Reform Scotland News: 28 May 2012

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 28 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

Yes campaign responses: Sir Tom Farmer, one of the SNP’s most influential business backers, revealed that he doesn’t support “separatism,” seeking instead more fiscal autonomy. He said, “I’m still supportive of devo-max or devo-plus” and argued for more independence within the United Kingdom. Sir Tom wants to see a third option on the referendum ballot. Jeane Freeman, former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell’s chief of staff, signed up to the Yes campaign and plans to act as an ambassador to businesswomen in Scotland. Speaking of divisions amongst the Yes campaigners on the subject of the monarchy and currency, SNP treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie said that it was “right and proper” that the campaign included different voices. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Sunday Herald page 1, Tom Gordon in the Sunday Herald, Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday, Duncan Hamilton in Scotland on Sunday)

Yes campaign critiques: The Yes Scotland campaign faced critiques from Unionist rivals and public commentators this weekend. A Labour spokesperson said that the party was “relaxed” about attempts by the Yes Scotland campaign to woo Labour voters, highlighting the high number of SNP voters who have said they would vote no to independence. Writing in The Scotsman, Lesley Riddoch criticised the supporters of the Yes Scotland campaign for failing to share a vision of why independence mattered to them, favouring instead slick campaign slogans. She argued that the event would be strengthened by inclusion of people from diverse walks of life. Writing in The Sunday Times, Gillian Bowditch asked for more depth on what an independent Scotland would look like, rejecting the campaign’s request for blind faith as having “no place in the modern, democratic process.” (The Scotsman page 25, The Herald page 6, The Sunday Times page 22, The Sunday Times page 5, The Daily Telegraph page 10, Daily Mail page 14, Scotland on Sunday page 1).

Alex Salmond on independence: Writing in The Sunday Times, Alex Salmond argues for a yes vote in the independence referendum. He describes the campaign for independence as a ‘broad church’ incorporating a wide range of people, both political and not. The First Minister points to the Scottish government’s successes in running health and education since independence and its commitment to protecting social services and the vulnerable. He also shed light on his views on the referendum results, stating that a 51% vote is enough to end the union, even if there is stronger support for a devo-max option. This claim led to charges of “cheating” from Alistair Darling, the former chancellor and now a senior member of the No campaign (The Sunday Times page 1, page 22).

Parliamentary expense controversy: Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi faces increasing pressure to resign amid allegations that she claimed parliamentary expenses for accommodation while staying at a friend’s house rent-free. Lady Warsi was claiming Lords subsistence of £165.50 a night, which she insisted that she paid to the friend although the property’s owner denies receiving income from her office. (The Scotsman page 13, The Herald page 6, Andrew McKie in the Herald, Daily Express page 2, Daily Record page 2, The Sun page 15, Financial Times page 4, The Sunday Times page 1, The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Times page 1, The Guardian page 12, Press & Journal page 12, Daily Mail page 10)

Economic implications of independence: An independent Scotland could face a proportional share of the United Kingdom’s £1 trillion national debt and a portion of the liabilities from the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS bailouts. To service this debt, Scotland would have to issue bonds although the rate of borrowing remains unclear. The Yes campaign challenges this notion, pointing to the larger net contributions Scotland makes to the UK and the potential of oil and gas revenues which could make it the sixth largest economy in the OECD. (The Sunday Times page 2)

Pro-Union campaign strategy: More details have emerged about the pro-Union campaign strategy although Scottish Secretary Michael Moore did not reveal the launch date. The campaign, which had hoped to mobilise business support of the union, has reportedly received rejections from two major potential donors Sir Jack Harvie and Lord Laidlaw, both of whom provided Tory funding in the past. Blue State Digital, the firm which was behind President Obama’s game-changing media strategy, has been appointed to run the online campaign for the No camp. The Yes campaign is also employing new technologies, working with Nation Builder. (Daily Record page 2, The Sunday Times page 5, Jim Gallagher in the Guardian)

Independence reflections: Reflecting on what might change under independence, Andrew Nicoll asserted that Scotland would remain a prosperous first world country, with a functioning infrastructure, civil service and tax system. However, an independent Scotland would face issues around defence, although Denmark might present a model for Scotland. (The Sun page 8).

Twitter row: The director of the SNP’s independence campaign faced criticism last night after distributing a fake message supposedly from Lord Coe, the London 2012 Olympics chief, which derided Scotland as not a real country. However, the account from which the statement was derived was an obvious fake. (The Daily Telegraph page 1)

Scottish Tory rebrand: The Scottish Conservative party is considering a rebrand, abandoning the current tree logo for something more Scottish. Brian Monteith, writing in The Scotsman, questions this emphasis on branding rather than presenting ideas on policy and challenging the independence campaign. (The Scotsman page 27)

Alistair Darling: Alistair Darling insisted that he would reject a return to Labour’s shadow cabinet in order to focus on leading the pro-Union campaign in the independence referendum. (The Scotsman page 4)

Economy

Fuel tax: A cross-party group of MPs is calling on the UK government to scrap the 3p rise in fuel duty planned for August. The amendment to the budget, drafted by the SNP, would cancel the rise in duty. 28 MPs from nine parties have signed up to put pressure on the government to call off the increase as fuel prices remain volatile. (The Herald page 2, The Courier and Advertiser page 13)

Education

Vocational school delays: Businessman Jim McColl has blamed “negative” bureaucrats for delays in the launch of the country’s first vocational school for disaffected youths. The Newlands Junior College, a school which is designed to equip teenagers from deprived backgrounds with vocational and life skills, has been delayed until 2012 at the earliest. Mr. McColl said that while he could fund the school himself, he was hoping to work through the state education system. (The Sunday Times page 17).

Justice

Drink drive plans: Road safety campaigners heralded the Scottish government’s move to lower the blood alcohol legal limits from 80mg to 50mg later this year. They also called for a further reduction of the level to signal zero-tolerance for drinking and driving. This move, which will be enacted following further devolution under the Scotland Act, will put Scottish laws at odds with England and Wales, where recommendations to lower the limit were rejected last year. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 1, The Sun page 15, Daily Express page 7, The Sunday Times page 1, Daily Telegraph page 7, The Times page 1).

Health

Doctors strike: Doctors are expected to announce this week that they will go on strike for the first time in 37 years. The dispute arose over pensions. Although full strike action was ruled out by the British Medical Association, a work-to-rule could be imposed if doctors vote in favour. This could lead to widespread disruption of NHS services. (The Herald page 3)