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Reform Scotland News: 27 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

Independence Third Option: It has been reported that senior Whitehall sources believe the First Minister will use the publication of the consultation exercise on the referendum to push for a second question on so-called devo-max. The First Minister has made clear that a single question is preferable but has acknowledged there is support for a second one. (Herald page 6)

Queen in Northern Ireland: The Queen is expected to meet and shake hands with Martin McGuinness in Northern Ireland today. (Scotsman page 7, Peter Geoghegan in the Scotsman, Herald page 5, Telegraph page 9, Mail page 8, Times page 3, Record page 20, Sun page 4, Guardian page 6, Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, P&J page 20, 21)

Labour improves in polls: An Ipsos Mori survey has shown that Labour is closing the gap on the SNP. Labour are up nine points since January, whilst the SNP are down 4 points. The First Minister’s personal ratings are +13 per cent, whilst Johann Lamont’s ratings are up to +9 percent. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 6)

Independence debate: Brian Wilson in the Scotsman discusses the SNP’s approach to the independence debate. Ian Bell in the Herald weighs up the consequences of Scotland remaining within the Union.

Creative Scotland: The national arts funding body, Creative Scotland, has apologised to 49 leading organisations at the centre of a funding shake-up. After receiving criticism from leading figures such as Alan Cumming, Creative Scotland announced that they would guarantee funding worth £2.5 million for another six months. Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I am pleased that Creative Scotland has responded to concerns.” (Scotsman page 20, Herald page 3, Times page 5)

News Corporation split: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has confirmed it is considering splitting up the business. (Herald page 5, Times page 14, Guardian page 1)

Coal-fired power station: Ayrshire Power Limited (APL) yesterday said it had abandoned plans to construct a £3 billion coal-fired power plant at Hunterston in North Ayrshire amid doubts it could secure the necessary financial investment to build the power station in the foreseeable economic climate.. (Scotsman page 8, Herald page 7, Times page 9)

Economy

Five more years of austerity: In evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee yesterday, the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, indicated that he thought the UK was likely to face at least five more years of austerity and that he was “pessimistic” over the chances of recovery among the debt-ridden countries in the eurozone. (Scotsman page 4, David Bell in the Scotsman, Herald page 2, Times page 7, Record page 2, FT page 1)

RBS: Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, has called for a “detailed investigation” into the IT crisis at RBS. Unite, the bank workers’ union, have blamed RBS job cuts. (Scotsman page 1, Record page 4, Guardian page 7)

Borrowing: Public sector borrowing in the UK, excluding financial interventions, reached £17.9bn in May, higher than analysts had suggested and up from £15.2bn in May last year. (Scotsman page 4)

Independence & Deficit: The CBI director-general, John Cridland, told a House of Lords committee yesterday that Scotland would be faced with a large budget deficit after independence. He argued that Scotland’s reliance on its oil resources would produce much more volatility within public finances. (Scotsman page 8)

Homelessness: There has been a fall in the number of Scots threatened by homelessness, which is reportedly due to the increase in the availability of council houses as well as work done by homelessness prevention programmes. However, Shelter Scotland has warned that pressure on local authorities is likely to increase in the future. (Scotsman page 13, P&J page 14)

Youth unemployment: Nick Clegg will today name North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire and West Dunbartonshire as ‘unemployment blackspots’. The Deputy Prime Minister will say that these three areas, alongside 17 other parts of the UK, need to be targeted by Coalition policies. (Herald page 6)

Education

Superteachers: Education secretary, Mike Russell, told yesterday’s meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee that he was open to the idea of moving the country’s leading head teachers into failing schools in a bid to drive up attainment in the most deprived areas. (Scotsman page 18, Herald page 4)

Foreign students in universities: Foreign students are being accepted into British universities with far lower grades than native students because they pay 50% higher fees. (Telegraph page 1)

Justice

Crime figures: The Scottish government’s official crime statistics were published yesterday.  They showed that while recorded crime has fallen to a 37-year low, incidents of rape and attempted rape have risen by 13 per cent on last year. A number of campaign groups have linked the rise to online pornography. (Scotsman page 1, 16 & 17, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 8 & 13, Mail page 15, Sun page 18, Courier page 16)

Transport

Fuel duty: George Osborne yesterday scrapped plans to increase fuel duty by 3p in August, delaying it until next year.  The move has been widely seen as a u-turn and it is reportedly unclear where the £550million that the delay will cost the Treasury will come from. (Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1, Telegraph page 1, Mail page 7, Times page 1, Record page 2, FT page 2, Sun page 2, Guardian page 6, Courier page 21)

A9 upgrade: The Scottish has announced plans to speed up the timetable for the improvements to the A9. The £3 billion investment needed to upgrade the 113-mile road to a dual carriageway is being delivered earlier so that that work on the road can begin in 2015. The works will reportedly not be completed until 2025. (Scotsman page 12, Herald page 9, Telegraph page 8, Mail page 15, Times page 9, Record page 6, Sun page 14, P&J page 7, Courier page 10, 11)

Edinburgh trams inquiry: Edinburgh council leaders are under mounting pressure to lobby the Scottish Government for a public inquiry into the capital’s tram project. (Scotsman page 21)

Health

Legionnaires’ disease: Pam Waldron, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Director in Scotland, has said that firms may struggle to stop further outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease  due to their failure to comply with the approved codes of practice. These codes are currently under review. (Scotsman page 10, Herald page 3, Courier page 17)

Scottish weather & health: The lack of sunlight in Scotland is leading to a rise in the number of people with vitamin D deficiencies. The British Medical Association yesterday passed a motion calling for the introduction of a national programme of vitamin D supplements, whilst some doctors have called for it to be added to everyday foods such as milk and margarine. (Scotsman page 14)

Cholesterol drug: A drug for reducing cholesterol has become the most commonly prescribed medication in Scotland, overtaking aspirin for the first time. (Herald page 8)

Free prescriptions: Free prescriptions in Scotland have been branded unsustainable as it has emerged that the bill footed by taxpayers for the service has reached £1.8 billion. (Mail page 2)

Local Government

Council leader quits: Midlothian council leader Lisa Bettie has quit  the post after just five weeks in the job. The SNP councillor was reportedly forced to step down amid private complaints from colleagues and claims of a rebellion within her SNP group. (Herald page 5)