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Reform Scotland News: 25 June 2012

Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 25 June 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

Better Together launch: The campaign to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom is set to launch today. Headed by former chancellor Alistair Darling, the low-key event will outline the campaign’s strategy. Mr Darling is expected to say that there would be “no way back” should Scotland vote for independence. Mr Darling is expected to be joined by the leaders of Scottish Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The campaign is reported to have £1 million in funding although its spending is likely to be dwarfed by that of Yes Scotland. However, surveys indicate that trust in the Scottish government remains high, while only 18% of those surveyed trust the UK government to act in Scotland’s best interests. (The Scotsman page 1, Brian Monteith in the Scotsman, The Herald page 1, Andrew McKie in the Herald, The Times page 4. Angus Macleod in The Times, The Times page 2, The Press and Journal page 12, Scottish Daily Mail page 1, The Sunday Herald page 21, Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday, Daily Record page 2, Scottish Sun page 1)

Referendum timing and questions: First Minister Alex Salmond has warned David Cameron that he will press ahead with his own two-question referendum on independence if he fails to get Westminster’s legal backing for the 2014 poll. The referendum would reportedly be held at the same time as the 2015 General Election.  Scottish Secretary Michael Moore warned that a third option to the referendum ballot paper would likely muddy the waters. A second question granting extended powers to the Scottish Parliament could be viewed as a consolation prize for the SNP should the referendum not go their way.  However, a poll conducted by the Future of Scotland group found that 68 per cent of people want a wider debate about Scotland’s future, considering “all possible alternatives.” (The Times page 1, Scotsman page 6)

Benefits changes: Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to propose cuts to the benefits system in an attempt to change what he calls a “culture of entitlement.” Expected changes include cuts for lone parents with multiple children, housing benefit for young people under the age of 25, and unemployment benefits for those who aren’t trying hard enough to get work. The SNP criticised the proposals as “arbitrary and inconsistent.” The proposed cuts are unlikely to be implemented in the current term, given resistance from the Liberal Democrat coalition partners, but may form part of the Conservative’s manifesto for the next election. (The Guardian page 1, The Scotsman page 16, The Herald page 2, The Sunday Times page 2, Jackie Ashley in the Guardian, Scottish Daily Mail page 2, The Telegraph page 1, Daily Record page 2)

New advisor for Scottish Tories: Former Scotsman editor John McLellan will advise Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson on communications strategy, direction and content. (Daily Record page 2, Scottish Sun page 1)

Economy

Fuel duty: The SNP will attempt to force the UK coalition to scrap a 3p rise in fuel duty, set to be introduced in August. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has backed cross-party action to scrap the increase. More than 50 MPs from nine parties have pledged to support the SNP-drafted budget clause. (The Scotsman page 13)

Bag tax plan: Scottish shoppers may soon have to pay at least 5p for disposable bags under proposals to cut litter and protect the environment. The tax is predicted to raise £5 million for charity and cut usage by up to 80%. The SNP will launch a consultation on the proposals this week. (The Herald page 5, Rosemary Goring in the Herald, Scottish Daily Mail page 27, Scotland on Sunday page 1)

Economic opportunity: Writing in the Sunday Times, Christopher Evans calls for a new Scottish Enlightenment, in which Scottish entrepreneurs treat the economic crisis as an opportunity for investment and innovation. The entrepreneur says that the global economic crash was the best thing that could happen to Scotland, giving them a chance to catch up with other countries. (The Times page 4)

Mortgage rate bombshell: The UK government has claimed that Scotland’s budget deficit and lack of financial track record would result in a lower credit rating. This would translate into higher borrowing costs for homebuyers, which could total £1 billion. The calculations, announced by Danny Alexander the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, were dismissed by the SNP as scare-mongering. (The Sunday Times page 1, The Sunday Herald page 20)

Justice

Anti-mafia efforts: Senior police officers and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency are calling for “anti-mafia” agents to take control of licensing taxi firms, security companies, and nurseries in a crackdown to stop criminal gangs running legitimate businesses. The role is currently carried out by councils. They point to successful programmes in Italy and Holland as evidence that they can put a stop to the money laundering that takes place. (The Herald page 1)

Health

PE and obesity: Mother of tennis star Andy Murray has blamed a lack of physical education in schools for creating a generation of “overweight and uncoordinated” youngsters. Judy Murray said she was alarmed at the number of obese pupils she met on a recent tour of high schools across the UK. Ms Murray was touring the schools as part of her Set4Sport initiative.  (The Herald page 3)

Local Government

Tram tax scandal: A report by The Herald found that Transport Initiatives Edinburgh used tax loopholes to allow directors to avoid paying income tax rates on £1 million in fees and bonuses. The company, which closed last year due to its handling of the trams project, paid directors and consultants through their firms. As a result, they were subject to the 20% corporation tax rather than the 40% income tax. (The Herald page 8)