bid. (Scotsman page 15, Herald page 2)

Independence risk to defence: A leading military analyst has declared that the Ministry of Defence will ‘want out’ of an independent Scotland, moving defence contracts to territory ‘controlled by London’. Professor Taylor, a fellow of think-tank Royal United Services Institute, said as many as 16,000 defence jobs would be affected. (Scotsman page 14, Times page 5, Telegraph page 6, P&J page 13, Courier page 15)

Tory peer says independence inevitable: Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, a former Lord Advocate, said yesterday that he didn’t want independence but unionists should accept the break-up of the UK would happen in the long term. (Express page 5, Telegraph page 6, P&J page 12, Mail page 17)

Operation to stop gas leak: An operation to stop the gas leak from Total’s Elgin platform in the North Sea is underway, two months after the problem was initially detected. The success of the attempt to block the leak will be determined in a few days time. (Herald page 4, Scotsman page 15, P&J page 6, Mail page 18)

Cameron approval rating falls: David Cameron’s personal approval ratings have slumped to a record low in the wake of confirmation that the UK is back in recession. The survey by Ipsos MORI has shown that 60% of those polled are dissatisfied with Cameron, but the Tories are still the preferred party for economic policy. (Herald page 6)

Child benefit: The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland has warned that the move to take child benefit away from families where one earner has a salary of £50,000 or more could contravene EU rules on tax confidentiality. Aids at Revenue and Customs have said that the system is the simplest way to save money from the benefit. (Scotsman page 16, Express page 7, Financial Times page 4)

Government loses benefit court ruling: The Court of Appeal has ruled that the amount of housing benefit paid to disabled people is discriminatory because it does not allow for an additional room in situations where an overnight carer is needed or children cannot share the same room due to disabilities. Capability Scotland has welcomed the decision. (Herald page 8)

Leveson Inquiry: Alex Salmond is expected to appear on June 13. The First Minister insists that Leveson inquiry is the appropriate forum to discuss his dealings with News Corporation and phone hacking. Despite this, opposition parties are demanding he answers questions in the Scottish Parliament. (Telegraph page 1, P&J page 17, Courier page 23)

Economy
Greece Euro vote: George Osborne has warned that the threat of Greece leaving the euro is damaging economies across Europe, including Britain’s. (Scotsman page 5, Ian Bell in the Herald, Express page 4)

Benefit cuts: Holyrood’s welfare reform committee warned that the £2.5 billion cuts to Scottish benefits will hit those who are most vulnerable. The Telegraph has disclosed proposals outlined in a policy paper for the Prime Minister, which outline that an extra £25 billion could be cut from the welfare budget. This sum is regarded as ‘absolute nonsense’ by Mr Duncan Smith. (Record page 8, Sun page 2, Telegraph page 1)

North Sea jobs: Alex Salmond has hailed the creation of 500 new jobs in Aberdeen by a Norwegian oil services company as proof that Scotland’s evolving strategy for the sector is working. (Herald page 12, Record page 12, Express page 2, P&J page 10)

Pensions: More than six million people over the age of 50 in Britain are on track to retire on less than the minimum wage. A survey by finance firm LV= shows that 28% of over-50s in the UK have no pension or savings in place for retirement. (Herald page 7, Express page 2)

House prices rise: A surge of first-time buyers has nudged the average house price up in March, during a rush to beat the stamp duty deadline. As of 24 March, first-time buyers of homes worth between £125,000 and £250,000 are no longer exempt from paying the 1% tax. (Scotsman page 3, Express page 2, Mail page 21)

High street slump: New figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) have sparked fears of mass job losses in the retail sector. An estimated £88.8million has been lost by retailers in a month, with sales plummeting 4.1 per cent. SRC director Ian Shearer said: ‘Cold, wet weather across much of Scotland left April a washout for many retailers. (Mail page 2)

Local Government
Glasgow council recount: The recount of ballot papers in the Langside ward of Glasgow City Council has returned the same results as the original count. The original mistake occurred when ballot papers were not properly entered into the count. (Herald page 6)

Council coalitions: The SNP and Labour have joined forces to form the administration in East Renfrewshire, whilst the SNP has gone back into administration with the Conservatives in East Ayrshire. (Herald page 6)

Health
Calls for cancer drug: Pressure is growing on Scotland’s medicines watchdog to approve a prostate cancer drug for the NHS that has kept the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing alive for 1000 days. The medicines regulator for England and Wales will today announce that the drug, Abiraterone, will be made available there. (Herald page 5, Scotsman page 9, P&J page 20, Mail page 3)

Parkinson’s treatment: A report published by NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland shows a huge disparity in the level of treatment available for Scots with brain conditions such as Parkinson’s. (Herald page 10)