Reform Scotland News: 21 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.  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
MoD contracts:
The MoD has announced that contracts to build the next generation of Royal Navy frigates will not be awarded until the middle of the decade, after the 2014 independence referendum.  Peter Luff, MoD procurement minister, had previously said that if Scotland were to become independent the contracts would not be awarded to shipyards on the Clyde.   (Scotsman page 8, John Curtice in the Scotsman, Herald page 6, Times page 1, Sun page 2, Record page 6, Telegraph page 12, Mail page 8)
 
Legal advice: Advocate general Lord Wallace has commented that the Scottish government has offered no evidence to demonstrate how an independent Scotland would retain EU membership, sterling and UK banking regulations. (Scotsman page 9, Telegraph page 12, Courier page 20)

George Galloway: The Respect MP George Galloway has been criticised for claiming the rape allegations facing Julian Assange were just “bad sexual etiquette”. (Herald page 3, Times page 11, Sun page 2, Express page 4, Guardian page 6, Mail page 6)
 
SNP & NATO: SNP MSP John Mason has become the latest rebel to publicly state that he is “95% likely” to vote against the party leadership’s proposals to change the SNP’s policy which is currently against an independent Scotland joining NATO. (Herald page 6)
 
Voting age: Downing Street yesterday reportedly confirmed that lowering the voting age to 16 for the independence referendum was “on the table”. (Herald page 6, Sun page 12, Record page 10, Tom Chivers in the Telegraph, P&J page 12)
 
SNP & SCVO: The impartiality of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has reportedly been called into question again following revelations that the Scottish government gave the organisation a £10,000 grant to allow chief executive Martin Sime to take a six-month round-the-world sabbatical. (Herald page 8, Joan McAlpine in the Record)

MPs’ expenses: HM Revenue and Customs is reportedly in a dispute with the Westminster’s expenses watchdog, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), with the latter defending the right of MPs to employ accountants to fill in expenses forms and tax returns for their offices and insisting that the cost should be tax deductible. (Guardian page 1)

Green energy vs. landscape: Christine Jardine in the Scotsman comments that honouring green energy commitments should not be at the expense of blighting the landscape.       
 
Alistair Darling: Ewan Crawford in the Scotsman comments that Alistair Darling’s criticism of the UK government’s economic policy does not sit well with the former chancellor’s backing of the ‘Better Together’ campaign and instead helps the Yes campaign.

Ed Miliband: Janan Ganesh in the FT comments that Ed Miliband ought to have more of a lead over the Tories in opinion polls at present, highlighting that Neil Kinnock registered margins of 24 per cent, but never became PM.
 
Cameron & Osborne: Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph comments on George Osborne’s involvement in a number of areas across government and suggests one role which could be removed, and pay political dividend, is his chairmanship of the Cabinet committee on preventing the break-up of the UK.

Economy
Job prospects of young Scots
: According to a survey by training company Ambitious Minds, youngsters in Scotland and the north-east of England are doing particularly badly in terms of the prospects of school leavers.  North Ayrshire is identified as a UK black spot.  The company stated that school leavers in general are facing the most dramatic changes to their prospects and expectations for 70 years. (Herald page 1, Sun page 2, Express page 4, Mary Riddell in the Telegraph)
 
Business optimism: According to a survey by Santander, Scottish companies are on average more optimistic about growth prospects over the next five years than anywhere else in the UK outside London and the south-east. (Herald page 1)
 
Tourism: VisitScotland is launching a £3m campaign to attract visitors who have delayed their holidays due to the Olympics and bad weather to take a late-season break in Scotland.  It is hoped the campaign could lead to an £80m boost to the economy. (Herald page 7)
 
Scottish economy:
John Swinney in the Courier comments that latest economic indicators show Scotland’s economy is in better shape than that of the UK as a whole and explains what the Scottish government is doing to boost the economy.
 
Local government
Aberdeen Union Terrace Gardens:
Seven businessmen have announced that they will lead the drive to raise £15million in private-sector funding and another potential £15 million in endowments towards the £140m scheme to transform Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens, as long as councillors back the project in tomorrow’s vote. (Scotsman page 17, Sandy Clark in the Scotsman, Herald page 4, P&J page 3)

Education
University places:
Education secretary Mike Russell has responded to accusations that Scottish students are missing out on university places to fee-paying counterparts from the rest of the UK and outside the EU, by stating that the availability of places for non-Scottish students has no bearing on those for Scots. (Herald page 5, Telegraph page 1)

It is also reported that middle-class Scots students are losing out in places to students from poorer areas in an attempt to widen access.  Principals are apparently being threatened with fines unless they broaden the social mix of undergraduates on degree courses. (Mail page 1)
 
Glasgow schools: According to an analysis of inspection reports of schools in Glasgow over the past five years there has been a dramatic improvement in standards. Glasgow City Council believes the success is partly down to a decision to move poor-performing teachers into non-teaching roles. (Herald page 10)
 
Health
Methadone:
Critics of Scotland’s £32m methadone programme have called on the Scottish government to put more resources into abstinence programmes to help drug addicts get clean rather than leaving many maintained on methadone without time limit.  The comments follow recent official figures which showed that methadone was present in 275 out of 584 cases of drug related deaths in 2011, more than heroine. (Scotsman page 14, Times page 7, Record page 8, Express page 2)