Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 20 August 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.
Gay marriage talks: Cardinal Keith O’Brien is rumoured to have suspended talks with the Scottish government over proposals for the introduction of gay marriage in Scotland after relations between the two parties reportedly became “strained”. The Cardinal has requested that all further talks take place between officials of the Roman Catholic Church and the Scottish government rather than with the Cardinal directly. The First Minister’s office denied reports of tensions, pointing to a long discussion between the two leaders on Saturday and the First Minister’s commitment to an open dialogue. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 6, The Daily Telegraph page 11, Daily Express page 7, Daily Record page 6, The Sunday Times page 12)
Independence polls: A poll conducted by Progressive Scottish Opinion found that 27 per cent now support independence, while 60 per cent want the UK to stay together. Research published on 1 August found that 30 per cent wanted independence. 53 per cent said they supported a single question while 41 per cent wanted a second question. Chairman of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling cited the poll as indicative of the success of their campaign. (The Scotsman page 9, The Herald page 1, Financial Times page 2, Daily Express page 1, Daily Record page 6)
Labour and independence: Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday comments on the challenges faced by Labour in the run-up to a referendum on independence.
Referendum options: Sources close to David Cameron have indicated that the Prime Minister is willing to concede to First Minister Alex Salmond’s conditions on the referendum, including the timing and the participation of 16 and 17 year old voters but will reportedly draw the line at a single question as he is not prepared to accept a two-question referendum. The two leaders are expected to meet shortly. (The Scotsman page 8, The Times page 1, The Sun page 2, Scotland on Sunday page 2) Alan Cochrane comments in the Daily Telegraph on the debate over referendum terms, while Iain MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald comments on the likelihood of First Minister Alex Salmond accepting a single question on the referendum ballot.
SNP on nuclear weapons: Next week’s meeting of the CND group, a campaign against nuclear weapons, is expected to turn into a rallying point for SNP members who disagree with the SNP’s proposal to drop its historic resistance to Nato membership. A strategy document for the meeting will highlight countries which have voted to remove nuclear weapons from their soil, but have been unable to do so because of the obligations inherent in Nato membership. (The Herald page 1)
Green homes policy: 0.04% of households have taken advantage of the Scottish government’s green homes policy designed to encourage home improvements which would increase energy efficiency. Critics urged the government to increase promotion of the policy. (The Scotsman page 17)
Assange statement: Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, made a statement from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy which denounced the actions of the US government and the UK government. Mr Assange faces extradition to Sweden to answer to charges of sexual assault. He expressed fears that he would be handed over the US for prosecution due to his role in leaking classified materials. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 5, Financial Times page 2, The Guardian page 1)
Assisted suicide: Tony Nicklinson lost his High Court case which would allow doctors to end his life and he called on MSPs to back a member’s bill to allow doctors to assist in ending the lives of people with a terminal illness or a condition they feel has made their lives intolerable. Independent MSP Margo MacDonald has completed a consultation on an assisted suicide bill and is hopeful it may be passed by MSPs. (The Sunday Times page 5)
Retail decline: July retail figures published by the Scottish Retail Consortium indicate a decline of 8.2% from July 2011. The decline is attributed to concern about job security and wet weather. (The Scotsman page 1, The Herald page 3, The Times page 7)
MoD jobs at a low: Jobs with the Ministry of Defence have reached a record post-Second World War low. The number of civilian and military staff in Scotland now stands at 15,500, down from 17,300 a year ago. (The Scotsman page 1)
Criticism for Chancellor: In an open letter to Chancellor George Osborne, Alistair Darling called upon the Chancellor to come up with a plan B before irreparable damage was done to the British economy, saying both the Chancellor and the Bank of England “have given up on any plan for growth” (The Scotsman page 14, The Daily Telegraph page 1)
Charity rules: New standards drafted by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Agency will restrict what workers soliciting for charity may and may not do. The guidelines prohibit workers from following members of the public, dishonesty, manipulation, and the deliberate use of guilt. The standards will be enforced by mystery shoppers. (The Herald page 3)
Youth employment: Research conducted by the Prince’s Trust and the Royal Bank of Scotland indicates that young people find life harder and jobs more difficult to come by. The Prince’s Trust has launched a campaign to boost self-employment as a way out of unemployment for young people. (The Herald page 7) Andrew McKie in the Herald comments on the challenges faced by today’s young people.
Rail times: Campaigners fear design changes to a proposed 35-mile rail route linking Edinburgh with the Borders could extend journey times from 55 minutes to over an hour, making them less appealing to commuters. The claims have been rejected as “inaccurate” by Transport Scotland which overseas the project. (The Herald page 8)
ScotRail Profits: First ScotRail will reportedly reveal a rise in profits, prompting criticism from passengers who have been hit by fare hikes which exceed inflation. (The Sunday Times page 4)
Diabetes threat: One in twenty Scottish residents have diabetes, 88% suffering from type 2 which is often linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices. A campaign has been launched which seeks to improve treatment and results for patients with diabetes, allowing them to better manage the disease. (The Scotsman page 15, The Herald page 11, The Times page 6)
Drug treatment: Labour MSP and former Director General of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency Graeme Pearson wrote in the Daily Record, urging a rethink of the Scottish government’s drugs policy. He described the methadone programme, which costs the government £36 million a year, as parking people on a supplementary form of addiction. Chemists are supplying patients with methadone but also needles through a needle exchange programme. (The Daily Record page 4)
Clearing controversy: An investigation published by the Sunday Times indicates that fee-paying English students have been offered places at Scottish universities with lower marks than their Scottish classmates. There are limits on the number of places which can be offered to Scottish students in order to maintain a free degree system for students. Lord Forsyth described this as unacceptable discrimination against Scottish students. (The Daily Telegraph page 1, The Sun page 16, The Sunday Times page 1)
Tuition fees: Robin Parker, President of NUS Scotland, comments in Scotland on Sunday on the tuition fees faced by English, Welsh, and Northern Irish students.
Aberdeen regeneration scheme: Billionaire Sir Ian Wood has pledged to abandon plans for a £182 regeneration scheme if they are voted down by the city council. The overhaul, narrowly backed in a referendum of local voters, would double the size of the city centre gardens and provide a venue for contemporary arts and music. (The Sunday Times page 5, Press & Journal page 1, Scotland on Sunday page 8)